1. Boston Celtics (via Nets)
Markelle Fultz, G, Washington
and Lonzo Ball
would both be better fits next to Isaiah Thomas
, but Danny Ainge is smart enough to not go for fit/need over the best player available with the No. 1 pick. That's not to say Fultz is absolutely the best player available, but the consensus opinion says loudly that he is. Taking Fultz would allow the Celtics to sign Gordon Hayward
this summer, and, if Fultz shows enough promise in year one, let Thomas walk in free agency next summer.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA
In addition to being the best passer in the draft, Ball brings the showtime/hype/name value element that Jeanie Buss and Magic Johnson desperately want to bring back to the Lakers. This does not seem like a basketball operation that has the patience of, say, the Utah Jazz or San Antonio Spurs when it comes to player development. They want shiny toys and are not concerned with how the pieces fit, especially when a lot of those pieces are still unproven. Maybe they'll flip D'Angelo Russell
, maybe they'll just run it back and assume they have their superstar of the future in Ball. They might be right, if only on that last notion.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
Josh Jackson, F, Kansas
Obviously the idea of taking another frontcourt player does not appeal to the Sixers, but the gulf between Jackson and the guards available is too large to go for need here. Additionally, Jackson's defense, athleticism and motor allow him to profile as a Shawn Marion
type of player who can get 18-20 points without having a single play run for him, which gives him the stylistic edge over Jayson Tatum
. Jackson would immediately be the Sixers' second best defender behind Joel Embiid
, and frankly, players like Dario Saric
and Jahlil Okafor
are not good enough to stand in his way of seeing big minutes in his rookie season.
4. Phoenix Suns
Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
Ten or 15 years ago, Tatum would be the No. 1 pick in this draft. In today's game, however, he carries a small amount of risk. His three-point shot is a bit shaky and he could be a black hole on offense without bringing a ton of value on the defensive end. Tatum will play the three for the Suns, but his style is reminiscent of Blake Griffin
's, where he can roast his defender with a variety of moves in one-on-one situations on the wing. It's a throwback mid-range-centric game, but it allows him to profile as the second best scorer in this draft behind Fultz. The Suns don't need another project, and Tatum will be ready to average 16-18 points per game in his rookie season.
5. Sacramento Kings
Dennis Smith, G, NC State
Smith would be a top-3 pick in almost any other draft, so getting a player with his explosiveness and playmaking ability here is a boon for the Kings, who desperately need a point guard. Smith is a better shooter and is significantly stronger than De'Aaron Fox
, while Fox is faster and a better defender. They are relatively similar everywhere else, so it's a legitimate toss up here.
6. Orlando Magic
Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
It should not surprise anyone if Isaac sneaks into the top-3. He has the potential to shoot from beyond the arc, protect the rim, and guard multiple positions. Once he adds muscle to his projectable 6-foot-11 frame, he could profile as a playmaking four or five who can switch on any pick-n-roll. There will inevitably be those who compare Isaac and Giannis Antetokounmpo
, and players with that amount of upside are almost never available with the No. 6 pick.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
It is going to be fascinating to see what the Timberwolves value on draft day. When healthy, they have three incredibly gifted scorers who are all under 23, yet defensively Karl-Anthony Towns
, Andrew Wiggins
and Zach LaVine
range from lost, to unengaged, to completely apathetic. They also have Ricky Rubio
and last year's No. 5 overall pick, Kris Dunn
, on the roster at point guard. There will be some great scorers and potentially great point guards available with this pick, but will they really want to compound their problems from last season? Enter Collins, whose stock has steadily increased all year, and seems to be the type of player moder front offices would understandably fall in love with. He is an excellent rim-protector who has the potential to be a quality three-point shooter. His athleticism, agility and ability to regularly beat his man down the court will serve him well. The Timberwolves need overqualified role players in the Steven Adams
mold who will help mask the shortcomings of their stars. Collins fits the bill.
8. New York Knicks
De'Aaron Fox, G, Knicks
The Knicks want a point guard and they don't value three-point shooting as much as the rest of the league, so Fox is a perfect fit. He could be an excellent running mate for Kristaps Porzingis
, adding an element of toughness and speed that this team lacks.
9. Dallas Mavericks
Frank Ntilikina, G, France
This has always seemed like a perfect match. The Mavericks really need a potential All-Star, and Ntilikina qualifies, even though there is a hint of Dante Exum
potential here. He lacks the hype of players like Fox and Malik Monk
, but he also lacks their obvious shortcomings. At 6-foot-5 and with excellent length, he has the size to defend both guard positions, and is a true point guard who can already shoot from NBA range. Exum might be the worst-case scenario, but George Hill
seems like a more realistic floor.
10. Sacramento Kings (via New Orleans)
Lauri Markkanen, F, Arizona
The Kings may actually end up winning the DeMarcus Cousins
trade. Getting two top-10 picks in this draft is huge, and pairing a deadeye 7-footer like Markkanen with an athletic playmaking point guard like Smith would be a big-time win. They have openings all over the roster, but sorely need a player like Markkanen, who can space the floor for whichever ball handler they take at No. 5.
11. Charlotte Hornets
Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
There is a noticeable drop-off after the top-11, and Monk is the last player left, so the Hornets would either take him here or trade the pick to a team that wants to move up to take the Kentucky shooting guard. He is a dynamic scorer, both in transition and in the half court, as he boasts high-end athleticism and unlimited range. The major knock is his size (6-foot-4), as he is not a point guard and would get torched shooting guards like Bradley Beal
or Klay Thompson
at the next level. That said, he is a significantly better prospect that Jamal Murray
, who had similar strengths and weaknesses and went No. 7 overall last year, so getting Monk at No. 11 would be a home run.
12. Detroit Pistons
OG Anunoby, F, Indiana
After the top-11, there should be a heavy amount of trade activity going on, so it would not be surprising to see any of the next three picks moved, as teams look to trade down for players they like and expect to fall out of the lottery. Anunoby represents a solid value play, as he would be in consideration for the top-10 if he hadn't suffered a season-ending knee injury. Only Josh Jackson
can match his combination of length, athleticism and defensive versatility on the wing, so he should appeal to the Pistons and a handful of teams that might consider trading up here.
13. Denver Nuggets
John Collins, F, Wake Forest
The Nuggets have moved into the Nikola Jokic
era, and Collins fits that same skill-ball mold. He is incredibly efficient on offense, and has the makings of a player who could outperform expectations for his three-point shot at the next level. Collins is also an excellent rebounder, making him a nice partner with Jokic in the frontcourt. He is the type of big man who won't need to come out of the game due to matchup issues, which separates him from the other top bigs expected to go in the top-20.
14. Miami Heat
Justin Jackson, F, North Carolina
As with the No. 12 and No. 13 picks, this pick should be the topic of many trade discussions in the coming weeks. Jackson seems like the type of prospect Pat Riley could get on board with: a proven winner who worked for a few seasons in college to get his game to the point that he is a legitimate lottery-worthy draft prospect. There is a bevy of big men available here who are talented enough or have the upside to warrant a top-14 pick, but with Hassan Whiteside
already locked up and with the game continuing to move toward versatile players who can dribble, shoot, pass and defend multiple positions, it seems like the last lottery-caliber wings should be in more demand than the variety of non-elite centers.
For more NBA Draft coverage, check out Nick Whalen's latest mock draft