Because so much of what happens on draft night depends on team needs and who is picking where, it seemed foolish to do a mock draft before knowing the draft order. Thankfully, last night’s lottery took care of that, so with the teams locked in place, here’s a look at Mach One—the first mock draft (of many?) before the big day on June 26—stopping at the Raptors’ No. 20 pick.
Somehow the Cavs will be picking first overall for the third time in four years. In 2011, the selection seemed obvious and Cleveland took Kyrie Irving (though, looking back, Kawhi Leonard was and is the best player from that class). Last year, with no consensus No. 1 on the board, they shocked the world and took Brampton’s Anthony Bennett. This year? The Cavs brass have already said they can’t identify a clear top pick, which will lead to plenty of Wiggins v. Parker v. Embiid speculation over the next month.
Wiggins is the pick here. He has the highest ceiling and projects to be a better two-way player than Parker. Plus he grew up with Bennett, a fellow CIA Bounce alumnus, and Tristan Thompson, and who doesn’t want to see a big part of the core of Canada’s national team on the same NBA roster? Besides, looking into the not-so-distant future, how exciting is the prospect of a team with Wiggins, Thompson, Anderson Varaejao, The Player They Trade Kyrie Irving For, and LeBron James? Dare to dream.
While the comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon are over-the-top (that, according to some scouts, is his ceiling), the seven-foot, 250-lb. centre has the size, defensive instincts and fluid athleticism to dominate down the line in this league. The Bucks are good at the three position with fan-favourite Giannis Antetokounmpo-another high-potential player-and an Embiid selection would start to make up for the disastrous Larry Sanders signing from last summer.
This pick almost makes too much sense, which, frankly, you could have said for any of the names in the top three. Philly needs help in a lot of areas and bringing in a guy who figures to be a consistent offensive force-a 20-plus ppg scorer who can get it done a number of ways-tales care of a big piece of the Sixers’ puzzle moving forward.
The Australian point guard excelled at the combine and should do the same in private workouts leading up to the draft. With a glaring need at the point in Orlando, Exum is a no-brainer here, even if he may be slightly riskier than, say, Marcus Smart. There’s plenty of speculation that Arron Afflalo will be moved this off-season, but if he isn’t, a backcourt of Exum and Afflalo, with Victor Oladipo fulfilling his destiny as an elite combo guard off the bench, forms a very nice foundation alongside Tobias Harris and Nik Vucevic.
The fifth spot in the draft was presumed to belong to Julius Randle, but Vonleh has been shooting up boards of late, in large part due to his freakish combine measurements (GMs love ‘em some wingspan) and stellar per 40 minute stats in his lone year at Indiana. Randle may be enticing, but the Jazz desperately need help in the paint on the defensive end, and that’s where Vonleh figures to make the most impact.
Regardless of what happens with Rajon Rondo, the Celtics are starting fresh and stockpiling young talent, hoping that something sticks-either to build around or package in a deal a la 2007. Randle fits into that plan and-while he may not become the superstar many thought he would coming out of high school-with his unpolished-yet-effective low-post skills, he has the potential to carve out a very nice career for himself and play a major role on a winner some day down the line.
The Lakers desperately wanted to sneak into the top three last night and acquire a potential star for the future-and they can still get one at No. 7. With the franchise’s future looking bleak thanks to huge salary commitments to injured veterans Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, the potential departure of Pau Gasol and Nick Young’s continued presence on the roster, they’ll be looking for the furthest thing from a hit-or-miss project player. Smart makes sense in that light. The Oklahoma State product should continue to be a high-volume scorer at the point guard position, and can learn how to run an NBA offence from Nash before getting the reins full-time.
Sacramento is expected to shop this pick, so I’ll just go with the best player available here. Gordon is a fierce offensive force around the hoop, like a baby Blake Griffin, but it’s on the defensive end that he has the most to offer a team. He’s the furthest from a ‘sure thing’ of any of the names listed so far, but under the right coach, in the right system, etc., Gordon can flourish.
After killing it at the combine (first in lane agility drills among SFs, 36.5′-inch vertical leap), McDermott crushed the notion that he didn’t have the athleticism to translate his historically great offensive college game on to the next level. Gone are the fears that McDermott is the next Jimmer Fredette, and instead it’s becoming more likely that he’ll stand to make an impact on whichever team selects him. The Hornets (nee Bobcats) are in desperate need of offence from the wing and Dougie McBuckets provides just that.
There are players with more potential available-Zach LaVine and Dario Saric come to mind-but, looking at the big picture, Harris is a very solid-if-unspectacular guard who can comfortably hold an important spot in the Sixers’ rotation for years to come.
The shine that emanated from the 2012-13 Nuggets is long gone, and this is now a team in relative transition-despite having a star point guard in Ty Lawson and plenty of cap commitments. Saric has been the top European player on draft boards for two years now, but withdrew at the last minute in 2013 to remain in his native Croatia for another year. He’s an elite athlete who can stretch the floor; the talent is there but with maybe the biggest ego (let’s call it ‘the most self-assuredness’) of any player in the draft, so much of his NBA success will depend on where he lands and whether the shoe fits.
Like the Sixers, the Magic are more likely to go ‘safe’ with their sevond pick, and Stauskas’s game is built on a dependable skillset that should translate to success at the NBA level. Like McDermott, Stauskas proved he’s more than a shooter with stellar results in athletic testing at the combine, and his ability to knock it down from deep means he’ll always have a role in the pros.
Steadily moving up draft boards all season, Young possesses everything wanted in an NBA wing and should transition very nicely to an NBA team in need of production from that spot. He’s a (considerably) better and safer bet than Minny’s first pick from last year, Shabazz Muhammad, providing an instant do-over in that regard.
This one is based on the hypothetical that Phoenix will wind up dealing one of their two all star-calibre point guards-Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic-as part of a package for a star big man (*coughKevinLovecough*). In that case, the door would open for a player like Ennis, perhaps the truest point guard in the class, who should be able to comfortably run an NBA offence relatively early in his career. Phoenix would give him the chance to test out the NBA waters without the pressures of being a Day One Starter, while also providing the opportunity to play big minutes off the bat.
Hood may not move the meter the same way other top prospects do in this draft, but he has translatable skills for an NBA small forward and can add much-needed wing depth for Atlanta.
As a basketball fan, you hope Derrick Rose returns at 100 percent next season and never gets hurt again. But that’s unlikely, as is another big year from D.J. Augustin. The Bulls need to look for insurance at point guard and LaVine has top-10 potential, elite athleticism and plenty of room to grow. If he falls this far, Chicago will be flat-out lucky.
Also looking for options at point guard with the uncertainty surrounding Rajon Rondo and the unappealing prospect of trotting out Jerryd Bayless to run the team, the Celts should hope that either Ennis or LaVine falls to them. If not, it might be too early for guys like Shabazz Napier or Jordan Clarkson, so a player like Grant makes sense. He has the versatility to contribute in a ton of ways and can be a helpful rotation player who fits into Boston’s long-term plans (read: not sucking).
Maybe the biggest mystery in the draft, Nurkic is a six-foot-11, 280-lb. big from the basketball hotbed of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Despite a lack of explosive athleticsm, he’s very mobile for his size and has the ability to be a solid post presence in the near future. He might be a reach here (though some mock drafts have him as high as No. 11), but honestly, if you’re still even reading, more power to you.
Another unkown to most North American basketball fans, Capela is a Swiss big man (yeah, you read that right) with a nearly seven-foot-five wingspan who protects the basket well and excels at blocking shots. At 20 years old, with a bony six-foot-11 frame, Capela is a complete project, but the team that takes a flier on him could be rewarded down the line.
You couldn’t watch any part of Wichita State’s 35-0 start to last season and not fall in love with Early. A four-year starter with the Shockers, Early can stretch the floor and be the versatile small forward off the bench the Raptors have been long been looking for.