Draft workouts are in full swing, and we are starting to get a better idea of what kind of players teams will be targeting throughout the draft. With three weeks to go, there will still be plenty of movement as teams narrow their focus, but the top eight picks remain the same from my first mock draft.
Team needs were taken into account, but these selections are based on I who believe each team will take, as of today.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Andrew Wiggins, F, Kansas
The top prospect in this class, Wiggins has a combination of skill and athleticism that 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 No. 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 Bucks – 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 No. 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 76ers – Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Embiid’s health will be one of the most talked about parts 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 Magic – 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 as a 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 Jazz – 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 some short stints running the point.
6. Boston Celtics – 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 give 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 Kings – 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 Hornets – Gary Harris, G, Michigan State
I consider Harris to be the best shooting guard prospect in this class, even though some may have concerns about his size. Harris will be able to provide some scoring and defense right away for the Hornets, but the real payoff could come long-term as he continues to hone his skills. He may force his way into the starting lineup quickly.
10. Philadelphia 76ers – Rodney Hood, G/F, Duke
Having taken Embiid at No. 3, the Sixers can look to address the need to add some athleticism and scoring on the wing. There may be a few options here, but Hood’s length and shooting ability should open up the floor well for the big men and for Michael Carter-Williams to get to the basket.
11. Denver Nuggets – Jusef Nurkic, C, Bosnia
Big-bodied with still-developing skills, Nurkic could be the Nuggets’ big man of the future. I wouldn’t expect him to come over right away, but as Denver’s offense continues to fit the mold of coach Brian Shaw, Nurkic should be ready to step in and contribute with his offensive skills in a few years.
12. Orlando Magic – Dario Saric, F, Croatia
The Magic shored up their backcourt with Marcus Smart at No. 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 Timberwolves – 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 Suns – Nik Stauskas, G, Michigan
This season’s surprise NBA team, the Suns were supposed to be in rebuilding mode but fell just shy of the playoffs. Stauskas will give the team a dead-eye shooter who can also create scoring chances for himself or others off the dribble.
15. Atlanta Hawks – James Young, G, Michigan State
The Kentucky freshman is a tremendous athlete with good size and the potential to be a very good shooter. He needs time to learn the game more, but the Hawks could use his athletic ability and could get some quality minutes early from him on the wing.