We’re one week out from the draft and a lot of things are still pretty unclear. The number one pick is anything but locked in and there are trade rumors abuzz as many teams look to reshape their roster.
The Hornets have worked out some interesting prospects recently, most notably Jaden Hardy, Shaedon Sharpe, Blake Wesley and Mark Williams, as well as intriguing second-rounders Buddy Boeheim, Christian Koloko and Vince Williams Jr. This mock is obviously not based on intel and is a combination of what I think will happen, what I’ve read could happen and what I’d do as general manager for each team.
1. Orlando Magic - Jabari Smith Jr., F, Auburn
Rumblings around the league indicate that Orlando has yet to decide on its number one overall selection, though Smith remains the favorite. The Magic desperately need shooting and there’s enough playmaking to go around between Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner to take advantage of Smith’s play-finishing.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder - Chet Holmgren, F/C, Gonzaga
Holmgren adds more positional size to a team that has Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as the lead ball-handlers while giving the Thunder a potential All-Defense caliber anchor. Seven-footers that can dribble in the open court, shoot 39 percent from deep and block 3.7 shots per game as a freshman in college don’t grow on trees.
3. Houston Rockets - Paolo Banchero, F, Duke
Christian Wood is out and Paolo Banchero is in. The offensive fit between Banchero, Jalen Green and Alperen Şengün is far too enticing to worry about potential defensive issues at this point. Banchero has an argument to go number one — the Rockets should be ecstatic to get him, Holmgren or Smith at three.
4. Sacramento Kings - Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue
It would be tough to force Davion Mitchell into a bench role a year after drafting him ninth overall, but Ivey is too talented to pass on if the Kings can't trade this pick. De’Aaron Fox and Ivey’s break-neck speed would put a lot of stress on opposing rim protectors, and it gives Sacramento a solid foundation along with Domantas Sabonis.
5. Detroit Pistons - Keegan Murray, F, Iowa
If Saddiq Bey’s three-point percentage bounces back from 34.5 percent this season, he and Keegan Murray would open the floor up for Cade Cunningham, something the league’s second-worst long-range shooting team needs to do for their young playmaker. Unless the Kings go off-script with number four, the Pistons have control over how the draft begins to shake out.
6. Indiana Pacers - Shaedon Sharpe, G, Kentucky (Canada)
Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer recently reported that Sharpe could be a candidate to fall in the lottery after some underwhelming pre-draft workouts. Interestingly enough, the Hornets had him in for his first 1-on-1 workout. The Pacers could use a shot-creating guard to pair with Tyrese Haliburton, but maybe this is where the potential trade-up range begins as well.
7. Portland Trail Blazers - Dyson Daniels, G/W, G League Ignite (Australia)
In theory, Dyson Daniels is a great fit next to Damian Lillard with his versatility, feel for the game and hard-nosed defense, but it might take too long for that vision to be realized for the Trail Blazers. This is the most likely pick in the top-10 to be moved for a veteran, but there will be prospects available that could help Portland in the future.
8. New Orleans Pelicans (via LAL) - Bennedict Mathurin, G/W, Arizona (Canada)
The New Orleans Pelicans might be the next team to make the leap into the playoffs next season. A healthy Zion Williamson is going to influence that more than anything, but adding Mathurin’s shot-making and defensive potential makes for an all the more exciting roster.
9. San Antonio Spurs - Jalen Duren, C, Memphis
The Spurs have tons of young wings but have yet to add a big to the mix; insert Duren. He’d be a great running mate for Dejounte Murray given his penchant for explosive lob finishes, and if there’s one coach that can maximize his playmaking and defensive potential, it’s Gregg Popovich.
10. Washington Wizards - AJ Griffin, W, Duke
If Bradley Beal re-signs and Corey Kispert and Griffin both pan out, the Wizards could have one of the best groups of perimeter shooters in the NBA. I’m a believer in Griffin’s athleticism rebounding at least to semblance of what it was in high school and if that happens, the stiffness and defensive concerns will alleviate.
11. New York Knicks - Jeremy Sochan, F, Baylor (Poland)
Any prospect that’s good at defense could earn the “Thibs pick” label, but Sochan actually would fit like a glove under Tom Thibodeau. He’s a non-threat as a shooter right now but has the potential to switch across all five positions and provide some playmaking and off-ball scoring offensively. Sochan would be a good fit for the Hornets if he fell to 13.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via LAC) - Johnny Davis, G, Wisconsin
Something tells me the Thunder could go double big here on draft night and pair their second overall pick with a true center at 12, but we’ll give them the best player available in Davis here. The lack of a three-point shot could hurt an already poor shooting team but Davis’ defense and relentless attacking alongside SGA would make for a fun watch.
13. Charlotte Hornets - Mark Williams, C, Duke
We played the board in the last mock, but let’s not get cute here and just take Williams. The biggest player in the draft, Williams fortifies the interior while Kai Jones continues to develop and gives LaMelo Ball a pick-and-roll partner with good hands and a little bit of vertical pop for lobs.
14. Cleveland Cavaliers - Ousmane Dieng, F/W, New Zealand Breakers (France)
Dieng seems to be a late riser on big boards and mock drafts, even breaking into the top-10 in some places. The Cavaliers have a nice balance of developing yet reliable young talent and could afford to add a bit of a project to stash with the Charge as they look to take the next step.
15. Charlotte Hornets (via NOP) - Blake Wesley, G, Notre Dame
Outside of Ivey, no player in this class gets downhill easier or more often than Wesley. A bursty ball-handler with blossoming court vision, Wesley has all the tools to develop into an effective two-way combo guard once his finishing technique and shooting consistency come around. If the Hornets do make both picks, they don’t have minutes to go around for all the young guys anyway, and it wouldn’t hurt to take a shot on Wesley developing in Greensboro.
45. Charlotte Hornets - Ron Harper Jr., W, Rutgers
Pick 45 is about where second-round draftees will be willing to take Two-Way deals instead of guaranteed contracts, which is important to factor in — some prospects would rather go undrafted and earn their way onto the roster than be limited by a Two-Way in terms of NBA appearances and salary. Harper Jr. should be willing to take a Two-Way and he’s an electric three-level scorer.