If this were a regular year, then the NBA would’ve begun its regular season last month, and we’d already have tape on the rookies who are about to be drafted on Wednesday night.
Strange days: these rooks haven’t played basketball in quite awhile. Add that to the overall consensus that this draft isn’t as strong as usual, and the overall un-consensus as to who might be the best overall pick, and you have a recipe for hilarity. Who the hell knows what will happen Wednesday night? Chris Paul’s already heading to the Suns, and James Harden seems to be headed out of Houston; by the time of the draft, maybe everything will be different in the NBA?
With that in mind, let’s do a mock draft for the lottery. Actually, let’s draft until the 16th pick (Portland). I’m assuming NO TRADES, which is probably the least likely thing to happen.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves - Anthony Edwards, G, Georgia
I just don’t think the TimberKATs can use this high a pick on a player whose shot is suspect (LaMelo Ball). If you’re Minnesota, and Karl-Anthony Towns can ask for a trade soon enough if he can’t get into the playoffs in a LOADED Western Conference, then can you risk a pick on a player who can’t score at an NBA level? I don’t care how good LaMelo’s playmaking is, if you can’t score in the NBA, then you’re not as useful as someone who can.
Anthony Edwards may not fit perfectly next to D’Angelo Russell, but he’ll be more useful than a point guard who can’t score, or a young big who won’t play (James Wiseman). I think Edwards is strangely the safest pick for Minnesota, outside of trading the pick, which is absolutely what they should do.
2. Golden State Warriors - James Wiseman, C, Memphis
Basically, the perfect pairing: the Dubs can always use a good big—and, Wiseman’s got big potential, have no doubt—and Wiseman could use a team that won’t need him to do too much, too soon. Wiseman will be able to grow into himself whilst on one of the best teams in the league, with a defensive mentor in Draymond Green, and a culture that could really help Wiseman’s offense improve. He could turn into a serious weapon for the Warriors.
Plus, the Dubs have the perimeter rostered. This is a really good fit, I think.
3. Charlotte Hornets - LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawara Hawks
The Hornets don’t have the luxury to mess around. I’m in basketball love with their forwards, Miles Bridges and PJ Washington, but they have an undersized (though, talented!) backcourt, and Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo in the paint.
They can get better.
Ball’s potential, and Charlotte’s lack of it, is too good for the Hornets to pass. Ball provides a possible star for a team that could use more interest and eyes, and he maybe becomes part of a dynamic trio with his forwards. Out of all the NBA teams, I kinda like Ball with Bridges and Washington most of all. Ball won’t be asked to be the scoring focal point, and his playmaking ability can help his forwards improve their games. Ball, Bridges, and Washington is not a bad core for a young team intent on maturing towards a playoff contender. Maybe trade Devonte’ Graham, see if you can upgrade your center position, and maybe you’re a fringe playoff team this very season!
4. Chicago Bulls - Killian Hayes, G, France
Hayes is possibly the best overall player in the draft. He could come into Chicago and become the competent point guard they need, which would help Zach LaVine immensely. The Bulls had a bad year last season, but they still have a nice roster (maybe), AND IF GENIUS JIM BOYLEN ISN’T THE HEAD COACH then this could’ve be a playoff team (...just like I predicted last year…). Hayes, LaVine, Otto Porter, Jr., Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter, Jr., is your starting five, Bulls fans. Coby White comes off the bench.
Hayes has good potential and is a good fit for the Bulls. As a Pistons fan, I really hope they don’t draft him.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers - Isaac Okoro, F, Auburn
Okoro has sky high potential, he’s an excellent defender, and the Cavs haven’t had a real wing player since LeBron left. Match made in heaven. Okoro won’t take shots away from anyone, because who is there to take shots away from? And, his defense will be unique, as in “existent,” on a team with Collin Sexton, Kevin Love, and Andre Drummond.
Basically, so long as the Cavs draft a wing, they’ll be okay. They don’t need a big man, and they don’t need guards. Just...draft a GD forward, Cleveland, OKAY?!
6. Atlanta Hawks - Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State
One of my favorites in this draft, Haliburton was sent from the future to save the state of your local professional basketball team.
The Hawks’ young wings, DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish, had a tough season last year. They’re young and weird shit happened, but still, it wasn’t an encouraging season for Atlanta.
Haliburton can shoot, he can defend, and he can help cover for some of Trae’s defensive woes, plus he’s a great playmaker himself. I’m not sure what the Hawks will look like this season, good or bad, but Trae needs a running partner who complements him. Haliburton can do that.
7. Detroit Pistons - Devin Vassell, G, Florida State
Vassell is my favorite player in the draft. I just think he’s solid and will become a very successful NBA player. That’s the type of player the Detroit Pistons need. We don’t have that much talent on our roster right now (we being the Pistons) but we also can’t go wasting picks. Vassell is the type of player who will always be useful, no matter what stage of (non)contention your team is in. He’s also the type of player who can play with anyone, regardless of their style. Pretty much love him, but I don’t think he’ll turn into a star. A high-class wing in the NBA is always good to have, though.
8. New York Knicks - Saddiq Bey, F, Villanova
These new Knicks are gonna shock the world and do the safe thing. Nueva Knicks will draft the safest bet in the entire draft, a guy who you know will be a good building block and/or trade chip, and will most likely fit with most players, like, I dunno, Russell Westbrook or Rudy Gobert or Danilo Gallinari. Bey’s got the defense and he’s got the perimeter shooting, and he gives the New Knicks a kind of solid foundation after making some questionable moves in recent years. There may be players with more potential than Bey, but here’s one thing I’m certain of: Bey and RJ Barrett will be good together.
9. Washington Wizards - Patrick Williams, F, Florida State
Thomas Bryant is a young and improving center, Rui Hachimura is a sophomore forward, Davis Bertans (if resigned) is a lights out Latvian Laser from the perimeter (also a forward), and then there are these two guys named John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Hey, look at that! DC could use a wing! Some kind of perimeter-playing, 3-and-D guy, who wouldn’t demand the ball too much. Seems like a match! Williams, who has the talent to be great but needs to work on his offense, won’t be a threat to the Washington guards for shots, and he won’t get in the way of the other important players who are already on the team. He’ll fit right in! Which is very very anti-Wizards, now that I come to think of it.
10. Phoenix Suns - Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Chris Paul, the Point God, is now on the team that went undefeated in the Orlando bubble. Interesting, to say the least. I’m not sure that Devin Booker will love playing for the infamously persnickety CP3, but the Suns are definitely better than they were.
Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton...they’re missing something, aren’t they?
Avdija is another high potential player (maybe top five) and he fits the power forward bill for these Suns. He’s not an offensive force, but he’s a good playmaker for his size. I can imagine he and CP3 developing a nice little chemistry. Best of all, Avdija isn’t stealing anyone’s shots, as he lets the game come to him, and takes smart shots. The Suns can’t go into the season with Frank Kaminsky as their four, not now that they have Chris Paul. They need an upgrade, and Avdija is an upgrade.
11. San Antonio Spurs - Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC
Pure value pick, but doesn’t this feel Spursy? Okongwu has top defensive potential, but his offense may need a little work. If DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are still on the Spurs, then, well, you’ll still need to have a replacement for Aldridge down the line. Okongwu could go in the top five, you just can’t let him slip past you. The Spurs are in a strange place, personnel-wise, anyway. Nobody on their team is untouchable, are they? Maybe Okongwu becomes that guy, the straw that stirs the drink for the Spurs young core.
12. Sacramento Kings - Aaron Nesmith, SG, Vanderbilt
Nesmith is a great shooter, and the Kings may soon trade an unhappy Buddy Hield. Nesmith is the exact type of player you’d like running the backcourt with De’Aaron Fox. He’s not an elite athlete or distributor, but he can shoot the lights out, he’s a capable defender, and he’s smart: he takes advantage of situations that come his way, and he’s ready for them.
Really, really nice fit next to Fox, I think. The Kings have some decisions to make, but they have to start truly building around Fox. This is a good way to start, especially if you trade away Hield’s outside shooting.
13. New Orleans Pelicans - Isaiah Joe, G, Arkansas
Speaking of building around your star players, the Pelicans already have Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. They need players who will compliment those two, and whose skills will help improve the overall team structure. Enter: Isaiah Joe! Joe could be the best shooter in the draft, and he’s a guy who won’t get in the way of Zion or Ingram. He’s another example of a great complementary addition, especially since Joe, as a shooter, will be able to learn from JJ Redick (unless the Pels trade him).
Regardless, Joe has the outside shots, and that’s KEY for the Pelicans because that unlocks Zion. Joe’s defense is also good, which is something that will make his new coach very happy.
14. Boston Celtics - Precious Achiuwa, F/C, Memphis
The Celtics don’t technically need anything, they just really want things. They’ll be fine drafting whomever, wherever, so they should try to draft the best available talent and then figure out the fit later. Precious is 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, has big time defensive potential, and maybe can’t shoot. But, what if he can learn? Boston should have no problem developing a good young defender, and since they have so many assets these days, they should really just focus on trying to maximize them: Achiuwa is a big ass athlete with room for improvement.
15. Orlando Magic - Tyrell Terry, G, Stanford
This year’s Trae Young. An undersized guard who can absolutely get AT IT. The Magic are always, always, searching for offense. Terry and Markelle Fultz as a tandem is weird enough on paper, that I’m convinced it’s probably going to happen. I have no idea what the Magic will look like in two years, other than Jonathan Isaac should still be there.
Anyway, a small scoring guard for the Orlando Magic just feels right to me.
16. Portland Trail Blazers - Obi Toppin, F, Dayton
The reason for the 16 team exercise! I want all the nice things for the Blazers and for Maestro Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Carmelo Anthony. This team is in a bit of a strange spot with the roster, but drafting an elite offensive front court player is something that should please Portland fans. I don’t think they need a traditional big in the draft, you can go out and find those for cheap in free agency or via trade. Toppin could be a FORCE on offense, especially if he has that Blazer firepower opening things up for him. I feel like a Saddiq Bey or Isaiah Joe is a more likely pick for Portland (mainly because Toppin will likely go higher than this), but I love the idea of Toppin’s offensive potential next to Dame and CJ.