The NBA Draft is a month away, and with it comes all the crazy projections and extrapolations. Five minute workout interviews will be taken and run with to the hills, as we as fans try and decipher who our team is going to take.
Here is where I come in. I don’t know how often this is going to be a thing, but I’m going to start rolling out a series of mock drafts. I like to consider myself a draft “expert” (i.e. I’ve heard of these guys), so lets examine the first round of the NBA Draft.
1. Boston Celtics | Markelle Fultz | PG | Washington
This is the only no-brainer of the entire draft. There’s still a strong possibility that the Celtics could trade the pick for a bounty haul for someone of the ilk of Jimmy Butler or Paul George, but make no mistake, Fultz is the best player in the NBA Draft. NBA ready playmaking abilities and shooting, he’s going to come in and impact any offense. The legitimate concerns will be the fact that his team, the Huskies, was only 9-22 but that will be considered for all of two seconds as Adam Silver reads his name out first in four weeks time.
NBA Comparison: Damian Lillard
2. Los Angeles Lakers | Lonzo Ball | PG-SG | UCLA
Ok, this is as close to a no-brainer pick that isn’t as guaranteed as Fultz is. This seems like a marriage made in Hollywood heaven, headed for divorce after 60 days and a lucrative reality TV show. On the court, Lonzo is a big PG with elite playmaking abilities and is by all accounts a tremendous teammate. At 6’6, he has the size to slide over and play off the ball, although his inconsistent outside shot, including wacky form, mean he’s better served with the ball in his hands. Conveniently, as a LA native, the Lakers are probably the one franchise in the NBA that can handle all the extracurricular nonsense that comes with the Big Baller Brand.
NBA Comparison: Penny Hardaway
3. Philadelphia 76ers | Malik Monk | SG-PG | Kentucky
Now we get into the dicey territory of uncertainty. Monk is the pick here for the Sixers over someone like Josh Jackson because of the Sixers need for ball handling and scoring. The Sixers struggled to put the ball in the basket last season, ranking 25th in points per game, and with a frontcourt featuring the likes of Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Ben Simmons and Jahlil Okafor, another forward is not high on the priority list. Despite only being 6’3, Monk projects as a SG in Philly, largely due to the expected offense featuring Ben Simmons as a 6’10 “point guard.”
NBA Comparison: Athletic C.J. McCollum
4. Phoenix Suns | Josh Jackson | SF | Kansas
The slide for Jackson ends abruptly as he’s snapped up by the Suns to compliment an exciting young core of Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss. Jackson, at 6’8 and 207 pounds, projects as a small forward at the NBA level and slides nicely into the Suns lineup at the expense of an unfortunate T.J. Warren. Jackson figures to provide defence to a lineup that badly needs it with the rest of the perimeter leaking badly. Where Jackson projects to struggle straight away is from the perimeter offensively. Jackson shot a middling percentage from the college three, and with a shooting motion that needs a total overhaul, it may allow teams to sag off him and help, clogging up lanes for his teammates.
NBA Comparison: Andre Iguodala
5. Sacramento Kings | De’Aaron Fox | PG | Kentucky
The Kings need any help not in the form of a center or a shooting guard. Unfortunately, for the Kings, this isn’t so straightforward. They project to lose both Darren Collison and Ty Lawson in free agency, paving the way for Fox to make the starting lead guard spot his own. Joining a backcourt featuring Buddy “Next Curry” Hield, Fox provides playmaking, size and elite athleticism, evidenced by how Fox tore UCLA to shreds during the NCAA tournament. The only problem with Fox, and it is a big one, is his 24.6 percent mark from downtown behind a shortened college three point line. In today’s NBA, that will need to improve. What helps is that Fox is tremendous at getting to the rim, although he will need to build on a light 185 pound frame.
NBA Comparison: Mike Conley
6. Orlando Magic | Jonathan Isaac | PF | Florida State
Jonathan Isaac is a rarity amongst NBA bound rookies. His calling card is defence, defence and more defence. Offensively he is a work in progress, and yet he nailed a respectable 35 percent from three and 78 percent from the free throw line. Isaac projects as the middle forward in a front line containing Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic. The challenge for the Magic will be finding a way to effectively pair Isaac and Gordon together, because Aaron Gordon at the three is not an ideal scenario. Isaac will also need to hit the weights, as his slender 205 pound frame won’t stand up well to the rigours of banging with NBA power forwards.
NBA Comparison: Marquese Chriss
7. Minnesota Timberwolves | Jayson Tatum | SF | Duke
Tatum at number 7 is a steal talent wise, the issue for Minnesota will be determining his position in an otherwise position-less NBA, no easy task. At 6’8 and 205 pounds he has the body to play outside as a small forward, yet the inside game of a four man. As an average shooter who posted a 34 percent three point mark during his one season at Duke, he doesn’t have the shooting history to consistently succeed on the outside in the NBA straight away. He was borderline dominant in midrange isolation in college, a la Carmelo Anthony or, cough, Marcus Morris, and his range is anywhere between number two and number 10. Minnesota can also potentially cover any defensive deficiencies by sandwiching him between Andrew Wiggins (if he tries harder) and Karl-Anthony Towns.
NBA Comparison: Marcus Morris
8. New York Knicks | Frank Ntilikina | PG | France
Derrick Rose is not returning to the New York Knicks this offseason. It makes zero sense from both sides. Therefore, there’s an opening for a floor general in the Big Apple. Enter Ntilikina, the 6’5 phenom from France who projects to be one of the elite point guards taken this June. Draft Express characterises him as a secondary option behind a dominant shot creator, a situation New York find themselves in unwillingly (with Melo), which would allow Ntilikina to settle in and find his footing. The Belgian-born French international is also a much improved shooter from distance, but has been plagued by a high turnover rate.
NBA Comparison: George Hill
9. Dallas Mavericks | Dennis Smith Jr. | PG | NC State
If Frank falls to Dallas he’s the pick, but Dennis Smith Jr. is a pretty handy consolation prize. A nightmare in transition, the 6’1 Smith was thrown to the wolves in his only NCAA go-around, leading NC State to a disappointing 15-17 season. But it was through no fault of Smith, who led the team in scoring, assists and steals per game, and was second in rebounding despite being well undersized to be mixing it with the big boys. Add his insane athleticism with a respectable college three point shooting and there’s something special here. However, his small frame immediately disadvantages him on the other end of the court, and there’s questions of how he’ll fare shooting the ball at the next level.
NBA Comparison: Kemba Walker
10. Sacramento Kings | OG Anunoby | SF | Indiana
OG Anunoby is an analytical darling with a great name to match. Originally “Ogugua”, Anunoby was the glue of a middling Indiana team, averaging 11 points and over 5 rebounds a game, OG did it all, chipping in with over a steal and a block per game and some handy assists. But his impact is felt in the advanced stats. DBB’s favourite stat, true shooting percentage loves him, as he had a TS of 61.1 percent to go along with a PER of 23.8 and a BPM of 10.1. At number 10, Anunoby may be a bit of a reach, but he projects as a multi-tooled contributor right away. Unfortunately, 31 percent from three and 56 percent from the free throw line will need to be looked at. He also tore his ACL in January, forcing him to shut it down after 16 games, and Indiana went 5-9 following his departure from the lineup.
NBA Comparison: Trevor Ariza
11. Charlotte Hornets | Zach Collins | C | Gonzaga
Collins is an interesting prospect to be selected so high in the draft this year, especially to a Hornets team supposedly brimming with big man depth. The problem is not a lot of that depth is very good. Cody Zeller is a serviceable big man, but Miles Plumlee is an albatross and Frank Kaminsky is a glorified small forward. Enter Zach Collins, whose draft stock skyrocketed following an impressive NCAA tourney run (especially his Final Four) for the Zags. Collins, a true 7-footer, shot a mind-boggling 47.6 percent on three pointers this past season (10-21, go away sample size warriors), and was a demon in the low post, possessing an array of go to moves. His issue will be his lack of polish heading into the next level and his propensity to get into foul trouble, a problem that plagued him during March Madness and cut down his utility during the championship game.
NBA Comparison: Jason Smith
12. Detroit Pistons | Luke Kennard | SG | Duke
I know most of you just skipped straight to this pick. Kennard makes too much sense for the Pistons if he’s there at number 12, which he should be. A career 38 percent three point shooter during his two years at Duke (up to 43.8 percent this past season), Kennard has the potential to be that rare mix of shooter and scorer that’s so hard to find in the NBA. Averaging 19.5 points as a sophomore, Kennard was Duke’s offensive weapon of choice, and was lethally efficient while doing so. Besides the near 44 percent downtown clip, he shot 49 percent overall, nearly 86 percent from the line and had a TS percent of 63 percent. However, he isn’t strictly a spot up shooter, and despite his size at 6’6, is a good driver of the ball, and has decent passing ability. Put simply, Kennard is an offensive-minded player. Which is good, because he’s not going to be much use down the other end of the court. His athleticism is a problem, but the Pistons play at a slower pace anyway so it shouldn’t be too discouraging. He’s best served playing alongside better defenders, such as KCP, Marcus Morris and Stanley Johnson, in order to maximise his effectiveness.
NBA Comparison: Eric Gordon
13. Denver Nuggets | Justin Jackson | SF | North Carolina
Denver is in a nice position because they don’t have any glaring holes in their lineup to address. Jamal Murray was brought in last year and he can be their point guard of the future if Mudiay doesn’t work out, and with the emergence of Nikola Jokic, all they’re looking for now is complimentary pieces. Enter Justin Jackson. A long wing piece who shot the ball well in his final year at UNC, Jackson can step into a lineup with a lot of space and playmaking and be an immediate contributor. The Nuggets have a decision to make regarding Wilson Chandler, someone who has been on the trade block forever, but Jackson would provide a lot of what Chandler brings. The concerns with Jackson stem from his lack of upside and his history of success at UNC (he was a sub 30 percent shooter his first two seasons), but he’s one of the more NBA ready prospects in the pool.
NBA Comparison: Robert Covington
14. Miami Heat | John Collins | PF | Wake Forest
Like the Nuggets, the Heat are in a position to take a chance here, although they go with a more high-upside player in John Collins. You’d think the Heat would want to keep their successful lineup intact from last season, and anyone they draft here is likely a project regardless, so why not take a chance on the Wake Forest big man. His fundamentals will need work, but scoring nearly 20 points per game in the NCAA is impressive regardless of how you approach it. Not the greatest athlete, but can be brought along slowly behind Hassan Whiteside, and has a decent inside game for such a young player.
NBA Comparison: Al Jefferson
15. Portland Trail Blazers | Donovan Mitchell | G | Louisville
This pick is a candidate to be traded, as Portland have picks number 15, 20, and 26, although their cap situation means they may hoard as many rookie deals as they can. Mitchell steps in as the third guard behind the duo of Lillard and McCollum, providing depth at the position with elite athleticism and perimeter hound dog defence. With over two steals a game to pair with 15.6 points, Mitchell is a dynamic athlete who doesn’t let the opposition rest, although he is an inconsistent outside shooter and, for his size at 6’3, is still a work in progress as a point guard. Could be in danger of finding himself in between positions in the NBA.
NBA Comparison: Avery Bradley
16. Chicago Bulls | Harry Giles | PF/C | Duke
If it wasn’t for injuries, Giles would probably be a top five pick in the draft, but knee surgery early in his rookie year sidelined him and slowed him right down. Appearing in 26 games, he only averaged 12 minutes a contest, less than four points and four rebounds, and struggled to find his role and impact on a strong Duke team. For a team like the Bulls, they need some talent desperately, and with his athleticism and versatility, a frontcourt pairing with Robin Lopez allows for a potentially great offense-defence tandem. The Bulls could be hitting full rebuild mode, and Giles would be a project to build around, although the questions will be there about his injury history and he projects as one of the bigger boom or bust prospects this year.
NBA Comparison: Julius Randle
17. Milwaukee Bucks | Semi Ojeleye | SF | SMU
I’d feel a lot more comfortable projecting a reach like Ojeleye to the Bucks if John Hammond was still in charge, having oversaw the selections of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thon Maker, two largely out of nowhere players. But, Ojeleye fits the Bucks profile in terms of length and athleticism, and due to his energy nature and low usage, he’s an ideal partner to throw into the Point Giannis lineup. In such a configuration, spot up shooting will be key, something Ojeleye excels at, having hit over 42 percent of his threes in his junior season at SMU. Despite his athleticism, he isn’t the most locked in defender and his effort levels can fall, and his ball handling isn’t strong, but this wouldn’t be a concern for a Bucks team where he’d camp behind the arc and make cuts.
NBA Comparison: Jonathon Simmons
18. Indiana Pacers | Lauri Markkanen | C | Arizona
Lauri Markkanen has all the talent to be a top 10 pick in the NBA Draft but I’m hesitant to put him that high because of his very one sided game. Think of Henry Ellenson last year, who was drafted in the same spot. The concerns for Henry coming out of college was his complete lack of any semblance of a defensive game. Markkanen is more athletic than Henry but is quite soft in the middle, and doesn’t really challenge shots or rebound that well, whereas Ellenson averaged just under 10 boards for Marquette. On the perimeter, Markkanen reaches and has poor lateral movement, but where he’ll make his money is on the glamour end of the court. As an excellent shooter, the true 7 footer projects as a major pick and pop threat, although he will need to add some offensive versatility. Pairing him with Myles Turner may be enough to hide his defensive deficiencies, and he can learn from an ageing yet effective Al Jefferson.
NBA Comparison: Channing Frye
19. Atlanta Hawks | Jarrett Allen | C | Texas
Jarrett Allen is a long drink of water, standing 6’10 with a 7’5 wingspan and 9’2 standing reach. In terms of on court ability, Allen projects mainly as a garbage usage offensive player, diving in for lobs and putbacks with the occasional post feed. Think of rookie Andre Drummond, although Allen has a reasonable handle for someone his size. His feel for the game is lacking though, and while he offers tremendous promise as a rim protecting enforcer, he isn’t always correctly positioned to make a serious contest for a shot attempt. Figures to be a D-League candidate early, learning behind Dwight Howard on how to play the clean up role on offense and learn defensive fundamentals. A complete non shooter.
NBA Comparison: John Henson
20. Portland Trail Blazers | Terrance Ferguson | SG/SF | Australia
Ferguson is a prospect hard to pin because he decided to skip the NCAA and his commitment to Arizona (not the first to do so, hello Brandon Jennings) to play overseas in a professional league, choosing Australia’s NBL. I’ve fielded many questions on Ferguson on Twitter, but to summarise, his best traits right away are his tremendous athleticism and fluidity when attacking the rim, even if he isn’t a polished finisher. Only shot around 31 percent from 3 during his season down under but has a pretty stroke that should lend itself to a higher percentage. Only played about 16 minutes per game for the Adelaide 36ers, largely in a bench role, as the team made a charge to the number 1 seed and a semi-finals loss. He is also very slender and will need to bulk up to make an impact at the next level and not get injured. This is a real long game pick for the Blazers, who are well stocked on the wings with Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe and Moe Harkless all on long term deals.
NBA Comparison: Terrence Ross
21. Oklahoma City Thunder | Derrick White | PG | Colorado
Oklahoma City’s back up point guard slot is a total mess, with Semaj “James backwards” Christon and Norris Cole filling time. Fortunately for them, Russell Westbrook doesn’t need much rest, but the position could still use some help. White is a big PG at 6’5 with a 6’8” wingspan, who is comfortable on the outside, hitting a shade under 40 percent of his threes in his senior season for the Buffaloes. While his athleticism is average at best, he’s a competitive rebounder and defender, and his feel for the game allows him to read plays and overcome subpar explosiveness in order to affect the game. He’s also adept at using his size in the lane, and has an array of finishing moves, including runners and floaters, that make him an effective scorer.
NBA Comparison: Wade Baldwin
22. Brooklyn Nets | Jawun Evans | PG | Oklahoma State
Evans is small, barely scraping 6 feet tall on his best days, but he’s a dynamic scorer and playmaker in the pick and roll, using sharp acceleration and quick bursts in order to get off his shot amongst a crowd. Isn’t the best finishing at the rim and his overall athleticism is a tier below the elite, which limits his potential upside as a change of pace point guard off the bench. The Nets point guard position was a revolving door of mess last season, with Jeremy Lin, Isaiah Whitehead, Spencer Dinwiddie and Yogi Ferrell all taking part in the parade. Lin is entrenched as the starter following an injury-plagued year, but someone like Evans can be an offensive spark for a bench unit consisting of spot up shooters. Defensively, Evans’ small frame naturally hinders him, although he is an irritant in this regard, fighting through screens to pressure ball handlers.
NBA Comparison: J.J. Barea
23. Toronto Raptors | T.J. Leaf | PF | UCLA
At this point in the draft, a team like Toronto is looking for specialists, and with Patrick Patterson (and Serge Ibaka) a free agent, someone like T.J. Leaf makes sense as an offensive expert. With a capable body of work from behind the arc and good instincts, he can develop into a valuable piece next to someone like Norman Powell and Jakob Poeltl on the Raptors bench. However, Leaf is a poor defender both inside and outside, with poor closing speed and a turn slower than the Queen Mary cruise ship, although he is a somewhat impressive athlete overall. It may just be a question of defensive desire and effort over any physical tools. Also struggles to score inside, not ideal for someone standing 6’10. Probably can hook up the team with Big Baller Brand shoes though.
NBA Comparison: Jon Leuer
24. Utah Jazz | Isaiah Hartenstein | C | Germany
You may be thinking that it’s redundant to draft a center with Rudy Gobert on the roster but Hartenstein would be a project for the long term, not someone expecting immediate playing time. At 7’1, he has all the size in the world, but doesn’t always play to it, due to both posture issues and a lack of explosiveness, explaining his struggles as a rim protector. Offensively though, he has tremendous promise as a perimeter shooter, and has excellent ball handling and vision for someone his size and age. There is a chance he could develop into a player resembling Nikola Jokic, although that’s probably a world away. Also a very good rebounder, especially on the defensive end.
NBA Comparison: Donatas Motiejunas
25. Orlando Magic | Jordan Bell | PF | Oregon
After adding Jonathan Isaac with the sixth pick, the Magic add another forward option in Oregon’s Jordan Bell. Bell is a lot closer to the finished product than Isaac, but is still an effective player, especially on the defensive end, where he is a complete hound. For someone only 6’9, Bell is a tremendous shot blocker, with excellent leaping ability and timing, aided by a 7’0 wingspan. Defending as a whole is where Bell will be effective the most straight away, as he is also a nightmare on the perimeter, able to effectively contain stretch big men as well as switch and cover guards and wings. However, Bell is a borderline non-shooter, although he can contribute on offense with his finishing around the rim and relentless pursuit of offensive rebounds, but will largely be ineffective with the ball in hand far away from the hoop.
NBA Comparison: Moe Harkless
26. Portland Trail Blazers | Bam Adebayo | C | Kentucky
Portland has a lot of finesse in their big men, especially with Meyers Leonard, but they need more grunt and energy behind Jusuf Nurkic. Enter Bam Adebayo, a physical specimen who projects as a ball of energy in the NBA. At 6’10 with a 7’3 wingspan, Adebayo is a supreme athlete with superior quickness and explosiveness, translating into a fearsome rebounder and interior defender. He has the potential to develop an attacking mid post game, but that may never become part of his arsenal if he can’t develop a consistent jumpshot. Also has been accused of lacking motor at times despite his energy label, and can be prone to fall asleep when not defending the ball.
NBA Comparison: Bismack Biyombo
27. Brooklyn Nets | Justin Patton | C | Creighton
Patton is a good athlete with his 6’11 frame and 7’3 wingspan, but a pick like this for the Nets is all about the potential he exhibits. The Ringer has even gone so far as to call him Karl-Anthony Towns lite as a best case scenario, with Patton showing flashes of KAT in both his pick and roll game as the roll man, and also as a perimeter shooter, where he was 8-15 for Creighton. He’s a mobile and fluid defender who struggles with the fundamentals of the game, namely falling for pump fakes and reaching in, and is prone to foul trouble. Is also incredibly raw offensively, committing avoidable turnovers and is a problem at the free throw line. Also needs to get stronger to bang with NBA big men, but the talent is too good to pass up at number 27. Probably won’t be there come the real thing.
NBA Comparison: KAT Lite (I’m buying)
28. Los Angeles Lakers | D.J. Wilson | PF | Michigan
While his teammate Mo Wagner returned to school, the sophomore Wilson decided to keep his name in the pot. With an NBA body at 6’11 and 240 pounds, Wilson is both long and wide, an ideal athletic combination, adding a 7’3 wingspan and 9’2 standing reach, desirable for a perimeter oriented player. Despite his size, his game is more perimeter oriented, and he looks smooth controlling things outside, both as a shooter and ball handler, although this can be annoying for coaches because, despite his impressive size, he does play too much like a guard, avoiding contact and not driving with meaning. He can be an impactful defender with his length and athleticism, but is often caught out of position, and he will also have to improve his general decision making.
NBA Comparison: Nikola Mirotic
29. San Antonio Spurs | Caleb Swanigan | PF | Purdue
Is there any pick that seems more perfect than Swanigan to the Spurs? Swanigan was an absolutely dominant college player during his two years with the Boilermakers, and brings an intriguing blend of bruising physicality with shooting prowess. Shot nearly 45 percent from three and displays potential as an option both spotting up and in the pick and pop game, but is also capable inside, using his 6’9, 247 pound frame to bully opponents. His main issues will stem defensively, where he has neither the elite athleticism or necessary fundamentals to warrant serious consideration on that end. Is slow moving on the outside and doesn’t offer much as a rim protector, but the Spurs made David Lee look good defensively so there’s hope.
NBA Comparison: Jared Sullinger
30. Utah Jazz | Josh Hart | SG | Villanova
Rounding out the first round is the national champion from 2016 in Josh Hart, a well rounded wing player. He is capable as a spot up shooter, even if his mechanics are ugly, shooting 40.4 percent from three his senior season. Brings all the necessary intangibles to make a contender covet him, including tremendous activity pursuing loose balls, as well as being a good teammate and hard competitor. Flashed promise running the pick and roll, and is quite young for a senior, only recently 22 years old. However, his problems stem from his lack of athleticism, as he doesn’t have the leaping ability to be a dangerous finisher at the rim, and is a predictable ball handler with a slow first step. Isn’t naturally a playmaker and may rely on others to get him open looks, but good value for a team on the rise like the Jazz with the 30th pick.
NBA Comparison: Ian Clark
So there we go, the first edition of the DBB mock draft. As always feel free to have your say in the comments below on your favourite prospects, and whether anybody was a major reach or fell too hard.
Author’s note: If you are interested in signing up for the Ron Marshall Memorial Mock Draft, please do so here. There are a couple of spaces left. Thanks for reading.