Head Men's Basketball Coach – Pratt Cannoneers
The NBA Draft Lottery is finished and now we move on, prognosticating and frankly guessing where we see each player ending up on June 25th.
My best estimates:
1. Minnesota Timberwolves / Karl-Anthony Towns – PF/C – University of Kentucky
The Karl Towns-as-top-pick-bandwagon is one I’ve been riding almost the whole year. Towns is dynamic in the low post, a high-level defender at the next level and despite being limited by Coach Calipari at UK, is a knockdown perimeter shooter. When properly motivated, Towns is as good as it gets for a young big guy and has the chance to be just a tier below Anthony Davis, another lanky former Kentucky big. The way the Timberwolves have built their roster around Andrew Wiggins, Zach Lavine and similar athleticism, Towns makes perfect sense. In the new pace-and-space NBA, Towns is a sure-fire top pick here and a future All Star.
2. Los Angeles Lakers / Jahlil Okafor – C – Duke University
This pick boils down to one simple question, in my mind: Would the Lakers rather mess with the ego of Kobe Bryant or Julius Randle? The pick here SHOULD be D’Angelo Russell. Finding the heir apparent to Kobe makes a lot more sense than crowding the front court next to Randle, who I believe will be a very successful NBA player. The Lakers won’t think that way though and will make Okafor the pick.
Best case scenario: Okafor/Randle turn into a Marc Gasol/Zach Randolph type duo and propel LA to perennial 3 or 4 seed status. Worst case: Neither Okafor or Randle can guard a mannequin, Kobe just doesn’t have it anymore and the Buss family sits around Christmas dinner wishing they had a dynamic playmaking guard to carry them.
Having said all that, I think Okafor is tremendous. He’s big and strong and has an incredible array of post moves for a 19-year-old. He should be a very successful center, even in today’s NBA. I don’t think he’ll quite ever be Dwight Howard, but Coach Turner’s comparison to Al Jefferson may be more apt.
3. Philadelphia 76ers / D’Angelo Russell – G – The Ohio State University
I have trouble imagining anything funnier than the Lakers actually taking Russell and Sam Hinkie having to rationalize taking Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor in back-to-back-to-back drafts. Unfortunately, that won’t happen.
The Sixers luck into the perfect spot here, ending up with a big, strong, crafty, NBA-ready guard that they’ve been waiting for since striking out on Evan Turner. That Russell happens to share Turner’s alma mater – even better. This time the Sixers have got their man and a perennial All-Star and game changing guard at that.
Russell is made in the mold of James Harden. A lefty, ball-dominant 2-guard that can shoot, score and is a masterful creator for others. Not a bad result for Tankadelphia.
4. New York Knicks / Emmanuel Mudiay – PG – Prime Prep (TX)/Guangdong (China)
The good news: Derek Fisher will no longer be the best point guard on the Knicks. The bad news: Mudiay is still somewhat of an unknown after suffering through an injury plagued season in China.
The Knicks so desperately lack playmakers though, that Mudiay is an easy pick. He’s got size, he’s got skill and he is the consensus last of the easy 4 picks before an expected drop off in this draft.
Will Mudiay fits into the triangle? Who knows, but fans of the team will be willing to find out, especially if Carmelo Anthony plants himself on the bench again. Making the pick of Mudiay, instead of trying to pony up the cash to sign Rajon Rondo or Goran Dragic, is the way to go.
5. Orlando Magic / Justice Winslow – SF – Duke University
The sexy pick for most mock-drafters has been one of the foreign guys here, but I think Winslow’s stock is too high following a terrific NCAA Tournament, for him to fall out of the top 5.
All of a sudden, the Magic have a strong, young core that, with the right coaching hire, puts them in great shape. Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Tobias Harris and Nic Vucevic, combined with Winslow is very intriguing.
What worries me, however, is that the same reason I think the Magic will pick Winslow (he’s big, skilled and versatile and can play either forward position depending on the surrounding lineup), is also the reason GM Rob Henningan might choose to go in a different direction. The Magic already have Aaron Gordon and Tobias Harris. Having three relatively similar players, none of whom are great shooters, makes seeming great versatility into a deceptive trap.
6. Sacramento Kings / Kristaps Porzingis – PF – Latvia/ Sevilla (Spain)
Most seem to be going with Willie Cauley-Stein in this spot, but I think new coach George Karl is looking for an offensive-minded player in his first draft. Adding the 7’0″ Latvian makes sense in a number of ways. He’s a 4-man, so he can play with Demarcus Cousins. He can really stretch the floor (38% from 3 for Sevilla last season) which makes him valuable playing next to Rudy Gay, who is not a floor spacer at the 3, and it shows faith in Nik Stauskas and Ben Mclemore, two young guards that I think can develop into nice NBA pieces.
7. Denver Nuggets / Mario Hezonja – SG – Croatia/ Barcelona (Spain)
So much of what the Nuggets do in this spot will be determined by what other moves they have made regarding core pieces like PG Ty Lawson and PF Kenneth Faried. While adding Cauley-Stein in this spot would certainly be intriguing, I’m not sure it makes the most sense next to another hustle-based, lacking-skill forward in Faried.
The shooting guard position seems to be a weakness for the Nuggets, with Aaron Afflalo gone and Gary Harris not seeming to be the answer. Hezonja would address that right away, adding a dangerous scoring threat to the lineup. Will the 6’8″ guard, previously playing for Barcelona, be enough to propel the Nuggets out of the lottery? Probably not, but he will at least make the offense more watchable.
8. Detroit Pistons / Stanley Johnson – SF – University of Arizona
The Cauley-Stein fall continues here, as the Pistons have learned from their mistakes in the past and don’t see pairing WCS with Andre Drummond as the answer. I think they would have loved to have seen Porzingis still waiting for them here, but will instead have to settle for Stanley Johnson and plugging their hole at small forward.
Johnson fills a need here nicely for Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons as he has an NBA-ready body, and an almost NBA-ready game.
9. Charlotte Hornets / Willie Cauley – Stein – PF/C – University of Kentucky
I doubt drafting Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh the past two drafts would be an impediment to the Hornets taking Cauley-Stein here. The Hornets biggest weakness is on the wing (especially if Lance Stephenson will not be back), but without any overwhelming wing options (Devin Booker? Kelly Oubre?), the Hornets go with a proven winner and a stud defender who will make coach Steve Clifford very happy on that end.
10. Miami Heat / Kelly Oubre – SF – Kansas University
The Heat may go in a different direction if they want to try to add a piece to help Dwyane Wade win before he gets even older, but with the consensus top nine players off the board and no immediate help looking imminent, finding the wing replacement for Wade and/or Luol Deng may be a better move. Oubre is long, athletic, can shoot and looks like a future star. I’m just not sure if he pushes the Heat back into the playoffs next year.
If the Heat seemed resigned to losing Goran Dragic in free agency next year, Murray State PG Cameron Payne may be the pick.
11. Indiana Pacers / Myles Turner – PF/C – University of Texas
Is Turner the heir-apparent to David West or Roy Hibbert? I don’t have a good answer to that question, but Indiana has made its money on talented bigs (plus Paul George) during its recent run and I can’t imagine the front office going away from such an intriguing forward prospect.
The other interesting prospect here is a PG, either Cameron Payne or Duke’s Tyus Jones. Indiana likes George Hill, but he may not be the long term answer.
12. Utah Jazz / Bobby Portis – PF – University of Arkansas
I don’t think Utah is quite ready to give up on Trey Burke or Alec Burks and the team is definitely not ready to give up on Dante Exum, so drafting in the back court is not the answer here. The Rudy Gobert/Derrick Favors front court is a monster defensively, but adding some versatility in Portis, the SEC Player of the Year, would be incredibly valuable for a team ready to make a push for the 8-seed in the West.
13. Phoenix Suns / Devin Booker – SG – University of Kentucky
The Suns seem to be collecting Kentucky players (Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Archie Goodwin), so why not add another?
The Suns relied too heavily on too many point guards last year and it got them in a lot of trouble. Booker is a shooter first, but a surprisingly athletic and dynamic playmaker from the wing, as well. He would compliment Knight and Bledsoe nicely without stepping on their toes. In a pinch, all three could even play together.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder / Cameron Payne – PG – Murray State University
There are not many holes to fill on a team that almost nobody expected to see in the lottery. Unfortunately, injuries took their toll on the Thunder and left them golfing for games 83 and on.
The biggest need may be at shooting guard, but I can’t picture the Thunder reaching if Booker is off the board (RJ Hunter or Justin Anderson may be the next best prospect at the 2). I think the Thunder take Payne here and he fills the Reggie Jackson/ Dion Waiters role as their scoring guard off the bench. Best case scenario though, move up to get Booker if possible.
The Playoff Teams
15. Atlanta / Sam Dekker – SF – Wisconsin
Insurance for if Demarre Carroll leaves.
16. Boston / Frank Kaminsky – PF/C – Wisconsin
A replacement for Brandon Bass. Or at least Jonas Jerebko.
17. Milwaukee / Tyus Jones – PG – Duke
In case Michael Carter-Williams is not the answer.
18. Houston / Justin Anderson- SG/SF – Virginia
He won’t take shots from James Harden and will provide a defensive upgrade over Jason Terry.
19. Washington / Trey Lyles – PF – Kentucky
Will give Randy Wittman more options, including not having to stick Nene at the 4 constantly.
20. Toronto / Kevon Looney – PF – UCLA
There’s no sure-fire answer at the 4 on the roster. Looney at least has potential.
21. Dallas / Jerian Grant – PG – Notre Dame
Rajon Rondo won’t be back. Is Grant the replacement they want?
22. Chicago / Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – SF – Arizona
He’s not a Luol Deng clone, but he’s close enough and coach Tom Thibadeau will love his versatility.
23. Portland / Christian Wood- PF – UNLV
A luxury as a backup for Lamarcus Aldridge (or to play next to him). Montrez Harrell may be the safer pick, but Wood is more intriguing.
24. Cleveland / Robert Upshaw – C – Washington
I think the realization that Anderson Varejao is always injured comes to a head here. Provides insurance at the 5.
25. Memphis / RJ Hunter – SG – Georgia State
For so many year, the inability to shoot and stretch the floor has killed the Grizz. No longer.
26. San Antonio / Montrezl Harrell – PF – Louisville
Tim Duncan may be ageless, but having a high-energy backup certainly can’t hurt.
27. LA Lakers / Delon Wright – PG – Utah
Is Jordan Clarkson the long term answer? Maybe, but Wright is a solid backup plan.
28. Boston / Chris McCollough – PF – Syracuse
He’s far from a sure thing, but adding front court talent is something Boston needs and the former top-10 recruit is worth the risk here.
29. Brooklyn /Jarrell Martin – SF/PF – LSU
He may be a tweener, but he’s a very talented one. And Thaddeus Young is not the answer in Brooklyn.
30. Golden State / Mouhammadou Jaiteh – C – France
A likely stash for 2 years in Europe, but he’s big and has potential.