NBA Mock Draft 3.0: Will the Timberwolves take LaMelo Ball at No. 1?
Who better than the writers who have been studying the teams they cover to tell us how they think Wednesday’s NBA draft will go down?
Early this week, we checked in with someone who covers each team picking in the first round to see what direction that team could be headed.
Note: This mock draft was held before reported trades by Portland and Milwaukee.
1. Minnesota: Anthony Edwards, SG, 6-5, 225, Georgia
Assuming the Timberwolves don’t trade the pick, Edwards’ tantalizing combination of athleticism and playmaking ability seems to be a perfect fit for the uptempo, three-point heavy offense that coach Gersson Rosas wants to play. He can also play off D’Angelo Russell, something that could be an issue if the Wolves were to select LaMelo Ball.
2. Golden State: James Wiseman, C, 7-1, 240, Memphis
If Edwards is available at No. 2, I think the Warriors keep things simple and take him. But if he’s not, I expect the Warriors to probably trade back in the lottery for a starting-caliber center and a pick in the five to 10 range they could use on Deni Avdija, Tyrese Haliburton or Devin Vassell. But if the Warriors stick at No. 2 and Edwards is gone, Wiseman is probably the guy. As I’ve reported, Golden State isn’t necessarily excited about taking a center this early, but it was quite impressed with his recent workout and the other players it likes might be reaches here. Wiseman comes with some question marks, but, at worst, he’s a solid NBA starter for a long time.
Anthony Edwards, the 6-foot-5 guard out of Georgia, appears to be NBA-ready and likely one of the first players selected in the draft, if not No. 1.
3. Charlotte: LaMelo Ball, PG, 6-7, 181, Chino Hills High
If the Hornets stay at No. 3, they take Ball. Mitch Kupchak has said talent — not position — must determine this pick. The Hornets are relatively deep at point guard with Devonte Graham and Terry Rozier. However, they are the most starless team in the NBA, so Ball would be the pick.
4. Chicago: Tyrese Haliburton, G, 6-5, 175, Iowa State
The Bulls ideally would like to trade up for Ball or down for Kira Lewis. But barring those moves, they address their playmaking deficiency by selecting Haliburton.
5. Cleveland: Deni Avdija, F, 6-9, 215, Israel
Avdija fills the team’s biggest need — a versatile, athletic two-way wing with playmaking potential who can fit alongside the team’s growing young core. While his outside shot remains a work in progress, he’s the best match of talent and need at No. 5.
Deni Avdija, the 6-foot-9, 215-pound Israeli forward, is a playmaking wing who has zoomed up the NBA draft board.
6. Atlanta: Devin Vassell, SG, 6-7, 195, Florida State
Tough break for the Hawks in this scenario, because I think Haliburton could help them in all three categories that they absolutely must improve in if they are to meet their goal of contending for a playoff spot — improved defense, three-point shooting and finding a backup point guard who can prevent the offense from falling off a cliff when Trae Young goes to the bench (and hopefully play alongside him as well). That being said, I think Vassell could give the Hawks a boost as a three-and-D guy who can continue to develop his offensive game as he adapts to the league.
7. Detroit: Killian Hayes, PG, 6-5, 192, Germany
The Pistons have only one point guard (Derrick Rose) on the roster, and he’s in the final year of his contract. Hayes, 19, is a lefty who brings an athletic presence and defensive ability. He’ll need to improve on his three-point shooting but his feel and pick-and-roll ability will translate well in the NBA.
8. New York: Obi Toppin, PF, 6-9, 220, Dayton
Toppin is considered one of the best offensive players in this draft — an elite passer for his position who can put a ton of pressure on the rim. The questions for Toppin are on the defensive end. It will be interesting to see how coach Tom Thibodeau and his staff can develop Toppin on that side of the floor.
9. Washington: Onyeka Okungwu, C, 6-9, 245, USC
The fit is perfect. Okongwu isn’t just the best player the Wizards can take here; he also fills a need. Washington can acquire its rim protector of the future — someone who can guard multiple positions as well — while also adding a pick-and-roll partner for John Wall and Bradley Beal.
10. Phoenix: Kira Lewis Jr., PG, 6-3, 165, Alabama
With the Suns adding Chris Paul, but losing Kelly Oubre Jr., you’d think they’d add a wing like Isaac Okoro, but Paul is the current answer at the one. At 35, he shouldn’t be expected to play beyond the two years left on his contract with a player option the second year. Drafting Lewis could assure them having a bright future at that position.
11. San Antonio: Sadiq Bey, F, 6-8, 216, Villanova
This is the Spurs’ first trip to the lottery since 1997, when they selected some guy named Tim Duncan first overall. The player the club adds at No. 11 this year is apt to be less franchise-shaping than that. Still, a three-and-D player with size like the versatile Bey should mesh well with a roster overstocked with young guards.
12. Sacramento: Isaac Okoro, SF, 6-6, 225, Auburn
The Kings are in desperate need of an elite perimeter defender and Okoro might be the best one in this year’s draft. At 6 feet 6 and 225 pounds with a 6-9 wingspan, Okoro is long, strong and switchable. If the 19-year-old’s offensive game develops, he could become a two-way standout.
13. New Orleans: Aaron Nesmith, SF, 6-6, 213, Vanderbilt
The Pelicans have one of the NBA’s most dominant interior forces in Zion Williamson and a forward who can score at all three levels in Brandon Ingram. Elite shooting will give both players space to attack. Nesmith, who converted three-pointers at a 52.2% rate as a sophomore, is arguably the best shooter in the draft.
14. Boston: Patrick Williams, F, 6-8, 225, Florida St.
The guess here is the Celtics package some picks to move up. Even though they could use some shooting off the bench, Danny Ainge can’t pass up this long, athletic prospect with lots of upside.
15. Orlando: Tyrese Maxey, SG, 6-3, 198, Kentucky
Jeff Weltman, Magic president of basketball operations, will see some of Kyle Lowry in Maxey, who is good off the dribble and also can score in pick-and-roll sequences, which fits the Magic offense. His high free-throw percentage is a good indicator of how his shooting should progress. Maxey also gives Orlando a versatile defender who can play up on opponents or give help when needed.
Tyrese Haliburton and Malachi Flynn are top NBA draft prospects represented by CAA, which created a “bubble” in Las Vegas that was all business and camaraderie.
16. Portland: Jalen Smith, PF, 6-10, 225, Maryland
The Blazers, expected to let Hassan Whiteside walk, need another reliable big to back up and/or push the inconsistent Zach Collins. Smith, although thin, is a fluid athlete, aggressive on defense and shot 36.8% from three-point range last season. He’d fit well in Portland’s rotation on Day 1.
17. Minnesota: Jaden McDaniels, PF, 6-10, 200, Washington
The Wolves are lacking a long-term option at the four and while they plan to re-sign Juancho Hernangomez, perhaps that can buy time for someone like McDaniels to develop. If his shooting can improve he could also be an important defensive piece for the Wolves down the line.
18. Dallas: Josh Green, SG, 6-6-, 210, Arizona
Dallas needs wing help. One thing this draft has is quality wings, but the Mavericks are aware that at least six teams in front of them also want wings. This tempts them to move up, but if the draft plays out this way, they take Green.
19. Brooklyn: RJ Hampton, PG/SG 6-5, 185 pounds, Little Elm (Texas) HS
Bypassed college to play professionally last season in New Zealand — the homeland of Nets GM Sean Marks — and worked out for Brooklyn ahead of the draft. The Nets will need a spark off the bench if they use all their secondary pieces to acquire a third star, and Hampton can thrive in transition (as well as Mike D’Antoni’s pick-and-roll heavy offense). His defense and shooting are suspect, however.
The Clippers might use one of their best resources, cash, to move up in the draft and acquire a point guard. They have interviewed three West Coast players.
20. Miami: Tyrell Terry, PG, 6-2, 160, Stanford
The Heat love shooting and need a lot of it to help create space for its All-Star duo of Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler. While a bit undersized, Terry is arguably the best shooter in the draft class and has the potential to turn into more than that in Miami’s developmental program.
21. Philadelphia: Cole Anthony, PG, 6-3, 190, North Carolina
The North Carolina point guard is the secondary ballhandler and shooter the team coveted in the draft. He’ll be looked upon to back up and often play alongside All-Star point guard Ben Simmons depending on the circumstance. The Sixers also look at drafting him here as one of the steals of the draft.
22. Denver: Precious Achiuwa, PF-C, 6-9, 225, Memphis
If the draft falls in this order Wednesday night, the Nuggets’ front office will be doing backflips. That’s because they’ll have their pick of either Achiuwa or Washington’s Isaiah Stewart. Both combo big men fill an immediate frontcourt need, replenishing Denver’s defense and physicality inside. Ultimately, Denver goes with Achiuwa, who can do things athletically that franchise cornerstone Nikola Jokic can’t dream of.
23. Utah: Tyler Bey, F, 6-7, 215, Colorado
Bey fits the profile of the type of player the Jazz are looking for since his most impressive attributes are on the defensive side of the ball. With a7-foot-1 wingspan, the Pac-12 defensive player of the year can block shots on the perimeter, close out shooters, grab steals and disrupt when he’s on the floor. It’s that defensive versatility, especially off the bench, that the Jazz are missing.
24. Milwaukee: Desmond Bane, SG, 6-6, 215, TCU
With Giannis Antetokounmpo in the middle of everything they do offensively, the Bucks will always be looking for more shooters and Bane is one of the best in this year’s draft. He may be older (22 years old) and have a negative wingspan, but he can knock it down from deep and his strong frame suggests he’ll be able to defend at the next level. With the Bucks looking for help on the wing, he could potentially slot into Mike Budenholzer’s rotation immediately.
25. Oklahoma City: Aleksej Pokusevski, PF-C, 7-0, 195, Serbia
Pokusevski feels like the perfect fit as the Thunder begins their rebuild. The versatile 7-footer will need time to develop, and the Thunder will be happy to wait. His upside is worth the risk, especially at No. 25.
26. Boston: Leandro Bolmaro, PG, 6-7, 185, Argentina
If the Celtics are unable to package or move any of their picks, look for them to find a player willing to spend another year overseas. This guard is an intriguing playmaker.
27. New York: Malachi Flynn, PG, 6-1, 185, San Diego St.
After taking a forward at No. 8, New York will be happy to see Flynn fall to this spot. Several scouts believe he’ll thrive as a pick-and-roll ballhandler and hold his own defensively as a rookie. He can also shoot from the perimeter, something the Knicks haven’t done well in recent seasons.
The Lakers are close to finalizing a deal to trade guard Danny Green and the No. 28 overall draft pick for Oklahoma City guard Dennis Schröder.
28. Oklahoma City (via the Lakers): Robert Woodard II, SG, 6-7, 235, Mississippi St.
The Thunder need help on the wing. Woodard has the size and tools to be an elite defender, and he improved from a 27% to 43% three-point shooter from his freshman to sophomore season at Mississippi State.
29. Toronto: Theo Maledon, PG, 6-5, 180, France
If there’s one thing the Raptors will do, it’s pick someone who might seem like a bit of an unorthodox selection. Toronto has needs nearly everywhere in the developmental pipeline, which is what this pick is. They trust their coaching staff to teach players what they need to know and, pending free-agent decisions, they need point guards and bigs, none of whom will be expected to contribute right away.
30. Boston: Zeke Nnaji, PF-C, 6-11, 240, Arizona
The Celtics add a big with potential as a floor-spacer who could open things up for their corps of rim slashers.
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