By Samuel Stands, July 18th, 2020 3:23 pm EST
Though the NBA Draft is still some three months away and we have yet to even see an NBA game played in the bubble to alter draft positioning, for many teams the main focus is scouting for the future. And for the rest of us whose teams are in the bubble, we can only watch so many two minute long practice footage per day.
Our present reality is still basketball-less, still bleak with necessary quarantines, a future looming without a vaccine. Basically those of us who follow the NBA have had ample time to do our own scouting, our own soul searching when it comes to that which will be for our teams because what else is there to do?
I cannot work out the entirety of the day, I cannot read for the entirety of the day, and I cannot watch movies for the entirety of the day. What I can do is a variety of these things and you better believe I’m devoting time to watching film on draft prospects every day and arguing with people on NBA Twitter. With so much time on my hands, it is no wonder that this mock draft I’ve been writing turned into 11,000 words. It consumed me as the draft consumes me every year; there is hope for my team, if we just draft player x and sign player y in free agency, we are where we need to be! So I tell myself. With that in mind, I used tankathon.com to randomize the lottery so as to liven up the selections where it (at least for me) gets old seeing each team in the same draft slot in every single mock draft.
In this mock we see Detroit winning the lottery (something I’m willing to bet money will actually happen in real life), New York with the second pick, and Sacramento jumping up several spots. The selections made are solely based on what I think each team SHOULD do with the pick, not what I think they’ll do or what I’ve heard they might do, I’m putting on my GM hat 30 times to try to help each team as best I can. I’m also sparing you the typical scouting report on each player as I assume you’ve been reading up on them and watching them as much as I have. My interest here is their fit and the thought process each franchise should be taking in my opinion.
On the clock…
- Detroit Pistons: LaMelo Ball…Detroit lands the potential superstar in Lamelo Ball. In my opinion, and I welcome Detroit fans to correct me if I’m off base here, the Pistons ought to anchor their future to LaMelo Ball and Christian Wood while investing time in Sekou Doumbouya, Khyri Thomas, Svi Mykhailiuk, and Tony Snell. This of course means cutting ties with Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin and receiving either draft capital or young players in any return. This would not only free up cap space for the coming free agency but also in 2021 when there will be more impactful players available. Could they pry away a Montrezl Harrell? Malik Beasley? Could they go get Lonzo Ball next year if the Pelicans unconscionably don’t offer him the max? Lest we forget the 2021 draft will be loaded. All of this is to say that the future of Detroit basketball may soon be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Undoubtedly as Wood and Ball become the pillars of the new Piston’s core, surrounding them with shooters is paramount moving forward. This rebuild should not be too difficult to orchestrate with the two aforementioned points whereas Griffin and Rose at the least fetch two first round picks (however late they may be.)
- New York Knicks: Anthony Edwards…I think New York certainly would have preferred to come away with LaMelo Ball on draft night but Edwards isn’t exactly a consolation prize especially for the Knicks in desperation of star power and relevance. Similar to Detroit, the Knicks are short on players they should be retaining long term when considering a rebuild effort that could be sustainable. In Edwards and Barrett the Knicks have their dangerous duo-to-be much like many other teams in the league but they will also boast a dynamic and modern front court in Mitchell Robinson and Julius Randle (who I still believe in whence he gets a sunnier situation, system, and role). Long term then, the Knicks would just be looking for their point guard of the future and the 2021 free agency period can run through New York given their cap space on the way and what will likely be another high draft pick in next year’s draft, as per usual. I presume the Knicks land Kenny Atkinson and he provides for the Knicks what he did for Brooklyn over time and perhaps Atkinson gets rewarded tenure if he can repeat his success which would presumably mean the four I mentioned becoming mainstays.
- Atlanta Hawks: Isaac Okoro…By my estimation, the Hawks really just need to be patient and hang onto their young, deep core. Trae Young is certainly the face of the franchise but I believe Cam Reddish will establish himself as their clear number two guy in seasons to come while the frontcourt is set in John Collins and Clint Capela and there is wing depth in shooters Kevin Huerter and DeAndre Hunter. What everyone continues to say, and I agree, is that the Hawks need a defensive backcourt fellow for Trae Young. Obviously Okoro is credited for his defense and explosiveness where I envision him fulfilling an Andre Iguodala type role for Atlanta. I’ve also read that Okoro is a worker so there may be optimism that his shooting eventually improves. Nonetheless, the Hawks do not need to swing for the fences here and can play it safe though Okoro does present some risk given his iffy shooting. I can also see them taking Devin Vassell, a much safer, albeit less-sexy pick but one that fits what Atlanta needs. All in all, so long as Atlanta keeps all these guys together and aren’t stingy with salaries, the Hawks should be a perennial playoff team for years to come after this particular draft.
- Sacramento Kings: Devin Vassell…I feel like Sacramento really is a piece or two away from getting themselves back into the playoffs after such a drought. While the Kings are in need of a clear star-franchise type player who can put the team on his back so to speak, there is not one available in my opinion after the first two selections in this draft. And that’s okay. I would be happy to see the Kings make a smart and safe pick in Devin Vassell who would fit quite nicely in the Kings rotation and can likely become a long-term starter for them going forward. The Kings have their explosive point guard and young leader in De’Aaron Fox, two shooting guards who can really stroke it in Hield and Bogdanovich, a versatile and experienced forward in Harrison Barnes, and their modern big man in Marvin Bagley (not to mention the ever and always solid Richaun Holmes.) Vassell would give the Kings more shooting, more length, more versatility, more defense, and an off-ball wing ready to contribute immediately. Simply a nice and understated get for Sacramento who should be a key player going forward.
- Golden State Warriors: Obi Toppin…Ultimately I think the Warriors are trading this pick for an established veteran ready to win right now and it also won’t surprise me if the Warriors say “so long” to Draymond Green as well where we are looking at a very different Golden State team next year. With that said, Though Toppin is certainly an older draft selection so early in the draft rounding out the first five, his offensive gifts are too much to ignore when contemplating this slot in the draft with no clearer studs to choose from who could help the Warriors contend right now. I do believe Toppin’s best role in the NBA is at the center position (I’m likely in the minority here) where his explosiveness can be put to use as a rim protector and presumably, Steve Kerr is smart enough to not only cater the defensive scheme to negate Toppin’s weaknesses like copying Brooklyn’s drop coverage with DeAndre Jordan, but also is smart enough to force him to defend like he did Curry who has made significant strides as a defender since Kerr took over. Toppin could make defenses respect those not named Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, hopefully bolstering potential shooting all over the floor as Harrison Barnes and Kevin Durant provided in their title runs.
- Cleveland Cavaliers: Deni Avdija…As I mentioned earlier, though teams like Cleveland and Golden State constantly seem to have big men mocked to them in various articles, I don’t see this being a fruitful idea when the bigs available are not foreseeable world-beaters (this is not to say an Okongwu, Achiuwa, or Wiseman doesn’t blossom nor that there isn’t discernible evidence to believe in one becoming the idealized version of the modern big man, it’s just that I am making decisions in this mock based on a certain set of values: namely versatile wings.) This decision is made even easier when considering that Andre Drummond seems primed to take Cleveland’s money long term while Tristan Thompson is on the way out where the Cavs’ front office will likely be inclined to feel a reciprocal fondness with Drummond’s camp. It needn’t be mentioned that Love will surely be traded for picks or young players in an imminent return, one would think. Larry Nance is the kind of role player every team would love to have at power forward who does enough of the little things while playing his role and who is just as young as Drummond so, yet again, I find myself writing into another selection that the frontcourt of given team at slot six in this mock isn’t lacking. Cedi Osman and Collin Sexton are nice enough young role players who I could see having a long term duty off of the bench on a team not confined to the dregs of the lottery every year where I believe verily in a Kevin Porter Jr. and Darius Garland backcourt tandem. This is one reason why I am averse to the sexier pick here that is Killian Hayes but also because I think every team in the league has to have a versatile and large small forward who can shoot. Also, Deni Avdija has looked excellent as recently (go to Youtube yourself) as the past two weeks. Do I think Avdija is going to be their crown jewel of the franchise onward into the 2020s? No. I think Cleveland, like many of the teams preceding them in this draft, are in need of a two to three year plan building through the draft and trades. If the Cavs wish to expedite this process, look no further than Larry Nance Jr. as trade bait who would fit on any team in the league and contenders ready to rescue Kevin Love with a plethora of firsts and seconds and reclamation projects. Personally I like Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. so much as creators for this team that I would be inclined to invest in off-ball shooting threats like Avidja and Osman especially when Drummond’s gravitational pull within five feet should keep defenses from ceding the paint.
- Minnesota Timberwolves: Patrick Williams…I’m much higher on Patrick Williams than a lot of people but also I’m among enough company (as far as I’m concerned) to mock him as high as seven without rebuke. Can we first get it out of the way that the Phoenix Suns are not coughing up Devin Booker in a trade? The Suns were playing pretty good basketball before the Rona and may have found a real core to invest in long term so long as they understand Oubre’s importance. This trade isn’t happening (not necessarily not ever, just not right now.) I also think feeding the flames on this rumored pipe dream overlooks how well Malik Beasley was playing for Minnesota and how nice of a fit he is next to D’Angelo Russell in the backcourt. Can we finally get a definite frontcourt mate for Karl Anthony Towns? A modern one at that? Juan Hernangomez is absolutely a nice step in that direction and I adore James Johnson as a mentor for this young team but I don’t see either as the long term piece next to KAT and Russell. Williams can potentially be that do-it-all forward for the Timberwolves that every team needs as I stated belief in earlier and will incessantly. It does not behoove the T-Wolves (nor any team for that matter in my opinion) to be trotting out two center-sized big men in the frontcourt especially since KAT’s defense has not been pretty (yes I understand the Lakers have paired AD with Howard and McGee but that’s Anthony Davis we are talking about, arguably the DPOY so chilllllll [also get out of my face about Embiid and Horford, the 76ers play much better basketball when it is only one of Horford/Embiid with Simmons and even without Simmons, look it up.]) Williams is being touted not only for his defensive versatility on-ball but also his off-ball help as a rim-protector which should help the second worst defense in the league this season. I don’t think Williams is going to be a godsend for Minny but I can see him at the least becoming a solid starter in the league for many years if not alongside KAT. Thankfully, with as much work as there is to be done for Minnesota’s frontcourt, there is another draft pick after the lottery to shore up the size this team seems to be giving up on a nightly basis where at the moment, the small-forward by committee may have to prevail until next year’s draft or the management uses their draft capital and young players to trade for an established wing though there aren’t many (any?) available. We’ll see.
- Chicago Bulls: Jaden McDaniels…I’m sorry reader, you obliged me in my Patrick Williams selection but I’m sure you’ll find Jaden McDaniels a bridge too far at eight! May I though? What does every team need? Versatile, shooting, large, long forwards. The Bulls played whom as their starting small forward? Zach Lavine…not a good long term plan and I’m sure the new front office will believe so as well. Otto Porter Jr. is coming back you say? For a year, sure. Here’s me wagering now that Otto Porter Jr. does not return after the 2021 free agency period if he isn’t traded beforehand. But there are two attractive point guards still on the board? Is not Tyrese Haliburton awfully similar to Kris Dunn? Isn’t Killian Hayes’ smooth game confined to the mid-range and his defense lacking? Do the Bulls employ any legit forwards? Do the Bulls already have too many guards? Do they need some sort of positional balance in between all of their guards and centers? I think so. Again, I am of course following my value-system here in going with the big forward obsession. For one thing though, McDaniels already has an advanced offensive repertoire off the dribble which at the least in the short term can be used for microwave scoring off the bench while he develops but also McDaniels can not only defend quite capably on the perimeter but he has shown glimpses of being a ball-hawk out of help rotations. Yes, McDaniels is rough around the edges, apparently the list is: immaturity, recklessness, etcetera. But his talent and gifts make me inclined to see his emotionality as passion and his bouts of recklessness due to youth. Regarding other potential selections here, I worry about the previously mentioned point guards being in a position to succeed when there would be so many guards vying for minutes and I see the same issue at center where an Okongwu or Wiseman is not a better prospect than Wendell Carter Jr. who I believe should be Chicago’s long term center going forward. Yikes that might be a freezing cold take later on down the line. I’m just saying, drafting a legitimate forward would allow a situation where said player could grow because of so many opportunities especially on a losing team perpetually in the lottery. Simply put, 6’10 wings with the kind of offensive bag and defensive potential that McDaniels’ possesses are extremely rare where I am reminded of Paul George, Brandon Ingram, Jonathan Isaac, and even Kevin Durant when watching him. The former three even had slow starts in the league which we may see from McDaniels as he enters the league but I would find it remiss not to bet on him putting it all together. The same thinking that is employed to justify taking Tyrese Maxey so high can (and is here) applicable. True, I am not as high on Maxey like the vast majority so one may be inclined to point out this hypocrisy to which I would simply respond that McDaniels’ size makes a world of difference when considering if the juice is worth the squeeze; if McDaniels reaches his full potential, we are comparing him to Brandon Ingram or Kevin Durant, if Maxey does then we are comparing him to…CJ McCollum? Dion Waiters? I’m just saying…
- Charlotte Hornets: Killian Hayes…I feel like this pick is commonsensical when considering where the Hornets franchise is regarding contention—a long way off. They do have a collection of interesting young pieces from last year’s draft but let’s not kid ourselves, this pick is a matter of the best player available and that is Hayes. Okongwu and Wiseman are available here but I’m not passing on D’Angelo Russell 2.0 for bigs who aren’t CLEAR unicorns. Have I said this before? I also lament that the best backcourt duo the Hornets can trot out consists of two dudes who are 6’1, no matter how talented they may be, one of them will eventually get played off the court by the other for logistical defensive purposes where it wouldn’t surprise me if one of them is eventually moved via trade (money being on Rozier.) I also just really like Hayes’ smooth game, IQ, feel, and comfort on the floor especially for such a young point guard. Bringing him into Charlotte’s situation is ideal for such a player, growing into himself with minimal expectations and pressure alongside peers who ultimately will defer the spotlight to him. I also must admit I don’t love that all of the Hornets incumbent starters are undersized for their respective positions. Despite this, Bridges is at least “modern” in the sense of the new NBA where he can play 2-4. So is PJ Washington who can stretch the floor so perhaps my complaints are without foundation, or at least in the frontcourt. I would quite like to see the Hornets make a run at Christian Wood with roughly $28 million in cap space this summer to play with and no worrisome flight risks of their own to consider. I’d like to see Hayes, who already excels in the pick n roll, with two major PnR weapons in Washington and Wood who also would help erase the guards’ defensive mistakes on the perimeter given their defensive prowess. It may not be all that bad in Charlotte after all if the draft and a big free agency splash come to fruition.
- Washington Wizards: Onyeka Okongwu…On the flip side, Washington’s frontcourt is severely lacking on the defensive end (excluding free agent to be Ian Mahinmi) and have little reason to be hopeful going forward though Hachimura is a bright spot. There are some highly touted guards available here in Haliburton, Anthony, and Maxey, and even Nesmith if you’re high on him and there is certainly reason to consider them given the Wizards’ guard situation. I’m just not going to be optimistic that John Wall can come back and be remotely himself after the Achilles tear where I think that massive contract is sadly sunk cost–though I am happy to see he is ready to come back and feeling confident. Certainly one hopes Wall can rebound, but I’m not counting on it. Bradley Beal, though tied to that contract, is not going to be long for Washington no matter what he and the front office says, this team needs to rebuild. Inevitably Beal will be traded and ideally for a high draft pick this year (two high level guards available) and/or high draft picks next year, an absolutely LOADED draft for wings, and not so many big men. This inclines me to lean toward Okongwu (who I prefer over Wiseman) at the behest of Haliburton, et al. I am of the opinion that Haliburton will not be nearly as impactful in the NBA if not surrounded by a clear shot-creator and a plethora of shooters so I think he would be tasked with too much to salvage in D.C. Cole Anthony is potentially enticing though I’m just not buying his stock (perhaps this is the guy I have the most potential to be wrong about) but I think drafting him to the Wizards would not be a dissimilar situation to being asked to do too much yet again like at North Carolina. I would consider Maxey if his shooting numbers (and that incredibly low shot point) were higher but alas. So it finally comes down to Okongwu versus Wiseman. We have much more film to study when it comes to Okongwu and I prefer a big I KNOW at minimum can defend on the perimeter and protect the rim while getting out in transition; I know not if Wiseman is just another big shot blocker and I’m not risking this pick on a potentially old school center. Wiseman may be the more exciting pick but again at this draft slot I’m not trying to swing for the fences especially when the Beal trade will yield picks and young capital and the Wizards will surely be back in the lottery next year, especially if that Beal trade comes to pass. And leaving it at that would be underselling Okongwu. There will undoubtedly be people who think he’s too short to check centers like Embiid, Jokic, or the like but I actually think it’s his lack of girth right now that will be the only impediment and that’s just a matter of NBA weight training and eating—not a big deal. Not only is he super intelligent defensively, but his quickness can be its own sort of overwhelming for opposing bigs in the same way that size can be overwhelming. And I think this sort of big man is the future of the NBA, especially if he’s able to develop range on his jumper. It is a wing-dominated league and teams cannot have big men that can be hunted in the pick and roll, DHO’s, or dribble weaves. Okongwu should be a big man we are talking about as a comparison for future draft prospects.
- Phoenix Suns: Aaron Nesmith…I don’t love or hate this pick because it isn’t the long term solution at power forward for them but at the same time landing a big guard who can shoot the lights out is always worth having. So this pick is just the smart and safe decision, likely one that other teams won’t be happy to see. Phoenix in my opinion is not far off from becoming a legitimately good team. Booker is obviously a star, DeAndre Ayton has unicorn potential, Mikal Bridges is a stopper, Oubre does a little bit of everything and is one of the most efficient one on one scorers in the NBA (yes, look it up). The fivesome of Rubio, Booker, Bridges, Oubre, and Ayton was scorching offensively this year (when played together, this is not the starting unit). To me this speaks to some stability (finally) and the Suns could become more stable yet, and more formidable yet with two simple additions: one being Aaron Nesmith and the other—what I’d like to see the Suns attempt in free agency—would be signing Davis Bertans. Shooting. Scary shooting adding those two. These additions would help take the pressure off of an Oubre or Booker keeping defenses honest but it would also suddenly bolster the bench where Nesmith, Saric, Johnson, and Baynes can be plugged into the machine. I hate this cliché but it does bear mentioning, drafting Nesmith would indeed give Phoenix some insurance if Oubre departs next summer but I really think it would be an incredible mistake for this franchise to let him go if not sign him to an extension soon. If Bertans isn’t an option, the Suns should be going just as hard at Jerami Grant who is a low usage forward who can hit from deep and defend 1-5. The point of course is that Oubre and Booker, the primary creators on the Suns, need to be surrounded by players who can make opposing defenses pay for overplaying them. The thing about Nesmith is that he isn’t just a catch and shoot guy, he has the same high percentages coming off of screens or even in the rare occasion where he steps back or pulls up. Essentially he can be the Suns’ JJ Redick/Kyle Korver/Ray Allen for a long time.
- San Antonio Spurs: James Wiseman…This just feels right. A highly touted big man going to the San Antonio Spurs via the draft; the true heir apparent to Tim Duncan and not LaMarcus Aldridge? This is a really nice get for them at the twelfth spot especially as they are on the precipice of a rebuild, albeit one that I believe will be quick. Surely Aldridge and DeRozan will be traded soon for picks and young players and again the 2021 draft class is stacked. The Spurs already have their backcourt of the future in Lonnie Walker (who I love, underrated) and Dejounte Murray who quietly had a good year while still the Spurs backcourt is stocked with legitimate backups in Derrick White and Bryn Forbes. Obviously the frontcourt is a different and bleak story but this will begin to make things right. Jakob Poeltl is a nice enough player and is a plus defender but likely he is one better suited to spell Wiseman (star potential) off the bench. Though I think their rebuild can be quicker than others, it’s still likely a two year process at the least even if they strike gold in next year’s draft. Who are the likely trade partners for DeRozan or Aldridge though? Miami gets thrown around quite a bit for both parties but the return is a bevy of shooting guards, not what they need. Would a return for either DeRozan or Aldridge be that great? Might Orlando be willing to send Gordon to San Antonio for DeRozan? That would be a quick and easy way to get a long term solution at power forward. What about a Gordon Hayward and Aldridge swap? Regardless, San Antonio would be the right situation for Wiseman in that no matter what he will be coached by Tim Duncan and potentially will get a year learning from LaMarcus Aldridge as well. Admittedly Wiseman is more David Robinson than he is Big Fundamental but that’s not exactly a problem where Wiseman’s floor, worst case scenario is a high level shot blocker and rebounder. As much as I am the biggest possible proponent of the modern, sleeker, more versatile and mobile big man, there’s a reason teams would pay someone like a Rudy Gobert–an All-Star, first team all defense selection, defensive player of the year candidate on the regular—as much as they do because that playstyle is still massively effective sans post-ups which isn’t Wiseman’s game anyhow. I can see the Spurs and James Wiseman enjoying a long marriage.
- New Orleans Pelicans: Saddiq Bey…One of three absolute steals in the draft for whichever team lands him. Saddiq Bey is exactly the kind of player the Pelicans need who would not only fit seamlessly on any team in the NBA but will be ready to contribute immediately. New Orleans very clearly was in need of a wing who could defend star forwards on the perimeter; that March Lakers game where Lebron bullied every single defender in a tight fourth quarter stands out. Former teammate Josh Hart? Abused. One of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, Jrue Holiday? Easy work. Slenderman? Please. Zion? Too slow. One may be thinking, “yea but it’s Lebron! He does that to everyone!” This thought process is a great route to losing, mediocrity, bowing down. Yes, Lebron is Lebron but there are also Kawhi Leonards, Kevin Durants, Paul Georges, Jayson Tatums, Pascal Siakams, Giannis Antetokounmpos, etcetera; teams with dominant wings run the league and will continue to do so. It behooves every franchise to not only make sure to get their own dynamic forward, but to bolster the roster with players able to defend these juggernauts. And while Brandon Ingram, max player to be, should be taking on these challenges given his pay and All-Star status, he does need a backup, as does Zion. This is Bey. 6’8, can defend 1-4 (no BS here, check the tape), is absolutely SCORCHING off catch and shoot from deep, was a 41% three point shooter in his college career, can operate out of the pick n roll, can punish smaller defenders in the post, and has length for days. I do not find it unreasonable to consider that Bey could be the long term replacement in the starting lineup if Jrue Holiday is traded this summer or even in the event that Holiday signs an extension and finishes with New Orleans in the twilight of his career. Villanova also has a promising recent track record of high level role players who defend in Mikal Bridges, Josh Hart, Donte Divincenzo, and Jalen Brunson. A future small-ball lineup of Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Saddiq Bey, Brandon Ingram, and Zion Williamson could be a switch-everything, transition terror, and spread offensive nirvana for a decade. This is without considering Jrue Holiday’s defensive prowess, what a Jrue Holiday trade could fetch that would bolster their depth and defense even more for longer term sustainability or if Derrick Favors returns who (alongside Jrue and Lonzo) anchored one of the best defensive lineups in the league. The Pelicans, with this selection in the draft, can be close to a completely rebuilt team if not an eventual dynasty (I said it). This is not even to mention young and potentially movable attractive pieces who are Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes, the Pelicans 20021 draft pick, and all of the Lakers draft picks they acquired in the Anthony Davis trade. New Orleans has everything necessary to make several major trades to become a powerhouse but their DEPTH is what will matter most as it tends to in the playoffs.
- Portland Trail Blazers: Desmond Bane…I do wonder if this pick just becomes a part of a trade package for a third star in Portland (no Carmelo Anthony doesn’t count.) If not, and this is the sadder option for the Trailblazers who just do not have enough firepower to fight the dominant forces of the Western Conference, then they will be battling for the 8th seed yet again. Nonetheless, Desmond Bane is the second of three absolute steals in this draft who I think will have a long and fruitful career as a high level role player if not starter at some point. Like Bey, Bane would fit on any roster in the NBA and would necessitate minutes immediately. A big 6’6 shooting guard (the classic kind), Bane shot a 43% clip from deep in four years at TCU, is a smart and gritty coach’s player on both sides of the court, and is a scoring playmaker with the ball. Also, the alternatives at small forward in Portland are…not preferable. Though the Blazers will return Zach Collins which will aid in their frontcourt depth, it just forces them to play Carmelo Anthony at the small forward spot which isn’t a recipe for winning basketball and no I don’t buy it just because he lost some weight during quarantine (I’m sorry, really.) On top of considering a trade package of this pick and a young player like Anfernee Simons, perhaps Portland can move one of their many bigs for wing help? Could a Hassan Whiteside sign and trade be optimal for both parties? I don’t know. Had I been my druthers I would go all-in on a major trade to appease Damian Lillard who deserves the investment, a show of faith and goodwill from the front office for his endeavors. No matter what, Desmond Bane is a player I would want on a contending team right now, such a one as part of a long rebuild, and such a one still around after the rebuilt reload so to speak. There is of course the Kevin Love deal to be made, one I don’t think would be that difficult to execute but then there is still the issue of the forward spot. How much would it take to get Love? Do the Blazers have enough assets to land Love AND to add a B-level player on the wing? We’ll see.
- Orlando Magic: Tyrese Haliburton…Most folks agree that the Magic are in need of a point guard and though I believe in Markelle Fultz, I think of him more as a shooting guard or backup point rather than the man running the starting unit at this point in time though he could grow into it later than we were hoping. I also think Evan Fournier is a nice player but he is slated to be a free agent next summer (a player option that I assume gets exercised this summer if he hasn’t already) and I would sell high on him while I could to build around the future of young guns Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon (iffy I know), Mo Bamba (he’s growing into it, man), and perhaps even Fultz. One thing that stands out here is the positional size of all these guys and I’d love to add to that with Tyrese Haliburton’s size, vision, and playmaking at the point guard spot. Admittedly the Magic have a unique if not eclectic collection of players where there is no clear dominant on-court presence (at least in my experiences with this team) leading this team. And though I do not think Haliburton is going to be that guy, when the Magic DO get that guy, Haliburton will be the one to make it all gel, distributing to all those mouths to feed—a nice problem to have. And while I mentioned at a previous draft selection (the Spurs at 12), I would not be inclined to move Gordon for anyone over 26 years old and isn’t a scoring wing. Could Kelly Oubre be that return? If Phoenix is stupid, sure. I wouldn’t be so quick to give up on Gordon though Jonathan Isaac is clearly the best player on this team and is best suited to play the power forward spot. I also wouldn’t be holding onto him tightly, fully willing to move him for the right deal, one bringing the Magic to a more cohesive and balanced roster. Maybe Haliburton is the one to get everyone involved with his passing and that’s what a high-flyer like Gordon needs, tapping into his most effortless skills in order to optimize a less than ideal fit for the time being. I don’t envy the Orlando Magic front office trying to make sense of this current roster of decent players where the franchise player (Isaac in my opinion) is a defensive monster as opposed to a closer or leading scorer. Even if it is temporary, I like Haliburton’s fit in a lineup of say: him, Fournier, Ross, Isaac, and either of Bamba/Vuc. I maintain that I would move Fournier and even Ross to extend the window with this young core, but two creator types in Fournier and Ross may end up revealing the blueprint player types next to Haliburton long term where Isaac and Bamba mop up defensively and clean up offensively. I’m already feeling ambivalent about not taking Cole Anthony here, more of a modern score-first point guard who can also defend but gives up size…but does that matter when he’s next to such large company? Decisions, decisions. One could just as easily flip a coin to make this determination. Either way, depending on which guy you take here, I don’t think the decision would be franchise-altering in alternate universes.
- Minnesota Timberwolves: Cole Anthony…At this point in the draft I become willing to look at Cole Anthony who I’m not as high on as most others but Minnesota simply needs talent and Anthony has a potentially high ceiling and it’s very much worth it here given who else is available even though there are players still available here at this spot. I think Anthony could be a microwave scorer off the bench if not the T-Wolves most reliable sixth man. I would be inclined to start Culver at small forward simply for his defensive acumen and size alone and would like him alongside Patrick Williams—both gentlemen can hopefully bring some sort of balance to the second worst defense in the league last year. Anthony does get billed as a solid defender and perhaps it is his defense that will actually get him to crack the starting five going forward as opposed to his shot-making abilities. Also, what ball-handlers are in Minnesota? Does Culver count as a secondary ball-handler? Does Beasley? I mean I don’t think so but I admit I wasn’t an avid T-Wolves watcher this year. I suppose I like this situation for Anthony because his potentially bankable skills are sorely needed in this franchise. Ground-breaking analysis I know, but still, this matters, the situation in Minny obviously does favor Anthony where he isn’t meant to carry the team like at UNC. If Anthony’s proponents are to be believed, Anthony just needs some heat off of him and Russell, KAT, and even Malik Beasley are all very much capable of that.
- Boston Celtics: Tyrell Terry…This pick from Memphis didn’t quite pan out as the Celtics and their fan-base had been hoping. For the rest of the league it’s excellent news. What I have in mind here naturally then is that this pick, to the Celtics, was meant to be a significant asset. It’s also house money. Might this pick get packaged with their 26th selection as well in a trade? It wouldn’t surprise me sure, but I’m operating here as if they earnestly use this pick of their own roster. Why Terry? Who else left in the draft *evinces* a swing for the fences? To me it’s actually Precious Achiuwa. But the key word here again is *evince.* Terry’s numbers obviously jump off the page in ways that—though Achiuwa is SO enticing via the eye test—Precious Achiuwa’s numbers do not. Achiuwa’s numbers (though not abysmal) are the only reason most don’t have him as a top five pick in my opinion. Terry’s outrageous shooting coupled with the fact that, according to multiple NBA teams through the draft process, Terry “broke a record for basketball IQ tests” makes him the clear selection here for a team looking to land a big fish. And really the Celtics can make this gamble, a gamble in that some are torn over Terry’s potential against the pros because of his size. Boston can afford for Terry to be brought along slowly when it comes to NBA action whether that be in the G-league or simply going at Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart in practice. The Celtics are two to three years from needing to consider a Walker replacement, they very well may be getting him with this Terry selection. We know for certain that the Celtics’ point guard post-Kemba won’t be acquired through free agency as they’ll be capped out for what feels (for drama’s sake) an incalculable amount of time.
- Dallas Mavericks: Josh Green…If one were inclined to go the sentimental route, there are two Dallas kids available here in Tyrese Maxey and RJ Hampton. However I don’t see either contributing much to this team in the way of minutes or production on the timeline I believe the Mavericks need. Dallas is young but also has their two franchise pillars, the right coach, and role-players who fit around their franchise players. There are no must-have players or player archetypes left in the draft, at least as it concerns the Mavericks’ needs. Dallas will likely be picking in the 18-25 range in the draft for the foreseeable future, barring egregious injuries to one of or both of Doncic or Porzingis of course, and will not have cap space to entice free agents any time soon either. Therefore, it really behooves them to get these picks right where either (a) said selection/s will become rotation regular or (b) the pick can be packaged in a trade for a third star. I quite like Josh Green here, I quite like Josh Green generally. Green is a solid catch and shoot three and D type prospect who competes hard and runs the floor—the kind of role player I want several of to bolster Dallas’ duo for the next decade. This move reinforces the Mavericks backcourt providing some size that Jalen Brunson and Seth Curry give up (good, solid rotation pieces no less) and even size that Tim Hardaway does not at shooting guard. Getting a guy like Josh Green allows the rotation to expand while allowing Carlisle the luxury of not having to rely on a Justin Jackson or the like unless the roster is depleted for whatever reason. My question for Dallas is really just, is it enough to have a great tandem and solid role-players or would they be better served trading out a few parts for someone to take pressure off of Doncic? Or is Doncic really this good and Dallas stays the course? For Dallas’ sake, one hopes one of these late first round picks hits.
- Milwaukee Bucks: Precious Achiuwa…Initially I was inclined to take Tyrese Maxey here, a highly touted prospect who didn’t quite live up to expectations with the thinking that Milwaukee needed this draft pick to think about a long term stop gap in the backcourt to eventually replace George Hill. Then I immediately had two other thoughts: (1) Tyrese Maxey just signed with Klutch so if I’m the Bucks I want nothing to do with Rich Paul hanging around to set up another power-play for Lebron James and (2) Giannis is essentially a free agent to be and it’s DEFCON 2. All things considered, because this offseason is so important for the Bucks, I cannot see them actually keeping whoever this pick selects where it will most likely be packaged in a trade for immediate roster help. In the event they hold onto this pick, the way I would use it would be to soften the blow of a Giannis departure by going after a potentially long term solution at a position that the Bucks aren’t at all deep with youth—center. Getting Precious Achiuwa at 19 is a steal in my eyes, (I have him tenth on my big board) but even so, there is risk involved here. His shooting is concerning and some think his playstyle can be wild (if I had my druthers as his coach I would only embolden and empower him to explore his game more) and some others wonder what position he is supposed to play in the pros. I can’t make guarantees that his shooting can be fixed and I understand the concern there but the latter complaints bother me none. We already know that Achiuwa has quite the motor and plays his ass off on both sides of the floor and so some recklessness may be collateral for that effort he gives. His floor is a big man who can protect the rim and defend on switches out on the perimeter while cleaning up his teammates’ offensive garbage and annihilating in the pick and roll. His ceiling is a big man who can do all of the aforementioned while also taking opposing bigs off the dribble and hitting open threes. His position? He’s clearly best suited to play center. I see this every year where the pundits cry wolf that so and so isn’t big enough to hack it in the league, meanwhile guys like Robert Covington, Draymond Green, and Montrezl Harrell start at center for contending teams. It would be wise to say the least for every team to invest in a modern big man so as to stand toe to toe in the coming years when such skill sets aren’t a rarity. Also, if Giannis does stay and Precious Achiuwa pans out? What disgusting and unfair physicality, athleticism, versatility, and length. What teams can match that in the front court currently? The Lakers? The Sixers? The Clippers? Oh I see, championship favorites, got it. Good company.
- Brooklyn Nets: Jahmi’us Ramsey…Another difficult selection to gauge because of Brooklyn’s situation. I think the team looks rather different next year after Kyrie and Durant have leveraged their influence on the roster. All spring we read about Caris Levert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jarrett Allen being available via trade so if starting caliber personnel is up for grabs then certainly the 20th pick will be as well. I think the Nets can make two separate trade packages combining any two of those assets together to go after friends of KD and Irving and/or players more suited to complement those two. Even in the event that the Nets don’t trade any of those players or draft capital, the thought process as it pertains to building the roster surely is one putting a premium on shooters off the ball. One would have to think Brooklyn is invested in resigning Joe Harris who in my opinion should be their starting small forward so as to move Durant to the four where I think it will be easier for him defensively coming off of his Achilles tear. Surely if Dinwiddie and Levert are retained, two ball dominant perimeter players, the next head coach is going to stagger as much as possible the four of Kyrie, Dinwiddie, Caris, and Durant while surrounding them with shooters. For the purpose of this mock, let’s say the Nets keep this pick, and with it, following the thinking mentioned above, they take Jahmi’us Ramsey out of Texas Tech. Simply put, he’s a nice shooter with some ability to create his own shot and is so fun as a weak-side defender. Ramsey showed glimpses of capable man to man defense so his lapses seem to simply be a matter of effort—not uncommon—and he likes just about every shot he takes which isn’t ideal given his shooting that can be streaky at times. But I think Brooklyn is the right situation for him because of the clear hierarchy that exists there in Irving, Durant, Caris, Dinwiddie, and Harris; his job will be simple, namely hitting spot-up opportunities, hitting off of DHO opportunities, and hitting middies off of closeouts. Meanwhile, in practice and through Kyrie’s tutelage, he can be brought along slowly to learn how to focus his scoring gifts as he grows more comfortable.
- Denver Nuggets: Tyler Bey…I know, I know. Tyrese Maxey is STILL here! God just draft him already! I can even understand the thinking there too, the Nuggets just let Malik Beasley go for practically nothing in my opinion (idiocy) and could use backcourt bolstering, sure. But Maxey just isn’t an enticing enough prospect for me no matter how much potential he has, I’m just not crazy about little guards. Besides, what guards are dominating the Western Conference and reigning supreme where all roads must go through them? I’ll wait. The West, for at least the next two to three years belongs to the Lakers and Clippers, led by generational forwards. And the East? Same thing. The Warriors you counter? They weren’t the Death Star until Durant, be real. The league belongs to otherworldly forwards and will continue to be. Denver is knocking on the door in the West, lush with young personnel and depth and yet…And yet I don’t think they are getting over the hump unless Michael Porter Jr. makes a serious jump and lives up to the significant expectations that have surrounded him since he came into the hoop world’s radar. Porter must become their otherworldly forward, specifically at small forward. His offensive talent is undeniable but the defense is lacking to put it nicely but this is hopefully just a matter of adjusting to actually playing as he has the tools to be a legitimate defender. Denver also has two very important free agent decisions to make this summer in Jerami Grant and Paul Millsap. I don’t need to state Millsap’s importance to the team so resigning him is a given but at what cost? He will turn 36 next year so one would have to think not only that his productivity tapers off but that his earnings have been substantial in his career and that he may be resigned to a team-friendly deal. Retaining Jerami Grant is pivotal to the war effort that is guarding these otherworldly forwards but also keeping his talents off of other teams who may be one piece away. Grant will absolutely be necessary if not down-right an x-factor in playoff series against the Lakers, Clippers, and even the Dallas Mavericks. Why aren’t I talking about the actual draft selection here yet? Well, that could be said about this entire mock; context matters. Tyler Bey has been likened to Larry Nance Jr. (who I positively adore) because of his finishing and pick and roll gravity (and buttery mid-range shooting) and I would even compare Bey to Jerami Grant. A 6’7 long forward who can defend as if his life depended on it and can knock down open threes? Every team needs that yes, but Denver needs to make sure they have insurance for one of if not both of Millsap or Grant’s potential departures. And if they retain both of those players, an abundance of forwards of this ilk is a nice problem to have. Millsap can be a mentor no doubt, and as Grant takes that which Millsap will inevitably cede in the form of a starting position, Bey will be groomed for a similar passing of the torch later on. There’s also something to be said for just generally having solid depth at the forward position which most teams simply do not have. If power is to be usurped from the Los Angeles teams, there must be big bodies ready to be exhaustively thrown at them. Welcome to the resistance, Tyler Bey.
- Philadelphia 76ers: Tyrese Maxey…The Sixers are pretty much a stacked team at every position. This is a debatable statement. I believe as much because I think Shake Milton and Matisse Thybulle are legit rotation players where very clearly Philly is set in every regard in the frontcourt. I do wonder if this pick simply gets attached to Al Horford in a trade to make it worth some team’s while to take on such a massive contract for an aged player. And yet this is actually a young team so perhaps they’re inclined to hold onto this pick, especially since Tyrese Maxey is such a highly touted prospect where I’ve seen him as high as top 10 on big boards and in mock drafts. I do not dislike Maxey as much as I am weary about little guards, especially the kind who don’t have great vision or feel running the offense. Maxey’s a gamer though and the Sixers need a shot-creator in the backcourt which Maxey provides despite his unimpressive shooting numbers; fans of Maxey are encouraged by the shots he is able to get for himself and the comfort in doing so. Maxey also projects as a plus defender on and off the ball. At the very least, the Sixers are getting a tough defender who can bail out the offense in short-clock situations. If the shooting really comes around and people expect it to given reports of strong working habits and high character, you’re looking at a high level sixth man if not a secondary offensive option as a starter someday. At some point though, something’s gotta give when it comes to all of the Sixers’ young guards. I feel that Milton and Thybulle are sure things and should be important pieces long term. This pick? Furkan Korkmaz? Zhaire Smith? Would they not be better served getting a dependable rotation piece for teams priming to rebuild? Chris Paul for Horford and a young talent perhaps?
- Miami Heat: Kira Lewis Jr….This is rather convenient for Miami. The one position where they are lacking is at point guard. Dragic is old and a free agent. Kendrick Nunn IS nice but who backs him up? Is Nunn THE guy? Their point guard experiment in Justise Winslow was shipped out to Memphis for wing depth—a good move no less. Another issue is of course, the Heat are looking to trade for a third star to make a big three with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and this pick are all attractive assets to go get a disgruntled star like Victor Oladipo or Bradley Beal. Regardless, at this point in the draft, Kira Lewis Jr. is likely the most attractive prospect still on the board and obviously it doesn’t hurt that Miami could be in need of a point guard. I also like Lewis here simply for the fact that the Heat have no personnel like Kira. Shooters? Check. Wing defenders? Check. Stretch centers? Check. Stars? Check, check. Lightning bug guard who can operate out of the pick and roll proficiently and get his own shot while also making defenses respect his driving ability? I mean, not really. I do think Herro is more than just a shooter but he doesn’t have Lewis’ speed. Butler can go get his own shot of course but his shooting isn’t the most reliable. I really like this for Kira Lewis Jr. He could be a spark off of the bench surrounded by shooters and we know that the Miami Heat will develop him to the fullest (if they don’t ship him out) just look at their success with G-league call-ups and second round picks. I do ultimately believe that the Heat need a third stud if they are going to make a serious run for a finals appearance and that needs to be soon because of Butler’s mileage so again this selection may end up being for naught. We’ll see.
- Utah Jazz: RJ Hampton…Let’s get the Jazz a long term point guard prospect as Mike Conley insurance, somebody they can pair with Donovan Mitchell for the long haul assuming Utah fans don’t chase Donovan Mitchell out of town…Ahem. Help me Senator Mitt Romey, you’re my only hope. Jordan Clarkson is of course a very nice combo guard who was an excellent acquisition and though I would want Clarkson closing games, his best role is as a sixth man, potentially an award winning sixth man. The Jazz find another point guard via Australia (sort of), an exciting prospect in RJ Hampton. He’s very young, has great size for a guard, is a transition terror, is explosive, attacks the rim hard, has a solid handle, and should at some point be a passable defender. That jumper though. Eek. If there was more evidence that Hampton is wont to fix the jumper, I take him much higher. I think he’s a nice basketball player up to a certain level, some of this and some of that, but is he a good guard? Is he a guard who can hack it in the NBA? If this pick hits eventually, the Jazz have their backcourt of the future, a rather complementary one at that. If not, well there aren’t any “boom” prospects left at this stage in the draft. There is Poku, true. But are the Jazz really going to trade Rudy Gobert? No. That package would really have to be something special.
- Oklahoma City Thunder: Jalen Smith…Surely this team gets blown up this summer? Somebody has got to be willing to trade for Chris Paul after the outrageous year he had, right? Surely Danillo Gallinari is going to get snagged by a contender or offered a large contract on a middling team? Surely Nerlens Noel will be looking to cash out elsewhere after a promising year? And if all the aforementioned turn true, surely Steven Adams fetches a nice trade package in order to begin a full-scale rebuild. To me I don’t think anybody is tied down except for Shai Gilly and Dennis Schroder. There are no homerun boom or bust candidates available at this point in the draft and now we are looking at either high floor trustworthy role players or long term projects. The last of three steals in the draft goes to the Thunder in Jalen Smith. I cannot fathom that Jalen Smith isn’t a consensus top 15 pick in most drafts and boards. A 6’10 center who can protect the rim, shoots 36% from deep with a clean stroke, flies in transition, does the little things, and can defend capably in space? What more can one ask for in a big? Jalen Smith is the archetypal modern big and like I’ve said, every team is going to need one. Oklahoma City gets theirs and pairs him with Shai for a promising future. Smith has been compared to reigning champion Serge Ibaka, the player Smith should model all of his game after and can become; namely a modern big who plays within himself and the flow of team concepts regardless of individual skills. Players like this are guaranteed to have long careers and will continue to be in serious demand. Let’s just make sure we understand that Smith is best at center and that we have got to get over this affinity for two tower syndrome. Jalen Smith isn’t Anthony Davis or those special few. And though his nickname is Sticks, I rarely ever doubt a player will fail to bulk up. Every draft this idea gets thrown around and while it hits its mark often times with very oversized centers over 7 foot, it isn’t often the case with the just under 7 foot crowd.
- Boston Celtics: Aleksej Pokusevski…Speaking of oversized centers who are rather frail and skinny who deserve scrutiny when it comes to being able to put on weight. Obviously Poku is going to be dinged for all the issues that come with weak players: inability to defend in the post, inability to finish, constantly taken to the rim, boxed out easily and therefore poor rebounding, etcetera. Ok so why are we even talking about this dude in the first round then? Remember when I said there are no potential homerun boom or bust prospects left? Alright, there is this guy but the Celtics can afford to take this major swing because this is two of three picks in the first round. Why not draft this sweet shooting, shot creating, and offensively versatile 7 footer? They can bring him along very slowly in the G-league while carefully bulking him up. It’s not as if the Celtics are going anywhere, I fully expect them to be legitimate contenders for at least the next four years; they really can take their time with this kid. If Poku can in fact bulk up and the shooting keeps and the handles are for real against NBA competition? The Celtics become the Celtics again with a dominant big man which has always been a major portion of their championships.
- New York Knicks: Tre Jones…There are two centers who I quite like still available here but there isn’t exactly a need given Robinson’s production and outlandish potential; the Knicks should be investing heavily in Mitchell Robinson as one of their core big three—Barrett, Edwards (drafted second), Robinson. God the Knicks need a legitimate point guard, namely one who would fit alongside the mentioned core. One could certainly say that Ntilikina and Payton would fit alongside Edwards and Barrett, deferring their touches, playing off the ball, and generally doing most of their work on the court playing defense. The problem with these two lies in their lack of shooting. Maybe Frank can figure it out but Payton’s has simply been egregious on a long enough timeline to no longer trust it coming around. Tre Jones is a safe pick. He’s efficient out of the pick and roll (and having Mitchell will only compound that), he’s a conservative decision maker, can defend both guard positions extremely well, and dramatically improved as a shooter this year. Even if Jones isn’t the point guard of the future, at the very least he can be a trusted role player off the bench, something the Knicks really rather need, especially at point guard.
- Toronto Raptors: Paul Reed…The Raptors are a really well constructed team. Their depth in the backcourt is delightful with an All Star veteran in Kyle Lowry starting alongside his clear replacement in burgeoning young stud Fred VanVleet who is entering his prime. Terence Davis quietly deserves consideration for the All-Rookie Team this year. Matt Thomas is an absolute flamethrower. Norman Powell will give you buckets. Jesus. That depth. Then they have two former All Stars at center in Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka and their seemingly do-it-all new face of the franchise in the wake of Kawhi’s departure is another All Star in the front court in Pascal Siakam. AND there’s OG Anunoby still blossoming and oozing with potential. This team is loaded. I do wonder if Giannis doesn’t sign an extension if Toronto tries to blow Milwaukee away with a collection of the young assets mentioned, headlined by OG Anunoby, where this draft pick is thrown in as well. Or are we looking at a Spurs-esque dynasty and just not know it yet? The Raptors seem to get the absolute most out of players considered afterthoughts in the draft. One could say that the Raptors need to draft a center here because they are positioned to lose both of their centers. However, I think (and I have absolutely nothing to base this off of other than my own personal feelings observing) that Ibaka and Gasol couldn’t be more invested in this team and these teammates and that they understand what is being built in Toronto. And if no Giannis trade occurs, though they will have both forwards locked down for at least the next eight years, I’m not wild about the backups in the front court. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is a free agent and not one I’d be inclined to keep anyhow. Patrick McCaw? I mean, meh, he is aight, serviceable. I would assume Toronto let’s all free agents go who aren’t VanVleet, Ibaka, and Gasol. Those three are going to require expensive salaries, for good reason, and therefore the Raptors will not be filling out their roster by any means that are not through trades and the draft. With that out of the way, I really like Paul Reed and I really like him for the Raptors. Where to begin? I think Ibaka is best optimized as a center and though he can absolutely play minutes at power forward and he, Siakam, and Gasol can stagger their minutes accordingly so that it isn’t necessary for anyone else to play the four, I want the kind of depth the Raptors have at guard at forward as well. What isn’t there to like about Paul Reed? He can score in just about every way possible and does. Seriously. Though his shot mechanics are absolutely disgusting to look at, he’s still somehow a 33% shooter from deep on his career. He regularly hits middies around the elbows and free throw line, takes people off the dribble driving to the rack, is a pick and roll lob threat, and cleans up off of rebounds. I admit and agree that his shot needs to be completely re-hauled and reconstructed but I do not think it is going to be as difficult of a task as others believe. If you watch Reed when he is contested or hurried, his mechanics are much cleaner, are not a mechanical grinding process, does not have the hitch, and even the release point is different. His handle can be sloppy despite his array of moves but that’s just a matter of repetition. This is not to mention that Reed will not be tasked with carrying the Raptors like he did DePaul. Did I mention the fact that Reed is an absolute terror defensively? Capable of guarding one through five? No seriously. He’s 6’9 with a 7 foot wingspan and does absolutely everything required of any one position defensively and he’s a legitimate rim protector. Reed is definitely raw, but if ever there were a franchise primed to develop him into his potential, it is the Toronto Raptors (and a quick shout out to the Miami Heat.) As mentioned previously when discussing Tyler Bey, every team, but especially contenders, must be sure that they have capable wing defenders to deal with the Giannis’s, Lebrons, and Kawhis and it’s important to have several of them. This is all the more the case because Toronto’s best wing defender is also their leading scorer so it behooves management to find players who can mitigate that defensive burden. A selection of Reed here is done in the best interests of their clear pillars, Siakam and Anunoby.
- Los Angeles Lakers: Jared Butler…They’re just going to trade him this summer or in four years. “Long live the King.” –Scar.
Boston Celtics: Robert Woodard…Now that Boston has taken two massive swings at high upside players in Terry and Poku, landing a safe high floor player at a position of need is the move here. My thinking with this pick is out of consideration for Gordon Hayward’s departure next offseason where, if he doesn’t sign a team-friendly deal in Boston, I think he goes back to the Utah Jazz where he would have a much larger role and would be needed significantly more than in Boston. So we are looking at a need for another forward. I have serious belief in Semi Ojeleye to take that spot if the Celtics intend to play the way they do with all three of Brown, Tatum, and Hayward on the floor. Frankly, Ojeleye replacing Hayward alongside those two is likely a better option anyhow. Ojeleye is a nice stopper and is starting to hit his stride with the three ball and he doesn’t need to be little else but this on this Celtics team where the roles are so clear and defined. Certainly it’s possible that Marcus Smart just enters the starting lineup and Tatum moves to the power forward spot, keeping Ojeleye as a backup. Regardless though, and I’m a broken record at this point, having several big forwards who can shoot and defend is absolutely requisite for actual title contention. Robert Woodard isn’t all that different from Semi Ojeleye. He is a grown ass man at 6’7 and 235 pounds with a 7’1 wingspan so he’ll be ready for NBA minutes from day one. Offensively Woodard is actually a nice scorer. His strength allows him to finish at the rim where he’s largely a north and south kind of ball-handler. But he’s also got a solid two dribble pull-up jumper in the mid-range. He can also hit the three ball at a more than solid 43% clip. Woodard is a smart forward who plays within his limits. Defensively he can hold his own, he’s solid, not bad, not great, just solid. And again, the Celtics really aren’t going to need him to be more than that. Players like this help win championships, plain and simple. This is really nice value at the end of the first round especially if one of their boom or bust prospects before becomes a stud.