With the pick order now in place, I wanted to put together an update on how I see the NBA draft playing out. Just a brief on how I view scouting, taking the two years of NCAA D1 coaching and professional scouting experience I have overseas, I try to put myself into the mindset of what GMs are looking for, and the next step to creating a competitive team. For some teams, this may mean taking an older more NBA-ready player, for some that might mean taking a raw player by distinguishing their current timeline and roster talent. The criteria for my pick process can be broken down into three main attributes.
Team Fit - The current team composition which translates to positional needs
Current Player Value - The player talent levels at the moment (skillset, positional value, age)
Player Value Upside - The players potential based on historical skill progression, size, current player value, and age
#1 Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards | Georgia | 6'5" / 6'9" Wingspan | 18.8 Yo | G
With the acquisition of D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns already in the front court, the Timberwolves will be going for the best player available (BPA). They aren't on the brink of being contenders yet, but they are a team that is looking to make the jump into a being a solid playoff team. They are still young enough to continue to see development and Anthony Edwards can fit along side D'Lo in the backcourt. He also has potential to add defense on the perimeter, but hasn't developed that part of his game fully yet.
Comparison: Victor Oladipo
Pick Confidence: 85%
#2 Golden State Warriors: LaMelo Ball | NBL | 6'7" / 6'10" Wingspan | 18.7 Yo | PG
This is a tough pick to call, because I do believe the pick will be traded. I'd say with high confidence that the Golden State Warriors won't keep this pick, but if they did, they would be looking for a wing or a big. They have made a comment a couple months ago that they are not keen on Ball or Wiseman, which most likely means they'd be looking at a player like Okoro or Avdija if they couldn't find a suitor. With that being said, the most likely trade opportunities I believe will come from teams looking at Ball, who has the highest upside among the top 3 picks in my opinion. Lonzo Ball shows the best playmaking and vision among PGs, and has shown a ton of confidence for his age. He needs to work within an NBA offense, and slowly build up his knowledge of shot selection which was his biggest weakness in the NBL.
Comparison: Lonzo Ball or Jason Kidd
Pick Confidence: 65%
#3 Charlotte Hornets: James Wiseman | Memphis | 7'1" / 7'6" Wingspan | 19.1 Yo | C
Charlotte has some years to go before they will be competing for a deep playoff run, but at the very least they have some good young talent and don't have as many holes as some other teams. James Wiseman is an exciting prospect because, even though he only played 3 games at Memphis, he has the body length and athleticism to fit as a modern C. He is still raw, and the necessity for an anchor on defense from a big in the current NBA scene is still yet to be seen from Wiseman. He is young and bites on fakes often, but with his length and athleticism he should be a fit with the current makeup of the Hornets. He presents help in the paint and the PnR on offense with Rozier and Graham, and the Hornets need the BPA.
Comparison: DeAndre Ayton (Yet to be seen), many comparisons to Whiteside and DeAndre Jordan, but I see a better motor and potential to shoot
#4 Chicago Bulls: Deni Avdija | Maccabi Tel Aviv | 6'9" / 6'9" Wingspan | 19.4 Yo | Wing
Chicago Bulls have a high-powered offense with LaVine and Markkanen, with young talent in Coby White and WCJr. With Porter Jr. most likely accepting his player option, it gives them a year to develop a wing if we are going by team need. Chicago is also a couple years from figuring it out, but have a lot of talent. They lack defense, and they lack depth on top of the fact that their starting lineup is very young, so taking the BPA also makes sense for them. Deni Avdija is a little more of an unknown prospect, as most assume EU players are, but we have enough footage and scouting reels to get a feel for his game. He structures his game as a point-forward and has the playmaking skills to back that up. He also provides the ability to slash and drive, but his weakness starts with his shooting on offense. Another worrisome factor that limits his ceiling is his lateral quickness and top-end speed. His first step won't beat you, and his agility hurts him on one-on-one defense, but he has a high IQ and his team defense makes up for most of his defensive worries.
Comparison: Nicholas Batum
#5 Cleveland Cavaliers: Isaac Okoro | Auburn | 6'6" / 6'9" Wingspan | 19.3 Yo | Wing
Cleveland Cavaliers represent one of three teams that I have as the farthest to go during their current rebuild (along with Knicks and Pistons). That being said, with the wing position the most valuable, and their lack of offense, the Cavaliers will be in the market for a wing. They have just drafted Garland and have Sexton to round out their young back court, with Tristan Thompson, Andre Drummond, and Kevin Love in their front court. This leaves a pretty open hole for them at wing, but also with an older front court this could leave room for a player that possible drops. Okoro or Avdija will be the most likely to fall to this position and I'd anticipate the Cavs having them high on their board. Okoro is the best perimeter defender in the draft, and represents significant upside if he can put together a consistent shot. He has good length, and he can finish around the rim well. He isn't someone who can create for himself, or shoot at the moment, and his free throw shooting shows that his overall shooting mechanics may not be promising. With that said, if he does get developed properly he is among my top in terms of potential.
Comparison: Justise Winslow
#6 Atlanta Hawks: Tyrese Haliburton | Iowa State | 6'5" / 6'8" Wingspan | 20.2 Yo | G
Trae Young put up an enormous offensive season last year, and with Clint Capela and a full season of John Collins they are set to make a jump in the next year. Another year for Cam Reddish to develop a strong show at the end of the season means that the biggest need for the Hawks is a secondary ball handler some perimeter defense to help cover up Trae Young's weakness. Tyrese Haliburton is a great fit for this, he has proven that he a strong basketball IQ, a strong team defender, and though wonky as it may look, a strong shot. To me, Haliburton is an easy plug and play type of player because his weaknesses on a team like this that already has a great PG like Young means he can focus on what he does well. He isn't great at creating scoring for himself, not strong off the dribble, but he has the intalibles and the feel that will make him a high floor type of guy. I don't see him as a potential superstar, but definitely a solid starter for a playoff team.
Comparison: Shorter Shaun Livingston, but with a better shot
#7 Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes | Ulm | 6'5" / 6'8" Wingspan | 18.8 Yo | G
Detroit Pistons, like mentioned before, are one of the teams furthest away from being better that a low seeded playoff team. They have some talented players like Blake Griffin (when he's healthy), Derrick Rose (When he's healthy), and Christian Wood (if he re-signs) to make them a decent team if all things go right, but aside from Doumbouya and Wood, not very much talent on the younger side. They have no cornerstone to build around, and this draft doesn't pose to bring them any potential star without some luck. With that said, Coach Casey made it known they will be looking for a PG if they deem that he fits the #7 pick, and Hayes is one of those young PG's that could be a potential point guard of the future if all things go right. Hayes possesses a strong PG skillset with good vision and playmaking, although he is prone to turnovers. He is among the top PGs in this draft, but is one that has the ability to create for himself at an acceptable rate. He's is much thicker than Ball and Haliburton, and therefore can outmuscle smaller guards. His weaknesses surround an overly dominant left hand, a lack of burst and jumping, and he doesn't have the biggest handling repertoire. I think Hayes has a high ceiling and I believe a better chance to reach it than Ball.
Comparison: Spencer Dinwiddie/Manu Ginobili
#8 New York Knicks: Devin Vassell | Florida State | 6'7" / 6'10" Wingspan | 19.7 Yo | Wing
Along with Okoro, the best defending wings of the draft. Vassell is another plug and play guy who could fit on a lot of rosters, and similar to Okoro could be a homerun if he can continue to develop his offensive game. With RJ Barrett at the helm, this pick fits the Knicks well as it doesn't force Vassell to immediately need to be the primary scoring punch. While the Knicks definitely need to take BPA, they are in need a wing and PG, and both are reasonable choices depending on who falls to them. Vassell brings a strong defensive IQ and team defender, and on offense a plus spot up shooter. He is not a creator on offense, and lacks the ability to beat defenders off the dribble to drive, but has shown progression in shooting off the dribble.
Comparison: Khris Middleton
#9 Washington Wizards: Onyeka Okongwu | USC | 6'9" / 7'1" Wingspan | 19.4 Yo | PF/C
The Washington Wizards will be a team to watch next year as there is a chance that we will see how John Wall plays post-injury. Him along with Bradley Beal is a top backcourt, and Rui has showed potential on the wing to be starter quality. The biggest question mark moving forward is in their front court. This season, with no starting quality defensive anchor, there is a clear gap in their starting lineup and their overall team composition. To me Okongwu would be an amazing fit if he falls to #9 as he brings a very versatile defensive arsenal. He is not exclusively a defensive center either, as he finishes well around the rim and can handle the ball a little bit. He reminds me a lot of Bam Adebayo which would bode very well to the Wiz if they can continue to grow their depth. His main weaknesses are his shooting beyond 3 feet along with his free throw shooting, his defensive leadership, and his anticipation on defense. He needs to learn to be the lead communicator on defense, and he often times finds himself searching for the block and ends up biting on fakes.
Comparison: Bam Adebayo
#10 Phoenix Suns: Saddiq Bey | Villanova | 6'8" / 6'10" Wingspan | 21.1 Yo | Wing
What could the hottest team in the bubble need after going 8-0? The Suns would love to see Vassell or Okoro drop to add additional defense to their wing, but with both of them off the board in my mock I have them going for Saddiq Bey who poses to bring in a 3nD type of skill set. Bey alongside Bridges poses to be a great defensive tandem on wing, and he also has the ability to be a quick release spot-up shooter. He doesn't show potential superstar quality, but he does have a chance to be a rotational player on a great team which the Suns could really use as they lack depth.
Comparison: Demarre Carroll
#11 San Antonio Spurs: Obi Toppin | Dayton | 6'9" / 6'11" Wingspan | 22.2 Yo | F
Obi Toppin is one guy I have a hard time placing as he has one of the best offensive skill sets for bigs, but doesn't fit great with the teams at the top end of the draft. If there is a team that could manage his offense and learn from another great offensive big, it would be San Antonio. Obi Toppin has the highest potential left in the draft, but also the highest bust as he lacks lateral quickness for defense. His athleticism is explosive, and has playmaking abilities out of the post, but his defense in terms of post-defense, PnR defense, and rebounding remain to be seen. I don't think he will be played out of the league, but he may end up a rotational player if he can't stay on the court for defensive purposes.
Comparison: David West or Amare Stoudemire lite
#12 Sacramento Kings: Patrick Williams | Florida State | 6'8" / 6'11" Wingspan | 18.8 Yo | F
Sacramento comes in as one team that is a few pieces away from competing in the playoffs, and they are already regretting passing up Doncic watching him so far in the playoffs. They would love to make up for this, but with the #12 pick, they would need to find the diamond in the rough. One guy that could be that pick is Patrick Williams who is only 18 years old, and fills a position of need on the wing. He's a big forward at 225lbs, which means that he is a versatile player, with the capability of driving and creating off the dribble, but lacks some lateral quickness on the defensive end. He does a lot of the intangibles, and while he may not be a homerun, he could be a solid double and has the potential to be a key player.
Comparison: Danilo Gallinari
#13 New Orleans Pelicans: Cole Anthony | UNC | 6'3" / 6'4.5" Wingspan | 20.0 Yo | G
With their backcourt in somewhat of a flux and not finding a consistent solution, I think the Pelicans shoot for a point guard that can create for themselves and play off-ball. Cole Anthony is one of those guys. He showed the ability to create for himself, though with a poor supporting cast, and range. He isn't a poor defender either, but he is small and does get targeted as he can be bullied.
Comparison: Patty Mills
#14 Boston Celtics (Via Mem): Tyrese Maxey | Kentucky | 6'3" / 6'6" Wingspan | 19.5 Yo | G
Another team with a decent chance of seeing a change in their pick is the Boston Celtics. They have three first round picks this year, and I don't see them using them all when they could be packaged for a player or to move up. With that being said, they also lack bench scoring (29th last year), and a player like Cole Anthony, Maxey, Lewis Jr, or Nesmith could be a landing spot for them. For this mock I am going to assume they keep all of their picks. I have Maxey going here as he has proven that he is a winner and makes the plays that impact the game. He has shown that he has good shooting mechanics, can create for himself, and good acceleration and deceleration. He lacks the ability to truly create space, and thus his shot selection is something of question mark, and his first step isn't the fastest, but on the defensive end he is very engaged and plays good team defense.
Comparison: Kyle Lowry lite
#15 Orlando Magic: Aaron Nesmith | Vanderbilt | 6'6" / 6'10" Wingspan | 20.6 Yo | Wing
While the Magic lack depth in the backcourt, Nesmith is a high scoring, versatile shooter that would really help the Magics offense, and isn't a slouch on defense. With 23 ppg at Vanderbilt, he showed the ability to score off the dribble and has long range for a wing player. He isn't great at driving or finishing at the rim, but with Vuc being as good as a post scorer as he is, it's an added benefit to give him more space. He isn't a great man defender, but he's smart and smart defenders typically show progress. The Magic may instead vouch to go for a point guard as that is their most dire need, but with Nesmith still on the board I think it would be a struggle to choose between Lewis Jr and Nesmith.
Comparison: Buddy Hield
#16 Portland Trail Blazers: Josh Green | Arizona | 6'6" / 6'10" Wingspan | 19.5 Yo | Wing
The amount of teams that would love to have strong wings in this draft out number the actual wings in this draft, which makes it tough to see which teams pass up on team need over BPA. In the case of the Trail Blazers, the team is in desperate need to be as competitive as possible, so finding a role player that can be plugged in and make immediate impact is essential. That is typically easier to find in 3nD wings than in point guards. Kira Lewis Jr is still on the board, and there is a chance that the Trail Blazers opt for him as he is considered a better prospect than Green, but with their team composition I believe they will go for win-now moves.
Comparison: Danny Green
#17 Minnesota Timberwolves (Via BKN): Precious Achiuwa | Memphis | 6'9" / 7'2" Wingspan | 20.7 Yo | F
After Minnesota took Anthony Edwards at the top of the draft, it makes sense for them to focus on their interior defense to solidify their team. KAT is an offensive master inside and out and proved to be a top big, but what he also showed was that he fits best with another big that can help on the defensive end. Precious poses to be an energetic defensive big, with ability to defend multiple positions with his length and strong rebounding. His weakness are seen on offense away from the basket and at the FT line where he shot just 60% from the line. He struggles with consistency, but with time he can become part of a good team defense.
Comparison: James Johnson
#18 Dallas Mavericks: Desmond Bane | TCU | 6'6" / 6'5" Wingspan | 21.9 Yo | Wing
Dallas showed that they have the ability to compete with the best in the league with Luka Doncic leading the way, they also showed that they have some struggles with injuries to Porzingis and Powell. A big makes sense in this position, but they also need players on the wing, and the lack of bigs that fit on a team that needs defense makes me question whether they will get one at this position. Desmond Bane is a workhorse that is built to be on a competitive team as his strengths are his his IQ and his energy. His potential isn't high, but the Mavericks already have the foundation to be contenders, but lack the players that will show up consistently to put in the work.
Comparison: Malcolm Brogdon
#19 Brooklyn Nets (Via PHI): Kira Lewis Jr. | Alabama | 6'3" / 6'6" Wingspan | 19.1 Yo | G
The Nets will be one team that should be competing at the top of the East with Durant and Irving back from injury, but one does have to worry about the injury concerns with their backcourt with Irving, LeVert, and Dinwiddie all dealing with injuries. With this pick I think they look to sure up their depth with Lewis Jr. who would be a high talent and upside pick at #19. He's the fastest guard in the draft, and knows how to use it putting up 18.5 ppg last season. Outside of his speed, his shot is good with good mechanics, but not amazing. He is an active defender, but is pretty small in todays long and tall PG league. He can utilize his speed well in the NBA, but needs to learn how to control his body and slow down sometimes as he can be reckless.
Comparison: Ish Smith
#20 Miami Heat: RJ Hampton | NBL | 6'5" / 6'7" Wingspan | 19.3 Yo | G
Hampton started out at the top of the potential draft picks a year or two ago, but slowly moved down the board as his shot never truly saw the progress that was hoped for. With that said Hampton has proven that he is a avid athlete with a quick first-step, the ability to drive to the basket with good body control, and a potential strong playmaker. He is a very raw player and is a boom or bust player as, in my opinion, he has a strong resemblance of Dante Exum and not just because he is from Australia. He is another long PG with a quick first step that teams will have to trust can develop his jumpshot. For the Miami Heat, with an aging Dragic and Nunn being inconsistent, adding depth at the PG slot would make sense, especially as Hampton shows the ability to be a playmaker that Nunn lacks.
Comparison: Dante Exum (if he can't develop a jumper), Jamal Murray
#21 Philadelphia 76ers: Theo Maledon | Asvel | 6'4" / 6'8.5" Wingspan | 18.9 Yo | G
The Sixers are another team that could use some depth at the guard position and took the chance with Shake Milton starting in the bubble. With the Horford signing gone awry, it is understood the 76ers need depth and need a PG that they can play off-ball with Simmons. The uncertainty of where the 76ers go forward is there, but as they stand, they need to build more depth to compete. Maledon is a strong shooter, which is what they desperately need with the loss of Reddick, they could use an off-ball shooter. He struggles with defense, and makes a lot of mistakes young players do, so he has development on that side, but with Richardson, and the long defenders that the 76ers already have he fits the mold.
Comparison: Kirk Hinrich
#22 Denver Nuggets: Jalen Smith | Maryland | 6'10" / 7'1" Wingspan | 20.2 Yo | F
With the emergence of MPJ in the bubble, the Nuggets are one piece away in my opinion from being true contenders in the playoffs. It always seems that there are players that don't step up in times of need, which leaves the Nuggets taking the BPA to cover all their bases. Jalen Smith can fit next to Grant or Jokic, though Smith doesn't have the ability to anchor a defense. He is long, and poses a stretch big skill set that fits the Nuggets shooting playstyle. He has a high IQ, though he struggles with PnR defense because of his lack of lateral quickness.
Comparison: Kelly Olynyk
#23 Utah Jazz: Jaden McDaniels | Washington | 6'9" / 6'11.5" Wingspan | 19.6 Yo | Wing/F
McDaniels is another player like Hampton that came in with high expectations, but failed to live up to the hype. McDaniels is a big bodied wing that has potential to be a versatile defender and a shooter. The Jazz have very little depth at the 3/4 positions and could take on a player that is raw with high upside since their primary star is young. If McDaniels can gain some weight he can mitigate a lot of his weaknesses on defense getting bullied, and on offense where he struggle with taking contact on drives.
Comparison: Rashard Lewis
#24 Milwaukee Bucks (Via IND): Tyrell Terry | Stanford | 6'2" / 6'2" Wingspan | 19.6 Yo | G
The Bucks have veterans at every position and are looking to compete as they are at the top of the NBA. While the Bucks are looking for shooting around Giannis, Terry provides limitless range, and can create even more space if he gets the time for Giannis to drive. He's small, and that means he has a lower upside due to defensive limitations, but his offense could make a huge impact.
Comparison: Trae Young lite
#25 OKC Thunder (Via DEN): Aleksej Pokusevski | Serbia | 7'0" / 7'3" Wingspan | 18.4 Yo | F
Pokusevski ("Poku") is one of the biggest question marks coming into this draft. On analysts draft boards he is seen to going between late lottery and the second round. Once workout start we will get a better idea on what teams think about him, but for now he is a high upside guy that I'd project in the later parts of the first round. The Thunder are in a weird position where they are led by a veteran in Chris Paul who is ending his prime, but are still competing. They have young talent in SGA and Dort, but lack foundational pieces that make them true contenders. I say to shoot for a potential high upside guy that can team up with the upcoming talents in order to continue to compete. Poku brings elite size, playmaking, and handles that you'd see in a point forward. He has the potential to combine scoring and defense, but has to be developed in many areas. He's coming into the league similar to Bol Bol in which if he can put on weight, learn how to play team defense, and play within the offense he will end up better. He's the most raw in the first round, and has one of the highest upside, but players like him often find themselves somewhere in between.