♪ “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” ♪
Yup, that’s right; it’s mock draft time, people. With each passing day it seems less-likely that the 2019-2020 NBA season will resume, thus making it fair for us Hornets fans to move on to the 2020 NBA Draft. The Hornets have three picks; their own lottery pick, the 32nd overall pick via the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the 56th pick via the Boston Celtics. All of those will be included, along with every NBA team’s first-round pick. You guys know how a mock draft works by now. You’re smart people. So, without further ado, the At the Hive NBA Mock Draft 2020, Volume 1.
NOTE: All stats and measurements from sports-reference.com/cbb, tankathon.com/big_board, nbl.com.au/stats/overview, proballers.com and euroleague.net/main/statistics. Draft order is from tankathon.com and accurate as of the last day of the season before hiatus. Positional acronyms are; PG (point guard), G (guard), W (wing), F (forward), C (center). I didn’t run this mock from the perspective of a Hornets fan, I just combined what I feel is a good fit/need for a team with the value of the prospect at that draft slot and the information available on what type of players that team would draft. I didn’t make up any trades, those are too hard to predict. The end of the first round was an absolute crapshoot. Any feedback, questioning or criticism is welcome.
1. Golden State Warriors - LaMelo Ball, G, Illawarra Hawks (Chino Hills/Spire HS)
Draft Age: 18.83 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 7”, 190 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 10.25” (no exact measurement found)
First things first; if the Warriors win the lottery, this pick will be placed on the trading block immediately. If they were to keep it, they could lean towards LaMelo Ball, the youngest and possibly the most-talented of the Ball Brothers. He averaged 17.0 points, 7.0 assists, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.67 steals per game as the clear-cut best player for a horrible Illawarra Hawks team in the NBL before a bone bruise in his foot ended his season last December. There are concerns about his defense — he rarely gets into an athletic stance and his slight frame doesn’t take contact well, but he does show upside as a guard defender with quick hands in passing lanes. His jumper needs some work (37.5 FG%/25.0 3PT%, though he is a decent pull-up shooter now), but the low percentages are mostly due to his poor shot selection. Typically, good coaching and player development can iron that out. Most of all, he is a truly gifted passer. He’ll be a top-three playmaker — and probably the best passer — in the NBA from day one. He also has a beautiful floater that he can and will shoot from anywhere inside the 3-point line. If he can become an average spot-up shooter and on-ball defender, he should have few problems living up to the hype. He was already a top-flight player in Australia’s budding NBL. Don’t let opinions about his father cloud your judgement.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers - Anthony Edwards, G/W, Georgia
Draft Age: 18.87 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 5”, 225 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 9”
Anthony Edwards is widely regarded as the #1 prospect in this class. He has an NBA-ready frame, powerful athleticism, skill around the rim, and an unconscious pull-up jumper. At the college level, he is simply too big for the majority of his defenders. Sometimes, this results in him taking ill-advised hero-ball shots due to his ability to get to whatever spot he wanted most of the time. The mental aspect of the game is a concern at times with Edwards. He doesn’t read the floor well and has a penchant for chucking bad shots, though that’s partly due to him being a high-level NBA prospect on a bad Georgia team that needed him to score a lot. Still, Edwards at least projects to be a quality scorer from all three levels, despite shooting a 29.4 3PT% in college. Adding secondary or tertiary playmaking ability, consistent long-range shooting off of movement and team defensive acumen to his game would go a long way towards him developing into a starter versus a situational bench scorer. He should have plenty of opportunity to work out the kinks during Cleveland’s rebuild.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves - Killian Hayes, G, ratiopharm Ulm (Renaudeau HS, France)
Draft Age: 18.90 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 5”, 187 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 8”
Killian Hayes was born in Lakeland, Fl., but has spent the majority of his life in France and Germany as his father, and now he play professional basketball. Hayes has a lot of the traits that teams look for in a combo guard; size, adept pull-up scoring, quick reads as a playmaker, quick footwork, and a deep bag of ball-handling tricks. He has a mesmerizing between-the-legs step-back jumper, and his floater is solid with either hand (floater game is imperative to success in the NBA for a guard). His pick-and-roll command is really good, and he should be productive in that setting on day-one. In 24.5 minutes per game with ratiopharm Ulm, he averaged 11.6 points and 5.3 assists, converting on 49.7% of his field goal attempts. His 3PT% is a lowly 21.8 but don’t let it fool you; he’ll be a fine shooter in the NBA even if his shot release is kind of slow. The concerns for Hayes lie on the defensive end of the floor, where he can rack up steals, but he does gamble for them and get beat. He doesn’t have the strength or athleticism to guard bigger players at this point, but he does have speed and length to his advantage. Hayes’ game is a safe bet to develop into something useful, and he’s one of very few players in this draft with All-Star potential in my eyes.
4. Atlanta Hawks - Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (Israel)
Draft Age: 19.46 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 9”, 215 pounds
Wingspan: ~6’ 10” (no exact measurement found)
Deni Avdija is an intriguing prospect. Due to his passing ability, size, and his playing in the EuroLeague at a young age, he’ll probably be pegged as a discount-Luka Doncic by mainstream draft analysts, but Avdija shouldn’t have to shoulder that kind of expectation. He’s pretty far away from being a competent NBA shooter, as spot-ups are his only effective way of scoring from distance at this juncture. Like a lot of players in this class, development as an off-the-dribble scorer will go a long way towards development. His handle is “meh” but looks to be good enough to use him as a secondary playmaker in the NBA, with transition play being his calling card. On-ball, he is an inventive and calculated passer. Off-ball, he can make hard cuts to the rim or flare out for a spot-up 3-point attempt. He’s a good low-post player for a wing that isn’t jacked. “Team defense” is a term you hear a lot nowadays, and Avdija (along with Devin Vassell) embodies that; he’s intense, alert, and seems to be a step ahead on that end of the floor. He fits really well in Atlanta as a point-forward alternative to Trae Young.
5. Detroit Pistons - Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC
Draft Age: 19.52 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 9”, 245 pounds
Wingspan: projected 7’ 1”
My guy. It’s a real shame I couldn’t find a way for him to fall to the Hornets, but “biased” is one thing I am not. Blake Griffin is assuredly not a part of Detroit’s future plans, nor is Detroit part of his, leaving Christian Wood as the lone big on the roster with any long-term value. Okongwu slides in nicely to play big minutes at center right off the bat, and provides the consistent interior/post defense that Andre Drummond did not. Okongwu had a historic freshman season at USC, posting 21.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 3.4 blocks, and 1.6 steals per-40 minutes shooting 61.6% from the field. His BLK% is 9.8 (LMAO) and his 13.6 Box Plus/Minus was third-best in the nation. His 64.5 TS% is very good. Okongwu doesn’t have as high of a ceiling as other prospects because his 3-point shot is non-existent so far (1-4 3PT in 28 games played) and he doesn’t create for others at a high level (he improved as the year went on), though there’s a high likelihood he ends up as one of the best/longest-tenured players from this draft class. He finishes hyper-efficiently with both hands and soft touch around the rim, has NBA-ready physical tools, crashes the offensive boards, and is an anchor on the defensive end. He runs the floor like a gazelle. Whichever team drafts Okongwu may not be getting a superstar, but they will most likely be happy with their selection.
6. New York Knicks - Cole Anthony, G, UNC
Draft Age: 20.10 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 3”, 184 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 3.5”
This pick absolutely screams “New York Knicks.” Cole Anthony has as much, if not more star power than anyone in this draft not named Ball, and the Knicks could use a star point guard to pair with RJ Barrett. Anthony is far from a sure-thing as a point guard, but that’s what makes it so “Knicks.” He is legitimately horrible at finishing around the rim, and lacks the burst of quickness to consistently blow by defenders. His court vision is solid, but playmaking usually isn’t the first thing he’s looking to do with the ball in his hands. He’s a good shooter from beyond the arc and moves pretty well off-ball for a point guard. The extra spacing at the NBA level should help his driving and finishing, as will being surrounded by better players (UNC was historically awful this season) and not partially tearing a meniscus (he missed 11 games). Whether or not he is a point guard or a combo guard remains to be seen, but I don’t think either one is more-possible than the other.
7. Chicago Bulls - Isaac Okoro, W/F, Auburn
Draft Age: 19.40 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 6”, 225 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 8.5”
Isaac Okoro is a maniac on the defensive end. His jump shot is going to be a huge swing skill that determines how well he functions on an NBA court, as is the case with a lot of players in this draft class. His shot form doesn’t look so bad that it isn’t fixable, and plenty of players have made odd-looking jump shots work. He’s a great playmaker from the wing, and with the right surroundings, he could create mismatches as a small-ball center. His strength is NBA-level from the jump, and he’s probably the best on-ball defender in this draft class. Chicago has shooters at nearly every other spot on the floor, so sliding Okoro in as a hybrid wing/big defender and slashing playmaker is fine. He’s another low-ceiling, high-floor player due to his defensive abilities, finishing at the rim and passing combined with the utter lack of a shooting threat. If the 3-point shot comes around, that changes everything. Provided NBA teams are able to hold individual workouts and Okoro’s shooting passes the eye test, he will go higher than seventh. His defense is that good.
Isaac Okoro at the rim: 69.8%— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) March 22, 2020
Isaac Okoro anywhere else: 25.3%
8. Charlotte Hornets - James Wiseman, C, Memphis
Draft Age: 19.22 years old
Ht./Wt.: 7’ 1”, 237 pounds
Wingspan: projected 7’ 6”
As a James Wiseman detractor, it hurt to make this pick. But, with the eighth pick in the lottery and the only other player worthy of selection being Tyrese Haliburton, Wiseman’s upside is too much to pass up. The physical tools are what enthralls folks about Wiseman; he’s 7’ 1” with freakishly-long arms and his muscles look big/strong enough to deflect bullets. He’s not an imposing leaper, he can “jump high” but his length helps and his second jump (crucial for rebounding) is slow. He runs the floor well and has change-of-direction speed in transition that most bigs don’t have. As a defensive anchor, he can direct his teammates on where to be and makes good weak-side rotation plays. Obviously, with his extreme length and athleticism, he’s a shot-blocker (nine in three games). When it comes to skillset, Wiseman’s lacking a bit. He doesn’t shoot (0-1 3PT in three games) or make plays for others (one assist in three games), and the lot of his scoring comes from dunks or put-backs. He does get to the free-throw line often, but that will regress some once he’s playing against guys his own size. Wiseman would probably push Cody Zeller to the bench and start immediately in Charlotte, plus he would sell jerseys and tickets. It’s unfortunate how little film there is of him (casual reminder that the NCAA is very bad), but teams will work with what they have. The combination of upside and fit is just too much to pass up on here, even if you’re not a believer in Wiseman’s talents. The Hornets are the worst rim protecting team in the league and he significantly alleviates that issue. His rebounding on both ends would allow PJ and Miles to play on the perimeter as stretch-fours more easily. It’s a good fit, even if his ceiling isn’t as high as some in The Media may think. We’d all come around to it eventually, if he were to be Mitch’s pick.
I’d also look at Tyrese Haliburton, Isaac Okoro, Onyeka Okongwu, Devin Vassell, Obi Toppin, Killian Hayes, Tyrese Maxey and Deni Avdija if one were interested in looking up some prospects that fit well with the Hornets and are likely to be available in their draft range.
9. Washington Wizards - Tyrese Haliburton, G/W, Iowa State
Draft Age: 20.31 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 5”, 175 pounds
Wingspan: ~6’ 11” (no exact measurement found)
“Basketball player” is the easiest way to describe Tyrese Haliburton. He doesn’t fall under a specific positional category. He handles the ball and sees the floor like a point guard, is the size of a two-guard, defends like a wing, and crashes the boards like a big. His jump shot is not aesthetically pleasing, but from a spot-up position, it goes in often; he has a career 42.6 3PT% over two seasons at Iowa State, the latter of which was cut short by a fractured wrist. He’ll have to work on developing off-the-dribble offense, particularly going to the rim. He has the IQ and length to guard any position 1-4, but will need to get stronger before he can consistently beat and bang bigger players. He doesn’t create well for himself, but with a team like Washington where he’d almost always be the secondary ball-handler, I think he’d find success simply defending the perimeter, hunting open 3-pointers and making insane passes like this:
Brilliant PnR passing from Tyrese Haliburton. Totally sells the corner skip, tagger darts back, and the roll man is wide open pic.twitter.com/jcV85XzK2l— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) January 6, 2020
10. Phoenix Suns - Obi Toppin, F, Dayton
Draft Age: 22.30 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 9”, 220 pounds
Wingspan: ~6’ 11” (no exact measurement found)
Easily the most-productive player in the NCAA last season, Obi Toppin has rocketed up draft boards since October. He is a monster that dunks absolutely everything. His verticality is off-the-charts good, and he couples that with a skilled offensive game. He has a good face-up game that stretches beyond the 3-point line (41.7% over two seasons). His footwork isn’t great, but he does have a decent drop-step. His passing is better than his 0.99 AST/TO ratio would indicate, especially with his back to the basket. What position Toppin plays in the league is up for debate, but to me he is firmly entrenched as a four due to a lack of strength. His game is fit for a modern small-ball stretch-four with his adept ball-handling and consistent jumper. Defensively, there are big question marks; he has obvious physical traits but doesn’t capitalize on them. He criminally closes out on shooters with his hands down, if he makes the effort at all. He ball-watches and can get pushed around by 7-footers (not a huge negative, happens to lots of guys). He is quick and athletic but he displays very little effort and IQ on defense. He’ll also be 22 years old on draft night, which is an issue early in the lottery. Phoenix has a gaping hole on their roster at the four-spot and plenty of younger players. Being on the floor with DeAndre Ayton and Devin Booker would be a dream fit for Toppin.
I know there are plenty of ATHers who want Toppin in Charlotte, and I see the vision a little bit. But, Kupchak would then have to choose two of him, PJ Washington, Miles Bridges, and Jalen McDaniels. If he’s setting himself up to have to trade former lottery picks (and Jalen), why even make Toppin the next pick? It’s not a deep or talented draft and Toppin isn’t the best player available as long as Wiseman, Haliburton, Okoro, Maxey, Avdija, Okongwu, or Anthony are on the board. It’s a better use of resources to fill a different hole on the roster with a lottery pick rather than adding more talent to an already-loaded position.
11. San Antonio Spurs - Tyrese Maxey, G, Kentucky
Draft Age: 19.62 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 3”, 197 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 6”
Tyrese Maxey reminds me a bit of the current-day version of Malik Monk, but with deeper shooting range. He uses explosive burst to get downhill into the paint, and can either finish strongly, get to the line or find a teammate from there. Maxey played a lot of off-guard at Kentucky, but I think he could be more of a lead guard in the NBA. His decision-making once he penetrates the defense is solid, he has the burst to get around defenders, draw help, and find the opening that the help came from, and I think he’s best-fit guarding point guards at the next level. Not to say he can't be the same type of player he was at Kentucky in the NBA, but I could see him evolving a bit under a coach like Gregg Popovich, assuming he doesn’t leave or retire. Maxey shot 29.2% from 3-point land in college, but it was only on 3.6 attempts per game, so there’s room for improvement there. His mechanics look fluid on film and he projects as a good shooter from distance in the NBA.
12. Sacramento Kings - R.J. Hampton, G, New Zealand Breakers (Little Elm HS)
Draft Age: 19.36 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 5”, 188 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 7”
Along with LaMelo Ball, R.J. Hampton opted against playing college basketball and instead went to the NBL out of high school to make some money, a wholly respectable choice. In 20.6 minutes over 15 games with the New Zealand Breakers, Hampton averaged 8.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals before returning to the USA to recover from a hip flexor injury. He’s not a great shooter from anywhere on the floor yet (40.7 FG%/29.5 3PT%/67.9 FT%), but he’s quick and powerful with the ball in his hands. He’s athletic enough to finisher over and through defenders at the rim. Hampton operates well in the pick-and-roll, and projects as a solid secondary playmaker/secondary scoring option. If his jump shot comes around, he could develop into a top-of-the-rotation player.
13. New Orleans Pelicans - Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
Draft Age: 19.26 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 3”, 179 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 2.5”
The Pelicans need ball-handlers for their second-unit; insert Nico Mannion. One of the headiest point guards in the draft, the Italian-born Mannion projects as a good shooter from distance in the NBA, on both pull-ups and catch-and-shoot attempts. He’s going to struggle against world-class athletes, as he’s slow for a point guard and has no verticality or explosiveness to his game. He still gets to spots well enough to get open shots off the dribble, though, and he excels at making plays for others. He has quick hands on defense (1.5 steals per 40 minutes), but can struggle to stay in front of athletic point guards. He projects as a solid low-usage reserve floor general, nothing to frown about with the 13th pick. I’m smiling while imagining the lobs that Mannion could throw to Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes.
14. Portland Trail Blazers - Devin Vassell, G/W, Florida State
Draft Age: 19.82 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 7”, 194 pounds
Wingspan: ~6’ 11” (no exact measurement found)
Here, we have the best all-around defensive player in the draft class. Devin Vassell embodies what it means to be a “team defender” and has the length and strength to be a multi-positional on-ball defender. Instincts and intangibles are off-the-charts, and he has a decent pull-up 3-ball (especially when given space by a screen) on the other end of the floor. The All-ACC second-teamer led Florida State to their first ever regular-season ACC championship while hitting 41.9% of his shots from long range. Vassell is an advanced stats darling, with a 58.5 TS%, a 2.13 AST/TO ratio, a 4.6 DBPM, and a ridiculous 93.6 DEFRTG over 863 total minutes. He can guard three positions, and could handle guarding fours in a pinch. Portland unarguably has the worst group of wings and forwards in the NBA, making Vassell’s highly-impactful 3&D style a perfect fit — though I don’t expect him to be this low once we get closer to the draft. He’s not going to be someone who creates a lot of points for himself, but he doesn’t do anything poorly and his skillset is something that every team values.
Made a video breaking down a pretty brilliant yet wonderfully typical defensive possession by Devin Vassell. Massive impact player on that end pic.twitter.com/xSe8oJMpx4— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) February 5, 2020
15. Orlando Magic - Josh Green, G/W, Arizona
Draft Age: 19.59 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 6”, 206 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 10”
The Magic have a type; long, athletic, players that cannot be defined by a single position. Chuma Okeke, Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba, Aaron Gordon, we could even go all the way back to Victor Oladipo in 2013. Josh Green is their “type” and they could use a more guard-like player than a wing or big. Green is a good multi-positional defender right now with a physical build that will hold up in the NBA. Most of his offense comes in transition at this point, but he does have a good-enough jump shot (36.1 3PT% on 3.6 attempts per 40) to hit the wide-open shots that he’ll get as a byproduct of not being someone opposing defenses hone in on.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Nets) - Patrick Williams, F/C, Florida State
Draft Age: 18.87 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 8”, 225 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 11”
This might seem like a reach here, but Patrick Williams is a dream fit next to Karl-Anthony Towns in Minneapolis. At this point, in a bad draft, you can take that risk. The West Charlotte high school alum spaces the floor (32 3PT% on 3.1 attempts per 40), blocks shots (1.8 blocks per 40, 5.6 BLK%) and gets steals (1.8 steals per 40), and is a reliable free-throw shooter. He had a fairly-high usage rate as a freshman, but I think he’d slide in well as a low-usage big man next to Towns or replacing him off the bench. Minnesota really needs versatile defensive bigs, and Williams’ proficiency in disrupting passing lanes and altering shots would help them. If Minnesota comes out of the first round with Hayes and Williams, president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas (or me, for making this mock draft) should get a raise.
17. Boston Celtics (via Grizzlies) - Aaron Nesmith, W, Vanderbilt
Draft Age: 20.68 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 6”, 213 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 10”
Aaron Nesmith only played in 14 games before a stress fracture in his right foot ended his sophomore season. One word can be used to describe Nesmith; sniper. He shot 52.2% (!) from beyond the arc on 9.2 attempts per 40 (!!). He can make any kind of jumper; spot-up, pull-up, step-back, side-step, off-screen, anything. Nesmith doesn’t offer a ton of other things on the court, but he defends well enough to balance out his flamethrower from long distance. For a team like the Celtics, who have three first-round picks and are highly unlikely to use them all, he wouldn’t need to do much other than shoot. I think there will be plenty of games in the future in which Nesmith scores a lot of points.
18. Dallas Mavericks - Jaden McDaniels, W/F, Washington
Draft Age: 19.72 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 10”, 184 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 11.5”
Jaden McDaniels, the younger brother of Hornets forward Jalen McDaniels, started the year as a projected lottery pick, but an inconsistent freshman season at Washington dropped his stock. He was moved from the starting lineup to the bench about 2/3rds of the way through the season. Like his older brother, he’s super lanky and lacks overall polish. He can take the air out of the ball on weak-side blocks, but that’s about all that he offers on defense. He’s not fast, strong, or explosive enough to stay in front of players. His shooting is okay (33.9 3PT% on 5.3 attempts per 40 minutes), but he has no self-creation ability at all, and his lack of strength is going to prevent that from happening in the future. Still, he could find a role as a decent help-side shot-blocker and spot-up shooter on the wing with length and some verticality.
Draft Age: 19.02 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 4”, 175 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 8”
Tony Parker’s understudy plays a relatively small role for Parker’s French club, ASVEL. Theo Maledon has only eclipsed the 20-minute mark seven times in 24 games, but that was plenty of time for him to showcase an extensive layup package and NBA-level shooting ability. He isn’t a good defender, he’s a decent playmaker, and doesn’t have the speed that most NBA point guards do, which will limit him early on, but provided he bulks up a bit, he could pivot towards using strength and ball command to get to his spots.
20. Brooklyn Nets (via Sixers) - Tre Jones, PG, Duke
Draft Age: 20.45 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 2.5”, 185 pounds
Wingspan: 6’ 4”
Tre Jones won ACC Player of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year in his sophomore season at Duke. Outside of his physical limitations (doesn’t have high-level burst or verticality), there aren’t many things Jones is bad at. He’s a smooth, capable point guard that is constantly looking to make plays for others and knocks down open shots. I think he carves out a solid career as a backup point guard, much like his older brother Tyus Jones. I’d have no problem taking him closer to the lottery than this, but what do I know? Nothing!
Draft Age: 19.08 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 9”, 245 pounds
Wingspan: projected 7’ 4”
Isaiah Stewart is a bruiser. He’s a very strong and physical post-presence, which is tough to evaluate because the modern NBA doesn’t value players that derive most of their offense from post-ups. Stewart was effective in that role at Washington, showing soft touch around the basket with both hands and a plethora of different post moves. He seems to like the one-dribble spin towards the basket, and it works well because he can displace defenders on the spin with his large and powerful frame. I like the fit in Denver because they run a lot of offense out of the low-block, and he could be used as an undersized five off of the bench next to Mason Plumlee. He needs to develop a better handle and shooting range to warrant a higher selection.
Draft Age: 21.20 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 8”, 216 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 10.25”
From his freshman season to his sophomore season, Saddiq Bey went from a good shooter, to a really good shooter. He moves extremely well off-ball, never standing still and always looking for the open spot to get a shot off. I like him a lot as a stretch-four reserve in the NBA, but he does need to become a better on-ball defender and could benefit from extra effort on the glass. The Sixers need shooters, and Bey doesn’t have to travel far to get to his new job from Villanova.
23. Miami Heat - Aleksej Pokuševski, C/PF, Olympiacos B (Serbia)
Draft Age: 18.48 years old
Ht./Wt.: 7’ 0”, 201 pounds
Wingspan: projected 7’ 3”
If you can’t tell already, there are a decent amount of international prospects slated to be first-round picks this year. Aleksej Pokuševski can essentially be described as a 7-foot guard. His court vision is really good; he makes a lot of good passes out of the roll on pick-and-rolls. His handles are tight for a 7-footer, he can take the ball coast to coast off of a rebound and finish with touch. He doesn’t shoot a high percentage from 3-point land (32.1% on 4.4 attempts per game), but defenses still have to respect his jumper. He’s still a pretty good rebounder and rim protector considering the extreme lack of strength and weight. If his body were more developed, he were more aggressive and relied less on just being tall, Pokuševski would be closer to a lottery pick.
24. Utah Jazz - Tyler Bey, F, Colorado
Draft Age: 22.36 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 7”, 216 pounds
Wingspan: projected 7’ 0”+ (no exact measurement found)
Tyler Bey is a defender. His DBPM was 7.0 in his third season at Colorado, and he possesses otherworldly control of his body. Lateral movement, backpedaling, hip turns, and a quick second jump contributed to him being in the top-7 in both steals (1.5) and blocks (1.2) per game in the PAC-12. Offensively, he’s a work-in-progress, but he’s at least shown ability to knock down wide-open jumpers. The Jazz need forwards, and Bey is a defensive-minded combo forward at the NBA level.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Nuggets) - Jahmi’us Ramsey, G/W, Texas Tech
Draft Age: 19.03 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 4”, 195 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 10”
Jahmi’us Ramsey’s freshman season at Texas Tech was underwhelming after the team’s national championship game appearance in 2019. He doesn’t always put in 100% effort, especially on defense, and he struggled more with shooting than anticipated. His pull-up game is not good, though his non-movement shooting is really good, so it’s fair to think that will improve with more space and individualized coaching. I don’t have Synergy, but I believe he’s somewhere above the 90th percentile on catch-and-shoot attempts from 3-point range. The game doesn’t seem to come to him very quickly right now, but a good player development program, like the one they have in Oklahoma City, could help with that.
26. Boston Celtics - Jalen Smith, F/C, Maryland
Draft Age: 20.26 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 10”, 225 pounds
Wingspan: projected 7’ 1.5”
Jalen Smith is a very good fit with the Celtics. Boston needs a rim protector and 3-point shooter off the bench, and Smith is both of those. His BLK% was 8.2 and he’s shown some pick-and-pop ability. He’s physical, coordinated, and has good footwork around the basket. His frame could use some bulk, but he’s not frail. I see him having a solid career in the NBA, high-level shot-blocking and 3-point shooting don’t often come in the same 6’ 10” package.
27. New York Knicks (via Clippers) - Precious Achiuwa, F, Memphis
Draft Age: 20.75 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 9”, 223 pounds
Wingspan: projected 7’ 2.25”
If you’re looking for a modern, small-ball center, look at Precious Achiuwa. The second-most popular prospect on Penny Hardaway’s squad is a bowling ball on the interior. He’s “undersized” for a center, but his arms are long and he’s built like a brick. He probably won’t be a good shooter, or scorer in general, in the NBA, but there is always a place for young, high-energy, physically-imposing defenders. He averaged 20.7 points, 14.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per 40 minutes as a freshman, shooting 51.4% on 2-point shots. Don’t ask him to make plays for himself, take jump shots, or make reads. Just let him play defense, rebound, and cause havoc on the interior and everything should work out. The Knicks love big men, so I’ll give them another one. Him and Mitchell Robinson together in the paint is violence.
28. Toronto Raptors - Vernon Carey Jr., C, Duke
Draft Age: 19.32 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 10”, 265 pounds
Wingspan: projected 7’ 0”
The son of a former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman of the same name, Vernon Carey Jr. is an old-school, post-dominating center. Unfortunately, that kind of player is not valuable in today’s NBA, so he slides a bit. Hopefully a team can help him develop a face-up game and some ball-handling ability. Regardless of how his style of play fits in the league, he’s good at it, so there is something there. He was third in the country in PER (34.1) for a reason, his offensive game is polished, and he did shoot 38% 3PT albeit on 0.8 attempts per game. Finding some range would diversify his offense and make him harder to guard. He’s also very large, but doesn’t play the type of defense you’d imagine by looking at his measurements. Carey is a low-risk, high-reward insurance with Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka entering free-agency.
29. Los Angeles Lakers - Paul Reed, F/C, DePaul
Draft Age: 21.02 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 9”, 220 pounds
Wingspan: projected 7’ 0.25”+ (no exact measurement found)
DePaul started off the season pretty well, but absolutely tanked during Big East conference play. Paul Reed was one of their few bright spots; the Big East’s Most Improved Player from 2018-2019 continued improving and boosting his draft stock. His 3PT% nearly 10% (40.5 to 30.8) from his sophomore to junior season, but his passing got much better. He makes quick decisions in the short roll, knowing almost immediately whether to kick the ball to the shooter in the corner or attack the rim. The Lakers could use as many young bigs to spell Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee (if he re-signs) as they can get.
30. Boston Celtics (via Bucks) - Leandro Bolmaro, G/W, FC Barcelona (Argentina)
Draft Age: 19.77 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 7”, 180 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 7” (no exact measurement found)
Like I mentioned earlier, there is no chance whatsoever that the Celtics make three first-round picks in back-to-back years (I’m counting Carsen Edwards at 33 as a first-rounder because they traded back from their original 20th pick). That just isn’t the way to build a championship-level team, and I’m pretty sure that’s what Danny Ainge is trying to do. I don’t know which of their first-round picks they’ll actually use, but Leandro Bolmaro is a solid option if they keep this one. Most of his minutes have come with Barcelona’s third-division club, but he has gotten playing time for their main club, which is one of the best teams in the EuroLeague. That says something, and he’s been a quiet riser on the draft boards in recent months. Bolmaro is a wing that can run the pick-and-roll like a guard and defends well for a guy that doesn’t have athletic advantages.
31. Dallas Mavericks (via Warriors) - Daniel Oturu, C, Minnesota
Draft Age: 20.75 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 10”, 240 pounds
Wingspan: projected 7’ 3”
I left the 31st pick in the mock so I could smoothly transition to the Hornets’ pick at 32. Daniel Oturu may or may not be available this late when the draft comes around due to his combination of shot-blocking ability and 3-point shooting. He takes 2.0 3-pointers per 40 minutes and converts at a 36.5% clip while blocking 2.9 shots. He has the size and strength to grapple with NBA bigs in the paint from the outset. He doesn’t jump off the page, but he doesn’t sink into it either. Oturu will be a solid, role-playing center. This draft has a few of those in the second-round.
32. Charlotte Hornets (via Cavaliers) - Devon Dotson, PG, Kansas
Draft Age: 20.88 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 2”, 179 pounds
Wingspan: projected 6’ 3.25”
Another Kansas point guard! AND another high-profile college player! AND he’s from Charlotte and went to Providence Day School! A trifecta like you read about. Devon Dotson was voted a second-team All-American after his second season as a Jayhawk behind his feisty defense and aggressive drives to the rim. He needs to improve his ball security and 3-point marksmanship, but neither are so bad right now that it’s off-putting. Dotson fits the mold of a Hornets draft pick, and with Malik Monk currently under indefinite suspension, they need to add another lead guard to their bench.
56. Charlotte Hornets (via Celtics) - Elijah Hughes, W, Syracuse
Draft Age: 22.28 years old
Ht./Wt.: 6’ 6”, 215 pounds
Wingspan: projected ~6’ 7” (no exact measurement found)
Earlier, I said I was unbiased — I’m gonna walk that back here. The Syracuse Orange are the world’s foremost NCAA Division I basketball program, and Elijah Hughes, the ACC’s leading scorer at 19.0 points per game, is their best player. He is an isolation killer with a smooth pull-up game, a clean 3-point stroke, and the vision to hit the open man when the double-team/rotation comes. He has ample size for a wing, though coach Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone defense doesn’t help him much when it comes to scouting Hughes’ defensive ability. Mocking the 56th pick in the draft is a fool’s errand to begin with, so I figured I would advocate for my pal Elijah. He’d be a good shooting wing off the bench. Sue me!
This will be far from the last mock before the draft happens, whenever that may be. From now until the lottery, I’ll update it every few weeks, or as players declare for/withdraw from the draft and the rumor mill starts humming. Who knows when the lottery ends up being held, but as of now it’ll be on May 19. This will be a fun draft with lots of possibilities us Hornets fans. Mitch Kupchak has the ammo to trade up (bad) or down (good), that lottery pick will hopefully jump higher than eighth, and there will surely be some guys who fell out of the first round waiting to be scooped up with the 32nd pick.
Feel free to tell me I’m wrong, why you think that, and why I should never speak about the NBA Draft again in the comments, and I’ll respond with respectful and measured disagreements. If you actually made it through the entire article, just know that I deeply appreciate you. Thanks for reading.