With the NBA Draft rapidly approaching, it’s time to take a minute and figure out where everybody is going to go. This might be one of the more difficult drafts at the top than most, with 3 players vying for the #1 spot. Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga, Jabari Smith of Auburn, and Paolo Banchero of Duke all have a chance at joining the Orlando Magic this summer but only time will tell who. Keep in mind that I will be taking team fit and positional needs into account when making these picks, so this is by no means a ranking of the best prospects. This is also not an exact science, as both trading and further scouting on these prospects could change the order considerably. It’s a mock draft, so it’s never going to be perfect, which is why we use the term “mock”.
1. Orlando Magic: Chet Holmgren, 7’0″, 195 lbs, PF, Gonzaga
Holmgren is not the obvious pick, but he might have a leg up on the other prospects around this spot. His unique size matched with his uncharacteristic skillset give him boundless possibilities for what he might do when he hits the league. Imagine this: a 7’0″ sharpshooter who can block shots with the best of them and run the ball up the court in transition. That’s undoubtedly a player who has never existed in our NBA. Now, some might argue that his skinny frame will hold him back in the pros. While this has merit, it won’t matter when a multi-million-dollar organization comes into play. If he needs more muscle, then that is something a team will work on with him. This shouldn’t be as disputed a pick as it is.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jabari Smith, 6’10”, 220 lbs, PF, Auburn
After Holmgren is taken first overall, the Thunder have a conundrum; Smith or Banchero? I’m going with Smith. He has a longer wingspan than Banchero (7’1″) and possesses more potential upside. This just seems like a Thunder pick. Imagine future pick-and-roll opportunities with Josh Giddey and Jabari Smith; with Giddey’s phenomenal vision and Smith’s strength, this could be a perfect match. Nevertheless, there are concerns with Smith’s speed. His jumpshot is very slow, but it’s accurate because of how tall he is. Whether this translates to the NBA is the big question.
3. Houston Rockets: Paolo Banchero, 6’10”, 250 lbs, PF, Duke
The Rockets won’t think twice making this pick. Banchero is easily in that top tier of players along with Holmgren, Jabari Smith, and Jaden Ivey. The Rockets get potentially the best player in the draft here at #3 and don’t have to make the difficult decision of picking one of them. Ivey is bound to go behind the three forwards. Banchero will bring a lot to this Rockets team, between his strong post game and his good basketball IQ. The only struggle with his game is his 3-point shot. He is much better at the midrange. If he can improve the 3-ball, then everything else will work itself out.
4. Sacramento Kings: Jaden Ivey, 6’4″, 200 lbs, PG, Purdue
This is a very simple pick. Ivey is clearly the best prospect left on the board. The Kings create a speedy, high-flying backcourt with De’Aaron Fox and Jaden Ivey. Ivey is considered to be a point guard by many teams, but he played shooting guard at Purdue, so there shouldn’t be a problem keeping him there in Sacramento. He will instantly become an impact-player for a struggling Kings team that wants to contend with their relatively recent addition of Domantas Sabonis. Ivey will have to learn quickly the ins-and-outs of the NBA game for them to accomplish this.
5. Detroit Pistons: Shaedon Sharpe, 6’6″, 200 lbs, SG, Kentucky
There are three options here: Sharpe, Keegan Murray, and A.J. Griffin. I think Sharpe takes this spot. He has the youth the Pistons are desperately trying to acquire, and he can be the scoring threat on a team with a great facilitator in Cade Cunningham. We don’t know a lot about Shaedon Sharpe. However, we do know that he has great size at the shooting guard and a great wingspan. He can shoot with relative ease and does very well when slashing to the rim. On defense, not as much is known. The Pistons buy in on the upside.
6. Indiana Pacers: Keegan Murray, 6’8″, 225 lbs, PF, Iowa
Indiana is in a weird sort of rebuild. They still have very good players, notably Malcolm Brogdon, Buddy Hield, and Myles Turner. They also have very young players (Tyrese Haliburton and Chris Duarte). I think they pick the older, but more proven Keegan Murray. A.J. Griffin also receives some credit in this decision, but not enough to pass on Murray. The Pacers get a long, skilled scorer in Murray, who put up almost 24 points per game this season at Iowa.
7. Portland Trail Blazers: A.J. Griffin, 6’6″, 222 lbs, SF, Duke
A.J. Griffin falls no further. The Trail Blazers would be happy to scoop him up at 7. Griffin is a high risk, high reward wing who had some inconsistencies at Duke. His upside is what is so appealing. His shooting improved over the course of the season and he seemed to focus more on making catch-and-shoot jumpers than attacking the rim. If he can become a consistent threat from there, the sky’s the limit.
8. New Orleans Pelicans: Ochai Agbaji, 6’6″, 215 lbs, SF, Kansas
This is one of the more surprising picks of the entire draft. However, Agbaji may be worth it. The Pelicans are looking to contend sooner rather than later, so picking a national champion and a senior in college seems like the best move. Agbaji’s notable addition to this team may be his defense. The backcourt in New Orleans features CJ McCollum, who is not a plus-defender. Agbaji can make up for that. If he focuses on defense alone, he and Herbert Jones can help make the Pelicans a powerhouse in perimeter D.
9. San Antonio Spurs: Bennedict Mathurin, 6’6″, 210 lbs, SF, Arizona
Mathurin is a Spurs player. He is one of the best perimeter defenders in college basketball and is no pushover on offense either. Bringing the Arizona Wildcat to San Antonio seems like the perfect match. He fits right into the system with his defensive-minded game. This is undoubtedly a player that can get minutes right away.
10. Washington Wizards: Jalen Duren, 6’10”, 250 lbs, C, Memphis
This was no easy pick. Duren was often ridiculed at Memphis for his lack of basketball IQ. While he has the size to make an impact, he often got lost in transition or missed an easy block attempt. His upside is too much to pass on, however. Washington gets a project to work on for the next few years with this pick.
11. New York Knicks: Dyson Daniels, 6’6″, 185 lbs, PG, G League Ignite
Some may consider Dyson Daniels going to the Knicks as a fall. It’s really not. While Daniels is a good shooter from distance, he is not a positive in too many other areas. As a point guard, his playmaking would lack sometimes as he often looked to score. This obviously did not work with the ball-dominant Jaden Hardy as his backcourt-mate. Nonetheless, this is a 6’6″ sweet-shooting guard, which is something that every team wants. The Knicks may have gotten a steal.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Ousmane Dieng, 6’10”, 205 lbs, SF, NZ Breakers
No one seems to know a lot about Ousmane Dieng. The 6’10” forward played for the New Zealand Breakers this past season and only posted 8.9 points a game. Nevertheless, his size and speed at the position will guarantee him a look in the lottery. This is just the type of player the Thunder are looking for.
13. Charlotte Hornets: Mark Williams, 6’10”, 242 lbs, C, Duke
Mark Williams made quite the jump to lottery-projection towards the end of the NCAA tournament. Here, he lands in Charlotte on a team that could play him early in the season. Williams possesses a nice blend of size and strength with speed that will make him very intriguing in this draft.
14. Cleveland Cavaliers: Malaki Branham, 6’5″, 180 lbs, SG, Ohio State
This just seems right. Branham went to the same high school as LeBron James (St. Vincent-St. Mary High School) and went to Ohio State, where James may have gone, if he had gone to college. The Cavaliers have reason to like the freshman; he has the scoring mentality that the Cavs need and seems to have a very high basketball IQ for a player of his age. I like this pick for Cleveland.