With the addition of Ed Isaacson to the Rotoworld team I haven’t had to be the lone source of info on the college/European players this spring and summer. In fact, I haven’t even thrown my two cents out there this year…until now. So here’s my first stab at an NBA mock draft, focusing on the lottery and first round.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
He’s being evaluated in Cleveland as I write this and my guess is they’ll take him at No. 1 if the stress fracture in his back is healed. Spencer Hawes is a free agent, Anderson Varejao is likely out, and Tyler Zeller looks like a career backup to me. So there is a fit and Embiid has a chance to be special if he can stay healthy. Just like Greg Oden and Sam Bowie.
2. Milwaukee Bucks - Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
The Cavs could easily go with Wiggins at No. 1, but he shouldn’t fall lower than No. 2 if Cleveland goes with Embiid. Wiggins appears to have it all and the Bucks seemingly need help at every position, meaning they’ll be taking the best player available, regardless of position. And seeing Wiggins at No. 2 would be the best-case scenario for tortured Bucks fans.
3. Philadelphia 76ers - Jabari Parker, F, Duke
Parker’s name isn’t being thrown around much in the race for No. 1 or 2, so No. 3 for the Sixers looks like the right place, unless Embiid’s back raises too many red flags for the Cavs or Bucks. He’s NBA ready and should start scoring right away, and could even start, as Hollis Thompson shouldn’t prove to be much of a road block.
4. Orlando Magic - Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Almost every mock I’ve seen has Dante Exum going here, but he’s simply a mystery. The Magic are happy with Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and I can seem them going after another Hoosier here. I think Vonleh might be the most underrated player in the lottery and the Magic could use a true power forward, as most of their wings can play several positions.
5. Utah Jazz - Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Randle would give the Jazz a solid bench option behind Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. He’s a good two-way player, but his pro career will probably get off to a slow start if he has to compete with the aforementioned big men for minutes.
6. Boston Celtics - Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Rajon Rondo’s name continuously pops up in trade rumors and the Celtics could use a young back up to join Phil Pressey in the backcourt, either way. Smart’s also a defensive stopper, just like Rondo, and I get the feeling Danny Ainge would be psyched if Smart is available at No. 6.
7. Los Angeles Lakers - Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
He’s a nicely sized point guard, but also a bit of a mystery, since most of us haven’t seen him play. Most mocks I’ve seen have him going at No. 4, but I’m not convinced the Magic will be ready to automatically take such a question mark, especially after the Fran Vasquez disaster a few years ago (he never showed up). Steve Nash is about done and the Lakers need help everywhere. Kendall Marshall and Jordan Farmar (free agent) are competent point guards, but both seem more like backups than NBA starters, at least at the point. Exum will probably need some time to learn the NBA game, but gambling on him at No. 7 could pay off in a big way in the long run.
8. Sacramento Kings - Dario Saric, F, Croatia
The Kings are desperately trying to get Rudy Gay to stay, but if it doesn’t happen, this looks like a logical move. Saric could end up being an offensive phenom, but his defense is a question mark. But as long as Gay isn’t a sure bet, Saric looks like he could be their guy.
9. Charlotte Hornets, Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
The Cats took PF Cody Zeller last year and starter Josh McRoberts is a free agent, meaning the Cats have a serious need at power forward, for depth if nothing else. Gordon’s a serious athlete who can run the floor and plays solid defense. If he lands in Charlotte, the big hope will be that he’s not Tyrus Thomas, part 2.
10. Philadelphia 76ers - Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Stauskas is a sharp shooter and the Sixers, like most teams, could use one of those. He’s another player I view as undervalued and he could make a jump after he works out for some teams and they see his shooting skills on display. No. 10 just feels right.
11. Denver Nuggets - Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Randy Foye was a pleasant surprise last year and Evan Fournier is an up-and-comer, but both players can also play other positions than shooting guard. Harris is a bit undersized, but is also highly skilled, and whether or not he goes to Denver, it looks like he’s going to be taken in the second half of the lottery.
12. Orlando Magic - Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
Nikola Vucevic had a big year for the Magic but they are lacking some depth at center. Nurkic may not be ready to come over the U.S. right away, but is one of the most legitimate center prospects in this draft. Then again, the Magic got burned by Fran Vasquez a few years ago when he never showed up, so this will be a tough call for Orlando.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves - Doug McDermott, SF/PF, Creighton
McDermott is going earlier than this in most mocks and he may not fall out of the Top 10. He’s a pure scorer, with his defense being a liability, but Corey Brewer may be wearing out his welcome in Minnesota and Flip Saunders might be ready to find an offensive weapon at SF instead of a defensive specialist.
14. Phoenix Suns - Rodney Hood, G/F, Duke
I see Hood as the last lottery pick and the Suns seem to be team that can do magical things with ‘tweeners. He’s athletic and can score, and would be a nice complement to guys like restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe and Gerald Green.
15. Atlanta Hawks - James Young, G/F, Kentucky
The Hawks have Lou Williams, Kyle Korver and John Jenkins, and really need a true center, but Young is one of the better shooters in the draft and Korver and Williams aren’t going to be around forever. And they’re not going to find a game-changing center at this stage of the draft.
16. Chicago Bulls - K.J. McDaniels, F, Clemson
The Bulls are still looking to replace Luol Deng, while Carlos Boozer will likely be replaced in the starting lineup by Taj Gibson next season. McDaniels has the skills to make an impact right off the bat, but will likely have to cut his teeth off the bench, no matter where he lands.
17. Boston Celtics - Kyle Anderson, F, UCLA
Anderson is a classic tweener, but is undersized for a PF and not a true SF. He can score and is a great passer, but defense will be an issue. The Celtics had a similar situation with Ryan Gomes a few years ago and he was effective, so it’s not a reach to think they could try the same experiment again.
18. Phoenix Suns - Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Ennis would provide some bench relief for Goran Dragic early in his career. However, it’s hard to see him making much of a fantasy impact any time soon, especially if he lands in Phoenix and plays behind Dragic and Bledsoe (if he’s back).
19. Chicago Bulls - Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Payton should be at least a solid back up NBA point guard and given the health woes of Derrick Rose over the last few seasons, seems to be a perfect fit in Chicago. And the fact he’s a solid defender will sit well with coach Tom Thibodeau.
20. Toronto Raptors - Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Payne has a little Taj Gibson in his game, but also has a better outside shot at this point. The Raptors have plenty of holes to fill and both forward spots are weaknesses for them. He should provide some scoring right off the bat, regardless of where he ends up.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder - T.J. Warren, SF/PF, North Carolina State
Warren can flat out score and the Thunder wouldn’t mind having some instant offense coming off their bench. He won’t get much run with Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka locked into 35-plus minutes a game, but Warren might end up being better than anything the Thunder currently have coming off the pine.
22. Memphis Grizzlies - Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
Robinson didn’t exactly blow up as expected last season, but still has his daddy’s name that is impossible to ignore. The Grizzlies are already terribly thin at small forward and might lose Zach Randolph to free agency, so this looks like a perfect match.
23. Utah Jazz - Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
Grant was much better in his sophomore year and was possibly the best athlete on his team at Syracuse. The Jazz need a small forward badly, and Grant makes for a very sensible pick here. And it’s possible he could be one of the late steals in this draft if he continues to improve.
24. Charlotte Hornets - Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn
The Bobcats have been doing just fine with Kemba Walker running the point, but a decent back up wouldn’t hurt, with Luke Ridnour a free agent and Jannero Pargo, well, Jannero Pargo.
25. Houston Rockets - P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends
Hairston was kicked off North Carolina’s team (that school Rashad McCants went to) last December and then played in the D-League for the Texas Legends. He proved he can score in his time with the Legends and I find it hard to believe that a D-League run didn’t do wonders for his knowledge and confidence. And while the Rockets are clearly set at shooting guard with James Harden, one thing we learned from the season is that Harden could use fewer minutes in order to better manage his injuries. Enter Hairston.
26. Miami Heat - Zach LaVine, SG, UCLA
The entire Heat roster is essentially one big free agent, while there appears to be a real chance they’ll roll out a starting lineup next year of Norris Cole, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. And since Wade may very well take half the regular season off next year, Levine could actually even have some fantasy value if he lands in Miami.
27. Phoenix Suns - Mitch McGary, C, Michigan
McGary was quiet during the regular season of his freshman year, but came on in the NCAA Tournament and helped the Wolves get to the championship game. A back injury limited him to just eight games as a sophomore, but it sounds like he should be healthy enough to be drafted in the first round. And after watching Miles Plumlee nosedive after a hot start, the Suns won’t be afraid to add a serviceable center to the mix on draft night.
28. Los Angeles Clippers - Clint Capela, PF/C, Switzerland
Capela had a nice season in France and was one of the top big men in Pro A, effective in scoring, rebounding and shot blocking. Yes, he’s a project, but the Clippers are in no rush to add a big man with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin holding down the fort. And he’s only 20 years old.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder - Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA
The Thunder could always use another shooting guard, as Thabo Sefolosha is a defensive specialist and Jeremy Lamb is still learning his way around the league. Adams has a nice wingspan and trimmed his body down over the last year. He’s not a great athlete and maintaining his weight could be an issue, but the Thunder could get a mini version of Vic Oladipo with Adams here.
30. San Antonio Spurs - Kristaps Porzingis, F/C, Latvia
Some mocks have Porzingis going much earlier, like just outside the lottery, but I just don’t see teams gambling on him that early. He’s athletic, can run the floor, block shots and can hit treys. He’s also a decent defender and if he does drop to the end of the first round, he could be another real steal for the Spurs. But chances are he won’t be available this late. I’m taking the bait that he might be.