Well, that lottery draft was crazy, except in this one respect: the NBA Lottery Draft rewarded a team the NBA desperately wanted to improve. Granted, the NBA wants the Knicks and the Lakers to improve more than just about anything, EXCEPT for the average value of an NBA franchise. A New Orleans Pelicans franchise put up for sale without Anthony Davis or Zion Williamson is a far less lustrous jewel. A Nola Pellies team with BOTH suddenly becomes the most attractive available pro sports franchise, especially if they’re allowed to move the team. Imagine if the Pelicans draft Zion, keep AD, and then get sold to a Seattle owner: the New SuperSonics would open their history with one of the most talented front court players in the game, and a dude whose name means “heavenly city.” Seems like a good start.
Without further ado, here’s a very early mock draft for the top 10 teams. We’ll do more of these as the NBA draft approaches, maybe even grabbing other Fake Teams folks and doing a group mock draft. I’d like to go on record as saying that I believe that every team after the Pelicans should try and trade down, and gather ammo for next year’s draft. The best thing about a so-called “bad draft year” is that the next year’s draft is almost certain to be better. It’s rare to have two sub/mediocre drafts in a row. So, Memphis? You should trade the 2nd overall pick. You’re going to be bad for awhile, and no one after Zion is a can’t-miss, methinks, so the prudent thing to do is amass further assets. The #2 pick and Mike Conley for X seems like a trade waiting to happen.
1. Nawlins Pelicans: Zion Williamson, Duke
No real analysis required. If he’s not taken with the first pick, then the Earth was attacked by aliens and obliterated, and we didn’t have an NBA draft. Zion probably won’t be all that we think of him, but he’ll be a helluva lot of it. He needs to develop his jump shot. Yeah, ditto. I’m not going to talk about negatives for a guy who looks like he could run through the Berlin Wall. (Hey kids! Ask your parents what the Berlin Wall was. Things used to be nuuuuuts in Germany. There used to be two of them!)
2. Memphis Grizzlies (trade it): R.J. Barrett, Duke
I dunno if you know this, but there’s this DOMINATOR named 3J on the Grizz. Jaren Jackson, Jr., is a full-on Basketball (!) Player (!). I love 3J. Pairing him with a good rebounding wing in the 6’7” Barrett, who also handles well, passes well, and shoots well, is such a good goddamn idea that I’m changing my mind about trading this pick. If Memphis drafts Barrett, and they do NOTHING ELSE all offseason, they’d enter next year with Mike Conley, RJ Barrett, Slo-Mo Kyle Anderson, 3J, Jonas Valanciunas, and Joakim GOD!DAMN! Noah. That is a basketball team I will watch play orange-in-the-bucket. Plus, it would be vintage Memphis: slow, low-scoring, hyper-competent, maybe a little boring at times, and DEFENSE. I’m ready for it.
3. New York Knicks: Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech
The Knicks are in a weird spot: regardless of their free agency plans, they have a plethora of young guards already. Fort Knox is already on the wing, so let’s help him out and get another dude who can play on the perimeter and make some shots and play some defense. He won’t need to be the focus of the offense (uh, I mean, I presume, but Knicks are always gonna Knick), so his strengths can shine while his weaknesses will be limited (he’s not a point guard, is what I’m trynna say politely).
4. Los Angeles Lakers: Bol Bol, Oregon
BOL BOL! DO IT! DO IT DO IT DO IT!!! He’s SEVEN FEET TWO INCHES TALL, YALL. This is not a drill, if Bolx2 is good, he’s an absolute gamechanger. This is a Giannis pick. There is a significant chance that Bol Bol is Bad Bad (NO REGRETS), but the Lakers are in such strange waters, that I think hope is the best course of action. “Optimism!” said an 11-year-old never. Anyway, there’s no guarantee that the Lakers land AD, and if they did, then the #4 pick is probably going to NOLA. So, let’s say the Lakeshow continues no-showing, and they don’t trade for Anthony Davis, and they keep the pick. Let’s say that the Lakers are healthy going into the new season. Let’s say their lineup is Lonzo, Josh Hart, Ingram, Kuzma, and LeBron James (and, Mo Wagner, Go Blue). The Lakers might want JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler to remain on the team, but they absolutely, positively need help in the paint. Bol Bol could provide that help, while also providing a somewhat stretch-5. I think Bol’s upside is more valuable than most other players in this draft, so (especially) if I’m the Lakers (and, I have a little bit of depth on the perimeter) I draft Bol.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: De’Andre Hunter, Virginia
Just...don’t be stupid, Cleveland. Mkay? Don’t be dumb. That’s all you have to do. Draft a solid player, a guy who will almost certainly be a competent NBA player, and a dude who won’t get in the way of Collin Sexton’s development.
6. Phoenix Suns: Ja Morant, Murray State
I mean, they need a point guard. Right? Right. They won’t draft a PG. And, even if they did, they wouldn’t draft the best one, because he’s going next!
7. Chicago Bulls: Coby White, North Carolina
I think Coby White is an absolute studmuffin and he’s going to be a MFing star. I hate how much I like this guy because Go Blue Forever and Eff UNC Forever. But, he’s so much fun, man, and he’s fast, and he can actually defend, and he’s not small, he’s 6’5”, so I think he’s a perfect replacement for the underwhelming Kris “Knife” Dunn, and a perfect running mate for the Dentist, Zach LaVine, and the awesome front court of Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter, Jr., and OH YEAH, OTTO PORTER, JR. IS HERE, TOO! Lemme say this right now: if the Bulls don’t make the playoffs this season, then Jim Boylen maybe isn’t the incredible head coach that WE ALL think he is. (“YELL! YELL YELL YELL! YELLLLLLLL!”)
8. Atlanta Hawks:
Darius Garland Cam Reddish, Duke
Can you draft another scoring point guard after drafting Trae Young last year? He’s a great scorer, but Garland’s, like, seeeeeeeriously similar to Trae. So, maybe not. How about Cam Reddish instead? He’s a risky pick, but if the Targaryen coin lands Jon Snow, then Reddish could be King of the ATL. Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish, Taurean Prince, and John Collins is a pretty nice team.
9. Washington Wizards: Romeo Langford, Indiana
The Washington Geniuses are going to let this be Bradley Beal’s year. John Wall won’t be coming back, the Wizards will be accepting the insurance money for his absence, and the team will be thinner than we’ve seen in awhile. Somehow, the Wizards have neither Otto Porter nor Kelly Oubre, but DO have Dwight Howard. WTF just happened?, is what I’d be thinking if I were a Wizards fan. What, indeed. This team is like Gondor: thinly manned, in need of a hero, the victim of poor management and really indefensible geographical placement. Anyway, what they have is Bradley Beal and Other Players. Langford is a guard from Indiana with undeniable talent. The last Indiana guard like that was Victor Goddamn Oladipo. Langford probably won’t be that good, but he’d be a great running mate for Beal in a (hopefully) up-tempo offense. And, who knows, maybe he’s a ranger who just so happens to have a magical ghost army at his beck and call.
10. Atlanta Hawks (one of these picks will get traded): Darius Garland, Vanderbilt
Here’s where you take a shot and draft Garland. Or, Kevin Porter, Jr., could be nice. But, honestly, the Hawks are about to have too many players, so I’d really be astonished if they didn’t trade at least one of their top 10 picks.