The NBA Draft is only a couple days away, and for most of the teams picking in the lottery, it couldn’t have come sooner. This year’s draft has a potential to be one of the more interesting in recent memory, as very little is certain after the Lakers make their selection at #2. Maybe the Celtics will make an outrageous pick that will throw every team that follows them into utter chaos and ruins their carefully crafted plans. Maybe Chicago will finally take the much-anticipated plunge and trade Jimmy Butler for a top five pick and snag Kris Dunn. Maybe the 76ers will un-clutter their crowded frontcourt and trade Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor for another pick in the top ten. Who knows? In this draft, it appears that nearly anything will go. These are the players I believe each team in the lottery will select. With that, this is how I think the draft could play out.
#1. Philadelphia 76ers
The Pick: Ben Simmons | F | LSU | 6’ 10”, 239 lbsImage courtesy of Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports
I have stated in the past that the 76ers should select Brandon Ingram here (should being the operative word), and I still stand by that. However, on Tuesday at noon my phone was bombarded by notifications from every sports news outlet known to man claiming that the 76ers organization had told Ben Simmons’ camp he will be drafted first overall. I don’t think this is some elaborate bait-and-switch, so I’ll take their word for it. Although Simmons might not be the best fit for the current 76ers roster, teams that only won 10 games in a season generally don’t have the luxury of picking for fit or positional need. By picking Simmons at #1, Philadelphia is getting undeniably the best player in this draft class. Simmons is a sensational athlete with an incredible passing gift akin to that of LeBron James and has a seemingly limitless upside if he can improve his jump shot. One day, he will probably end up being one of the top ten players in the league, and there’s very little chance he will end up a bust. If the 76ers put the right pieces around him, he could also one day be the cornerstone of a championship team in Philly.
#2. Los Angeles Lakers
The Pick: Brandon Ingram | F | Duke | 6’ 9”, 196 lbsImage courtesy of Khloe Kim/The Chronicle
The Lakers will be more than happy to “settle” for Brandon Ingram at #2. Some reports have even claimed that the Lakers would have targeted Ingram if they had landed the #1 pick, and its easy to see why. Ingram has a potential at the very least comparable to that of Ben Simmons, as he possesses very rare physical traits for his position, like a 7′ 3″ wingspan, that should allow him to be effective both on offense, where he has already proven himself elite, and on defense, where he has shown flashes of being a lockdown defender when guarding on ball. Ingram also fits very well with the current Lakers roster, as he has good instincts moving without the ball and can space the floor using his deadly jumper, making him the perfect complement to D’Angelo Russel, along with the size to play a small ball stretch 4, making him potentially a potent part of a Lakers small ball lineup with Julius Randle at the 5. Even Jim Buss can’t mess this one up, right?
#3. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets)
The Pick: Kris Dunn | G | Providence | 6’ 4”, 205 lbsImage courtesy of Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire
Almost three years later and the Celtics are still reaping the benefits from one of the NBA’s most baffling trades, courtesy of Billy King, that saw Brooklyn ship its entire franchise to Boston in exchange for essentially an aging Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. This year, that boneheaded trade has gifted Danny Ainge and the Celtics with the #3 pick and with it, a whole lot of options. Since the Celtics were a playoff team last season, it’s entirely possible that they trade the pick for a proven NBA player. However, if they do decide to keep the pick, Kris Dunn appears to be the most obvious choice. Dunn is arguably one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the draft, and would be able to contribute immediately on defense, where his abilities earned him recognition as Big East Defensive Player of the Year. He could help make Boston an elite defensive team, and, as his jump shot continues to improve, he could also develop into a fantastic two-way player. Even if the Celtics decided to trade Dunn, he would have a high trade value at #3 due to the weakness of the point guard position in this draft class.
#4. Phoenix Suns
The Pick: Marquese Chriss | F | Washington | 6’ 10”, 233 lbsImage courtesy of Jennifer Buchanan/USA TODAY Sports
Trading Markieff Morris last season left the Suns with a bit of a hole at the power forward position, and Marquese Chriss looks like an ideal candidate to fill their vacancy. With an awe-inspiring vertical, the Washington power forward is one of the most athletic players in the draft, but also has a degree of polish on the offensive end with a solid jumper with three-point range, demonstrated by his respectable three-point shooting percentage of 35%. Chriss’ low rebounding numbers may be slightly disconcerting, but his fit with the roster, existing skill set, and high upside should be enough for the Suns to take him at the #4 slot.
#5. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Pick: Buddy Hield | G | Oklahoma | 6’ 4”, 214 lbsImage courtesy of Getty Images
If Hield falls to #5 like many mock drafts predict, it’s hard to see the T-Wolves passing on him. Hield is one of the best shooters in the draft, as he shot an outstanding 45.7% from three-point range on 8.7 attempts per game last season. He also has a scorer’s mentality, demonstrated by his incredible run in the NCAA tournament last postseason. Given his knockdown shooting stroke, Hield could carve out a solid spot in the Wolves’ rotation playing alongside promising young guards like Zach LaVine and Tyus Jones and add an explosive scoring threat to a team that already has Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
#6. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pick: Jaylen Brown | F | California | 6’ 7”, 223 lbsImage courtesy of James Snook/USA TODAY Sports
Jaylen Brown could be the most underrated player in this year’s draft, and if Boston passes on him at #3, the Pelicans could make the potential heist of the draft by snagging him at #6. Brown may have had an underwhelming college season at Cal, but his demonstrated offensive capabilities and his enormous upside should make it an afterthought. He’s an incredibly gifted athlete and is big and strong enough to play the 4 but also has the speed and quickness of a 3. Brown makes good use of his athleticism by aggressively attacking the paint, where he has shown the ability to finish strong. The Pelicans could deploy him at the 4 in a small-ball lineup with Anthony Davis at the 5, and the prospect of these two running the floor together, along with Brown’s upside as a defender and shooter, easily justifies taking Brown with the #6 pick.
#7. Denver Nuggets (via New York Knicks)
The Pick: Jamal Murray | G | Kentucky | 6’ 5”, 201 lbsImage courtesy of Fansided
The Nuggets would be very happy to take Jamal Murray if he somehow fell to the #7 pick. Murray was an elite scorer in college, averaging 20 points per game while shooting 41% from three on nearly 8 attempts while also demonstrating an ability to finish inside when called upon and good passing vision. Murray would be an excellent complement to Denver’s young point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who is more of a slasher since he doesn’t have much of an outside game as of yet, and together the two would form a dynamic backcourt that could punish defenses from the perimeter or from inside the arc.
#8. Sacramento Kings
The Pick: Dragan Bender | F | Israel | 7’ 1”, 225 lbsImage courtesy of Slam Online
I highly doubt that Bender will actually fall this far, but if he does, I’m sure the Kings would stop his fall right at #8. Bender’s upside as a perimeter shooter, interior scorer, and rim protector, combined with his imposing height and surprising athleticism, make him too promising a prospect to pass up here. The biggest knock on Bender is the rawness of his game at just 18 years of age, but Sacramento can afford to be patient with him and gradually ease him into the NBA by playing him behind Willie Cauley-Stein and the proven DeMarcus Cousins. If Bender develops to his projected potential, he would be the perfect complement to Cousins, as Bender could stretch the floor to open up the paint for Cousins and vice-versa on offense, and Bender could help the slightly shorter Cousins defend the paint on defense.
#9. Toronto Raptors (via Denver Nuggets)
The Pick: Domantas Sabonis | F/C | Gonzaga | 6’ 10”, 231 lbsImage courtesy of AP
After a spectacular postseason, Bismack Biyombo may command more money on the open market than a Raptors organization intent on resigning DeRozan would be willing to pay, so Toronto could look to select a big man to serve as Bismack’s potential replacement. Of all the bigs in the draft, Sabonis seems to be the best fit. He’s one of the more physical players in the draft, as he plays with a tremendous motor and doesn’t shy away from contact when crashing the boards, where he excelled in college. He also plays very well in the post, scoring on 67% of his post-ups, which would provide the Raptors with a solid offensive option in the paint if outside shots aren’t falling.
#10. Milwaukee Bucks
The Pick: Jakob Poeltl | C | Utah | 7’ 1”, 239 lbsImage courtesy of Scott G Winterton/Deseret News
The Buck’s big free agent catch Greg Monroe had a less-than-spectacular impact in the frontcourt last season, so the Bucks could look to again bolster their paint presence. They could do so by drafting Jakob Poeltl, the best true center in this draft class. Poeltl is a rare prospect in that he has a fairly well built frame at 7’ 1” but also possesses a good degree of mobility and agility, which allow him to defend the rim but also step out on smaller 4s on the perimeter. Poeltl also has some nice footwork on the low block and was generally efficient when scoring in the post. Acquiring Poeltl would also allow the Bucks to either move Monroe to power forward, where he saw much of his success in his days with the Pistons, or simply trade him and rid themselves of his $17 million salary next season.
#11. Orlando Magic
The Pick: Skal Labissiere | F/C | Kentucky | 7’ 0”, 216 lbsImage courtesy of The Vertical
Skal Labissiere is almost everything the Magic could want in a frontcourt player to play alongside a young Aaron Gordon. A promising young prospect, Labissiere is very light on his feet for a seven footer and runs the floor extremely well on both offense and defense. His great reach and length also allow him to be an effective rim protector, and he has also shown the potential to be a solid rebounder. Labissiere can also make good use of his effective jump shot in a variety of ways, as he has demonstrated good touch off of the dribble on pull-up jumpers as well in face up and catch and shoot situations. Together with Gordon, Labissiere would help form one of the league’s most versatile and athletic young frontcourts in Orlando.
#12. Utah Jazz
The Pick: Wade Baldwin IV | G | Vanderbilt | 6’ 4”, 202 lbsImage courtesy of Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports
Given the emergence of sophomore shooting guard Rodney Hood last season, the Jazz should look to pair him with another dynamic backcourt player. Wade Baldwin offers the Jazz exactly that at the #12 spot. Baldwin has good size to go along with elite length for a point guard, which can allow him to be very effective on 1 and 2 guards on defense. On offense, Baldwin’s most potent weapon is his jumper, and he proved to be a very effective shooter off the catch and shoot although he is also capable off the dribble. Finally, Baldwin also has good court vision, and his size should allow him to see over many smaller guards to find open teammates.
#13. Phoenix Suns (via Washington Wizards)
The Pick: Henry Ellenson | F/C | Marquette | 7’ 0”, 242 lbsImage courtesy of Calvin Mattheis
If the Suns draft Marquese Chriss, it would make sense for them to snag his ideal frontcourt partner to play the 5 in a modern NBA. At #13, Henry Ellenson would be a great candidate for such a position. Although not as athletic as Chriss, Ellenson has shown the ability to run the floor quickly with his fluid long strides. And even though he has good size and stature like Suns’ current big men Alex Len and Tyson Chandler that allows him to rebound well in the paint, he has displayed an offensive repertoire that very few bigs have, as he can finish in transition, drain outside jumpers off catch and shoot looks, and drive into the paint from the perimeter and finish around the rim.
#14. Chicago Bulls
The Pick: Deyonta Davis | F/C | Michigan State | 6’ 11”, 237 lbsImage courtesy of CBS Sports
With Joakim Noah expressing interest in many other teams in free agency and Pau Gasol possibly leaving as well, the Bulls could easily find themselves lacking in paint presence next year. To fill these potential absences, the Bulls could look to Deyonta Davis. The former Spartan has a sturdy frame with great length (7′ 2.5″ wingspan and 9′ .5″ standing reach) and still has room to grow into it as he gains strength. While his offensive game is still somewhat raw, he can play the pick and roll very well and could one day develop a solid post and midrange game given the soft touch he showed on occasion in college. Davis also has great instincts and timing as a rim protector, and his quick leaping ability should allow him to be effective in patrolling the paint alongside Bobby Portis in Chicago.
All stats and information courtesy of DraftExpress