The NBA Draft will be taking place Thursday night and so us at Hoops Hub (Mark Chajkowski and Tony Romanello) have put together our mock draft. Below is our mock for the entire first round. We alternated the pick with Tony doing the odds and Mark doing the evens.
1. Philadelphia 76ers – Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
Markelle Fultz has been the consensus top prospect in this draft class for pretty much entire season – and, in my opinion, is in a tier of his own in this class — and is definitely going to be the first name off the board on draft night.
Philadelphia traded up from the No. 3 spot specifically to pick Fultz and he also happens to be the exact player the Sixers need. Philadelphia has been loading up on big men and wings in recent drafts and are in need of some guards and Fultz is the best point guard prospect to come along in a few years. Fultz looks like he should complement the Sixers other two franchise cornerstones in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. He can play on and off ball, sharing the primary ball handling role with Simmons, and be a great pick and roll/pop partner with Embiid. Fultz joining Embiid and Simmons creates one of the best and most exciting young trios in the league.
Fultz is pretty much the prototype for modern day point guards in the NBA. He has great size, measuring in at 6’4” with a 6’9” wingspan, is a smooth, fluid athlete with great body control and a good, creative handle. He can score from all three levels of the court but is also an unselfish player that is a good creator for others with good vision and passing instincts, making him an excellent operator in the pick and roll. He also has potential to be a good off-ball player as well given his size and being a solid catch-and-shoot shooter which will give his future team some lineup flexibility.
There are some concerns with Fultz on the defensive end as he didn’t show much effort or intensity on that end of the court at Washington last season but he does has the physical tools to be an adequate defender at the NBA level. There is also some concern regarding his free throw shooting, which is usually a good indicator of how legitimate a player’s jumper is, as Fultz shot just 64.9 percent from the stripe this past season. – Tony Romanello
2. Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
Lonzo and the Lakers just fit well together. Luke Walton installed a modern offense that is more built on spacing and ball movement. Ball is an elite shooter, as well as a willing and quick passer, which is essential to playing in a system that is supposed to be based off Golden State’s. He’s also a great cutter, as evidenced by over half of his shots in the restricted area being assisted. He has a high basketball IQ, and should fit into a system where players are always moving and cutting.
While they finished fourth in possessions used by pick and roll ball handlers, it was more a function of their players than anything. Russell, Clarkson, and Lou Williams all looked to score in the pick and roll, and the Lakers finishing 30th in spot up jumpers. The Lakers also finished 26th in assists per game, showing the need for a better facilitator. Adding Lonzo, an elite and willing passer, should bring more balance to the Lakers offense.
There are concerns over whether or not Lonzo can get up mid-range jumpers off the dribble, but is that really a bad thing? I think some of this is outdated scouting, as pull-up midrange jumpers are the worst shots in basketball. I get the idea that he needs to take a few to diversify his game and keep defenses honest, but it’s not like you can duck under screens on him because if you give him enough space he has a pretty dependable stepback. Ultimately, while it isn’t ideal he has limitations, this is one that is easily manageable.
Another aspect of the Lakers game Lonzo helps is in transition. Ball is a great rebounder for a guard, and showed great ability in college to grab rebounds and run in transition. The Lakers ran more than the average team did this year, and bringing Lonzo in should only improve that. Since the Lakers don’t have a ton of elite one on one scorers, being able to maximize transition points should be a priority for this team.
While Lonzo may never be an elite defender, he does have tremendous size and can bother a lot of shots. He isn’t very physical, and doesn’t have elite athleticism, but he is an above average athlete. He’s quick and has solid hands, meaning that he will be able to get deflections, steals, and even the occasional block. His size will bother point guards, and I don’t think shooting guards will expose him given that he’s about the size of a prototypical two.
I do have some concerns about his handle. I don’t necessarily think his handle is poor, but it definitely isn’t great, and combining that with his height means smaller guards could rip him a decent bit. His handle also needs tightened if he wants to be a star, but even without it he can be a very effective player.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t address LaVar Ball, but I kinda think he’s a non-factor. He’s not going to sit his son out, he’s not going to get anyone fired, and there isn’t really much he can do. I understand his outspokenness is very annoying, but that’s really all it is, and you don’t pass on a potential star because their parent is an annoyance. – Mark Chajkowski
3. Boston Celtics – Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
This pick is likely going to be either Jackson or Jayson Tatum but, personally, I like Jackson better as a prospect so I’m having them take him. While the Celtics do have Jae Crowder and last year’s No. 3 pick Jaylen Brown on the roster, I still think Jackson is the way to go as I think Jackson will be able to play alongside Brown or Crowder as all of them have the ability to play the four and could offer some interesting lineup options for head coach Brad Stevens. Overall, Jackson will give the Celtics more lineup versatility, another good perimeter defender and someone who can do some ball handling and playmaking if needed. There’s also a pretty good chance this pick gets traded again before or on draft night so this might not even matter.
Jackson has been considered one of the top prospects in this draft and may be the most NBA ready player on both sides of the ball in this draft. Jackson is a great athlete that really gets after it on defense and will be able to guard multiple positions at the NBA level. He’s also an impressive playmaker for his position with a solid handle and good passing skills. He looks like a player that can be effective both on and off ball on the offensive end and be a versatile defender on the defensive end.
The main concerns with Jackson are his jump shot and his ability to create his own shot. Although Jackson shot 37.8 percent from three for the season, he has an unorthodox form that will probably need work in the league. He also wasn’t very consistent with his perimeter shot this past season, shooting just 26.9 percent from three on 26 attempts in his first 13 games and then 42.2 percent from three on 64 attempts in the final 22 games of the season. He does struggle with creating his own shot and shooting off the dribble, which his funky release makes difficult. He also shot just 56.6 percent from the free throw line for the season, which leaves some questions on whether he’ll be able to become a consistent shooter. – Tony Romanello
4. Phoenix Suns – Dennis Smith, PG, NC State
The Suns may have Eric Bledsoe at the point guard position, but at 27 and with an injury riddled past, he doesn’t really line up with the current core. He’s still an average or better starting point guard, and maybe if he can have a solid start to the season, you can move him for an asset. In the meantime, he could start at point guard while Dennis Smith plays backup while he adjusts to the league. Point guards do usually take the longest to grasp the NBA game (go look at the best point guards 24 and under, spoiler alert there are very few). Having Smith play against second units and having a decent amount of ballhandling responsibility from the get go might be the best way to bring him into the league. And then, either by the trade deadline or next season he can be your starter.
I love Dennis Smith’s skillset. He’s an incredibly dynamic point guard who can score at all three levels, and having that ability is very important in the NBA if you can do it with efficiency. He was very athletic in college, despite coming back from an ACL tear that he suffered his senior year of high school. There’s an idea he may be even another step quicker next year, which would make him a top tier athlete in the NBA, and even without it he’ll still be a damn good one.
He definitely has a low floor, and that has to be concerning. Think Derrick Rose these past couple years; poor vision, great but not top tier athlete, settles for some not so great jumpers, and limited effort on defense. Having a player like that who always has the ball in their hands, and has a usage much higher than they ideally should, can absolutely destroy a team, but I’m not too concerned with this outcome.
First of all, I think Dennis Smith is an average or better passer. Despite an iffy shot selection and assist to turnover ratio below two, I don’t think this was as much of an indictment of him as it was NC State. They had very little spacing, no other playmakers, and teams were able to key in on Smith and prevent him from getting to the hoop.
His jumper is a little bit concerning, when he shoots on the catch he usually has a one motion shot. However, when he’s shooting off the dribble, he has a tendency to go to a more two motion jumper. The inconsistency in his jumper can be a red flag that he isn’t a good shooter, but his free throw shooting is good, and his shooting percentage from three was pretty good. He’ll need to refine his midrange jumper, especially off the dribble (he shot below 30% on off the dribble midrange jumpers) but I think that’s correctable.
His defense is a bit of a question mark. In college, he wasn’t great at the point of attack and was very lazy off ball, routinely just missing or not making rotations, and sometimes pulling a Russ where he doesn’t chase his guy around and just hangs out around the hoop for a rebound. Some of that may have to do with the offensive burden he had at NC State, but I don’t think projecting him as an elite defender because of his athleticism alone is smart. If he can be an average or better defender though, the shot creation he can bring on offense will be more than enough for him to be a great player, as offense is much more important at the point guard position than defense.
Ultimately, I think Dennis Smith is going to be a very good lead guard. He scored very well in isolation situations in college despite usually being walled off from the hoop by help defenders. The added space and freedom of the NBA should be good to unlock certain aspects of his game, namely his passing, and having some other shot creators around him will allow him to play off ball some and get easy shots that way. – Mark Chajkowski
5. Sacramento Kings – De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
The Kings will be looking to snag the best possible point guard they can get in this draft and at the fifth pick, Fox is that guy. The Kings are in desperate need of a point guard of the future to put next to Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere to put together a young core they can look to build around in the post-Boogie era. Fox also looks to be a nice fit next to Hield in the backcourt and Labissiere could be a nice big to pair with Fox as a pick and roll/pop partner and floor spacing big to create some driving space for Fox. Fox has one of the highest ceilings in this draft and could help provide some stability in Sacramento after the years of dysfunctionality we’ve seen from them.
Fox is one of the many intriguing point guard prospects in this draft. Fox is an incredibly fast and quick point guard with good size at just over 6’3” with a 6’6.5” wingspan. Fox’s impressive speed with the ball and great handle gives him the ability to get to basically any spot on the court he wants to get to and makes him an absolute problem in transition for opposing defenses. Fox is also a very good defender on the ball, as he is very aggressive with his man, has active hands and can stay in front of his man thanks to his quickness and size.
The biggest question mark surrounding Fox is his ability to consistently shoot the ball. Fox shot just 24.6 percent from three this past season and has inconsistent form when shooting the ball. If Fox can’t develop a consistent outside jumper, that will be a big problem for him in the NBA where his quickness won’t be as much of an advantage and defenses can sag off him. Another concern for Fox is if whether or not he will be able to add strength to his wiry frame. At the NBA Draft Combine, Fox weighed in at just 170 pounds and has a skinny frame which might make it hard to add weight and strength. If he can’t add weight and strength it could affect his defensive ability against stronger players and his ability to get to the rim and finish through contact. – Tony Romanello
6. Orlando Magic – Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
So the situation in Orlando isn’t exactly good. The Magic are only going to have about $16 million in cap space (if they renounce all of their free agents) and they don’t really have much of an identity. They have two centers, one who is an inefficient volume scorer (Vucevic) and one who’s amongst the worst offensive players in the league (Biyombo). They have two point guards, but one can’t shoot (Payton) and one can really only shoot (Augustin). They have two solid wings in Terrance Ross and Evan Fournier, but Fournier is a terrible defender and Ross is very limited with the ball in his hands. They have two young prospects, one who has shown next to nothing in his first two years (Hezonja) and a promising one who had a disappointing year because Vogel had to play him out of position (Gordon).
So the Magic don’t have a lot. It doesn’t make sense to take a big, which is fine cause there aren’t any on the board now. They also have two point guards, and the top four point guards are already off the board, not that taking Fox would make any sense if he’s available. I don’t think Monk makes much sense here, he’s a great shooter/scorer on a team that needs that, but his fit is awkward. Playing him at point gives you next to not passing, and playing him and Fournier together on the wing would be a terrible fit defensively.
The pick comes down to Tatum or Issac, and I would go Issac. Tatum has a higher ceiling, but Issac has a much higher floor. Issac is 6’11 and very athletic, and can guard 2-4 comfortably (and 1s and 5s in a pinch). He’s a very good man to man defender, and projects to be an elite help defender. He has solid instincts in the passing lanes, has a high motor, and is a great help and weak side defender. I think he’ll even be able to protect the rim once he adds size, and his defensive ability unlocks a lot of options for any team.
On offense, he could be a solid, but limited offensive player. He’s flashed very little off the bounce game besides attacking closeouts, and has shown limited passing ability. He’s a good off ball cutter, and a solid shooter (35% from three and 78% from the line), so he projects as a very good ancillary piece on offense provided you have some shot creation.
Ultimately, Issac could be very interesting for the Magic. The could play him as their starting 3 and backup 4 (once he puts on some weight) and I would like to see him in a small lineup with Payton-Fournier-Ross-Issac-Gordon that would actually be the only Orlando lineup with some decent spacing. Also, the Magic can’t get too cute with this pick because they simply need NBA caliber players. The Magic only had 5 players last season finish with a VORP above 0, meaning only 5 of their players were discernibly better than a player you could pick up in the middle of the season. Issac’s high floor, versatility, and malleability on the defensive end all make him a great fit for Orlando. – Mark Chajkowski
7. Minnesota Timberwolves – Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
This is one fit that I’m not really entirely sold on but there is some stuff that I like with it. Offensively, Markkanen should fit in well as the Wolves could use a stretch-four to put in-between Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns and help space out the floor but Markkanen’s lack of passing ability could hurt here a little as the Wolves already have Wiggins, who can be a bit of a ball stopper. Defensively is where I’m not really sold on with this fit as neither Markkanen nor Towns are great at guarding on the perimeter which is important for bigs to do in the modern NBA. However, I think Markkanen could be a nice offensive weapon for the Wolves, who finished in the bottom third of the league in three point percentage last season.
Markkanen is one of the best shooters in the draft regardless of position and being 7’0” tall makes him a very intriguing prospect. Markkanen has a high offensive skill level, being able to knock down jumpers from all over the floor whether it be in catch-and-shoot situations or off the dribble and even being able to attack closeouts a little bit.
On the defensive end, Markkanen is decent but lacks the length to be an effective rim protector and isn’t really great at containing guards on the perimeter if switched onto one. He’s also only an average rebounder and isn’t really much of a passer on the offensive end. – Tony Romanello
8. New York Knicks – Frank Ntilikina, G, France
The Knicks need a point guard, and who better to man the point for a Phil Jackson team than someone who’s major concern is his ability to handle the basketball and create offense? All triangle jokes aside, Ntilikina makes a lot of sense for the Knicks. At 6’5, he’s able to play both guard positions, and the Knicks could use help at both guard spots. His calling card is his defense, and the Knicks need a lot of help on that end. Besides Porzingis and O’Quinn, the Knicks don’t have an above average defender on the roster. That means that on the wings, the Knicks don’t have a singular player who can get any kind of stopss. Ntilikina can easily fix that, being able to slot in and defend the opposition’s lead guard.
Ntilikina may be the best defender in the draft at the point of attack. While he isn’t great with getting steals and blocks, it’s because he’s more focused on shadowing his man than getting into passing lanes. He was often tasked with guarding the opponent’s primary wing scorer, so his focus on shutting him down instead of getting steals is understandable. He was great as a man to man defender, and he’s able to really get into his opponent without getting blown by. He plays great high pressure defense, and navigates screens very well.
On the offensive end, Ntilikina shows promise but may be limited. He was a good shooter in France, and he has solid form. He isn’t great off the dribble, and his shot looks a little awkward there, but he’s great on the catch. He’ll probably never be a good enough off the dribble shooter to force the opposition to go over screens, which limits his offensive upside. His passing is solid, he usually makes the right pass and doesn’t seem to force a lot of passes or panic. His dribble, however, is suspect, and it could be a big problem for him to initiate offense if he doesn’t greatly improve it.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about Ntilikina. He gives you flexibility with his positional versatility, and once he gets stronger he can probably switch 1-3 and maybe even 1-4. On offense, he’ll be dangerous off ball and a huge question mark on ball, and how much improvement we see there will be a huge factor in how good he ultimately gets. Overall, his defense and shooting alone make him a legit 3 and D prospect, and there are a huge shortage of 3 and D guys in the league. – Mark Chajkowski
9. Dallas Mavericks – Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
While this pick might not be the best of fits, the Mavs could use a two-guard and the only player left on the board in this tier before I believe there to be a drop off is Jayson Tatum, who I think is a worse fit due him and Harrison Barnes having similar skill sets, in my opinion. Monk will be able to be a solid floor spacer for Barnes, who is effective in ISO plays and hopefully help the Mavs improve on their 23rd offense from last season.
Monk was one of the best and most efficient scorers in college basketball last season. Monk has the ability to heat up at any time and put points on the board in bunches and is almost impossible to cool down once he gets going. He has one of the best jump shots in the draft and can make shots off both catch-and-shoot situations or off the dribble and is also great in transition offense thanks to being a great athlete with explosive leaping ability and good speed and quickness.
However, Monk is undersized for his position, measuring in at just 6’3” with a 6’3.5” wingspan which could hurt his ability to get his shot off as easily at the next level. His lack of height and length will also hurt him defensively as he will have a hard time matching up against bigger guards and is better suited, physically, to guard the point guard position despite being a natural two. He’s also not a great passer or shot creator at this point. – Tony Romanello
10. Sacramento Kings – Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
The Kings drafted Fox number five in our mock, meaning that they have four solid prospects in Fox, Hield, Skal, and Cauley-Stein. Beyond that, Papagiannis was a lottery pick, but showed very little his rookie year, and they also drafted Malachi Richardson last year, but he also didn’t do much. So their core has a point guard, two shooting guards, and three bigs. They don’t have a small forward, and while I think Tatum is more of a combo forward, he can still play the three.
Ok, let’s start with the positives. Tatum has great footwork for his age, and can get to his spots in the midrange to get his shot up. He’s a solid scorer in the midrange area, and has a variety of moves in his bag he can go to to get shots up. He’s an ok passer, and a plus rebounder for his position. At 6’8 and with a 7’ wingspan, he has great size for either forward position.
Athletically, he’s a mixed bag. He’s very smooth as an athlete, and his moves look very fluid. He doesn’t have a good first step, and couldn’t even blow by college power forwards on drives. He’s a good leaper, and moves pretty well in the open court or on fast breaks, but you don’t see much of his athleticism in the halfcourt. He isn’t very strong either, but he has a frame that looks like he can add weight once he’s on an NBA weight plan.
Now, onto the negatives. While Tatum was a good midrange scorer, that isn’t exactly where the NBA is going. He’s not going to be able to post up a lot and just try to work to his spots. The defenders will be bigger and stronger, and help defenses will be way more complicated to navigate. As mentioned earlier, he doesn’t have blow by speed, and he isn’t even a good finisher at the hoop. He doesn’t get many clean looks at the hoop, and he wasn’t able to convert a lot of his more difficult looks. He didn’t shoot well from three, and he’s currently working on rebuilding his jumper, but it’s far from a sure thing he ever becomes a knockdown three point shooter. On defense, he has solid size and lateral quickness, but that’s really it. He doesn’t get very low in a defensive stance, and his defensive footwork is iffy. His hands are solid, which leads to the occasional steal or block, but no one would mistake him for an elite defender.
I don’t think Tatum will be a bad player, but I just don’t see *it* with him. I think his best outcome is somewhere between Rudy Gay, Danilo Gallinari, and Harrison Barnes, and while finding that kind of player at ten is a great value, that’s if he works out. I don’t see star potential on either end of the court, and I don’t see him being a dominating presence who can own the ball. I think he’ll be a solid rotation guy, which would be solid value for the tenth pick, but that’s all I really see here. – Mark Chajkowski
11. Charlotte Hornets – Zach Collins, PF, Gonzaga
Yes, the Hornets are taking another big man in the lottery. Marvin Williams took a bit of a step back last season after having a nice season the year before, Frank Kaminsky wasn’t great last year, shooting just 39.9 percent from the field and not being very good defensively, and Cody Zeller missed 20 games last season in which the Hornets went an abysmal 3-17 in so they could use some more quality big men. Collins has the potential to be solid well-rounded big man to fill in next to Zeller or newly acquired Dwight Howard or pick up some of the slack left behind when one of them sits. The Hornets are in need of some more, better quality rotational big men and Collins could be the answer to that.
Collins saw himself shoot up draft boards this year after having an impressive freshman season at Gonzaga this past season. Collins is a good athlete with quick feet and good mobility for a player his size, measuring in at 7’0” in shoes at the NBA Combine. He has a versatile offensive game, being able to score from the post in college as well as showing some ability to step out and knock down jumpers. He’s also solid defensively, having a good sense of verticality and timing when contesting shots and being quick enough on his feet to guard on the perimeter a little. He also showed great rebounding ability in college as well.
While Collins is solid in most areas, he does struggle as a passer and general decision maker with the ball in his hands on offense. He can also lack discipline on the defensive end at times and can become foul prone. He also doesn’t have great length, measuring a 7’1” wingspan at the combine which could hurt his rebounding and overall defensive impact at the NBA level. He could also add some strength and some overall physicality to his game. – Tony Romanello
12. Detroit Pistons – Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
So the Pistons are in a tough place. They have Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond locked up on big contracts, and no one’s actually sure if either of them are good. RJax was an average starting point guard two years ago, a solid pick and roll player who shot just well enough you couldn’t duck under screens and a good enough read and react passer that you were okay with him running your offense. But this year, he was injured and positively horrendous when he came back. There’s a chance he bounces back, and he’s probably their starting point guard for the future given what you’re paying him. Drummond is an elite athlete who’s very limited on offense and while he has impressive block numbers he isn’t a good defender. The Pistons were better when either or both were on the bench. They may also be shopping Drummond, but with how many big men in the league there are, I don’t know if there will be much of a market, and you definitely don’t want to sell low on someone with his physical tools.
Beyond that, they do have some pieces. They have Boban as a backup center, and Leuer can man either backup big spot. Harris, Morris, and Johnson make up a young, solid wing core, especially if Johnson can take a step or two forward on offense this year. They have to make a decision on KCP this summer, who allegedly wants the max.
The Pistons have nothing behind KCP and Jackson, so a guard is a logical pick. I was between Kennard and Mitchell, two shooting guards from the ACC. I went with Kennard, and here’s why. First of all, Kennard has a very high offensive upside. He’s a knockdown shooter for a team who needs it, and he’s a capable passer and pick and roll player. I think he’d be a great spark plug off the bench, and could even play some minutes with the starters.
Mitchell just feels a little duplicity with KCP to me. They’re both undersized twos with long arms, who have a little off the bounce game but not a ton. They can both defend two positions, and have a high motor. But if you plan to keep KCP, then I don’t get taking Mitchell.
Back to Kennard. While he doesn’t have the wingspan or athleticism of Mitchell, I still really like him. He’s incredibly refined for someone so young, and he’s a hyper-efficient scorer despite his physical limitations. He has a great feel for the game, and solid footwork and feel for the game. He’s great at coming off screens, and even initiated offense at Duke. He’ll never be a great finisher, and I don’t think he’ll be a terrific one on one player, but I believe he’d be great as a secondary player. He has a bunch of dribble moves, and if he gets a step on his defender or his defender closes out too hard, he can exploit that. He has tremendous patience, which is really uncommon for someone that age.
His defense will always be a concern. He doesn’t have the physical tools or measurables, and that’s a little scary. These limitations also affect his upside, and he doesn’t have a very high ceiling. There’s a chance he can’t get by at the NBA level with his lack of physical tools. However, at this point in the draft grabbing a solid rotation player is considered a win, and that’s what I believe Kennard is and will be. – Mark Chajkowski
13. Denver Nuggets – OG Anunoby, F, Indiana
The Nuggets finished last season with the second worst defensive rating in the entire NBA and Danilo Galinari entering free agency (although he is very likely to return) and both him and Wilson Chandler being a little out of the Nuggets main core’s age range, the Nuggets should be looking for someone to help improve their defense and possibly sure up their wing rotation for now and into the future. I think the fit here works here as well, Anunoby won’t be asked to do a whole lot offensively, especially earlier in his career, because of the Nuggets already good offense and he’ll be able to help them on the defensive end, where he really shines. Anunoby will be able to play the three and the four at the next level and will give the Nuggets some interesting lineup versatility as well. The Nuggets have a nice young core of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, among others and I think Anunoby would be a nice addition to it.
Anunoby is probably the best defensive prospect in this draft class. He has elite physical tools for his position, measuring in at just under 6’8″ with a wingspan just over 7’2″ and an almost 9’0″ standing reach and is a great athlete. Anunoby’s size and athleticism make him a player that will be able to guard multiple positions at the NBA level, which is an incredibly valuable skill in today’s NBA.
However, Anunoby is still pretty raw in all other parts of his game. He isn’t capable of scoring in many ways outside of spot-up shooting, straight line drives, off ball cuts to the hoop and rim running in transition. He’s not much of a shot creator for himself and isn’t a very good playmaker for others. His jump shot is also still a question and he is a very poor free throw shooter, shooting just 52.2 percent from the line in his two years of college. – Tony Romanello
14. Miami Heat – Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville
The Heat are in a lot of flux this summer after signing a bunch of players to one year deals last summer. Waiters, Johnson, Reed, and Babbitt will all be free agents. Their rotation players returning will be Dragic, Winslow, Whiteside, Ellington, Tyler Johnson, and McGruder. They Heat need a forward, but it’s unsure where. They seem interested in bringing back James Johnson, and Justice Winslow is on the roster. Both are more combo forwards than pure 3s or 4s, and neither is great at spacing the floor. However, there are no 3s or 4s available right now who can space the floor and fit next to them, so I would go best player available, and that’s Donovan Mitchell.
Donovan Mitchell is an interesting prospect. He’s short for the shooting guard position, but has very long arms. He’s a solid, but streaky shooter. He showed some ability to playmake and score in the halfcourt, but at the same time he settled for some very difficult shots. He has some obvious red flags, but the talent is there. He was one of the most athletic players at the combine, and can feasibly guard two or three positions. He’s compared himself to Avery Bradley, meaning he’s not an unrealistic player who will understand his role (as opposed to, say, Aaron Afflalo who compared himself to Kobe Bryant).
Ultimately there’s a lot to like about Mitchell. His off ball movement isn’t great, but given that he plays so hard on defense and had to be an initiator on offense, the lack of movement off ball is pretty understandable. While he is a great athlete, he’s really more of a two foot leaper than great going off one. While he did show some promise finishing at the hoop, he didn’t get there as much as he should’ve given his physical tools. His handle is solid but unspectacular.
I think Mitchell can be a solid rotation player, with the upside of an Avery Bradley or KCP type player. I don’t know how much of his on ball game translates, and he plays very fast, but if he can slow things down and is just a 3 and D guy who makes easy passes, then that’s tremendous value here. – Mark Chajkowski
15. Portland Trailblazers – Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
The Trailblazers are kind of in a rough situation where they are capped out for the next few years but are also just a middling, low seed playoff team at the same time. So adding a useful player in the draft on a cheap, controlled contract is pretty important for them right now and Jackson could be that player. Portland is a little weak on the wing right now, with Evan Turner and Mo Harkless getting most of the minutes there. Jackson would fit nicely next to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on the wing as he is quality shooter, good at moving off ball for cuts to the rim, and is a solid and willing passer.
Jackson improved his jump shot a lot last season, going from 29.2 percent from three his sophomore season up to 37.0 percent three point shooter his junior season, while also taking 4 more attempts per game. He does, however, creating for himself of the dribble and has some trouble getting to the rim due to his slender frame. But, as said earlier, he is good at moving off ball and is a good willing passer.
Defensively, there are some concerns as he doesn’t have great foot speed and isn’t very strong which will hinder his ability to keep faster players in front of him and keep stronger players from bumping him around. He does give good effort on the defensive end and can give players problems with his length and is a good communicator on that end. He’s does have potential to be a solid defender in the league but he does have some clear weaknesses on that end. He’s also not the best rebounder for his position and is also already 22 years old. – Tony Romanello
16. Chicago Bulls – Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU
The Bulls have a ton of question marks on their roster. They have a solid but aging Lopez, Butler may be traded, we’re unsure if Wade and Rondo will be back next year, Mirotic and MCW are restricted free agents, and Felicio and Lauvergne are also free agents. They have some young guys; Zipser, Valentine, Portis, Payne, Grant but I don’t think any of them will be better than bench rotation guys or a low usage fourth/fifth starter. So they don’t really have many pieces in place outside of Butler if they decide to keep him.
Since they aren’t drafting for need (not that you really can at this point in the draft) I think they should go best prospect, and that is Ojeleye. I’m honestly not sure why people aren’t higher on him, I honestly think he should be in heavy consideration for a lottery pick. He’s a combo forward, he has elite speed and lateral quickness, and has shown great ability to guard wings in college. Beyond that, he’s also incredibly strong and can guard bigs. He has a short standing reach, but he’s pretty much a Swiss army knife on defense. I think he can guard 2-4 comfortably, and 1s and 5s in a pinch or late in the shot clock. His short arms may stop him from being a great rim protector or weak side helper, but his man to man defense is very good regardless of where you slot him.
On offense, he’s shown some flashes. He became an efficient scorer and knockdown shooter on pretty high volume at SMU, and even showed some ability to shoot off the dribble . I don’t love his handle, and while he is athletic enough to exploit a hard closeout or getting someone to jump on a pump fake, his ballhandling won’t allow him to be a good or great one on one player. He probably won’t be able to handle in pick and rolls either, but he could be a dynamic player on short rolls and set bone crushing screens with his tremendous frame.
He does have some weaknesses though. He has basketball IQ issues on both ends. He’s a little spacey off the ball, and isn’t exactly a good passer. He isn’t great finishing near the hoop, a problem if he’s going to be a four. He has a tremendous frame, but wasn’t exactly a great rebounder in college. While he did switch a bunch at SMU, he played mostly the four there, and there are concerns about him being a three full time. His upside seems limited, but I think he has a reasonably high floor, especially where we are in the draft. – Mark Chajkowski
17. Milwaukee Bucks – Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA
The Bucks have shown the willingness in the past to take shots on players with interesting skill sets that may not have been the most productive and Anigbogu falls under that category this year. Anigbogu also fits the Bucks mold of players that are absurdly long and are great athletes, as Anigbogu measured in at 6’10” with a 7’6” wingspan at the NBA Combine and is one of the best big man athletes in the draft.
Anigbogu’s frame and athletic ability are his main attractions in this draft, as he has a great build for a big man, has long arms and a strong lower body and is quick on his feet and plays with a high intensity level. Anigbogu is going to make his biggest impact on the defensive end of the floor. He’s very good at altering and blocking shots thanks to his incredible length and ability to get off the floor quickly. He’s very mobile and has quick feet, therefore he is good at defending the pick and roll and has the potential to be able to switch onto the perimeter in the NBA. He’s also a good post defender as he has a strong lower body and can hold his ground. He’s also a good offensive rebounder. He also still very young as he doesn’t turn 19 until October.
While Anigbogu is a good shot blocker, he can sometimes get to aggressive in trying to alter or block shots and leave his man and can be a foul prone. His offensive game is also extremely raw and limited at this point of his development. He’s basically limited to catching lobs or dump offs on teammate’s drives and being a rim runner in transition. He doesn’t much have of a jump shot and has a very unrefined post game. He also needs to work on his overall game awareness as well. – Tony Romanello
18. Indiana Pacers – T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA
So if Paul George leaves, the Pacers pretty much need everything but a center. Outside of Turner, maybe Glenn Robinson III could be a rotation player, but they don’t really have any other young pieces in place. In beginning a rebuild, I would aim for someone with a higher ceiling, and while I don’t think Leaf will be a star, he could be a superstar role player.
Let’s start with his shooting. Leaf was an okay free throw shooter in college, which is a concern, but he was knockdown on three pointers. He really only took open ones, but he hit an astounding 46.6% of them. I think his shooting is legit, and he could be a good to great shooter in the NBA. He also possesses a bunch of other skills on offense. He isn’t an elite post-up player, but he does have some face-up moves for getting to the basket. He isn’t very physical, but he has phenomenal touch and some pretty solid ballhandling and moves for his size. He knows how to get to his spots and get good shots up, and even though I don’t think he can be a big time scorer, I think he will be efficient as a guy who scores in the flow of an offense with a few one on one possessions late maybe. He’s also a very good and willing passer, and is someone who is willing to make quick passes to players with an advantage instead of strictly assist hunting. He’s also shown some skills as a break starter, able to grab rebounds and run in transition. All these skills could make him a very valuable low-medium usage four in the NBA.
Despite not being the most physical player, he was still a good rebounder too. However, he doesn’t really have a position on defense. He isn’t very quick or agile, and struggles moving side to side quickly. He’s not particularly good on defense, and he isn’t strong and doesn’t have a long wingspan, limiting his upside on that end. He’s poor defending the pick and roll, and even though his shot blocking numbers were okay I don’t think of him as much of a rim protector. He’ll never be able to switch, which could be a problem at the four.
He may be a very good role player if the shooting is real and he can get to okay on defense. He does a lot of ancillary things very well, and I like him a lot if you can get him around here. – Mark Chajkowski
19. Atlanta Hawks – Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
The Hawks just traded away Dwight Howard and rumors are floating around about them working on a sign and trade to unload Paul Millsap as well so it looks like the Hawks are hitting the rebuild button and the Hawks should be looking for a young center to replace Dwight Howard in the draft.
Jarrett Allen was a top recruit coming out of high school and was considered a top 10 or so prospect heading into the season this year but had a bit of a rough start to the season before turning it around later in the year. Allen has great physical tools, at 6’10” with a 7’5 wingspan and a 9’1” standing reach with big hands and a projectable frame. He’s also a good athlete that’s agile for his size and has good hands catching the ball. Offensively, Allen is best in the pick and roll and is good at finding spots for teammates to dish off to him on drives to the hoop as well as being a good rim runner. He’s also capable scorer with his back to the basket as he has good footwork and great touch. He also has potential to be a solid rim protector given his size, length and athletic ability even though his block numbers weren’t very impressive in college.
However, Allen’s jump shot still needs some work but did show some promise last season. He also needs to add strength as he can be pushed around a little bit by stronger big men. He also needs to work on his awareness and overall basketball IQ and bring more intensity when on the court. He could also work on his rebounding ability which is solid but not great as he doesn’t always box out or go hard after loose balls. – Tony Romanello
20. Portland Trailblazers – Terrance Ferguson, SG, Australia
So Portland already has a lot of rotation players on their roster, so they aren’t drafting for need by any stretch. That’s why I really like Ferguson here. I think he’s a player with decent upside who may need a year or two to develop before he can really help an NBA team in a meaningful way.
Let’s start with the pros. Ferguson is a very gifted athlete, a great leaper who is very quick in a straight line. He’s dynamic coming around screens, and is also very good shooting off screens. In general, he’s a knockdown shooter from all over the court, and even made a few jumpers out of the post in the Australian League. I think he has a good feel for the game, and he has shown that he is good at identifying when to pass and when to shoot. Even being a capable passer is a big plus for a shooter, and if he can have defensive gravity and a competent eye for a pass, that’s a big plus. Finally, I think he’s a fairly average man defender, not very good but it won’t be a weakness in his game. As he adds strength, he may even be a slight to moderate plus on that end.
And now the cons. While he is a good athlete, he doesn’t have that blow by speed or quick first step that will allow him to kill defenders in the halfcourt. Also, while he is a solid defender on ball, he doesn’t do much off ball and does not seem like a good help defender or someone who will get into passing lanes. He isn’t a great finisher, and he doesn’t get fouled much. After watching some film, it appears he actively looks to avoid contact when going to the hoop, and even will pull up for short jumpers. Hopefully he can correct that as he adds strength or teams will have no problem just running him off the line if they don’t respect his finishing. He seems like a solid prospect with upside overall, and I think Portland can take a chance on him and maybe he can be a rotation player soon. – Mark Chajkowski
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Tyler Lydon, F, Syracuse
The Oklahoma City Thunder are pretty much the definition of a one man show with Russell Westbrook essentially doing everything on the offensive end. Surrounding him are all mostly athletic, defender type players that can’t shoot from the perimeter very, evidence by the their league worst 32.7 percent three point shooting mark. So in this draft they should target someone that can help that percentage come up and give Westbrook someone who can space the floor and that’s what Tyler Lydon offers.
Lydon is a very good shooter, particularly in spot up situations, which is what would be asked of him on offense in OKC. He has a nice feel for the game and can find spots on the floor to get open and he is a solid and willing passer as well. However, he does struggle to create separation and make shots off the dribble.
Defensively, Lydon was solid in Syracuse’s zone while in college but there are some questions about how he’ll fair in the NBA. He has decent size at just about 6’10” with a solid frame but doesn’t have great length with just a 7’0” wingspan as well as not having great lateral quickness. Lydon kind of falls in that tweener category but does have some interesting parts to his game and could become an effective role player at the next level. – Tony Romanello
22. Brooklyn Nets – Harry Giles, C, Duke
The Nets don’t have anything going for them. They had the worst record in the league last year, and don’t have any promising young players. So I say shoot for the stars and go with the player left with the highest upside in the draft, and that’s Harry Giles. Harry Giles was a projected top pick back in high school, but has had a multitude of knee injuries throughout his high school career. He had an underwhelming season at Duke, but he didn’t get to play until December, so he didn’t get much practice in at the collegiate level and didn’t have any chemistry with his team. Add in that he was playing behind a fifth year senior, and room for mistakes were not tolerated.
In the NBA Giles is a 5. He’s 6’11 with a 7’3 wingspan, and despite having multiple knee injuries he is a very quick and agile player. He needs to add weight to his frame to play the five, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem with his frame. Offensively, he didn’t show much of a post game or jumper, and scored most of his points on effort plays like rebounds, open rolls, and beating his man down the floor. He flashed offensive skills in high school, including a post game and midrange jumper, and if you draft him you’re banking that he can do them with more reps. He has soft hands, but there were concerns even in high school if his moves would translate given his shoddy footwork and lackluster basketball IQ. He’s a huge question mark on offense, but I think Brooklyn takes that risk.
On defense, he showed a lot of promise. He was a solid rim protector, and good in man-to-man defense. He even showed a little bit of ability to hedge and recover and switch, which is very valuable for a big man. He can cover a bunch of space, and is dangerous when involved with the action. Off-ball he wasn’t great, often missing rotations or being out of position, and you can either blame his lack of basketball IQ on the offensive end just being an overall trend, or blame it on him never getting to see college action in practice. There’s a small chance he becomes a star, but I think they take the risk. – Mark Chajkowski
23. Toronto Raptors – Justin Patton, C, Creighton
The Raptors look like they are going to lock in with the current core they have right now with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka & Jonas Valanciunas so I can see them taking a bit of a high upside, project player with their pick here.
Patton is an interesting prospect that kind of came out of nowhere this year after redshirting his first college season at Creighton. Patton has all the makings of what teams want from a modern day center, he has great size at just about 7’0” with a 7’3” wingspan and is a great athlete. On the offensive end, Patton has a defined role as a role man or off ball cutter and doesn’t demand or need the ball to effective on that end. Defensively, he has the tools and potential to become a solid rim protector and individual defender.
Patton, like the other centers in this draft, he doesn’t have a consistent jumper and is a poor free throw at this stage of his game and needs to work on his IQ and discipline on the court. He also isn’t a great rebounder as well and struggles reading the ball off missed shots. Patton is still in the early stage of his development as a player and needs to refine his game and skills more but he has big upside if he can bring it all together. – Tony Romanello
24. Utah Jazz – John Collins, F/C, Wake Forest
John Collins is someone I fully expect to fall on draft night. I’m not exactly in love with his game, but at this point he could be a solid value pick.
Collins had a monster year at Wake Forest, averaging 19 and 9 on 62% shooting from the field and nearly 75% from the line. He was wildly efficient, and one of the best offensive rebounders in the country. He’s a very good post scorer, and possibly someone who could anchor your second unit’s scoring. He has a very high motor, and is very athletic, meaning he could be an Enes Kanter type in the NBA.
However, there are concerns. At 6’10 with a 6’11 wingspan, he doesn’t project as a center, which is unfortunate because he didn’t show much ability beyond 15 feet in college (although apparently he’s impressing with his 3 point shooting at workouts, something that would be vital to him playing the 4). He also struggled with decision making, often trying to fight through or shoot over double teams than pass (he averaged .6 assists a game to 1.8 turnovers). Finally, he doesn’t stand out in any aspect of defense, he gets the occasional block but he isn’t a good post defender or rim protector. Switching could also present a big problem for him, as he struggles to get into a defensive stance. – Mark Chajkowski
25. Orlando Magic – Jawun Evans, PG, Oklahoma State
The Magic are a bit of a mess right now and while they have a couple of point guards already on their roster, neither C.J. Watson or D.J. Watson we’re very good in the backup role there last season and Elfrid Payton still has questions about his game so I think the Magic take a shot at Evans here.
Evans is very good offensive point guard that led the NCAA’s most efficient offense last season. He’s great in the pick and roll and a great passer and is a good scorer from all three levels, although his three point jumper isn’t a sure thing as he shot a good parentage from deep but not on a very high volume. He’s also an active defender that gets into his man and stays in front of his man well.
However, Evans measures in at just under 6’0” which will make it difficult for him at the NBA level on defense as players can shoot over him with relative ease, but he does have a 6’5” wingspan which should help out on the defensive end. He also struggles with finishing around the basket and through contact due to his lack of size and just average explosiveness. – Tony Romanello
26. Portland Trailblazers – Jordan Bell, PF, Oregon
I don’t expect the Blazers to use all three of their first round picks, but if they do, Jordan Bell should be someone to look at. While Bell doesn’t exactly have the build of a five, or the offensive ability of a four, I think he has an interesting skillset that a team should seriously look to develop. He’s an elite athlete, and tested absurdly well at the combine. He’s a dynamic leaper with great straight line speed and lateral quickness. He can switch onto the perimeter, protect the rim reasonably well, and projects as a great weak side help defender.
On offense, he’s a bit more raw. He’s a high motor player, but most of his points come as a roll man or in transition. That could complicate things for him at the NBA level if he plays next to a big that can’t space the floor. However, he showed a unique passing ability this year at Oregon, and I could see him being very effective in a 4 on 3 if teams have to trap Dame and CJ. He has an exceptional first step, and even a decent handle for a big, meaning it won’t be like when Cleveland asked Tristan Thompson to do it when Golden State trapped Kyrie. The Blazers have Vonleh and Leonard who are both big, young, and can space the floor, and if they think Bell could be a good third or fourth big to pair with one of them, I would go for it. – Mark Chajkowski
27. Los Angeles Lakers – Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky
The Lakers just acquired this pick and Brook Lopez from the Brooklyn Nets in the D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov trade. And while the Lakers have Ivica Zubac and Tarik Black as well as Larry Nance Jr., who plays some center, on their roster and just got Brook Lopez, Black tops out as a backup, Zubac had a promising rookie season but is still no sure thing and Lopez likely won’t be on the roster after next season, so they could use another center.
Adebayo is a physical, strong, athletic big man that could be a very useful and productive player in the league. Despite being a tad undersized at just around 6’10”, he has a solid 7’3” wingspan and is one of the most athletic bigs in the draft. He’s impressively quick and mobile for his size as well as strong enough to be able to easily hold his own against other big men. Defensively, Adebayo has the potential to be a very good player on this end as he’s strong enough to hold his own in the post and has the lateral quickness to switch onto the perimeter. He does, however, struggle protecting the rim due to being a tad undersized and his awareness and timing needing some work. He also struggles a bit as a defensive rebounder.
Offensively, Adebayo is pretty unrefined and scores basically all of his points through pick and roll and dump offs and offensive rebounds. He does have good hands and is aggressive at the rim and tries to dunk everything. He does have a good bit of work to do on his jump shot but it does have some potential. He’s also a very good offensive rebounder. – Tony Romanello
28. Los Angeles Lakers – Frank Jackson, PG, Duke
If and when the Lakers decide to move on from Jordan Clarkson, they will probably be in need of a scorer off the bench, and I think Frank Jackson would be a guy to draft with that in mind. Frank Jackson is actually a similar player to Jordan Clarkson, but I think he fits this team much better. Jackson has a score first mentality, but he is a much better shooter than Clarkson, meaning he would be a better fit next to Lonzo and Russell. Much like Clarkson, he’s a very good straight line driver, but he gets to the hoop more and settles for jumpers less. He’s definitely more athletic, and seems to be a better finisher at the rim and on more difficult close shots like floaters.
His lack of vision could be a concern, as well as his on and off approach to defense, but I think some of that can be mitigated by playing off the bench. He’ll be playing against smaller shooting guards, meaning his lack of size won’t be as much of a problem, and using him as a secondary option instead of a primary creator would probably be a good idea. He has a bunch of limitations, but it’s understandable to see the road to him becoming a dependable role player in this league. – Mark Chajkowski
29. San Antonio Spurs – Ivan Rabb, PF, California
The Spurs big men are getting old with LaMarcus Aldridge at 31, Pau Gasol at 36 and David Lee at 34 and Dewayne Dedmon a free agent, the Spurs only have Davis Bertans as their only returning big man under 30 so the Spurs are in need of some youth in their big man rotation.
Rabb was a top recruit coming out of high school and was a projected lottery pick after his freshman season last year but decided to return to school to work on his game. However, he ended up not making the strides in his game that scouts were looking for and he finds himself lower on draft boards this season. Rabb has solid size for his position at 6’10” with a 7’2” wingspan and is fairly mobile but not a great athlete. He doesn’t really have a standout offensive skill as he’s decent in the post and isn’t really a very good jump shooter. He was, however, stuck in a rather bad offensive system at Cal where there was little space and flow to it so his offensive game could be unlocked in a better situation, which the Spurs clearly offer.
Defensively, Rabb has some concerns is kind of a tweener between a four and a five as he’s not strong enough to battle with centers or long and athletic enough to be a rim protector and he’s not very effective guarding out on the perimeter. Rabb’s best skill at the moment is his rebounding ability where he very good at boxing out and pulling down rebounds in traffic.
If any team can take a shot on a former top recruit and project lottery pick from last year who’s fallen a bit and give him a new situation and have him be successful, it’s the Spurs. – Tony Romanello
30. Utah Jazz – Sindarius Thornwell, SG, South Carolina
Utah had the deepest group of wings this year in the NBA with Hood, Johnson, Hayward, Ingles and Burks, but with how much of that is in question, maybe they should look for another. Burks is always hurt, Johnson is a stopgap, and Ingles and Hayward could both leave in free agency. So why not take a shot on a guy like Thornwell, who could thrive with the Jazz.
Thornwell isn’t very athletic, but he fits the prototype of a 3 and D wing. He’s long, tough, and great on defense. He’s also a 39% three point shooter, and flashed some playmaking capabilities at South Carolina. He has high basketball IQ on both ends of the ball. I think with his long arms and strong frame he could feasibly guard three positions in the NBA, and even fours in a pinch, which is incredibly valuable. He has a high motor, crashes the boards, and is a good transition defender. The archetype for him to be a successful role player are clearly there.
He isn’t a good ballhandler, or very good attacking closeouts, but as a third or fourth wing he could be very valuable. There are concerns about his jumper; it’s flat, kinda slow, and he didn’t shoot very well before his senior year. He has trouble finishing in the lane, and his lack of athleticism could hurt him there, but he isn’t afraid of contact and draws a ton of fouls. At this point in the draft, grabbing a player who could be a role player one day is a pretty big win. – Mark Chajkowski