I should be working on my exam that’s due tomorrow, but it’s draft season, baby. These mock drafts don’t write themselves, not when I’m procrastinating something important.
1. Orlando Magic — Jabari Smith, PF, Auburn
Jabari Smith seems like the heavy favorite to go first, but it’s a toss-up between him and Chet Holmgren. I’m not sure what his ceiling will be — can he eventually handle the ball and become a go-to scorer? — but the floor is still an elite 3-and-D forward.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder — Chet Holmgren, PF/C, Gonzaga
OKC will be happy to have Chet land to them, as he provides a long-term answer to their biggest position of need. He has such a unique game that it’s difficult to project what kind of impact he will have.
3. Houston Rockets — Paolo Banchero, PF, Duke
The most NBA-ready of the big three in this draft class, Banchero enters the league with a litany of scoring moves, underrated passing ability and perhaps more defensive capability than he showed in college. He should be the favorite for Rookie of the Year and fits well with Jalen Green if they can find defense elsewhere on the roster.
4. Sacramento Kings — Keegan Murray, PF, Iowa
The Kings would be smart to trade this pick to whoever most wants Jaden Ivey, but my source (Andrés Nocioni) tells me they are more likely to keep the pick and draft for fit. Keegan Murray deserves better than this but what can ya do.
5. Detroit Pistons — Jaden Ivey, SG, Purdue
Ivey dodges a bullet and slips to his best long-term landing place. He’s an athletic scoring guard who despite being labeled as a point guard struggles with his processing and playmaking. Playing next to Cade Cunningham would allow him to focus on scoring while the rest of his game catches up.
6. Indiana Pacers — Bennedict Mathurin, SG, Arizona
The 2022 Pac-12 Player of the Year, Mathurin was unstoppable in Tommy Lloyd’s wide open offense. Maybe he’s another Terrance Ross (or a good version of Corey Brewer) but he has potential to be a dynamic 3-and-D wing playing off Tyrese Haliburton.
7. Portland Trail Blazers — Dyson Daniels, SG, G League Ignite (USA)
The Blazers have needed a do-it-all wing since Nicolas Batum left for Charlotte in 2015, so they draft the Australian Nicolas Batum. (Colorado was recruiting Daniels pretty hard before he blew up last summer, for what it’s worth.)
8. New Orleans Pelicans — Shaedon Sharpe, SF, Kentucky
No one knows what Shaedon Sharpe will look like until he’s playing against NBA players. New Orleans has a set roster and a bunch of future picks, so they’re just looking for upside.
9. San Antonio Spurs — Jalen Duren, C, Memphis
With all due respect to Jakob Poeltl, the Spurs could have a more talented center moving forward. Duren projects as a great interior defender — not All-Defense, but Poeltl-quality — while offering some upside as a rim-runner and short-roll playmaker.
10. Washington Wizards — Jeremy Sochan, PF, Baylor
A future NBA villain, Sochan fits the bill of a modern 4/5 combo who can switch everything on defense, step out for threes, and do all the little things. He still has room to grow and isn’t a great athlete, so let’s see how he develops.
11. New York Knicks — Johnny Davis, SG, Wisconsin
Playing on an otherwise abysmal Wisconsin offense, Johnny Davis took tons of bad shots and his efficiency cratering, especially once he injured his ankle. That version of Davis would not be a good NBA player, but I don’t think that’s the version we will see.
12. Thunder — Ousmane Dieng, SF/PF, NZ Breakers (New Zealand)
Another high-upside pick, the Thunder are hoping Dieng develops into a 6’10 3-and-D power forward. Dieng is a theoretical player right now and won’t be expected to contribute for at least two more years.
13. Charlotte Hornets — Mark Williams, C, Duke
The Hornets are very likely going to draft a center this year, so why not the rim-protecting, lob-yamming center from right down the street.
14. Cleveland Cavaliers — Jalen Williams, SG, Santa Clara
A late bloomer from a small school, Jalen Williams has been a draft nerd darling as a sweet-shooting, high-feel guard who is 6’6 with a 7’2 wingspan. He would immediately fit into Cleveland’s rotation.
15. Hornets — A.J. Griffin, SG/SF, Duke
More so than any other player in this draft, I’m lower than consensus on Griffin. He’s a damn good shooter (45% on threes), but I’m not sure what the upside is if he’s never as athletic as he was before he suffered a few leg injuries.
Another player I’m so-so on, Branham figures to be a solid scoring wing who can makes things happen off the bounce. That’s a good trait, but he doesn’t offer much else and might not contribute to winning basketball.
17. Rockets — TyTy Washington, PG, Kentucky
If healthy, TyTy should find a role as a PNR playmaker, but that might be a big ask after the series of injuries he suffered at Kentucky. It would make sense for Houston to take a chance on him, since resident point guard Kevin Porter Jr. is as unpredictable as he is talented.
Bursting onto the scene as a sophomore transfer, Tari Eason is all about defensive versality and energy. His offensive game is a mess — the dude has no moves and can’t finish at all — but he does offer a bit of upside if his jumper becomes passable.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves — Ochai Agbaji, SG/SF, Kansas
Agbaji has been characterized as a low-ceiling 3-and-D wing. That’s a valuable player on a rookie deal, although I’m a bit concerned that he would often disappear against college teams with NBA length and athleticism.
20. Spurs — Josh Minott, PF, Memphis
Just as they did with Josh Primo last season, this is the Spurs drafting a talented player a year early. The team’s finest shot doctors will be working on him day and night hoping this freak athlete turns into a basketball player.
21. Denver Nuggets — Dalen Terry, SG, Arizona
I have Terry 12th on the big board and I’m willing it into existence. He’s 6’7 with a 7’1 wingspan, is crazy athletic, goes hard on defense and is electric on cuts. His jumper is a work in progress, but everything else looks great. (I have been burned by this player type so many times and I don’t care at all.)
22. Grizzlies — Wendell Moore, SF/PF, Duke
This might be a bit high for Moore, but I’m having a hard time understanding why a 6’6 forward with good passing, decent shooting and a high defensive IQ won’t make it in the league.
Another late riser, LaRavia tantalizes with a combination of size, shooting and basketball IQ. He’s not a great athlete and he has no self-creation, but that’s fine if you’re looking for a role players to surround their core.
24. Milwaukee Bucks — E.J. Liddell, PF, Ohio State
Similar to Moore, Liddell has good size at the forward and offers some scoring with his basketball smarts. The question is how much his game will translate to the NBA game, although he’s adjusted a lot in the past two years and will probably figure it out no matter what.
25. Spurs — Blake Wesley, PG, Notre Dame
Wesley is a fun prospect in that he has the athleticism, the size and the bag of an NBA guard, but is bad at making shots. Maybe he just has a bad touch, or maybe the Spurs help him put together all his tools.
26. Rockets — Kendall Brown, PF, Baylor
I’m ready to be burned by yet another freak athlete power forward who is more aesthetically pleasing than he is good at basketball. I’m a believer, dammit, and Brown becomes baby Shawn Marion.
27. Miami Heat — MarJon Beauchamp, PF, G League Ignite (USA)
I have no idea what Beauchamp will become. He’s a good athlete, elevates quickly and is strong as hell. He’s also a super late bloomer — like Dennis Rodman late bloomer — and hasn’t developed any skills yet.
28. Golden State Warriors — Christian Braun, SG, Kansas
Braun figures to be a solid shooter and might offer a bit more than that. It’s the end of the first round so anything positive is a hit.
29. Grizzlies — Gabriele Procida, SG/SF, Fortuna Bologna (Italy)
6’7 with a gorgeous jumper, Procida will likely be a draft-and-stash who has to physically mature and develop the rest of his game before making the leap to the NBA.
30. Nuggets — Nikola Jovic, PF, KK Mega Basket (Serbia)
Another Nuggets pick, another player I’m willing towards them, mostly for the sake of his name, nationality and Serbian basketball club. Jovic is certainly talented but hasn’t together his tools just yet, if he does at all.
31. Pacers — Andrew Nembhard, PG/SG, Gonzaga
32. Magic — Jaden Hardy, SG, G League Ignite (USA)
33. Raptors — Bryce McGowens, SG, Nebraska
34. Thunder — Kennedy Chandler, PG, Tennessee
35. Magic — Patrick Baldwin, SF, UW-Milwaukee
36. Trail Blazers — Walker Kessler, C, Auburn
37. Kings — Max Christie, SG, Michigan State
38. Spurs — Jabari Walker, PF, Colorado
The Spurs should be in the market for an energy forward who can step out to the three-point line, play solid defense and contribute on the boards. This would be close to an ideal landing place for Jabari’s long-term development.
39. Cavaliers — Ryan Rollins, SG, Toledo
40. Timberwolves — Trevor Keels, SG, Duke
41. Pelicans — Dom Barlow, SF/PF, Overtime Elite (USA)
42. Knicks — Ismael Kamagate, C, Paris (France)
43. LA Clippers — Isaiah Mobley, C, USC
44. Hawks — Jaylin Williams, C, Arkansas
45. Hornets — JD Davison, PG/SG, Alabama
46. Pistons — Christian Koloko, C, Arizona
47. Grizzlies — Peyton Watson, SF, UCLA
48. Timberwolves — Matteo Spagnolo, SG, Vanoli Cremola (Italy)
49. Kings — Justin Lewis, PF, Marquette
50. Timberwolves — Vince Williams, SF, VCU
51. Warriors — David Roddy, PF, Colorado State
52. Pelicans — Kenneth Lofton Jr., PF, Louisiana Tech
53. Celtics — Ron Harper Jr., SF, Rutgers
54. Wizards — Dereon Seabron, SG/SF, NC State
55. Warriors — Ziga Samar, SG, Fuelenbrada
56. Cavaliers — Khalifa Diop, C, Gran Canaria (Spain)
57. Trail Blazers — Hugo Besson, SF, NZ Breakers (New Zealand)
58. Pacers —Jordan Hall, SF, St. John’s