Written By: Michael Welsh
#1 Phoenix: Luka Doncic
Luka has the most pure skill of any prospect in the draft and has dominated in the Euro-league which is the second toughest basketball league in the world. He is coming off a euro league MVP, as well as a euro basket championship where he led Slovenia along with Miami guard Goran Dragic to a first-place finish in that tourney. All of this leading him to be the most accomplished European prospect ever. This kid is a 6 foot 8 forward with the handle and basketball IQ of a point guard. He has the ability to shoot from range off the catch and off the dribble. He is an elite passer for his position and makes his teammates better. He can run the pick and roll well and plays the most valuable position in the NBA today. His defense is not great because he isn’t an elite athlete, and he is turnover prone. His shooting stroke is fluid but didn’t hit a particularly high percentage on his threes this past season. All things considered he is my number one prospect, and the suns need the best player available so to me it’s a clear choice due to Doncic’s play making and talent level.
#2 Sacramento: Jaren Jackson Jr.
Jaren is the prototypical NBA big man. He is 6 foot 11 with a 7 foot 5 wingspan and weighs in at 240 pounds making him the perfect size for the modern NBA. He is also the youngest prospect in the draft as he will still be 18 on draft night. He has incredible defensive instincts and led all of college basketball in blocks per minute. He can block shots with either hand, he can move his feet well defending the pick and roll, and when switched onto a guard he can hold his own. Offensively he is long enough and athletic enough to catch and finish lobs. He runs the floor well and shoots the three extremely well. He still cant create his own shot but to me that’s okay for my 5. He isn’t a great passer either but he exactly what the modern NBA needs from their big men. He also gets into foul trouble often but he is still super young so he gets a pass from me their. He is the epitome of a 3 and D player. In the NBA today every team is looking for a Jaren Jackson type player and Sacramento shouldn’t hesitate in drafting him.
#3 DeAndre Ayton
Ayton is by far the most polished offensive big man in the draft and has the makings of a good defender. He has an assortment of low and high post moves to go along with a decent mid range jumper. He only shot 29% from three this past season at Arizona but the shot is fluid and it’s going to be up to him to continue his progression shooting out to the three point line. He is an elite defensive Rebounder partially because of his 7 foot frame with a 7 foot 5 wingspan. He has decent feet moving on the perimeter but he will definitely get exposed in space on the next level unless his feet improve. Worse case scenario to me is he is a 16-10 guy who is always a threat to score in the post. Well then if that is the floor why is he only the third pick in the draft? My biggest concern is how do you win a championship basing your offense around a back to the basket post player. Over the past 20 years the only back to the basket centers to lead their team to the finals are Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan, so to me if he never reaches that elite level of excellence you will not win a championship with him as your focal piece. The NBA is changing before our eyes and players that can shoot and defend in space are becoming much more valuable. Any other decade Ayton would be the clear choice for number one but in the NBA I think that Jaren Jackson and Luka Doncic are more valuable. Ayton is not a great fit next to John Collins but at this point in the Hawks rebuild they just need talent and Bamba isn’t a great fit next to John Collins either.
#4 Memphis: Mo Bamba
Mo Bamba physically is maybe the most gifted athlete we have ever seen enter the draft. The kid is a full 7 feet with a 7 foot 10 wingspan which immediately makes him the longest player in the NBA. Also at the combine he ran faster in the 3 quarters court sprint faster than Russel Westbrook and John Wall. He is still a very raw player, he needs to put on a significant amount of weight before he can play at the NBA level and his skill level on the offensive end of the floor is not where it needs to be. His 3 point stroke this offseason has been incredibly encouraging to see progress. He has totally remade his jump shot with Drew Hanlan who is the same guy that worked with Jayson Tatum before his rookie year and we all saw the improvement he made from college from behind the arc. Defensively his potential is like no others in recent history. He could be Rudy Gobert with the ability to defend in space and guard 1-5. Their are obviously risks involved with drafting a raw 7 footer that is not very skilled but the upside makes it worth it at the 4th spot in the draft. To me their is a huge drop-off from 4 to 5 on my big board. He is not a great fit next to Gasol but I think he is just too talented to pass up at #4.
#5 Dallas: Marvin Bagley
The Dallas Mavericks and Mark Cuban have made it clear that they want to push for the playoffs next year, and Marvin Bagley fits the bill. He is a position of need for them as well as an “NBA ready” prospect. He’s going to give you a double from the moment he steps on the court. He is an elite athlete and an elite rebounder. He runs the floor well and can score with ease in transition. He has good hands and touch around the basket. His low post game worked in college but at the NBA level I expect him to work more on his high post game. He shot a good 3 point percentage in college 39% but his stroke is not very good and his shot comes off flat often. Moving back an extra 3 feet is going to be tough for the type of shooter that he is. His shot mechanics are very similar to Draymond Green’s mechanics. He also doesn’t shoot well from the free throw line which scares me. He is the opposite of Draymond however on defense. Bagley lacks the defensive instincts that are necessary to be an elite rim defender. He also isn’t that long wingspan wise which limits his defensive upside. He has the potential athletically to be a wing defender for multiple positions but his feet aren’t that quick and he’s just a poor defender at this point. I project him to be a 5 at the next level so rim projection is going to be really important for him if he ever wants to reach his ceiling I just don’t think he ever will develop in that area. All in all I think he has a high floor but his lack of rim protection limits your ceiling as a championship team.
#6 Orlando: Collin Sexton
Collin Sexton was definitely one of the most exciting prospects to watch over the past year in college basketball. He is a hyper athletic point guard and is easily the quickest player in the draft with the ball in his hands. He is also the clearly the most competitive player in the draft which is good most of the time. Sometimes he gets caught up trash talking or gets into a skirmish and picks up a technical. He has an assortment of advanced ball handling moves that lets him get to the bucket whenever he wants. He has a decent mid range game and gets to the foul line at an elite rate. He is a good passer but his decision making is questionable at times which leads to ill advised shots for him or a turnover. He is an okay 3 point shooter but not a great one. A lot of that may have to do with Alabama’s offense which might have been the least spaced offense in the NCAA last year. He isn’t very tall (6’2) but his competitiveness and athleticism definitely make up for it against taller defenders. Whether he succeeds at the next level will have everything to do with his decision making and development of his shot to the NBA three point line. Orlando needs a point guard and Collin Sexton to me is the best one in the draft.
#7 Chicago: Michael Porter
Michael Porter Jr is one of the biggest unknowns in the draft class at this point. The last time we saw him play competitive basketball healthy was in high school. The first thing people bring up with Michael Porter is his back and whether it is healthy or not. To me if the doctors sign off do not worry about it and draft him as high as you want and if they don’t then don’t draft him in the lottery. The reason he is so high for me is his potential as a 3 level scorer. His shot is okay I wish it looked smoother and his feet don’t always get squared up but in high school he was an okay shooter. He is the perfect size to play in the NBA today. Everybody wants a 6’11 wing who can shoot, and I see him as a 4 that will cause mismatches on offense. I think he needs to get more bulk on his body which is a common theme among many of these draft picks this year. His ball handling needs to improve if he ever wants to be the player he is capable of being. Chicago needs wings badly and if the back is okay then this seems like a perfect fit.
#8 Cleveland: Trae Young
Trae Young was the biggest story in college basketball this past season and rightfully so. He started the year shooting historic numbers from the field as well as leading the country in assists. He later went on to have historically bad stretches where he would take bad 30 foot shots. He is the best shooter in the draft off the catch and off the dribble, his percentages would be better if he took better shots. He is an elite passer but his decision making at times was questionable, which led to those poor shooting games or high turnover games. I don’t mind the horrible games as much I mind it for other players simply because Trae Young was being asked to do more than anyone in the nation and he won’t even have to do that much at the next level. The main concern I have with Trae Young is his size and defense. He is a very slight 6-1 we are in the playoffs how the weak link on a team defensively just gets exposed and taken advantage of nearly every possession down the court. So to me unless he is Steph curry his offense will not make up for his defense in the playoffs.
#9 New York: Mikal Bridges
I think New York would love to select one of the 2 point guards already selected but they will definitely settle for Mikal Bridges. Mikal is the perfect player for the nba today. He is a 6-8 wing with a 7’3 wingspan that plays defense and his threes off of movement or off the dribble. He is everything you want in today’s game. We just saw Houston win 65 games because they had CP3 and Harden of course but they had so many switchy wings who could hit 3s. For example Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker, Luc Mbah a Moute, Gerald green, and that’s half your playoff rotation being three and D wings. The main point is that it is important to have 3 and D wings and Mikal probably will never be an all star but at the 9th pick in the draft it makes sense to draft a guy like him. I think this is a pretty safe pick with a high floor and a low ceiling since he cannot create off the dribble after 3 year years of college.
#10 Philadelphia: Wendell Carter
As long as Joel Embiid plays for the sixers then they will always need a backup center that can start when he is hurt or missing games for rest. Wendell carter was overshadowed at duke by fellow freshman Marvin Bagley who was ACC freshman of the year. Wendell Carter was a good rim protector and sneaky athletic while having solid range out to the college 3 point line. He is a good passer out of the post for his position probably because he is just a smart dude in general. When picking schools he chose between Harvard or duke and you don’t consider Harvard unless you are highly intellectual. I trust his basketball IQ and skill level as a center. I think best case scenario he is similar to Al Horford. I am worried about his foot speed and ability to defend in space but at number 10 I think it’s solid value for Philidelphia.
#11 Charlotte: Miles Bridges
Miles Bridges is another potential 3 and D wing with a higher ceiling than a Mikal Bridges. He has elite athleticism and can get his own shot on a consistent basis. He has a good but not great 3 point shot with a solid stroke. He is already muscularly ready for the NBA game he just needs to keep improving his ball handling and his offensive skills. Defensively he has all the tools to become a great on ball defender the day he steps foot in the league. I worry about his defensive instincts and off ball defense but he could very well a capable off ball defender in time. It also worries me that he didn’t improve from freshman year to sophomore year which is why he isn’t higher in my mock draft.
#12 Los Angeles Clippers: Zhaire Smith
The Clippers are in a great position because they have two picks back to back which will give them plenty of trade leverage if they choose to go that route. If they choose to keep the pick Zhaire Smith seems like a great choice. He is easily the most athletic player in the draft and plays the best on and off ball defense of any guard in the lottery. He has a decent stroke but it definitely still needs fine tuning. He is an elite rebounder and finisher at the rim. He is not a good passer and has a weak handle, these are things he can get better at but coming into the league he is going to be one of the rawest and least skilled guards in the league. The clippers rebuilding process is just starting so he will have plenty of time improve.
#13 Los Angeles Clippers: Kevin Knox
Kevin Knox is a scorer first and foremost and the clippers need scoring as much as anything. He has the potential to be a 3 level scorer and has a very smooth jumper from three. He also has a nice looking pull up mid range shot he likes to go to late in the shot clock. Defensively he has the tools to be a good defender and definitely has the size but his instincts aren’t great and his feet are not that fast.
#14 Denver Nuggets: Shay Alexander
At number 14 it is former teammate of Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous Alexander is my selection for the nuggets. The my need another guard that can create and the best player available in my eyes is Shay so it seems like a good fit. Shai gets into the lane at will and his 6-6 frame allow him to take advantage of smaller defenders. That size allows him to defend multiple positions and he is quick enough to do so as well. He improved all year in the pick and roll both as a passer and a scorer. He is elite at getting to the line and shoots decent from the line as well. His shot isn’t great and it’s sort of a set shot. At the point guard position in today’s NBA you need to be capable to shoot off the dribble and that is what is keeping him from reaching the level of Trae young and Collin Sexton.