Guess who won this week:
LOL. LMAO. ROFL. Hahahahaha. Can you imagine?
Actually, you probably can, considering Cleveland has won the lottery three times over the last seven years. Still, this result would break the basketball viewing public in about a million different ways. There’s a 2.8 percent chance it happens. This is possible.
The Cavs own Brooklyn’s pick because of the trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Celtics (who originally acquired it by trading Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets). This would be completely ridiculous and kind of endearing in its own chaotic way. I think I’m rooting for it. Anyway, here’s a new mock draft.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Luka Doncic, G, Slovenia
At 6’8, 230 pounds, Doncic is an oversized guard with elite passing and ball handling skills, a developing shooting stroke and a consistent knack for making winning plays. He’s been a teenage star playing in Europe’s best leagues, making his case as the most accomplished international prospect in draft history along the way. He’d give Cleveland lineup versatility around LeBron James early in his career thanks to his size and ability to play on or off the ball.
The Cavs need another offensive creator in the worst way, and Doncic can be that. Would it be enough to keep James in Cleveland? Is this the player LeBron James would really want the Cavs to take at No. 1? There are so many variables, but we’ve rated Doncic as the best player in this class since last June. There’s no one better to learn from than James.
2. Orlando Magic - Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State
Orlando has shown a preference for switchable, two-way players with size and skill. That philosophy has led them to Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac. Jackson fits the same mold. Though his per-game numbers pale to the ones put up by contemporaries Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley, it’s easy to make the case that Jackson has the best combination of defense and shooting of any big man in this class. His block rate is top-five in the country, his three-pointers fell at a 40 percent clip, his box score plus/minus was the second best in America. Oh yeah, Jackson is also one of the youngest players in this class, not turning 19 years old until September.
The team that drafts Jackson will have to be patient, but there should be no doubt his skill set is a perfect match for the modern era of the league. There are flashier picks in this draft, but none that fit as seamlessly into the way basketball is played in 2018.
3. Atlanta Hawks - Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona
Ayton is the draft’s premier physical specimen, and a major candidate to go No. 1 overall. He’s a massive center (7’1, 250 pounds, 7’5 wingspan) who is incredibly explosive athletically while being blessed with soft touch around the rim and the early traces of a legitimate face-up game. Defense is the real question. He’s a safe bet to put up all-star worthy numbers in the league, but big men who stand out as defensive liabilities have a difficult time contributing to winning. The Hawks should be willing to roll the dice on his pure talent if he somehow lasts all the way to No. 3.
4. Phoenix Suns - Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma
Young is the draft’s most polarizing prospect. He’s the consensus best shooter and best passer in the class, but he’s also turnover prone, a major defensive liability and doesn’t have enough explosion to dunk in games. It’s a major gamble taking him in the top five, but it might be worth it for a Phoenix team that has a clear need at point guard. Imagine all the shooting and spacing Young and Devin Booker would provide on the perimeter. Phoenix might want Doncic after hiring Igor Kokoskov, his national team coach, but if he’s not available, Young’s skill set could be the next best thing.
5. Memphis Grizzlies - Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke
Bagley is an ultra-efficient inside scorer thanks to a non-stop motor, elite explosiveness for a 6’11 big man and soft touch around the basket. Like Ayton, his question marks come on the defensive end. Can he block enough shots to play the five? Will he be able to defend the perimeter better than he did at Duke? There are real questions about his positional fit in the league, but he’s already so good at so many things, and it feels like he’s just scratching the surface as a ball handler and shooter. He’d be great next to Marc Gasol, who could help cover up his weaknesses early in his career.
6. Dallas Mavericks - Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas
Bamba has historic length with a 7’9 wingspan. He’s already an instinctual shot blocker, finishing fifth in college basketball in block rate during his one season at Texas. His offensive skill level right now is low, he’ll obviously need to get stronger and there are questions about how athletic he really is. Still, a player with Bamba’s dimensions can be terrifying if deployed correctly. If Dallas is committed to developing him, it could have a front court co-star for Dennis Smith Jr.
7. Chicago Bulls - Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri
Porter was considered by some as the No. 1 recruit in the country entering his season at Missouri, which was quickly cut short by back surgery. He played only two games at the end of the year and didn’t give NBA teams much to evaluate him on. This pick requires a leap of faith, that Porter really is the 6’10, three-level scorer he was built up to be as a recruit. The back injury is scary, and it’s tough to know exactly where he is as a shooter and ball handler right now. But there’s a reason why he was viewed as the potential top pick in the draft at the start of the season. He has as much scoring potential as any player in this draft. The Bulls need a wing, and Porter is worth the risk in this spot.
8. Sacramento Kings - Wendell Carter, C, Duke
Carter is a 6’10, 260-pound big man without many holes in his skill set. He’s a monster rebounder, a capable shot blocker, a strong inside scorer, and a skilled face-up shooter. The only question is really his lateral quickness. More than anything, Carter is dependable, and that’s what the Kings need in their front court after taking high-risk big men in Skal Labissiere and Harry Giles the last two drafts.
9. New York Knicks - Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova
Bridges should be a plug-and-play wing from the moment he’s drafted. He spent four years at Villanova refining his 3-and-D skill set, knocking down 104 three-pointers at a 43.5 percent clip this past season while continuing to assert himself as one of country’s better perimeter defenders. His thin frame and lack of creation ability with the ball are legitimate concerns, but he’s good enough at his strengths to help any team. That includes the Knicks.
10. Philadelphia 76ers - Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State
Bridges is a 6’6, 230 pound wrecking ball on the wing. He’s at his best flying downhill and attacking the basket, but he also proved to be a good shooter during his two years at Michigan State. He’s a little short for a modern four (6’6 with a 6’9 wingspan) and will need to develop his handle to be a full-time three, but his combination of strength and athleticism gives him a high floor as a versatile, energy guy in any lineup. He’d be great running with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid in Philly.
11. Charlotte Hornets - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky
Gilgeous-Alexander went from Kentucky’s most overlooked recruit to its best player as a freshman. He’s an oversized point guard (6’6, 7-foot wingspan) who uses advanced footwork to get into the teeth of the defense and finish at the rim. He also finished top-100 in the assist rate. Gilgeous-Alexander should be able to create half-court offense and defend at least three positions. That makes him a lottery pick.
12. Los Angeles Clippers - Zhaire Smith, G, Texas Tech
This time last year, Smith was a three-star recruit just hoping to get on the floor for Texas Tech. He ended up as one of the most valuable players in the country as a freshman, turning into a stat sheet stuffer and lockdown defender for the Red Raiders. His rapid rise into a lottery pick invokes the memory of Victor Oladipo, another 6’4, under-recruited shooting guard who blew up off the strength of his elite athleticism. Smith as the No. 12 pick in the draft might seem like a reach right now, but it’s possible we’ll view this as too low in a few years.
13. Los Angeles Clippers - Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama
Sexton is one of the draft’s best scorers through shear force of will. He’s a downhill point guard with good size (6’3, 6’7 wingspan) who is ultra-aggressive on both ends of the floor. He doesn’t have a elite quickness and needs to improve as a shooter and passer, which is why he falls to the end of the lottery.
14. Denver Nuggets - Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami
Walker flashed his immense talent at times during a freshman year at Miami where his overall efficiency as a scorer left a lot to be desired. A 52 percent true shooting percentage doesn’t seem all that impressive, but remember Jaylen Brown was slightly worse in that category as a freshman at Cal two years ago. Like Brown, Walker is a former McDonald’s All-American with great tools physical tools, and seems to have even more potential as a shooter at the same stage. It’s worth placing a bet on his pure talent at this point in the draft.
15. Washington Wizards - Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M
Williams could have been a lottery pick last year, but made the surprising decision to return to Texas A&M for his sophomore season. His numbers remained similar during his second year of college ball, but his strengths should translate to the league regardless. Namely: length, leaping ability and shot blocking instincts. He’s a rim diver/protector who could provide upside and stability to a Washington front court that needs both.
16. Phoenix Suns - Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky
Knox is a combo forward with size (6’9), athleticism and developing shot-making ability. He can still get so much better in so many areas (ball handling, passing, shooting, decision making), but his combination of youth and physical gifts gives him both a high floor and high ceiling at a premium position.
17. Milwaukee Bucks - Jontay Porter, C, Missouri
Porter is almost the polar opposite of his older brother. While Michael is an elite athlete and pure scorer, Jontay comes complete with the attributes that make a great role player. He’s a high IQ center who can shoot, block shots and move the ball. A lack of athletic explosiveness is his one big knock, but he’s worth a first round pick because he does so many other things well.
18. San Antonio Spurs - Dzanan Musa, F, Bosnia
A 6’9 wing who can be one of this draft’s best scorers when he gets cooking. San Antonio has been turning young international players like this into useful rotation pieces for about 20 years.
19. Atlanta Hawks - Troy Brown, G, Oregon
Brown is a quality ball handler, passer and defender for a long, rangy wing. If his outside shot comes around, he’s going to be a really valuable role player.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves - Keita Bates-Diop, F, Ohio State
Bates-Diop is a 6’7, 235-pound wing with an inside-out offensive game and the ability to defend multiple positions. If his perimeter shot stays consistent (36 percent from three this year), he has the ability to fit into any lineup.
21. Utah Jazz - Jacob Evans, G, Cincinnati
Evans is a tough perimeter who helped serve as the backbone of a Cincinnati team that finished No. 2 in defensive efficiency this season. He’s mostly a catch-and-shoot threat on offense at this point, but he’s shown flashes of being a good passer and decision maker. The Jazz have found success with players like this in the past.
22. Chicago Bulls - Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy
Simons is a high-upside guard who was able to bypass college as a fifth year high school player. He badly needs to add strength, but his bounce is elite and he’s shown flashes of shot-making off the dribble.
23. Indiana Pacers - Elie Okobo, PG, France
Okobo has good physical tools as a 6’3 lead guard with a 6’8 wingspan, impressive shot-making ability off the dribble and rare explosiveness. He’s still learning how to play the game, but a smart team could have itself a quality player if it can harness his physical gifts.
24. Portland Trail Blazers - Chandler Hutchison, F, Boise State
The Blazers have needed help on the wing for years. Hutchinson could provide that. He has always been a gifted slasher, and used his four years at Boise State to refine his shooting ability. A small forward who can get to the line, hit a three-pointer and hold his own defensively would be a blessing for Portland at this point in the draft.
25. Los Angeles Lakers - Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova
The Lakers hit on a late round draft pick last year with Josh Hart. Why not go back to Villanova this year and try to do the same thing with Brunson? Brunson has the smarts and shot-making ability to fit in lineups with Lonzo Ball. He’s not the biggest or most athletic lead guard, but he was national player of the year for a reason. He’ll be in the league for a long time.
26. Philadelphia 76ers - Shake Milton, PG, SMU
The Sixers need shooters around Ben Simmons. Milton is a great fit because he can play on or off the ball at point guard due to his size (6’6) and shooting range. He hit over 40 percent of his threes in all three years he spent at SMU.
27. Boston Celtics - Mitchell Robinson, C
Robinson has great bounce for a 7-footer. He has the physical tools to be a shot blocker and lob catcher in the vein of Hassan Whiteside if he’s dailed in.
28. Golden State Warriors - De’Anthony Melton, G, USC
Melton missed his entire sophomore season amid allegations of his involvement in the FBI scandal, but NBA teams will remember why he broke out as a freshman. He’s a tough guard who can handle, pass and defend multiple positions. Boston has a way of turning guards like that into contributors.
29. Brooklyn Nets - Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA
Holiday hit over 40 percent of his threes in all three years of college, grew into a good passer as a junior and has always defended bigger than his size (6’1). The younger sibling of Jrue and Justin Holiday is about to put three brothers in the NBA.
30. Atlanta Hawks - Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton
Thomas is undersized for a shooting guard at 6’3 and has trouble creating offense in the halfcourt. He makes his mark as a fearsome perimeter defender (two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year) and a quality outside shooter. There’s a place in the league for someone like that.