The NBA Draft is tonight. For a couple of teams on Sunday night, the NBA season ended, but the rest of the league is preparing for the beginning on this night. The draft is a place that can end the misery of a franchise, or it can perpetuate this feeling of anguish if the wrong choice is made. Due to the Philadelphia 76ers essentially guaranteeing that they will be selecting Ben Simmons (first reported by Cleveland.com and confirmed by ESPN), the suspense for the top two picks has disappeared because the Lakers will obviously select Brandon Ingram. The final twelve picks of the lottery are up in the air and I will analyze where players should go according to their team’s needs.
#1. Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Simmons| LSU Forward| 6’10”, 239 lbs
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
I personally do not want to see someone with as much potential as Ben Simmons be subjected to the nightmare that has become the Philadelphia 76ers. He has the ability to pass the ball with an ease not commonly associated with someone of his size, and his knack for rebounding makes him the most talented player in the draft without a doubt. I could only hope that Bryan Colangelo, who drafted Andrea Bargnani number one overall as general manager for the Raptors and traded for Rudy Gay, has a more promising plan for the great city of Philadelphia. In collaboration with his father, selecting Ben Simmons with their first pick and adding some pieces to the roster could help Colangelo alter people’s perception of a 76ers team that is believed to have tanked for lottery picks in the past. With Sam Hinkie out as their GM and a potential superstar on the court, the 76ers seem to be moving in the right direction.
#2. Los Angeles Lakers
Brandon Ingram| Duke Forward| 6’9″, 196 lbs
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
It must feel like déjà vu for the Los Angeles Lakers and their fan base all over again. It’s draft night, you have the number two overall pick, and this selection will play an integral part in determining the future of the franchise. In a season filled with inconsistent play, a hall of famer fading into the sunset, and internal drama that divided the purple and gold locker room, it is easy to see why the Lakers have been looking forward to this night for a very long time. Brandon Ingram is the obvious choice for the Lakers due to his ability to spread the floor and have a Kevin Durant type impact on his team. The similarities between the Duke star and Thunder superstar include an ability to score on isolation plays, drain threes as a power forward in a small ball lineup, and the length to get rebounds. Lakers fans are hoping this time around that they get a Duke star with the second overall pick, and hopefully Ingram’s phone comes without cameras.
#3. Boston Celtics (Via Brooklyn)
Buddy Hield| Oklahoma Guard| 6’4″, 214 lbs
Brian Spurlock | USA TODAY Sports Images
Stephen A. Smith of ESPN uses the phrase, “He’s a BAAAAD man” to describe Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. Whenever I turn on the television and watch Buddy Hield play basketball, I get the same impressions about him. The senior shooting guard out of Oklahoma can shoot the rock better than any player in this year’s draft. Although taking a prolific 8.7 three pointers per game in his senior season, Hield was still able to drain an efficient 45.7% of these attempts. Once I heard that Buddy reportedly made 85 out of 100 3’s for the Celtics in a pre-draft workout, I knew that he would be the best fit for a Boston team trying to return to relevancy. The Celtics have the shortest starting backcourt in the NBA right now with Avery Bradley being 6’2” and Isaiah Thomas being 5’9”. I am a huge advocate for trading Bradley and inserting a taller Buddy Hield at the two in order to bolster an offense that would have to go through Cleveland in order to reach the NBA Finals. It would be a tough decision for Danny Ainge, but adapting to the style of play that is revolutionizing the game would be a smart decision for his franchise.
#4. Phoenix Suns
Jamal Murray| Kentucky Guard| 6’5″, 201 lbs
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Jamal Murray is a very interesting talent in this year’s draft. DraftExpress.com is projecting Murray to potentially be a point guard or a shooting guard in the NBA. I immediately dismiss the notion that the Kentucky star could be a point guard right away as he averaged more turnovers (2.3 per game) than assists (2.2) in his freshman season. I do, however, believe that Murray could develop into a prototypical point guard in the NBA under the assistance of head coach Earl Watson, who played 14 seasons in the NBA at that position. I believe that the Phoenix Suns will draft Murray and ship off one of their two point guards for a power forward in return. Right now, Phoenix has two point guards with Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, and putting one on the bench would be minimizing the production you could get from them. The Suns should trade Knight or Bledsoe for a productive power forward, develop Murray into a capable point guard, and make him an even more dynamic player for years to come. As we all know, the scouting report on Murray is that if you take away his shot, he has a hard time putting his imprint on the game.
#5. Minnesota Timberwolves
Kris Dunn| Providence Guard| 6’4″, 205 lbs
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
In the previous two picks, I have suggested trades to make room for a pick and I will do the same thing here. Rick Rubio needs to go in order to make room for the 2015-2016 Big East Defensive Player of the Year out of Providence. When Rubio arrived to the Timberwolves for the 2010-2011 season, offensive point guards did not dominate the league as they do now. Nowadays, you need someone who is capable of guarding Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving on a nightly basis and Kris Dunn is somebody who is ready for that task. Dunn is a four-year college player who has a 6’9” wingspan that will serve him well on the defensive end of the ball in the NBA. Dunn does need to work on his three-point percentage and his free throws, but he has the potential to be an elite defender and an all-star talent for years to come.
#6. New Orleans Pelicans
Jaylen Brown| California Forward| 6’7″, 223 lbs
Photo: Young Kwak / Associated Press
Of course, I cannot predict the future and that means these picks are based on how the teams are currently constructed. I am assuming that the Pelicans will keep their currently constructed roster, which has a pretty solid frontcourt and a decent backcourt. The one glaring hole in their lineup is a small forward like Jaylen Brown who can score the basketball. I would have loved to have seen a better 3-point percentage than 29%, and he does have a tendency to commit a high volume of fouls (average 3.2 personal fouls per game as a freshman). I just believe that Jaylen’s size and ability to finish in the paint with ferocious dunks or beautiful gliding layups makes him a perfect selection for the Pelicans.
#7. Denver Nuggets (Via New York)
Dragan Bender| Israel Forward| 7’1″, 225 lbs
Jack Guezjack/Getty Images
I know that the Denver Nuggets are two or three years away from being a playoff contender as they have great potential on their squad. The one glaring weakness in a league that is shifting towards small ball lineups and a requirement for power forwards to be competent is Kenneth Faried. Faried’s lack of three-point prowess calls for the need of a Dragan Bender, who could play the five in a small ball lineup and stretch the floor. Bender is an 18 year-old project that has the potential to be an international star like a Kristaps Porzingis or a Dirk Nowitzki, and the Nuggets already have two international players in Nikola Jokić and Danilo Gallinari to help Bender transition to America. We didn’t see Bender on the floor that often, but his through-the-roof potential makes him worthy of this pick.
#8. Sacramento Kings
Timothe Luwawu| Mega Leks Guard| 6’7″, 205 lbs
Courtesy of aba-liga
I prefaced this mock draft by saying that this is strictly based on what the team needs and how a player can impact that team. Since Ben McLemore hasn’t developed into the shooting guard that the Kings were hoping for, selecting Luwawu would add an athletic shooting guard who can finish around the cup. Timothe Luwawu demonstrated an ability to shoot it from behind the arc and he has a very good frame to him as well for someone of that position. If Luwawu were to make any meaningful contributions to the Kings, he will need to improve his free throw percentage and his field goal percentage. I am just in the mindset that the Kings would have to go for a guard in this position since Kostas Koufos, DeMarcus Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Quincy Acy are cluttering their frontcourt.
#9. Toronto Raptors (Via Denver)
Domantas Sabonis| Gonzaga Power Forward/Center| 6’10”, 231 lbs
The combination of Domantas Sabonis and Jonas Valančiūnas is a daunting task for NBA defenders, as they will command a lot of attention in the post. Both of these players have a solid inside game and can stretch you out to the midrange as well. Sabonis made just fewer than 36% of his threes as a sophomore in college, shot a solid 77% from the free throw line, and he gobbled up 11.8 rebounds per game. The Toronto Raptors will definitely have to let go of Bismack Biyombo, but it may work out for their betterment if they can add someone whose inside and outside game will make defenders scratch their heads.
#10. Milwaukee Bucks
Marquese Chriss| Washington Forward| 6’10”, 233 lbs
If you look up the Milwaukee Bucks roster right now, you will notice a gaping hole at the power forward position. It is nice to have three centers, an abundance of small forwards, and one too many point guards. I believe that Marquese Chriss is a player worth taking a risk on to fill that need for the Bucks. Chriss is somebody who has extreme athleticism and was able to put up respectable numbers for a guy only playing 25 minutes per game last year. With a player who played limited minutes like Chriss, I look to his statistics per 40 minutes and they are absolutely absurd. This stat adjustment puts Chriss at 22 points per game, 2.6 blocks per game, and a three pointer a game to add to the mix. The Washington power forward needs to make improvements with the amount of personal fouls he commits a game, raising his free throw percentage, and snatching more rebounds. I believe that this 18 year-old has a chance to be something special in this league for years to come if he is developed correctly under Jason Kidd and the Milwaukee coaching staff.
#11. Orlando Magic
Henry Ellenson| Marquette Power Forward/Center| 7’0″, 242 lbs
Morry Gash – Associated Press
The Orlando Magic are on their way to the playoffs next year and you can book that. Adding Frank Vogel, building around a stud center in Nikola Vučević, and trading Channing Frye shows how much the Magic are committed to having a young group for the 2016-2017 season. If you are the Magic, picking Henry Ellenson will add a big that is capable of running the floor and finishing in transition. Watching Ellenson go from one end to the other at his size makes him a freak of nature in that respect, but his lack of explosive athleticism and subpar defensive abilities makes him an iffy prospect. Since his offensive game is so gifted, the Magic will be able to also utilize him at the five in a small ball lineup with Aaron Gordon on the court as the four. I am already salivating at the chance to see those two together in the fast break next season with Victor Oladipo.
#12. Atlanta Hawks (Via Utah)
Wade Baldwin IV| Vanderbilt Guard| 6’4″, 202 lbs
The Atlanta Hawks have a pretty strong frontcourt with Paul Millsap and Al Horford playing the four and the five, assuming they keep Horford. The trade for the number 12 pick will diminish a point guard tandem that worked well last year, but adding Wade Baldwin could make Hawks fans forget the name Jeff Teauge. Baldwin takes it to the cup with Russell Westbrook-like ferociousness and could potentially shoot with a three-point efficiency similar to a George Hill. The amount of turnovers Baldwin commits and his overall low field-goal percentage causes some concern, but I believe that him and Dennis Schröder could make a strong 1-2 punch.
#13. Phoenix Suns (Via Washington)
Deyonta Davis| Michigan State Power Forward/Center| 6’11”, 237 lbs
Photo: Joe Robbins Getty Images
I am in the mindset that Deyonta Davis could be a power forward for the Suns that can protect the paint and score down low. Davis is definitely a project as he only played 18.6 minutes a game, and his volume of fouls per game is something that he needs to work on. If you are analyzing basic statistics per 40 minutes (which is a stat highly looked upon for a player who did not play a lot like Davis), his 4.9 fouls per game mean that he would have fouled out in every college game if he played the full time. Davis brings a lot of promise with his athleticism, and his offensive game has promise if he could further develop his post and midrange game. With great potential on the defensive end, I believe that Phoenix should select this Michigan State Spartan for their power forward of the future.
#14. Chicago Bulls
Tyler Ulis| Kentucky Guard| 5’10”, 149 lbs
Photo by Chris Reynolds
When the Chicago Bulls selected Derrick Rose with the number one overall pick in 2008, they got their money’s worth out of the former John Calipari point guard. Rose had three really strong seasons to begin his career, won an MVP, and bought Chicago back to relevancy. Right now, the Bulls have a chance to draft another Calipari point guard tonight, and his name is Tyler Ulis. Although he stands at a mere 5’10” and weighs 149 lbs, I feel like he can be an Isaiah Thomas in this league. Ulis averaged over 17 points per game, shot over 85% from the free throw line, and averaged 7 assists per game as a sophomore for Kentucky. His ability to steal the ball makes him even more effective, and he simply has the ability to hit big time shots. Ulis is a risk taker due to his size and his inefficiency from the field, but I believe he would be a great pick to replace Derrick Rose.
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All stats and information courtesy of DraftExpress and ESPN