Tonight, 30 incredibly high-skilled workers will lock themselves into multi-year contracts in cities that they don’t necessarily want to live in. And we, the viewers, will love every second of this morally questionable event known as the NBA Draft. Below — for the third straight year (here’s 2013 and 2014) — the Hoop76 staff put together a mock draft of the first round. Happy draft day, readers.
1. Minnesota: Karl-Anthony Towns
He’ll fit well alongside Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio, because, well, he’d fit well alongside just about anyone. Versatile big man can defend, space the floor, and body up inside. Flip Saunders won’t screw this up.
– Eric Goldwein
2. Lakers: Jahlil Okafor
Despite the concerns about his defensive deficiencies and fit with Julius Randle, the Lakers can’t pass up the best low-post scorer to come around in years. If nothing else, he’ll be solid trade bait to entice Sacramento into trading Boogie Cousins.
– Bryan Toporek
3. Philadelphia: D’Angelo Russell
Let’s not get cute with this. I’m not willing to gamble this pick on the Lean Latvian or the Cocky Croatian with Jojo’s health up in the air, and I’ll pass on Mudiay after the two years we just spent on Point Guard That Can’t Shoot Island. Russ brings some much-needed spacing and playmaking, plus he and Nerlens are already pals.
– Xylon Dimoff
4. New York: Mario Hezonja
Haven’t heard of any rumors connecting Mario and the Knicks but New York needs excitement and someone willing/able to handle the pressure of playing at MSG. Over/under on how many games it takes for Melo and Mario to go at each other: 10.
– Alex MacMullan
5. Orlando: Kristaps Porzingis
Ignoring for a moment that “The Zinger and Vuc” sounds like the title of an 80’s cop drama, pairing Porzingis with Nic Vucevic would give the Magic a chance at one of the highest-scoring frontcourts in the league. This leaves Orlando’s mosaic roster with a backcourt that serves as its primary form of defense, effectively completing the team’s transformation into the opposite of what basketball used to be.
– Drew Stone
6. Sacramento: Emmanuel Mudiay
In my mind, Emmanuel Mudiay is a tier one player. Not only that, he fits a glaring need in Sacramento. So if I were the Kings, I’d need less than 30 seconds to make this pick. That said, the Kings are the Kings, so don’t be too surprised if instead they trade Boogie, drop back to 8 somehow, and draft Jimmer again.
– Ben Smolen
7. Denver: Justise Winslow
At this point Winslow is the best available player left, but he’s also a pretty good fit for the re-tooling Nuggets. With the recent news that Danilo Gallinari is on the trading block, this pick makes all the more sense. He’d be a nice young replacement– a wing shot maker, albeit less offensively capable, with more defensive upside. That’s just the type of guy new head coach Mike Malone would covet. Malone is a hard-nosed, defense-first coach, and Winslow might be the best defensive wing in the draft.
– Daniel Christian
8. Detroit: Stanley Johnson
Detroit needs any help they can get on the wing, and Stanley Johnson provides the highest upside with players like Justise Winslow and Mario Hezonja off the board. Although Devin Booker and his sweet shooting will be intriguing for the Pistons, Johnson’s potential on both ends of the court are unmatched at this point.
– Marc Nemcik
9. Charlotte: Devin Booker
The Bobcats’ 3-point shooting is terrible (ranked 30th) and Booker’s shooting is great, making the 6-foot-6 shooting guard a solid fit between Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (update: and Nicolas Batum!)
10. Miami: Myles Turner
If the Heat re-sign D-Wade and Goran Dragic to huge deals this summer, they’re almost certain to lose Hassan Whiteside in 2016 free agency. Pat Riley, knowing this, takes Turner — a shot-blocking machine who hit over 80 percent of his free throws and can knock down an occasional triple — as Whiteside’s heir apparent.
11. Indiana: Willie Cauley-Stein
It pains me to do this as the captain of the S.S. Hibbert, but I’ll do my fellow Nap Town-ians — Hoosiers? Indianapolites? Whatever. — a solid and grant their longstanding wishes of exiling Roy from America’s Crossroads. After Indy somewhat rediscovered itself as an up-tempo outfit last season, W(T)CS slots in perfectly to replace Hibbs.
12. Utah: Kelly Oubre
There might not be a player available outside of the Top 10 with Oubre’s upside. But with surefire NBA rotation guys like Bobby Portis and Trey Lyles still on the board this selection is not without risk. Utah sports a young, well-balanced roster so they can afford to swing for the fences with this pick.
13. Phoenix: Trey Lyles
By now you’ve seen so many mock drafts with Frank Kaminsky going to Phoenix and some variation of the sentence “he’ll slot into the Channing Frye role” that Kaminsky in a Suns uni seems too likely to actually happen. Frank the Tank is the safe pick here, but Lyles has a comparable skill set and a better chance of turning into something more than a role player.
14. Oklahoma City: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
May be a little bit of a reach, but I think the fit is perfect (shades of Thabo). Once you get to this point of the draft, I’m looking for concrete ability, and Hollis-Jefferson can be an elite wing defender from day one. Between Westbrook and KD, they don’t need another creator. They do need an elite stopper though.
15. Atlanta: Bobby Portis
Portis has one of the most well-rounded games of any big in the draft, and for a team that has had so much success with multi-faceted forwards, this seems like an ideal fit for him. He has all the tools to be an NBA rotation player: a jump shot good enough to space the floor, an above average face-up and post game, a decent knack for rebounds and at the very least passable defense. He’s not great at any one thing, but he projects to be good at a few different things.
16. Boston: Cameron Payne
Danny Ainge is in asset-collection mode and can’t believe that Cameron Payne is still on the board. Pundits have labeled him as the highest riser in the pre-draft process, so the Celtics are getting the best value at this point – regardless of position.
17. Milwaukee: Frank Kaminsky
Over/under on “Kaminsky” mentions in ESPN broadcast: 28.5
18. Houston: Jerian Grant
James Harden wasn’t shy about how much he wants a player to take some ball-handling responsibility off his hands. While Grant’s age works against him in most cases — he’ll turn 23 in October — the Rockets, in full win-now mode, will see his experience as a positive.
19. Washington: Rashad Vaughn
Might be reaching a bit here, but the Wiz will need insurance for when Bradley Beal inevitably misses 40 games for stubbing his toe. Vaughn may also be utilized as a second-unit ball handler as well, which is good so that Ramon Sessions and Garrett Temple can just stop.
20. Toronto: Kevon Looney
Possibly the only player still on the board who could play in multiple all-star games. For a team stuck in post-lottery/playoff purgatory in a city unlikely to draw major free agent talent it makes sense to take a chance on Looney’s potential.
21. Dallas: Sam Dekker
Given the Rondo/Ellis debacle, R.J. Hunter or Tyus Jones might be the Mavs’ best option here. But Dekker became a first-round prospect by embodying the blue collar drive that Mark Cuban clearly values, as seen in players like J.J. Barea, Chandler Parsons, and Jae Crowder. I can’t see Dallas passing on Dekker if he slips this far into an area of the draft where the chances of getting a legitimate playmaker are generally slim.
22. Chicago: R.J. Hunter
As much as I enjoy a watching a Bulls offense that frequently has two guys in the paint and three guys directly outside of the paint, I’ve taken someone who can, ya know, actually shoot. His dip in three point percentage last season doesn’t scare me at all; I doubt he will be the focus of any defensive game plans in the NBA. He may be primarily a spot-up guy, but there are far worse things you can be in today’s league.
23. Portland: Montrezl Harrell
With indications that Portland might be changing things up (Batum trade, Aldridge discontent), it makes sense to take a flier on a high-energy, uber-athletic prospect in Harrell. He’s a bit undersized, but at this point in the draft no one’s going to check all the boxes.
24. Cleveland: Tyus Jones
The Cavaliers need all the backcourt help they can get and Jones provides great value this late in the first round. Plus LeBron probably loves his competitiveness. Doesn’t this just scream “Shabazz Napier?”
25. Memphis: Delon Wright
Mike Conley broken face insurance.
26. San Antonio: Justin Anderson
With Danny Green potentially departing in free agency, the Spurs grab Anderson as a three-and-D backup plan. He knocked down 45.2 percent of his triples as a junior at Virginia, and few players in this draft class project to be better wing defenders. Pairing him with Kawhi Leonard is just mean.
27. Lakers: Chris McCullough
I like his defensive potential if he can get some proper coaching (sup, Byron) and with a starting lineup that features Kobe, Randle and Okafor, McCullough’s presence on that end could be sorely needed off the pine.
28. Boston: Terry Rozier
This is strictly a best player available selection. If Boston ends up keeping this pick and taking Rozier he ensures that when Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart are out of the game Boston doesn’t lose any of its defensive intensity.
29. Brooklyn: Andrew Harrison
I like to believe that simply watching March Madness eats up a good chunk of Billy King’s scouting process. Now it’s just a matter of whether he can get the right Harrison’s name in the commissioner’s hands. Maybe Mason Plumlee can help out.
30. Golden State: Joseph Young
I will be brutally honest. I don’t know much about Joseph Young. From what I’ve read, he can shoot the ball alright? I don’t know. I guess their second unit could use more shooting? They are pretty good. Frankly, it seems unfair that they even get a pick.