We’re using ESPN’s lottery machine to randomize the draft order for every mock leading up the lottery on May 16. Last week, the Lakers landed the No. 1 spot. This time, the Knicks cash in on a 5.4 percent chance at the top pick.
This exercise shows just how much a little lottery luck can change the future of a franchise. The Lakers fell to No. 6 on the lottery machine this time, which means their pick shipped to the Philadelphia 76ers. In this mock, the Sixers now have two top-six selections, while the Lakers lose this year’s pick plus another first-rounder in 2019.
1. New York Knicks - Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
Landing in New York would be a major change of pace for Fultz. He’s been flying under the radar about as much as a future No. 1 overall pick can over the last few years.
Fultz was a late riser as a recruit who couldn’t even make varsity as a sophomore at D.C. powerhouse DeMatha Catholic. Once he ascended to five-star status as a junior, he picked the Washington Huskies over all of the blue bloods. Washington finished 9-22, missed the NCAA tournament, and played most of their games while the rest of the country was asleep.
It’s a safe bet that Fultz will be able to make the adjustment. He’s the total package as a point guard and should be a future superstar. Pairing him with Kristaps Porzingis would be trouble for the rest of the league. The Knicks deserve to catch a break once every three decades.
2. Orlando Magic - Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
The Magic have been joyless and terrible since trading Dwight Howard in 2012. Can one player really change that? If anyone is up to it, it’s Lonzo Ball.
Throw Evan Fournier and Mario Hezonja on the wings, Aaron Gordon at the four, and Bismack Biyombo at the five, and suddenly Orlando looks like a team that could push the tempo and put shooting around the perimeter. That’s how Ball played at UCLA. It worked wonders for the Bruins.
3. Philadelphia 76ers - Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
The Sixers have needed a two-way wing for years. Jackson is the best one in the draft. He does his best work defensively, but he should also thrive getting out in transition next to Ben Simmons. Basketball-wise, the big question will be his jump shot. It doesn’t look pretty, but Jackson hit a hot streak at the end of the year that boosted his three-point percentage up to a respectable 37.8.
NBA teams will have to investigate a troubling episode where he allegedly attacked a teammate’s ex-girlfriend’s car.
4. Boston Celtics - Jonathan Isaac, SF, Florida State
Falling to No. 4 would be the worst-case scenario for Boston. If it happens, swinging for the fences with Isaac would be an interesting move.
The 6’10 wing from Florida State looks like the highest-upside player on the board. He projects as a great, versatile defender with a burgeoning offensive skill set. If his jumper is for real, the Celtics will have a perfect power forward for the modern NBA.
5. Phoenix Suns - Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
The popular sentiment is that Ball is the most polarizing talent in the draft, but Tatum is a close second. He was considered a top-two recruit from the moment his class started being evaluated, but he showed some holes in his skill set even during a productive freshman year at Duke. Namely: Who does he defend and how deep is his shooting range?
Still: There’s never been a better time to be a versatile 6’8 wing in the league. It’s easy to think Tatum has a high floor even if his ceiling isn’t as high as others in this range.
6. Philadelphia 76ers - Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
The Sixers need shooters around Ben Simmons and Monk is possibly the best shooter in the class. If Philly ends up with two picks in this range, he’s an easy selection alongside a player with a more complete skill set like Jackson.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves - Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
The Wolves would be in a tough spot if the board broke this way. They don’t need a point guard with Kris Dunn and Ricky Rubio on the roster, so De’Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith Jr. don’t fit. Miles Bridges might have worked here as an explosive wing, but he opted to go back to school. Same goes for Texas A&M power forward Robert Williams.
Markkanen comes with major question marks about his defense, but he’s an incredible shooter at 7-feet tall. He and Karl-Anthony Towns would form a unique front line in Minnesota.
8. Sacramento Kings - De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
Fox turned in the signature performance of the season when he dropped 39 points on Lonzo Ball in Kentucky’s Sweet 16 victory over UCLA. His game is defined by speed: From the moment he enters the NBA, Fox will be one of the fastest players in the league. He’s aggressive on both ends of the floor and a thrill to watch when he’s cooking. The only question is his jump shot.
9. Dallas Mavericks - Dennis Smith, PG, NC State
Smith is talented enough to go in the top five. If he falls to No. 9, the Mavs will have a steal.
The NC State freshman is an ultra athletic lead guard who has drawn comparisons to Eric Bledsoe. Please watch him drop 32 points in a win over Duke in January.
10. Sacramento Kings - OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana
The Kings have already invested a lot of first-round picks in the front court with Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, and Georgios Papagiannis. Buddy Hield — big like Klay and shoots like Steph! — will be entrenched at off-guard. After taking a point guard in Fox with their first pick, the Kings need a wing.
Picking Anunoby requires a leap of faith. He tore his ACL in January, and didn’t have the breakout offensive season many expected before that. Still, he projects as the best and most versatile defender in this class if he’s healthy. His defensive upside and athleticism is worth the risk.
11. Charlotte Hornets - Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
We had Miles Bridges pegged at this pick last week. So much for that. Ntilikina — still only 18 years old — works for Charlotte too because he has the length to defend either backcourt spot and shoot from three.
12. Detroit Pistons - Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
Two years ago, Collins was the third-string center at Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High School behind Chase Jeter and Stephen Zimmerman. Now he’s a certified lottery pick after breaking out in the Final Four for Gonzaga. Stan Van Gundy loves a versatile big man and Collins fits that profile.
13. Denver Nuggets - Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
It seems like there’s a fringe first-rounder who decides to go back to school and turns himself into a lottery pick every year. Last season, it was Buddy Hield. This year, it’s Justin Jackson. Both players led their teams to the Final Four, but Jackson’s North Carolina Tar Heels finished the job by winning the national title.
Jackson was always a three-point shot away from turning into a first-rounder. He found it as a junior and it changed everything for his NBA hopes.
14. Miami Heat - Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
Allen has quick feet and long arms. He might not be an instant-impact rookie, but the Heat are in a position to draft a player with the best long-term potential. Allen fits the billing.
15. Chicago Bulls - Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville
Mitchell has the most interesting stay-or-go decision in the draft. If he goes back to Louisville for his junior season, the Cards will be a top-five team in the preseason polls and a trendy pick to make the Final Four. This spot would be on the optimistic side of his draft projection, but the Bulls could use an athlete and defender of his caliber.
16. Portland Trail Blazers - Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Germany
The Blazers got a chance to see what Hartenstein looked like on the Moda Center floor at the Nike Hoop Summit, where he scored 10 points for the World team. He’s a big body and fluid athlete with a nice face-up game.
17. Indiana Pacers - T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA
The Pacers have been looking for a shooter at the four for two years now. Pairing Leaf with a young center in Myles Turner would give the Pacers great front-court spacing for years to come.
18. Milwaukee Bucks - D.J. Wilson, PF/C, Michigan
Wilson is projected at No. 34 on DraftExpress right now, but I’m sticking with my wildest first-round prediction. Here’s what I wrote last week:
No one has Wilson rated this highly, but that didn’t stop the Bucks from drafting Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thon Maker. At 6’10, 240 pounds, Wilson hit 41 threes (at 37.5 percent) and blocked 51 shots for Michigan as a junior. If Milwaukee is looking for an insurance policy for Jabari Parker, Wilson might be worth a shot.
19. Portland Trail Blazers - Terrance Ferguson, SG, Adelaide (NBL)
Ferguson hit six threes at the Moda Center last year in the Nike Hoop Summit. Portland could use a bigger wing and more shooting. Ferguson would be a steal if he falls this far.
20. Atlanta Hawks - Justin Patton, C, Creighton
The Hawks are in prime position to groom a young center behind Dwight Howard. Patton projects as a two-way big man with good speed and a soft touch around the rim. He exploded on the college scene this season after being hit with a redshirt last year as a true freshman at Creighton.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder - Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
Kennard is a ruthless scorer who ascended from a role player to No. 1 option as a sophomore at Duke this year. He’d add some much-needed shooting to OKC’s perimeter.
22. Brooklyn Nets - Harry Giles, PF, Duke
Giles is the hardest player to project in this class. The former No. 1 overall recruit has an unfortunate history of knee injuries and it slowed him down this year at Duke. Drafting him is essentially a medical decision at this point.
23. Utah Jazz - Rodions Kurucs, SG, Barcelona II
Kurucs is a draft-and-stash option at a premium position who combines size (6’8) and shooting. He could go higher than this.
24. Toronto Raptors - Ivan Rabb, PF, Cal
Rabb hurt his draft stock by deciding to go back to Cal for his sophomore season. He still projects as a quality role player in the front court with a soft touch around the basket.
25. Orlando Magic - Tyler Lydon, PF, Syracuse
The Magic have needed shooting in the front court for years. Lydon didn’t get a ton of attention as a sophomore for a Syracuse team that missed the NCAA tournament, but he has first-round talent.
26. Portland Trail Blazers - Devin Robinson, SF, Florida
Robinson is an elite athlete with a high defensive ceiling. His NBA success will likely come down to his jump shot. He made major strides as a junior at Florida this past season, hitting 39.1 percent of his shots from deep.
27. Nets - Jawun Evans, PG, Oklahoma State
Evans led the country’s most-efficient offense as a sophomore at Oklahoma State. He’s short (6’0) but can shoot, pass, and dribble while providing pesky perimeter defense.
28. Lakers - John Collins, PF, Wake Forest
Collins put up 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds this season on 62.2 percent shooting from the floor as a sophomore at Wake Forest. The man can score the ball. His defense is a question mark. He could go 10 spots higher than this.
29. Spurs - Jonathan Jeanne, C, France
Jeanne is a long big man who projects as a rim protector. When in doubt, give the Spurs an international player.
30. Jazz - Wesley Iwundu, SF, Kansas State
A big wing defender with a good feel for the game, Iwundu’s NBA chances depend on his jump shot.