Now a week after the Warriors Superteam has been labeled a dynasty, praised and crowned by media and analysts alike that they will win the next three championships, we can shift our focus to who will be the next team to dethrone the Warriors in the West and Cavaliers in the East. That team will be built primarily through the draft, as the Warriors were able to do. Boston is the obvious answer as to who will be the next dominant team with their plethora of picks from when they robbed the Nets and now maybe the same with the 76ers. So below you will find my mock draft, and a breakdown of the lottery picks and who could potentially shake up the draft.
First Pick Philadelphia: Markelle Fultz, PG Washington
By all reports, Fultz will be the first overall pick. A high IQ, athletic guard, who can play both point and off the ball, will be a good match with Ben Simmons and his style of play. Match those two with the breakout season of Robert Covington and a fingers crossed Joel Embiid and the process may be complete. Fultz with a seven foot wingspan could cause problems for opposing backcourts if he learns how to defend. He has all the potential to be a star in the league, but the question remains, as the same was with Simmons: Why did Washington (LSU in Simmons case) not win more games? If they are as good as advertised, and that much better than the rest of the prospects in the draft, how does Fultz not carry Washington to more than 9 wins? Those are questions that will need to be answered, but with potential to grow into his body Philly will have a great backcourt potential and the process may be finally in action.
Second Pick Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, PG UCLA
The hometown point guard, with the loud mouthed dad, the family brand and $500 shoes, with the best commercial from Foot Locker yet, will remain a star in Los Angeles. The only way I see this changing, and if I was Magic Johnson I would look very hard at this possibility, is if the Lakers love De’Aaron Fox more than Ball. Let’s assume they stick with Ball, and this is a good pick. It doesn’t improve their defense unfortunately but moving D’Angelo Russell to the 2 with Ingram at the 3 poses a multitude of weapons from beyond the arc that Ball can use for playmaking. His passing and feel for the game is his greatest attribute, and under Luke Walton he can thrive into a tremendous point guard for the Lakers. Now, like Fultz, his defense is a major question mark. He doesn’t move great laterally, but if he can become average at that position they could be in good shape in the future. Also, Magic may look to get some better defenders and clear the bad contracts in Mozgov and Deng which would help the Lakers recover from the post-Mamba era.
Third Pick Boston: Jayson Tatum, F Kansas
After making this trade with Philadelphia there are a few things I am now sure of about Danny Ainge. First, he takes advantages of bad organizations and poor front offices as seen with Brooklyn and now Philadelphia. Second, they were never sold on Fultz. Third, they may not be done making moves. But back to the pick. Josh Jackson is a Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge player and I would not be surprised if they go there, but the similarity between his game and Jaylen Brown is too much for me to see them spending the 3rd overall pick two years in a row on the same style player. So with the third pick the Boston Celtics select Jayson Tatum. I think they go with Tatum here, filling their need at small forward giving them a polished scorer. Tatum gives them a solid athlete with a good frame that powers their offense even more. Jackson is a polished player, but with less certainty on the offensive end, the Celtics fill that need with Tatum and get them a scorer they can go to late as well as a player with enough versatility to guard two positions for them in the future.
Fourth Pick Phoenix: Josh Jackson F Kansas
Josh Jackson is the best player on the board here, and although De’Aaron Fox is tempting here, there is no need to further crowd the already Kentucky loaded backcourt that resides in Phoenix. Jackson continues the frontcourt reload that began with last year’s draft class including Bender and Chriss and gives them a very athletic forward in a position of need at the small forward position. Pairing him with Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe gives them a solid core to continue to build around and allows Jackson to continue to develop his offensive game where he won’t be relied on as heavily to be a go-to scorer for the Suns. Jackson was solid with 16 PPG 7 RBG and 38% from the three. If he can continue to develop that part of his game, and further add to his arsenal he has the frame and athleticism to be good in this league and a core piece for Phoenix in the future.
Fifth Pick Sacramento: De’Aaron Fox, PG Kentucky
This is the third time I have brought up De’Aaron Fox in the top 5 picks of this draft, so the kid is very talented. I look at this kid and immediately see John Wall potential. Not only does that stem from the Kentucky ties, but Fox like Wall is a world-class athlete with insane speed and a high motor on both ends of the floor. He finishes strong at the basket and is a smart player that dominated Lonzo Ball in their Elite 8 matchup going for 39 points. I think that Fox has the potential to be the best guard in this draft, and can only pray that Sacramento doesn’t screw him up. He still has some room to improve on his jumpshot, but he is a solid pick here and Sacramento please don’t mess him up.
Sixth Pick Orlando: Dennis Smith, PG NC State
Orlando is facing a window in which they want to be good sooner than later. Aaron Gordon is a high flying athlete who can benefit from a high motor, tremendous athlete at point guard, and they get that with Smith. Drawing comparisons to Russell Westbrook, Smith is a little undersized but his athletic ability is through the roof. He was a high flier in Raleigh, in a crappy situation which may have led to some questions from executives about his attitude. I think if you put any 18 year old in a bad situation for a year, they will have a sour attitude also, so I am not looking much into that. Pairing Gordon and Smith together will give Frank Vogel something he can build with moving forward and a good young core to build around. His shooting still has some room to improve but his ceiling is as high as anyone.
Seventh Pick Minnesota: Jonathan Isaac PF Florida State
If he falls here, there is a match made in heaven with Isaac and Minnesota. Pairing him with Karl Anthony Towns, Wiggins, and hopefully a healthy Lavine is a tremendously athletic young core for Thibodeau to work with. Lauri Markkanen is another solid fit here, as he can stretch the defense out giving KAT more room to work, but Isaac has a higher floor than most would expect looking at his numbers. He offers a tremendous fit in defensive versatility and has a developing offensive game. He may not have shot as high of a percentage as Markkannen but 35% from three for a 6’10” PF is nothing to scoff at. It may take him a couple of years to reach his full potential, but adding him to the young core in Minnesota is a homerun.
Eighth Pick New York: Malik Monk, SG Kentucky
Monk could go higher depending on what happens, as I made somewhat of a stretch pick at 6 with Dennis Smith Jr. but pairing Monk with Kristaps will fill some seats in MSG. He gives them a microwave like scorer who can heat up at anytime, and though slightly undersized he has a 40+ inch vertical leap and good lateral quickness to be able to hold his own. He shot the ball at an outstanding rate at UK and that will translate fine to the bright lights in New York. With him and Kirstaps, two thirds of the “why the hell are we still trying to run” triangle offense are in place for Phil. Dennis Smith if here could be a good pick as well as Frank Ntilikina the PG from France. But assuming that the above happens and Monk is available here, he will be taken. Monk also would fit in Orlando and Minnesota, but I expect him to fall in the 6-10 range.
Ninth Pick Dallas: Frank Ntilikina PG France
Dallas needs a point guard. That is obvious. Yogi Farrell had a Cinderella like season and Seth Curry had a nice resurgence with J.J. Barea filling his usual role on an NBA roster, but they need a point guard of the future. Now they have been rumored in talks with Minnesota for Ricky Rubio, to get their true pass first point guard, but Rubio has more talent in Minnesota and still isn’t a top 15 point guard in the league, so having Ntilikina in Dallas is necessary. The rumors that one of his coaches will be on the Mavs coaching staff for the summer almost sets this in stone if true. Look for a possible swap of picks with Minnesota, with the Wolves including Rubio in the deal. Lauri Markkanen would be fun here as the heir apparent to Dirk and if their point guards aren’t on the board I see them going there, but the blaring need at point guard is too much to pass on.
Tenth Pick Sacramento: Lauri Markkanen PF Arizona
Lauri is at worst a stretch four Ryan Andersen style player that fits with the NBA style of play right now. He shot an outrageous 42% from three and standing 7 feet tall everyone is immediately thinking of the upside of being the next Dirk. Having already filled the need at point guard with De’Aaron Fox, getting a big who can stretch the floor for leapers like Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere with new toy Buddy Hield they have threats on the floor to hopefully make them improve from being the skid mark of the NBA. Markkanen still has to work on his frame, and may be a 2 to 3 year project, but the Kings are no where near contention so this is a good value pick.
Eleventh Pick Charlotte: Donovan Mitchell SG Louisville
Mitchell enjoyed a breakout season this year with the Cardinals. A slightly undersized 2 guard at 6’3” Mitchell enjoys using his freak athleticism of a 40+ inch vertical and 6’10” wingspan to make up for what he lacks in height. Averaging 15 PPG 5 RBG and 3 APG he has a good game to pair with his athleticism, but he still needs to improve from 3 land. He shot a pedestrian 35% from the three but with an 80% free throw percentage you hope it isn’t his form and is something that can be improved. Pairing him with Kemba Walker provides an athletic backcourt with the ability to score in bunches.
Twelfth Pick Detroit: Luke Kennard SG Duke
There are rumors that the Pistons are open to trading this pick with the Lakers being a possible suitor. They are looking for a win now veteran so if they make a move look for that to be what comes in for this pick. If they keep it Luke Kennard or Zach Collins will be the pick. Luke Kennard was a player that enjoyed a major breakout sophomore campaign. He went from a role player in his freshman season to leading the ACC in scoring this year. Averaging nearly 20 PPG this sharpshooter and underrated playmaker is a good fit in Detroit, where they need a shooting increase. Kennard also wowed at his pro-day workout being recorded as high as a 38.5” vertical and shot the lights out. Kennard is an underrated playmaker who can really set up teammates with his court vision and passing. Whoever takes Kennard has a sharpshooter, playmaking at worst role player and the upside to be a solid player in the NBA.
Thirteenth Pick Denver: Zach Collins C Gonzaga
Zach Collins is a rim protector that gives Jokic room to work offensively. Collins can step out (though a small sample size) and knock down threes. Collins will need to prove that he can guard players coming off of the pick and roll in this league, but his frame is something that can be improved, although he uses it very well around the rim. If available at thirteen he is a good fit in Denver, giving them another piece to continue to build a young team. OG Anunoby has been rumored here and would be a good fit based on the fact that they don’t need him to play right away at a high level coming off injury, but pairing Collins with Jokic is a better fit.
Fourteenth Pick Miami: OG Anunoby SF Indiana
OG is a good fit in Miami if they keep the pick. Without his injury he would have been a top 10 lottery pick and with their depth they can afford for him to sit a little bit to start the year while he continues to recover, but his athleticism before the injury and ability to guard multiple positions gives Miami a good core group with Winslow, Johnson, and Whiteside, they have a nice young core and Pat Riley to work the magic he does to get future free agents to come play in Miami.
Overall I expect a lot of noise to be made between now and Thursday, with multiple trade rumors brewing with the Lakers, Sacramento, Miami, and who knows what Danny Ainge has left. Portland could make some noise on draft day with their trade assets. Thursday will be a day many dreams come true for these young men, and we are looking forward to seeing what teams will continue to improve to try and dethrone the Cavaliers and Warriors.