It’s hard to remember a draft lottery with bigger ramifications than the one that will finally go down on Tuesday night. It’s the perfect storm of a talented class of players paired with a number of premier, big market franchises waiting to see where they’ll fall at the top of the draft order. After months of hype, we’re about to know the answer.
It feels like this draft gets more intriguing by the week. The breakout star of the weekend’s draft combine in Chicago was Hamidou Diallo, a 6’6 shooting guard who posted a vertical leap of 44.5 inches. Diallo enrolled at Kentucky for the second semester, but he hasn’t played a competitive game since high school in December. He’s entering the draft through the same loophole as Thon Maker. Diallo is this year’s mystery man, and it feels more and more like he’s a lock to be a first-round pick.
This is our final mock draft before the lottery drawing. Like previous mocks, we’re again randomizing the order using ESPN’s lottery simulator. For the first time, the Orlando Magic came out in the top spot.
1. Orlando Magic — Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
It feels like Fultz is flying a little under the radar for a consensus No. 1 pick. He was a late bloomer as a recruit and didn’t play in many marquee college games for a 9-22 Washington Huskies team. Regardless, Fultz possesses everything an NBA team wants out a lead guard. There should be no debate that he’s the top pick.
The Magic desperately need this type of luck on Tuesday. Orlando has been a lottery staple since trading Dwight Howard in 2012, but players like Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, and Mario Hezonja failed to get the franchise out of its rut. Fultz would change everything, giving the Magic a future perennial All-Star in the backcourt for years to come.
2. Boston Celtics — Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
The real debate in this draft starts at No. 2. Do you want a point guard with size, shooting, and incredible basketball IQ in Lonzo Ball? Do you want a do-it-all, two-way wing like Josh Jackson? In this mock, we’re picking Duke’s Jayson Tatum for one reason: the hardest thing to find in the NBA is go-to scoring, and Tatum can potentially provide just that.
Anyone who saw Tatum lead Duke to the ACC tournament championship knows how talented he is. He’s a three-level scorer with great size (6’8), masterful footwork, and a nice shooting touch. The biggest question might be his feel for the game: he finished with 76 turnovers to 62 assists in his lone year of college ball.
3. Los Angeles Lakers — Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
Lonzo Ball appears to be a seamless fit with the Lakers. He’d move D’Angelo Russell off the ball where he could focus more on scoring instead of distributing. He’d help Brandon Ingram unlock his potential on the wing. He’d also help crank up the pace and help recreate the ‘Showtime’ era in Los Angeles once again.
The Lakers are reportedly enamored with Ball. We know Ball and his famous father want to be in Los Angeles, too. The stakes are incredibly high for the Lakers heading into lottery night — this pick goes to the Sixers if it’s outside the top three — and the whole league is waiting to see how it plays out.
4. Phoenix Suns — Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
Phoenix has a budding go-to scorer in 20-year-old shooting guard Devin Booker. It has one of the best point guards in the NBA in Eric Bledsoe. It has two former lottery picks in the front court in Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender. The only thing the Suns are missing is an athletic two-way wing. That’s why Josh Jackson is an ideal fit.
Jackson has drawn comparisons to a young Andre Iguodala. It’s not a perfect comp, but it’s easy to see the similarities. Like Iguodala, Jackson can handle and pass the ball, plays both ends of the court and will thrive in an up-tempo system. If his late season shooting surge is for real, he could be a future NBA All-Star.
5. Philadelphia 76ers — Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
The Sixers have a pair of franchise players in the frontcourt in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. They enter this draft needing guards and wings who can shoot. Monk looks like an obvious fit on paper.
Monk is one of the most explosive scorers John Calipari has ever coached. He can fill it up from three-point range and also has the athleticism to get up-and-down with Simmons in transition. A player like Jonathan Isaac might offer more two-way upside, but he looks more like a power forward than a wing. Philadelphia can’t afford to keep stockpiling players at the same position. Monk could be special next to Simmons.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves — Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
Isaac is all tools and upside. At 6’10, he has the foot speed to guard on the perimeter and also hit 35 percent of his three-pointers in his freshman season at Florida State. In Minnesota, he could slide right in at the four between Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. If Isaac reaches his ceiling, this will be the last lottery pick Minnesota needs for a long time.
7. New York Knicks — De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
Fox has good size, elite speed and a knack for scoring around the basket. He waxed Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16 to the tune of 39 points on 20 shots. His jump shot remains the big question, but there’s still so much to like about his game.
8. Sacramento Kings — Dennis Smith Jr., PG, NC State
In a different year, Smith might have been a top-three pick. He’s a strong, explosive point guard who can make plays off the bounce and finish above the rim. His freshman season at NC State didn’t go as planned — the Wolfpack finished only 15-17 and missed the NCAA tournament — but there’s no denying his talent.
9. Dallas Mavericks — Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
Markkanen is a sweet-shooting 7-footer with a quick release and deep range. He canned 69 threes at a 42 percent clip as a freshman at Arizona. In Dallas, he’d be Dirk Nowitzki’s understudy and heir apparent. That’s a lot to live up to for any young player, but Markkanen would do well to study under the legend if given the opportunity.
10. Sacramento Kings — Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky
Diallo is essentially coming straight out of high school. He’s currently projected as the No. 35 pick on DraftExpress. If he gets picked in the top 10, it’s going to be considered a reach. Then again, people said the same thing when the Bucks took Thon Maker at No. 10 last season and he ended up playing valuable playoff minutes as a rookie.
The Kings addressed their need for a point guard with their first pick. They have a young shooting guard they love in Buddy Hield and a trio front court trio with Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, and Georgios Papagiannis. What Sacramento really needs is a two-way wing. Diallo won’t be ready to contribute right away, but he has all the physical tools to get there eventually. The door is still open for Diallo to return to Kentucky, but his athletic testing at the combine was so impressive that it seems likely he’ll stay in. He is this draft’s lottery ticket.
11. Charlotte Hornets — Frank Ntilikina, G, France
With long arms and a nice shooting stroke, Ntilikina projects as a three-and-D point guard a la George Hill. Still only 18 years old, playing in Charlotte alongside Kemba Walker would give him plenty of time to develop.
12. Detroit Pistons — Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
Here’s another surprise pick: Kennard sneaking into the lottery by jumping players like Zach Collins, Justin Jackson, and Jarrett Allen. We know Stan Van Gundy loves shooters, and Kennard fits the bill there. He also has sneaky potential as a pick-and-roll ball handler after posting impressive numbers on those plays in his sophomore year at Duke. More than anything, Kennard is a pure scorer who would give Detroit even more spacing around Andre Drummond.
13. Denver Nuggets — OG Anunoby, F, Indiana
I love the fit of Anunoby to Denver. The Nuggets need a strong defensive presence next to Nikola Jokic in frontcourt. Anunoby has more defensive upside than anyone in the draft. With a strong frame, long arms, and explosive leaping ability, he’s worth the wait for Denver even after tearing his ACL in January.
14. Miami Heat — Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
Collins became Gonzaga’s first-ever McDonald’s All-American. Now he’s its first-ever one-and-done. The 7-footer is a shot blocker on defense and combines a developing post-game with a face-up jumper on offense. At the draft combine, he said he has always modeled his game after Tim Duncan. Good pick, young man.
15. Portland Trail Blazers — Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
The Blazers found a quality young center at midseason with the addition of Jusuf Nurkic. Allen would give them a different look in the frontcourt: he’s faster, longer, and more explosive. It might take Allen a couple years to develop, but his physical tools are worthy of a top-15 pick.
16. Chicago Bulls — Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
The Bulls love college veterans from marquee programs who won big and show improvement. It worked with Joakim Noah, didn’t work with Doug McDermott and remains to be seen with Denzel Valentine. Justin Jackson fits the mold after leading UNC to a national championship in his junior season. If he still on the board, it would be surprising to see Chicago pass on him.
17. Milwaukee Bucks — Terrance Ferguson, SG, Adelaide (NBL)
Ferguson looks like a terrific prospect on paper. He has great size for a shooting guard at 6’7, ridiculous athletic ability, and solid three-point stroke. Still, he’s something of a mystery man because he chose to spend last season playing professionally in Australia rather than honoring his commitment to Arizona. He reminds me of Ben McLemore or Terrence Ross — the tools are there, but the production still seems a bit off.
18. Indiana Pacers — Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville
Mitchell was another big winner from the combine. He measured 6’3 with a 6’10 wingspan, minimal body fat and a 40-inch vertical leap. He projects as a guard who can defend either ones or twos and raise a team’s athletic floor while his skill shooting and handling the ball develops. The Pacers could use another two-way guard to build with.
19. Atlanta Hawks — Justin Patton, C, Creighton
The Hawks took two wings in the first round last year. They appear to be committed to Dennis Schroeder at point guard moving forward. One thing they could use is a young big man to groom behind Dwight Howard. Patton fits the bill as an athletic 19-year-old big who runs the floor and doesn’t miss around the hoop.
20. Portland Trail Blazers — T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA
The Blazers have two athletic, versatile defenders in the frontcourt in Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless. They could use some shooting. Leaf would be perfect if he lasts this long. He hit 46.6 percent of the 58 threes he attempted as a freshman at UCLA.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder — Tyler Lydon, PF, Syracuse
The Thunder need to open up the floor for Russell Westbrook with shooters in the front court. Lydon hit 40 percent of his threes over two years at Syracuse.
22. Brooklyn Nets — Harry Giles, C, Duke
There’s an alternate reality somewhere where the Nets keep their own No. 1 draft pick and use it to select a healthy Harry Giles. That’s the trajectory Giles was on as a former top recruit before having his three knee produce at Duke. If he can get and stay healthy, Brooklyn could hit the jackpot with this pick.
23. Toronto Raptors — John Collins, PF, Wake Forest
Collins doesn’t have much shooting range and struggles to protect the rim. So, why is he a first-rounder? It’s because he has great touch around the rim and cleans the glass on both ends of the court. He could be a major offensive weapon if he stretches that jump shot out a bit.
24. Utah Jazz — Frank Jackson, G, Duke
Jackson was a star at Utah’s Lone Peak High School before heading to Duke and getting lost behind Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard, and Grayson Allen. When he did get an opportunity, he proved he was an athletic, attacking guard with developing shooting range. Jackson announced he was staying in the draft for good last week. No one better to take a chance on him than the hometown team.
25. Orlando Magic — Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA
Anigbogu measured at 6’10, 252 pounds with a 7’6 wingspan at the combine. He projects as a rim protecting big who can catch lobs off the pick-and-roll on offense.
26. Portland Trail Blazers — Derrick White, G, Colorado
White was a DII player before transferring to Colorado for his senior year blossoming into one of the best scorers in the Pac-12. He’s blown up during the pre-draft process, first at the Portsmouth Invitational and then with a solid showing at the combine. He doesn’t have many holes in his skill set on the offensive end and tested well enough athletically to possibly sneak into the first round. He’s worth a shot for a Blazers team with three first rounders.
27. Brooklyn Nets — Rodions Kurucs, SF, Latvia
A 6’8 shooter from Latvia. Here, watch some highlights:
28. Los Angeles Lakers — DJ Wilson, F, Michigan
Wilson couldn’t compete at the draft combine because of a quad injury he sustained during a workout with the Spurs. That’s a shame because he could have really helped himself by testing well athletically and showing off his three-point shot in the full court run. He could still pull out of the draft, but there’s enough to like about his game — length, shooting, shot blocking — for some team to take him in Round 1.
29. San Antonio Spurs — Jonathan Jeanne, C, France
DraftExpress called Jeanne “arguably the biggest winner” at the combine. Here’s more:
Despite being one of the youngest players to compete at the five on five, Jeanne showed a level of craftiness and budding skill that is extremely intriguing considering his youth (19 years old) and physical tools. He measured 7'2 in shoes, with a 7'6 ½ wingspan and 9'5 ½ standing reach that put him in elite company relative to NBA players, and is also highly fluid and mobile on top of that. While still painfully thin at just 207 pounds, Jeanne has added 20 pounds to his frame in the past year, and will undoubtedly continue to fill out in time.
30. Utah Jazz — Caleb Swanigan, PF, Purdue
Swanigan led the country in double-doubles as a sophomore at Purdue. He also showed shocking improvement as a three-point shooter, canning 38 triples at a 44.7 percent clip. His ability to defend the pick-and-roll is his big question mark.