Now that the lottery order is determined, I may as well whip up a mock draft. I don’t have Chad Ford’s inside sources, but I have some sweet guesses which I assume will be of similar accuracy.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers- Jabari Parker, SF/PF
Who knows what the Cavaliers will do with this pick now that Chris Grant is no longer calling the shots. I imagine that Cleveland will play it safe and pick from the Wiggins, Embiid, Parker trio after Chris Grant had limited success with making fancy reaches. They are likely starting to feel pressure to add another star to appease Kyrie and avoid having him walk just as LeBron did, so it stands to reason that they will try to avoid any big risks. This makes Embiid the least likely pick of the trio (even if I believe he is the correct one), especially if he refuses to share his medical records to prevent Cleveland from taking him. I imagine they covet both Parker and Wiggins, but Jabari is often pitched as the safest prospect in the draft and it would not be surprising if Cleveland bought that narrative. So Jabari it is.
Note that I would not be surprised to see Cleveland shop the pick for Kevin Love if he indicated that he was OK staying longterm. But he would have to be extremely fond of Kyrie for this to happen.
2. Milwaukee Bucks- Andrew Wiggins, SF
It sounds like Embiid’s agent is specifically trying to steer him away from Milwaukee by refusing to share his medical records. Would the Bucks take him anyway? That would be a bold move that would impress me. But I think they more likely play it safe and take whicher of Parker and Wiggins are available. In this mock, it’s Wiggins.
3. Philadelphia 76ers- Joel Embiid, C
I imagine that this is the absolute latest Embiid drops. Hinkie has only had his job for a year but I have been highly impressed with him and think he’s far too intelligent to pass up Embiid. He already demonstrated that he was willing to gamble on an injured Nerlens Noel last year, and it actually works out well to pair them together. When both are healthy they can split the center minutes, and in a way they hedge each other’s injury risk. If one stays healthy and becomes a star, they build him alongside MCW. If they both stay healthy and become stars, they can experiment with playing them together or trade the inferior one. If Embiid is unavailable I would expect Hinkie to target Exum or Parker.
4. Orlando Magic- Dante Exum PG
It makes sense that Orlando would take a PG here, and as luck would have it my top 2 available players in this scenario are both PG’s. Incidentally, Orlando seems interested in both of them as well. I am going with Exum for them here because he seems to be the better, more coveted prospect. But it wouldn’t surprise me if they tried to trade down to #6 with Boston and snag Marcus Smart there. I’d be happy with either as a Magic fan, and I imagine they will walk away with one of them.
5. Utah Jazz- Noah Vonleh, PF
This is where the draft gets fuzzy. They Jazz could look at any of Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, or Marcus Smart. I could be mistaken but I believe they are smart enough to pass on Randle. I’d be somewhat surprised if they tried pairing Smart with Burke, and Vonleh seems like a more Jazz type of player than Gordon. He pairs well with Favors as he can space the floor to balance Favors’ rim protection, and they get a nice 3 way big man rotation with him and Enes Kanter. It’s a reasonable selection that makes sense.
6. Boston Celtics- Marcus Smart PG
It wouldn’t surprise me to see them shop this pick along with Jared Sullinger and/or Kelly Olynyk and lesser picks for Kevin Love. They would pair Rondo with Love and still have a number of future Nets picks to trade for a 3rd superstar. But they may not be willing to outbid the competition, and Love may not have faith in the Celtics’ ability to rebuild to a contender overnight. In that instance I believe that Marcus Smart and Aaron Gordon are the top two choices for Boston since Danny Ainge loves competitive, defensive minded prospects and both qualify. Jusuf Nurkic also looms as a sleeper candidate in this slot. My best guess is that Ainge either takes Smart and keeps him for himself or flips him plus another pick to Orlando for Dante Exum.
7. Los Angeles Lakers- Aaron Gordon, SF
As much as the Lakers would love to trade this pick for Kevin Love, it sounds like Kevin Love may not want to play with washed up Kobe + nothing. Further, the Wolves likely won’t be interested in just the #7 pick. So they likely will be unable to acquire him. Instead they may shift to trading for a less pricey superstar such as Rajon Rondo, who will be on the block if the Celtics cannot procure Love themselves and especially so if they land Exum or Smart. Regardless of who is picking in this slot, Aaron Gordon is a fine selection since he is rated highly and is one of the top players available.
8. Sacramento Kings- Julius Randle, PF
Are the Kings the team to bite the bullet on Julius Randle? It seems plausible that they may. He can slide right into their starting lineup between Gay and Cousins at PF. If Marcus Smart or Aaron Gordon isn’t available I’m not sure who else they may consider. Perhaps Dario Saric?
9. Charlotte Hornets- Doug McDermott, SF
Adam Morrison, Cody Zeller, Kemba Walker. The Hornets love drafting upperclassmen who post big numbers in college, so they seem vulnerable to biting the Ougie bullet.
10. Philadelphia 76ers- Jusuf Nurkic, C
Yeah, I know I already had Philly draft Embiid. But I’d like to point out a couple of things 1) If Philly doesn’t land Embiid at #3, I imagine Hinkie is likely to take Nurkic 2) Even if they do land Embiid, Hinkie might be a “take the best player and figure it out later type.” Bear in mind that Nurkic and Embiid are both inexperienced and foul prone, so neither will likely need > 24 mpg as a rookie. Nerlens can play alongside them as a PF, and then the guys all hedge each other. If they all pan out, they get a glut of trade chips.
If Philly doesn’t want to go with the plan of having their 3 top prospects all being centers, it’s hard to say who they would pick here. I imagine they would look at KJ McDaniels, Nik Stauskas, Kyle Anderson, and maybe Kristaps Porzingis if he keeps his name in the draft.
11. Denver Nuggets- Zach LaVine, SG
I have no idea what the Nuggets would like to do here. Kyle Anderson and Dario Saric may be candidates to be picked, except they have a glut of forwards between Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, JJ Hickson, and Wilson Chandler. Whether they let them impact this pick is anybody’s guess. But they need a SG and seem to be the type of team that may be seduced by Zach Lavine’s upside, so let’s roll with that. Nik Stauskas also may be on their radar.
12. Orlando Magic- Nik Stauskas, SF
This is a good spot to take Stauskas. If they are pairing either Smart or Exum with Oladipo, they could use some shooting to balance out the backcourt and Stauskas has the size to play SF. He also gives them a touch of extra PG skills, which is especially nice if they land Smart and don’t have a true floor general. He should go around here and is a nice fit, so I like this idea for Orlando.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves- Dario Saric, SF
Who knows what criteria Flip uses to evaluate talent, not to mention we have no idea whether their roster will look significantly different after a Kevin Love trade. But SF is their weak link and this is a bit later than the wisdom of the crowd says Saric should go, so I could see Flip biting.
14. Phoenix Suns- KJ McDaniels, SF
I didn’t love the Len pick over Nerlens, but McDonough had a great rookie year as Suns’ GM nevertheless. KJ is currently undervalued and I can see McDonough falling in love with him as a PJ Tucker upgrade.
15. Atlanta Hawks- Tyler Ennis, PG
Man are there a ton of teams set on PG ahead of Atlanta. Ennis has a strong chance of being available, and I could see Atlanta taking either him or Elfrid Payton with hopes that they can eventually upgrade Jeff Teague. They also may give Clint Capela, Kristaps Porzingis, or Nikola Jokic a look since they showed last year that they are unafraid to take internationals.
16. Chicago Bulls- Kyle Anderson, SF/PF
This pick is likely ending up in Minnesota’s hands if Chicago deals for Kevin Love, but if they keep it I can see them taking Kyle Anderson. They badly need shot creation, and Kyle Anderson gives the a point forward to run the offense so they don’t have to rely on DJ Augustin if Rose can’t make a strong comeback. He’s got a little bit of Toni Kukoc in him so it seems fitting in a way that he would land on the Bulls.
17. Boston Celtics- Clint Capela, PF/C
If they don’t land Smart or Exum early, I believe the Celtics would take either Tyler Ennis or Elfrid Payton here. They also have a strong chance of taking KJ McDaniels if he is available. Since none of those are options based on prior picks, let’s go with Clint Capela since the Celtics badly need rim protection to pair with Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. Danny Ainge normally doesn’t take internationals in round 1, but Capela may not be a bad time to start. He may also consider Kyle Anderson, Spencer Dinwiddie, or Jordan Adams in this slot.
18. Phoenix Suns- Kristaps Porzingis, PF/C
Porzingis is a good flier at this slot to be the heir apparent to Channing Frye. Phoenix may also consider PJ Hairston or Spencer Dinwiddie as a floor spacer to pairing with Dragic and Bledsoe.
19. Chicago Bulls- Elfrid Payton, PG
Gotta have a contigency plan for Rose not recovering and Payton is great value here. They really should try to emerge from this draft with one of Ennis or Payton if they don’t trade their picks for Love. Gary Harris also makes sense if they think Rose can comeback, as Rose is big enough to cross match onto SG’s and Harris’s spacing and shot creation would fit a Bulls’ need.
20. Toronto Raptors- Jordan Adams, SG/SF
Not an obvious selection here. They may have a tough time with this pick if Phoenix, Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago pluck their board dry. This may be the right time to gamble on Adams’ gaudy stats. Spencer Dinwiddie would also be a decent idea for the Raptors here.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder- Gary Harris, SG
Gary Harris makes a ton of sense here. I have him sliding due to his poor height, but Oklahoma City can afford to bite the bullet since they have a big PG in Westbrook who can match up with SG’s. Harris could even replace Reggie Jackson as the backup PG if they cannot extend him and avoid the tax.
22. Memphis Grizzlies- PJ Hairston, SF
PJ Hairston serves the dual purpose of stealing minutes from Tayshaun Prince and supplying Memphis with much needed spacing. He is a great fit.
23. Utah Jazz- Spencer Dinwiddie, SG
Dinwiddie would be good value at this slot and he pairs well with Trey Burke in the backcourt. Utah could run a 3 guard rotation with Dinwiddie, Burke, and Alec Burks.
24. Charlotte Hornets- James Young, SF
Man, James Young really slid in this mock didn’t he? Charlotte already has their college hero so I can see them gambling on Young’s scoring upside.
25. Houston Rockets- Damien Inglis, SF/PF
Tough spot for Morey here since I didn’t leave any juicy sliders for him. Inglis makes a boatload of sense since he has good tools and he has could be a great fit alongside Dwight Howard as a stretch 4. He seems like the type of gamble that Morey could be into without any statistical darlings on the board.
26. Miami Heat- Shabazz Napier, PG
Let’s face it, the Heat to surround LeBron with shooting and Norris Cole isn’t cutting it as a backup PG. Napier gives them another Chalmers type to space the floor, he’s ready to contribute off the bat, and he’s not bad value here.
27. Phoenix Suns- Mitch McGary, C
McGary gives Phoenix a 3rd flier at center to battle with Alex Len and Miles Plumlee to become the future starter.
28. Los Angeles Clippers- Jarnell Stokes, PF
The Clippers badly need a backup big man, and Stokes projects to be similar to Big Baby Davis except better at everything. So it’s a good fit.
29. Oklahoma City- Jerami Grant, PF
Grant has slid quite a bit in this mock, perhaps OKC believes they can capitalize on his tools and mold him into a player.
30. San Antonio Spurs- Nikola Jokic, C
Jokic is a super skilled Euro big man who I have as the best player available. It qualifies as something the Spurs would be into.