With the draft in sight, it’s time to take a look at potential landing spots for this year’s top prospects. Fit, talent, and draft history of teams were all taken into account with this mock, which includes a franchise cornerstone at the top, an international riser falling out of the top 10, and a downtrodden franchise landing some serious upside.
1. Philadelphia 76ers (from Celtics) – Markelle Fultz, Guard, Washington
After completing a trade to move up to the first pick, the Sixers will almost assuredly take Fultz. Fultz is the perfect fit for the 76ers because he can excel both with and without the ball. That will be necessary, as Ben Simmons is set to be the primary ball handler for the foreseeable future. Adding Fultz to a core of Simmons and Embiid gives the Sixers the best young trio in the NBA. The future is bright in Philadelphia, and Fultz will be a big part of that.
2. Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball, Guard, UCLA
Reports have varied in recent weeks, but with the trade of D’Angelo Russell, this pick will almost surely be a point guard, and Ball is the easy choice. He’s my second best player in the draft and an ideal fit for the Lakers. His passing ability will help create offense and take some of the burden off of Brandon Ingram, who struggled his rookie year. Ball is a perfect fit for Luke Walton, as he attempts to replicate the Warriors offense in Los Angeles.
3. Boston Celtics (from 76ers) – Jayson Tatum, Wing/Forward, Duke
This pick is almost certainly going to be a wing. I give the edge to Tatum, whose ability to create his own offense will make a difference. Tatum would have the opportunity to grow his game because he wouldn’t be relied on for heavy minutes. This could allow him to extend his range and increase his defensive IQ. Although I am lower on Tatum than most, Boston is an ideal situation for him to develop properly. Watch out for Jonathan Isaac here, as well, who is an even better fit for the Celtics.
4. Phoenix Suns – Josh Jackson, Wing/Forward, Kansas
This decision will come down to Jackson and De’Aaron Fox if both are available. I went with Jackson, who is an ideal fit next to Devin Booker. Jackson will be able to guard the opponent’s best offensive player, while Booker will benefit from Jackson’s ability to create and attack the rim on the offensive end of the floor.
5. Sacramento Kings – De’Aaron Fox, Guard, Kentucky
This is the ideal scenario for Sacramento because they reportedly covet Fox. His game complements Buddy Hield well, who has Kings owner Vivek Ranadive’s obsession. Fox’s ability to create and attack the hoop should space the court nicely for Hield, giving the Kings their backcourt of the future.
6. Orlando Magic – Jonathan Isaac, Wing/Forward, Florida State
The Magic are in desperate need of a true superstar talent, and they get one here with Jonathan Isaac. Isaac has one of the highest upsides in the draft and would be a steal here at six. Isaac could fill in right away at the three for Orlando and play primarily off of the ball with Elfrid Payton and Evan Fournier. That would allow him to develop off of the dribble as he slowly takes on a major role for the Magic.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves – Lauri Markkanen, Forward, Arizona
While I’m not as high on Markkanen as most, he’s still a perfect fit in Minnesota. He’d stretch the floor for both Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, allowing them to cause more damage around the rim. His poor rebounding ability would be masked by a team full of good rebounders, while he wouldn’t have to protect the rim with Towns behind him.
8. New York Knicks – Malik Monk, Guard, Kentucky
Frank Ntilikina could be a fit here with his fit in a triangle offense, but Monk is the safer choice. He’ll be able to step in right away and provide instant offense, whether that’s starting or off of the bench. Monk is an immediate upgrade at the one, which is his ideal defensive position in the NBA. He would also benefit from the spacing of the Knicks’ triangle offense and his strong ability off of the ball.
9. Dallas Mavericks – Dennis Smith Jr., Guard, NC State
The Mavericks are desperate for a superstar-level talent to build around, and they would get just that in Smith Jr. He has an incredibly high ceiling to go with a very low floor, but Dallas is an ideal landing place for him to develop. Smith Jr. is at his best with the ball in his hands, and the Mavericks don’t have any ball-dominant players right now. This is an ideal scenario for both parties involved.
10. Sacramento Kings – Harry Giles, Big, Duke
11. Charlotte Hornets – Luke Kennard, Guard, Duke
The Hornets are in a tough place, with their cap space being limited for at least two more years. Because of that, they may as well try to build a team that could advance to the second round. Kennard provides the Hornets some much needed shooting on the perimeter next to Kemba Walker.
12. Detroit Pistons – Frank Ntilikina, Guard, Belgium
The Pistons make the easy call here and take the top talent available. With the future of Reggie Jackson in doubt, Detroit can comfortably take their lead guard of the future here. Depending on the direction the Pistons take with Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, he could be thrust into that role sooner rather than later.
13. Denver Nuggets – Ike Anigbogu, Big, UCLA
Nikola Jokic came on in a big way for the Nuggets this year, and now it’s time to build around him. Anigbogu is an ideal fit as a rim protector and rim-runner, which would allow Jokic to operate all over the floor offensively.
14. Miami Heat – Zach Collins, Big, Gonzaga
Miami gets an ideal big to pair with Hassan Whiteside in this scenario, and a potential replacement if Whiteside declines his player option in two years. For now, Collins could continue to develop his shot and work on being a nice complementary player in the post.
15. Portland Trail Blazers – Justin Patton, Big, Creighton
Portland still needs help in the post, even with Jusuf Nurkic, and will need to add high-ceiling players in the draft with their horrific cap situation. Patton checks both boxes and won’t be relied on heavily to score with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum carrying the load.
16. Chicago Bulls – Frank Jackson, Guard, Duke
Some will say this is too high for Jackson, but I love his game and think he has a high ceiling. Jackson can score at all three levels, while also possessing the size and athleticism to be a plus defender. Chicago desperately needs scoring from someone other than Jimmy Butler, and Jackson will be able to do that immediately.
17. Milwaukee Bucks – O.G. Anunoby, Wing/Forward, Indiana
Anunoby is the prototypical Bucks pick. He possesses enormous defensive upside with his athleticism and length, while also being a good shooter and off-ball cutter. His draft position could fluctuate heavily because of the knee injury he suffered this season.
18. Indiana Pacers – Donovan Mitchell, Guard, Louisville
Mitchell has benefited greatly from the draft process, impressing everyone at the combine with his impressive measurements, including a 6’10” wingspan. That wingspan should allow him to guard most twos in the NBA, while also playing off of the ball offensively.
19. Atlanta Hawks – Jarrett Allen, Big, Texas
After the trade of Dwight Howard, the Hawks are in need of some rim protection. Allen should be able to come in and provide that right away, and Mike Budenholzer should be able to maximize his talent.
20. Portland Trail Blazers (from Grizzlies) – Justin Jackson, Guard/Wing, UNC
This pick has been rumored to be on the move, but if the Trail Blazers make the pick, it should be Jackson. Still far too reliant on Lillard and McCollum, Jackson would give Portland another scoring option from the wing to lessen their guards’ offensive burden.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – D.J. Wilson, Wing/Forward, Michigan
Desperate for someone other than Russell Westbrook to score, Oklahoma City could find that in Wilson. Wilson is a solid shooter, but also possesses the athleticism and size to guard threes and fours in the NBA.
22. Brooklyn Nets (from Wizards) – Terrance Ferguson, Guard/Wing, Australia
This year’s version of Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay, Ferguson decided to go pro overseas instead of going to college. He’s thin right now, but his shooting ability and athleticism give him the upside that a team like Brooklyn needs to target.
23. Toronto Raptors (from Clippers) – Jawun Evans, Guard, Oklahoma State
With the foggy future of Kyle Lowry, the Raptors could be without a starting point guard after free agency. Taking Evans here gives Toronto some security if Lowry does decide to leave. Evans has incredible upside, but is being pushed down the board because of his size.
24. Utah Jazz – T.J. Leaf, Big, UCLA
I’m not high on Leaf, but his fit next to Rudy Gobert is too perfect to pass up. Leaf can stretch the floor with his shooting and rebound using his athleticism. The Jazz need a player who can provide spacing with Gobert clogging the lane. Leaf’s weak defense would be a non-factor since Gobert would be protecting the paint.
25. Orlando Magic (from Raptors) – Jordan Bell, Big, Oregon
After giving the Magic Tatum and his scoring ability at 6, taking Bell is the best option here at 25. He is a great athlete who doesn’t need to score to make an impact on the game. He’d be an ideal backup behind Nikola Vucevic as a high-energy defensive specialist.
26. Portland Trail Blazers (from Cavaliers) – Isaiah Hartenstein, Big, Germany
With three first-round picks, it’s fairly likely Portland stashes at least one of them overseas if they can’t trade one. Hartenstein fits the billing as a smooth athlete who has some coachable offensive skill, especially around the rim. He could be a player that finds a role in the league after 2-3 more years in Europe.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (from Nets) – Semi Ojeleye, Wing/Forward, SMU
The Lakers are going to want shooters around Lonzo Ball, and Ojeleye provides just that. Ojeleye is an explosive athlete with a nice stroke from distance, and his athleticism will allow him to be a threat on the break for the Lakers.
28. Los Angeles Lakers (from Rockets) – Johnathan Motley, Big, Baylor
The Lakers need to find someone who can score efficiently in the post, with Julius Randle being a complete ball stopper. Motley has a chance to become that in the long run with his simple shooting stroke combined with his high energy and athleticism.
29. San Antonio Spurs – Derrick White, Guard, Colorado
White may not have the most upside in the draft, but he could help a rotation right away. With his great shooting and good enough size, he could play alongside Kawhi Leonard as a point guard. His lack of athleticism will hold him back, but if anyone can get the most out of him, it’s Gregg Popovich.
30. Utah Jazz (from Warriors) – Josh Hart, Guard, Villanova
With George Hill set to be a free agent this year, Utah will be looking for some backcourt help. Hart can provide that help as a solid all-around player that only lacks an elite talent. He could play off of the ball with Dante Exum, while still guarding the opposing teams point guard.