There is no ranking more frequently polarizing among sports fans than a mock draft. With the NBA Draft taking place today, we compiled our expectations of the draft’s events into Holyfield’s own mock draft. While any good big board establishes the prospects rankings in a vacuum, the teams don’t take players in a vacuum, so we’ve sorted through a mock draft based on our estimation of what teams will look for in the draft and the best player available at times. Our picks trended somewhat towards what we thought teams should do unless given an indication towards what they will do, and with that, we’ve produced a full two-round mock draft.
1. Philadelphia 76ers — Markelle Fultz, PG/SG
What a perfect move for the Sixers. It’s hard to believe that the Process may finally be complete, but the Sixers seem to have their lineup of the future ironed out if they take Fultz. The ideal guard in this draft, Fultz is a head above nearly every player in this class when it comes to upside, and there’s no looming red flags, though his intensity has been questioned and his free throw percentage scrutinized. Much of this stems from being the presumptive number one pick — no one wants to believe in a perfect prospect, and holes are poked in a player’s game wherever scouts can fit a needle. Regardless, Fultz has a sound floor and a remarkable ceiling, and the Sixers won’t struggle with this decision for a moment. Whether he or Simmons will handle the ball more is not worth debate; how healthy the lineup can be is not a present concern. Instead, look at this team on paper — assuming a starting lineup of Fultz/Covington/Simmons/Saric/Embiid — and see how well it matches up against other Eastern Conference teams. See the potential inherent in having all their franchise cornerstones under 24. Appreciate that Fultz, who has the potential to be a top-10 point guard in the league rather quickly, is replacing Jerryd Bayless. The versatility that Fultz has is nice, but the Sixers legitimately have no one else to give point guard minutes to. He is their future, and the Process is over. — WM
It was easy to be somewhat skeptical of Lonzo actually heading to the Lakers up to this point. It seemed too easy, too much of a no-brainer to actually take place. A brilliant passer with an ugly jump shot and a polarizing life — the mix is eerie deja vu for Lakers fans. Yet just two days after a trade sent D’Angelo Russell to the Nets, there seems to be no one but Ball in Magic Johnson’s sights. It’s fitting that the master of Showtime should handpick his successor, and Ball is certainly equipped with the skills to run LA’s offense at 9000rpm, but there are pressures on the California native and UCLA star. Foremost among them is his father, whose self-powered spotlight often rivals the player himself. Behind that is the fact that Lonzo does very little to shore up a Lakers defense that struggled mightily (last in the league, in fact) to stop teams from running wild on them. And even beyond that, is Lonzo equipped to run with the big boys? It seems nearly set in stone that Paul George will be playing alongside the point guard in a year or less, and the possibility that LeBron bolts for sunny Los Angeles grows brighter by the day. This team may change its direction rather quickly, and Lonzo will be forced to learn on the fly or fall between the cracks. — WM
Lately, Jayson Tatum has appeared as a legitimate threat to usurp Jackson here. On the surface, it makes sense. Tatum has worked out twice for the Celtics, while Jackson, or at least his agent, has refused workouts with the team. Tatum has all the makings of a potential go-to scorer, something the Celtics currently lack outside of Isaiah Thomas. In time, he may even be able to function as a small-ball four, and Brad Stevens loves versatility.
The Celtics operate in mysterious ways. After all, no one expected them to trade down in the first place. It is possible that they also view Jackson as the player with the highest upside in the draft, if not the best player in it at this very moment. From a physical standpoint, he isn’t quite as mature as their selection last year, Jaylen Brown, but he embodies a lot of the same qualities. He is a tenacious defender and explosive athlete, and you know you will be getting maximum effort from him every second he is on the floor. The two could certainly be a formidable wing combo in the future. It’s easy to see the appeal picking Jackson has for the Celtics.
Offensively, Jackson has a lot of room for growth, but a pretty solid foundation as well. He’s a good passer who can handle the ball in transition, he has shown flashes of a post game, and his athleticism makes him a nightmare attacking the rim.
Of course, a lot of his development will hinge on his capabilities as a shooter. He shot well from distance in college, but his free throw percentage is worrisome. It might be worthwhile to compare him to Brown again in this area. In his lone season at Cal, Brown shot just about 29.3% from 3. In his rookie season, he shot 34.1%, and 43.8% from the corner.
If Jackson is indeed the pick, his playing time will be worth monitoring. The Celtics have their eyes set on some big time free agents, and if some of these names come through, he might not even crack the rotation at first. The Celtics have games to win, and multiple players at both the two and three spots. This was another concern of his agent when it came to working out for the team. What the team also has is the ability to be patient. Even if he does not play a major role in his first year, the players in front of him will not be there forever and barring a trade, Jackson will one day grow into a starter for the team. The Celtics took a huge gamble with this trade, and we won’t know if it paid off until that day comes. — Kyle Howard
4. Phoenix Suns — Jayson Tatum, SF
Jayson Tatum exploded this year as the most reliable scoring option on a Duke team with a lot of reliable scoring options. He demonstrated a polish to his game, scoring through a well-developed series of moves to create midrange jumpers when he couldn’t get to the rim while giving Justin Jackson a run for his money in the ACC player of the year race. Ultimately, Tatum can be expected to have a high impact from day one, but he has the athleticism and shooting ability to be even better down the road. He didn’t really extend out to three much, but there’s absolutely no reason why someone with his incredibly clean mechanics shouldn’t be able to step out more at the professional level if put into an appropriate system. More than anything, out of the 3 wing prospects at the top of the draft, Tatum is the one that you put out there and just tell him to go score the ball. Jackson’s probably the best playmaker of the three; Tatum doesn’t have his passing ability and Isaac doesn’t have his ball-handling, and Isaac’s the best shooter, but even in this era which so heavily prioritizes efficiency, there is certainly a place for a player who can generate offense for himself out of seemingly nothing, and that’s what Tatum does.
And with that said, there are legitimate concerns over Tatum’s passing keeping him from being a truly good offensive player. He has tendencies to over-dribble the ball at times that reared their head at Duke, but have been noticeably present since high school, making him a part of a quickly dying breed if he can’t shape up his offensive vision and IQ.
For the Suns, T.J. Warren’s impending free agency and very little wing depth behind him means that they are absolutely in need of a small forward to pair with Devin Booker in the long run, and Booker and Tatum, should they both curb some of their existing issues, should be more than capable of making the guys around them better and drawing significant offensive gravity. They might have rather had Josh Jackson here, since his defense and play-making suit their needs better, but with him off the table, Jayson Tatum is a fine consolation prize. — Joseph Nation
5. Sacramento Kings — De’Aaron Fox, PG
The Kings are full steam ahead in life after Boogie. With the addition of shooting guard Buddy Hield — and the emergence of bigs Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere — Sacramento’s biggest need is a point guard. Darren Collison and Ty Lawson ran the show last season, but the Kings need to get younger and more athletic at the position. De’Aaron Fox is one of the best point guards in a draft loaded with them, and should be the best player available by the time the fifth pick rolls around. For a team that has struggled defensively for a number of years, Fox may be able to stem the bleeding from the point guard spot. There’s some upside for Fox as a scorer, perhaps best seen when he downed UCLA in March on a flurry of excellent drives and cuts, and he’ll certainly be able to contribute at both ends of the court. Look for the Kings to take Fox here and continue their rebuild now that the DeMarcus Cousins train has come and gone for good. — Connor Frey
6. Orlando Magic — Dennis Smith Jr., PG
The Magic fired Scott Hennigan partially because he overvalued Elfrid Payton. They may be looking for the point guard to replace him as a result, and either De’Aaron Fox or Dennis Smith Jr. will likely be on the board. If they are forced to choose, expect them to take Dennis Smith Jr., as he is the more pro-ready player and has the higher upside. Smith is one of the premier scorers in the draft and has the type of swagger you’re looking for in a conference that boasts some of the league’s best point guards. You know he won’t back down from a challenge. While Smith isn’t the best shooter in this draft, he certainly doesn’t have Elfrid Payton’s shooting woes, which are much scarier to the Magic than actual other teams. — CF
7. Minnesota Timberwolves — Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF
The Wolves have been bad for so long that they have been put in the position to potentially draft their starting five of the future. Kris Dunn had a disappointing year but remains promising. Zach Lavine will need to provide the same shooting and athleticism after returning from an ACL tear. Andrew Wiggins is a legit scorer who should grow on defense as he continues to learn the game, and Karl-Anthony Towns is going to be a superstar. Isaac will be the player rounding out the lineup, and he should be a natural fit.
He’s a solid spot-up shooter from deep and plays with great energy. Isaac should immediately slot into the starting lineup, replacing Gorgui Dieng (a solid player in his own right, but he doesn’t make much sense next to Towns), and giving the team more spacing around their transcendent big man. His biggest asset to the Wolves in the short term will be his ability to defend. The Wolves aren’t a very switch-oriented team, but adding a versatile defender such as Isaac could change that, or at least allow them to explore different options defensively.
Where Isaac struggles right now is in his ability to create for himself. Even if he never truly develops those skills, he will still be a plus for the team as long as he’s defending and knocking down shots. Wiggins, Lavine, and Towns can handle the offensive burden. It really is the best situation possible for the young forward. He’ll get to come in and focus on what he does well, improve his strengths, have teammates that mask his weaknesses and grow alongside a great young core. — KH
8. New York Knicks — Frank Ntilikina, PG/SG
The Knicks seem to be a franchise with little direction right now. Rumors swirled all last season about Carmelo Anthony’s future in NY, and now, Kristaps Porzingis has become the latest topic of conversation. What the hell is actually going on in the Big Apple? I guess only Phil Jackson can answer that. At this point, they need all the young talent they can get. That means drafting Frank Ntilikina at #8. He will be the best player on the board by the time the Knicks pick and he has the franchise-changing upside that New York should covet. In addition, he’d make a nice fit in the triangle as either the low usage decision-making and spot up shooting oriented PG or as the driver off of the initial pass to the wing, and he has the defensive range to cover either. Further, since the Knicks aren’t going to be good for the near future, they can afford some time to develop him into whatever they need to be, and they have a decent crew of vets like Courtney Lee to help him along. — CF
9. Dallas Mavericks — Lauri Markkanen, PF
Dallas seems set on taking a point guard as they’ve been strongly connected to both Dennis Smith and Frank Ntilikina, two players who very well both could still be on the board at pick #9. The only problem is, those two didn’t end up on the board here. While they don’t have any interest in Lauri Markkanen based on Dirk’s comments, this is the NBA Draft; everything is a smokescreen. They worked Markkanen out, and he has a good fit on this roster at the 4 when Dirk retires. Further, having let Monta Ellis walk away rather recently, Malik Monk (who, like Ellis, is an undersized scorer cut from a more modern cloth) might not be in the plans. Lauri Markkanen’s shooting from a big spot will allow them to keep doing what they’re doing, and Nerlens Noel will cover for his defensive concerns. — CF
10. Sacramento Kings — Malik Monk, SG
Sacramento got their point guard of the future at #5 in De’Aaron Fox and now they get the chance to add another impact player with the 10th pick. The Kings are loaded at center but can take the best player available otherwise, and at this point, that’s clearly Malik Monk, a high-powered scoring wing with franchise changing upside that Sacramento needs. He and Buddy Hield should combine to give Sacramento a high-scoring long-run wing duo with the shooting range to help De’Aaron Fox and give him the space to use his speed to drive. — CF
11. Charlotte Hornets — Donovan Mitchell, PG/SG
Donovan Mitchell will be able to step in immediately and fill the role of backup PG in Charlotte, which is a major position of need. He ticks every box in terms of what will make for an effective current backup PG there: He projects as an excellent defender, and appears to have the ability to play multiple positions such that he could also take spot minutes next to Kemba. He’s a capable shooter, such that he could play off the ball next to Jeremy Lamb so as to minimize the negative impact of his decision-making, but he also has some ability to handle the ball himself to provide a second playmaker alongside Kemba. Effectively, while Mitchell might not be the best player on the board with regards to pure talent or upside (Though there is a ton there), the next best prospects on the board are Centers, and Charlotte should be giving all of their Center minutes to Cody Zeller and Dwight Howard and possibly even Frank Kaminsky. Since they have to get something immediate out of this pick, Mitchell is a strong choice for a front office that needs to hit their offseason this year in a way that makes an immediate impact in order to keep their jobs. — JN
12. Detroit Pistons — Terrance Ferguson, SG
The Pistons are in the undesirable position of not being bad enough to flat-out tank, and not being good enough to compete for anything more than a low playoff seed. On top of that, they have accumulated one of the highest payrolls in the league, and won’t have the cap space to make any significant moves in free agency. The players making up that payroll aren’t good enough (besides perhaps Drummond, who admittedly has probably lost a lot of value) to net them any worthwhile assets in return should a trade go down, so truthfully the team’s options are limited. For now, they’ll probably have to stick it out and hope they can hit on a couple picks in the middle of the lottery. The team has also said they will explore trading this pick for a veteran, but that seems rather pointless since all that would do is move them a few spots down at best in next year’s draft.
Ferguson should be a nice player in time. He can shoot the three and defend well for a player his age and size. He should improve in that area as he matures both mentally and physically. He’s a good athlete as well and really embodies all the things head coach and general manager Stan Van Gundy covets in a wing player. Their current two-guard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is going to be a restricted free agent next offseason, and it’s unclear whether he’ll be back. He could end up getting a max offer from a team looking to add a 3-and-D wing, and given Detroit’s salary cap situation, it’s doubtful he’d be back in that scenario.
Unfortunately for the Pistons, Ferguson’s ceiling is Pope. That being said, players of that ilk are important to have, but it’s important to surround them with star talent to help bring out their best. That is something the Pistons will struggle to do. Ferguson won’t elevate the franchise, but if the team decides to play the long-game, he should be a fine piece to have. — KH
13. Denver Nuggets — OG Anunoby, SF/PF
Considered one of the freak athletes of the draft, Anunoby should be a solid pick for the Nuggets here. He’s a defensive monster and can effectively guard positions 1 through 4. At 6’8, with a wingspan well over 7 feet, he has the speed and length to develop into one of the premier defenders in the NBA. He has trouble creating for himself on the offensive side of the ball, but Denver won’t need that from him with high-powered offense creators like Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. He’s a player that can come in from day one and up the intensity and swagger of the Nuggets’ defense, something they needed badly last year. — CF
14. Miami Heat — Justin Jackson, SG/SF
Just five months ago, the Heat were on pace to secure a top spot in the lottery and a chance at selecting a potential franchise-altering talent. One 30-11 stretch later, and here they are picking at the very end of the lottery. It’s clear that the team has no intentions except to play as hard as they can and compete for a playoff spot every season. Of course, that will affect their draft strategy.
Jackson fits in because not only can he contribute right away, he also fills a position of need. The Heat have an abundance of guards, but other than Justise Winslow, no true wing players. Jackson has good size at 6’8, and can shoot the three and fill the lanes on the break. He played four years in college as well, so even though he is not the most physical player, his development process won’t be as steep. Jackson does play with intelligence on defense, and the Heat have been known to get the most out of guys on that end. — KH
15. Portland Trail Blazers — Zach Collins, C
Portland isn’t necessarily desperate for another big, but Zach Collins is too good to pass up at this pick. Collins possesses the versatility to play either the 4 or the 5 at the NBA level. He only saw 17 minutes per game during his freshman season at Gonzaga, but he was one of the most efficient players in the country and is a plus defender. He’s extremely quick and agile for a guy his size and pairing him next to Jusuf Nurkic could bode well for the Blazers. The rim protection Collins displayed in short minutes as a Bulldog was certainly impressive, and the budding range on his jumper could make him a true rim-protecting stretch four — a rare and coveted commodity in the NBA. — CF
16. Chicago Bulls — Jarrett Allen, C
The Bulls have typically been a team with a solid depth at both big man positions, but this past year was different. While Taj Gibson was capable of playing center in spurts, having him start made it difficult to juggle the minutes when fellow starter Robin Lopez was off the floor. With Gibson out the door, the only real backup center is 6’9 Cristiano Felicio, who was excellent as an energy big, but lacks any semblance of finesse and is still learning the intricacies of playing NBA defense. Jarrett Allen has the requisite height (6’11”) and length (7’5” wingspan) to play center long-term, and as Robin Lopez’s deal comes to a close, Allen could emerge to take the starting spot. His offensive game is about as raw as Felicio’s, but Allen plays with a better understanding of the game and the ability to really anchor rim defense rather than just maniacally flying around the court like Felicio does. While there are more pressing questions about the Bulls roster than their backup center, Allen is simply too gifted to pass on here. — WM
17. Milwaukee Bucks — Luke Kennard, SG
Last year the Bucks were one of the least consistent teams on a night to night basis, and a large part of that was the sheer lack of shooting on their roster — the only consistent floor spacers were Khris Middleton, who missed most of the season with a hamstring injury, and Tony Snell. As a result, when the best pure shooter in this draft falls to them, they won’t even hesitate to take him. He’s not a typical Bucks pick because he lacks the length of the other guys, but he will instantly make the Bucks better and solve a need, while possibly providing some secondary playmaking for when Giannis is off the court. Jason Kidd will also certainly find a use for Kennard in the high pick and roll, a skill of his that is less than certain to translate, and one that will make or break Kennard’s ability to have any kind of real ceiling. — JN
18. Indiana Pacers — John Collins, PF/C
The Pacers could land the steal of the first round by picking John Collins at #18. The ACC’s most-improved player, Collins averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game during his sophomore season at Wake Forest. If there’s one thing Indiana needs, it’s more front-court talent. Collins can provide just that. His ability to finish around the rim, in addition to stepping out and hitting the mid-range jumper, is something the Pacers could use to help take some of the scoring load off their new star in Myles Turner if Paul George is dealt. The one knock on Collins is that he has below average length for a player of his height, but given Turner’s shot-blocking, I think Collins should be just fine. — CF
19. Atlanta Hawks — T.J. Leaf, PF
The Hawks are in a precarious position. No matter what happens this offseason, they won’t be competing for a title next season, and in all likelihood won’t even be one of the top teams in the east. Paul Millsap is a free agent and will be looking for a big payday as he enters the back end of his prime. Is Atlanta going to pay him max dollars just so they can struggle to get out of the first round every season? It’s possible, but they’d probably be better off nabbing their power forward of the future, and they can get that in Leaf. He isn’t in the same stratosphere as Milsap when it comes to defense, but he has the potential to be an offensive threat in the NBA. He’s a good shooter with three-point range, runs the floor very well, can post up, and attack off of the dribble. There are some questions about how some of those skills will translate against more athletic competition, but it’s easy to see how some of those skills could benefit the Hawks immediately.
Leaf could easily slot in as a spot-up shooter around Dennis Schroeder, or as a pick-and-pop option himself. He will also allow the team to use a five-out play style at times when he plays alongside Mike Muscala. The Hawks were one of the worst teams in the league at shooting the three this past season, and the spacing Leaf provides will benefit everyone.
As stated previously, Leaf is also a fantastic transition player. He’s a hard rim-runner, and finishes above the rim easily on the break. He’ll provide Schroeder with a natural running mate, and Leaf also has practice operating as the trail man in fast-break scenarios. — KH
20. Portland Trail Blazers — Semi Ojeleye, SF/PF
The Blazers made a postseason push after trading for Jusuf Nurkic, and of course, they will be looking to build on that going into next season. Ojeleye makes sense here for that reason. Nearly 23 years old, his learning curve won’t be as steep as typical rookies, and he should be able to get minutes right away for a team sorely lacking in toughness and defense.
Ojeleye is incredibly strong for a forward, so his lack of size won’t limit his ability to defend in the post and he’s quick enough to contain some players on the perimeter.
The Blazers are loaded with frontcourt players at the moment, with Al-Farouq Aminu, Moe Harkless, and Noah Vonleh all receiving minutes at the three and four spots, but Ojeleye should be a better shooter than all of them. He was one of the most efficient shooters in the college ranks last season, particularly out of the pick and pop. With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum drawing most of the attention from opposing defenses, Ojeleye should get all the open looks that he wants.
Because of all the offensive firepower the Blazers have, Ojeleye is another prospect that should have his weaknesses mitigated and strengths highlighted. His lack of ball-handling will make it difficult for him to create at the next level, but with Portland it’s doubtful he’ll ever be put into positions where he has to, especially early in his career. — KH
21. Oklahoma City Thunder — Caleb Swanigan, PF/C
Picking Caleb Swanigan here serves a dual purpose for the Thunder. First, in the immediate, he can be added to the starting lineup in the place of Domantas Sabonis, who struggled to close out the year. This puts an effective secondary playmaker alongside Russell Westbrook, especially on nights when Oladipo is off. Second, when the Thunder do find a place to dump Enes Kanter’s contract in order to find some cap space, he can allow them to have some continuity at the backup C, since he’ll maintain the ability of the Thunder to center lineups without Westbrook around the center position. Swanigan doesn’t quite fix their shooting needs, but there are no great shooters on the board at this level of the draft with Ojeleye and Kennard off the table, which means the Thunder have to find a way to augment their roster in some other manner. — JN
22. Brooklyn Nets — Harry Giles, C
The Nets don’t have a clear path back to becoming a good team, and it will be another couple of years before they can get a top pick in the draft. With that in mind, conventional logic might dictate that they go with a safe pick, a player they know can contribute a few years down the line while the franchise attempts to return to respectability.
But the position they are in also awards them the opportunity to take some risks. No player they draft this year is going to change the short-term trajectory of the franchise, but Giles represents a potential game-changer if he can stay healthy throughout his pro career. He has had multiple knee injuries and they have sapped him of some of the bounce and quickness that once made him among the most coveted prospects in his class.
Going to the Nets allows him to play without the pressures that come with being a high first round pick, and the recent Brook Lopez trade means that he has an easy path to a starting spot if he can prove healthy. His minutes will likely be limited, which minimizes the risk of further injury as he moves farther away from his initial injuries, and moves closer to regaining his once heralded athleticism. By the time Giles is ready for big minutes and a starting role, the Nets should have some other pieces around him as well, which will allow him to settle into his spot as a rebounder and rim protector. Injuries may have sapped him of a larger initial payday and some notoriety, but the Nets would be a perfect landing spot for the center to rediscover his game. For the Nets, it represents a high-risk, high-reward selection that could prove pivotal in turning the franchise around once they finally start to regain ownership of their own draft selections. — KH
23. Toronto Raptors — Bam Adebayo, C
The depth at center and power forward in Toronto is certainly nothing to wave a stick at, but the lack of a Bismack Biyombo seemed to hurt them more than people predicted, especially during the playoffs. Adebayo figures to do the same things Biyombo does, though his hands are a tier or two above Bismack Butterfingers. Of course, Adebayo doesn’t possess the vaunted length of Biyombo, and his shot-blocking may not be as consistent because of that, but he offers an option at center that the Raptors currently lack: Poeltl is not as natural an athlete, Siakim doesn’t have the same skillset, Valanciunas is too slow, Patterson is too small and lacks the requisite bounce, and Serge Ibaka, should he return, is no longer the same defender he was during OKC’s glory days. While Bam is far from the perfect prospect, having a big man to get out and run with DeMar Derozan and (potentially) Kyle Lowry would be terrific for this team. — WM
24. Utah Jazz — Isaiah Hartenstein, PF/C
Utah is among the short list of teams that seem to continually snag random European talent whenever possible, and so the Hartenstein pick makes sense for a variety of reasons. For one, the Jazz frontline, gifted though it may be, lacks height outside of Gobert. It also lacks real athleticism outside of Favors. Hartenstein, then, is a mix of those two things as a strong and surprisingly agile 7’2” center. It remains to be seen whether the German will fly over immediately, but the Jazz certainly have time — even more so if Gordon Hayward and George Hill depart during free agency. Though concerns about his emotional outbursts and occasionally paralyzing moments of self-doubt may deter some teams, the Jazz can afford to risk it, and they pick again shortly thereafter. At the very least, Hartenstein offers a more tantalizing option than Jeff Withey, and he shows the chance to expand his offensive game to the point where he and Gobert are playable side by side, which should be terrifying for nearly every team. — WM
25. Orlando Magic — Justin Patton, C
Orlando is a team with many questions and few answers going into the first offseason with a new GM, and how they view the talent at every position will be something to watch extremely closely. A few years of this team have shown us that Elfrid Payton and Nikola Vucevic are perhaps not the players to build around, and Aaron Gordon really cannot slide up to small forward for long periods of time. While the acquisition of Terrence Ross was a sound move, pretty much every player on this roster is moveable, even 2016 Magic star Evan Fournier. The fact is simply that nearly every player on this team has fatal flaws that make it hard to commit to them long-term. Patton may have flaws of his own — he struggles as a rebounder, his game is still very much evolving, and he could add some muscle — but they are all workable or livable flaws, and Patton’s potential as a stretch-five is certainly interesting. Though adding another center to play with Vuc, Biyombo, and Stephen Zimmerman may seem redundant, Patton has shown more versatility and promise than any of those three, and might even be able to play alongside them because of his exceptional athleticism and improving three-point shot. For a team with the timetable that Orlando has, no project is too time-consuming, and every avenue marked with high potential should at least be explored. Relevancy is not close. — WM
26. Portland Trail Blazers — Jordan Bell, PF/C
Jordan Bell wouldn’t even have to find a new apartment if he’s picked up by the Blazers, and that’s hardly the only benefit of this selection. Portland has struggled defensively for the better part of the Lillard era, and only partially because of Damian’s own defensive inadequacies. Jusuf Nurkic is hardly a defensive stalwart, and the power forwards (Vonleh, Aminu, Davis) are either tweeners or low-skill. Bell is perhaps small for the position (6’9”), but he’s a powerful athlete and could potentially expand his range to the fringes of the perimeter, which would make him an ideal complement to Nurkic’s bone-bruising post play and high-powered rebounding. His shot blocking will cover for Nurkic’s disappointing verticality, and Bell’s ability to play through pain (seen in the NCAA tournament) highlights an extreme will to win rarely found in players. He will make any team happy, but Portland benefits enormously from the roster holes he can cover. — WM
27. Los Angeles Lakers — Ike Anigbogu, C
The biggest hole in the Laker’s young core, other than the newly created one at point guard, is a defensive, rim-protecting center. They’ve gotten some good hustle minutes out of Tarik Black, but ultimately they’ve never been able to trust him for extended minutes. Ivica Zubac, meanwhile, is good offensively but never projects to be quick enough to really be a high impact defender. That’s where Ike Anigbogu comes in: He has the highest defensive upside in the entire draft at 7’0” with a 7’6” wingspan, and the explosiveness and timing to be a terror at the rim. Anigbogu is, more or less, the last piece to a Laker’s core that still definitely had some holes before punching another one in it. The Lakers don’t need him to be an impact player immediately because they won’t be good immediately, so he can probably grow into the rest of the game. — JN
28. Los Angeles Lakers — Ivan Rabb, PF/C
Why not? With back-to-back picks, there’s no reason not to fill out the frontcourt, especially with talks of Julius Randle as a trading chip for an early Paul George acquisition. Rabb covers some of the weaknesses in Lopez’s game, especially as it pertains to rebounding and general athleticism. While Rabb’s stock has fallen drastically since his last draft run, there’s still a lot to like about a nimble, rim-running power forward with an infinitely long wingspan. There’s not much of a jumper in Rabb’s game, but Lopez’s evolution into a phenomenal three-point shooter almost renders that insignificant. The best part is that Rabb can defend, and as we said before, the Lakers need that more than anything in the world if they really want to walk the long road to relevancy again. — WM
29. San Antonio Spurs — Anzejs Pasecniks, C
With LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol both aging, the Spurs are in desperate need of a much more mobile big man, which leads them to yet another Euro player in a long lineage of European Spurs. Pasecniks is 7’2” with an incredibly slight frame, but as a result of that, he can slide around with the best of them. He’ll need to spend a lot of time with the developmental coaches, but the combination of having Aldridge and Gasol in front of him, along with the excellent developmental staff of the Spurs should give Pasecniks a chance to not only become a valuable rotation piece, but possible even an all-star caliber player out of the 29th pick, which is way above the draft slot’s value. — JN
30. Utah Jazz — D.J. Wilson, PF
The Jazz verbally committed to Wilson weeks ago, and despite their long list of big men in the wings, it makes a lot of sense. Physically, Wilson is lengthy but light, and he can’t be expected to guard bigs like Enes Kanter and Demarcus Cousins, both of which will demolish him in the post. However, he lends another shade of lineup versatility because of his shooting and ability to step out and defend away from the basket. This means that he can play alongside nearly any of Utah’s highly physical big men, and there’s the possibility that they could run a three-big set that places Wilson at small forward, using his shooting and foot speed to make some space for Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Trey Lyles, etc., to operate near the rim. — WM
31. Charlotte Hornets — Jawun Evans, PG
The biggest concern remaining for the Hornets, having basically declared their solution to all of the minutes at the 3, 4, and 5 for the foreseeable future with the Howard trade, is the off chance that Donovan Mitchell isn’t able to really play the point guard position for the bench. As a result, they take the best point guard remaining on the board with their last draft pick, and they get a fantastic fit with Jawun Evans, who comes out of the pick-and-roll-heavy offense at Oklahoma State. This, fortunately, is exactly how the Hornets’ bench wants to play, especially if, as I expect, Frank Kaminsky and Cody Zeller are the two bigs off the bench. The staggered pick-and-roll with the two of them was extremely effective last year. Further, while Evans may be undersized, given the presence of Mitchell as a large option and the Hornets’ comfort with Kemba’s size, that won’t be much of an issue at all and his excellent fit will land him in a position to succeed. — JN
32. Phoenix Suns — Sindarius Thornwell, PG/SG
The unfortunate truth regarding Tyler Ulis is that while he is an exciting young player, there are simply some matchups that he won’t be able to handle on the defensive end because of his height, and that’s where Sindarius Thornwell comes in. Thornwell has the length and strength to handle those matchups, and he doesn’t cost them too much on the offensive end either since he was a fantastic scorer at South Carolina during his senior year. He’s not a great athlete, but his length will allow him to handle the bigger guards that he’s on the roster for, and the two of them will give the Suns a great pair of backup PGs for the long run. — JN
33. Orlando Magic — Johnathan Motley, PF/C
If Patton is one end of the possibilities for the Magic at Center, then Motley is almost the perfect pairing with him. Ultra athletic with a 9’3” standing reach and great quickness and vertical jump for a guy his size, Motley has all of the physical tools you could ask for in a prospect. Those tools give him the ability to switch on the perimeter, which is one of the biggest things that can be asked of a defensive prospect at this point. He will likely play a little bit of PF early in his career as the Magic run out the rest of the Vucevic and Biyombo contracts, but in the long run, he projects as a power forward/center perfect for the direction of the modern league. — JN
34. Sacramento Kings — Tyler Lydon, SF/PF
With the Malik Monk pick likely shifting Buddy Hield to the 3, the only position that the Kings lack a long run talent at is PF (If we’re willing to assume Labissiere is a long-run C), and Lydon’s shooting should allow him to slot in very well next to the two of Skal or Willie Cauley-Stein. Both of them are excellent rim protectors, which should protect Lydon well, and the amount of shooting that Sacramento would get out of this draft sets up De’Aaron Fox, who should instantly be the best asset on this roster, to succeed as best as he’ll be able. Lydon is a bit of a steal here, getting a first round talent out of an early second. — JN
35. Orlando Magic — Frank Jackson, SG
The two best players on the Magic roster as of right now are Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier, who are both extremely low usage players, which means that they can use a pure scorer like Frank Jackson. In the short run, he’ll be the best player coming off their bench, but in the long run, he could certainly slot into a starting lineup with Smith, Fournier, Gordon, and Patton depending on how those pieces develop. While the foot injury is concerning, the Magic are talent-starved enough that Jackson’s upside as a scorer is too good to pass up early in the 2nd round. — JN
36. Philadelphia 76ers — Edmond Sumner, PG
As you’ll see through the rest of this mock, the 76ers are taking a lot of projects and trying to figure out how they pan. Sumner will be the first of those, but his injury will somewhat extend the timeline on judging him. However, the 76ers roster needs guards, so he’ll be given that time. He’s not a great fit to the roster, since his weak jump shot limits his ability to play next to Saric, Simmons, and Okafor, but two of those three could well be on the way out, making Sumner’s physical gifts appealing, especially given that he, unlike some other players in this draft, has actual basketball skills to back them up. — JN
37. Boston Celtics — Thomas Bryant, C
Whoever the Celtics pick here, it’s unlikely they’ll see playing time for at least a couple of seasons. The team is committed to balancing winning and rebuilding, and second round selections don’t typically play a part in winning. That makes the team a terrific fit for Bryant, a mobile young center with ever-expanding range. At the moment, he isn’t ready to play in the NBA. He gets too sped up and just doesn’t understand high-level defense. But his wingspan, offensive game, and ability on the boards could be intriguing for a Celtics team that is going to likely lack frontcourt depth.
The Celtics haven’t had a legitimate rim protector since Kendrick Perkins, and although Bryant doesn’t get very high off the ground, his wingspan (7’6) and standing reach (9’4.5) at least give him the potential to be a deterrent at the rim.
There also exists a scenario in which the Celtics, as currently constructed, never elevate themselves to the status of true contenders. Danny Ainge will have a lot of questions to answer over the next year or two, and depending on how he feels about the team’s title chances, there could soon be a full-on youth movement in Boston. If that happens to be the case, having a center with some upside like Bryant could prove useful. — KH
38. Chicago Bulls — Tyler Dorsey, PG/SG
What a perfect fit in Chicago. Dorsey is a shooter through and through, and though his wingspan and size may make defending difficult, he’s got Jimmy Butler to take the tougher wing matchup on most nights. It’s easy to look at the Bulls roster and see a lot of combo guards who saw next to zero success, but Dorsey is a better pure shooter than any of them (Valentine included) and that means that his floor spacing, as well as his availability for Wade/Butler drive-and-kicks, almost guarantees him minutes. Exceptional footwork is a trait that typically indicates a player’s shooting will translate to the next level, and Dorsey’s is impeccable. It’s a good thing too, because Dorsey will likely spend a majority running off of screens to free himself from his defender — his lacking athleticism is hardly going to grant him open shots by itself. Fred Hoiberg has been patient so far, but Gar Forman and John Paxson have given the formerly touted Iowa State coach very few personnel that fit with his style. It remains to be seen exactly how the roster will look on opening night, as the Bulls tend to be fiscally conservative during free agency, but Dorsey would be a great pick-up this late in the draft independent of the Bulls’ free agency plans. — WM
39. Philadelphia 76ers — Jonah Bolden, PF
The Markelle Fultz pick somewhat completes out the last major need in the 76ers core and allows them to start looking for future assets that will need a little bit of time to develop but could develop into something extremely valuable. That’s what Bolden really is right now, since questions of his level of competition will keep him into the second round. Ultimately, Bolden’s excellent first step and leaping ability make him a strong candidate to turn into a potential star. He also has a fairly smooth jumper that helps further justify the idea that he’s a guard in a forward’s body. He hasn’t quite put the volume together that you’d really like to see, and the last time he was against a large concentration of potential NBA players he came off as timid and passive, so he’ll likely spend some time in the D-League, but the 76ers can afford that right now, having more rotation caliber players than rotation minutes. — JN
40. New Orleans Pelicans, Dillon Brooks, SF
The New Orleans Pelicans, who will certainly bring back some starting caliber point guard from free agency, whether it’s by re-signing Holiday, clearing space for CP3’s return, or taking a lesser option like Hill or Teague, which means that they need help on the wing, especially from a spacing standpoint. Dillon Brooks, who was a fantastic shooter for Oregon, will provide exactly that, but also may be able to create a little more than that from the wing as he demonstrated the ability to do at Oregon. The Pelicans will likely need to get a little lucky to find some additional talent that can fit next to Davis and Cousins, but Brooks is one of the best bets they’re going to get. — JN
41. Atlanta Hawks — Frank Mason III, PG
Frank Mason to Atlanta is mostly because of the foil he forms with Dennis Schroder. Mason, in college, formed the consistent rock who carried their offense when Josh Jackson was on an off-game. At the pro-level, he’ll be asked to basically be similarly consistent for the games when Schroder is not. While Atlanta’s needs are hard to talk about as the Dwight Howard trade likely signaled a full rebuild, it’s extremely likely that the Hawks, who didn’t really have a backup PG last year and actually played lineups with Taurean Prince at PG, will still need a backup PG, and at this level of the draft there’s really not a better way at this stage of the draft to fill that need than Mason. — JN
42. Utah Jazz — Monte Morris, PG
Utah Jazz fans are sick and tired of having to watch Shelvin Mack destroy their bench lineups and will be glad to watch him leave this offseason. As a result, though, they need a backup PG if Dante Exum isn’t expected to be ready to take over, and Monte Morris is not only the best one on the board, but is one who fits the Jazz well. The Jazz starters will hope to have both Gordon Hayward and George Hill returning, and one of the things that made Hill so effective in that starting lineup is his decision-making paired with his shooting. In that regard, Morris is unparalleled in this draft. Since the Jazz bench has similar playmakers to the starting lineup, Morris will be able to come in, make good decisions, and instantly be “not Shelvin Mack”. — JN
43. Houston Rockets — Jaron Blossomgame, SF/PF
Blossomgame’s 3-point shot somewhat collapsed this year, as he shot 25% from 3, but there’s hope that his jumper will recover to be a 33-35% shooter at the NBA level and form a stereotypical Moreyball shot chart alongside his strong finishing at the rim. Blossomgame has the physical tools to be a long run replacement to Ariza if he develops well, and with Ariza being the older member of the Rockets’ core, he’ll be the one that they start trying to get lucky in replacing. Not to mention that Ariza’s already had a bad year due to loss of athleticism, so his end as a productive NBA player may be nearer than this season would let on. Blossomgame may never develop into Ariza, and Dekker is probably the main option on the table, but Blossomgame will give the Rockets a guy with Ariza’s defensive potential, something Dekker lacks. — JN
44. New York Knicks — P.J. Dozier, PG/SG
Dozier, much like the Knicks’ first round pick Ntilikina, is a very long term project. He’s not an efficient scorer at all right now, and wasn’t a consistently good defender at the college level. However, he has crazy physical tools, and his ball-handling from the wing should make for a good triangle player. Also like Ntilikina, he should benefit on the defensive end from being able to learn from Courtney Lee, who was a fairly good defender earlier in his prime. Dozier also hasn’t really ever shied away from bright lights, so he’ll be well equipped to deal with a New York fan-base that is rapidly becoming more and more hostile to Phil as flub after flub happens. — JN
45. Houston Rockets — Tony Bradley, C
Tony Bradley, who has shown some potential as a defensive anchor at North Carolina, will likely be best served spending a year in the D-League. Since the Rockets have a semi-immediate need at C, however, they may bounce him back and forth too often to use the two way contract. It’s also worth noting that Bradley’s performance at UNC earned him a very high position in respected statistician Andrew Johnson’s analytic based draft model, finishing 4th in the entire draft as an overall prospect. That, plus fitting a position of need, will push the Rockets towards Bradley. — JN
46. Philadelphia 76ers — Kobi Simmons, PG
As discussed with Jonah Bolden, the 76ers have found their core, and have the ability to take developmental pieces and hope that they develop one day into something useful, and that’s exactly what Simmons would be for them. An explosive scorer at times, Simmons was nearly benched for the end of the season at Arizona, and clearly needed a lot more development on both ends. The 76ers will pick him, stick him in the D-League, and then if he turns into a better point guard than T.J. McConnell, McConnell becomes a trade asset just that quickly. If he doesn’t, then he walks and the 76ers are no worse for it. — JN
47. Indiana Pacers — Alec Peters, PF
The Pacers have shown slight preference to players with Indiana ties, and if Valparaiso product Alec Peters, who was one of the most productive players in college basketball last year, falls to them, he seems like an easy pick. His ability to play outside-in will complement Myles Turner’s game well, and with the presumed Paul George exit, that’s how the Pacers will have to proceed in building. They’ll be a little disappointed not to end up with any great defenders out of this draft, as that’s their biggest team need right now, but since they’re effectively launching a rebuilding project, the immediate fit isn’t necessarily a huge deal and Peters’ talent can shine through in the long run. — JN
48. Milwaukee Bucks — Wesley Iwundu, SG/SF
The Bucks got some surprisingly high quality minutes, last year, out of castoffs Jason Terry and Michael Beasley, who formed an occasionally explosive bench corps. Both of those guys, however, are free agents this year, and Jason Terry is somewhat likely to retire. So into that void steps Wes Iwundu, who projects as one of the best playmakers in the back of the draft. He will, hopefully, outperform Terry on the defensive end, while also mirroring his production as a playmaker. Further, Iwundu fits in well with the ever-present length movement in Milwaukee, having a 7’1” wingspan. This isn’t a perfect fit in some ways – Milwaukee’s biggest problems other than their jarring game to game inconsistency was a lack of spacing (Which, in some ways, lead to the jarring game to game inconsistency), and Iwundu may not help that, since while he did manage a rounded 38% from 3 last year, that was on a recently reconstructed shot, and he wasn’t a shooter at all before that, making his jumper something unreliable. — JN
49. Denver Nuggets — Nigel Williams-Goss, PG
At this stage of the draft, having taken OG Anunoby to solve a statistical need, Denver now needs to seek out a positional need. Williams-Goss is one of the most NBA-ready point guards, and one of his best traits is his pure decision-making. As a result, he should be able to step in instantly to the minutes occupied by Jameer Nelson last year and be a better defender instantly while holding replacement level value on offense. That should improve the Nuggets, who had nights when that was a lot more than they got out of the point guard position. He’ll need to improve his jumper in order to be a long-run fit, but in the short run, he should be a step up for the Nuggets — JN
50. Philadelphia 76ers — Vlatko Cancar, SF/PF
The 76ers will need to take at least one draft and stash prospect in this draft, and having likely used the two-way D-League contracts on Bolden and Simmons with their earlier picks, they’ll do so here, and get Vlatko Cancar, who is a combo forward that will likely be able to a reasonable Saric impression should Saric be shipped out down the road, though he may have a better shooting upside and a better feel for the game. In the worst case, Cancar is one of a very limited number of good draft and stash candidates, so he’ll have value as a trade asset down the road. — JN
51. Denver Nuggets — Derrick White, PG/SG
White has ranged all over draft boards, and having fallen to this stage in the draft, even having taken an earlier PG, the Nuggets should take the semi-local product here. He’s the best player on the board, and as mentioned with Nigel Williams-Goss, the most desperate need for the Nuggets is at the point, where their options are old, inconsistent, and possibly not a point guard. If the Nuggets keep this pick rather than dealing it, they’ll likely just bring them in for training camp on a two-way contract, so White, who is a slightly more long-term prospect than Williams-Goss, is their pick here rather than the other way around. — JN
52. New Orleans Pelicans — Josh Hart, SG
The Pelicans sacrificed Tim Frazier to get this pick, which tells you this won’t be a point guard. They desperately need help on the wing, and with 2nd round picks their only real way to add pieces this year due to being capped out and having no 1st rounder and no tradeable assets, they’ll take a 2nd wing here as well. Hart is probably in consideration at 40 for them, so they’re more than happy to take him as he falls to them at 52. He should provide them a shooting threat that will give Davis and Cousins space to operate, and should have the offensive polish to contribute immediately. — JN
53. Boston Celtics — Dwayne Bacon, SG
It’s long past the point in the draft where Boston really cares who they pick, because whoever it is likely spends months on end with the Maine Red Claws, but Bacon is an intriguing piece at this point in the draft. His game is most reminiscent of Lance Stephenson minus some dribbling ability, as Bacon is an intrepid rebounder from the wing who can slash to the rim and use his strength to convert. He has a jumper, but uses it inefficiently, and will certainly need to improve it if he ever wants to leave the D-League, but there’s a lot to like about Bacon, especially in regards to his overwhelming physicality and positional flexibility. — WM
54. Phoenix Suns — Devin Robinson, SF/PF
The theme for the Suns in this second round is two-way players, and where T.J. Warren is an okay defender and Jayson Tatum projects as one, being able to bring in Robinson off the bench in the long run as a change of pace wing gives the Suns the opportunity to let Devin Booker focus more heavily on the offensive end without significant costs to the overall team defense. He and Tatum should also be able to play in lineups together that have good switching potential as well, and so Robinson should make a good addition to the Suns’ young core. — JN
55. Utah Jazz — Nigel Hayes, PF/C
Nigel Hayes is an odd pickup for a team that already has Rudy Gobert, but Quin Snyder has shown that he’s more than open to using unconventional players in unconventional ways, doing things like playing Joe Johnson at the 4 against Blake Griffin in their playoff series. Hayes is, by all accounts, an unconventional player, being a PF with a fantastic wingspan and great foot speed, such that he has the potential to guard 2-5 at the next level. Having watched the Jazz struggle as Jeff Withey, soon to be a free agent, was forced to replace Gobert after he went down with a knee injury, a player like Nigel Hayes could find a niche on this roster playing backup big spot as matchups dictate. — JN
56. Boston Celtics — Kyle Kuzma, PF
The last of Boston’s picks seems likely to be destined for the D-League should they not sell it, but that’s precisely where Kyle Kuzma should be at first as he learns to translate his shot to the NBA level and catches his excellent feel for the game up to the speed of the NBA game. He has some of the prototypical question marks of a D-League player, but also has the upside to make a large impact one day, potentially acting in a similar capacity in their offense to Al Horford, without whom the Celtics offense was a lot less pretty (And also less effective). With Jonas Jerebko about to walk, and Guerschon Yabusele still something of a question mark, Kuzma might even have a chance to win legitimate minutes soon too, as the Celtics are about to have a small hole in their roster at PF. — JN
57. Brooklyn Nets — Mathias Lessort, PF/C
Mathias Lessort’s motor should allow him to replace Trevor Booker down the road as a more effective version of a player that the Nets coaching staff already understands how to use in their schemes. Unlike Booker, however, his significant defensive upside due to his ridiculous wingspan and quick hands may make him into a huge difference maker for a team that has already shown the ability to score in bunches. When that team also just added a guy who helps you score even more in the form of D’Angelo Russell, a defensive prospect becomes all the more valuable; finding one with Lessort’s defensive upside at either the power forward or the center as late as the 57th pick is a great use of an asset. — JN
58. New York Knicks — Derrick Walton, PG
Unless you are among the misguided majority that believes the Knicks already have the perfect point guard named Derrick on their roster, you likely understand the deep and dark need that New York has for actual point guards. Even if the Knicks draft Ntilikina with their lottery selection, that only takes out half of the problem. The fact is that Sasha Vujacic cannot be receiving minutes as the backup point guard anymore, and Chasson Randle and Ron Baker aren’t convincing options as the second-string PG yet either. That’s where Walton comes in. Though small and largely unheralded despite a stellar senior season, Walton plays with poise, confidence, and maturity. He was thrust into the fire as the starter when Trey Burke departed early, and that same process will occur as he transitions to the NBA, but he and Ntilikina are perfect compliments; where Walton struggles defensively, he excels as a scorer and can create for himself, which are both areas aforementioned Frenchman struggles in. — WM
59. San Antonio Spurs — Isaiah Briscoe, PG/SG
Isaiah Briscoe is a jump shot away from being an incredibly productive NBA player. So it makes sense, then, to send him to the team that has shown some of the best ability to fix jump shots, having straightened out Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs, also, are about to have a rather large hole at PG – Parker is old and may not recover well from the quad tendon tear suffered in the playoffs, but also Patty Mills is a free agent who may be too expensive to keep. While the Spurs may be willing to bet on Chris Paul joining them, Briscoe will likely spend time on a D-League contract anyway so even that’s not a big deal. Briscoe, meanwhile, fits at some level the profile of a Spurs player. He’s long, he works on defense, and he’s an excellent passer. At the #59 pick, you’re really just looking at an absolute crapshoot, and with the weak international class, Briscoe seems like a solid swing for the fences. — JN
60. Atlanta Hawks — V.J. Beachem, SG/SF
With the Howard trade, the Hawks are telegraphing a full rebuild, and in the immediate, that most directly means that the team is being built around Dennis Schroder, whose ability to attack the basket requires the space to do so, and means that you want to surround him with a few 3-and-D type players on the wing. Beachem will be able to do exactly that, having been a good spot up shooter in college, as well as a plus defender. Further, the Hawks have shown a recent preference for rangy 3-and-D wings in the form of Bazemore and Thabo Sefolosha. While Beachem won’t likely overtake Taurean Prince for a starting job on the rebuilding squad, he’ll be a good bench wing for the future of this team that has really torn down most of its assets for next year so as to start a tank rolling. — JN