I was just inches from a clean getaway.
--Astronaut Garrett Breedlove, Terms of Endearment
I had hoped the boss had forgotten.
(Narrator: He hadn’t.)
A few years had gone by since the last public embarrassment—a mock draft, the single biggest waste of time since a long-now-since-fired marketing whiz green-lighted New Coke in the early ‘80s.
Regular readers know the reasoning behind my reluctance to do mock drafts. (I was happy, on Tony Kornheiser’s old radio show, to do the “Doc Draft,” where we picked our favorite doctors, real and/or fictional in a one-round draft. I had the number one pick and, it being the late ‘90s, took Dr. Susan Lewis from “ER,” in whom I saw great, uh, potential, and explained why and how she would dominate the ER in my best Mel Kiper, Jr., voice.)
One, between now and the middle of July, almost everyone in the NBA is lying about their true intentions, which means they’re lying to me about the players they like and would pick if they get the chance. (Honk if you’ve ever heard a GM or coach, on Draft night, say ‘well, Joe wasn’t really our first choice; unfortunately, the Blazers took Andrew two picks ahead of us. That’s the guy we really wanted.’) You will hear a half dozen rumors between now and Thursday night about some prospect’s terrible medicals, or his terrible relationship with his mother, or his terrible whatever it is—none of which is true, and is put out there by other teams/agents who either want him to fall down to them (if they’re a team with a middling pick) or want him to fall period (if they’re not represented by the agent who spreads the rumors).
Two, trades that are not disclosed before the Draft, or trades that don’t come together until after the Draft begins, aren’t known to me when I start making these imaginary picks.
Three, the success rate on these things is extremely low, which doesn’t put the mocker in the best light. The last time I did one of these things, out of 30 picks, I got…zero correct. Zero. Nada. Zippo. Goose eggs. (Technically, I did get T.J. Warren going to Phoenix correct, but I had him going there with the second of the Suns’ two first-round picks that year; they took him with their first.) Which leads to fans asking afterward a) how could you be so uninformed/stupid, and b) how do you keep your job when you’re so bad at this?
The answers: a) this is not my idea, and b) this is not my idea!!! I do this because you—the dear readers/watchers, love mock drafts and want as many of them as possible. Theoretically, it’s understandable; what’s the harm? But to me, this is the equivalent of asking someone to predict what tomorrow’s lottery number will be.
There are, as ever, just a few variables.
We have no idea whether Michael Porter, Jr.’s back/hip will hold up for a year, or 10 years, or not at all, and what each team actually thinks about the medicals it has on him, and predict accordingly where he’ll go.
We have no idea what the Spurs are going to now do about Kawhi Leonard, now that all 7.6 billion people currently on earth (that’s rising, by the way) know he wants out of San Antonio. Will they be able to change his mind in the next few weeks? Do they keep him through his contract, which has a year to run? Do they trade him at the deadline next February? Do they trade him Draft night? And if they do, what do they want back, and who will they trade with—the Lakers? The Sixers? The Celtics? Someone completely off the radar? Remember, no one, starting with us “experts,” had any idea that Oklahoma City was in the mix for Paul George.
We have no idea which of Atlanta’s three first-round picks it will keep, or which of Philly’s four second-rounders it will keep, each being potential bait for a team currently without a first-rounder or someone looking to sell a late first—any of which would significantly alter who goes where in the Draft.
- Watch NBA TV Mock Draft Show (Tuesday, 8 pm ET)
Well, at least I only have to do one.
As ever, the ground rules, which you are required to commit to memory:
1. I will totally sell out someone at NBA.com when these picks come crashing down to earth, and say he/she ghost picked for me, and that it's their fault I got zero right out of 30 again this season;
2. If I stumble into anything approaching prescience and get anything approaching half of these picks right, I will proclaim myself the seer of seers, and dine out on these wild guesses for years to come!
1. PHOENIX SUNS
NEEDS: Point guard, center
THE PICK: C Deandre Ayton, Arizona
If you had a chance to take Joel Embiid without the back problems, you’d do it, right? Phoenix does with the 19-year-old Ayton, and barring the end of days before Thursday they should make the Arizona freshman the first great big man prospect—with apologies to Alex Len, Robin Lopez and Marcin Gortat—for the franchise since Amare Stoudemire went ninth overall in 2002. Ayton has explosive offensive upside, which has been enhanced in pre-Draft training; he’s up to 265 pounds or so now, up 12 from his Wildcats weight, while maintaining eight percent body fat. He has worked on improving his passing and can now comfortably shoot out to the NBA three-point line after tweaking his footwork and mechanics. The questions on Ayton start at the defensive end, where he didn’t engage nearly as consistently as you’d like. Part of the issue was Ayton was playing out of position at the four through long stretches for Arizona, but every big coming into the league is going to have to at least display some ability to defend guards off of pick and roll switches. Ayton’s improving in that area. And he has a great personality that will show itself with time. The Suns need to hit a home run here after years of floundering.
2. SACRAMENTO KINGS
NEEDS: Playmaking/finishing wing
THE PICK: G/F Luka Doncic, Real Madrid
The Kangz need not to Kangz and overthink this. Either Doncic or Marvin Bagley would be a legit (and safe) pick here; anyone else at two would be a reach. Like everyone else, Sacramento has two years worth of intel on Doncic and shouldn’t go wobbly at the 11th hour. He’s legit, and if Vivek Ranadive really will let VP of Basketball Operations Vlade Divac make the call here, it’ll be the 19-year-old Doncic, who’s been a star playing against grown men in the ACB League, EuroLeague and international competition since he was 16. (This was Sunday, in the ACB final against Baskonia.) He’s a huge offensive talent who can be plugged in right away play next to De’Aaron Fox, last year’s first round pick, and give the Kings another ballhandler, either at the two or three depending on matchups. They want and need someone who can take some of that responsibility off of Fox, and who can run with and finish alongside him. You could take Bagley here and you hear that Vivek Ranadive is leaning in that direction. But, for me, Doncic makes more sense for the Kings. Will Doncic struggle on D? Yes. Are the Kings the ’85 Bears? No. So don’t worry about that now and take the offensive talent, which is ready to make the move across the pond. And, don’t insult him. Write this on your IPad 1,000 times: “he is not Darko.” “he is not Darko.” “he is not Darko.”
3. ATLANTA HAWKS
NEEDS: Frontcourt scoring, defense
THE PICK: F Marvin Bagley III, Duke
The Hawks are in the best possible position in this year’s Draft (if they stay here); they’re certain to get one of the top three players on the board without lifting a finger. Bagley should be able to score and rebound immediately (Atlanta checked in 25th in rebounds per game this past season) and help John Collins and Taurean Prince up front. The Hawks are strong favorite to move one or both of their other firsts (19th and 30th) and could move all over the board, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they could move down a couple of spots from three and garner another future first or young player if someone else wants this pick bad enough. But the Hawks are in no hurry. To move out of three would have to bring back a young player with upside and a potential Lottery pick in 2019. Eliminate all that tsuris and go for the 6-9 Bagley.
4. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
THE PICK: G Trae Young, Oklahoma
Yes, Memphis is listening to offers for this pick, if you’ll take Chandler Parsons off their hands (which would give the Grizzlies the ability to go above mid-level to re-sign free agent Tyreke Evans). But the Grizzlies also insist they don’t need to rebuild and can get right back among the west’s elite with just a couple of roster tweaks and a return to health for Mike Conley, Jr., and Marc Gasol. If that’s true, Memphis has to improve its offense immediately and can’t wait for a prospect: the Grizz were 29th in the Association this past season in scoring (99.3/game), 27th in Offensive Rating (101.8) and True Shooting Percentage (.539), 28th in Effective Field Goal Percentage (.500) and 25th in three-point percentage (.352). And if more offense is the issue, Young is the guy, whether he’s at the one or the two. He’s an elite scorer, leading the nation in scoring and assists in his one season in Norman, while also getting to the foul line at a prodigious rate (236 attempts, second in the country). With Conley back, J.B. Bickerstaff can bring Young in off the bench, or go small ball and play them together if Evans goes off to greener pastures; Young will struggle on D, but Conley can help alleviate that some by picking up the opposition’s more lethal backcourt scorer on cross matches.
5. DALLAS MAVERICKS
NEEDS: Post defense, shooting
THE PICK: F/C Jaren Jackson, Jr., Michigan State
One senses the chatter of late about the Mavs being interested in Porter here is stagecraft designed to goose potential offers for the pick from other teams that are indeed interested in the Missouri freshman. Can’t see Dallas walking away from some very talented big man prospects here, so Mo Bamba is definitely in play as well. But of the young bigs left in this scenario, Jackson would be a boon for the Mavs. He has way too much two-way potential to walk away from, he’s just 18 and he was well schooled in the Tom Izzo School of NBA Prep at East Lansing. Spartans have a pretty solid track record at the next level; Jackson should be the next. And if Dallas is truly interested in signing free agent DeMarcus Cousins in July, Jackson could play off of him effectively at the four.
6. ORLANDO MAGIC
NEEDS: Point guard
THE PICK: G Collin Sexton, Alabama
Need, meet player. Sexton has been very impressive both in pre-Draft workouts and in his interviews with prospective teams. The Magic’s decade-plus chasm at the point has to end. Sexton can score with the best of them, and while his playmaking is a work in progress, he’ll likely get better at finding open guys with detailed coaching and being with better players. Defensively, there’s a reason he’s been compared with Patrick Beverley; Sexton’s give a bleep meter is high. If Young were still on the board here Orlando would have a choice to make, and maybe they’d go for Young. But if he’s off the board already, there is no choice. Take Sexton.
7. CHICAGO BULLS
NEEDS: Perimeter scoring, defense
THE PICK: C/F Mohamed Bamba, Texas
As noted above, Bamba could go much higher than this; his window opens with Dallas at five. It’s hard to see him slipping past Chicago here, even though the Bulls have been linked with Porter during the last few weeks (they have a long and strong relationship with Porter’s agent, Chicago-based Mark Bartelstein, and their doctors were the ones that examined Porter in Chicago. They don’t know any more about Porter’s back than other teams as a result, but the arrangement speaks to the trust the two sides have with one another). But Bamba’s defensive chops—second in the country in blocked shots per game (3.7), fourth nationally in total blocks (111), 12th in rebounds per game and Defensive Rating—are just too good for a Bulls team that hemorrhaged points last season (their Defensive Rating of 109.1 was 28th in the league) and was next to invisible protecting the front of the rim (DFL in blocks per game, 3.5).
8. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
TEAM NEEDS: Perimeter defense
THE PICK: C/F Wendell Carter, Jr., Duke
The Cavs, of course, could move this pick if it helps their chances of keeping LeBron James. But if they think they have any chance of keeping James—which they won’t likely know for sure on Draft night—and keep the pick, it would make sense to take Carter, who anchored the back of Duke’s zone defense as a freshman. There’s no guarantee he’ll be able to guard in space or on switches. But there’s a reason he’s been compared by many to Al Horford; he has a real knack for big plays at big moments, he was a rock playing next to a more flamboyant teammate (Joakim Noah 10 years ago with Horford at Florida; Bagley with Carter at Duke) and he’s tougher than people realize. Carter’s game could play next to Tristan Thompson’s and he should rebound immediately at the next level. Cleveland was wowed by Sexton as well, and they could use a young, dynamic point guard—so nothing, including the Cavs moving up to make sure they get one, would surprise.
9. NEW YORK KNICKS
TEAM NEEDS: Wing length/defense, shooting
THE PICK: F Michael Porter, Jr., Missouri
At nine, this is a more than reasonable gamble for the Knicks; failing someone wowing the Knicks with an offer of a young player and a pick, or taking Noah’s salary off their hands, expect them to stay here at nine. Porter has too much talent and potential to pass up; he was number one on most mock draft boards at this time last year before his back injury, which led to surgery and kept him out of action almost all season at Missouri. The Knicks could, and likely would, give Porter all the time he needs to fully recover, as they no doubt will with Kristaps Porzingis, coming off that ACL tear last February; so what if they’re in the Lottery again next year? The potential one-two of P-squared (Porter and Porzingis; don’t bother, I’ve already copyrighted it) down the road is worth the wait. You don’t hear any more from Philly fans about the long, long wait for Joel Embiid (and I’m not saying Porter will be Embiid; I’m talking about talent blossoming after a guy finally gets healthy and strong and confident).
10. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
TEAM NEEDS: Young two guard/frontcourt depth
THE PICK: F Mikal Bridges, Villanova
Bridges was rock solid for the national champion Wildcats and would step right in for the hometown Sixers as a rotation guy off the bench; with Robert Covington ahead of him on the depth chart, there’s no rush. Bridges is a high character two-way player who defends multiple positions and showed he could fit in with other high-level talents at Villanova, while shooting a crazy 43.5 percent on threes last season. After the last few weeks, Philly could use a drama-free press conference introducing a winner who grew up less than an hour away in Malvern.
11. CHARLOTTE HORNETS
TEAM NEEDS: Perimeter playmaking/scoring, power forward
THE PICK: F Kevin Knox, Kentucky
The Hornets haven’t gotten a ton of wing production the last couple of years; Knox, who didn’t shoot it great at Kentucky in his one season there but who was a big-time scorer in high school, has the arc of someone who should knock down more open shots at the next level. And his size, wingspan and vertical are intriguing mixes if Charlotte were to play small next season under first-year coach James Borrego. GM Mitch Kupchak’s MO with the Lakers was taking Power Six conference players in the Draft; Kentucky certainly applies.
12. LA CLIPPERS
TEAM NEEDS: Shooting, athletic length
THE PICK: G/F Lonnie Walker, Miami
The Clippers could use some depth at the two, with Austin Rivers entering the final year of his deal and with Avery Bradley an unrestricted free agent who’ll be looking for a big payday. Walker has significant support among many NBA types, some of whom think he’s the best two in the Draft. The expectation is that his so-so shooting numbers in his one year of college (41.5 percent FG/34.6 percent on threes) will improve significantly at the next level, playing off of better talent. The rebuilding Clippers provide opportunity and potential minutes.
13. LA CLIPPERS
THE PICK: G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky
Starting point guard Patrick Beverley will be 30 on opening night and is coming off microfracture surgery; backup Milos Teodosic had a promising first NBA season for the Clips, but is 31 and has a player option for 2018-19. Picking Gilgeous-Alexander here would thus be practical and prudent, and would give Los Angeles a promising multi-positional guard who really came on for the Wildcats the second half of the season. SGA’s length is tantalizing (his 6’-11.5” wingspan at the Chicago combine was easily the longest among point guards) and he averaged almost six assists a game for Kentucky once he was put in the starting lineup for good in early January. And did we mention he has three percent body fat? Three. The fingers typing this have 12.2 percent body fat.
14. DENVER NUGGETS
TEAM NEEDS: Defense; small forward
THE PICK: F Miles Bridges, Michigan State
The Nuggets have existing and/or emerging answers on their roster everywhere but the three. Bridges fixes that; when you’re first team all Big 10, second team all-America and a finalist for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year award, your chops speak for themselves. Bridges could well toggle between forward spots in the pros—he might struggle initially guarding threes in space—but he’s another tough kid from Flint who got even tougher playing for Tom Izzo. And, he got better—Bridges went from a 69 percent free throw shooter as a freshman at Michigan State to an 85 percent shooter as a sophomore. He’ll fit right in with the run and gun Nuggets and give Mike Malone even more flexibility with lineups, which will come in handy if Denver can’t re-sign Will Barton.
15. WASHINGTON WIZARDS
TEAM NEEDS: Young size, perimeter shooting
THE PICK: C Robert Williams, Texas A&M
John Wall wasn’t lying when he said the Wizards needed to get a young, athletic big into their shop. The 20-year-old Williams, who was co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore after winning the award outright as a freshman, applies. Consistency of effort/production was an issue for Williams in the regular season, but after he helped lead the Aggies to a Sweet 16 run in the NCAAs, his bona fides were back on display. Presumably, he skipped the combine for a reason; guys don’t normally do that unless they’re assured they’re going in the first round of the Draft, and presumably the top half. Fifteen is exactly the end of the top half of the Draft. Picking Williams would be a tell that the Wizards think they can find another home for Marcin Gortat, who’ll be entering the final year of his contract and with whom Wall has been fussin’ with for a while. Williams should also be more impactful offensively playing with better shooters; A&M was an abysmal 283rd in the country in three-point shooting (.329) last season. The Wizards, as we all should know by now, are very good shooting threes; they just need to shoot more of them.
16. PHOENIX SUNS
THE PICK: F Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State
This pick could certainly be moved/sold by Phoenix to one of the teams without a first-rounder looking to get into the mix. But if the Suns keep it, Bates-Diop would make a lot of sense here. KBD is viewed as a jack of all trades but master of none by many NBA types. That may be true. But he’s a long one; his 7’-3.25” wingspan was easily tops among all guards and forwards at the combine. He made a huge leap his junior season for the Buckeyes, winning Big 10 Player of the Year honors, punishing conference opponents left and right, and learned extensively about playing at the next level from assistant coach Chris Jent, the longtime Cavaliers assistant who is now on Lloyd Pierce’s staff in Atlanta. In the multi-positional modern NBA, Bates-Diop will be a boon to any team with his potential as a switcher on pick and rolls. KBD also comes from a rock-solid family; he’d fit right in as the Suns continue to re-establish a winning culture, and give new coach Igor Kokoskov his own multi-positional switching group to throw at the likes of the Dubs and Rockets, with Bates-Diop joining Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren—presumably, with Ayton—trapping and funneling everything and everyone to the big man.
17. MILWAUKEE BUCKS
TEAM NEEDS: Post defense, point guard
THE PICK: G Aaron Holiday, UCLA
Mike Budenholzer will give Eric Bledsoe a chance to show he’s the long-term answer for Milwaukee at the point. But with Bled entering the last year of his contract, it’s only prudent for the Bucks to give themselves some insurance at the position. Most important, though, Milwaukee needs shooting, and Aaron Holiday, the younger brother of Jrue (New Orleans) and Justin (Chicago), can fill it up—he was top 25 nationally in three-point shooting as a junior for the Bruins (.429 behind the college line). Yes, Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova are still on the roster, but a) you can never have enough point guards, and b) in this day and age point guards with reasonable deals are eminently tradeable quantities. Holiday, all-Pac 12 First Team and all-Pac 12 Defensive Team, is a talent who could help the Bucks right away.
18. SAN ANTONIO SPURS
TEAM NEEDS: Youth, wings
THE PICK: G Kevin Huerter, Maryland
This would complete a meteoric rise up the Draft board for Huerter, who was nowhere to be found on most mocks anywhere near the first round before Chicago. But a great combine has him solidly here now, even though he’ll be out two months after surgery this week on his right hand. The Spurs have a definite long-term need at the two with Danny Green on a player option for 2018-19 at $10 million and no obvious replacement for him in sight (no, we are not counting Manu Ginobili, no matter how strong his age 40 season was last year). San Antonio has cap room and could go after the likes of Avery Bradley in free agency, but until the Spurs know for sure they can sign a vet, hedging their bets with a shooter like Huerter (41 percent on threes for the Terps last season) would make sense.
19. ATLANTA HAWKS
THE PICK: G Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech
Caveat Emptor: the Hawks could obviously move this pick as well as their other first-rounder, 30th overall, for the right package of picks/players. But if they keep it, Smith is a freak athlete who tested off the charts in Chicago (second among all participants in the three-quarter run; fourth in standing vertical jump; fifth in max vertical) that melded promising basketball with those physical gifts this season. An all-Big 12 Defensive Team selection, Smith shot 45 percent in a somewhat limited sample size (just 40 attempts) in his one college season in helping get the Red Raiders to the Elite Eight. The Hawks need a long-term solution at the two going forward, and would be in no hurry as the 19-year-old Smith went through his growing pains at the next level.
20. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
TEAM NEEDS: Wing shooting
THE PICK: G Khyri Thomas, Creighton
You think Thibs could get behind a guy who was Defensive Player of the Year in the Big East this season after being co-DOPY as a sophomore? Thomas is a fierce, next play competitor at the two who stayed at around 40 percent on threes as a junior, while tripling the number of attempts he shot from his freshman season. The Wolves could definitely use some firepower coming off the bench with Jamal Crawford expected to opt out of the last year of his deal and explore free agency. Thomas could handle that and likely more early in his career.
21. UTAH JAZZ
TEAM NEEDS: Shooting, frontcourt depth
THE PICK: F Moritz Wagner, Michigan
The Wolverines’ junior played himself into first-round consideration with an excellent season and NCAA Tournament, leading Michigan to the national championship game. He’s a tailor-made modern day big, who’s been a dynamic three-point shooter the last two years (39 percent as a sophomore and a junior) while also being able to put the ball on the deck and get to the rim. Wagner stuck his nose inside as well for Michigan last season, leading the team in rebounding at 7.1 per game. Wagner would be a very different kind of big than Derrick Favors, but he’d be a solid insurance policy for Utah with Favors one of the few quality bigs available in free agency this summer.
22. CHICAGO BULLS
THE PICK: F Chandler Hutchison, Boise State
The whiff of a promise from the Bulls here doesn’t mean that Hutchison isn’t worthy; he played himself into the first round after an outstanding senior season for the Broncos, earning first team all Mountain West honors and looking like a rarity—a 22-year-old senior that still has a lot of upside in the pros. He’s not an elite athlete but he’s good enough, and the Bulls need some more wings who can help Lauri Markkanen put the ball in the basket. Hutchison will have to make his shot behind the arc more of a consistent weapon; when he’s hot, he makes them in bunches.
23. INDIANA PACERS
TEAM NEEDS: Frontcourt depth
THE PICK: G Elie Okobo, Pau Orthez
While the Pacers could use a young big to play behind Myles Turner and/or Domantas Sabonis, they also don’t have a long-term answer at the point after this season; both incumbent Darren Collison and Cory Joseph are up after 2018-19. The 20-year-old Okobo emerged for Pau in the French Pro A League last year, leading the team in scoring and assists, and gave his calling card in last month’s French League playoffs, dropping 44 points against Monaco, one point short of the all-time record. He is not a finished product by any means but a year of interning behind Collison and Joseph would help him make the transition to the NBA quickly, and give Indiana a potential backcourt mate for Victor Oladipo for the next few years.
24. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
TEAM NEEDS: Backcourt depth/perimeter shooting
THE PICK: G Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova
The junior guard wasn’t on anyone’s radar as a potential first-rounder two months ago. The idea was DiVincenzo would play his role as an energy guy off Villanova’s bench behind the Wildcats’ more experienced players, then take a star turn next season with most of them gone that would give him a chance to shine. Instead, the guy my dude Gus Johnson gave the great nickname “The Big Ragu” (you have to be my age to get it) exploded in the national championship game against Michigan, setting an NCAA record for most points coming off the bench in a title game (31) and winning Most Outstanding Player honors. He followed that up by finishing first at the Combine in both standing and max vertical jumps—and after that, there was no turning back. DiVincenzo’s crazy hops and swag will make him a fan favorite wherever he goes, and if he goes to the Blazers he’ll fit right in playing behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
25. LOS ANGELES LAKERS
TEAM NEEDS: Frontcourt defense/rebounding
THE PICK: C Mitchell Robinson, Chalmette (LA) HS
Robinson is an enigma to many, having fallen off the radar nationally after de-committing from Western Kentucky last year and never playing any college ball before declaring for the Draft. But he has had some eye-raising workouts—one for the Lakers—in the last few weeks, displaying the raw ability that made him a McDonald’s all-American in high school. He can run and block shots seemingly at will. There is definitely significant talent there. But Robinson will need to display some stability wherever he goes. He’s bounced around schools, agents and workout people the past couple of years and needs to have real structure around him if he’s going to blossom. The City of the Angels is not known for providing structure to young, wealthy men; to them, it’s known for instant entrée into the newest, swankiest clubs and bottles of Moet Imperial on demand. That will not help Robinson. If the Lakers go this route they’ll have to invest in a support system for the 20-year-old that will be well-served saying “no” to him in unison, early and often.
26. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
THE PICK: G Troy Brown, Oregon
This pick is a definite candidate to be sold to one of the current six teams—Detroit, New Orleans, Miami, Oklahoma City, Houston and Toronto—that don’t have first-rounders. Hard to see the Sixers interested in committing guaranteed money here for a player who might not get into their rotation any time soon when they’re all in for a board-tilting free agent. But whether Philly makes this pick for itself or someone else, Brown is a talent with upside. The 29 percent he shot on threes at Oregon is a red flag, but guys tend to improve their shooting with diligence and good coaching, and the 76ers have shown they can take young talent and improve it (see Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell). At 6-7, Brown can handle in transition and pass with any two guard coming out of school. Though he’s shown flashes, and he’s smart, he’s not a great defender yet, but did we mention he’s 18 and 6-7?
27. BOSTON CELTICS
TEAM NEEDS: Center
THE PICK: F Omari Spellman, Villanova
Spellman may be more suited to play the four in the pros than five, but the positions are pretty interchangeable in Brad Stevens’ system. Boston has a seemingly endless supply of long guards and wings, and more ballhandlers than you can imagine, but the Cs are, relatively, thin behind Al Horford when it comes to bigs. Aron Baynes is due a nice payday this summer after giving Stevens quality minutes this season and could well price himself out of Boston’s budget. Thus, Spellman, another high-character kid from the Wildcats’ championship team. He worked diligently to improve his body and his shot in his one season on the Main Line, and both were on display during Villanova’s run to the title. Spellman shot 43 percent on threes and was Big East Freshman of the Year. Yes, this is all Boston needs on its roster—another teenager with massive upside.
28. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
TEAM NEEDS: Frontcourt depth
THE PICK: G Gary Trent, Jr., Duke
Steve Kerr and Bob Myers have both said that the Warriors need this pick to play next season—there will be no stashing or selling. Given that, Trent, Jr. would be a good value here with some upside, rather than reaching on a young big that will need more time to develop. (It’s almost a given by now that the Warriors will buy a second-round pick from someone, anyway, which would allow them to take a flier on a young four or five.) Trent fits the Golden State profile—a prolific shooter (40 percent on threes for the Blue Devils) who has the capability of guarding multiple positions on defense. We say “capability” here because Trent did not exactly shut down opponents at Duke as a weak side defender in the Blue Devils’ zone, and he doesn’t have ideal length as a wing defender in the pros. But he has the family toughness gene—his father, Gary, Sr., was known as the “Shaq of the MAC” when he played in college at Ohio University, and ground out nine NBA seasons as an undersized power forward. Trent, Jr. should be able, in the small ball NBA, to play the two and three, at least, and with at least one and probably two All-Stars on the floor with him most of the time, he’ll get great looks that he should knock down. If he can be credible in space defensively, he’d have an even better chance to get on the floor for the Dubs immediately.
29. BROOKLYN NETS
TEAM NEEDS: Shooting guard, power forward
THE PICK: G Landry Shamet, Wichita State
Under Kenny Atkinson, the Nets emphasize the three—only Houston had a higher percentage of both three-point shots and points off of threes last season, per NBA.com/Stats. With Joe Harris (second on the team last season with 150 threes) an unrestricted free agent and someone who’ll be in demand, Brooklyn may need to shore itself up with another backcourt gunner. Shamet is a point guard, who led the AAC in assists, and the Nets already have D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie at that position. But at 6-4, Shamet should be able to play off the ball as well in the pros. He shot 44 percent on threes last season for the Shockers, 13th-best in the country, and Wichita State’s track record of late in producing NBA-ready guards (Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker have both stuck despite not being first-rounders) is a plus for Shamet. The Nets have other positions where they need help, but they still need to amass more talent, and Shamet is a talent.
30. ATLANTA HAWKS
THE PICK: F Dzanan Musa, Cedevita
The likelihood is that the Hawks flip this pick for something/someone else, as they’ve expressed a willingness to take on salaries for 2018-19 to help facilitate trades. Whoever winds up with this pick could obviously use it as a stash selection. But on the off chance the Hawks hold onto it, Musa would fit into the talent/needs time to develop portfolio Atlanta is currently selling. The 19-year-old can score, but needs a couple of years at least to get stronger and durable physically. Player development will be a priority for new coach Lloyd Pierce and the Hawks’ coaching/athletic training staff, which worked hand in hand under Mike Budenholzer and will continue that practice under GM Travis Schlenk and Pierce. Musa fits the profile.
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