I know, I know. NBA Drafts are impossible to predict, especially before the lottery. That doesn’t make mock drafts any less fun. I won’t go into depth about how a player affects the team they get drafted by or why I certain team should draft a player based on fit, since the order of the draft isn’t determined until after the lottery.
Each player will have a tier ranking listed next to them. The higher the tier the better the ranking. Tier 1, for example, consistents of players likely to be the best or second best player on a team. Tier 3 would be starter caliber player, but most likely not a star.
Without any further ado, here’s Mock Draft #1:
1) New York Knicks: Karl-Anthony Towns (C/PF) - Tier 1
Before the NCAA Tournament many experts believed Towns was the second best big man in the draft. Not anymore. Towns shined during the most important games, especially against Notre Dame and Wisconsin. Defensively he's already more than decent and his offense improves with each game. His stats may not excite you, but it's what you would expect for any player playing for this year's Kentucky team. This guy is dripping with potential, and the Knicks can build around him.
2) Minnesota Timberwolves: Jahlil Okafor (C) - Tier 1
Jahlil has one of the best back to the basket games in all of basketball. Nope, not just in college. He's already shown exceptional footwork for a player at his age. The Wolves would likely prefer a big man, since they have a young core of Rubio, LaVine, and Wiggins. Payne could compliment Okafor well. If Okafor could hold his own on defense, he would probably be the first player off the board. He still could be, but it's not as likely anymore.
3) Philadelphia 76ers: Emmanuel Mudiay (PG) - Tier 1
This guy might have the highest ceiling in the draft. The 76ers traded Michael Carter-Williams probably because they didn't have faith in his jump shot and upside. Mudiay has the latter but no consistent jump shot as of yet. He can get to the basket when he chooses and has great size for a point guard. A Mudiay-Embiid tandem would be a good start for Sam Hinkie's insane plan.
4) Los Angeles Lakers: De'Angelo Russell (SG/PG) - Tier 1
Russell also has good size for a point guard, but experts are torn on whether he's a 1 or a 2. Most will agree that he is capable of playing both in spurts at least. A lot of what will decide what position he plays will be on what team he gets drafted to. If he gets drafted by the Lakers he might play point until Kobe retires. Unlike Mudiay, he has a consistent jumper. Russell doesn't have the same first step and explosiveness as him though. Hence, he probably has less upside than Mudiay, alhtough he's a safer pick than him.
5) Orlando Magic: Justise Winslow (SG/SF) - Tier 2
Even though Winslow was the best or second best player in the tournament, he struggled in the championship game. Nevertheless, he has separated himself from the other wings in this draft after his tourney success. He can drive to the basket and is built like a freakin' tank. He also has that nice euro-step, but he's not as quick with it as Harden and Ginobili are. His jump shot improved as the season progressed. Orlando might prefer more shooting, so they could go Mario here too.
6) Sacramento Kings: Kristaps Porzingis (PF) - Tier 3
The two weakest positions for the Kings (for centuries) has been PG and PF. Collison has exceeded expectations, this is not a great draft for point guards after Mudiay and Russell. This means the Kings will either go best player available (BPA) or draft a PF. Porzingis has decent upside. He would fit next to Cousins, since he can hit open shots and block from the weak side. He's young and needs to get stronger, but he's also not just a project. He could make an impact right away if given minutes.
7) Denver Nuggets: Mario Hezonja (SG/SF) - Tier 2
Really I am not sure the Nuggets would go for a scoring wing player now that Gallinari is regaining his past form. If they go BPA, then Mario might be their guy. Dude has swagger. He can shoot, has athleticism, and can play defense when he’s motivated. He’s good, and he’s well aware that he’s good. Someone told me he reminded them of Vince Carter. I would say he’s the Carter of Phoenix or Orlando, though still not as good a dunker.
8) Detroit Pistons: Trey Lyles (PF) - Tier 3
Stan Van Gundy loves shooters to surround his big men. Trey Lyles would be a nice fit next to Drummond. Also, Monroe may leave if he doesn’t get enough money from SVG. A lot of scouts believe that Lyles would have had great stats if he was on another team and not Kentucky. Lyles plays hard and has a consistent jumper. He’s also pretty athletic and a decent rebounder. His range is limited, however. He struggled from the college 3, shooting only 14%.
9) Charlotte Hornets: Stanley Johnson (SF) - Tier 3
The players left with the most potential would be Stanley Johnson and Kelly Oubre. Johnson is probably the safer pick, though Oubre has more potential. Johnson was one of the best defenders in college basketball. That aspect of his game is already NBA ready. Offensively, he’s still a work in progress, but his shooting improved from high school to college. Arizona didn’t post him up much, but he does have a good post up game. He has trouble creating offensive from nothing.
10) Miami Heat: Kelly Oubre (SF) - Tier 3
A player with a lot of potential, but will likely be a role player is how I see Oubre in the pros. I like the kid. I really do, but like Stanley Johnson, he can’t create much offense on his own. He did start to shine near the end of the college season. He’s a better shooter than Johnson and more athletic. Defensively, he’s going to make an impact immediately. On offense, he might be a spot up shooter and transitional scorer, at least early on. Sometimes he will make you forget that he was on the court and becomes too passive.
11) Atlanta Hawks: Willie Cauley-Stein (C) - Tier 3
Brook Lopez is a free agent after this year, so it’s no guarantee that they remain on the team beyond this season. Cauley-Stein can take his spot and will be able make his presence felt on defense. He was arguably the best defender in college basketball this year. His main issue - he can’t really score unless he’s getting dunks. That means he will be able to best score on the break and in the pick and roll. He reminds me a lot of Tyson Chandler. One day maybe WCS can win Defensive Player of the Year.
12) Utah Jazz: Myles Turner (PF/C) - Tier 4
Turner had struggled against good teams in college, namely Kentucky. He has a nice wingspan of 7’4’’, according to DraftExpress.com. He’s a shot blocker and can hit the outside jumper. However, needs to be more aggressive on the boards. There are a lot of interesting big men in this draft, and Turner has more potential than most of them. That being said, I am not too sure he will reach his potential, because of how he fared against tough competition.
13) Phoenix Suns: Frank Kaminsky (PF) - Tier 4
Winner of the John R. Wooden award, Frank Kaminsky was a pleasure to watch these last two years at Wisconsin. He’s not athletic, but Frank is a smart, savvy player who has a high basketball IQ. He went up against some of the biggest and best college big men and still had his way with them. Nevertheless, he might not find the same success in the NBA. A lot of success will depend on which NBA team he gets drafted too and how often they give him the ball. At worst he’s a Kelly Olynyk-type player with a better jumper.
14) Oklahoma City Thunder: Devin Booker (SG) - Tier 4
This guy knows how to shoot the basketball. Like many Kentucky players mentioned before, he doesn’t have impressive college stats. That doesn’t mean he’s not NBA lottery material. Coach Calipari gets his player ready for the pros, and Booker will be no exception. He was the best shooter on Kentucky. He can’t do much else at this point, but shooting is a valuable asset in this league. Just ask the Hawks about Kyle Korver.
15) Indiana Pacers: Sam Dekker (SF) - Tier 4
No player helped his stock in the tournament as much as Dekker did. Like Winslow, he didn’t have the best championship game, but against Kentucky he showed what he could do when he’s at his best. Dekker is a streaky shooter, but his hustle makes him a productive player. He doesn’t have the same potential as the other wings in this draft, but he still could end up being better than some of them.
16) Boston Celtics: Jakob Poeltl (C) - Tier 4
Poeltl works his butt off. He doesn’t run up and down the court Mitch McGary style, but it’s pretty close and quite impressive for a guy with his size. The back to the basket game has died out a little bit, but thankfully Poeltl has that aspect to his game. He has skills and won’t be drafted just because he’s big.
17) Milwaukee Bucks: Bobby Portis (PF) - Tier 4
There are a quite a few big men who can shoot in this draft. Portis is one of them. Not only can he shoot, but he can rebound as well. He’s definitely a safe player, but he doesn’t have the same potential as some other guys, like Christain Wood and Jarell Martin. You won’t find a great back to the basket game here. I see a Patrick Patterson type player, who's a good rebounder.
18) Houston Rockets (Pelican’s Pick Traded to HOU): Tyrus Jones (PG) - Tier 4
Ask four different scouts on who should be the top point guard after Mudiay and Russell, and you may get four different answers. I personally don’t think Jones is third best point guard, but Houston would love him. No team in the league scored as many 3s as them. Jones as that shooting touch and toughness. He makes the smart, simple play. He’s okay on the defensive end and doesn’t attack the paint as much as he could, but still many teams would like Jones to play for them.
19) Washington Wizards: Kevon Looney (PF/SF) - Tier 4
A few month ago Looney was considered a lottery pick. He’s dropped off, but some scouts still compare him to Lamar Odom. I don’t really see it, since he’s not as great a passer or scorer. A creative player who will likely be best fit at the four, Looney seems like he scores in slow motion at times. He has nice length, which allows him to get steals and mess up passing lanes. Looney’s a decent shooter and would benefit from playing in the pick and roll.
20) Chicago Bulls: Jerian Grant (PG) - Tier 4
A shifty point guard who reminds me of a smarter Kemba Walker. He’s a senior and doesn’t have the upside a Kris Dunn may have, but he’s also a more polished player. Similar to Dunn, he has good size of a point guard. He can see over defenders for passes. He’s inconsistent as a shooter and defensively, but he does show flashes of what he could do.
21) Toronto Raptors: Kris Dunn (PG) - Tier 4
I admit it. I have a man crush on Kris Dunn. Standing at 6’4’’ with a 6’8’’ wingspan, Dunn also will be able to disrupt passing lanes and has a lot of potential on the defensive side of the floor. He can fall asleep on that end at times, but overall he has the potential to be the best defensive point guard in this draft. And he has plenty of offense too, although sometimes he can get out of control. Potential, potential, potential is what I think of when I hear "Kris Dunn."
22) Dallas Mavericks: Cameron Payne (PG) - Tier 4
Not many people know of Cameron, and his stock has improved drastically over the last month or two. Some scouts are in love with him and believe he should be the first point guard taken after Russell and Mudiay. I am a bit more skeptical. He has an iffy shot selection (granted the other point guards too), and he’s not physically built yet. He is also an above average defender, though his fundamentals on that end could improve.
23) Portland Trail Blazers: Montrezl Harrell (PF/C) - Tier 4
This guy is a pretty close replica to Kenneth Faried, except he has a larger wingspan and has somewhat of a jumper. Like Faried, he can get out of control at times. But he’s a very good rebounder, decent shot blocker, and will give 2000% effort when he’s on the floor. At his last year at Louisville, he was their best player and led the team to the Elite 8.
24) Cleveland Cavaliers: Christian Wood (PF) - Tier 5
Wood has shown that he can be productive in college being as skinny as he is. Will that production translate to the NBA? Maybe, but likely at the four. Wood has the size to play center, but not the strength. He has has a jump hook he uses slightly, but he is more of a shooter and face up player. Think project with nice upside.
25) Memphis Grizzlies: Caris LeVert (SG) - Tier 5
The Michigan Wolverine was earlier projected as a lottery pick, but due to his injury concerns, he has fallen. LeVert can shoot spotting up, but off the dribble he’s not just there yet. Defensively, he’s above average. He’s young for a junior, which is a good sign, but he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy.
26) Los Angeles Lakers (Rocket’s Pick Traded to LAL): Jarrell Martin (PF) - Tier 5
Another big man who can shoot the ball, Martin has fared well against top competition this year. There are times when he needs to show more effort grabbing rebounds. Overall, he’s more polished than Wood, but also has less upside. He’s 6’9’’ with a 6’9’’ wingspan. Solid role player potential here.
27) Boston Celtics (Clipper’s Pick Traded to BOS): Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (SF) - Tier 5
The best or second best defender in college basketball this year, Hollis-Jefferson has guarded everyone from point guard to power forward. You won’t find RHJ taking possessions off. MKG and RHJ share a lot of similarities. They both have this hard-nose football type player mentality, and they both have cool acronyms. Both also struggled with their jump shooting, though RHJ has more promise than MKG at this point.
28) San Antonio Spurs: R.J. Hunter (SG) - Tier 5
Not quite the 3 and D type player Danny Green is, but R.J. Hunter put Georgia State on the map after hitting that game-winning three in the first round of this year’s NCAA Tournament. He’s definitely in that sharp-shooter category with major RANGE, but can’t do much else thus far.
29) Brooklyn Nets (Hawks’ Pick Traded to BKN): Delon Wright (PG) - Tier 5
Just like Jarian Grant, Wright has good size and his a polished player after playing his senior year. Wright makes the safe play most of the time. He doesn’t turn the ball over much and always seems under control. George Hill and Wright play very similarly. Pretty good value this late in the first round.
30) Golden State Warriors: Justin Anderson (SF) - Tier 6
Like many players on this year’s Virginia’s team, Anderson is known mostly for his defensive efforts. Him and RHJ have some similarities. Both like to share the ball, and both are good on defensive. Justin can’t really handle the ball well, nor can he create off the dribble. He’s still can find a place in this league, but he may very well fall to the second round.