With NBA All-Star Weekend now past us and March Madness peaking it’s weary head over the horizon, now seems like a good time to focus on mock drafts.
At this point of the season, players have appeared in between 30 and 35 games, giving us a good sample size to work with as we gear ourselves for the NBA Draft. We’ve seen the likes of D’Angelo Russell go from a talented freshman with a lot to prove to one of the biggest names in college basketball. Others, such as Cliff Alexander, haven’t had the same good fortune.
There’s still a lot up in the air and the coming weeks will do wonders for players looking to break their way either into the lottery or first round. Nevertheless, we know enough about each of the individuals involved in the process — as well as team needs — to paint a vivid picture of how June 25 could play out.
1. New York Knicks: Jahlil Okafor (Duke)
Nobody is more prepared to be a franchise player in this draft than Okafor. He’s already a tremendous offensive talent, one Carmelo Anthony could make great use out of, and his passing ability would fit in nicely in the triangle offense. Okafor has strides to make as a defender, but the Knicks aren’t going to be title contenders anytime soon.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl Anthony Towns (Kentucky)
The Timberwolves are rebuilding and Towns fits in perfectly with their long-term vision. While he has a reduced role on the Wildcats, he’s proven to be a five-tool big man with the potential to be a defensive stud. He’s not as polished as Okafor but he may have more upside and is a better fit for the Timberwolves’ young core of Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State)
Although the 76ers already have their point guard in Michael-Carter Williams, Russell is capable of playing the two and gives them another ball handler who can command an offense. The 76ers have plenty of defensive-minded players to surround Russell with, too, giving him the luxury of focusing on what he does best — wreak havoc on offense.
4. Los Angeles Lakers: Emmanuel Mudiay (China)
Even though the Lakers have their eyes on Stanley Johnson, Mudiay is too good to pass up on with the fourth pick. His time in the CBA was short-lived — he sustained an ankle injury after only 10 games and has since been sidelined. Nevertheless, he has all the tools to become a household name in the NBA.
5. Orlando Magic: Stanley Johnson (Arizona)
Stanley Johnson is the type of prospect the Magic love — defensive-minded, scrappy, young and athletic. With Tobias Harris set to get paid this summer, whether it’s by the Magic or another team, Johnson is well prepared to fill his shoes. He would also be able to contribute from day one on a team that will be looking to make the jump into the playoff picture.
6. Utah Jazz: Kevon Looney (UCLA)
A walking double-double, Looney gives the Jazz even more size and length as they look to turn their potential into production. He’s a raw prospect with the type of versatility that could pay off huge dividends for them in the future.
7. Sacramento Kings: Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky)
Cauley-Stein is the type of defender the Kings so desperately need to pair with DeMarcus Cousins. The 7-footer is the best defender in this class, being someone who can protect the rim and switch on to quick point guards in the pick-and-roll at the flick of a switch. If he was a better offensive player, there’s no doubt he’d be a top-five pick.
8. Denver Nuggets: Justise Winslow (Duke)
The Nuggets need wing depth and Winslow gives them a promising 3-and-D prospect. After Stanley Johnson, he’s the best wing in this class. Although the second half of his season with the Blue Devils hasn’t been as impressive, he projects to fit in well in the NBA as a gritty defender and slasher.
9. Indiana Pacers: Devin Booker (Kentucky)
For a team in need of a floor spacing guard, Booker would solve a lot of the Pacers’ problems. While he doesn’t have the athleticism teams look for in a two nowadays, Booker is the best shooter in the draft and has proven to be a stout defender.
10. Boston Celtics: Kristaps Porzingis (Europe)
The Celtics have just begun their rebuild after trading Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks, making Porzingis the right choice at this point in the lottery. The Latvian has a ton of upside, and even if it may take some time for him to get there, Boston would be the right environment for him to grow.
11. Detroit Pistons: Kelly Oubre Jr. (Kansas)
Oubre has all the tools teams look for in a young wing, the reason why he was so highly touted heading into his freshman season at Kansas. There are some big concerns with how his game will translate to the next level (mainly on the defensive end) but having Stan Van Gundy as a coach would certainly help him find his feet.
12. Philadelphia 76ers (via Miami Heat): Mario Hezonja (Europe)
Hezonja is a tremendous scorer — he’s athletic, can attack the basket and step out to the perimeter — who would compliment the likes of Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid well on offense. There remain questions about his defensive ability, but he’s tough as nails and plays with attitude.
13. Oklahoma City Thunder: Myles Turner (Texas)
Steven Adams and Kendrick Perkins bring much of the same for the Thunder as bruising post-players with little-to-no-offense. With Turner, the Thunder would add another rim protector to the fold and a shooter to compliment Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Although there are some concerns with Turner — he’s not a fluid runner and hasn’t had a featured role in Texas — he’s a steal at 13.
14. Houston Rockets (via New Orleans Pelicans): Jerian Grant (Notre Dame)
There aren’t many areas where the Rockets need to improve, however, with Isaiah Canaan’s role reducing by the game and Patrick Beverley going through a major slump in the second half of the season, they can’t help but question their point guard depth moving forward. Grant is capable of guarding multiple positions at 6-foot-5 and has the athleticism the Rockets need at that position. If he continues to improve his outside shot, it would be a perfect match.
15. Atlanta Hawks (via Brooklyn Nets): Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin)
The Hawks are where they are today because they space the floor better than anyone in the NBA and move the ball selflessly around the perimeter. That’s the type of situation Kaminsky would thrive in. He’s not the back-to-the-basket threat many had hoped he’d be, yet he’s a smart and well rounded stretch-big who can pick defenses apart.
16. Charlotte Hornets: Caris LeVert (Michigan)
For a team in need of a backcourt player who can handle the ball and spot-up on the perimeter, LeVert would be the best choice for the Hornets. The Wolverine is a blend of P.J. Hairston and Lance Stephenson thanks to his ability to knock down outside shots and create for himself and others off the dribble.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Bobby Portis (Arkansas)
The Bucks already have a promising core of Brandon Knight, Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Adding Portis, a do-it-all forward and one of the nation’s most gifted scorers, would just make them scarier. He’d also help fill the shoes of the soon-to-be-bought-out Larry Sanders.
18. Phoenix Suns: Trey Lyles (Kentucky)
The Suns’ logjam at point guard doesn’t free up a lot of breathing room for anyone in the back court, which is why they could do with a prospect like Lyles. The forward’s ability to change the game in a number of ways would be a much welcomed addition to roster.
19. Chicago Bulls (via Cleveland Cavaliers): Delon Wright (Utah)
Tom Thibodeau has a way of turning backup point guards into highly productive players. After four years at Utah, Wright is prepared to step in and make a difference right off the bat, and his defensive tenacity would fit in nicely with the Bulls’ culture.
20. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Chicago Bulls): Sam Dekker (Wisconsin)
Sure, Dekker hasn’t made the jump many expected this season, but he’s a tough and athletic wing the Cavaliers could use. Having LeBron James as a teammate may help him turn into the lottery pick he once seemed destined to be.
21. Washington Wizards: Tyus Jones (Duke)
Jones may lack the ideal size and strength for a point guard in the NBA but he’s proven to be an astute playmaker and outside shot-maker. With the Wizards lacking depth behind John Wall, Jones makes sense.
22. San Antonio Spurs: Justin Anderson (Virginia)
The bad news: Anderson may have played his last game in a Cavaliers uniform after fracturing his finger. The good news: It’s not worrisome enough to put a major dent in his draft stock. Anderson is a hard worker who has the length to defend multiple positions. He also made huge improvements as a shooter in his senior year, which is oh-so-Spursian of him.
23. Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers): R.J. Hunter (Georgia State)
Hunter’s shooting numbers are down this season, the result of teams loading up on him, but he brings everything the Celtics need to the table. The 6-foot-6 wing projects to be a better fit in NBA systems.
24. Dallas Mavericks: Montrezl Harrell (Louisville)
Harrell is an animal on the glass and thrives on outworking his opponent. Although he’s showcased an improved outside shot this season, it’s not enough to sway teams into believing he could extend his game out to the perimeter. After losing Brandon Wright, the Mavericks could do with a change-of-pace big off their bench.
25. Toronto Raptors: Cliff Alexander (Kansas)
Alexander would benefit from returning to Kansas for his sophomore season. He has the raw skills to be a first-round pick, there are just too many unknowns to take a bigger flyer on him.
26. Portland Trail Blazers: James Blackmon Jr. (Indiana)
Even after making key additions to their second unit this offseason, the Blazers need more firepower off the bench. Blackmon is one of the highest scoring freshman in the nation and, despite a recent slump, has showcased the ability to space the floor at a high rate.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (via Houston Rockets): Dakari Johnson (Kentucky)
It’s crazy to think that Johnson, the third best center on the Wildcats, could step in and help an NBA team right now. He’s a huge body, is tough to score on in the post and is a tenacious rebounder. The Lakers need more players like him.
28. Memphis Grizzlies: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Arizona)
Athletic defensive-minded wings who have shaky jump shots seem to be the Grizzlies’ thing. Hollis-Jefferson certainly fits that mold, proving himself as a terrifying perimeter defender and unreliable perimeter shooter.
29. Golden State Warriors: Robert Upshaw (Washington)
How do you make the best team in the NBA better? With Andrew Bogut getting injured every season, the Warriors could do with a backup big. With that in mind: Golden State, meet Upshaw. Upshaw, meet Golden State. Before being dismissed from Washington for an undisclosed reason, Upshaw asserted himself as one of the nation’s best rim protectors.
30. Atlanta Hawks: Jakob Poeltl (Utah)
Poeltl will likely hear his name called in the first round based on potential alone. The 7-footer has the size, agility, length, awareness and fluidity teams drool over in the modern NBA, even if he still has ways to go before he taps into it.