This year’s NBA Draft has the chance to be special, with 12-15 guys I see making an impact in the NBA someday.
As always, the disclaimers are 1) I’m not a huge college basketball fan. I only watch it for the Draft and know most of the top guys. Not everyone in my mock I am super familiar with. I write on the guys I know. 2) The mock is mix of what I think will happen and what I think should happen.
No.2, Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, UCLA
I’m not as big of a Lonzo Ball fan as others. On my private big board, he’s the 4th best player in this draft. I see and understand the case for him, but also believe there’s some weaknesses that are being shadowed.
One of Lonzo’s biggest attributes is his shooting ability. He shot 55% from the field and 41.2% from three at UCLA this past season, but it’s more about his mechanics that concerns me. The release point of his shot is to the left of his head, not above the head or at the eyebrows. This makes Ball’s shot much easier to guard, and in today’s NBA, where 7-foot wingspans are extremely common, Ball might have a tough time gaining his stroke with hands near his hold and eyes consistently.
Secondly, Ball is a terrible defender. It’s probably more about effort than lack of skill, but at 6’6 with a seven foot wingspan, Ball is wasting his potential by not trying on that end. There’s a chance he could be a real two-way force. For now, his defense should be held against him.
My last concern with Ball doesn’t actually have to do with Lonzo himself. I’ve been waiting to touch on this subject for this column, and hopefully this column only.
I’m a big karma guy, and LaVar Ball is creating a lot of bad karma for his son. Nothing he has said can possibly generate anything positive.
Also, and this is more of a pre-draft thing, when we weren’t totally sure what team he’d end up on, but NBA teams, or the Lakers in particular, are not gonna want to put up with annoying parents like that.
The Lakers are ready for Lonzo. They traded D’Angelo Russell to clear up any chemistry issues and LaVar has said that Lonzo will play for the Lakers, so that’s that. Despite my concerns, Lonzo’s worse case as a player is a long, athletic guy who can make any pass and be an awesome distributor. Best case is hard to say. If Lonzo puts it all together, it’s extremely likely he’s the best player in the draft. Nobody has that shooting and passing ability like he does.
No.3, Boston Celtics: Josh Jackson, Kansas
The Celtics, as usual, could go a couple ways here. Jayson Tatum is certainly in play. Trading this pick in a package for a star is definitely in play. However, I have the Celtics taking Jackson because I find the Kansas star to be the 3rd best player in the draft.
Jackson’s scouting report is a long, athletic wing who’s a great defender with a raw offensive game. It matches a lot of guys in this draft, and also matches Jaylen Brown, who the Celtics took No.3 overall last year.
However, I’m a bigger believer in Jackson than that. I thought his progress on offense improved greatly over the course of the year at Kansas, and even got to a point where, if I was an opposing defender, wouldn’t want to guard him. Jackson ended up shooting 37.8% on threes with the Jayhawks, much better than his doubters suggest.
Though he’s comparable to Brown, I believe he’s the right pick. An inch taller and more polished offensively, Jackson can be the consistent wing scorer Boston desperately needs. He’s a very Aingey pick, as Jayson Tatum, though a better scorer (more on him later), isn’t the best defender. Sure, the Celtics can sign Gordon Hayward, but Hayward doesn’t offer the youth and defense Jackson does. I’m not against making both moves…. if Jackson struggles Hayward is there. But Jackson’s offensive game is more versatile and explosive, making him the better fit.
No.4, Phoenix Suns: De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
I battled on this pick and ended up taking the best player available. The Suns could go A LOT of directions here, and with the Kristaps Porzingis rumors floating around I’m becoming very inclined toward moving this pick.
If we keep it though, I’d hope we take Fox. Jayson Tatum is a better fit, but I’m not high on him and Fox is the better overall prospect.
In Fox, the Suns are getting an athletic freak who can eventually takeover for Eric Bledsoe. Fox is a lightning bolt, and is faster than any NBA player I’ve seen (He’s faster than John Wall and it’s not even close). This allows him to get anywhere he wants on the court.
Fox’s long arms and speed allow him to catch up to speed and guard many positions . He embarrassed Lonzo Ball in the NCAA Tournament on both ends, a game which raised his stock highly.
Fox’s main concern is his lack of a jumpshot. It might develop (If it does, he’s gonna be the best player in this draft). On the Suns though, it wouldn’t be too much of a concern. We have plenty of dudes who can hit threes.
Some might find the balance between him and Devin Booker awkward. There would be some chemistry to work out, but Booker’s the type of player who can be effective on and off ball, while Fox needs the ball in his hands to be effective. Using Booker off the ball when Fox is on the court creates even more of a problem for opposing defenses with Booker’s shooting and Fox’s athleticism. This would also allow Phoenix to become even more dynamic offensively.
I’m intrigued by Fox, but if this pick can help us land a Porzingis or Jimmy Butler, I’d be happy to flip it.
No.5, Sacramento Kings: Dennis Smith, N.C. State
I don’t know a lot about Smith, but his flashiness and potential makes him a very Kingsy-pick. I could see him and Jayson Tatum going in some order at No.5 and No.6.
No.6, Orlando Magic: Jayson Tatum, Duke
I’m not a huge fan of Tatum. I don’t know how high his ceiling is… He could be Harrison Barnes or a more athletic, slimmer Melo. However, the Magic need perimeter scoring, and Tatum figures to be someone who can just get buckets. If the Celtics trade down again, Tatum figures to be a target.
No.7, Minnesota Timberwolves: Lauri Markkanen, Arizona
Rumblings around the league suggest that Minnesota could move this pick as they’re not really in love with anyone. If they keep it though, Markkanen makes the most sense. Though he doesn’t have the highest ceiling, Markkanen would be a big upgrade over Gorgui Dieng as a stretch 4.
Markkanen isn’t super talented though. He shoots it clean and spaces the floor; that’s about it. He’s lanky defensively, and is raw with putting the ball on the deck and posting up. Jonathan Issac could also make some sense here at No.7.
No.8, New York Knicks: Malik Monk, Kentucky
I absolutely love Monk. He’s electric, a great shooter and is almost as athletic as his former teammate De’Aaron Fox. I think he’s the 2nd best player in this draft. Why is he falling to No.8?
It’s two things: Teams don’t need him and teams are underrating him. I watched a ton of Kentucky this year to get familiar with Fox and Monk. Though not a point guard, Monk is just as capable of having an offense ran through him. His athetisicm and shot-making allow him to do whatever he wants on the court. He’s a such a unique player that I don’t have a comparison for him, which is a rarity and a good sign.
Monk would light up MSG. With Melo likely gone and Porzingis hopefully (Hopefully because Knicks fans don’t deserve this) staying (Though, at this point, that might be unlikely), the Knicks would have something promising for once.
No.9, Dallas Mavericks: Jonathan Issac, Florida State
The lowest I’ve seen Issac go is in my own draft. He’s probably destined for the 5-8 range, but some think the Celtics could reach for him at No.3.
Issac has an incredible body and is gifted with quite the dose of athletism, but besides that I struggle to see what he’ll become. Is he a rim protecter who can shoot? Can he create his own shot? There’s a lot of questions. He’s too lanky to be a perimeter defender, which is why I see his defensive ceiling being under the rim. Issac’s raw in every area on offense. For Dallas, he’s worth the risk, but this project could be an A or a F.
No.10, Sacramento Kings: OG Anuboby, Indiana
Essentially this year’s Jaylen Brown, OG is a great defender with an even rawer offensive game. I fell in love with him while watching the Hoosiers. Something about the way he runs makes me think he’s gonna be really good. The Kings make picks that are the opposite of smart, so I’d be surprised if Anuboby ended up here, but given their current situation defensively, this would be a wise pick.
No.11, Charlotte Hornets: John Collins, Wake Forest
No.12, Detroit Pistons: Frank Ntilikina, France
No.13, Denver Nuggets: Justin Jackson, North Carolina
I know, this feels really, really high. I like Justin Jackson a lot. His versatility and athletism combined with his scoring makes him really interesting. He’s got long arms, making him a good defender too. I feel like he’s been really underrated, and deserves to end up in the 12-17 range. As for fit, Denver needs someone who can get buckets. Jackson projects to be a cross between Otto Porter and Paul George in some way. That’s a talent the Nuggets should covet.
No.14, Miami Heat: Harry Giles, Duke
This is definitely one of those “It shouldn’t but will happen” picks. I thought Giles should have stayed another year at Duke. He barely played and had a limited impact on the Blue Devils this year. He looked pretty incompetent out there. Teams should probably be looking more at his high school tape, because nothing stands out from this past season.
However, Giles, if he stays healthy, could be a really nice big man down the road, and kinda reminds me of Chris Bosh without the shooting. This would be a classic Heat pick.
No.15, Portland Trail Blazers: Zach Collins, Gonzaga
Collins was a really fun college player, and projects to be a nice floor spacer who can shoot in the NBA. Portland desperately needs that right now to put along side Jursuf Nurkic. However, I’d warn teams from drafting these type of guys too early. Frank Kaminsky hasn’t worked so well… Neither did Adam Morrison.
No.16, Chicago Bulls: Donavan Mitchell, Louisville
No.17, Milwaukee Bucks: Terrance Ferguson, Australia
No.18, Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard, Duke
Kennard’s stock has risen greatly over the past few weeks, but this draft has too much potential at the top for Kennard to go in the top ten. That said, Kennard is a pretty safe pick. A combo guard, he has the potential to evolve into a nice backup point guard if he works on his handle. If the vision and ball-handling doesn’t come, Kennard turns into a Kyle Korver-like player, because man, he can stroke it. The Pacers need to redo their backcourt, and no matter what Kennard turns out to be, he’d be an upgrade over what they have now.
No.19, Atlanta Hawks: TJ Leaf, UCLA
With Dwight Howard gone and Paul Millsap possibly leaving in free agency, the Hawks are about to begin a massive overhaul in their frontcourt. TJ Leaf is a great stretch 4 who can shoot and provides spacing. If the Hawks bring back Millsap, Leaf would fit in perfectly. If Millsap leaves, Leaf becomes a nice piece to build around.
No.20, Portland Trail Blazers: Jonah Bolden, Australia
No.21, Oklahoma City Thunder: Jarrett Allen, Texas A&M
No.22, Brooklyn Nets: Ike Anigbogu, UCLA
No.23, Toronto Raptors: Bam Adebayo, Kentucky
I really think this is a good fit. The Raptors need more athletic big men, and Adebayo should translate very nicely into the modern NBA with his versatility and rim protection.
No.24, Utah Jazz: Semi Ojeleye, SMU
No.25, Orlando Magic: Derrick White, Colorado
No.26, Portland Trail Blazers: Ivan Rabb, California
Rabb made a big mistake staying an extra year at Berkeley, but ending up in Portland should work out well. As part of their front court rebuild, the Blazers need someone who can do the dirty work off the bench. Rabb projects as a small-ball center, giving the Blazers much versatility with him and Zach Collins.
No.27, Los Angeles Lakers: Tyler Lydon, Syracuse
No.28, Los Angeles Lakers: Tony Bradley, North Carolina
Bradley reminds me of a more-athletic Julius Randle and should fit in nicely wherever he ends up.
No.29, San Antonio Spurs: Anzejs Pasecniks, Latvia
No.30, Utah Jazz: Frank Jackson, Duke
With George Hill a free agent and Dante Exum still overcoming his youth and rawness, Jackson makes a lot of sense as a bridge point guard who can run things and distribute the ball.