The NBA is about to go from 0 to 100 real quick. With the draft, free agency and trade window approaching, we’ve already seen Chris Paul, Jrue Holiday, Robert Covington, Dennis Schroder and Bogdan Bogdanovic traded.
As for Wednesday's draft, it’s unique in that no one really knows who will be picked first, mainly because there is no clear-cut top choice in this year's class. Before any more Woj Bombs are dropped on us, here's our latest lottery mock draft.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: LaMelo Ball
Can D’Angelo Russell ever escape the Ball brothers? Ball’s initial fit with the Wolves would be tricky at best and disastrous at worst. On the surface, Ball profiles as an inefficient guard who needs the ball in his hands and will struggle defensively. That characterization could also be used to describe Russell. And having two ball-dominant guards who aren’t good defenders is not the best way to build your team. The Blazers make it work with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but those guys are far better defenders than they are given credit for, and they complement each other on offense.
Ultimately, Ball’s generational vision and long-range shooting align with where the game is going, and the Wolves would be wise to select the player with the most value.
2. Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman
The Warriors are one of the most talented teams in the Western Conference, but they have a gaping hole in the middle of their defense. As a massive body who can defend the rim and rebound, Wiseman could be the rare plug-and-play big man for a playoff squad.
With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson commanding the offense, Wiseman would not be under as much pressure to carry the team but instead, be slowly integrated into the Dubs’ system.
In a call with reporters Monday, Wiseman revealed he has only worked out with the Warriors and Hornets, leaving questions over why the Wolves haven’t been able to see him.
3. Charlotte Hornets: Anthony Edwards
Edwards could easily become the best player in this class. He’s a big-bodied wing with the athleticism to attack the rim and pull up for tough contested jumpers. Questions surround his inconsistent defense, shaky playmaking and a tendency to settle for jumpers, but his talent is undeniable.
Charlotte could surround him with Devonte’ Graham, Miles Bridges and PJ Washington to start their rebuild with an exciting, athletic young core.
4. Chicago Bulls: Tyrese Haliburton
The Bulls have a plethora of young talent in Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Coby White and Otto Porter, but no one has stood out as a potential cornerstone, so there’s no need to be thinking fit at this stage. Haliburton has one of the cleanest jumpers in the draft, plus his defense is top-notch and he’s displayed better playmaking than most wings.
Haliburton might not be the best player in the draft, but he fits almost anywhere and has the skills needed to succeed in the league.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Deni Avdija
The Cavs are a disjointed team with two promising bucket-getters at guard in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton paired with two veteran big men in Kevin Love and Andre Drummond. There is no surefire star on the roster, and this team does not currently possess an identity. By drafting Avdija, an Israeli wing who does a little bit of everything, the Cavs start to form an equal opportunity identity.
At 6-foot-9, Avdija is a playmaker with a smooth shot. His quickness and defensive skills are unproven, but if he can dominate at his strengths, he could turn into a fine player.
6. Atlanta Hawks: Onyeka Okongwu
Yes, the Hawks already have Clint Capela, but he has a low ceiling as a rim protector and lob threat who can’t defend on the perimeter and refuses to shoot 3s. By taking a big man who looks like he could be the next Bam Adebayo, the Hawks could have the most exciting young team in the league. Hey, it’s not that crazy. Okongwu and Adebayo were both 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds with a 7-foot-2 wingspan come draft time. Okongwu’s ability to protect the rim and defend on the perimeter is like peanut butter and jelly: the perfect combo.
The Hawks can’t let a solid yet unspectacular center dictate whether or not they can select a difference-maker who happens to play the same position.
7. Detroit Pistons: Patrick Williams
Rumors are swirling that the Pistons have promised Williams that they'll select him at No. 7, and it makes sense considering their situation and Williams’ skillset. After years of overpaying middling veterans to try to claw their way into the playoffs, Detroit hired former Thunder assistant GM Troy Weaver to oversee a proper rebuild.
Williams is a physical force whose off-the-dribble game is a load to handle. He shot 32% from deep his freshman season, which is not great, but it’s a very solid baseline to build from. Williams' defense is also a strong selling point, and the Pistons lack someone to build around currently.
8. New York Knicks: Obi Toppin
The Knicks are, once again, awful and in need of talented young players. Toppin provides the best blend of immediate production thanks to his complete offensive package. He’s an explosive roller and rim-runner, as well as a polished jump shooter.
Toppin's passing instincts are also a nice touch if he gets trapped in the pick and roll and has to make quick reads. As complete as his offensive game is, he gives a lot up at the other end. But hey, that’s why having Mitchell Robinson helps.
9. Washington Wizards: Isaac Okoro
Everyone and their mother knows the Wizards are praying that Okongwu is still available because they crave a defensive-minded big like James Harden craves getting out of Houston. If they can’t have that, they may as well acquire a blue-chip wing defender with offensive potential.
Okoro’s style fits perfectly with the Wizards considering how useful his rugged physicality can be, and he can take his sweet time developing his offensive game since he won’t be seeing the ball much with John Wall, Bradley Beal and others running the offense. Okoro has also flashed a dash of playmaking skill, which is a great extra skill to differentiate himself from the other incomplete 3-and-D prospects in the draft.
10. Phoenix Suns: Killian Hayes
Sure, the Suns just made a splash trade for Chris Paul, but CP3 is closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and it’s always a wise move to be thinking two steps ahead. Hayes is a 19-year-old guard who possesses special playmaking vision and off-the-bounce scoring which are obviously very promising building blocks.
Hayes is still a very raw prospect, but working behind Paul would be the best possible start to his career if he’s going to eventually be a lead guard. The Suns are in win-now mode and may look for a player who can help now, but it would be smart to invest in a special talent such as Hayes, who some evaluators believe could be the best player in the draft when it’s all said and done.
11. San Antonio Spurs: Devin Vassell
The Spurs are ripe for a youth movement, even though they still employ DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills, a trio of battle-tested veterans who are on different timelines than a rebuilding squad.
Thanks to savvy late-round drafting, the Spurs have a quality group of exciting young perimeter players in Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV and Keldon Johnson. Adding Vassell to the squad is a good kind of overlap because you can never have enough versatile wings who can shoot and lock-in on defense. His work ethic is perfect for the Spurs’ culture.
12. Sacramento Kings: Jalen Smith
After trading Bogdanovic and receiving Donte Divincenzo, the Kings have a respectable guard rotation with De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. An area they really need to address is the frontcourt, where Marvin Bagley still shows gobs of promise but has precious little production to show for it due to a seemingly endless stretch of injuries. Bagley is just 21, and he projects as a double-double machine who needs help on defense; which makes Smith a perfect fit. Smith does what Bagley cannot: space the floor and defend the rim as a hybrid big man perfectly suited for the league.
At 6-foot-10, Smith has a great build and effortless jumper. Every team can use a player such as him, especially the Kings.
13. New Orleans Pelicans: Tyrese Maxey
After dealing Holiday to the Bucks, the Pelicans added to their growing bounty of draft picks. As presently constructed, the Pelicans could use some added shooting in the backcourt alongside Lonzo Ball. Maxey is the guy here, thanks to his shooting range that could eventually extend to Trae Young territory.
It’s not inconceivable to see Maxey join a growing list of underrated Kentucky guards who quickly become stars in the league such as Devin Booker and Tyler Herro. Maxey isn’t just a shooter; he displayed excellent instincts in college and showed he could defend. That rare combination of shooting, touch in the paint and stout perimeter defense is hard to come by, and Maxey is almost hiding in plain sight.
Adding Maxey to a burgeoning core of Ball, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram is a great start to a new era of Pelicans basketball.
14. Boston Celtics: Precious Achiuwa
After getting thoroughly dismantled by Adebayo in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics need to be looking for an upgrade at center. Whether that comes in the form of a trade for Myles Turner, they have a good opportunity to draft a young prospect with a chance to pop at a position of need.
Contrary to popular belief, the big man is far from extinct; it’s just evolved, and unfortunately, Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter are not going to cut it in the postseason, where teams mercilessly hunt mismatches like a hawk stalking its prey.
Achiuwa is a raw prospect, but the Celtics have a good player development program. Ideally, he would evolve into a versatile big man capable of holding down the fort on defense and contributing a bit on offense. Luckily, with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker, the Celtics don’t need a big man who commands touches. Achiuwa’s defense will earn him playing time, and as long as he can, at the minimum, stay out of the way on offense, this could end up being a nice pick.
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