By: Justin Lynch
Note: This draft is who I believe each team should take with their pick.
1. Philadelphia 76ers (From Brooklyn via Boston) -- Markelle Fultz
The 76ers get the man they so highly covet after trading up with the Boston Celtics. Fultz is the consensus number one prospect, and though I am not as high on him as most, I too believe he has the potential to be a superstar in the NBA.
Though I may not be 100% sold on Fultz, his weaknesses scare me less than some of the other top prospects. A tough-shot maker who attacked the paint to the tune of 7.5 free throw attempts per 40 minutes, Fultz’s best attribute is his poise. He always seems under control and never lets the game’s speed affect him. He shot 41% from three, but didn’t show deep range or a smooth stroke from the charity stripe (65%). Still, he has a nice release and showed he could hit shots off the bounce or in catch-and-shoot situations. He needs to work on his left hand.
Defensively, Fultz will be a work in progress, but at 6’4” with a 6’10” wingspan, there is no reason he can’t be solid, and has the length to switch. In college, he played both man and zone, but was underwhelming. He lacks elite lateral quickness, something that hurts is ability to score in iso situations offensively, and it causes him some problems defensively as well. Still with better coaching and better surrounding talent, he has the potential to develop on that end of the floor.
For Philadelphia, Fultz could be the perfect fit. Not very often does a team that is rebuilding land the top pick in a year where the best prospect fills all of their most glaring needs, but that may be the situation we are in. Fultz can become to go-to scorer the 76ers so badly need, given their main piece right now, Ben Simmons, is not a primary scorer. Fultz also will space the floor around Ben Simmons, whose shooting deficiencies will be his biggest obstacle in the NBA. Easing these two issues the 76ers face make the rebuilding challenge a lot easier, and trotting out Simmons, Embiid, and Fultz may be the most deadly young lineup in the league.
Who they need to stay away from -- Everyone Else
Dream Scenario -- Markelle Fultz
2. Los Angeles Lakers -- Lonzo Ball
Josh Jackson and De’Aaron Fox are intriguing options here, but without their pick next year, the Lakers need to make sure this pick counts. Lonzo Ball is as sure of a thing as there is in this draft simply from a standpoint of making a team better. His excellent passing, deep shooting, analytic-friendly shot selection, and transition game would make any NBA team better the minute he steps into the gym. Despite only scoring 14 points per game, UCLA went from a sub-.500 team in 2015-16 to 30 wins this past season.
Lonzo may not have the highest upside, but he is still underrated as an athlete, and his size and length will allow him to guard wings, should the opposing team’s point guard be too much for Lonzo to handle.
With the D’Angelo Russell trade, Lonzo Ball will fit perfectly into that point guard role and be able to take command of the offense with more ball movement and spacing than previously. Lonzo also fits into the team’s long-term free agency plans. Grabbing Paul George and LeBron James in free agency would cause a crowded wing if Brandon Ingram isn’t traded. Lonzo is good enough to run an offense even with that kind of talent around him and won’t have his minutes stolen from potential incoming stars.
Beneath all the controversy, Lonzo is a solid prospect who should be a borderline all-star as a worst-case scenario, and his style of play fits any system.
Who they need to stay away from -- Jayson Tatum
With Brandon Ingram already here, Tatum makes the least sense of the top prospects. Josh Jackson and De’Aaron Fox both make significantly more sense that Tatum if the Lakers choose to pass on Ball.
Dream Scenario -- Markelle Fultz
3. Boston Celtics (from Sacramento via Philadelphia) -- Josh Jackson
Jackson’s ferocious intensity, immense toughness, and winning attitude will fit right into the culture the Celtics are nurturing. An uber-athletic, hard-nosed defender, Jackson will be able to guard four positions right away, and, if he bulks up, he could even play as the rim protector in 5-out lineups. He dabbled in rim protection at Kansas, and succeeded due to his quick leaping ability and good instincts, though he only played for short stretches.
Offensively, Jackson is a terrific passer and deadly in transition. He is a smart player who find openings in the defense for cuts to the basket or offensive rebounds. His biggest question mark is his jump shot. His inconsistent shooting form is a bit quirky, and sometimes takes him some time to load up. He is pretty solid shooting off the catch, and he drastically improved from three over the course of the season (45% from 3pt over the final two months), though he struggled free throw line (57%).
In Boston, Jackson will pair with Jaylen Brown to form an incredibly dynamic wing duo for the foreseeable future.
Who they need to stay away from -- Paul George/Jimmy Butler
The Celtics are far away, and even a trade for one of these two guys will not make them better than the Cavs. Rarely does a team get to have three top-3 picks in a row, but that is what the Celtics are looking at should Brooklyn struggle again next season. They have the potential to build through the draft, the proven best way to build a roster and gain a superstar, and their team will be coming into its own just as LeBron starts to see his powers fade. Plus, the history of top picks busting in the NBA is almost exclusively big men. Trading for one of George or Butler is just going to result in less cap room and a more respectable losses to LeBron. Be patient, and wait to dominate the next decade.
Dream Scenario -- Trade for Kristaps Porzingis
I know I just said don’t trade the pick, but Kristaps is young and already proven to be the perfect rim-protecting, floor spacing modern big man. There will be two bigs (DeAndre Ayton and Mo Bamba) in next years draft, but it is no certainty either will be as good as Kristaps. Plus, the Celtics could dump Isaiah or any combination of their many assets (not including Brooklyn’s 2018 pick) to move into the top 10 and get one of the other point guards in this draft. Jackson may be end up a superstar, but Kristaps has a better chance of getting there, and he is still just 21 years old. It may be a tough decision, but getting Kristaps would be the right one, should the Knicks have a major freakout.
4. Phoenix Suns -- De’Aaron Fox
With Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and Tyler Ulis (Leandro Barbosa’s contract is only partially guaranteed), the Suns are overloaded at the point. But Fox is too talented and has too much upside to pass up. His hypersonic speed and acceleration makes staying in front a gargantuan task, but his control is what separates him from just another speedy player. He has the ability to avoid defenders and finish off-balance, through contact, and with power.
He also fits perfect next to Devin Booker. Just like Malik Monk, Booker will take on a more pronounced scoring burden and attract the defense’s attention regardless of whether or not he has the ball. This will open up space for Fox’s sudden drives past helpless defenders. Defensively, Fox, who has the potential to be the best defender in the draft, will be able to check the opponent’s lead guard and allow Booker to hang out on lesser threats.
Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, though both showed very little in their rookie seasons, should be competent enough to draw attention on the outside, further opening the middle up even more for Fox, at least until he figures out his jump shot.
His infamous jumper, the biggest minus and only thing holding him back from number one pick consideration, improved dramatically over the last month of the season, where he shot 44% on 16 attempts. His release is not perfect, but it is compact and he should be able to develop into a solid shooter from behind the arc. How quickly that happens, however, will determine much of his success. His midrange game is already solid.
Fox is the best player available at this point, with considerable upside in a point guard-driven league.
Who they need to stay away from -- Malik Monk
Monk’s lack of length, and both Monk and Booker’s deficiencies defensively would stop this duo from being the Junior Splash Brothers. Neither Monk nor Booker are lead guards offensively, nor are they good enough to guard the gauntlet of Western Conference point guards. Monk would be redundant, where this team needs to gain talent in new places.
Dream Scenario -- Josh Jackson
The crowded point guard spot does worry me some, and Jackson could also take the pressure off Booker defensively. An NBA-ready wing his valuable and hard to find. The Suns would be lucky if Jackson fell one more spot.
5. Sacramento Kings (from Philadelphia) -- Jayson Tatum
Jonathan Isaac and Frank Ntilikina are both options here, and though I believe Tatum will wind up playing as the second big on the court, he should have the offensive talent to mix with the Kings decent core.
Tatum brings the scoring that Hield, Skal, and Cauley-Stein don’t offer. Though neither him nor Hield are perfect defensively, Tatum has some defensive upside that could make him into a solid two-way player. I worry about Tatum’s three point shooting and quickness to get to the rim, but he has an advanced post-up game that could help him feast on weaker defenders.
Tatum has the polish to help right away, as well as the upside to make it worth it for the Kings down the line. Though they would love if one of the top four picks slid into this spot, Tatum is a worthy consolation prize.
Who they need to stay away from -- Lauri Markkanen
With Cauley-Stein and Skal needing minutes, Markkanen would only complicate the issue. Also, Markkanen’s lack of high upside as an all-around player makes him less attractive than other options here. Jayson Tatum or Malik Monk could become top scorers, while Markkanen seems to be another Ryan Anderson-type of player. Though certainly valuable and likely to help any team he plays on, Lauri is not worth it this early and not for this team.
Dream Scenario -- De’Aaron Fox
Grabbing Fox would end the Kings continuous search for a permanent answer at point guard. Fox would even out Buddy Hield’s weaknesses defensively, while Hield would open up the offense for him. With Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein down low, the paint may be a bit cramped for Fox drives, but both have shown the ability to hit mid range shots, and playing with non-shooters Bam Adebayo and Wenyen Gabriel (though Gabriel spent time outside) at Kentucky did not seem to hurt Fox too much. Fox would bring a winning attitude, a defensive mindset, and superstar potential to a team with a bunch of nice pieces, but no future superstars.
6. Orlando Magic -- Jonathan Isaac
Isaac will come into Orlando and get minutes right away. The Magic are overloaded with smaller wings (Fournier, Ross, Hezonja) and bigs (Vucevic, Gordon, Biyombo). Isaac can fit right in between these two groups and contribute out of the gate. However, he likely will not be very good for a year or two. He is still learning to harness his athleticism and needs to bulk up, something easier said than done. Still, Isaac’s upside is too much to pass up.
Isaac is 6’11” with a 7’1” wingspan who shot 35% from three this year. He can handle the ball, but will certainly need to improve to become a threat off the bounce in the NBA. But what is most impressive about Isaac is on the other end of the floor. Isaac averaged 12 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, and 1.8 steals per 40 minutes, and was a strong rim protector at Florida State. He works hard defensively and can play on the perimeter with most guys he matches up with or gets switched on to. The potential for Isaac to be a rim protecting, perimeter-guarding menace defensively, combined with flashes of a more polished offensive game, make him too intriguing to pass up.
The Magic are nowhere near competing. They have not drafted well, but new GM John Hammond did a tremendous job rebuilding the Bucks with length and athleticism. Isaac and Gordon could form a duo that could start to change the tide in Orlando. But since they are so far away, and have very little in terms of assets, the Magic can afford to throw Isaac to the fire and let him develop.
Who they need to stay away from -- Malik Monk
Monk would crowd an already cramped position on the Magic while not being able to fill their biggest need at point guard.
Dream Scenario -- Jayson Tatum
Tatum brings the offense that this team needs and he does it without many of the question marks Isaac brings. Tatum is NBA-ready and can score in a multitude of ways. Isaac is much more of a questions mark, where the Magic need something they can be sure won’t bust like many of their previous picks.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves -- Malik Monk
With Shabazz Muhammad likely gone and Zach LaVine injured, Malik Monk will have an opportunity to come in and contribute right away. Monk may be a rich man’s LaVine, but that may be underselling Monk. Malik is a better shooter, attacker, and overall scorer than LaVine, and his 42” vertical leap means the Twin Cities will still have someone to wow them above the rim.
Monk would space the floor better around Towns and Wiggins than LaVine, and take some of the scoring burden off of them, rather than simply eat the scraps, which LaVine has done. Also, with LaVine in the last year of his deal coming off a torn ACL, if Monk is good enough, he could save the team over $15 million per year over the next three years, opening up room for free agents along with extensions for Towns and Wiggins.
Monk is a bit undersized and is not locked in defensively, but will have the coaching and defense around him to succeed. Plus, when Lavine comes back from injury, the Wolves could try Dunn-Monk-LaVine-Wiggins-Towns small ball lineups. Monk would help the team’s lineup versatility, improve their subpar offense, and increase their financial flexibility.
Who they need to stay away from -- Derrick Rose
Rubio trade rumors are constantly swirling, and if they do deal the passing-maestro, they should hand the offense to second-year player Kris Dunn. Derrick Rose is not a fit on this team, and would only bring unwanted attention without the on-court benefits.
Dream Scenario -- Jonathan Isaac
Isaac’s length and athleticism would fit perfectly between Towns and Wiggins in the frontcourt, and though his rawness may be a challenge at first, working as an overqualified secondary rim protector and floor spacer without the offensive burden he may encounter somewhere else would be a best-case scenario for his talents. The Wolves want to take that next step, and though they may have to wait for Isaac until they can become true contenders, he should be worth it.
8. New York Knicks -- Frank Ntilikina
The Knicks are not close to competing, but need to start building with young talent around Porzingis. Ntilikina will provide the Knicks with a big, defensive-stopper of a point guard, who’s a willing passer and solid spot-up shooter.
Ntilikina won’t dominate the ball, allowing Kristaps to continue growing offensively, and would be a great complement defensively to Kristaps’ elite rim protection. Ntilikina is not a pure scorer, and is not someone to put into isolation situations. But he fits alongside Kristaps and will be another young piece until the Knicks find their evasive go-to scorer.
Who they need to stay away from -- Lauri Markkanen
It may be tempting to place the 7-foot sharpshooter next to Porzingis, but this early in the team’s rebuild they need to go for high upside guys. Markkanen doesn’t fit the bill and would provide defensive issues from the start.
Dream Scenario -- Frank Ntilikina
9. Dallas Mavericks -- Dennis Smith Jr.
Smith fits into their expedited rebuild starring Nerlens Noel and Harrison Barnes. With those two as your future frontcourt and Seth Curry showing signs on the wing, the Mavericks need someone to run the show. Smith is an uber-athletic scoring machine from the point guard spot. His North Carolina State Wolfpack may have disappointed, like Fultz’s Huskies, but Smith’s ability was on full display, as was his seemingly full recovery from a torn ACL in high school.
Smith is not particularly long, and he is not always locked in on defense. But his stocky figure allows his to play physical with opposing guards when he’s raring to go defensively. It also allows him to finish through contact on offense. Smith averaged 21/7/5/2 on 46% FG and 36% 3pt in the toughest conference in college basketball as the only playmaker on his team.
On the Mavs, his subpar defense will be lessened by Seth Curry on the perimeter and Noel in the middle. Also, having Barnes as an offensive threat will lessen his load, and allow him to attack in different, more efficient ways. Smith may be the fifth point guard off the board to this point, but he is ultra-talented, and can certainly help the Mavs right away.
Who they need to stay away from -- Anyone else
This is a 9-player draft (10 depending on how you feel about Lauri Markkanen) and after Smith there is a considerable drop off. The Mavs should select whoever falls to this spot out of the top nine prospects, regardless of position.
Dream Scenario -- Frank Ntilikina
10. Sacramento Kings (From New Orleans) -- OG Anunoby
Reminder: I had the Kings select Jayson Tatum at number 5.
Anunoby showed flashes of greatness at Indiana before injuries derailed his season. Anunoby is 6’8” with a 7’2” wingspan and has a defensive intensity to match his extreme length. Anunoby will be able to guard almost anyone you throw at him right away, assuming he is healthy, and could even play center in short spurts down the line.
Anunoby may be a streaky shooter, but with less of an offensive burden, his outside shot should look much more like it did his freshman year, when he netted 45% of his looks from deep (he only hit 31% this season).
Anunoby’s defensive mindset, length and athleticism, positional versatility, and shooting ability (hopefully), make him the highest upside prospect outside of the top ranks, and a perfect risk for the Kings to take.
The Kings would go into next season with Skal, Cauley-Stein, Tatum, Anunoby, Hield, and Richardson as a young core with one year to tank before losing their pick to Philadelphia in 2019. As bad as things have been for Sacramento, they have the picks and the future assets to start to climb back up to relevance.
Who they need to stay away from -- Zach Collins
Collins is rising due to his inspiring late-season performances, but the Kings logjam in the frontcourt does not need another big. Collins is talented, but lacks the athleticism to be a star. The Kings should aim for more upside here, and go forward with Skal and Cauley-Stein.
Dream Scenario -- Dennis Smith/Frank Ntilikina
These two point guards would provide the Kings with the point guard of the future and round out a young starting five that would be surprisingly hopeful (Smith or Ntilikina-Hield-Tatum-Skal-WCS). Also, these prospects have significantly higher upside on the surface than anyone below them in the draft.
11. Charlotte Hornets -- Lauri Markkanen
The Hornets are in a real tough spot. They are currently locked into at least two more years at pretty big money for their entire core. Kemba, Marvin Williams, Miles Plumlee, Batum, Cody Zeller, and Kidd-Gilchrist all have multiple years left on their deals. This is a team that will toil in the 35-45 win range barring any major changes, that seem unlikely given their cap situation.
Markkanen is a sharp-shooting 7-footer who can provide some spacing for Kemba and help ease a declining Marvin Williams. Also, he is a coveted prospect by many teams, and may be able to earn them something in a trade down the line.
Zach Collins is another option here, but Markkanen is the more highly valued prospect, and has a high floor, as 7-footers who can shoot tend to stick. The Hornets may just need to wait two years, bottom out, and try to build it back up. If that is their plan, Markkanen would be the best to ensure they get some value out of this pick, either keeping him long term or trading him for rebuilding assets down the road.
Dream Scenario -- Malik Monk
Not gonna happen.
12. Detroit Pistons -- Donovan Mitchell
The Pistons have talent across the board, but their biggest weakness is at point guard. Mitchell isn’t a true point but could play there for stretches. At 6’3” with a 6’10” wingspan, the athletic Mitchell will be able to guard in the league, and switch onto bigger opponents.
But what may be most intriguing about Mitchell is his offense. Mitchell scores in bunches, is a tough-shot maker, and has deep range, though not the most consistent shot. He is athletic enough to get into the lane, and is simply a playmaker.
Mitchell does not have sky-high upside, but should be a solid NBA player, who could really thrive in the right circumstances. The Pistons should draft someone here that they won’t be sending to the G-League, and Mitchell helps them where they need it most.
Dream Scenario -- Frank Ntilikina/Dennis Smith Jr.
13. Denver Nuggets -- Terrance Ferguson
Ferguson bailed on a year in college in favor of playing professionally in Australia. He’s super athletic, and a deadly shooter when he’s hot. But he’s a streaky shooter with a bit of a weird release. He should be fine shooting in the NBA after a few years.
On the defensive end, his extreme athleticism allows him to slide with defenders smaller than him, and if he bulks up he is big enough to guard tall wings as well.
Ferguson will have to move up a position or two to fit with the Nuggets, who already have Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Malik Beasley as smaller wing players. Ferguson will fit in fine is he can guard the bigger opponents, as he will have no trouble switching onto smaller ones should the Nuggets attempt that strategy.
Overall, this is a bit of a risky pick, Ferguson did not have a tremendous season in Australia, but it is an upside pick, and if they can find him playing time, it will be worth it.
Dream Scenario -- OG Anunoby
The Nuggets need a bigger wing player to fill the void Gallinari is likely to leave, or at least to back up Gallinari, who has a shaky injury history. Anunoby is big and strong, and would be more comfortable than Ferguson playing in the Gallinari role.
14. Miami Heat -- Luke Kennard
Kennard is the best shooter in this draft, but is also a pure scorer who was clearly the primary option on a Duke team that featured a potential top-5 pick (Jayson Tatum) and the preseason National Player of the Year (Grayson Allen). He has incredible touch on floaters around the lane, and can shoot from anywhere on the floor.
Defensively, Kennard works hard but is not long or quick laterally. He will not be able to stay with strong offensive players, but can hide on weaker defenders and bring enough effort to at least slow some guys down.
For Miami, Kennard may be the answer as shooting guard as Josh Richardson declined last season and is now on an expiring contract. If Richardson proves to pricey to bring back, Kennard will see his role increased. With Waiters a free agent this year, the Heat may need help in the backcourt right away. Kennard is good enough right now to contribute on a team trying to make the playoffs, but is young enough to survive a rebuild. At this point in the draft, he may not have the most upside, but he may be a steal nonetheless.
Dream Scenario -- Terrance Ferguson
Though Ferguson would be more of a risk, he may be worth it down the road due to his ability to play both ways.
15. Portland Trail Blazers -- Zach Collins
The Trail Blazers would be lucky to see Collins here at 15, and even though they don’t have much room for him, he is the pick. Collins averaged 23 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks per 40 minutes in his only season at Gonzaga. He also shot 65% from the field and 48% from deep. He is 7’0” with a 7’1” wingspan who has good feel and moves on the post, great timing defensively, and enough quickness to contain smaller guys on the perimeter.
Collins’ weaknesses are in his athleticism. He may not have the length to block shots like he did in college, and his average leaping ability may make it harder to score down low. He contained guards on switches in college, but the competition in the West Coast Conference is nothing like the NBA.
For the Blazers, Collins could give them solid minutes off the bench. Noah Vonleh is still improving and Meyers Leonard is good enough, but maybe Collins can carve out some minutes in relief of Nurkic and keep the other two bigs at the four. Or maybe Collins proves better than those two and immediately becomes a stretch four.
It is certainly a weird fit, but Collins is too talented to let slip any further. Though he may not end up playing much this season, he could save the team big money as his presence could allow them to let Vonleh walk at the end of this season, or it would let the Blazers trade Leonard without losing lineup flexibility, as Collins can fill his shooting role. Also, he could be an asset in trades, as many have him a top-10 talent on their big boards.
16. Chicago Bulls -- Harry Giles
I would be fine with Giles going as high as 10 to Sacramento, despite the number of big men they already have, but due to positional need and certain team’s current circumstances, Giles falls to 16. The former number one prospect in the country, Giles has had his athleticism sapped by injuries, and does not boast a well-polished game.
But a player that was once that good should be able to regain some of what made him so special, and playing in Coach K’s system did not help him grow. He was buried on the bench for a freight train of a team that did not have time to help him get his feet under him. The Bulls have such time, and with Mirotic a free agent, could have the minutes right away as well. Bobby Portis and Felicio are solid players, but neither have the upside Giles once had.
For a team always hovering over the reset button, Giles is a perfect risk to take, and they are lucky he lasted this long.
17. Milwaukee Bucks -- Jordan Bell
The Bucks continue their stockpile of length and versatility with this selection. Bell is a bit undersized at 6’9”, but he has a 7’0” wingspan and a 38” max vert. Bell is super quick off his feet and blocks a lot of shots, but his versatility is what makes him so intriguing.
His dynamic athleticism and quick lateral movement make him a natural guarding on the perimeter. He should be able to guard four or maybe even all five positions, allowing him to fit in to how the Bucks play.
Bell’s shot is coming along, and he even tried to hoist up some threes this past season at Oregon. He won’t make many early in his career, but he has good enough mechanics to have hope that he could develop a shot down the road.
Bell will be nearly 23 by the start of the season, but no matter, as the Bucks are mostly on that timeline and are ready to take that next step. Bell will be an energy big off the bench who reminds me of Tristan Thompson. He should be able to play big minutes or, with his incredible motor, make huge impacts for short periods of time. Thon Maker’s shooting means the Bucks can play both him and Bell together, or Bell could give Maker much needed rest without compromising on defense or the boards.
This may be a bit of a reach, but Bell is too athletic and too good of a fit to pass up on.
18. Indiana Pacers -- Frank Jackson
Jackson had a rough start to the year at Duke, but by tourney time he had shed his freshman struggles and became a necessary player for their success. Jackson is a 6’4” lead guard with a 6’7” wingspan. He is athletic and a solid defender, and has a solid stroke from outside, shooting 43% from deep over the final two months.
Jackson does not have a ton of upside, but he is a smart player with good instincts. He can switch on defense, though he will need to add strength, and can knock down corner threes. He may not be able to run an offense, and his passing numbers were low (2.7 assists per 40), but that may be a result of playing in such an iso heavy offense with three iso scorers as the primary ball handlers.
But maybe that is Jackson’s destiny. A Pat Beverly-like player who hits open threes and plays tough defense, while he defers to a more offensively-gifted guard to run the show.
This is high for Jackson, but the Pacers have Myles Turner, and fitting Turner next to many of the players projected in this range may be tough. Jackson has the youth to sustain through the Pacers rebuild, and he will be able to play right away as the backup point guard, should Teague resign. Jackson may even be the starter if Teague bolts this July. This isn’t the flashiest pick, but Jackson should be a decent NBA player who can fit anywhere, and the Pacers need to get some value out of this pick.
19. Atlanta Hawks -- Bam Adebayo
The Hawks could opt for more upside here, or even try to get a big that can shoot from the outside more, like Ike Anigbogu (upside) or Thomas Bryant (shooting), but I have them landing on Adebayo. Adebayo is built like their much-maligned current center Dwight Howard, though many compare Adebayo’s game to Bismack Biyombo. This comparison is a good one, though Biyombo has been among the top rebounders by rebounding rate, where Adebayo has strides to go grabbing defensive boards.
Despite this, Adebayo’s biggest strength may be his knack for grabbing offensive rebounds. He also posted terrific numbers at the combine. He measured at just 6’10”, but a 7’3” wingspan and a 38” max vert more than make up for it, as you don’t block shots with your head. He has to improve as a rim protector, but was still solid in college, though just two blocks per 40 minutes is less than stellar.
The Hawks are in a tough place. Locked into long-term deals with Schroder and Bazemore, the Hawks are hoping DeAndre Bembry and Taurean Prince can fill out their perimeter. In the middle, they still have Dwight Howard, and, of course, Paul Millsap barring his departure in free agency.
Adebayo can learn from Howard, and even play significant minutes should they dump Howard in a trade. They may be better going after more upside/shooting here, but Adebayo is good enough on the perimeter to not be a complete liability against small ball lineups.
20. Portland Trail Blazers (From Memphis via Denver and Cleveland) -- Ike Anigbogu
Reminder: I had Portland take Zach Collins at 15.
The Trail Blazers might as well go for upside here, as they have little minutes to spare. Their options here would be either a backup center or a backup point guard, and with the lack of guards at this point in the draft, going big is the move.
Anigbogu is just 18 years old, 6’10” with a 7’6” wingspan and one of the best shot blockers in the draft. He averaged nearly four blocks per 40 minutes to go along with over 12 rebounds per 40. He is not very skilled offensively, but is good enough diving in the PNR.
Nurkic was a revelation for the Trail Blazers this season, but still posted weak rim protection numbers. Anigbogu may be able to provide more defense off the bench, and may be a better option when Nurkic rests than Meyers Leonard or Noah Vonleh for the same reason. He needs to get better defending on the perimeter, but is not bad right now.
At the very worst, Portland could stick him in the G-League and watch him grow as they figure out what to do with their myriad of average players and two superstars who don’t really fit together if they want to truly compete.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder -- Justin Jackson
Andre Roberson is a free agent, and Jerami Grant and Doug McDermott are on expiring deals. Jackson, who finally turned himself into the player that many believed he would be, after being a top 10 recruit of of high school, can help alleviate some of that uncertainty.
Jackson has become a much better shooter, and even has nice touch around the lane. He isn’t the greatest defender, but is average when locked in. Jackson will be able to play multiple positions for the Thunder, and his shooting, should it keep improving, will be the best thing about his game. I don’t believe he has the upside to be a 3rd option as a scorer in the NBA, but he helps on the wing, which is where the Thunder need it most, and he can play right away.
He needs to get stronger and even better shooting from deep, but he is talented enough to take at this point in the draft.
22. Brooklyn Nets (From Washington) -- Jarrett Allen
The Nets should keep going for upside here. Allen not only has high upside, but also may be the best prospect on the board at this point. Allen is 6’11” with a 7’6” wingspan, and posted a 35.5” max vert at the combine. He averaged 17 and 11 per 40 minutes in his only year at Texas.
The Nets should try to get anything they can for Brook Lopez, now on an expiring contract, and let Allen play 30+ minutes per night this season. There is a lot Allen needs to work on, but the Nets have the time to let him develop.
23. Toronto Raptors (From LA Clippers via Milwaukee) -- TJ Leaf
The Raptors are staring at the free agency of PJ Tucker, Serge Ibaka, Patrick Patterson, and Kyle Lowry. The first three all log minutes at the four, and drafting Leaf with alleviate some of the pain associated with choosing who to keep this July.
Leaf is a skilled big who, though underrated as an athlete, will be a liability defensively due to poor lateral movement. Yet, if he can keep knocking down threes like he did towards the end of his lone season at UCLA, he will find a spot for himself as a big off the bench. The Raptors will get someone who should be good enough to play right away, as he is also a threat on the boards, and will have a safe prospect who would be an asset should the Raptors blow it up in a year or two.
24. Utah Jazz -- Semi Ojeleye
Ojeleye is a 6’7” forward who burst onto the scene this season for SMU. A Duke transfer, Ojeleye has an NBA-ready body and plays with a ton of energy. He averaged 22 and eight boards per 40 and shot 49% from the field (42% from deep).
For the Jazz, Ojeleye will provide energy, floor spacing, and rebounding. He is a bit on the older side, but the Jazz are ready to start competing. With Hayward, Hill, Mack, Ingles all free agents and Favors, Hood, and Exum on expirings, the Jazz will have a lot of decisions to make.
Ojeleye’s versatility and perimeter defending are still to be seen, but he should be okay in both of those areas and allow the Jazz’s tough decisions to become a little easier.
25. Orlando Magic (From Toronto) -- Jawun Evans
Reminder: I had the Magic take Jonathan Isaac at number 6.
Evans averaged 26 points and nine assists on 38% from deep per 40 minutes in his second year at Oklahoma State. The scoring guard is a bit undersized at 6’1”, but has a 6’5” wingspan to help make up for it. He is a tough defender and works hard, though not the quickest player on that end.
The Magic need more playmaking from their guard positions and Evans can help. Evans can be a scoring guard off the bench, and play extended minutes if he proves adequate defensively. Elfrid Payton, though a decent player, is not a starter, and if these two can share the minutes, they will both be more efficient.
26. Portland Trail Blazers (From Cleveland) -- Devin Robinson
Reminder: I had the Trail Blazers take Zach Collins at 15 and Ike Anigbogu at 20.
Robinson has the potential to be a 3-and-D guy, though he has a ways to go shooting and with his defensive awareness. But he is 6’8” with a 7’0” wingspan and has NBA athleticism. Robinson will allow the Blazers to salary dump one of their expensive wings (Harkless, Aminu, Turner, Crabbe) and not worry about losing depth.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (From Boston via Brooklyn) -- Derrick White
Reminder: I had the Lakers pick Lonzo Ball at number 2.
White’s already 23, but at 6’5” with nearly a 6’8” wingspan and a 36” max vert, he is certainly worth the risk this late. White’s a solid scorer who shot 40% from deep at Colorado. He could fit next to Lonzo as a spot up shooter, though he will need to get used to playing off the ball, or could run the offense while Lonzo sits. The Lakers need a backup guard, especially if they dump Clarkson, and White could be that guy.
28. Los Angeles Lakers (From Houston) -- Anzejs Pasecniks
Reminder: I had the Lakers pick Lonzo Ball at number 2 and Derrick White at number 27
Pasecniks is a 7’2” center with a skilled offensive game. He is good diving in PNR actions and can hit the three. He is not super mobile, and won’t be able to switch on defense, but if he can put on some weight and play more physical, he could be a solid rim protector.
With this pick the Lakers core would be: Ball, Russell, Clarkson, Ingram, Randle, Nance, Zubac, Pasecniks. Though they need more help on the wing that at center, I’m not a huge fan of Rodions Kurucs, likely the best wing available at this point. Pasecniks would have to work to find minutes for himself, and he will be nearly 22 when the season begins, but he is too skilled to fall out of the first round, and the Lakers can take a chance on him.
29. San Antonio Spurs -- Jonah Bolden
The Spurs need a big with Dedmon a free agent and not much rim protection depth behind him. Bolden is tall and long, and getting a ton of buzz recently. I almost put him a little higher, but decided to hold off. At 6’10” with a 7’3” wingspan, Bolden averaged 19 and 11 overseas this past year. Even though he’s almost 22 and has a ways to go, the Spurs can get him there fast and will know how to use him right away.
30. Utah Jazz (From Golden State) -- Mathias Lessort
Reminder: I had the Jazz pick Semi Ojeleye at 24.
Lessort is not super skilled, but the 6’9” (7’1” wingspan) big is active and energetic. He averaged 18 and 13 per 40 minutes playing overseas for Nanterre. His fit on the Jazz is a little cloudy, but should they bail on Favors. The Jazz will have Gobert, Lyles and Lessort as true bigs, with Ojeleye as a potential energy big.
There isn’t much talent left outside of the center position at this point in the draft, so taking Lessort isn’t keeping them from taking a wing, though that is a bigger need. Lessort is a good offensive rebounder and has quick feet on the perimeter. In a draft with a bunch of raw big guys (Patton, Collins, Allen, Bradley, Anigbogu), Lessort may be considered a safe pick to at least be a solid bench guy. Though you could say this about pretty much everyone, if he learns to shoot, which seems unlikely, he could be the steal of the draft.
Second Round Picks to Watch