The NBA off-season started off this week, and it’s already been full of news. In addition to a handful of trade rumors and requests, there have been some real trades already. Chris Paul was dealt to the Suns for a large player and draft pick package. The Bucks bulked up by trading for Bogdan Bogdanovic and Jrue Holiday. Now, the draft is tomorrow and teams are preparing. I’ve put together a quick mock draft for it, though I won’t be predicting trades. I will be analyzing the 14 lottery picks as well as later Celtics picks (I will include a list of the other first round picks at the end of the article). This mock is a mix of what I think should happen and what I think will happen. I think there are four players in this draft that are far better than the rest: Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, LaMelo Ball, and Obi Toppin. Which of those four goes first and who will go right behind? Keep reading to find out what I think.
The Lottery Picks
|With the #1 pick, the Timberwolves are looking for a third option to join PG D’Angelo Russell and big man Karl-Anthony Towns. It looks like it’s going to come down to Ball and Edwards. If they took Ball, it would force Russell to SG, so I see Edwards as the more likely pick here.|
|Wiseman, a top 2019 college recruit, played for Memphis for a few games and dominated with 17 points per game. After that he left the school to prepare for the draft. It would work out for him if he ended up in Golden State, which I see as a perfect fit. The Warriors have lacked a good center for years, and Wiseman could help them contend now that the backcourt is healthy.|
|Toppin was a dominant force in the Atlantic 10 and if there was an NCAA Tournament he could have potentially led Dayton to a title. The Hornets could take Ball here, but they already have De’Vonte Graham at point guard, and you can argue for Toppin, a better fit in Charlotte, over Ball considering his brother Lonzo was also a top prospect and has failed to meet expectations. Toppin should have an immediate impact on Charlotte’s offense.|
|Unlike his brother, Ball did not go to UCLA and instead played professionally overseas. I think Chicago is a strong fit for Ball. Billy Donovan is the perfect coach to groom Ball into a successful player in this NBA. In addition, Chicago is a big sports market which Ball and his dad LaVar will both take advantage of. With Ball joining SG Zach LaVine and forward Lauri Markkanen, I think the Bulls could fight for a playoff spot.|
|Hayes is one of the better international athletes in this draft class. He’s a very talented player who can join Darius Garland and Collin Sexton in a young backcourt. I could see Deni Avdija, another international athlete, going here as well, but Hayes has high potential as well.|
Deni Avdija, SF, Israel
|Avdija has been compared to Kristaps Porzingis, who went to the Knicks in the early 1st round back in 2015. I don’t see him going top five like many people do, but the Hawks missed out on Luka Doncic in 2018 and I don’t think they will pass on Avdija if he falls here. This would make Avdija one of the earliest draft picks in history out of Israel.|
SG, Florida St.
|Vassell and Patrick Williams led Florida State to be neck and neck with Duke in the ACC and both are expected to be top draft picks. He can add depth to a rebuilding Pistons team, and maybe eventually he’ll be behind a Pistons playoff run. It could be a while though since the trade for Blake Griffin is hurting the Pistons in the long term.|
PG, Iowa St.
|Iowa State struggled this past season, but it doesn’t have an impact on Haliburton, who consistently contributed at a high level throughout the season. After some iffy early round draft picks in the past, the Knicks got their hands on R.J. Barrett in 2019. Hopefully this pick pays off as well.|
|Okoro has not been considered much in the top tier of prospects. However, I think he has one of the highest floors in this draft class. Davis Bertans appears to be on the outs, so Okoro can help fill the gap up front for Washington. It’s possible he expands his role in years to come.|
SF/PF, Florida St.
|The Suns could be in line to contend with CP3 here. They are set in the backcourt and at center between CP3, Devin Booker, and DeAndre Ayton. They could use some depth at small forward and power forward, and Williams can play both.|
|Maxey was one of Kentucky’s top players with Tyler Herro gone. In fact, he essentially played the Herro role there. Whether Gregg Popovich wants to rebuild or contend, another Herro-like player could be a big help.|
|As much as I would want Ogonkwu to fall into Boston’s laps, I can’t see it happening with the Kings in front. The Celtics very well could try to move up over the Kings for Okongwu, but otherwise I think Sacramento will take him. Their backcourt is set with De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Add some size to that and the Kings could be in a better spot to make the playoffs.|
Aaron Nesmith, SG/SF, Vanderbilt
|Like Haliburton, Nesmith impressed in college despite lackluster surroundings. It should pay off on draft night as the Pelicans add depth to a young squad that already has Zion Williamson and can bring back Brandon Ingram if they’re willing to pay.|
|Villanova was stacked last year, and Bey was on the forefront of that squad. The Celtics do need a big man, but with Okongwu gone that will have to wait. Bey adds bench depth and could have an opportunity for more minutes if Gordon Hayward is dealt.|
The Other Celtics Picks:
1.26: Josh Green, SG, Arizona: Green was one third of a big three that made the Wildcats a Pac-12 contender last year, and all three should go in Round 1 of this draft. This is a depth addition and long term investment for the Celtics, who have often taken a chance on backcourt talent from big name schools.
1.30: Xavier Tillman, C, Michigan State: The Celtics have reportedly had their eyes on Tillman. If they do not move up for Toppin or Okongwu, I see them waiting till the late first round for a big man and taking Tillman. I think the Celtics could add a veteran big man as well with this route, and give both the veteran and Tillman adequate minutes. As opposed to Green, Tillman is an older prospect who I could see having an immediate impact.
2.17: Myles Powell, PG, Seton Hall: Powell was one of the top players in college hoops last year, and one of a few seniors who I think will be drafted. Powell adds more backcourt depth and could help fill minutes if PG Kemba Walker is injured or traded. He does not have the high floor of some of these other prospect but could be a valuable bench asset.
The Other First Round Picks
- 15. Magic: SF Jaden McDaniels (Washington)
- 16. Trail Blazers: C Vernon Carey Jr. (Duke)
- 17. Timberwolves: SG/SF Elijah Hughes (Syracuse)
- 18. Mavericks: PG Cole Anthony (UNC)
- 19. Nets: PF Jalen Smith (Maryland)
- 20. Heat: PG Nico Mannion (Arizona)
- 21. 76ers: PG Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama)
- 22. Nuggets: PG Devon Dotson (Kansas)
- 23. Jazz: SF/PF Jordan Nwora (Louisville)
- 24. Bucks: PF Prechious Achiuwa (Memphis)
- 25. Thunder: PF/C Zeke Nnaji (Arizona)
- 26. Celtics (see above)
- 27. Knicks: PG R.J. Hampton (New Zealand)
- 28. Lakers: SG Jahmi’us Ramsey (Texas Tech)
- 29. Raptors: C Filip Petrusev (Gonzaga)
- 30. Celtics (see above)
I can’t wait for tomorrow night. Once the draft is done the NBA off-season will really get crazy.