The NBA Draft Lottery just happened and the Minnesota Timberwolves became the first team in more than 10 years to win the first pick while having the highest odds. (Odd, isn’t it? Geddit? Geddit?) The Lakers had a little help from lady luck and came up with the second pick, a much needed manna for the seemingly gasping for breath franchise.
The following is the mock draft of the first round.
- Minnesota Timberwolves – Karl Anthony Towns – Center, Kentucky.
Minnesota is not going to win now. Therefore, they can play for the future and go with Towns. Not as polished as Okafor, the other prospect in number one conversation, he definitely has higher upside and way more defensive potential. You really don’t want to pair another offensive minded, under the rim behemoth with Nikola Pekovic. He most likely won’t impact the games immediately, but a future pairing of Rubio, Wiggins and Towns should give lots of coaches sleepless nights.
- Los Angeles Lakers – Jahlil Okafor – Center, Duke.
The Lakers have seemingly struck gold here. Jumping from number 5 to number 2 on a draft as top heavy as this gives them a valuable chance to stock up on its future centrepiece. Jahlil Okafor is the perfect choice here as he offers unmatched offensive prowess in this year’s draft class. A force on the low block already, he has really fluid footwork and soft, deft hands around the basket. He’s not very athletic nor a defensive presence of note but his imposing size will allow him to not be completely manhandled on that end of the floor. with a lot of potential and ability to impact games now, Lakers will land the perfect piece to let Kobe leave with a flourish while also working for life after him.
- Philadelphia 76ers – D’Angelo Russell – Point Gaurd, Ohio State.
You don’t let the reigning Rookie of the Year go unless you know you have a chance of landing an upgrade. The 76ers traded away Michael Carter Williams and I can assure you Isaiah Canaan is not the long term answer at point. In the mad tear down that is Sam Hinkie’s brilliant rebuild plan, this draft will speak volumes. After 2 seasons of terrible play and washed out rookie seasons of top 10 picks, the Sixers need to finally show some semblance of being a ball team. D’Angelo Russell can help immediately here. He’s got nifty handles, craftiness around the basket and a quick instinct for sharing the ball. He may not be the most athletically gifted prospect but he has the smarts and the vision to run the point for a young and upcoming team like the 76ers.
- New York Knicks – Emmanuel Mudiay – Point Gaurd, Guangdong Southern Tigers.
The season for misery continues for the Knickerbockers. They needed one of the top 3 picks to get the man they wanted. They got the 4th pick. Enter Emaanuel Mudiay, the blur at point who left SMU to go play in China for a year. Make no mistake, Mudiay has legitimate upside with a ceiling which screams multi-year All-Star. There is an equally big risk with him as well though. We have a very limited sample size in which we’ve seen him play. Though he held his own against older and more experienced players of the CBA, Mudiay’s game clearly needs more work. His electrifying speed and athleticism notwithstanding, he is a poor shooter and his decision making is questionable at times. He’s not the perfect piece to help New York win immediately but he has the tools to fill a massive hole at the point guard position. A massive LOL though to all of those who think he’ll run the triangle.
- Orlando Magic – Justise Winslow – Small Forward, Duke.
Let’s start with two simple statements. Tobias Harris is very good. Tobias Harris is going to get paid this off season. I’m just not sure it’ll be the Magic who does it. They’re a young and upcoming team with good pieces all around. But handing a max or near max deal to Harris will not make much sense for them. Especially now, when they need the financial flexibility to tweak a roster to achieve its full potential. Enter the cheaper, younger though slightly less polished prospect from Duke. Winslow opened some eyes in March Madness. Look for him to continue to do so at the summer league. He is an all around prospect at the wing and offers Orlando solid perimeter shooting and defence while also having good slashing potential. Plus, a defence of Winslow, Oladipo and Payton on the perimeter while Aaron Gordon lurks inside? Yeah, I want to see people deal with that.
If the Basketball Gods are kind, Sacramento will finally show some sense and draft a power forward and not a perimeter player. The interior defence is a joke right now. Their Power Forward rotation a worse one. Jason Thompson should not be starting ona western conference team, less so one which wants to make playoffs immediately. Cousins is really, really good but he needs help on defence and slightly less so on offense. The Latvian Porzingis is not very heavily built but he has excellent rim protecting instincts. Is he better than Kentucky big man Willie Cauley Stein? Probably no, but he can stretch the floor exponentially better which is necessary to co-exist with a center like Cousins who relentlessly pounds the ball inside. Porzingis will need a little time to develop, but who said the Kings were winning now anyway?
- Denver Nuggets – Stanley Johnson – Small Forward, Arizona.
Stanley Johnson is a proverbial Swiss Army knife. He can do a number of things quite well and his game should translate well to the pros. But there’s no mistaking this fact, defence will be his calling card in the NBA. A wing with good length and instincts, Johnson can terrorise opposing wing players with his defence. He also has the potential to be a good shooter. He’s not without his flaws though. He is still not very confident while handling the ball and could stand to become a better distributor at the 3 or 2. Having versatile size and skills, Johnson would give the Nuggets a great building block on both ends of the floor.
- Detroit Pistons – Mario Hezonja – Small Forward, Barcelona.
The Croatian Hezonja has been tantalising scouts all year long with his flashes of brilliance in the ACB, the Spanish Basketball league. He is a very athletic wing with good size and speed. His size enables him to go strong to the basket and finish there while also having the capability to light it up from the outside. It is this very shooting ability which makes him such an enticing prospect for the Pistons. After waiving Josh Smith they finally have some semblance of court spacing and having a wing who is a good shooter will be necessary to continue progressing under the tutelage of Stan Van Gundy.
- Charlotte Hornets – Devin Booker – Shooting Gaurd, Kentucky.
Shooting. Shooting. Some more shooting. That is exactly what the Hornets need. One of the worst three-point outfits in the NBA, they are in desperate need of a gunner who is also accurate. Devin Booker is that gunner. Having converted more than 40% of his tries at Kentucky, Booker emerged as one of the most solid pure shooters coming out of college. What helps his case further here is that he is not a ball dominant guard, which is necessary for him to work next to Kemba Walker. He is also a good defender who has the potential to become better in the future. Booker may seem like a reach in the top 10, but considering the Hornets’ utter desperation in the shooting department and the need at the 2 spot, this makes for a good fit.
- Miami Heat – Frank Kaminsky – Power Forward, Wisconsin.
Frank the Tank brings one of the most NBA ready skill sets to the table. After 4 years learning the tricks of the trade at Wisconsin, Kaminsky will be able to contribute immediately to the Heat’s efforts to rebuild out of LeBron James’ return home. He is a crafty scorer inside with range that easily extends to the three point line. He is not very fast or very athletic but his skilfulness proves to be a handful for the defenders most of the time. He will struggle to defend at the pros though. He wasn’t known for being a shot blocker in college and that won’t change in the pros. He also lacks lateral quickness to somehow play the 3 in insanely big line-ups. (Kaminsky is legit 7 feet.) in the end the Heat get one of the safer options in the draft while Frank the tank gets to cruise along on what seems to be a sizable bench role at South Beach.
- Indiana Pacers – Willie Cauley Stein – Center, Kentucky.
- Utah Jazz – Myles Turner – Power Forward, Texas.
- Phoenix Suns – Trey Lyles – Power Forward, Kentucky.
- Oklahoma City Thunder – Cameron Payne – Point Guard, Murray State.
- Atlanta Hawks – Kelly Oubre – Small Forward, Kansas.
- Boston Celtics – Sam Dekker – Small Forward, Wisconsin.
- Milwaukee Bucks – R.J. Hunter – Shooting Guard, Georgia State.
- Houston Rockets – Jerian Grant – Point Guard, Notre Dame.
- Washington Wizards – Bobby Portis – Power Forward, Arkansas.
- Toronto Raptors – Christian Wood – Power Forward, UNLV.
- Dallas Mavericks – Tyus Jones – Point Guard, Duke.
- Chicago Bulls – Justin Anderson – Small Forward, Virginia.
- Portland Trailblazers – Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – Small Forward, Arizona.
- Cleveland Cavaliers – Kevon Looney – Power Forward, UCLA.
- Memphis Grizzlies – Rashad Vaughn – Shooting Guard, UNLV.
- San Antonio Spurs – Delon Wright – Point Guard, Utah.
- Los Angeles Lakers – Robert Upshaw – Center, Washington.
- Boston Celtics – Jordan Mickey – Power Forward, LSU.
- Brooklyn Nets – Montrezl Harrell – Power Forward, Louisville.
- Golden State Warriors – Terry Rozier – Point Guard, Louisville.
(This article has previously been published in The Rolling Paper.)