With the NBA playoffs getting started and the college basketball season over, it is becoming definite on who will be leaving college early and putting their name in the draft. Obviously, it is impossible to 100 percent decide where some of these guys go and where each team picks because the NBA still uses the draft lottery (to be held on May 20th), which is a whole different topic that I will get into on another article. In short, I don’t think it is really needed. However, here is my first mock for the upcoming lottery picks, basing selections on where the teams finished record-wise.
- 1. Milwaukee Bucks – Andrew Wiggins
I believe with the top pick, you have to take the best guy available, especially for a Bucks team that is desperate for an elite player. They have some promising pieces, particularly with Giannis Antetokuonmpo, and need a star player. Although he didn’t take over at Kansas like some had expected, I think Wiggins definitely has “STAR” potential.
- 2. Philadelphia 76ers – Joel Embiid
The 20-year-old 7-footer from Kansas may have the most upside of anyone in this draft. Often compared to Hakeem Olajuwon, Embiid can help bring some life to a 76ers team that was awful down the stretch. The back injury that held him out of the NCAA Tournament is a bit of a concern, but not enough to outweigh the upside that comes with him.
- 3. Orlando Magic – Jabari Parker
Other than Wiggins, I consider Parker the next top player that can take over a game whenever he wants. One thing that could separate the two is Parker was forced to play more inside in his one year at Duke. This was shown with the fact of him leading the ACC in rebounding at 8.7 RPG. His defense definitely needs some work, but I think his versatility is a plus.
- 4. Utah Jazz – Dante Exum
Exum provides excellent size (6’6″) and versatility (able to play both guard positions), making many teams willing to draft the Australian early. Utah could use another backcourt player to pair with Trey Burke and Exum is the perfect fit. He’s a good all-around player with terrific upside.
- 5. Boston Celtics – Julius Randle
I was strongly considering putting Vonleh here, but felt the 19-year-old Kentucky product is the better fit. He is yet another one-and-done and basically just a tough guy. He faced little resistance in the college game, amassing 24 double-doubles. His jump shot could use some work, but I see him potentially building into a Zach Randolph-type player.
- 6. Los Angeles Lakers – Noah Vonleh
The 6’10” forward/center from Indiana is a perfect example of a player that will continue to improve. Despite being only 18-years-old and playing on an underachieving Indiana team, Vonleh shows sparks of huge potential. The Lakers are looking to bring Pau Gasol back, but I think Vonleh could still carve out significant minutes ahead of guys like Jordan Hill and Ryan Kelly.
- 7. Sacramento Kings – Aaron Gordon
With the Rudy Gay trade, the Kings added a proven-scorer. Marcus Smart would be a possibility here, but I think restricted free agent Isaiah Thomas will sign back with the Kings, leaving them with a stable point guard. This leaves their next position needed at power forward. The top guy out there is Aaron Gordon, who is capable of going higher. His athleticism is off the charts for a guy at his size and I think he can improve greatly upon his one season at Arizona.
- 8. Detroit Pistons – Marcus Smart
Smart is a tough player to judge after his two seasons with Oklahoma State. He had his ups and downs, but I like him as an NBA prospect. His defense is one of the huge positives to his game, as he has great size for his position. With the Pistons, he may be forced to play off the ball with Brandon Jennings at the point, but I like Smart as more of a combo-guard.
- 9. Cleveland Cavaliers – Dario Saric
The 6’10” forward from Croatia is a player with great upside, but has some questions surrounding him. It may be a risky pick, in the case that he chooses to stay overseas for a couple of years to further develop. The Cavs may be a team willing to take this risk. They will bring back Kyrie Irving and hope last year’s number 1 pick, Anthony Bennett, will warrant his draft selection.
- 10. Philadelphia 76ers (via NOR) – Nik Stauskas
With 2 of the top 10 picks, the 76ers have a chance to take a big step forward. While their first pick will likely be either, Wiggins, Embiid, or Parker, this selection might give them even more to choose from. However, with Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel being the key returnees, I like the 6’6″ shooting guard from Michigan with the 10th pick. Stauskas is a smart player and also won the Big 10 Player of the Year this past season. His claim-to-fame will come from his offensive game. Stauskas is a dynamite scorer that has continued to evolve his scoring touch from all over the court.
- 11. Denver Nuggets (via NYK) – Gary Harris
While some of the guys above may have more upside, I believe Harris is a guy more than capable of warranting his lottery pick status. In his two-year stay at Michigan State under the tutelage of Tom Izzo, Harris greatly improved. He has the ability to stroke it from deep and get up in your face on the defensive end. He is a good with a Denver team desperate for a backcourt player to pair with Ty Lawson.
- 12. Orlando Magic (via DEN) – Tyler Ennis
Possibly the best point guard in this draft, he could provide a huge boost to a Magic team with Victor Oladipo. While at Syracuse, Ennis proved he is more than capable of becoming an elite point guard, even at the NBA level.
- 13. Minnesota Timberwolves – Rodney Hood
The Mississippi State transfer will head to the NBA after one year at Duke. At 6’8″, Hood offers great size for a player that can shoot it from the outside and attack the basket. For a Timberwolves team already featuring Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and Kevin Martin, he could be an instant offense guy off the bench or step into the small forward slot over Corey Brewer and Shabazz Muhammad.
- 14. Phoenix Suns – Doug McDermott
The Suns were one of the most surprising teams this past season behind the remarkably strong play from point guard Goran Dragic. McDermott could provide great value at either small forward or power forward. After one of the most impressive college careers ever at Creighton, I like McDermott to make an impact in his rookie season.