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2018 NBA Mock Draft

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IT’S DRAFT TIME!

USA TODAY Sports/Peter Rogers Illustrations

Quick question: who’s been the best center in the past 4 NBA Finals series? If you guessed Draymond Green, congratulations! You are correct. Green, who’s listed as 6’7”, isn’t the tallest person on his team, and his main “position” is forward, but, when Golden State’s Death Lineup is on the floor (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, and Draymond), the Michigan State alum plays at Center (even though Durant is several inches taller).

In this year’s final four for the NBA, the best centers were Draymond, Clint Capela (PJ Tucker, really, but he’s 6’6”), Al Horford, and...uh...Larry Nance, Jr.? Tristan Thompson? Kevin Love?

Let’s go back even further. In 2014, the Spurs defeated the Heat; the best bigs were Tim Duncan for the Spurs, and Chris Bosh for the Heat. In 2013, ditto, Spurs vs. Heat, Duncan and Bosh. In 2012, the Heat beat the Thunder; Chris Bosh was the best big for the Heatles, with Serge Ibaka (and, too much Kendrick Perkins) for the Thunder. In 2011, Dirk beat the Heat and Bosh. In 2010 and 2009, the Lakers with Kobe and Pau Gasol defeated the Celtics with Kevin Garnett, and the Magic with Dwight Howard, respectively. In 2008, Garnett’s Celtics defeated the Lakers, and in 2007 the Spurs (and, Tim Duncan) defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers and, uh, Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

Outside of Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki, none of the Finals since 2007 have had a big man as the best player on the floor. 11 Finals, two bigs as the best player, and LeBron is on the court with Tim Duncan in those Spurs Finals. And, Dirk isn’t exactly a traditional big man; his long range shooting and clutch scoring was what killed the Heatles in 2011.

So, since 2007, the Finals have usually been decided by players OTHER than a big man or center. Why do I use 2007 as the cut-off date, rather than 2008 which is a nice, clean decade ago? Because 2007 is the year the Portland Trail Blazers drafted Greg Oden #1 overall. You know who went #2? Kevin Durant.

This year’s draft feels similar to the 2007 draft to me. In the ‘07 draft 6 of the top 10 players drafted were bigs: Greg Oden, #1 overall, Al Horford (3), Yi Jianlian (6), Brandon Wright (8), Joakim Noah (9), and Spencer Hawes (10). The non-bigs drafted in the top 10 were Kevin Durant (2), Mike Conley (4), Jeff Green (5), and Corey Brewer (7).

Durant, who was considered an elite scorer but with a thin body, is obviously better than all of the rest of those guys put together, and it seems silly to us that he wasn’t taken #1 overall. But, in the NBA of 11 years ago, folks thought that an elite big man could win you titles, and be the foundation of your team. I’m not sure that this was ever really true, since even Magic Johnson won a title playing “small” at Center, and Patrick Ewing never got his team over the hump, and Shaq needed Kobe and Wade to win, and Duncan needed Manu, Tony Parker, and Kawhi Leonard to win, and KG needed Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Playoff Rondo to win, and Dirk needed, well, a miracle to win; but people like big, fast, strong dudes, so I get it. Nothing in the world is quite the same as seeing a huge guy slam with the harshness. (This is why Chocolate Thunder, Darryl Dawkins, will always be immortal. NO ONE dunked as hard as he did. Here, just wait for the top 5, especially if you don’t know who I’m talking about.)

Dunks are awesome, and elite defensive Bigs can win you championships. This is the traditional thinking. I think it’s because of Bill Russell, aaaaaaaaaand that’s it, but thus and so: peeps love them some Bigs.

Having said that, the best players of all time are not 7 feet tall: Jordan, LeBron, Russell, Magic, Bird, me (ahem), Duncan, Kobe. Duncan might as well be 7”, and Shaq would definitely be on this list if he had tried harder, shot better than DREADFUL on his free throws, and stayed in shape. Also, I didn’t include Wilt Chamberlain because of the era in which he won his titles, even though he’s still probably a top 5 player, and one of only two people to ever score 3000 points in the regular season (Jordan’s the other one; this is why LeBron will never be the GOAT, IMHO). Wilt’s 7’1”, and maybe Bill Walton becomes Wilt-esque if his feet and back hadn’t gone to hell, but the point I’m trynna make here is that Bigs don’t guarantee you a goddamn thing, and Bigs don’t dominate the NBA landscape like people think they do. They see Shaq slam dunking, and they see Ewing grinding in the paint, and they see Embiid running the floor, and they see Garnett defending like a wrathful god. But, it’s usually perimeter players who get you to the elite tier of NBA Champions.

Which is why I’m so confused when considering this year’s draft. It’s filled with Bigs, maybe six of the top 10 picks will be Centers or (nominal) Power Forwards, maybe even more. But none of those players are likely to be all time greats, let alone good enough to transform your team into a title contender. I mean, Deandre Ayton just can’t play defense. I don’t know what to tell you, but the dude looks like he has absolutely ZERO instincts for that side of the game. And, a Center who can’t defend is not a Center who deserves to go in the top 5 of the draft.

Mo Bamba can defend, but can he actually shoot from outside, or muscle his way in the paint? He’ll get stronger as he grows, but one should always be sceptical of a giant who finds it tough to dominate against much smaller, much less talented players in college. (Again: Ayton and Arizona lost to Buffalo in the first round of the NCAA tournament. RED. FLAG.)

3J, Jaren Jackson, Jr., is widely considered a “safe” pick, but I seriously hate his shot, and I don’t think we should give too much credit to Tom Izzo’s Michigan State program’s veneer of “toughness” and hidden talent when Draymond basically Wally Pipp’ed his way into the Warriors rotation when David Lee got injured; before that, Green was just a fat second rounder with an attitude. (Now, he’s a fat second rounder with an attitude and multiple rings; he’s still just 6’7”, though.) Even a guy like Michael Porter, Jr., who I love and think could be special, has TONS of questions and problems regarding his future and his game.

History tells us that the chances of these Bigs becoming gamechangers for teams isn’t as high as people might think. (Please see: Thabeet, Hasheem.) The odds are that one of the guards or the forwards will end up being the best player from this draft. Luka Doncic is the frontrunner right now, but someone like Mikal Bridges (two-time NCAA champion, BTW), or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, or Khyri Thomas, or some other perimeter player will, most likely, end up being the best player in this draft.

Just to be clear: an elite Big can still improve your team and get you deep into the playoffs. But, it is VERY, VERY difficult to win a championship when your best player is your Center. Bigs also come with a familiar list of health problems (feet, knees, back) that usually cost them at least a season, if not several (Joel Embiid being the most recent example, along with Kristaps Porzingis). None of which means that you CAN’T draft a Big #1 overall, but IF YOU DO, they better not be Greg Oden, and the next guy better not be Kevin MFing Durant. Just to put a cherry on this, let me give you the entire list of #1 draft picks in the 21st century:

  • 2000 - Kenyon Martin
  • 2001 - Kwame Brown
  • 2002 - Yao Ming
  • 2003 - LeBron (Carmelo went 3rd, Chris Bosh 4th, Dwyane Wade 5th. You know who went 2nd? Darko Milicic, a Big/European who was going to change the game. Goddamnit and Go ‘Stons 4evah. What a ridiculous draft class.)
  • 2004 - Dwight Howard
  • 2005 - Andrew Bogut
  • 2006 - Andrea Bargnani
  • 2007 - Greg Oden
  • 2008 - Derrick Rose
  • 2009 - Blake Griffin
  • 2010 - Dr. John Wall
  • 2011 - Flat-Earther Kyrie Irving
  • 2012 - The Brow, Anthony Davis
  • 2013 - Anthony Bennett, possibly the worst draft pick of all time. Victor Oladipo went #2.
  • 2014 - Andrew Wiggins
  • 2015 - The Big KAT, Karl-Anthony Towns
  • 2016 - Ben Simmons (a 6’10” Point Forward who’s already missed a season due to injury)
  • 2017 - Markelle Fultz

Unless you think that Ayton is going to become AD or KAT or Dwight Howard, I kinda feel like you should go with a smaller guy. But, that’s just my opinion, and it’s really more about the avoidance of risk: perimeter players seem to be safer, historically. I think that matters a lot in the grand scheme of the NBA. Falling in love with potential based on height is a bad idea, especially when that big player, like Ayton, doesn’t seem to have the bona fides on the defensive end of the floor. (Also, Phoenix ain’t well known for developing defensive stalwarts. Just sayin’.)

Having said all that, let’s get to our mock draft!

Phoenix Suns

What is the point of this team?
Devin Booker, Devin Booker, Devin Booker.

What do they need?
Everything except Devin Booker.

Should they trade the pick?
ABSOLUTELY! Trade this pick to Toronto so they can draft Luka Doncic, and Phoenix can acquire future picks and assets (Fred VanVleet, maybe?).

Who should they draft?
If Phoenix keeps the pick, it sure does seem like they’re drafting Deandre Ayton. I don’t know why other than A) they love having centers, and B) he’s geographically proximate to the Suns’ scouting department and owner. Honestly, the Suns should trade the pick or draft Doncic. Can you imagine Doncic and Booker as a tandem? An elite guard and an elite forward sure does seem to be a recipe for success, unless you don’t want to count the Heatles, the LeBron/Kyrie Cavs, the Warriors, or the Spurs. Plus, after seeing Boston’s success with hoarding future picks and trading back in the draft and focusing on perimeter players, why shouldn’t other teams try to do likewise? Especially when they’re oh-so-far from competing?

The Suns are doubtful to make the playoffs any time soon. Don’t saddle Devin Booker with a young center who can’t defend, and who will need serious, serious reps with the ball in order to become an effective scorer. Get Devin Booker another playmaker, someone who can run with him, someone who can score with him, someone he can have fun playing with so that, gasp!, he actually stays with Phoenix! I mean, what the hell are the Suns going to be with Booker and Ayton? Charlotte with Dwight and Kemba? No thanks. But, sigh, Suns gonna Sun.

By the by: since the Suns drafted Devin Booker in 2015 (with the 13th pick), they’ve spent THREE first round picks on bigs: Dragan Bender, Georgios Papagiannis, and Skal Labissiere. Last year they drafted Josh Jackson, but he had a weird year because Phoenix had a weird year, and, y’know, coaching probs. An improved Jackson, an incredible Booker, and an exciting Doncic would make this team super-duper fun to watch.

Sacramento Kings

What is the point of this team?
I...have no idea…

What do they need?
Uhhhh...to move to Seattle?

Should they trade the pick?
YES! JESUS WEPT, YES! FOR ANYTHING! This team is crazy and actually has too many players; they should make a concerted effort to consolidate their roster into something more manageable, and hopefully acquire future picks, too. Could they get CJ McCollum with a trade structured around the second pick and some players? This pick will be valuable if the Suns actually end up taking Ayton with the #1 pick.

Who should they draft?
If Luka is there, you draft Luka Doncic. Even if he stays in Europe for a few more years, THAT’S FINE! Like I said, the Kings have too many players already. Letting a Euro gain more seasoning over on the continent is fine, so long as the Kings actually improve their team and become attractive to the young Doncic. And, hell man, if things really don’t work out, and Doncic refuses to play for Sacramento, then trade him! You can get something for Doncic, BELIEVE me. Drafting Euros is (still) dangerous, but it’s not as dangerous as it used to be. We actually have film on these guys now! And, Euro basketball is much, much better than it used to be. It’s DEFINITELY better than NCAA, and Doncic has been exceptional. So, what’s the problem here? I feel like if anyone besides the Suns had the #1 pick, they’d draft Doncic, no problem. Also, here’s Sacramento’s depth chart next year:

  • PG – De’Aaron Fox ($5.5 million, 5th overall pick)
  • Frank Mason ($1.4 million)
  • SG – Iman Shumpert ($11 million)
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic ($9 million)
  • Garrett Temple ($8 million)
  • Buddy Hield ($3.8 million, traded Boogie Cousins for)
  • SF – Justin Jackson ($2.8 million, 15th overall pick)
  • PF – Harry Giles ($2.2 million)
  • C – Kosta Koufos ($8.7 million)
  • Willie Cauley-Stein ($4.7 million, 6th overall pick)
  • Skal Labissiere ($1.5 million)

Is this a team that needs another Big? Or, could they use upgrades at multiple positions, along with future assets? The Kings don’t have a 1st round draft pick next year, BTW. If Doncic doesn’t want to play for you, then either stash him in Europe for several years and hope he changes his mind, or trade the pick. But, you really don’t need to draft a Big in a draft full of Bigs, especially when you already have multiple, young Bigs.

Atlanta Hawks

What is the point of this team?
The front court: Taurean Prince, who I’m in love with, John Collins, and Dewayne Dedmon are the young core of the Hawks. Herr Dennis Schroder may be on his way outta town, so focusing on guards makes sense. HOWEVER, if you don’t want to draft a guard this high because you think the pick has more value to another team, then by all means: trade back. The ATL youth is young enough that they don’t need to force it; they should focus on acquiring complementary players to Prince, primarily, and perhaps fill out their roster with vets who can help the front court develop.

What do they need?
Guards and shooting.

Should they trade the pick?
If Doncic is there, draft Doncic. If he’s not, then sure, trade back.

Who should they draft?
Call me crazy, and contrary to what I just said above, but if the Hawks are going to use the 3rd overall pick, I feel like they should shoot for the stars. Draft Michael Porter, Jr., and see if he can grow into a modern NBA Big Wing: someone who can shoot over everyone, and draw big defenders out of the paint. Repeat with me: he’s not Ryan Anderson, he’s not Ryan Anderson, he’s not Ryan Anderson.

Memphis Grizzlies

What is the point of this team?
Mike Conley and Big Spain, Marc Gasol. They have one more push in them, I think, but if the 2018-19 season doesn’t start well, this team might be all blowed up before Christmas.

What do they need?
Memphis was the second worst scoring team, based partly on injuries, but the Grizzlies have needed scoring since before the world began. They were also terrible on the boards, so Memphis kinda has carte blanche with this pick.

Should they trade the pick?
No. Not unless they got a Godfather deal in future picks, or some amazing player back (Blake Griffin? Jaylen Brown? Otto Porter?). The Grizzlies need to try one more time with Gasol and Conley, but they’re so close to being done that they can’t responsibly sell this pick unless it makes them better big time, or richer big time (in assets).

Who should they draft?
I actually think this is the most likely Mo Bamba spot. Who loves defense more than the Grit n’ Grind Grizzlies? True, they’re not really that team, anymore, but the culture remains. Bamba would be a worthy successor to that tradition, and a big help for Gasol, who will likely need more rest during games and seasons as indifferent time continues to march us along towards our inevitable ends.

Having said that, DRAFT TRAE, MEMPHIS! DRAFT OPPOSITE FROM YOUR PAST! TURN THE PAGE!

Dallas Mavericks

What is the point of this team?
At this point, the Mavs are a snuff film starring Dirk. I’m sorry, but it’s true. As soon as he’s dead, the team will move forward. But, not a second before.

What do they need?
A new HR supervisor, and possibly a new owner. Failing that, a player who can help them score (they were awful last year), and get to the foul line some more (second lowest trips to the line in the NBA last year).

Should they trade the pick?
No, they should try to operate and behave as a team that actually believes they can win basketball games. I know Rick Carlisle hates people younger than him and Dirk, but Dirk was once a rookie, y’know, Rick? Flowers grow from seeds, buddy.

Who should they draft?
THIS is a good spot for Jaren Jackson, Jr. 3J is a good, smart, solid player AT WORST. He probably won’t piss off Carlisle as much as other players, and he’d help strengthen the overall quality of the team because he does the little things well. His shot is so damn weird to me, but I think that’s because of his long arms. He kinda, like, lowers the ball before he gets into his shooting motion, and then he releases lower than you think he should. But, that’s some serious nitpicking. Right now, 3J seems like a dude who’s floor is relatively high, even though his ceiling might not be as high as others in this draft. He and Harrison Barnes would be an interesting duo, I think.

Orlando Magic

What is the point of this team?
To see how much Orlando basketball fans can tolerate before they commit basketball seppuku.

What do they need?
D.J. Augustin and Shelvin Mack are the point guards. I feel like they should address that.

Should they trade the pick?
I mean...this team shot fewer threes than Utah...they had a bottom 10 defense, and a bottom 5 offense...and, they were fast (11th in pace). So, they were bad, quickly. I think the player’s union files an official complaint every time a player is traded to Orlando, so I think the Magic should try to draft some talent.

Who should they draft?
Orlando has a very good history of drafting and developing big men. Maybe trust your process and take whichever of the highly touted bigs is left? How about Wendell Carter, Jr.? It’s not a sexy pick, but this is Orlando, the home of Disney! It’s tough to be sexy in Disney, so don’t fight it. Besides, Wendell isn’t exactly the sexiest name ever, so it fits! However, I think this is where Trae Young will go. I dunno why, I just do. It would be interesting to see if Trae and Aaron Gordon could work well together.

Chicago Bulls

What is the point of this team?
Here’s their roster as of now: Kris Dunn and the Dentist, Zach LaVine, in the backcourt, and Baron Lauri Markkanen in the front. Nothing else is of consequence. Go Pistons.

What do they need?
They need a wing and a center. Does this draft have either of those?

Should they trade the pick?
Tough to say. The Baby Bulls are in a weird spot, in that they may be a lot better than we, and they, think. If everyone’s healthy, and everyone’s getting along, then I think this team will make some waves. I’m a big believer in their guards, and I adore the Finnisher. Still not sold on their coaching, but whatever, there are only a handful of good NBA coaches, anyway. You’d like to have a good defender to add to this team, but you also maybe don’t need to rush things. Is this a possible dark horse for Boogie Cousins? Because of their youth, Chicago wouldn’t need to rush Boogie back from his injury, and his time with Anthony Davis in New Orleans could actually be replicated to a degree with Markkanen. Nawlins may need to shed some money, and Chicago may be able to get a star on the cheap. Hmmm…

Who should they draft?
Miles Bridges. Bridges needs to work on his offense, but his all around game is already solid. That’s a great fit with the players the Bulls already have. Dunn, the Dentist, and Markkanen can handle the scoring, while Bridges continues to mature. If he develops his game IQ (passing and reading offenses), then I think he could be a very, very useful player. A lot was asked of him at MSU; maybe less responsibility will allow him to blossom as a better player.

Cleveland Cavaliers

What is the point of this team?
To get to the Finals and lose 75% of the time. (Too soon? Go Pistons.)

What do they need?
Get real, they need good players more than almost any other team in the NBA. Whether LeBron stays or goes, the Cavs CANNOT screw this pick up. They recovered from the Anthony Bennett Armageddon only because LeBron came home and won a ring, but the very idea that the Cavs got NOTHING from a #1 overall pick makes me want to vomit harder than the night Dr. Phone, Joe Dumars (who I will love forever, but still), drafted Darko. (Go Pist-...y’know what, forget it. Siiiiiiiiigh. If we had drafted Melo, we never woulda gotten Sheed nor won the title. Just keep telling yourself that, Natty.)

Should they trade the pick?
Dude, I dunno. If Bron’s staying, then yes? If you can offload salary and get a good player back? Could you do the Kemba Walker trade now? But, man, if he goes...well, actually, if LeBron leaves, then the Cavs will be absolutely terrible, so who cares? Hahaha! I hope he stays, but if he breaks Dan Gilbert’s heart again, I’ll be SOOOOOO happy.

Who should they draft?
Let’s assume a few things: that LeBron stays; that JR Smith is traded, along with George Hill, Rodney Hood, and whoever else you want (they traded half the team at the deadline, so don’t tell me it’s impossible); that Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson stay. What kind of player do you want if you know you have that front court? How about Elie Okobo, the French Guard de la Point? Bron generally does best when he has a guard who can shoot from outside, and handle scoring when he sits. Okobo looks like he could approximate, APPROXIMATE NOT REPLICATE, Kyrie Irving more than anyone else in this draft. I’m a big fan, and I think he’ll be a good get for whichever team ends up taking him.

New York Knicks

What is the point of this team?
Kristaps Porzingis. Buuuuut, he may be out for the entire season, so the point of the Knicks is to develop their young players and create an environment that will be attractive to Kristaps, and help his game when he returns. Also, to continue to piss off Charles Oakley for no reason. Man, James Dolan needs to sell this team (if only so we NYers can finally have the subway station beneath Madison Square Garden fixed). Just a friendly reminder to all NBA stars who may be looking for a new home: if you win a title in the Mecca, you will attain immortality and paradise everlasting. Remember all the times LeBron has proclaimed himself the King of New York? While standing at midcourt on the logo?

What do they need?
Well, they sure as hell don’t need a point guard because my man Frankie Ntilikina is already there! I love the French Resistance, and I love Tim Hardaway, Jr. (Go Blue), AND I love Kyle O’Quinn! I kinda love the Knicks! Goddamn, that’s strange. But, I liked watching the young guys try, fail, and learn in New York and Brooklyn this past season. I think/hope both teams have brighter days before them.

Should they trade the pick?
I don’t think so. The Knicks should just draft the best player available, and incorporate them as best they can into their young team. The Knicks should NOT draft for fit, but for talent.

Who should they draft?
Marvin Bagley III. If he’s still here at 9, then I think you take him and see what you got. Remember, Dennis Smith, Jr. was taken at #9 last year. You can definitely get good players with this pick. Andre Drummond was the 9th overall pick, and he led the league in rebounds last year. Which, y’know, ain’t nothing. (...Go Pistons?)

Philadelphia 76ers

What is the point of this team?
Dunno if you’ve heard of these guys, but Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are pretty good at playing orange-in-the-bucket. You might wanna build around them, if you’re the 76ers.

Okay, smartass, so what do they need?
They need players to complement Simmons and Embiid. Was that not clear?

Should they trade the pick?
Sure, if that nets you (feel free to laugh uproariously at that pun) a player who’s complementary to Simmons and Embiid.

Who should they draft?
And, here’s where it gets interesting. The 76ers don’t have a GM right now (maybe you heard about that story?), and the last time a contending team didn’t have a GM in the offseason, the Cavs traded Kyrie Irving for, well, nothing, really. So, does this mean the Sixers will trade Ben Simmons? Yes!

But, if they don’t, they should draft a guy who can either spell Embiid at center, or help Simmons by dragging defenders out and letting the Chosen One drive to the hoop, a la LeBron James. Is that person Lonnie Walker? Troy Brown? Shai Gilgeous-Alexander? I think you take one of those three guys (SGA is my personal choice) if there isn’t an elite big left on the board. “Elite.” These guys are babies and probably won’t be serviceable players for at least two years. Do you have any idea how hard it is to play center in the NBA? You’re responsible for the defense of the team, no matter what anyone else says. It’s your job to defend the rim because everyone else is out at the three point line. There’s no one else to help you! It’s a lonely job, being a center. You also need to be able to pass well, and see the court well, because if you don’t, then you’re Ian Mahinmi. No hate, just facts.

Charlotte Hornets

What is the point of this team?
It’s Kemba, but I don’t know what that means if you’re not going to play your best players, or develop your young ones. What was the point of Malik Monk’s season? Why did sitting on Charlotte’s bench help him, when he should have been playing in the G League the entire year? I think this team is very poorly run, and I hope Mitch Kupchak does a better job than Rich Cho did. Man, I hate it when teams just waste players. If you draft a player, you should play that player, if not in the NBA, then in the minors. Goddamn, that really pisses me off. They literally just wasted an entire year of Malik Monk’s career for no discernible reason other than general incompetence.

What do they need?
They need a dude who can shoot better than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I love MKG, I still believe he can be a good player someday, but GOD DAMN. MKG didn’t attempt a three last year. Did you know that? How in the name of Chuck Daly and all his angels does a small forward in today’s NBA not even ATTEMPT an outside shot???? LIterally, any other SF in the NBA would have been an improvement on MKG last year. He’s hurting the team’s chances to win.

Should they trade the pick?
Here are Charlotte’s expiring contracts this coming season: Dwight, Kemba, and Jeremy Lamb. If you’re not going to resign Kemba, then none of this matters, and you should break up the team now while the players’ values are high. If you ARE going to resign Kemba, then you’ll need a center to replace Dwight, and some forwards (Batum and Monk are fine as your guards for now). I’d see what I could get for the pick, and I’d probably trade it, especially if you get multiple first rounders in return. A player like Tobias Harris or Aaron Gordon would look very nice on this team, too, I think, if those players are avails.

Who should they draft?
If they keep the pick, then I think a player like Mikal Bridges makes all the sense in the world. (I think this is perhaps my favorite pick in terms of fit. I think he’ll be pretty solid. I wonder if he’s the sort of guy Toronto could make a move for?)

LA Clippers (the Piston’s pick, traded in the Boban Marjanovic Trade)

What is the point of this team?
Austin Rivers. You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think that’s true. So long as Daddy is the coach, the team belongs to Austin Haunted Rivers.

What do they need?
Actually, I think the Clippers are pretty solid! Here’s their top six, presumably: Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly (remember him?), Austin Rivers, Tobias Harris, Danilo Cincinnatus Gallinari, and Deandre Jordan. I like that! They also have The Boban, of course. I would absolutely, positively trade one of these two picks, mmmmmaybe both of them if you get at least a first rounder back in this draft. Set yourself up nicely for the future when you receive a haul like they did from the Pistons.

Should they trade the pick?
Yep!

Who should they draft?
If they do draft a player, I think they should A) try to consolidate the picks into a higher, better pick, or B) draft Robert Williams, who seems exactly like Deandre Jordan (they both went to Texas A&M). If he is, then you don’t need to resign DJ to a big contract. If he ain’t, then at least you traded the other 1st round pick you don’t need for future assets. Right?

LA Clippers

See above.

Also: DRAFT LIANGELO BALL! FORGET WHAT I SAID ABOVE, JUST DRAFT LIANGELO! It would be UH.MAZE.ZING to draft the other Ball brother out of sheer spite. Maybe you could force a trade for Lonzo and let the Ball Bros. become LA’s favorite sons? This is the Clippers, remember, they’re very familiar with nepotism. Besides, any time you can spit in the Lakers face and cause some trouble, you should do it, Clips.

Denver Nuggets

What is the point of this team?
I love the Nuggets! Did you get to watch them at all this past season? They were great! Fast and fun, man, Denver has a bright, bright future ahead. I’m almost glad they didn’t make the playoffs, if only because I think they’ll come into the season with a chip on their shoulder, and that will improve their game and their chances to make the postseason. I think Nikola Jokic, the Joker, is probably the point of the team, but Golden Gary Harris and Jamal Murray are right there, too. Awesome young team. I may have to adopt them as my Western Conference team, since it’s a foregone conclusion that Blake will lead the Pistons to the Finals next year.

What do they need?
They could definitely use a wing. Whichever forward is still avails should probably be their guy. Kevin Knox? Zhaire Smith?

Should they trade the pick?
I don’t think so, unless it’s to trade back, or you get a Godfather offer. Denver’s salary could get hefty really fast, so I think keeping some cheap, young guys behooves the Nugs.

Who should they draft?
I really, really like Zhaire Smith for them. I don’t think you need to draft another scorer, not with Joker and the guards taking so many shots, but a 3-and-D guy would be an excellent fit on this team (preferably one that can actually stay healthy for five consecutive minutes).

Final lottery picks

Suns - Deandre Ayton (but, really, Luka Doncic)

Kings - Luka Doncic (or, trade the pick, get reallllll Sacramento)

Hawks - Michael Porter, Jr.

Grizzlies - Mo Bamba

Mavericks - Jaren Jackson, Jr.

Magic - Wendell Carter, Jr. (but, really, Trae Young)

Bulls - Miles Bridges

Cavaliers - Elie Okobo

Knicks - Marvin Bagley III

76ers - SGA or Lonnie Walker

Hornets - Mikal Bridges

Clippers - Liangelo Ball

Clippers - Robert Williams

Nuggets - Zhaire Smith

May all our teams find glory and redemption in the draft! (Except for yours.) Please holler at me in the comments with all my mistakes, and any trade ideas you have for the Pistons (or, any other team). For what it’s worth, I think the best fantasy basketball players from the above list will be Luka (he’ll instantly run the Kings, if he plays for them), Okobo (really like that guy), and Michael Porter, Jr., depending on his health.

**Kareem! I totally forgot Dr. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when talking about the best players ever. I apologize! He is ABSOLUTELY one of the 10 best players ever, and he was DEFINITELY the best player in at least two of the Finals which he won (he has six rings). Abdul-Jabbar, who’s 7’2”, is one of the most important players who’s ever played basketball, let alone played in the NBA, and he’s one of the most important American athletes of all time.

This is a picture of the Cleveland Summit in 1967. That’s Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem, who played 20 seasons (!!!!), is, perhaps, the best representative of the NBA in history, and has a claim to be the NBA logo over the current one, Jerry West (unacknowledged, I believe), and Jordan. The Sky Hook, which Yes, Needs To Be Capitalized, is the best (read: most unguard-able) shot in basketball history. Unclear how you defend the Sky Hook without A) fouling, or B) goaltending. Kareem is an incredible person, and I absolutely recommend reading his columns because he’s also an incredible writer.

Some would say that Kareem had Oscar Robertson, and then had Magic and Worthy. But, I think the people who saw Kareem play in person would say that Oscar, Magic, and Worthy had Kareem.

Dr. Abdul-Jabbar didn’t just write his name in the sky. He WAS the sky.