The NBA Finals may have just come to a conclusion last week, but for most teams the real fun now begins with the NBA Draft this Thursday June 24th, followed by free agency at the beginning of July.
This year’s draft will prove challenging for all teams as most experts agree there are 4 “elite level” albeit very polarizing talents (Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero and Jaden Ivey) followed by many players who are in the same tiers in terms of ability and potential. For those who may not be as familiar, the NBA Draft is only 2 rounds, and is much more volatile than say, the NFL Draft. Decisions are made based on a number of factors such as:
If a team is in rebuilding mode, they may be more willing to take on a project with a lot of potential
Does a particular player fit within the system and style of offense that a coach likes to run?
If a team is in “win now” mode and has a superstar in their prime, they tend to look for players who can contribute right away
Does a team already have an up and coming player at a particular position, because if so they may draft for need instead of the best player available
If a team has intel (and most do) that they will be able to sign a particular player in free agency, that can also affect their decision on who to pick
Of course, all of this can also be affected by trades. There is a ton of smoke regarding teams looking to trade up/down this year which usually means the opposite happens. Would love to be wrong however, as trades spice up any draft and make the off-season all the more intriguing.
Some of the biggest questions for this year’s draft?
Where will 7 foot Center Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga go, and will his immense potential supersede concerns about his VERY slight (195 pounds!) frame?
Will the Sacramento Kings look to trade out of the #4 pick? If so who has the assets to move up?
What will the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs do with their 3 first round picks each?
The Oklahoma City Thunder have more draft capital than any team the next couple of years – do they make a major move Thursday evening?
Will the New York Knicks leave me depressed on draft night for the 20th consecutive year? I’m kidding! (Not really though)
Before we get to our Mock Draft just a quick reminder that the Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, and Utah Jazz will not be selecting in the first round this year due to prior trades.
1. Orlando Magic – Jabari Smith – PF, Auburn – Do the Magic swing for the fences with Holmgren or play it “safe” with Smith? I say the latter as Smith will be a 20 PPG scorer and one of the very few in this draft who has a high floor and a high ceiling.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder – Chet Holmgren – C, Gonzaga – His talent is undeniable and the Thunder is a perfect landing spot for Holmgren’s talent, although he has to put on 30 pounds of mass soon. He was an elite defender in college but I have questions about how that translates to the pros and whether he can stay out of foul trouble.
3. Houston Rockets – Paolo Banchero – PF, Duke – Banchero at one time was considered at #1 overall pick candidate. The Rockets won’t overthink this. I think he has a ton of potential on offense but is going to have to play harder and with more intensity to succeed at the next level.
4. Sacramento Kings – Keegan Murray – PF, Iowa – Surprise! I think that this is between Ivey and Murray and while Ivey is probably the favorite, I don’t think Ivey wants to play for them and the Kings know this. The Kings can’t afford to miss on this pick and Murray is one of the few high floor players in this draft.
5. Detroit Pistons – Dyson Daniels – SG, G League Ignite – I think Daniels potential will be too much for the Pistons to pass up on, yes, even with Cade Cunningham in the fold. Daniels is a jack of all trades type player and a strong defender who would give the Pistons a good core to build around.
6. Indiana Pacers – Jaden Ivey – SG, Purdue – I can’t see Ivey falling any further than 6 and in this scenario I think the Pacers would be thrilled in this scenario to pair him with recently acquired Tyrese Halliburton. They will have to gauge if they need to trade up to select him however.
7. Portland Trail Blazers – Bennedict Mathurin – SG, Arizona – The Blazers need to get a player who can fill the CJ McCollum role immediately while the very slight Damian Lillard window is inched open. I don’t see them taking a chance on a project, and Mathurin can step in immediately as a 3 and D threat.
8. New Orleans Pelicans – Jeremy Sochan – PF, Baylor – One of my favorite players in the draft. I see him having a long NBA career due to his defense and work ethic. If he develops a jump shot? Watch out.
9. San Antonio Spurs – Johnny Davis – SF, Wisconsin – The Spurs tend to go for more established options and before his ankle injury Johnny Davis was as established as you could get at Wisconsin. The question is whether that injury will linger in the pros or not.
10. Washington Wizards – AJ Griffin – SF, Duke – Great wingspan, a physical freak. There are some holes in his game, mainly around shot creation but with the right coaching he can be an asset to any team. The question is what are the Wizards long term plans with Bradley Beal because that can influence this pick.
11. New York Knicks – Shaedon Sharpe – SG, Kentucky – Sharpe has more questions than any player in the draft. He’s never played basketball beyond the high school level but the Knicks need to swing for the fences with this pick, and I can see them going with Sharpe here. It’s a risk but for a player with comps to Anthony Edwards, you have to take that chance.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder – Mark Williams – C, Duke – The Thunder may surprise us with this pick, but I can see them going with a player who would allow Holmgren to play some PF to open the floor up. He has limited upside but what he does well (protect the rim) he does extremely well.
13. Charlotte Hornets – Ochai Agbaji – SG, Kansas – Great shooter off the catch. This pick may also depend what the Hornets do with Gordon Hayward who rumor has they’re trying to move. Agbaji may seem like a “boring” selection but the Hornets need consistency more than ever.
14. Cleveland Cavaliers – Malakai Branahm – SF, Ohio State – Branahm is moving up draft boards because of his shot creation, which many teams are valuing more than ever. He has some holes in his game otherwise, especially some questions about his 3-point shooting, but he’s worth a roll of the dice here.
15. Charlotte Hornets - Jalen Duren – C, Memphis – Limited on offense, but he is already built for the NBA and there are comparisons to DeAndre Jordan. He can run and he can block shots and there is always a place for that on any roster.
16. Atlanta Hawks – Ousmane Dieng – SF, France – Versatile piece who can defend, handle the ball and has very good court vision. The question for any team will be can he develop a jump shot? He’s been rising up draft boards and would be a nice successor to Danilo Gallinari.
17. Houston Rockets – Christian Braun – SF, Kansas – I don’t know where Braun will end up but I think he’s going to surprise by going ahead of a couple bigger names on the board. He’s never going to be a star but he shoots well, defends well, and improved every single year at Kansas. Sleeper to watch out for.
18. Chicago Bulls – Tari Eason – PF, LSU – His defense is fantastic and he shows flashes of greatness every time he steps on the floor. He has a ton of upside, I think having a mentor like DeMar DeRozan would do wonders for him.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves – TyTy Washington – PG, Kentucky – he’s not an elite athlete but he plays smart and is a capable distributor in a draft that is not very strong at point guard. I think he’d be a nice little compliment to Anthony Edwards.
20. San Antonio Spurs – E.J. Liddell – PF, Ohio State – Not a great athlete but the Spurs were never known for their athleticism. What he is though is smart, hard working and someone who has improved his shooting every year.
21. Denver Nuggets – Dalen Terry – SF, Arizona – I think the Nuggets would be thrilled if Terry falls this far and he may not. He’s got a 7’1 wingspan and is a great playmaker. His shot isn’t there yet but otherwise not a ton of holes in his game. A player to watch out for.
22. Memphis Grizzlies – Jalen Williams – SG, Santa Clara – More wingspan talk? Sure, why not. Williams has a 7’2 wingspan, is very strong and a great ballhandler. The question is whether his small school experience will translate? I think it will and he’ll be a productive bench player in the pros.
23. Philadelphia 76ers – Blake Wesley – SG, Notre Dame – This is going to be interesting because the 76ers can go in a number of different directions. Wesley is a good distributor and could potential be a nice guy to bring off the bench when (if) Harden has the ball in his hands. Not as bullish on him as others however.
24. Milwaukee Bucks – Gabriele Procida – SF, Italy – He’s a definite project but absent of an immediate difference maker, I think the Bucks roll the dice with Procida’s offensive potential knowing he may be a great stash prospect in the event Giannis leaves town.
25. San Antonio Spurs – Nikola Jovic – SF, Serbia – The Spurs normally don’t take projects as we’ve mentioned above BUT…they also don’t normally have 3 first round picks. Why not roll the dice on Jovic who has all the tools on offense and hope that the defensive skill set develops later on down the road.
26. Houston Rockets – Wendell Moore – SF, Duke – Not the greatest of athletes but he’s a smart player and good defender. I think where he went to school will factor in with his selection in the draft. Not as high on him as others but if he gets his shot together he can improve.
27. Miami Heat – Jaden Hardy – SG, G League Ignite – He can shoot and is a really solid ball handler. His issue? He’s small and doesn’t display a lot of effort on defense. I think the Heat would be a perfect fit because of their culture and attention to detail.
28. Golden State Warriors -MarJon Beauchamp – SF, G League Ignite – He’s a super solid defender and that is an area that any team, even the defending champs can use. His shooting needs to improve but it won’t be as much of a priority on a team like Golden State.
29. Memphis Grizzlies – Kendall Brown – SF, Baylor – Following with a theme at this part of the draft, nice size and a solid defender but not a great shooter. I think he’s better than he played this past season at Baylor. The Grizzlies can afford to roll the dice.
30. Denver Nuggets – Jake LaRavia – PF, Wake Forest – Rising up many draft boards. Moves the ball extremely well and on a team like Denver that could be a great asset. No, he’s not super athletic but he can shoot and is efficient and in the NBA that is what front offices love. Probably will go higher.
Thanks for reading! Enjoy the draft!