1. Detroit Pistons- Paolo Banchero (PF, Duke, Freshman)
Unlike last year, there is not a consensus top prospect in this class. That doesn’t mean this is a bad draft, it’s actually a very promising one, there just isn’t much separation between three fantastic prospects: Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith. Paolo Banchero for now has the edge for the #1 pick . I’m still going back and forth on if he can be a true superstar in the NBA down the road, but there is no doubt about his NBA ready skillset. He is 6’10” with a 250 pound, NBA-level frame. He is an incredibly skilled and strong offensive player with good feet and touch in the post. He has the ability to create off the dribble in mid range and get others involved. He isn’t an incredibly explosive athlete, but his athleticism has gotten underrated by some as he is very smooth, yet strong and physical. The Pistons have a franchise talent in Cade Cunningham who they need to build around before his timer begins to count down, Paolo is as safe of a bet to become a 24 PPG scorer as you can find in this draft and is fully capable of being that second star next to Cunningham. Between those two, Detroit has an elite foundation to build on.
2. Houston Rockets- Chet Holmgren (PF/C, Gonzaga, Freshman)
Last year, the first two picks in the draft belonged to Detroit and Houston, how crazy would it be if that happened again? Houston fans maybe wouldn’t be as salty as they were last year when they missed out on Cade Cunningham because of the minimal separation at the top. Paolo Banchero is the best bet to be a star in this draft, but Chet has the best chance to become a superstar in this draft. At 7’1” with a 7’6” wingspan, his level of two-way versatility is special. His combination of length and instincts as a rim protector is as good as I’ve ever evaluated, he can be a defensive anchor in this league. He also has the elite touch, shooting potential, handle and playmaking to be a problem offensively. In this draft scenario, Detroit may have an incredibly high floor going forward with Cade Cunningham and Paolo Banchero, but a franchise tandem of Chet Holmgren and Jalen Green may have the higher ceiling.
3. New Orleans Pelicans- Jabari Smith (PF, Auburn, Freshman)
The Pelicans need to figure out how to make it work with Zion Williamson as soon as possible, and that will take both Zion’s party and the Pelicans to move that organization to the right direction. If the Pelicans landed a top three pick and added a #1 talent who can space the floor next to Zion, that would be a good step. Jabari Smith is the best shooting big I’ve ever evaluated. At 6’10,” he is shooting over 43% from three on six attempts, he does it on pull-ups, off the catch, and a little bit off the dribble. He also possesses amazing agility and a great motor. That combination gives him the upside to be a special defender in the perimeter. The reason why he isn’t quite the top prospect yet is because he is the furthest away as a shot creator, and his perimeter defense doesn’t possess quite the importance of Chet‘s rim protection, but this is a special shooting prospect with the tools to be much more than just a shooter. If Jabari Smith falls to three, the Pelicans would take him with zero hesitation.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder- AJ Griffin (SF, Duke, Freshman)
The fourth overall pick has been the spot for draft surprises the last two years, with Patrick Williams going to the Bulls in 2020 and Scottie Barnes to the Raptors in 2021. Despite AJ Griffin only averaging 7.3 PPG and 3 RPG, he might just be the best talent in the draft. Physically, he is comparable to Patrick Williams in terms of physical maturity, bounce, and length at such a young age. He also has the tools to become an elite level shot creator, shooter, and two-way player. Yes, he isn’t dominating college basketball right now, but it was expected for him to ease in during the first part of the year as he was coming back from an ACL tear and knee sprain. He has averaged nearly 12 PPG on 24/40 shooting his last six games, the flashes he’s shown makes it look like he’s almost back. He would be a much better fit in OKC than Jaden Ivey or Johnny Davis and possesses more upside than both.
5. Orlando Magic- Jalen Duren (C, Memphis, Freshman)
Drafting for fit is an overrated concept, but with Orlando having such a surplus of young, talented guards, it wouldn’t be the best for the development of everyone if they keep drafting m guards every year. Fortunately, Jalen Duren is talented enough to go this high and is a great fit. Jalen Duren is the most physically gifted big in the draft, he’s incredibly strong, explosive, lengthy, and quick at 6’9.” That athleticism, as well as his defensive versatility, his finishing around the rim and passing in the short roll gives him a very high floor. His shooting and potential for adding to his offensive skillset is going to be the deciding factor on how high his ceiling is, but his skillset as a two-way lob threat alone blends very well on this Magic roster that doesn’t have a franchise big.
6. San Antonio Spurs- Jaden Ivey (PG/SG, Purdue, Sophomore)
Jaden Ivey could very easily be considered in the top four in this draft, this particular order would be unfortunate for his draft stock. Ivey had an up and down freshman year in which he shot lower than 40%, but he’s shown constant growth at the U19 Olympics and into his sophomore year. His explosiveness, shiftiness, and ability to glide at the rim mid air reminds many people of Ja Morant. He isn’t quite the playmaker Ja is and doesn’t have his floater, but he is bigger and a better defender, so he’s still a big time talent. The San Antonio seem to be in a direction they haven’t been in years, a rebuild. The sixth pick isn’t usually the best spot to land a potential franchise talent, but Ivey is someone who has that type of upside, even if he isn’t a seamless fit on a Spurs team deep with young guards.
7. Indiana Pacers- Johnny Davis (SG, Indiana, Freshman)
The biggest riser is this draft class has to be Johnny Davis. Nobody put him into lottery consideration after a freshman season that didn’t stand out, but now we are seeing him average over 22 PPG and 7 RPG while dropping north of 30 against the likes of Houston and Purdue. Davis is an elite shot maker who is fantastic at getting to his spots in the mid range, he can hit it from deep, finish in transistor, and is also a very good defender. I don’t want to throw out this comparison lightly, but Donovan Mitchell had a similar breakout sophomore season, Davis is even better this year than Mitchell was at Louisville. The Pacers did take Chris Duarte, but this is the pretty clear best player on the board to me, he needs to be taken here. There is a legitimate chance Johnny Davis becomes a top five pick if he continues his success.
8. Portland Trailblazers- Jaden Hardy (SG, G-League Ignite, 19 years old)
There was one point where Jaden Hardy was viewed as a potential #1 pick. When you look at his pure volume, it is very similar to Jalen Green, last year’s #2 pick, as Hardy is averaging 17.7 PPG and 4.6 RPG, but where it goes down hill is he is doing that on 35/27/88 splits. He was viewed as a special shooting prospect, but that hasn’t quite come into fruition. There should still be belief in Hardy as it usually takes kids time to adjust to the physicality and three-point distance on an NBA-level court, maybe he can burst up boards again as he shots more efficiently. Nonetheless, despite his struggles, his shot making upside is too intriguing to pass on in the later lottery. Portland may need to push toward a rebuild sooner than later, they need long-term upside. Hardy is that.
9. Sacramento Kings- Keegan Murray (PF, Iowa, Sophomore)
In this top nine, seven of these players have had been talked about as potential lottery picks going into the season. Johnny Davis came out of nowhere, but Keegan Murray also surprised some. After Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp left, Murray had voids to fill, and he has by increasing his scoring by over an absurd 17 PPG this year. This isn’t a case where there are questions if his game can translate like Garza, he is a versatile defender with a strong body and good feet. Offensively, he can be physical on the block, he can fade away, he can hit an open three, and beat you off the dribble at 6’8”. The Marvin Bagely III experience has not been a pleasant one in Sacramento, especially with how Luka Doncic has been since the moment he’s touched an NBA floor. It isn’t fair to ask Keegan Murray to be what Bagely was supposed to be, but his versatility would make him an upgrade who would fit next to De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton well.
10. Atlanta Hawks- Ty Ty Washington (PG/SG, Kentucky, Freshman)
Something that has grown more apparent this year is the fact the hawks need more reliable playmaking outside of Trae Young. On the surface, a 6’3” guard in Ty Ty Washington next to Trae Young doesn’t sound like a seamless fit, especially when its defense has been lacking. But Washington has proven to be a very solid defender at Kentucky while possessing a 6’9” wingspan, so he should be a defensive upgrade over both over Kevin Huerter and Bogdan Bogdonivic. But most importantly, Washington would be another playmaker next to Young who can take weight off his shoulders because of his ability to facilitate and create his own shot. He can also play off of Young as well because he’s an excellent shooter who can play off-ball. It seems like Kentucky guards slip further than they should’ve every year, Atlanta can’t be a part of this issue if this opportunity presents itself.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves- Bennedict Mathurin (SF/SG, Arizona, Sophomore)
This isn’t a draft that appears deep in “3 and D” wings, but out of the players of that archetype in this class, Bennedict Mathurin is the best one. Mautherin is a rare case as he is a fantastic, fantastic athlete with a strong combination of strength of explosion who likes to rip the rim off with enticing dunks, but he is also capable of getting hot from three. Adding that with the fact he is an improving defender with good physical tools, he is a rare player. The Timberwolves need more athletes who can shoot on their roster. If they had the chance to draft Mautherin, he would be a dream fit because of his floor spacing, his athleticism and low maintenance style.
12. New York Knicks- JD Davidson (PG, Alabama, Freshman)
This is a very interesting point guard class. There doesn’t appear to be that generational point guard talent at the top of the draft, no Luka Doncic, Cade Cunningham, Lamelo Ball Ja Morant, but there seems to be a lot of quality point guard prospects with depth in the middle of the first round. The opinion on the best point guard in the draft depends on the person. JD Davidson’s archetype is one of one due to his explosion of explosion athleticism, and slashing talent while being a really intriguing passer. He fits the personality of New York. He isn’t a fantastic shooter, but he has a solid shooting foundation, so he has room to grow there. New York’s roster has a lot of questions. What direction will they take? JD Davidson would be a strong, high-upside pick with NBA level strengths right now.
13. Boston Celtics- Jean Montero (PG, Overtime, 19 years old)
The Boston Celtics are having their second consecutive underwhelming year, and a glaring weakness on this roster is its lack of playmaking/facilitation. Jean Montero isn’t the safest pick to some as it’s very hard to project how his game will translate from the Overtime professional basketball league, but he has skills. I’m a believer in his upside as he is a creative 6’2” guard who can really dissect a defense in the pick and roll and get his own shot off the dribble. That should translate. Boston needs to do more to help this roster than just drafting a rookie guard, but Montero would be an intriguing fit.
14. Toronto Raptors- Patrick Baldwin Jr. (SF, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Freshman)
Patrick Baldwin Jr. made a bold choice to not go to the traditional college basketball powerhouse like a Duke or Kentucky to play for his father at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. At this moment, it doesn’t seem like it was the most wise decision for his draft stock. He was an elite shooting prospect, but is currently shooting approximately 38% and 32% from three. A big reason for that seems to be his shot creation ability isn’t as polished or ready as some may have hoped. That has really exposed him as the man on that UWM. That js why he went from being a dark horse #1 pick to barley in the lottery in this mock. Toronto would be a fantastic destination as they are elite at developing raw natural talent. PBJ hasn’t been the shooter or shot creator people hoped, but the upside to become a dynamic shooter and shot maker is as real as last summer. Toronto would be a place that can maximize those talents.
15. Charlotte Hornets- Mark Williams (C, Duke, Sophomore)
Mark Williams is be one of the first real reaches in this mock draft, but if he were to be reached on, it would be by a center needy team like the Hornets. Mark Williams a couple skills he can hang his hat on: He is an athletic rim roller who can really protect the rim. He doesn’t have the modern skillset people want from bigs, he isn’t a playmaker or floor spacers, which could limit his ceiling from being anything behind a role player. Williams could still be a solid pick for Charlotte as Lamelo Ball has a skillset that can elevate a player of his archetype, and good size/rim protection would be a major benefit for this Hornets roster.
16. Oklahoma City Thunder- Kendall Brown (SF, Baylor, Freshman)
The Oklahoma City Thunder would be thrilled if Kendall Brown fell to them at this spot. Many project Brown as a potential top seven pick, and that easily could happen, but there is always someone who slips in the draft, and he just happens to in this mock. Brown is someone I like to call an elite role player. He is an athletic, rangy, high-energy wing who gets after it on the defensive end and can cause chaos on and off the ball. Offensively, he is limited, but he is shooting an absurd 68.7% from the field and is a fantastic finisher in transition. He can also make really good reads as a passer in the open court. Brown’s ceiling may be limited because he isn’t a proven shot creator or shooter, but every team needs a role player like this. Adding AJ Griffin and Kendall Brown on draft night would be a huge talent boost for that Thunder roster.
17. Memphis Grizzlies- Caleb Houstan (SF, Michigan, Freshman)
Similar to Patrick Baldwin Jr., Caleb Houston has had a very underwhelming freshman season. At this moment, this probably would be the high-side of where he will be drafted because he was never viewed as the high-upside prospect PBJ is. You’re not going to reach on a low ceiling player, so he needs to shoot better to go here, but Caleb Houstan feels like an ideal role player for Memphis as he is a very good defender, secondary playmaker, and can play an off-ball role in this system. Memphis really likes those glue-guy type of wings. Houstan is that. If he can go back to shooting like he did in high school (only 31.2% from deep this season),!this would be the perfect spot for him at the near perfect draft selection. If his shot doesn’t go back to form, perhaps he falls out of the first round or stays another year in school.
18. Washington Wizards- Tari Eason (SF/PF, LSU, Freshman)
Tari Eason has to be one of the most underrated prospects in the draft. He is a very athletic 6’8” combo forward who is strong, explosive, and can defend multiple positions at a very high level. Offensively, he is an impressive finisher around the basket who has shown the ability to take the ball up and handle it in a Julius Randle type style. He always looks to rip the face of the rim off when he attacks the rim, and he is a 79% shooter on the line. Eason has the tools to be a top 10 player in this draft. His two-way ability would be a steal for Washington at this point of the draft.
19. Dallas Mavericks- Nikola Jovic (SF/PF, Mega Basket, 18 years old)
No, not Nikola Jokic, Dallas would love to take him with the 18th pick. Nikola Jovic! We know the narrative that Dallas loves drafting foreign players, but he is simply the right fit at this point. At 6’10,” Jovic has a unique feel as a secondary playmaker with upside as a shot creator. Dallas needs to keep acquiring talent that can take the weight off of Doncic’a shoulders. Jovic is a project, but his potential to fill that need to worth it at this point.
20. Denver Nuggets- Yannick Nzosa (C, Unicaja, 18 years old)
Yannick Nzosa’s stock has really fallen this year due to an underwhelming season thus far. At one point, Nzosa was looked at as a dark horse #1 pick, but he would probably be lucky at get lottery looks, currency. He has intriguing upside because he is uniquely quick for a seven footer and can potentially guard five positions at the next level. He is super raw offensively, he can’t shoot, dribble, or pass but he has good touch around the rim and that is a good foundation. Nzosa is a year away from being a year away from being a year away offensively, but Denver knows how to develop talent, a situation like this would be good for Nzosa’s growth.
21. Cleveland Cavaliers- Wendell Moore (SF/SG, Duke, Junior)
The Cleveland Cavaliers are in a position they haven’t been since 1998, playoff contention without Lebron James. With the Cavaliers trending up, they should pursue win-now players for a bargain price, so do it in the draft! Wendell Moore has broken out for Duke. He was a role player his first two years, but he might legit be the best college player on a squad with Paolo Banchero. Moore’s versatility on both ends, his defense, his playmaking for a wing and ability to score on and off the ball gives him a really high floor. This also isn’t a normal Junior, he just turned 20, he is only two months younger than Ty Ty Washington. Having a young player as polished as Moore would be a major asset for an already promising Cavs core.
22. Philadelphia 76ers- Kennedy Chandler (PG, Tennessee, Freshman)
Kennedy Chandler, at this point, is in the mix with Jean Montero and JD Davidson to be one of the first guards taken in the draft. He is a small guard, but he is as good at organizing the offense as any PG in the class. He is very shifty and quick, and can get to the paint more than you would think because of that. He could fall behind those other notable PG’s in this class because he has physical limitations and is an average at best shooter along with that, but he is creative and frisky, which should translate in the NBA at least as a role player.
23. Houston Rockets- Walker Kessler (C, Auburn, Sophomore)
The Rockets need everything, but they especially need rim protection. Walker Kessler has established himself as one of, if not the best rim protector in the country due to his remarkable instincts. He also has a controlled body with the ability to finish around the rim at a smooth level. Kessler needs to work on his shooting, but his skillset alone would make a young team like the Rockets less bad.
24. Milwaukee Bucks- Julian Champagne (SF/SG, St. John’s, Junior)
The supporting cast formula around Giannis Antetokounmpo is becoming evident, get floor spacers and creators around him in the perimeter to give him an open floor in the paint. Julian Champagne is one of the most polished scorers outside of the lottery this year. He has a smooth handle to create separation and pull-up, he also is a vastly improved shooter with an improved shooter- on the verge of becoming an elite shooter- at 6’8”. He has a chance to be one of those high-level scorers who fall later than they should because of age, and not going to a major school, but makes a big impact in the NBA.
25. Memphis Grizzlies- Trevor Keels (SG/PG, Duke, Freshman)
Trevor Keels woke scouts up as a potential first round pick in his college debut when he dropped 25 points in a win against Kentucky. Since that game, he has struggled with efficiency and consistency on the offensive end, which is why he is at the end of the first in this mock. Nonetheless, he is still a first round talent because of his stout frame, ability to finish around the rim, and defensive prowess. Memphis has three firsts this year and may opt to not keep all the picks, but Keels’ aggressive nature fits the identity Memphis has built in multiple eras.
26. Miami Heat- Marjon Beauchamp (SG/SF, G-League Ignite, 20 years old)
Pat Riley has always valued acquiring talent with an intense, high-motor mindset. That’s incredibly valued in Heat culture. Marion Beauchamp is a fantastic energy player in the G-League, he uses that energy with his athleticism to wreck havoc defensively and force teams to scramble. He is also a good, athletic finisher in transition who shows little sprinkles of half court creation. Marjon Beauchamp would benefit being implemented in the Heat culture, somewhere where his upside can be maximized.
27. Chicago Bulls- Ochai Agbaji (SG, Kansas, Senior)
Ochai Agbaji has been under the NBA radar for a while now. In his senior year, he has finally taken that leap as one of the best players in college basketball. He is a super athletic wing who can defend at a respectable level, he can create his own shot and is a dramatically improved shooter as he’s shooting 47.3% from deep, despite never shooting better than 37.7% in previous years. The Bulls’ future with Coby White may be a question. Adding a ready Gus dwho can run, shoot, and defend would be smart. They’ve had success with Ayo Dosunmu this year, perhaps that motivates them to take another elite upperclassman guard.
28. Memphis Grizzlies- Ousmane Dieng (SF/PG, New Zealand Breakers, 18 years old)
Like I said earlier, it’s hard to infer that Memphis will keep all of their picks. But in a scenario where they take Caleb Houstan and Trevor Keels, with what Memphis already has, they would already be incredibly deep with high floor prospects. They need to take a swing. Ousmane Dieng has the highest ceiling available. He may not be a very good player right now, he is averaging 3.6 PPG on 22.2% in the NBL, he is still incredibly thin and isn’t an efficient scorer from really anywhere on the court. But it’s hard to find a 6’10” player who can break a defense down in the pick and roll with vision and a fluid handle while showing glimpses of shot making. The Grizzlies took a similar prospect last year in Ziare Williams. Dieng has an even higher ceiling than Williams does.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder- Ismael Kamagate (C, Paris, 20 years old)
The Thunder have long ways to go in terms of developing its young talent, but they seem to have upside at every position, aside from the center position. Ismael Kamagate wouldn’t be an immediate help, he will be going from the Jeep Elite league in Europe to the NBA. But Kamagate is a fantastic athlete who moves well with a strong natural frame. He can run up the floor, put pressure on the rim, block shots, and he has shown flashes as a shooter form mid range. If a team gives him time to develop and refine his skills, he could develop as quickly as Clint Capela did.
30. Golden State Warriors- Roko Prkacin (PF, Cibona, 19 years old)
Roko Prkacin had the option of entering the draft last year. He decided to go back to Europe for one more year, probably to boost his draft stock for this year, but it doesn’t seem like that has quite happened. Even if that’s the case, there is certainly intrigue with a 6’9” forward who can handle the ball, hit open shots, and make good reads. Golden State is far too talented to have someone like Prkacin to make an immediate impact, but his style would fit in a Warriors system that prides itself on versatility and ball movement.