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NBA Mock Draft 1.0

While the finals have just begun, the NBA draft is also looming large as it takes place in about three weeks. The number one overall pick is clear-cut and as good as set in stone. It also seems as if the Grizzlies know who they’ll be selecting on June 20th.

Before we dive right into this mock draft (3000 words and all), I want to note the importance of differentiating between a mock draft and big board, as it seems not everyone understands how to separate these.

A big board is just that – a player board. One which players are ranked, either by team fit or genuine talent.

A mock draft pairs players to teams based on needs, contractual situations, and previous draft tendencies.

The combine concluded just a week and a half ago, as well. There were many notable risers, such as Nicolas Claxton and Isaiah Roby, two players that made their way into this mock draft.

Other players whose stock rose were Tacko Fall, Luka Semanic, and Jordan Bone.

Outside of the top-2 selections in this draft, there are three lottery players that are rumored to have draft promises.

The first is Darius Garland. The team that gave him the promise was most likely either the Suns (sixth pick) or Lakers (fourth pick). After that, Coby White may have received a promise from the Chicago Bulls. They pick at seven overall. Finally, Rui Hachimura was rumored to have gotten a promise from the Minnesota Timberwolves, who pick at 11.

All right, without further ado, let’s dive into this mock draft.

1. Pelicans – Zion Williamson, Forward, Duke

Zion Williamson is the clear-cut first overall pick in a draft with three primary players at the top. He should be the start of a new era in New Orleans and is unlike any player currently in the NBA.

While I believe that Anthony Davis/Zion Williamson/Jrue Holiday is a top-5 seed in a crowded Western Conference, it does not appear that Anthony Davis believes so and would rather build his brand elsewhere.

Williamson is an incredible defender, transition playmaker, and just downright good basketball player. His effect on opposing teams is incredible and should be able to start at either the small or power forward position, with the ability to play limited minutes at the small-ball five.

2. Grizzlies – Ja Morant, Guard, Murray State

Ja Morant is an electric guard that has immense playmaking ability to go along with Derrick Rose-esque athleticism. Morant is one of the better point guards in recent draft history – along with Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, and Luka Doncic.

The Grizzlies get the long-time replacement for Mike Conley (who they make look to trade later on in this draft, actually), and another young star to pair with defensive monster Jaren Jackson, whom they selected with the fourth overall pick in last year’s draft.

While the Grizzlies will have to convey one of their future draft picks to the Boston Celtics in the near future, getting the second overall pick in this draft class was a clear win, and it seems the team has a logical plan moving forward.

3. Knicks – RJ Barrett, Wing, Duke

RJ Barrett is the best pure scorer in this draft class. I don’t think the Knicks have the assets to land Anthony Davis when compared to the Celtics or Lakers, however, Barrett looks like a future star and certainly has the mentality of one as well.

Barrett had a historically good scoring season for a college freshman and has found success at every level he has played at, including internationally. I understand that he was not the most efficient player and had tunnel vision at times (especially when on the same team as Zion Williamson), but it also must be noted he is one of two players at Duke that had a consistent jump shot.

The Knicks might be able to roll out a starting lineup of Kyrie Irving, RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Kevin Durant, and Mitchell Robinson – and yes, while that is a really fun team, four of those players are used to handling the ball for a large share of offensive possessions, and that will be a problem the Knicks have to figure out, should they keep every one of those players (or even sign Irving/Durant to begin with).

Trade
Lakers get: Anthony Davis
Pelicans get: Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, 4th overall pick

4. Pelicans* – Jarrett Culver, Wing, Texas Tech

The Pelicans would be ecstatic, should they get the package I project for Anthony Davis. Jarrett Culver is a do-it-all wing that gives Khris Middleton vibes and is a nice complimentary role player, especially as a rookie.

Culver is a legit 6-6 wing that most likely comes off of the bench as a rookie, especially on a team led by 2-guard Jrue Holiday. That said, Culver has upside in his shot and playmaking ability. He could start at any position one through three and is versatile enough defensively to cover all three of those positions as well.

Building around a lineup of Ball/Holiday/Ingram/Kuzma/Randle with Culver coming off of the bench (well, for now, at least).

I think that, despite possibly losing Anthony Davis, the Pelicans are in one of the best situations in the NBA, merely based on the return value along with, well, Zion Williamson.

5. Cavaliers – Cam Reddish, Forward, Duke

I know that a lot of people really don’t like Cam Reddish, but athletic forwards with shooting form like his do not come along often. Reddish has the length to be a 3/4 combo and could be the perfect complimentary piece moving forward, especially for a young point guard like Collin Sexton.

Reddish hit multiple clutch shots for Duke last season, and he was on a team with RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson, so that should not be discounted. Often times, you didn’t really notice him on the court, and that is a point of concern.

Consistency will also be a big factor moving forward for Reddish. And for the Cavs, it’s hard to not be excited about this pick – especially when you have all of your future draft picks.

6. Suns – Darius Garland, Guard, Vanderbilt

I’m not sure I like this draft pick, but I do fully expect it to happen. Garland is a score-first guard that can put the ball in the basket at all three levels. I have some questions about his passing and vision, especially given he had a negative assist/turnover ratio in the five games he played, and that’s just not what you want from the point guard position, given he will have to share the ball with Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton.

Garland is a capable defender if he’s guarding a one, but as soon as he switches, things tend to get questionable. It was also rumored that he was promised a pick by the Suns, but Garland also worked out at the Klutch Sports pro day, so this may not be true.

Garland is one of the better guards in this class and is certainly an exciting selection for a Suns team that needs help. I also wouldn’t count out Phoenix trading this pick in a package for Mike Conley (or Lonzo Ball, for that matter). But in this scenario, they keep it.

7. Bulls – Coby White, Guard, UNC

Coby White is a dynamic, quick scorer, with playmaking and defensive upside. The Bulls already have a great young core consisting of Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, and Wendell Carter (who was injured for the majority of the season).

While I believe White is best suited as a two-guard (see Jamal Murray in Denver), White is a willing passer and was able to initiate an offense for the Tar Heels.

White is perhaps the third best point guard in this draft class, and after him, it drops off significantly. It’s possible a team in the late lottery reaches for a player like Carsen Edwards, Shamorie Ponds, or Ty Jerome.

8. Hawks – DeAndre Hunter, Forward, Virginia

The Hawks have two picks in the top ten after a disappointing lottery draw. DeAndre Hunter is a premier 3&D prospect and fits in very well on a team with Trae Young at point guard (and John Collins as well).

John Collins isn’t exactly a floor spacer although his shot has significantly developed since his days at Wake Forest. Trae Young has turned into an elite young player and should be a spectacular point guard moving forward. Adding a combination of two lottery talents to an existing young roster is really exciting for Atlanta.

I could see the Hawks going Doumbouya with this pick, or perhaps even Nassir Little, who they have already worked out. Hunter is just a better fit for what the Hawks are trying to build.

9. Wizards – Sekou Doumbouya, Forward, France

Sekou Doumbouya has a spectacular amount of defensive potential. The Wizards traded away Otto Porter last trade deadline, who was a great complimentary piece surrounding Bradley Beal.

John Wall’s future is somewhat in question, but Doumbouya is a forward and a shot at another star in a Washington attempt to add to a now-mediocre team. Jaxson Hayes is another option is the Wizards do not plan on bringing back Thomas Bryant. I also could see them taking a shot at Rui Hachimura, an offensive-minded forward.

Washington hasn’t had the best draft history recently, specifically last year. Troy Brown, a wing player whom they picked last year, only played about 15 minutes per game following the All-Star break. The team clearly believes in him, so we’ll have to see if he can improve on a disappointing rookie campaign.

10. Hawks – Jaxson Hayes, Big, Texas

If the Atlanta Hawks walk away with both Jaxson Hayes and DeAndre Hunter, I think they will be ecstatic on draft night. Hayes is a rim-running big that is one of the rawest players in this class.

It’s also of note that the Hawks are, in fact, a landing spot for Rockets center Clint Capela, and they certainly have the cap space and draft capital to make a move to get him. However, I don’t necessarily foresee them doing a trade that would involve Capela simply based on the fact Atlanta trusts their drafting skills – I mean, just look at what they have come away with in the past two years – John Collins, Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, and Omari Spellman – all of which look like rotational guys.

11. Timberwolves – Rui Hachimura, Forward, Gonzaga

Rui Hachimura is an offensive-minded forward that was Gonzaga’s leading scorer. Despite this, I don’t see lottery value in his skill set. He’s spectacular at the rim (72% FG at the rim, per the Stepien), and has long-range potential.

I don’t love the fit next to Karl-Anthony Towns, a scorer and top-5 center in the NBA. Hachimura certainly has potential and is viewed by most NBA teams as a lottery talent. I would not be surprised if he went in the top-7 picks.

The Timberwolves already have a four that fits next to Towns fairly well – Dario Saric. This is a pick that likely signals that Minnesota is doing one of two things: prepping for Saric’s pending free agency in 2020 or taking a shot at landing another star.

12. Hornets – Goga Bitadze, Big, Georgia

Hornets’ general manager Mitch Kupchak has outlined that rim-protection is Charlotte’s biggest needs. Bitadze brings that along with an NBA-ready scoring skillset where he is already able to stretch the floor, play-make for teammates, and score in the post, as well.

Charlotte has four centers on the roster already: Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo, Willy Hernangomez, and Frank Kaminsky – but Kaminsky is a free agent, and Biyombo and Hernangomez are going to be free agents in 2020. Cody Zeller is probably Charlotte’s best player when healthy, but the problem is Zeller has only played 82 games in the past two seasons (and only over 75 games in a single season once).

Bitadze isn’t enough to make Kemba Walker stay, but he is an exciting (and pro-ready) piece that the Hornets desperately need.

13. Heat – Kevin Porter, Wing, USC

Kevin Porter has the potential to be an electric scorer. He’s athletic, long, and was arguably a top-5 prospect in this draft class before his suspension in February.

The Heat need to take a home-run swing on a player. They’re cap-stricken and only a borderline playoff team. Porter should be a rotational piece right away but would immediately benefit from the culture in the Miami organization.

There is a slight hitch in Porter’s jump shot, but he was spectacular from three in his limited college games, but a flaw in his free throw mechanics caused him to shoot just above 50% from the charity stripe. I think Porter has gone criminally underrated throughout this draft process and is third on my personal big board. The Heat would be very happy to land him with the 13th overall pick.

14. Celtics – Romeo Langford, Wing, Indiana

Romeo Langford is a player I could see at any position 1-3. The Celtics have three picks in the first round, and I predict that they will take a high risk/high reward player with their highest selection.

Langford wasn’t a great shooter at Indiana (very bad, actually), but he was dealing with a thumb injury throughout the entirety of the year. Assuming this is fixed for the future, it will be interesting to see whether he improves his percentages.

A report from Steve Kyler stated that the Celtics want to build their future starting five around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. If so, Langford is essentially pushed into the starting point guard role, especially with Terry Rozier effectively gone. Either way, Langford is an intriguing selection for any team.

15. Pistons – Bruno Fernando, Big, Maryland

The Pistons have been working out first-round bigs, which leads me to believe that they either want depth in the frontcourt or are willing to part with Andre Drummond (for the right price). Fernando is a center with a lot of offensive potential and would certainly be a change-up from the past season and a half for the Pistons.

16. Magic – Tyler Herro, Wing, Kentucky

The Magic need more shooting – a lot more shooting – and Tyler Herro is certainly that. But, he’s not only a shooter. Herro was more than an average defender for the Wildcats this season and has a very high basketball IQ.

17. Nets – Brandon Clarke, Big, Gonzaga

Many will be surprised to see Brandon Clarke fall this far, but he’s been largely working out with teams in the 12-18 range, which leads me to believe that is where he will be drafted. Clarke is an NBA Twitter-favorite, a high-athleticism tweener that can get anything inside.

18. Pacers – Kezie Okpala, Forward, Stanford

KZ Okpala is an interesting forward to look at. His stroke was somewhat inconsistent at Stanford this past season, but players of his size and versatility at the three/four are rare and Okpala should be hailed as a late lottery pick, especially in this draft class.

19. Spurs – PJ Washington, Forward, Kentucky

PJ Washington is like a Miles Bridges-lite. He’s a tweener offensively and offers athleticism and shooting potential, and can cover any position 2-4 on defense. The Spurs could use a player to push them back into a top-5 seed in the Western Conference, and while Washington may not be that immediately, he is certainly a flyer.

20. Celtics – Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Guard, VA Tech

The Boston Celtics are taking another guard with this pick. NAW is a scoring/playmaking combo-guard that could come off of the bench and score/facilitate for an offense. For a now-rebuilding Celtics team, he makes a lot of sense.

21. Thunder – Nassir Little, Forward, UNC

I could see Nassir Little going much higher than this, but the Thunder should take a high-risk player. Little didn’t have much feel for the game at UNC, and certainly wasn’t what you wanted defensively, but has the frame to make a day-one impact if coached correctly.

22. Celtics – Keldon Johnson, Wing, Kentucky

Keldon Johnson is an athletic two-guard whose best skill is in the transition game. He was relegated to being a spot-up shooter at Kentucky, and while that isn’t favorable, he showed he’s never going to be the prospect people once thought.

23. Jazz – Isaiah Roby, Forward, Nebraska

Isaiah Roby is a player that really improved his stock during the NBA Combine. He excelled in 5v5s and those players have typically risen on draft boards, as seen last year in Donte DiVincenzo, among others.

24. 76ers – Mfiondu Kabengele, Big, FSU

The 76ers will likely run it back next season, but they need more quality depth. Kabengele is a big that will certainly be an upgrade over… *checks notes*… Boban?

25. Trail Blazers – Grant Williams, Forward, Tennessee

Grant Williams is just a good basketball player. He was great in the NCAA tournament for Tennessee (despite his team mildly disappointing). He’s a great defensive player and could end up in the lottery if a team wants a safe NBA prospect.

26. Cavs – Bol Bol, Big, Oregon

Bol Bol is the ultimate flyer. He has a great stroke for a player of his size, but is very light for his position, being less than 215 points at 7-foot-2. All in all, if the Cavs walk away with Bol and Reddish, they are likely very happy by the end of draft night.

27. Nets – Talen Horton-Tucker, Wing, Iowa State

Talen Horton-Tucker is another player that could go as high as the lottery. He’s a project player, but his wingspan and defensive versatility make him an ideal player to put next to, say, D’Angelo Russell.

28. Warriors – Nic Claxton, Big, Georgia

Claxton was viewed as a late second round player going into the combine but boosted his stock tremendously. The Warriors could use more depth on their team (in general, simply put), and Claxton gives them a young option at both forward and big.

29. Spurs – Chuma Okeke, Forward, Auburn

The Spurs, once again, are shooting high with a forward that won’t play next year. Okeke is one of the better fours in this class and can score both inside and on the perimeter. He was playing incredibly at the NCAA tournament and could have gone in the lottery, had he not torn his ACL.

30. Bucks – Cameron Johnson, Forward, UNC

The Bucks will need to replicate some shooting with so many of their players as free agents this offseason. Cameron Johnson, well, was the best shooter in college basketball. He can play instantly as either a small or power forward and the Bucks get a value at the end of the first round.

Notable players still left: Jontay Porter, Shamorie Ponds, Carsen Edwards, Ty Jerome, Lou King, Zach Norvell, Jalen Lecque, Darius Bazley, Luguentz Dort, Dylan Windler, Eric Paschall, Matisse Thybulle

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