Philadelphia 76ers – Markelle Fultz, PG
Not since the mighty Lebron James in 2003, has there been a more clear cut number 1 overall selection. And that isn’t because Fultz is leaps and bounds above his fellow draftees…it’s simply because the 76ers have already made their intentions clear when it comes to their second consecutive first selection. The Washington University Point Guard is, in the estimation of most scouts, the best player in the draft. Aside from a still inconsistent jump shot, his game has no glaring holes. So now he is off to Philly, to Trust the Process (I really hope Sam Hinkie is getting royalty checks every time somebody uses his catch phrase).
Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball, PG
I almost don’t want this to happen, just to see the Lavar Ball reaction. On a side note…is it possible to set up a special “Lavar-cam” for tonight’s draft? Look, the Lakers eliminated any doubt about their Draft day decision when they shipped D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn (thank you for that btw Magic Johnson, but we’ll get to that later). LaLa Land longs for the days of the showtime Lakers, and with Magic at the helm it was only a matter of time before the pieces to that puzzle started to come into view. Nobody in this draft better fits that 80s dream-team mold than the eldest Ball brother. Honestly I just can’t wait to see Lavar seated beside Jack Nicholson at a game. And what are the current Vegas odds for Lavar strong-arming Magic into taking his other kids in the coming years?
Boston Celtics – Josh Jackson, SF
Has there ever been a more Danny Ainge-esque pick? Let’s call it what it is, Ainge was going to take either Tatum or Jackson with that top selection because a point guard isn’t what they need. So when it became apparent that they didn’t need to hold that top slot to get one of the best wings in the draft, they seized the opportunity to move back. There’s always the chance that this pick gets moved (Jimmy Butler might look good in Celtic green…) but if it isn’t then odds are you’ll hear Jackson’s name get called. He’s a better version of the Jaylen Brown pick the C’s made last year in the same spot.
Phoenix Suns – Jayson Tatum, SF
Quietly, the Phoenix Suns have made all of the right moves in the past several years to rebuild properly. They already have a star-in-the-making in place, in the form of SG Devon Booker. Now they have the opportunity to add another potentially elite wing at the number 4 spot in the draft. They are at the mercy of what ever move the Celtics make just ahead of them (and either option would be great for Phoenix), but in a bets case scenario for both clubs, Jayson Tatum falls into their laps with the 4th pick. The tandem of Booker and Tatum will drive opposing defenses insane, even during the early stages of their development. Throw in other young high-potential guys like Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, and the Suns might only be a couple of years away from taking the West by storm.
Sacramento Kings – De’Arron Fox, PG
Is it possible for there to be a more appropriate pick for the Kings? I mean the guy is literally being billed as Lonzo’s-Kryptonite. Granted the Lakers-Kings rivalry hasn’t been what it once was in recent years, but nothing can reignite the flames quite like a pair of rivals being drafted into the same division on the rebuilding teams. Fox fits an immediate need for Sacramento, and will be the ideal ying to Buddy Heild’s yang in their backcourt. He’s a defensive stopper, and playmaking wizard. So what if he can’t shoot the lights out just yet…he’s about to line up next to one of the best shooters in recent collegiate memory.
Orlando Magic – Dennis Smith Jr, PG
The Orlando Magic need everything. They can use a future superstar at literally any position right now. So in that case, why not go with the best available player still on the board. You can argue that Jonathan Isaac has more upside, but there is no debate that Dennis Smith Jr is about as polished and ready to impact the game as any player in this draft class. I can very well see him rising in the same way we saw Damian Lillard do when he was drafted in 2012. The fact that Smith is a point guard on a bad team, means he’ll be given ample opportunities and shot attempts when he is given the keys to the Magic offense. (If this shakes out, he’s my early pick for ROY).
Minnesota Timberwolves – Jonathan Isaac, PF
Say what you will about the Timberwolves needing a Point Guard and praying for one of the elites of this draft slips through the cracks, if Jonathan Isaac is on the board come there time to pick he’ll be on his way to Minnesota. The Wolves are another team to be wary of as far as late movement (Jimmy Butler always looked good in a Tom Thibodeau scheme…), but if this Florida State freak-of-nature is their consolation prize then they’ll still be deemed winners on Thursday night.
New York Knicks – Frank Ntilinka, PG
If the thought of a Kristaps Porzingis/Frank Ntilinka led Knicks team doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will. I mean dear god, think of all of the incredible things Walt Frazier could do with his name on commentary…if Phil ruins this for me I’m going to go all Charles Oakley on his ass. That’s the beauty of it though, this is such a Phil Jackson pick, he can’t possibly screw this up…unless of course he trades this pick and Porzingis to the Lakers for some scratch-offs, a paper clip, Jeanie Buss’ love & affection, and the rights to have Lavar Ball sit courtside with Spike Lee at the Garden.
Dallas Mavericks – Lauri Markkanen, PF
I can break this pick down with simple mathematics: Dallas loves Dirk…Dirk Nowitzki is big man who shoots good…Lauri Markkanen is big man who shoots good…Dallas loves Lauri. For every Mavs fan fearful of the day Dirk becomes human and retires because of his age, this is your chance to relive the whole process again from the very beginning. It’s like when you have an old dog as a kid, and your parents buy you a puppy who looks exactly the same to soften the blow of the old dog being on his way out. For those who didn’t like that analogy it could be worse…Phil Jackson is trying to Old Yeller a certain 7’3 puppy in New York…
San Antonio Spurs – Harry Giles, PF
Okay here’s my way too ballsy prediction. You’re going to want to follow along closely kids, don’t want you to get lost like the hopes of Knicks fans (I’m sorry that’s the last one I promise). Harry Giles was at the top of his class all of about a year ago. Injuries and slow development in his freshman season at Duke essentially erased him from draft boards and scouts’ radar. Suddenly out of the blue he kills at just about every workout, and his physical evaluations come back far better than anyone could’ve predicted. Suddenly and even more out of the blue, the San Antonio Spurs are willing to leverage their prized PF Lamarcus Aldridge for a pick in the top 10 to get the jump on some unknown prospect. The Kings are desperate to get to the playoffs, and they have a raging desire to move Rudy Gay, so here is the premo of Draft deals for the day. Clearly Pop sees something in somebody that he didn’t see before, and he wants it badly.
Charlotte Hornets – Malik Monk, SG
For what it’s worth, I think Malik Monk can essentially be taken anywhere in this draft. He’s one of those guys a team could reach for in the top 7 picks, he could be late lotto, or he could even fall into the 20s and be a hidden gem for the right team. For all intents and purposes though I think he’ll be scooped up at 11 by the Hornets. A trade for Dwight Howard means that they’re anxious to contend right now, and giving Kemba Walker a knock down shooter and someone to help bare the ball handling load would be ideal. If all goes well, Monk could become the league’s new Monta Ellis…if it doesn’t, it was a late lotto pick so not too big of a risk here.
Detroit Pistons – Zach Collins, C
For whatever reason, it appears the Detroit Pistons are growing weary of the Andre Drummond project. Now what could possess a team to give up on a young, athletic, 7-footer is beyond me (but hey if Phil Jackson could…no no no I promised I stopped these). Enter one Zach Collins. This kid has a chance to be something special in the league, and even if his role early on is backing up Drummond he’s the kind of guy to keep your eyes on down the road.
Denver Nuggets – Luke Kennard, PG
The Denver Nuggets essentially have a log jam of 21 year olds at every single position on the court. So regardless of who they select, minutes are going to be hard to come by. Once again I have to note that the Nuggets are in play for a big name (not many people can pull off yellow, but I think Jimmy Butler might look good in it). If they keep this pick though, why not go look for what they don’t have a lot of: shooting. Kennard is arguably the best shooter in the draft and that argument becomes stronger once Markkanen is off the board. He can make a run at some serious minutes here, and probably has a better chance to be an impact player in Denver right now than any other remaining draftee.
Miami Heat – Justin Jackson, SF
If there’s two things that the Miami Heat like in their draft picks it’s winning (a la Mario Chalmers) and wings who probably should’ve gotten taken higher (a la Justise Winslow). In Justin Jackson…they get both. He can come in and play a huge role for a Heat team who is still wildly unsure of their post-Wade identity. I’m not sold on how he fits next to Winslow on the court for extended minutes each night, but if there’s anyone who could figure it out I’d say it’s Pat Riley and Eric Spoelstra.
Portland Trailblazers – John Collins, PF
The Blazers aren’t in the market for a star via the draft, and with their place just outside the lottery they really shouldn’t be expecting one. John Collins might be the safest bet of the remaining picks to be super duper solid. His upside isn’t great, but it’s almost a guarantee he’ll give you something when he touches the court.
Chicago Bulls – Donovan Mitchell, SG
While writing this piece I’ve come to the conclusion that Jimmy Butler is just a good looking guy. Sadly that won’t be enough to keep him planted in Chicago for very long. He’s likely on the move very soon (if you couldn’t tell it’s possible he gets moved tonight). The D-Wade homecoming experiment didn’t quite live up to the unrealistic expectations either. They need a quality pick in the draft and Donavan Mitchell is just that as a combo guard.
Milwaukee Bucks – Jarrett Allen, C
The Bucks have a solid collection of big men at the moment, but not all of them will be sticking around for long. Jarrett Allen likely won’t see any big minutes this year, but he’s essentially a lock to crack the rotation over the next couple of seasons while he matures. If nothing else, the NBA is in desperate need of a good 70s–esque afro, and he’s the man who can give us that.
Indiana Pacers – Terrance Ferguson, SG
Indiana is about to lose their prodigal son. That being said it’s effectively time to hit the rebuild button and the first stop aboard that ride is one Terrance Ferguson. If nothing else, the kid can hoop. His blend of shooting, defense, and athleticism will translate well to today’s game and even if his ceiling isn’t projected at being all that high, something tells me Indiana is on their way to a host of higher picks in the coming years.
Atlanta Hawks – Justin Patton, C
The Atlanta Hawks just traded Dwight Howard (far too late and for not enough if you ask me) and are now on the precipice of a rebuild. Justin Patton isn’t a pick who will turn heads but this is another team who is bound for the lottery in no time at all. They’ll get there high-ceiling prospect soon enough.
Portland Trailblazers – O.G. Anunoby, SF
The Blazers have three opportunities in the draft, and with their second they’re going to further strengthen their wing rotation. Despite having quite a few names out there right now, they can certainly use a long-term project who can become a legitimate asset down the road like O.G. Anunoby.
Oklahoma City Thunder – T.J. Leaf, PF
I believe whole-heartedly that the Thunder are looking at the Houston Rockets and trying to figure out how they can emulate their style. The obvious answer is surrounding Westbrook with shooters and letting him go to work. T.J. Leaf isn’t going to come in and light it up from beyond the arc by any means, but he’s shown flashes of his ability to stretch the floor and the Thunder could certainly do worse at 21.
Brooklyn Nets – Bam Adebayo, C
Had you asked me 72 hours ago what I’d be feeling on draft night as a Brooklyn Nets fan, I would’ve said devastated. Today though I can tell you I have a sliver of promise. Snitch or not, D’Angelo Russell is my new favorite basketball player and Magic Johnson is my new favorite GM (sorry Phil). With their draft choice they can do just about anything, so why not get a high-octane big who will at least be fun to watch alongside Russell in the midst of more losing.
Toronto Raptors – Tyler Lyndon, PF
Have you ever seen Syracuse on a map? It’s in that part of New York that might as well be Canada anyways, so one Tyler Lyndon will adjust perfectly to those painful Toronto Winters. The Raptors have much bigger fish to fry this offseason, so a safe pick like this big man will be ideal for the team from across the border.
Utah Jazz – Semi Ojeye, PF
The Jazz are another team who could lose their centerpiece this summer. So they could do a lot worse than drafting a solid combo forward who can do a little bit of everything. Semi Ojeye won’t love the night life (at least not according to Matt Barnes) but he’ll certainly love the opportunity to earn some minutes on a potentially star-less Jazz team.
Orlando Magic – D.J. Wilson, PF
Similar to Ojeye getting picked just before him, D.J. Wilson is a combo forward who can do a little of everything…especially defensively. He’ll also get a shot at solid minutes with the mess down in Orlando. Like I said…they need everything.
Portland Trailblazers – Anzejs Pasecniks, C
European big men are like socks on Christmas Day, you’re not exactly thrilled about getting them, but you know you can definitely use them. Portland has another pick in this draft and they’re going to look to bolster that front court rotation any way possible, and Pasecniks is certainly the best available option from that regard.
Los Angeles Lakers – Tony Bradley, C
Live in Los Angeles and like high energy big guys? Well then Tony Bradley is the guy for you. The latest attempt at showtime is going to be headlined by Lonzo and company, but they’re going to need a few big boys like Bradley to get the boards and run the floor. At pick 27 you’re not going to do much better than an immediate producer.
Los Angeles Lakers – Josh Hart, SG
As a fan of Big East Basketball (yes that is still a thing), I’ve grown to appreciate what Josh Hart can do. And at number 28 thanks to their swap with the Nets, the Lakers are going to add another skillful shooter for Lonzo Ball to feed the rock to.
Sacramento Kings – Jordan Bell, PF
Remember when I picked Oregon to go to the Final Four last year and everybody laughed at me? I remember. Anyways…Jordan Bell is the kind of big man every team could use in the league. He’s going to defend and block shots, and he’ll be another guy who can eat away at the hole Boogie Cousins left in Sacramento.
Utah Jazz – Derrick White, PG
If you tell me you’re a fan of Colorado basketball you’re either from Colorado…or full of shit. If you fall into the latter category (which I assume most of you do) then allow me to enlighten you on what this combo guard can do. White was one of only 4 players this season to average 18, 4, & 4 in a power conference (along with Fultz, Smith, and Frank Mason). Whether he gets taken here by a needy Jazz team or falls into the second round, you’re going to thank me when he wins an MVP award in 2 years (jk but I think he’s going to be better than most 30th overall picks).