Whichever team earns the No. 1 selection will be drafting Cunningham, a point guard in a power forward’s body in the vein of Luka Doncic. Don’t be fooled by Cunningham’s relatively low assist average — that should dramatically increase when he gets better players around him at the NBA level. The Pistons would be ecstatic to get a crown jewel like Cunningham to place around their other young pieces and help speed up their rebuild.
Speed. Strength. Athleticism. Shooting. Moxie. Suggs has everything you want in an NBA point guard, and we’ve seen the impact that young players can have at that position. The Rockets would gladly take Cunningham with the top pick, but drafting Suggs to place alongside Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr. makes for an intriguing young core. Houston is starting from scratch, and Suggs is a foundational piece.
There will be debate at No. 3 between Green and Evan Mobley, but I just can’t see the rebuilding Magic passing up wing who could be the best scorer in the draft. Green just got better as his G League Ignite season progressed, and he’s shown flashes of playmaking and defensive potential in addition to his natural bucket-getting prowess. In the modern NBA, I think Green makes sense here.
/ 215 lbs
If you were to create a prototypical modern big in a lab, the result would be Evan Mobley. A 7-footer with a 7-5 wingspan, Mobley can protect the rim and also hold his own on switches against perimeter players. He’s also a prolific offense rebounder who’s shown potential as a short-roll playmaker. If the jump shot continues to progress, we’re looking at a perennial All-Star. OKC won’t mess around here — it’ll take the best player left on the board.
Kuminga’s lack of shooting scares me to death — he made 39% of his field goals and 25% of his 3-pointers for the G League Ignite this season — but the upside, athleticism and motor are enough to keep him in the top-five. He’s not an ideal fit for the Cavs, who just drafted Isaac Okoro last year and would love more perimeter shooting, but beggars can’t be choosers at this point in the draft.
If the Warriors get Minnesota’s pick and Barnes is available, you might be able to hear the raucous cheering from Golden State’s war room all the way at Barclays Center. A long, versatile, switchable defender with tremendous playmaking upside, Barnes is exactly the type of player who can fill the Warriors’ glaring hole on the wing. Golden State will be tempted to trade this pick for a veteran if it lands at No. 6, but if Barnes is available that decision becomes much more difficult.
Sengun is racing up draft boards thanks to improvement he’s shown with Besiktas, and the Raptors have a real need at the center position. He’s a polished low-post scorer who has shown tremendous playmaking potential, and he possesses a rare combination of skill and toughness. His motor and mobility makes up for a lack of athleticism on the defensive end. He may need some time, but Sengun looks like a wise investment given his overseas accomplishments at just 18 years old.
They already have Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony, but the rebuilding Magic can’t pass up a talent like Mitchell based on positional redundancy. At 22, Mitchell should contribute immediately on both sides of the ball with his strength and motor. He became a consistent 3-point shooter and playmaker over the course of his college career, turning him into an elite prospect with tremendous upside.
The Kings want to play fast with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, and Giddey is the perfect transition weapon to add to the arsenal. His passing ability is close to LaMelo Ball levels, and he can also finish on the break himself. The jump shot is a concern, but Giddey could be an elite playmaker if he continues to develop his ball-handling.
The Pelicans need wings to put alongside Zion Williamson — preferably ones who can make 3-pointers and play defense. Moody fits the bill as a 3-and-D prospect with upside as a scorer. His 6-11 wingspan makes him imposing when playing passing lanes and closing out on shooters. At the very least he’ll fill a need, and at best he could develop into a Mikal Bridges or maybe even Khris Middleton-type two-way player.
You want to give LaMelo Ball as many transition weapons as possible, and Bouknight is an elite athlete who consistently throws down highlight dunks on the break. When he gets into the halfcourt, he’s an intriguing one-on-one scorer whose efficiency should improve with NBA coaches drilling him on shot selection.
Williams was the No. 6 player in his class coming out of high school before suffering through a train wreck of a freshman season at Stanford. His upside is undeniable on both sides of the ball with his 6-11 wingspan and tremendous mobility. He’s one of the best space-creators in the draft offensively, and it’s a matter of whether those shots eventually start to fall more consistently. The Spurs have a knack for developing players, so Williams seems like a worthwhile gamble at this juncture of the draft.
The Pacers ended the season as one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, and they could look to improve that by drafting Wagner, one of the best defenders in the draft with his length, strength and instincts. He’s also an impressive finisher in transition and a threat as both a roller and a popper. If he can become a league-average 3-point shooter, he’ll be a valuable asset.
Duarte is an absolute pure shooter, and the Warriors won’t be scared away by him being 24 years old since they’re trying to win a title now. He’s actually reminiscent of Klay Thompson in the way he can shoot and with his defensive potential, so there’s no better place to learn from the master. He may never reach Thompson’s ceiling, but Duarte should be a knock-down shooter with potential off the dribble as well.
If the Wizards are committed to Russell Westbrook they’re going to need to surround him with shooting, and Kispert is the best shooter in the draft. He knows all the tricks on how to play without the ball, has a quick release and the 6-7 frame to get his shot off. He’s also a solid athlete and finisher when he gets run off the 3-point line, but he’d play the Joe Harris role in Washington, creating space for Westbrook and Bradley Beal to operate.
The Celtics need help on the wing, and Johnson is an elite athlete who can help the team in transition and as a cutter around Boston’s primary scorers. Johnson also has defensive upside and a high motor, making him an intriguing prospect at No. 16. His jump shot and creation need work, but playing alongside Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker will give him time to develop those skills as much as possible.
Jonas Valanciunas is entering the final year of his contract, so the Grizzlies might look for a center who more closely matches the timeline of their young core. Jones is a lottery prospect in terms of talent, but center is just not a premium position right now in the NBA, so he could fall far enough for a team like Memphis to grab him. Jones is mobile and attacks the rim on offense while protecting it on defense, but the real game-changer will be if his 3-point shooting translates to the pro level.
/ 229 lbs
OKC has a million draft picks, so why not swing for the fences? With a 7-2 wingspan and tremendous technique, Garuba has perhaps the most defensive potential of any big in the draft besides Evan Mobley. Where the intrigue lies is in Garuba’s potential to be a Draymond Green-esque playmaker, both in transition and in the half-court. Obviously it will take a while for that to develop — if it ever happens — but if any franchise has the patience, it’s the Thunder.
I think Murphy is one of the more underrated prospects in the draft, largely because he has a ready-made role as a 3-and-D wing. He took very few mid-range jumpers in his last college season in favor of NBA-level shot distribution. The Knicks are in dire need of shooting, particularly from the wing, and Murphy can step in right away with the defensive ability and discipline to keep him on the court under Tom Thibodeau.
The Hawks have a deep, talented roster, so they can afford to take a flier on potential by selecting Brown. At the very least he’ll be a rim-runner and shot-blocker with defensive versatility, with the tools and freak athleticism to develop into much more. His low field-goal percentage last season at Texas was a product of poor shot selection, which will improve when NBA coaches get their hands on him. His shot mechanics are a little shaky, but he strokes it with confidence.
Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson are free agents, so the Knicks could beef up their frontcourt with the addition of Jackson, an explosive pogo stick of a center with a 7-4 wingspan. He’s one of the best shot-blockers in the draft, and would essentially become a second Mitchell Robinson coming off the bench. He also shows the potential to switch on the perimeter, but he’ll likely get into foul trouble a lot as a rookie, just like Robinson.
It’s clear that the Lakers need as much shooting and playmaking as possible off the bench, and Butler brings those in spades. He’s also a strong enough defender to hold his own on the league’s best defensive team. Butler will be 22 when next season starts, and he’s physically and mentally mature enough to contribute to a winning team right away.
I don’t rate Mann as highly as some other draft evaluators, but the Rockets would be lucky to get him at this point in the draft. His scoring ability is undeniable, and his shot creation is among the best in the draft. His short arms make him play smaller than he is defensively, and he needs to work on his playmaking ability, but Houston will give him the opportunity to develop through his mistakes.
Johnson is a bit of a mystery because he only played 13 games at Duke, but he’s a tantalizing prospect because of his length, athleticism and upside. He’s probably going to take a while to develop, but the Rockets have nothing but time as they continue their rebuild after the James Harden trade, so they should give Johnson a good look if he’s still on the board here. If nothing else, he’ll be a menace in transition.
/ 200 lbs
The Clippers could use some scoring pop off the bench, and Dosunmu is one of the most polished scorers in the draft. If his 3-point shooting can hold up it will take him to the next level, but he’s still incredibly valuable as a mid-range jump shooter and pick-and-roll operator. His size and length will allow him to play multiple positions.
The Nuggets have a track record of finding gems later in the draft, and Christopher has all the upside you want in a late first-rounder. He has NBA athleticism and creates tremendous space off the dribble with a confident mid-range and 3-point stroke. He improved toward the end of the year at Arizona State, indicating an upward trajectory. Denver can give him time to develop, and it might just pay off down the road.
There’s so much to like about Robinson-Earl as a prospect, but his NBA skill is his ability to guard multiple positions effectively. He plays with a high motor and is extremely strong, meaning he won’t get bullied by big men at the next level. Offensively he’s a tremendous finisher around the hoop and his shooting mechanics suggest he could perform better than his college percentages. He should be able to play right away, which is great for a contender like the Nets.
Talk about a bucket-getter. Thomas has the game, and the confidence, to eventually become a 20-point-per-game NBA scorer — he just needs to work on his efficiency. The 76ers are always looking for bench players who can create and put the ball in the basket, so Thomas would be a gem this late in the draft.
Even if Chris Paul returns, he’s not going to play forever. The Suns need to start grooming a point guard to play alongside Devin Booker, and Springer has all the tools to become one. He has more of a score-first mentality at this point, but that tends to be an asset in the current NBA, particularly when paired with another ball-handler. If his 3-point shooting translates to the NBA line, he could become a special player.
Cooper is one of the most dazzling playmakers in the draft, with elite passing potential at the next level. He’s constantly putting pressure on the defense in transition and is a whiz in the pick-and-roll. His small stature and lack of shooting thus far in his career raise some flags, but he’s well worth a flier with the last pick in the first round.