For the third time in four years, the Cleveland Cavaliers will have the number one pick in the NBA Draft, and they are in a very close to no-lose situation. It is also time to unveil my first mock draft for this year. The draft process will really start to pick up now among the teams, and there will likely be a lot of movement throughout this list until draft day itself.
Team needs were taken into account in a very broad way at this point, but these selections are based on who I believe each team will take, as of today.
1) Cleveland – Andrew Wiggins, F, Kansas
The top prospect in this class, Wiggins has a combination of skill and athleticism which will allow him to make an immediate impact in the Cavaliers' lineup, while still having a lot of untapped potential to make him a strong pick at number 1. The combination of Kyrie Irving and Wiggins, with a hopefully improved Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett, could give Cleveland a dominant scoring group.
2) Milwaukee – Jabari Parker, F, Duke
Ideally, Joel Embiid will be given a clean bill of health, and I would put him in this slot. However, until that happens, Parker becomes Milwaukee's best option at number 2. Parker will give them an instant boost in scoring, and the ability to play him inside or out should give the coaching staff plenty of lineup options.
3) Philadelphia – Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Embiid's health will be one of the most talked about aspects of this draft over the next month, and what teams are able to find out will help determine who is going to pick him. In this scenario, he falls to the 76ers and instantly gives the Sixers a dominant rim-protecting duo in Embiid and Nerlens Noel. It also gives them two very raw offensive players, though Embiid may be a bit further along.
4) Orlando – Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State
The addition of Smart will not only give the Magic a much needed point guard presence (I am a non-believer in the Victor Oladipo, point guard campaign), but in combination with Oladipo, they will have a potentially very good defensive duo in the backcourt. Dante Exum may be the other option here, but I am not sold yet that he could be an NBA point guard, and taking him will likely keep the Oladipo experiment going. The Magic are much better off getting the point guard and defensive stopper in Smart.
5) Utah – Dante Exum, G, Australia
The lottery's mystery man this year, Exum has good size and he is skilled for his age. He hasn't really faced top-level competition and many teams will be getting a real close look at him for the first time in the coming weeks. As mentioned above, I'm not sold on Exum as a point guard, but he could become a solid complement next to last year's first round pick, Trey Burke, in the Jazz backcourt, with the potential for maybe some short stints running the point.
6) Boston – Noah Vonleh, F, Indiana
Personally, I have Julius Randle rated higher than Vonleh, but with Jared Sullinger already in the fold and coming off a good season, the longer Vonleh would make more sense with this pick and he could play alongside Sullinger. Also, Vonleh's ability to shoot from the perimeter would allow Sullinger to operate around the basket, where he is most comfortable.
7) Los Angeles Lakers – Julius Randle, F, Kentucky
The Lakers are looking at a complete rebuild during Kobe Bryant's final years with the team, and while a higher pick could have secured their future a bit more, Randle has the ability to make an immediate impact next season. Randle is a strong post player who is very agile for his size, and he can be a terror on both the offensive and defensive boards. He won't provide a very good defensive presence yet, but he will be a double-double threat from the get-go and a nice piece to start the Lakers' rebuilding.
8) Sacramento – Doug McDermott, F, Creighton
This is a stretch in terms of where I have McDermott's value, but Sacramento would be an ideal spot for him to bring his scoring strengths. He can provide a much needed consistent perimeter shooter, which would open up space for the ever-improving DeMarcus Cousins to operate in. Concerns about McDermott's defensive ability have been blown out of proportion and he understands the game well enough to cover up his deficient areas.
9) Charlotte – Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
Big-bodied with still-developing skills, Nurkic could be the Hornets' big man of the future. I wouldn't expect him to come over right away, but with Al Jefferson's contract up in a couple of years and Bismack Biyombo a continued disappointment, it may be tough for the Hornets to pass up on this opportunity that could pay off down the road.
10) Philadelphia – Nik Stauskas, G, Michigan
Having taken Joel Embiid at number 3, the 76ers can use the 10th pick to shore up the backcourt alongside Michael Carter-Williams. Stauskas will give the Sixers an immediate deep threat, while also giving them another playmaker in the backcourt.
11) Denver – Rodney Hood, G/F, Duke
The Nuggets have some crowding at the shooting guard position, but Hood has the ability to slide over to the other wing and give them another long-range threat. He has great size and is very good running the floor, giving Ty Lawson another target in the open floor.
12) Orlando – Dario Saric, F, Croatia
The Magic shored up their backcourt with Marcus Smart at number 4, and they can look to add another strong offensive weapon in the highly-skilled Saric. While it isn't known yet whether Saric will come to the NBA right away, he could be a very good addition to the Magic's core group of young players in the near future.
13) Minnesota – Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona
Kevin Love is certain to find his way out of Minnesota at some point in the next year, and while Gordon isn't really a replacement; he will provide an extremely athletic forward who can run the floor and rebound, as well as guard multiple positions. He still has a lot of work to do on the offensive end, but he will certainly bring a little excitement to the Timberwolves.
14) Phoenix - James Young, G, Kentucky
This season's surprise NBA team, the Suns were supposed to be in rebuilding mode, and fell just shy of the playoffs. They may not be able to keep rising star Eric Bledsoe, who may command too much money, but Young will give a different type of presence to the backcourt. He has good size and should be a good shooter, though he needs to become much more consistent. He runs the floor well and should provide a nice complement to Goran Dragic in the Suns' backcourt.
15) Atlanta – Gary Harris, G, Michigan State
I consider Harris to be the best shooting guard prospect in this class, but I can see teams looking at other options ahead of him, so he falls here to Atlanta. Harris will be able to provide some scoring and defense right away for the Hawks, but the real payoff could come long-term as he continues to hone his skills. Tremendous value if they can get him at number 15.