An NBA Mock Draft
There are a lot of mock drafts around this time of year, and that’s not surprising, it’s an exciting time to be an NBA fan. I won’t argue that my opinions are necessarily correct, or better than anyone else’s.I simply seek to share my beliefs regarding this year’s draft.
Mock Draft Mentality
To me, I believe the best Mock Drafts are not the ones in which you simply list what you expect to happen. Rather, I find it more appealing to look at each pick from a given team’s perspective, and argue for what the best possible decision may be. Maybe this comes from my many years of GMing from my couch at home, whether that be on draft night or in video games like NBA2K, but I derive enjoyment from the analytical thinking I’m about to lay out for you. I’m only going to lay out the Lottery because I’m on a time crunch, but I plan on writing about the draft after it happens and reviewing every teams decisions.
The Mock Draft
Round 1, Pick 1, Philadelphia 76ers: Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
Markelle Fultz is considered the top prospect in the draft, and for good reason. Standing 6'4" with a 6'10" wingspan, Fultz is the kind of player you’d genetically engineer in a lab to play point guard in the NBA. An adept scorer and athlete who has already demonstrated the ability to effectively run the pick and roll at a high level, Fultz is one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the draft. The 76ers need to get their hands on any talent they can, and Fultz will fit perfectly into their starting lineup. Imaging Fultz-Joel Embiid pick and roll or pick and pop for the next 5 years should already frighten NBA defenders. Philly should begin to improve in the coming seasons, if their core young players like Embiid and Ben Simmons can stay healthy (a large if).
Round 2, Pick 2, Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
This pick just simply makes too much sense: After trading D’Angelo Russell the Lakers have a hole at point guard, which the hometown kid can slide right into. Lonzo is clearly the second best guard in the draft right now, but he is not without some question marks. Shooting off of the dribble, he has an odd hitch in his shot; it worked all right for him in college, but will he be able to create his own shot against NBA-caliber defenders? Also, how much of a problem will LaVar be? That said, Lonzo is a fantastic passer who makes the players around him better. It doesn’t make sense for the Lakers to take a wing here if they intend to woo Paul George and/or LeBron James in the coming years, and Lonzo both fills a need, and is the best available player at this point in the draft.
Round 3, Pick 3, Boston Celtics: Jonathan Isaac, PF, Florida State
The first two picks were pretty obvious but this may be where I start to raise some eyebrows. Isaac typically goes in the 5–6 range in most other mock drafts, but to me, he’s the perfect fit for the Celtics, albeit potentially a reach at #3. If I were Danny Ainge, another trade down would be in the realm of possibility, potentially by sending the third pick and a player or two (Jae Crowder, Tyler Zeller, Avery Bradley?) to the Kings in exchange for the 5th and 10th pick. Isaac would still be on the board at the 5th spot for the Celtics to take, and they’d be able to grab another late lottery talent at 10, potentially Gonzaga’s Zach Collins. However, even if the Celtics stay put, I believe Isaac is the best choice they can make. Jayson Tatum lacks explosiveness, which is a concern, and Josh Jackson’s shooting is questionable, but the bigger concern should be how much depth the Celtics already have on the wings with Jaylen Brown and Jae Crowder, as well as potential free agent signing Gordon Hayward. Isaac, on the other hand, is capable of playing power forward while stretching the floor, as well as providing some of the rim protection that Al Horford doesn’t provide the Celtics with. Conceivably, Isaac could even develop defensively to the point where he could play center in a small ball lineup and offer rim protection and defense reminiscent of Kevin Durant. To me, this fit just makes too much sense given the versatility that Isaac offers and the concerns and redundancy of both Tatum and Jackson.
Round 1, Pick 4, Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
The best player on the board at this point, Jackson would fit perfectly with Phoenix’s young athletic core, running the floor alongside Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe, and Marquese Chriss. Jackson is a fantastic wing defender and runs well in transition, skills that fit well alongside Devin Booker’s perimeter scoring. Phoenix could consider De’Aaron Fox here if they are looking to package Eric Bledsoe in a trade, potentially for DeAndre Jordan. However, assuming no trade, Jackson is the best available player and a good fit with the Suns.
Round 1, Pick 5, Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
De’Aaron Fox has tremendous upside… if he can figure out his jumper. Shooting is Fox’s only real weakness, as he possesses lightning quick speed, good length, and outstanding defense. Fox outperformed Lonzo Ball twice during the college season when they matched up against each other, and he has shown determination that leads me to believe that he’ll figure out his jumper at some point. John Wall was in a similar situation leaving college, and after a few years in the league and a lot of hard work, has finally figured out his jumper. Mike Conley is another good example of what I think Fox will eventually become. As far as fit goes, the Kings are in headed for a tough season, but Fox needs to be handed the keys and given the chance to develop and work through difficulty to reach his full potential.
Round 1, Pick 6, Orlando Magic: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
This pick may be a bit optimistic of me, as the Magic pretty consistently select and aquire athletes over NBA-ready players. However, maybe they’ve learned their lesson by now and will take Tatum, a refined scorer who they can realistically count on to put up 15 a game while they continue to rebuild. Tatum is the best prospect on the board here at 6, and the Magic need someone capable of putting the ball in the hoop; Tatum is that guy.
Round 1, Pick 7, Minnesota Timberwolves: Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
Malik Monk proved in college that he is both a talented shooter and scorer, and while his defense is a question mark, he showed flashes of being a capable defender while at Kentucky. I really like the Lou Williams comparison for Monk, as he’s caught somewhere in between the guard positions, but regardless he can get buckets. Playing with Minnesota’s young core, he’d allow the Wolves to trade Zach LaVine, and run a lineup consisting of: Rubio, Monk, Wiggins, Dieng, and Towns. That’s a lineup to get excited about, and Monk provides some much needed floor spacing alongside a backcourt lacking in that department.
Round 1, Pick 8, New York Knicks: Dennis Smith, PG, NC State
Maybe this is a reach, but the Knicks can get excited about Smith’s explosiveness and athleticism. The Knicks need a point guard, and the other options at this point in the draft, Frank Ntilikina and Donovan Mitchell are larger question marks on the offensive end the Smith is. Smith will put the ball in the hoop, and at least give New York fans some fun!
Round 1, Pick 9, Dallas Mavericks: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
Ntilikina is a long point guard and an outstanding defender, however he’s pretty raw and undeveloped offensively. Dallas will take the gamble on him here though, they’ve scouted him frequently in France where he plays professionally, and he’ll fill a point guard spot that this Dallas team desperately needs help at.
Round 1, Pick 10, Sacramento Kings: Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
I really like Zach Collins from Gonzaga, he’s got a lot of upside, and has already shown flashes of a refined low post game at just 19. He has the potential to be the best big in this draft, and the Kings can’t afford to pass up on his upside. They’ve already taken De’Aaron Fox, and so it makes sense to address the frontcourt with their second first-rounder.
Round 1, Pick 11, Charlotte Hornets: Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
Kennard might be the best shooter in this year’s draft, capable of knocking down threes both as a spot up shooter as well as finding looks off the dribble. Charlotte doesn’t need another big, and Kennard projects as a solid role player to stretch the floor alongside Kemba Walker.
Round 1, Pick 12, Detroit Pistons: Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
Honestly, I have no clue if Markkanen is more than a stretch four to come off the bench, like a worse Ryan Anderson. That said, Detroit will take the gamble to attempt to space the floor next to Andre Drummond. If Markkanen turns out to be a bust, expect to see Detroit try to hit the reset button by trading point guard Reggie Jackson and Drummond in the next couple years.
Round 1, Pick 13, Denver Nuggets: Donovan Mitchell, PG, Louisville
Mitchell might be Denver’s point guard of the future if Emmanuel Mudiay never figures it out. That said, Mitchell could also fill an Avery Bradley-like role as a defender. Mitchell is 6'3" with a 6'10" wingspan, and he’s strong too. He has shown in college that he is capable of being a fantastic defender, but his offense and ability to play point guard are both question marks.
Round 1, Pick 14, Miami Heat: John Collins, PF, Wake Forest
The Heat could go a lot of different ways with this pick, but Collins might be a good fit to slot alongside Hassan Whiteside in the frontcourt. Collins will not stretch the floor with the three point range Bosh provided, but he may be able to develop into enough of a threat from mid-range to cause some damage. This pick would make the most sense if the Heat decide to go the opposite direction as the rest of the league by getting bigger instead of smaller.