Something we’ve never seen in NBA History happened on Tuesday evening before the Raptors and Cavaliers tipped off Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals — the NBA Draft Lottery finished in the exact order it was supposed to.
The formula has changed around a couple of times over the years, but the picks landing in perfect order to match the reverse standings still had never happened before in 31 previous attempts.
The bigger deal is that we now know exactly which teams will be picking where in the draft — which means it’s the perfect day for a mock draft of the lottery picks.
Before we get started, we’re going to go under the assumption that each team is actually making the selection for themselves. The worst kept secret in the league is that the Celtics and Lakers are going to be working the phones to move their high picks for veteran talent that can contribute right now.
L.A. will be sure to call on guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, as will Boston. I could even see a scenario where the C’s swap the third pick to Philly for Jahlil Okafor and let the Sixers work with a pair of top-3 picks in this upcoming draft.
For now we’ll spare the mayhem and go with the players that fit each team best.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Simmons, SF/PF (6’10”), LSU (Freshman)
Philly needs everything and Simmons is a do-it-all kind of player. I think a couple teams would prefer Ingram to Simmons but the Sixers aren’t one of them. Simmons will be able to step in and make an immediate impact, but his career will be defined by if he can evolve as a scorer/shooter.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Brandon Ingram, SG/SF (6’9”), Duke (Freshman)
Ingram is a very strong 1A in this draft. Kevin Durant is too easy of a comparison, but even if he could become a Paul George type player, that’d be a very good return. Ingram needs to beef up and become a more complete player, but he’s a natural scorer.
3. Boston Celtics
Jamal Murray, SG (6’4”), Kentucky (Freshman)
Another guard isn’t ideal for Boston, but Murray is a great scorer. If they had to select here, he’d be highly considered along with the next three names you’ll see below. I could see the Celtics moving this pick for a big or even trading back for one of the bigs in the 8-12 range if they decide to pass on Bender. Murray would fill a huge perimeter scoring need, though.
4. Phoenix Suns
Dragan Bender, PF (7’1”), Croatia
Bender is the mystery of the draft as Kristaps Porzingis was last season. Conveniently enough, the two are pretty comparable. The problem is no matter how much teams work him out, it’s still almost impossible to be sure he can give the same results as Porzingis at the NBA level. Right or wrong, an NBA team will take a chance on him sooner than later because of Porzingis’ recent success.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
Kris Dunn, PG (6’4”), Providence (Junior)
Dunn has a lot of John Wall in his game and can be something close if he ever reaches his potential. He really needs to work on his shooting and decision making, but the elite athleticism and playmaking is certainly there. Will he be Wall? I doubt it. But if you can get anything close out of him, Dunn is a steal. Dunn/LaVine/Wiggins/KAT running the floor could be scary in a couple years.
6. New Orleans Pelicans
Buddy Hield, SG (6’5”), Oklahoma (Senior)
Is Hield going to be the next Steph Curry? No. No. No. Don’t be silly. That said, he’s a great 3-point shooter, and the league is all about marksmen right now. He could be a star, but even if he’s not, he has valuable tools that make him a sure thing to be a solid NBA player.
7. Denver Nuggets
Jaylen Brown, SG/SF (6’6”), California (Freshman)
I’ll be honest, I’m not too high on Brown. He shows flashes, but he’s going to be a serious project in the NBA considering his college struggles. Brown has the tools to prove me wrong, but it just feels like he’s more of an athlete than a basketball player. He will never be too exposed because of his natural gifts, but he just may never shine as one of the better players on the court.
8. Sacramento Kings
Denzel Valentine, PG/SG (6’5”), Michigan State (Senior)
This is admittedly high for Valentine but an easily defendable pick. The Kings say they’re keeping Cousins, which means they’re still loaded with bigs. They don’t need to draft another (and all the upcoming picks are bigs). Rondo will likely walk this summer, and Valentine is the best playmaker on the board. He was a late bloomer that very well could keep developing his skills at his age and become a star.
9. Toronto Raptors
Deyonta Davis, PF (6’10”), Michigan State (Freshman)
Davis is quite raw but immensely talented. The Raptors have a pretty noticeable hole at PF, and Davis would likely be a great pick and roll partner for Kyle Lowry and has the length to be a great rim protector. With Toronto in win now mode, though, this pick is another one that could be shopped.
10. Milwaukee Bucks
Henry Ellenson, PF/C (6’11”), Marquette (Freshman)
Ellenson is really talented, and nobody seems to know where he’s going to fall in this draft. Watch his tape, though. A guy his size that can put the ball on the floor and shoot from the outside has value in the new NBA. I’d say getting him at No. 10 turns out to be a steal and a nice hometown fit with the Bucks.
11. Orlando Magic
Domantas Sabonis, PF (6’10”), Gonzaga (Sophomore)
After getting out of the Tobais Harris contract, the Magic could use a forward. Sabonis has the potential to be a great fit alongside the versatile players Orlando is starting to stack up. With his skill set, Sabonis may be able to play anywhere from 3-5 when he’s mixed in with different lineups. Aside from his scoring, he also rebounds the ball very well.
12. Utah Jazz
Jakob Poeltl, C (7’1”), Utah (Sophomore)
Poeltl slides a bit in this scenario before finding another hometown match for the legit center. Utah has a LOT of size up front and will probably be looking for a point guard, but if Poeltl slipped into their laps I don’t think they’d be able to pass. They’d have to really reach on a PG here if they were to go that direction.
13. Phoenix Suns
Marquese Chriss, PF (6’10), Washington (Freshman)
Chriss is super athletic and bouncy around the rim. He’s very easy for anyone to play with in the sense that he has a lot of Tristan Thompson in him. Rebound, play D, score around the rim sometimes without having your number called. Chriss may not be a star, but could carve out a long career.
14. Chicago Bulls
Brice Johnson, PF (6’10”), North Carolina (Senior)
The Bulls could go a number of ways on their pick depending on if they decide to blow things up or not. Assuming they don’t go down that path, a player like Johnson can make an immediate impact for them off the bench. Wing scoring is still the top need in Chicago, though, so maybe they take a chance on a younger talent that’s not as much of a sure thing.
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