The Pistons were the fortunate franchise that won the lottery — and now the job of general manager Troy Weaver is easy. The pick should be Cade Cunningham, a point guard with size who can shot-create, play-make, score from all three levels and just generally take over games when the situation requires it, which he showed time and again in his one season in the Big 12.
The Rockets have employed various star guards in recent years — namely James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul. Now they desperately need another one. And the highest-upside guard not named Cunningham in this draft is probably Jalen Green — an explosive athlete and competent shooter who has a chance to be a big-time scorer in this league for a decade-plus.
The Cavaliers have young talent in their backcourt thanks to the presence of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, but they could use a frontcourt star to go with them. That’s why the pick should be Evan Mobley, a one-and-done center who is perfectly suited for the modern NBA given that he’s a true rim-protector who can guard in space, make plays off the bounce, shoot jumpers from the perimeter and impressively pass out of double-teams.
The Raptors were big winners on lottery night when they bounced into the top four and earned the right to select whichever top-tier prospect drops to them. In this mock draft, it’s Jalen Suggs — a great competitor and top-shelf athlete who could flourish playing next to Fred VanVleet and become an All-Star level player in time if his 3-point shot just becomes a little more reliable.
The Magic are in a total rebuild and would be wise to select the prospect with the most potential to develop into something special. I’m not certain that’s Scottie Barnes — but all of the intel in recent days suggests the Magic are leaning this direction.
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Oklahoma City’s rebuild should have general manager Sam Presti focusing on nothing but adding young prospects with high upsides. At this point in this mock draft, the best player who fits that description is Jonathan Kuminga, the big and versatile athletic wing who would be a steal at this point in the draft as long as he becomes a serious 3-point threat as he ages.
There’s some thought that the Warriors will try to package this pick and move it for a veteran who is better equipped to help a core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green compete for another title next season. But if they can’t get that done, an intriguing option would be James Bouknight, who has reportedly eased a lot of concerns about his low 3-point percentage during the pre-draft process by burying shots from everywhere in workouts.
Focusing on young prospects who can grow and develop together makes a lot of sense in Orlando. Moses Moody is a one-and-done prospect who just turned 19 and projects as a 3-and-D wing after shooting 35.8% from 3 while helping Arkansas advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
The Kings finished with the worst defensive rating in the NBA this season, which suggests they could use a prospect who adds something on that end of the court. Wagner would likely do that — though, let the record show, this is a little higher than I’d probably take the former Michigan standout based on some concerns about whether he’ll actually develop into what those who believe in him envision at the next level.
The Grizzlies moved up to No. 10 in this draft this week and might try to move even higher before the day is done. But if they sit here, Josh Giddey is an obvious option who would provide Memphis with a playmaking wing who would theoretically fit nicely in between Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
Gordon Hayward has missed 48 regular-season games the past two seasons, which is among the reasons the Hornets need to add depth on the wing. Corey Kispert, who made 44.0% of the 6.5 3-pointers he attempted per game last season at Gonzaga, is arguably the best shooter in this draft, which is why he’ll likely be selected in the lottery despite some obvious flaws that were exposed during the Zags’ loss to Baylor in the national title game.
The midseason buyout of LaMarcus Aldridge left San Antonio with zero great options in the frontcourt. So using this pick on a big like Alperen Sengun — a throwback center who has been a professional in Turkey since 2018 — would qualify as a sensible move and give Gregg Popovuch someone who is already very comfortable catching the ball at the elbow and using a developed face-up game to score and draw fouls.
Put me in charge, and Davion Mitchell is already off the board. But it appears the interest in the former Baylor star has waned the further we’ve gotten from the national title game despite him being a tenacious on-ball defender whose playmaking ability — and shotmaking ability — would improve the Pacers immediately.
The Warriors need to add a player in this draft who is older and equipped to help a core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green compete for another title next season. Chris Duarte is exactly that — a 24 year-old do-it-all guard who made better than 42% of the 5.5 3-pointers he attempted per contest last season at Oregon, where he led the Ducks to back-to-back outright Pac-12 regular-season titles.
Washington needs to add shooting after finishing outside of the top 20 in 3-point field goal percentage last season. Trey Murphy is a 6-9 wing who can guard his position and has proven, over three years of college, to be a reliable and dangerous catch-and-shoot option from the perimeter.
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Jalen Johnson’s decision to quit Duke midseason after his role was decreased wasn’t a good look (or a positive for his draft stock). But he’s still a former five-star prospect with undeniable potential, which is among the reasons he’d make sense for an Oklahoma City franchise that needs to focus on possible future stars.
The Pelicans still need to surround Zion Williamson with shooting — and adding Tre Mann would accomplish that goal. The two-and-done prospect from Florida shot 40.2% from 3-point range (on 4.7 attempts per game) in his final season at Florida, where played and guarded multiple positions and drastically increased his earning potential.
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The Thunder are in a total rebuild and should be focused on trying to add prospects who have a chance to be special. Keon Johnson fits that description in part because he’s a one-and-done guard who projects as a nice two-way player in the NBA for many years to come thanks to freakish athleticism that allowed him to set a vertical record at the combine.
Usman Garuba is a versatile high-level defender who could help as a rookie and eventually develop into one of the best defensive bigs in the world. It would be fascinating to watch Tom Thibodeau develop an 18 year-old who already possesses incredible defensive instincts.
Cameron Thomas is a big-time scorer who led the SEC in points per game in his one season at LSU. The efficiency numbers weren’t great, but that’s largely because he was responsible for creating an unusually high percentage of the Tigers’ offense, which obviously wouldn’t be the case in Atlanta because of the presence of Trae Young.
Many are skeptical the Knicks will actually pick 19th and 21st in this draft. But if they do, getting Isaiah Jackson — whose block percentage of 12.7 ranked eighth nationally (according to KenPom) in his one year at Kentucky — would be a real steal this deep.
The Lakers are always trying to add shooting around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Jared Butler is a capable shooter, and a plug-and-play option, who is worthy of a look in this range now that the NBA has made it clear his medical condition will not prevent him from playing in the league.
The Rockets remain in a total rebuild and should be focused on trying to add prospects who have a chance to be special. Ziaire Williams fits that description in part because he’s a one-and-done wing with athleticism who was a consensus top-10 prospect coming out of high school.
Sharife Cooper is definitely on the small side, which will likely be the thing that prevents him from being seriously considered for the lottery. But he’s such a gifted passer and playmaker that he would be a reasonable option for a Houston franchise in a multiyear rebuild.
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Ayo Dosunmu improved enough as a shooter in his third season at Illinois to lock up a spot in the first round. The regularity with which he took over games in the Big Ten suggests he can be a big-scoring guard who could provide depth in the Clippers’ backcourt and help them win immediately.
This deep in this draft, Denver probably can’t pass on the opportunity to take a big swing on a prospect like Kai Jones. It’s a bet on his upside, sure, but the two-year product from Texas has a chance to be a stretch-big at the next level considering he made 13 of the 34 3-pointers he attempted as a sophomore.
If the Nets decide to add backcourt depth, Miles McBride would be a reasonable option. He’s a guard who gets after it defensively and shoots it reliably — evidence being that he shot 41.4% from 3-point range last season, and 81.3% from the free-throw line while leading West Virginia to a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Sixers still need shooting regardless of what they do with Ben Simmons — and adding Quentin Grimes would accomplish that goal. The former McDonald’s All-American shot 40.3% on 8.3 3-point attempts per game in his final season at Houston, where he helped Kelvin Sampson make the Final Four for the second time.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was the leading scorer and rebounder for a Villanova team that won the Big East by multiple games. He’s not the best athlete — but his understanding of how to play, and his ability to be a pick-and-pop 4, could allow him to become a valuable complimentary piece for Phoenix, which has a goal of returning to the NBA Finals.
The Jazz are at a point with their roster where they can afford to take a gamble on an intriguing prospect like Josh Christopher. He’s a guard with size who, in a limited number of games, showed a real ability to shot-create and score in ways that translate to the NBA.