The NBA Draft is fast approaching and teams have had their opportunity to evaluate talent through the combine and individual workouts. Players have made their final decisions on whether or not to remain in the draft or return to school which has finalized the draft pool. Recent reports have hinted that Luka Doncic may be passed on by the Kings and Hawks shaking up the top 10. Villanova players Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman made big decisions and have boosted their draft stock. Kevin Huerter appears to have cemented himself in the first round conversation. There is plenty of time for more shake ups but given what we have seen so far, here are my projections.
1. Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton, Arizona Wildcats, Center, Age 19
Ayton averaged 20.1 PPG and 11.6 RPG in his lone season at Arizona. A man among boys that dominated on the offensive end of the floor, the former Wildcat shouldn’t have to travel far to find his NBA destination. The athletic center immediately fills the most glaring hole on Phoenix’s roster and will continue the infusion of young talent into the Suns’ organization.
2. Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley III, Duke, Power Forward, Age 19
Bagley averaged 21 PPG and 11 RPG at Duke with athleticism that jumped off the page. His athleticism is complimented by a high energy level on the offensive end. He has a solid repertoire of post moves but needs serious development with his defensive skills, he looked lost at times especially against ball screens. This pick could also help the Kings form an incredibly dangerous pick and roll combo with Bagley and point guard De’Aaron Fox.
3. Atlanta Hawks: Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State, Power Forward/Center, Age 18
Jaren Jackson Jr. can stretch the floor and protect the rim. Jackson still has a long way to go as a basketball player starting with mental engagement, but it’s impossible to deny that he has one of the draft’s biggest upsides. Jackson failed to dominate like he was capable of maybe because he was disinterested with the college game. Atlanta is collecting young talent in their rebuild and Jackson could spread the floor to work alongside John Collins.
4. Memphis Grizzlies: Luka Doncic, Real Madrid, Guard, Age 19
The crafty Slovenian is 6’8”, can handle the ball like a guard, and create his own shot. He is lighting up the Euroleague at age 19 and would give the Grizzlies the offensive threat they desperately need to bounce back in the West. If he falls this far, Doncic would be a gift for the Grizzlies at 4.
5. Dallas Mavericks: Mohamed Bamba, Texas, Center, Age 19
I think Bamba projects as a player similar to Clint Capela with more athleticism and the potential to develop some sort of catch and shoot jump shot. Bamba can be an elite shot blocker with 7’10” wingspan and freakish mobility shown by his 3.04 ¾ court time recently recorded at a workout with the Bulls. He has a slim frame and doesn’t have the strength to bang in the post so he could be susceptible to getting bullied by opposing bigs. Strength and engagement on the court are the two areas of need for Bamba, but he has the athleticism and potential to be a top 5 pick.
6. Orlando Magic: Michael Porter Jr., Missouri, Small Forward, Age 19
Porter Jr. is the draft’s biggest mystery because of how little we got to see him this past season due to a back injury that limited him to just three total games. If he is at full health the Magic get the wing talent they need to build around. Teams will do their best to ensure they are not receiving damaged goods with such a valuable pick, it will be interesting to follow his pre-draft process.
7. Chicago Bulls: Wendell Carter Jr., Duke, Center, Age 19
Carter can hold his own physically on the low block at 260 pounds. He should have a long career as a capable starter thanks to a solid foundation of skill and talent. Carter could slide in nicely along Markkanen and solves the Bull’s need at center. Carter is a safe pick for a franchise that finds themselves in the top half of the lottery.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Collin Sexton, Alabama, Point Guard, Age 19
The Cavs take Sexton over Young here because of his potential on the defensive side of the ball. He has the athleticism and size to hold his own with the elite point guards in the league and he can create his own shot in a variety of ways. If LeBron stays, Sexton is also not as ball dominant as Young and gives the Cavs two dribble drive threats. If LeBron leaves, Sexton becomes the future of Cleveland, a role he is familiar with after carrying the load at Alabama last season and single-handedly leading them to a berth in the Round of 32.
9. New York Knicks: Mikal Bridges, Villanova, Small Forward, Age 21
Bridges is an NBA ready 3 and D wing that could complete a young core along with Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis. Bridges knows what it takes to win games thanks to his time at Villanova and plays the game technically sound with a high level of effort.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Robert Williams, Texas A&M, Center, Age 20
Williams is an above the rim athlete who looked like he didn’t care at times while he was at Texas A&M. He is NBA ready from a physical standpoint but teams will want to understand his thought process. He could slide in as a backup energy big for a 76ers team that continues to stockpile young talent for one of the most talented teams in the East.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges, Michigan State, Small Forward, Age 20
Bridges is an athletic player that chose to go back to school for another year. He improved as a shooter but fell in love with his jump shot too much for a guy with the size to drive defenders and attack the rim. This is good value for Charlotte and they would be tasked with maximizing the potential that Bridges possess.
12. Los Angeles Clippers: Trae Young, Oklahoma, Point Guard, Age 19
An elite shot creator and shot maker, Trae Young is an excellent passer that could step into a rebuilding roster. He is undersized and extremely ball dominant but he has the offensive skills to be an NBA point guard.
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Lonnie Walker IV, Miami, Shooting Guard, Age 19
Austin Rivers is not the long term answer at shooting guard and Walker could slide in with Trae Young as more of a slashing guard. He is an explosive guard that may need time to pan out. Boom or bust.
14. Denver Nuggets: Kevin Knox, Kentucky, Small Forward/Power Forward, Age 18
The Nuggets are ready to compete in the West and could use Knox as a reserve combo forward to finally break through and advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. He is pretty raw as a basketball player but has tremendous upside. He should only continue to improve his game in Mike Malone’s system.
15. Washington Wizards: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky, Point Guard, Age 19
Washington needs to go with best available at this pick due to the salary cap jam they are in along with the current stars on their roster in Wall and Beal. Gilgeous-Alexander showed improvement at Kentucky over the year and has the size and skills to develop for the future and contribute off the bench.
16. Phoenix Suns: Aaron Holiday, UCLA, Point Guard, Age 21
That’s right, Holiday is headed to the NBA. The younger brother of Jrue and Justin, Aaron Holiday has the experience and scoring ability to provide instant backcourt depth on a team likely to lose Elfrid Payton. There won’t be a steep learning curve with Holiday, who could get big minutes right away at point guard.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Troy Brown, Oregon, Shooting Guard/Small Forward, Age 18
Brown brings the versatility, size, and athleticism that the Bucks have made a culture out of in Milwaukee. He needs to work on his jump shot but the opportunity is there to play over Tony Snell.
18. San Antonio Spurs: Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech, Shooting Guard, Age 18
Smith flew under the radar at Texas Tech, but has shot up draft boards with elite athleticism and defensive potential. His in game dunks are worth watching and he has a foundation for a catch and shoot 3 point shot. The Spurs have the ability to develop his raw skills and make him a two-way contributor. I think this would be a great match.
19. Atlanta Hawks: Anfernee Simons, IMG Academy, Point Guard, Age 18
Simmons is a wild card coming out of IMG Academy, but the Hawks are looking to compile young talent and have the time to take a chance.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves: Khyri Thomas, Creighton, Shooting Guard, Age 21
Thomas is a 3 and D guard that could help the Timberwolves capitalize on the roster they have right now. Thomas could be an NBA ready guard for the Timberwolves bench as they look to take another step in the right direction.
21. Utah Jazz: Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova, Shooting Guard, Age 21
After dropping 31 points off the bench in the Wildcats’ championship-clinching win, DiVincenzo showed out at the NBA Combine and has cemented himself in the first round conversation. Utah would value his shooting, ability to defend, and basketball IQ as well as the displayed ability to create his own shot off the dribble. He’d be a great fit out West.
22. Chicago Bulls: Chandler Hutchison, Boise State, Small Forward, Age 22
Chandler Hutchison has inside and outside scoring ability and would be a nice fit thanks to his versatility as a combo forward. A team around the early 20’s has reportedly promised to take him and there are indications that could be Chicago.
23. Indiana Pacers: Gary Trent Jr., Duke, Small Forward, Age 19
An outstanding catch and shoot threat, Trent wasn’t able to show off all his skills at Duke due to the collection of talent on the floor. He would be ready to contribute off the bench as a scorer for a Pacers team that came close to knocking off the Cavs in the first round of the playoffs.
24. Portland Trail Blazers: Jacob Evans, Cincinnati, Shooting Guard, Age 20
Evans is an intense defender that can match up across guards and wings. He projects as a 3 and D player at a pick the Blazers need to make count to avoid wasting the young core of Lillard and McCollum.
25. Los Angeles Lakers: Mitchell Robinson, Center, Age 20
Robinson is in a bizarre situation after he left Western Kentucky shortly after arriving on campus. He was a McDonald’s All American out of high school and as an athletic 7-footer he may be worth the risk for the Lakers at 25.
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Kevin Huerter, Maryland, Shooting Guard, Age 19
Huerter shot up draft boards after the NBA combine and elected to remain in the draft. He is an outstanding shooter with great size at 6’7”. Teams will be hoping to get a player similar to Klay Thompson with Huerter which may be a stretch of the imagination. He won’t have to make his own shot with Simmons distributing and gives the Sixers more perimeter depth.
27. Boston Celtics: Jalen Brunson, Villanova, Point Guard, Age 21
Another Villanova guard that will be discounted by many, Brunson is still a point guard that led 2 national championship runs. He is a cerebral point guard that brings a physical style along with shotmaking ability. He can defend, distribute, and get his teammates involved. Brunson knows how to run an offense and play off the ball. The Celtics may not financially be able to keep Marcus Smart of Terry Rozier potentially leaving Brunson as the next reserve guard for Brad Stevens.
28. Golden State Warriors: De’Anthony Melton, USC, Point Guard, Age 19
The Warriors will be looking to draft a role player prepared to contribute. Melton fits that role as a distributor and defender.
29. Brooklyn Nets: Omari Spellman, Villanova, Power Forward, Age 20
Spellman was a matchup nightmare in college as a 6’9” 245 pound power forward that could shoot 3s, attack off the dribble, post up, and crash the glass. He is physical and strong enough to compete in the NBA and he has already been in school for 2 years. He would give the Nets valuable and versatile size to end the first round.
30. Atlanta Hawks: Jerome Robinson, Boston College, Shooting Guard, Age 21
Jerome Robinson is a talented scorer coming off a season where he averaged 20.7 PPG at Boston College. Atlanta’s third first round selection could improve their guard depth and provide them with a guy used to carrying the scoring load against premier ACC talent.
31. Phoenix Suns: Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State, Small Forward, Age 22
32. Memphis Grizzlies: Landry Shamet, Wichita State, Shooting Guard, Age 21
33. Dallas Mavericks: Moritz Wagner, Michigan, Power Forward, Age 21
34. Atlanta Hawks: Josh Okogie, Georgia Tech, Shooting Guard, Age 19
35. Orlando Magic: Grayson Allen, Duke, Shooting Guard, Age 22
36. New York Knicks: Melvin Frazier, Tulane, Shooting Guard, Age 21
37. Sacramento Kings: Bruce Brown, Miami, Shooting Guard, Age 21
38. Philadelphia 76ers: Elie Okobo, France, Point Guard, Age 20
39. Philadelphia 76ers: Rodions Kurucs, Barcelona, Small Forward, Age 20
40. Brooklyn Nets: Jarred Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Small Forward, Age 19
41. Orlando Magic: Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky, Shooting Guard, Age 19
42. Detroit Pistons: Shake Milton, SMU, Point Guard, Age 21
43. Denver Nuggets: Vince Edwards, Purdue, Power Forward, Age 22
44. Washington Wizards: Dzanan Musa, KK Cedevita, Small Forward, Age 19
45. Brooklyn Nets: Rawle Alkins, Arizona, Shooting Guard, Age 20
46. Houston Rockets: Justin Jackson, Maryland, Small Forward, Age 21
47. Los Angeles Lakers: Malik Newman, Kansas, Point Guard, Age 21
48. Minnesota Timberwolves: Tony Carr, Penn State, Point Guard, Age 20
49. San Antonio Spurs: Kevin Hervey, UT-Arlington, Power Forward, Age 21
50. Indiana Pacers: Svi Mykhailiuk, Kansas, Small Forward, Age 20
51. New Orleans Pelicans: Jevon Carter, West Virginia, Point Guard, Age 22
52. Utah Jazz: Chimezie Metu, USC, Power Forward, Age 21
53. Oklahoma City Thunder: Devonte Graham, Kansas, Point Guard, 23
54. Dallas Mavericks: Ray Spalding, Louisville, Power Forward, Age 21
55. Charlotte Hornets: Devon Hall, Virginia, Shooting Guard, Age 22
56. Philadelphia 76ers: Allonzo Trier, Arizona, Point Guard, Age 22
57. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kenrich Williams, TCU. Small Forward, Age 23
58. Denver Nuggets: Billy Preston, Kansas, Center, Age 20
59. Phoenix Suns: Trevon Duval, Duke, Point Guard, Age 19
60. Philadelphia 76ers: Isaac Bonga, Germany, Small Forward, Age 19