The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics rocked the NBA this week by agreeing to the first trade for the No. 1 overall pick since 1993. This means Markelle Fultz is going to Philly and it sets the rest of the draft in motion.
The draft really starts at No. 2 with the Lakers on the clock. Lonzo Ball has been the presumptive favorite since the lottery, but Josh Jackson has been rumored to be making a strong run. Then there’s the Celtics at No. 3, where the choice looks like it will be between Jackson and Jayson Tatum.
The Suns have to be thrilled with the Celtics-Sixers swap because it appears to give them a better shot at Jackson, who would offer the two-way versatility they need. The Kings are sitting at No. 5 just hoping De’Aaron Fox is still available.
We’ll finally know how it all shakes out on Thursday. Until then, here’s our latest mock:
1. Philadelphia 76ers – Markelle Fultz, G, Washington
The trade up to No. 1 is a no-brainer for the Sixers. After drafting approximately 200 big men in a row, Philadelphia gets the best guard prospect to hit the draft since at least Kyrie Irving in 2011. Fultz is at his best with the ball in his hands, but he also has the size, scoring instincts and shooting range to play off the ball alongside Ben Simmons. A core of Fultz, Simmons and Joel Embiid has the potential to be absolutely special. The Process is over; long live The Process.
2. Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
The Lakers are thinking small if they really take Josh Jackson over Lonzo Ball. That’s where I’m at now. Jackson is a great fit on paper: he’s the type of big, versatile wing every team wants, and he’d also be superior defensive presence next to Brandon Ingram and D’Angelo Russell. Jackson will be a good NBA player. Lonzo Ball can be a great one.
Our guy JZ Mazlish wrote a compelling contrarian case for Ball over Fultz as the best player in the draft last week. My favorite point from that: Ball’s dominance is so unique that it’s hard for a lot of people to comprehend. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green were once the same way.
3. Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
The Celtics knew they would be drafting a player out of the high school class of 2016 from the minute they made their now infamous trade with the Nets in 2013. Tatum sat at or near the top of those class rankings since they first developed. My guess is Boston has been closely tracking Tatum for years and had him as 1B (or possibly 1A) on their board with Fultz. From that perspective, the chance to take a player they love while adding more premium future picks is the process is a no-brainer.
I’m not the biggest Tatum fan — I had him No. 6 overall on my big board — but he looks like a great fit next to Jaylen Brown in Boston. Brown is the superior athlete with a higher defensive ceiling while Tatum projects to offer true go-to scoring ability. Personally, I’d rather have Fultz, but there’s a chance this ends up eventually looking like a brilliant trade for Danny Ainge.
4. Phoenix Suns – Josh Jackson, G/F, Kansas
No one is more jacked up about the 76ers-Celtics trade than the Suns. Josh Jackson seemed likely to go No. 3 before the trade. Now he should be available for Suns at No. 4. Jackson is exactly what Phoenix needs: a high-motor, two-way wing next to Devin Booker and the developing young front court of Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss.
5. Sacramento Kings – De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
If Jackson is falling to No. 4, that all but assures De’Aaron Fox will be there for the Kings at No. 5. That was always the best case scenario for Sacramento. The Kings badly needed a new face of the franchise following the DeMarcus Cousins trade, and Fox can be that. He’s a blur with the ball in his hands in the open floor and competes on both ends of the court. If is jump shot comes around like Mike Conley’s did after leaving Ohio State — a player he’s often compared to — he’s going to be a really good player.
6. Orlando Magic – Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
The Magic could go in any direction with this pick. I think Isaac is a strong possibility because of the way new GM John Hammond targeted long and raw athletes during his time in Milwaukee. The difference here is Isaac doesn’t really fit the mold of a traditional boom-or-bust pick: his defensive upside is so unique that whatever he gives you on offense is basically gravy. Imagine an Aaron Gordon-Jonathan Isaac front court. That sounds like the future.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves – Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
Ideally, the Wolves would love to add Isaac. Markkanen is a very different player to slide in between Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but he should still be effective nonetheless. Markannen is a truly elite shooter at 7-feet tall who should give the Wolves’ fleet of athletes plenty of room to make plays. Who knows, maybe Tom Thibodeau can even find a way to make him productive on defense.
8. New York Knicks – Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
The Knicks need a guard and there are three great ones on the board in Malik Monk, Dennis Smith Jr. and Ntilikina. The Knicks have been scouting Ntilikina for months and he looks like the best fit in the Triangle of the three. Ideally, he turns into a 3-and-D lead guard a la George Hill.
9. Dallas Mavericks – Dennis Smith Jr., PG, NC State
This is the best case scenario for Dallas. The Mavericks need a point guard, and Smith could be drafted in the top five based on his talent. He’s a relentless rim attacker who averaged more points, assists, rebounds and steals than Fox in his one season of college basketball. He also shot the ball a lot better from three-point range. NC State was just a strange and bad team last season, but that was in spite of Smith, not because of him.
10. Sacramento Kings – Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
This isn’t a perfect fit. The Kings already have a young shooting guard they love in Buddy Hield who profiles as a similar player to Monk. I just think Monk is by far the best player left on the board, so why not take him? The Fox-Monk backcourt was so much fun at Kentucky. Let’s run it back in Sacramento for the next 10 years.
11. Charlotte Hornets – Luke Kennard, G, Duke
Kennard has reportedly become one of the draft’s biggest risers. He’s coming off a breakout sophomore season at Duke, where he posted scoring numbers that were way more efficient than Tatum’s. His shooting ability (44 percent from three) should be attractive to a Charlotte team that’s been looking for more shooters.
12. Detroit Pistons – Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville
Mitchell reminds me a bit of Avery Bradley: he’s short for a two guard (6’3), but he has long arms, a 40-inch vertical and serious defensive upside. He made major strides as a shooter as a sophomore at Louisville, and that part of his game will have to be for real to warrant a lottery pick. This would give Stan Van Gundy a nice stable of young wings alongside Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Stanley Johnson.
13. Denver Nuggets – Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
Collins broke out in the NCAA tournament as arguably Gonzaga’s best player on its way to the NCAA tournament title game. He offers a combination of shooting and shot blocking that should be attractive next to Nikola Jokic in the front court. A player like OG Anunoby would also be a nice fit here, but taking Collins would be a case of going for the best player available.
14. Miami Heat – OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana
Anunoby is on the short list of the best defensive prospects in this class. He’s long armed, athletic and strong, theoretically giving the Heat a player who could defend up to four positions. He and Justise Winslow would be trouble on the wing if their jump shots come around. Granted, that’s a big if.
15. Portland Trail Blazers – Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
The Blazers could use a big wing to put next to Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Jackson fits that mold. He made incredible strides as a shooter during a junior season with North Carolina that ended in a national championship. He also defended Malik Monk as well as anyone all season in UNC’s dramatic Elite Eight victory. He’s older than any other prospect taken to this point, but he feels like a safe-ish bet to at least carve out a rotation spot in the NBA.
16. Chicago Bulls – Justin Patton, C, Creighton
It feels like the Bulls could go in any direction with this pick. Jackson would fit the front office’s longheld preference for productive, veteran college players, but he goes one pick too soon in this mock. If that happens, I wouldn’t be surprised if Justin Patton is a player they like. Doug McDermott’s dad was his college coach at Creighton and he fits the “younger and more athletic” mod the front office has been preaching, but not practicing.
17. Milwaukee Bucks – Harry Giles, C, Duke
The Bucks hit the jackpot on a boom-or-bust draft prospect with Giannis Antetokounmpo back in 2013. Thon Maker fit a similar profile last year and already looks like a good pick. Will Milwaukee continue to follow this strategy without departed GM John Hammond? Why not? If so, someone like Giles could make sense. He was a former No. 1 overall recruit before repeated knee injuries left him largely ineffective during his one season at Duke. If he can regain his previous form (another big if), this could be another quality pick for Milwaukee.
18. Indiana Pacers – T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA
The Pacers are in an impossible spot in this draft without knowing the future of Paul George. When in doubt, just draft a shooter. It was Leaf — not Lonzo Ball — who was UCLA’s leading scorer as a freshman. He’s also a 46 percent three-point shooter. Pairing him with Myles Turner could give the Pacers premium spacing.
19. Atlanta Hawks – Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
Allen has ideal length (7’5) and impressive foot speed for an NBA center. The Hawks would be wise to use this pick on a young big man to develop behind Dwight Howard after drafting two wings in the first round last year.
20. Portland Trail Blazers – Terrance Ferguson, SG, Adelaine
Terrance Ferguson is a perfect pick for a team like Portland with three first round selections. There’s a lot to like about his physical tools: great positional size (6’7) for a shooting guard with explosive leaping ability and a good three-point stroke. It’s all about feel for the game and committing on the defensive end for him.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Kyle Kuzma, F, Utah
Kuzma is a versatile 6’9 forward who can defend and pass. His three-point shot (32 percent last season) will determine exactly how high his ceiling is.
22. Brooklyn Nets – John Collins, PF, Wake Forest
Collins does a lot of things well. Namely: score efficiently inside and clean the glass. That helped him produce the highest PER of anyone in this draft class. His game also has two major question marks: rim protection and shooting range. He reminds me a bit of Enes Kanter. The Nets need productive players anyway they can get them, and Collins is a safe bet to put up numbers as a pro.
23. Toronto Raptors – Jonah Bolden, F, Australia
Bolden was a top-50 recruit out of high school who left UCLA after one season to play professionally in Serbia. He’s 6’10, 230 lbs. with good athleticism and a nice jumper. Everyone would have known his name if he decided to stick with the Bruins another season to play with Lonzo Ball.
24. Utah Jazz – Derrick White, G, Colorado
White put up big numbers in his DI debut at Colorado. He’s been a star of the post-draft circuit and could very well be a first rounder now. He can play either backcourt spot and has the ability to shoot, pass and dribble. That’s a good fit anywhere, especially for a Utah team that could lose George Hill and/or Gordon Hayward in free agency.
25. Orlando Magic – Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA
Anigbogu reminds me a bit of Bismack Biyombo and is a whole lot cheaper. I think he’s got the most upside of anyone left on the board at this point.
26. Portland Trail Blazers – Isaiah Hartenstein, C, Germany
Hartenstein is a try hard big man with a developing face-up game. He was also born in Oregon so he should fit right in with the Blazers.
27. Brooklyn Nets – Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU
Ojeleye has three level scoring ability and the strength to battle with bigger players. The question is his lateral quickness defensively. He’s still one of my favorite sleepers in the late first round.
28. Los Angeles Lakers – DJ Wilson, F, Michigan
Wilson has great size (6’10, 240 lbs.), a nice shooting stroke and some shot blocking potential. He could be a major steal if he lasts to this point in the first round.
29. San Antonio Spurs – Tony Bradley, C, North Carolina
Bradley is an elite offensive rebounder with nice touch around the rim. The question is whether he is quick enough to defend the pick-and-roll.
30. Utah Jazz – Anzejs Pasecniks, C, Latvia
Pasecniks is 7’2 with a good shooting stroke. He had a solid season playing professionally in Spain and feels like he could go 10 picks higher than this.
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