It’s time for an update.
Lots of new information regarding how teams feel about certain prospects has come out since Mock Draft, Volume 1 was written in late March. As usual, there are risers and fallers, and the draft strategy has changed or become clearer for many teams in the last month or so.
I clicked “sim lottery” on tankathon.com three times (with my eyes closed, for transparency) and rolled with what I got. I decided to mock through pick 32, and then do pick 56 on its own so that all of the Hornets’ selections could be mapped out.
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. Positional acronyms are; PG (point guard), G (guard), W (wing), F (forward), C (center). I wrote this mock draft combining the available information on what teams/scouts are thinking with what I feel they could/should do with their selection.
1. Detroit Pistons - Anthony Edwards, G/W, Georgia
Detroit is in a weird spot in their rebuild. They offloaded Andre Drummond for almost nothing in return, Derrick Rose is under contract through next season and Blake Griffin through 2021-2022, they tried to trade Luke Kennard at the deadline last February, and Christian Wood is an unrestricted free agent. Realistically, they could go in any direction if they land the No. 1 pick, but Anthony Edwards gives them an explosive off-the-dribble scoring threat on the wing who has arguably the highest ceiling in the draft. After he sleepwalked through most of his lone season at Georgia, one could question whether he will have the drive necessary to reach that ceiling, but only time will tell. Most teams in the lottery would probably lean towards Edwards as the first pick, the potential is tantalizing.
A D’Angelo Russell and LaMelo Ball backcourt combo would be extremely fun. The Timberwolves could really use an interior defensive stalwart to pair alongside Karl-Anthony Towns, but Ball’s upside is a lot to pass up on here. He’d enter the NBA as a top-3 passer in the league, and his playmaking would allow Russell to spend time off-ball and focus more on being a scorer. Ball and Towns’ pick-and-pop game would cause problems for opposing defenses. Minnesota would have their own significant defensive woes, but that’s an issue to be addressed later on.
3. Atlanta Hawks - Isaac Okoro, W/F, Auburn
Atlanta needs defense. Trae Young is one of the worst point-of-attack defenders in the NBA, John Collins isn’t much more than a weak side shot-blocker at this point, and while Clint Capela and Cam Reddish can hold their own, Kevin Huerter cannot and De’Andre Hunter had a somewhat underwhelming rookie season on that end of the floor. Isaac Okoro’s shooting percentages (28.6 percent 3PT, 67.4 percent FT) give warranted pause, but everything I’ve read indicates that he’s viewed as one of the top prospects in this draft by NBA execs with his multi-positional defense, playmaking from the forward spot, and solid lane penetration and finishing. In a more futuristic NBA, Okoro could play some small-ball center lineups a la P.J. Tucker with his raw strength, but for now he fits best as a hybrid defensive wing/forward.
4. Washington Wizards - Obi Toppin, C/F, Dayton
Obi Toppin has been steadily rising up draft boards since he won the Wooden Award and was named Naismith Player of the Year after a dominant sophomore season at Dayton. He’s old for a sophomore — he’ll be 23 on opening night next season — but he has a developed low post game, a jump shot with 3-point range, and impressive verticality. Whether or not his skills fully translate from A-10 competition to the NBA is questionable, as is what position he’s able to guard; he’s too slow-footed to guard fours, nor does he currently have the lower-body strength to hold his spot in the paint against centers. Washington could envision Toppin and Rui Hachimura as their small-ball frontcourt of the future with Thomas Bryant being their “true center.”
5. Golden State Warriors - Onyeka Okongwu, C, Southern California
The Warriors just don't lose. In terms of fit in the lottery, I don’t think it gets better than Onyeka Okongwu heading to San Francisco. His style of play fits better alongside Steph Curry and Klay Thompson than James Wiseman’s does, being a far better on-ball and team defender at this stage and a comparable athlete in terms of mobility. Okongwu can make plays out of the short roll in pick-and-roll situations, both as a passer (hitting the weak side corner/top of the key) and putting the ball on the floor as a driver. His one 3-point make from last season at USC was a 3⁄4 court heave at the halftime buzzer; clearly there’s some work to do when it comes to his jump shot. He does shoot free throws at a 72 percent clip on 5.1 attempts per game, which is promising. Okongwu will play in the NBA for many years solely because of his defense, quote me on that. The Warriors will most likely trade this pick, but if they keep it I’d be surprised if they didn’t select a big man.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers - James Wiseman, C, Memphis
Cleveland has three guards in their young core — Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr. — so it’s unlikely they add a fourth, especially with Dante Exum also under contract through next season. James Wiseman has the highest upside of any remaining wing or big, and Andre Drummond and Kevin Love don’t seem to be interested in the Cavaliers’ rebuild. Wiseman’s motor and polish raise skepticism, and he has one of the bigger draft ranges of any top prospect, but Cleveland needs to take a swing on a big man to add to their core.
7. New York Knicks - Tyrese Maxey, G, Kentucky
There are rumors that Cole Anthony “would love” to be drafted by the Knicks, just like his father Greg Anthony was in 1991. The Knicks need a guard of the future to pair with RJ Barrett, too, but Tyrese Maxey is both the better prospect and a better fit for New York’s roster. Maxey aggressively defends both guard spots, has considerably more length (projected 6’ 6” wingspan) than Anthony (projected 6’ 3.5” wingspan) does and is a steadier playmaker. Anthony shoots a higher percentage from long range at a higher volume, but Anthony’s lack of burst and athleticism will affect his ability to get open off-ball in the NBA, whereas Maxey has elite burst. Maxey’s jump shot has a concerning low release point, but I buy into his effectiveness as a perimeter defender and secondary playmaker that can penetrate the lane on offense and think his 3-point percentage will be passable at the next level.
8. Chicago Bulls - Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State
What the Chicago Bulls will do on draft night is anybody’s guess with a completely revamped front office led by former Denver Nuggets general manager Artūras Karnišovas. The Bulls are a horrible defensive team, have nobody that plays as an offensive initiator, and were ranked 24th in the league in 3-point percentage. Tyrese Haliburton would help out in all of those areas. His slight frame limits his defensive versatility in the NBA more than it did at Iowa State, but he’s very smart. He’ll have to develop an off-the-dribble game before he’s anything more than a playmaker with a spot-up 3-ball, although that’s still a helpful player.
9. Charlotte Hornets - Killian Hayes, G, ratiopharm Ulm (France)
As per usual, the Hornets fall in the lottery — but this time, it’s only one spot, and they still scoop up a top-flight prospect in Killian Hayes. I don’t understand why he’d last until the ninth pick, but it seems as if the NBA isn’t as high on Hayes as Draft Twitter and analysts are. There are reasonable concerns about his 3-point shot (29.4 percent on 3.09 attempts per game), but he is a genius and creative passer with size, length, feel for the game, and he can defend either guard position. The only issue is that his athletic ability may pale in comparison of many NBA guards. Still, Hayes could start right away and move Terry Rozier to a sixth man role, or be a reserve combo guard himself. I promise I didn’t rig this, but I would be ecstatic if the Hornets got Hayes with pick nine.
10. Phoenix Suns - Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (Israel)
Deni Avdija did a stand-up job as a role-player for Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, who were fifth in the EuroLeague standings before the season was suspended. He plays excellent team defense on the perimeter and interior and has the vision to play as a point forward, especially in transition. His long-range shooting is not good unless it’s a wide-open spot-up from the corners and he only hits 52 percent of his free throws, which does not inspire confidence in the growth of his 3-point shot. He’s probably too slow to be a full-time wing in the NBA, but I think his offensive strengths are more effective as a forward anyways. Phoenix could use a point guard to spell/succeed Ricky Rubio, but Avdija can handle some of the second unit playmaking duties while providing reliable defense and transition scoring. Most importantly; he’s a good fit in a lineup with Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton.
11. San Antonio Spurs - Devin Vassell, W, Florida State
The Spurs may or may not have created Devin Vassell themselves in a lab. Vassell’s floor is a role-playing 3&D wing, while his ceiling is a Danny Green-type player with some pull-up scoring gravity. He’s a vocal, active team defender with supreme length and lateral quickness and his feel for the game on that end is off the charts. He won’t be a threat to create his own shot or create for others right away, but he’s flashed some mid-range pull-up shooting and he can make the easy reads and extra passes that are presented to him. San Antonio’s first lottery pick since they selected Tim Duncan No. 1 overall in 1997 (what an absurd stat) is a good one.
12. Sacramento Kings - Aaron Nesmith, W, Vanderbilt
Aaron Nesmith is the best shooter in the draft, and that skill alone would have him in the lottery, but he’s also a pretty good defender that takes care of the ball. Nesmith isn’t going to be a secondary or even tertiary playmaker, but he makes up for it by being attentive and constantly moving to get open off-ball. His wingspan is projected to be ~ 6’ 11” and he weighs 213 pounds right now, allowing him to guard multiple positions from the get-go. Sacramento has to gather supporting pieces to surround De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley with, and Nesmith is a great addition. The shooting competitions between him and Buddy Hield in practice would be must-see TV.
13. New Orleans Pelicans - Cole Anthony, G, North Carolina
Coming into North Carolina as the No. 2 recruit in the 2019 ESPN Top 100, it’s fair to say that Cole Anthony’s season in Chapel Hill was a tad underwhelming. Roy Williams was not shy about saying last season’s team was the worst he’s ever had at UNC, and compiled with Anthony missing 11 games with a knee injury, the team didn’t have much of a chance to succeed. Anthony will command attention as a shooter with range and pull-up ability at the next level, but his lack of burst and trouble with finishing in the paint will make it harder for him to find open shots on-ball. Surrounding him with a playmaker like Lonzo Ball and a vertical threat like Jaxson Hayes will give him room to operate, as will the NBA’s advanced floor-spacing. Oh, yeah, he has that Zion Williamson guy to play off of, too. I hear he’s decent.
14. Portland Trail Blazers - Josh Green, W, Arizona
Judging by their recent draftees — Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little — the Trail Blazers’ front office values upside and athleticism. Those words happen to describe Josh Green pretty well; Green is a powerful athlete at 6’ 6” and 210 pounds with impressive leaping ability and open-court speed, and he hits 3-pointers at a solid 36.1 percent clip even if his 3.6 attempts per 40 minutes are a bit low for a “3&D wing” like the media claims he is. Portland has easily the worst collection of perimeter players in the league beyond Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, adding Green to their rotation gives them a chance at developing a versatile wing defender with a respectable jump shot. I could also see the Blazers looking to add a big man as an insurance policy for Jusuf Nurkić.
15. Orlando Magic - Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama
In the first version of this mock draft, I did not have Kira Lewis Jr. in the first round, and frankly, I don’t know why. He’s a little thin at 6’ 3” and 165 pounds, but his speed with the ball keeps defenders off-balance and he has the coordination to finish around big men. He hit 36.6 percent of his 3-pointers on 5.2 attempts per 40 minutes and can shoot off-the-dribble, comfortable numbers for a young point guard. Orlando needs scoring and shooting in the backcourt, and the Markelle Fultz/Lewis pairing would be fun to watch. I’m usually not one for comparisons, but Lewis has shades of Ja Morant in his game, just without the otherworldly explosiveness.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via BKN) - Patrick Williams, F, Florida State
I said Minnesota’s defensive issues would be addressed later on, and that happens here with the selection of Patrick Williams. The Timberwolves desperately need a rim-protecting big man to mask the defensive mishaps of Karl-Anthony Towns and allow him to play on the perimeter more on offense. Williams willingly took on a smaller role at Florida State than his talent would suggest for the betterment of the team, which NBA scouts should take note of. He shoots 32 percent from beyond the arc on 3.1 attempts per 40 minutes and has the handle and quickness to attack defenders off-the-dribble. Williams is an active defender and plays his butt off. Leonard Hamilton has been churning out pro prospects in Tallahassee, Fla. as of late.
17. Boston Celtics (via MEM) - Jalen Smith, F/C, Maryland
The Boston Celtics are highly unlikely to make selections with all three of their first round picks, but I’m not changing anything until they actually make a trade. The Celtics are just a couple of supporting pieces away from being a perennial Finals contender, and Jalen Smith’s shot-blocking potential and comfort shooting the 3-ball would fit into Brad Stevens’ system.
18. Dallas Mavericks - R.J. Hampton, G, New Zealand Breakers (Little Elm HS)
Like LaMelo Ball, R.J. Hampton started his season in the NBL as a lottery prospect, only his stock has fallen while Ball’s has risen. Hampton was more of a supporting piece on the Breakers than a featured player, but he still only put up 8.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 20.6 minutes per game, shooting 40.7 percent from the field, 29.5 percent from long-range and 67.9 percent from the line, not exactly a model of efficiency. Hampton is quick with the ball, athletic and a good playmaker, but if he’s not a threat to get to the rim or pull up and shoot, that skill becomes limited. Dallas can afford to gamble on Hampton’s upside.
19. Milwaukee Bucks (via IND) - Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL (France)
The term “sleeper” confuses me, because if a prospect is going to be a “sleeper,” teams should just draft them highly because passing up on talent is dumb, but Theo Maledon is the closest thing to a “sleeper” in this draft. He can shoot 3-pointers, get to the rim (though he isn’t the best finisher), and find the open man off of a drive or screen action. He’s a quick lateral mover and is a capable point-of-attack defender with very long arms and solid footwork. He doesn’t have explosive athleticism or elite shooting, but he does things that a modern NBA point guard needs to do well. The Bucks are probably going to take the best player available, and at this point it’s easily Maldeon.
20. Brooklyn Nets (via PHI) - Saddiq Bey, F, Villanova
Saddiq Bey is a low-ceiling, high-floor 3&D hybrid forward that shot a career 41.8 percent from distance in two seasons at Villanova. As a sophomore, he showed an improved ability to make reads as a ball-handler and find open teammates, as well as being an all-around better defender. Bey has length, strength, quick hips and speed that allow him to guard players on the perimeter and in the paint. His limitations as a creator with the ball might cap his ceiling on that end, but he has all the makings of a good defender in the NBA.
21. Denver Nuggets (via HOU) - Precious Achiuwa, F/C, Memphis
Precious Achiuwa has never stood out to me as a high draft pick while watching Memphis games, but ever since he was mocked to the Hornets he’s been appearing noticeably higher on mock drafts. At this point, it’s pretty clear that NBA scouts/execs have a much brighter outlook on Achiuwa than the average Draft Twitter user, so I’m factoring that in. He looks lost on offense pretty often, he can’t shoot 3’s and his 3PAr (3-point attempt rate) is a lowly .108, and despite being an energetic, powerful defender, he has awareness issues on that end as well. He is fairly new to basketball — he started playing in eighth grade after moving to America from Nigeria — so he still has a lot of room to grow, which is what I’d imagine NBA teams are selling themselves on, combined with his obvious physical tools. Denver could utilize Achiuwa as a forward or center to back up Nikola Jokic.
22. Philadelphia 76ers (via OKC) - Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
One of the most polarizing prospects in the draft, Nico Mannion’s draft stock has not fared well in the last few months. The lack of burst and verticality really hindered his ability to finish at the rim and blow by defenders, and that problem is only going to exacerbate at the next level. However, he’s a really high IQ player that got to his spots and shot well for most of the season despite his athletic shortcomings. He’s still quick with the ball and is a great passer, adding some strength would allow him to more-easily compete with NBA athletes. The 76ers need spacing and point guard prospects and getting Mannion with pick 22 is nothing to fret about.
23. Miami Heat - Desmond Bane, G/W, Texas Christian
Miami likes to draft a certain type of player; aggressive, tough, hard-working, etc. Desmond Bane fits that bill. He does everything a team could ask of a role-player on the wing; he shot 43.3 percent from long distance in four seasons at TCU with a 61.1 TS percentage, defends bigger than his size, and can run the fast break and find the open man. He was in the top-10 in the Big 12 in points, assists, rebounds and steals while leading the conference in minutes played. He’s an all-around prospect in a draft that lacks all-around prospects.
24. Utah Jazz - Tyrell Terry, PG, Stanford
I’m only gonna talk about the positives here, because Tyrell Terry is non-existent on the defensive end of the floor and it would take a long time to explain all of the reasons why. *Stephen A. Smith voice* However, Terry is one of the best offensive guards in the draft. He can pull up or spot up from mid-range or 3-point land, has really good vision and makes sound decisions with the ball. He takes a lot of 3’s (.456 3PAr) and makes them at a high clip (40.8 percent on 6.0 3PA per 40 minutes). Terry’s offensive game is worth the investment, even if he’d get played off the floor at times because of his defensive woes.
25. Oklahoma City (via DEN) - Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington
The Oklahoma City Thunder value tenacious prospects that bust their hump on the court and work hard off of it, and Isaiah Stewart does all of that. Mike Muscala, Nerlens Noel, and Danilo Gallinari could all be departing this offseason, and the Thunder will need to shore up their depth in some way. Stewart is kind of an old-school center, but he defends, rebounds, and has a freakish 7’ 4” wingspan to go with a 6’ 9”, 250 pound frame. He’s a nice piece to have behind Steven Adams, who is often featured in trade rumors lately.
26. Boston Celtics - Jaden McDaniels, F, Washington
Hornets forward Jalen McDaniels’ younger brother, Jaden McDaniels, did not have a great ending to his lone season at Washington. Coach Mike Hopkins benched McDaniels in late-January after a stretch of poor performances, and said “You can’t force things. You got to play as a team” when asked about the game (Percy Allen, Seattle Times). McDaniels is a lanky, athletic forward with some shooting ability but he has no burst, speed, or strength at all. NBA strength and conditioning programs are far superior to college programs so there’s no doubt he’ll add to his frame, but there are other things to improve, too. McDaniels seems like a very Celtics-y draft pick, they don’t mind having to wait a bit for players to realize their potential.
27. New York Knicks (via LAC) - Aleksej Pokuševski, C, Olympiacos (Serbia)
The Knicks already have their “center of the future” in Mitchell Robinson, but Aleksej Pokuševski is a solid value play with the 27th pick and his skillset is more that of a wing than a center, anyway. He’s a legit 7-footer that moves like a wing with speed and athleticism, has great court vision and ball-handling for his size, and can shoot the hell out of the ball. Defensively, he’s a work in progress, and he weights roughly 200 pounds, so he’ll have to add some bulk. If the Knicks give him a year to develop and acclimate to the NBA’s style, they could have a really interesting prospect.
28. Toronto Raptors - Paul Reed, F, DePaul
NBL reporter Corey Williams tweeted a rumor that the Raptors are very high on LaMelo Ball and are trying to trade Kyle Lowry in order to move up and get him, but until that happens (it’s unlikely that it does) I’m gonna send Paul Reed to Toronto. Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol are probably departing in free agency this summer, leaving Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris Boucher as Pascal Siakam’s only frontcourt mates. Reed is a Swiss Army knife that shows stretch-four potential while immediately bringing value as an on-ball and off-ball defender.
29. Los Angeles Lakers - Devon Dotson, PG, Kansas
The Lakers don't seem to have an issue with their point guards not being able to shoot, given the fact that they employ Rajon Rondo, and Devon Dotson gives them the second-unit playmaking and pacing that they’re looking for. He’s also a good point-of-attack and pick-and-roll defender for a 6’ 1” guard. He gets downhill with ease. Dotson will be good.
30. Boston Celtics (via MIL) - Jared Butler, G, Baylor
Like I already mentioned, the Celtics just need one or two more role-players, and they need to be good rim protectors and/or shooters. Smith covers the rim protecting aspect, and Jared Butler covers the shooting. Butler shot 38.1 percent on 8.9 3-point attempts per 40 minutes for a Baylor team that was among the best in the country before everything got canceled. He’s not much of a scorer from 2-point range, but his perimeter defense is passable enough to be worthy of a late-first or early-second round pick.
31. Dallas Mavericks - Daniel Oturu, C, Minnesota
With Dwight Powell out for the foreseeable future with a torn Achilles, Willie Cauley-Stein set to hit free agency, and Boban Marjanovic only able to play certain matchups, the Mavericks could use another big body to spell Kristaps Porzingis. Daniel Oturu had a great sophomore season and comes into the league with an NBA-ready frame, some shot-blocking ability and the potential to develop into a respectable 3-point shooter.
32. Charlotte Hornets - Xavier Tillman, C/F, Michigan State
Xavier Tillman is the best pick-and-roll big man in the draft when it comes to decision-making. His 18.1 AST percentage was the highest in the Big Ten among forwards and centers and he led the nation with a 15.0 BPM. The Hornets desperately need a center prospect, and Tillman would be an instant contributor. He’s a bit undersized and doesn’t shoot 3-pointers, but he’s very good at what he does.
56. Charlotte Hornets - Jay Scrubb, G/W, John A. Logan (JUCO)
(I couldn’t find a photo that I’m allowed to use, I’m sorry.)
After originally planning to attend Louisville next fall, Jay Scrubb opted to test the NBA draft waters. He averaged 21.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game at the JUCO level while hitting 50.1 percent on field goals and 33.3 percent of his 3’s. He’s a raw scorer that the Hornets could shuffle between Charlotte and Greensboro if he stays in the draft.
And that’s all for now, folks. Comment your thoughts on the second volume of ATH’s mock draft below, and feel free to give me some writing topic suggestions. All I’ve got is draft/free agency-related stuff but if there’s anything else you guys want to read, I’ll write it.