- Minnesota Timberwolves- Anthony Edwards
There is no slam dunk, sure-fire superstar in this year’s draft but that should not mean the Timberwolves should heavily shop the first pick. Edwards is the smart pick because he fits better with Russell than Ball. Getting a less ball-dominant guard to pair with Russell will make for an elite offensive backcourt.
Over the last year, there have been rumors about a KAT, Russell, and Booker trio but Booker leading his Suns to an 8-0 record in the bubble put any trade talk to rest. Although Edwards may not be Booker, he’s still the two guard that would play well with Russell. Russell can bring the outside scoring while Edwards can thrive inside and they still have Culver and Okogie to put on the other team’s best perimeter scoring threat.
Edwards has great finishing and driving skills with lots of potential for a deep scoring bag will complement Russell’s already great outside scoring production. With Edwards, the Timberwolves’ backcourt has the complete package on offense to back up a top three big man in the league.
2. Orlando Magic (From Golden State Warriors)- LaMelo Ball
Yes that is right, the Warriors trade the second pick and Andrew Wiggins to the Magic for Nikola Vucevic. Of all the possible Warriors trades, to me, this makes the most sense for both sides. The Warriors get a big man that is a three-level scorer, can stretch the floor, and can pass well for a big man which fits with their system. In return, the Magic get Wiggins, who is mainly in the deal to make the money work and the second overall pick.
While the Magic have some good pieces for the future, they are clearly stuck in this middle ground of not being good enough to compete and not bad enough to get a franchise centerpiece. Trading away Vucevic would get rid of the main reason they are in the playoffs and allow them to commit to a rebuild with the assets and pieces they have.
Ball would give them an excellent offensive player with so much potential to get better. He is a creative scorer and high IQ playmaker who can carry the load on offense. Drafting Ball is the right move even though they have Fultz because more than anything the Magic lack a face of a franchise kind of player and Ball fits that bill better than any other player in the draft.
3. Charlotte Hornets- Deni Avdija
The Hornets gameplan has to be simple moving forward, collect the best talent you can, and don’t worry about fit as much as normal. Focus on high upside players and be willing to take more risks because there isn’t too much of anywhere to go but up for this franchise.
Wiseman may be the more popular player but Avdija is a better prospect with a higher ceiling. He is by far the most versatile and best playmaker of any prospect in the draft. At 6 foot 8, he can be a team’s primary playmaker because of his exceptional feel for the game and basketball IQ. When it comes to his passing abilities, he offers as much substance as he does style with great patience on ball screens. He also has lots of potential to score on his own as this is where his high upside comes from.
He has lots of craftiness on drives to the basketball and great touch at the rim and a great shooting release. His strength is versatility, but he must be able to establish a definitive role to be a true centerpiece.Versatility is a key part of his game as he can play forward but be a primary distributor which could allow Monk and Graham to focus on their strengths as players which is to be score first guards. If he reaches his ceiling in Charlotte, it could change the outlook of their franchise.
4. Chicago Bulls- James Wiseman
At number four, grabbing Wiseman is a great value pick to add to a team with lots of budding talent. Even though they do have a somewhat crowded frontcourt when you look at their roster, adding a prospect like Wiseman is too good to pass up. Wiseman has a strong physical profile mixed with incredible athleticism at his size to make him a potential monster on the inside.
Even more impressive, he has shown flashes of developing a jump shot that will only get better when he is in the league. Rebounding is another strength of his which would make up for Markkanen’s lack of aggression on the boards.
Overall, that frontcourt compliments each other very well as they make up for their individual weaknesses. For example, Markkanen has an established and polished scoring game while it is still yet to be determined how Wiseman’s scoring game will translate. But Wiseman does have the elite athleticism that Markkanen doesn’t have, making them a formidable frontcourt duo.
In this scenario, looking into trades for Wendell Carter Jr. would be smart as he would be pushed to the bench, and his overall role with the team could diminish. Then again, he might work perfectly as a great bench piece if they contend for a playoff spot next season.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers- Obi Toppin
The Cavs got a little bit lucky to come away with a top-five pick in a guard-heavy draft considering the fact that they already have two guards for their future. Toppin is the best none one and done player in this year’s draft and electrified college basketball with his flashy dunks throughout the season.
However, like Zion, there is so much more to his game than just highlight-reel dunks. He’s an outstanding athlete who can jump out of the gym and run the floor extremely well in transition. He shows great shooting promise as he shot 39% on 2.6 attempts per game and can space the floor well vertically at either forward position.
Toppin uses his speed and power to drive inside and can finish well at the rim through contact. He will work very well in the modern game on the offensive side of the ball as he is ultra-efficient, shooting almost 70% on his two-point shots last season. The Cavs need players like him that have a well rounded offensive game and can finish lobs from Sexton or Garland.
One concern would be defending bigger and longer forwards in the NBA as Toppin has limited length and was prone to show poor defensive effort in college. The fit for a modern game is still too much to pass up on for Cleveland.
6. Atlanta Hawks- Tyrese Haliburton
Trae Young needs a legit backcourt stud to play with. Specifically one with size, length, good off-ball tendencies for a guard, and defensive potential. Haliburton fills these needs very well, as he stands 6’5 with a 7-foot wingspan. His main strengths are like Young’s, an advanced basketball IQ, great shot creation for others, and a crafty handle with the ability to finish under the basket.
He’s one of the most pro-ready prospects which will benefit the Hawks as they are building pieces that will soon be ready for a playoff push. They’re relying on this young core to grow together and Haliburton will be a necessary addition to play off guard next to Young.
One of his biggest weaknesses as a prospect is a lack of aggressiveness or maybe he can’t be the man on a team. If he went to the Hawks, he wouldn’t have to worry about being the primary creator on the offense; rather he could let his game thrive within the offense. Playing off the ball more often than not may actually be a blessing in disguise because he can have a favorable matchup on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensively he shows good promise with good athleticism and lateral quickness but he needs to put on some more muscle so the Hawks can rely on him to guard other team’s best perimeter threats. Another reason he fits well in Atlanta is his ability to be effective in off-ball settings, as he shot over 40% from three off catch and shoot shots, and showed he can make a quick dime to the post if a big rotates in help defense.
7. Detroit Pistons- Onyeka Okongwu
Detroit is in a similar situation as the Hornets in that they need to just acquire the best available talent to rebuild with their current roster. The best prospect on the board and a player that has one of the highest ceilings in the draft is Okongwu. The Center from USC will at a bare minimum translate to a two-way big man but in my opinion, his ceiling is a player that can represent the evolution of the big man for the future of the league.
A great comparison would be Bam Adebayo, and here’s why. Onyeka is both a versatile and quality defender down low. He is the best shot-blocker in the class and that will translate because of his over 7-foot wingspan and high defensive IQ. He is also a versatile defender who can read passing lanes on the perimeter and switch onto quicker forwards and still be able to force them into giving up the ball or taking a tough shot.
On the glass, he is a great offensive rebounder as he averaged over 3 a game in college and gives lots of effort to come up with a board. Offensively, he will be an excellent pick and roll big man because he can roll extremely well with great footwork and an athletic frame to catch a lob or finish in traffic.
His best attribute is his hands due to his skill as a rebounder and finisher in the paint. His jump shot and post-game are raw, but there is a lot of untapped potential there that if those areas are developed, then he can become a representation of the evolving big man in the NBA.
8. New York Knicks- Killian Hayes
Reality has once again struck Knick fans in the big apple, as the Knicks will not be drafting LaMelo Ball unless they trade up on draft day. Despite what their plan seems to be, which is relying on hitting a home run every opportunity they get, the Knicks should be acquiring the best available talent that fits with the young pieces they already have on the roster.
Hayes is a good mix of talent and fit for New York. His best attribute for the next level is his ability to create for his teammates and make any pass on the court. He puts the ball right in the pocket of an open shooter and can make tough outlet passes to get the transition game flowing. Hayes has tight ball-handling skills and can change speeds very well when driving to the rim.
His change of direction and speed is a product of his footwork as he applies these skills in order to create his own shot. He shows promise as a three-level scorer because of his variety as a shooter. Not only can he shoot well from behind the basket but he also has a reliable mid-range shot or floater game.
Additionally, his step-back move is impressive for his age and for where he is as a prospect. Playing overseas also means he doesn’t fear the brightest stage so he won’t feel any pressure to perform in New York. Limiting turnovers and developing into a lethal shooter will be the keys for him to unlock his true potential next to RJ Barrett.
9. Washington Wizards- Issac Okoro
Defense is easily the biggest need for the Wizards to return to the postseason with a healthy John Wall. The Wizards were one of the best offensive units pre-bubble but one of if not the worst defensive team in the NBA. Okoro would bring lots of defensive prowess and versatility to Washington.
The 6’6 guard/forward out of Auburn is a pro-ready defender who takes on any assignment and was able to lock up lots of perimeter threats in college. Auburn held the opposing team’s highest leading scorer under their ppg average in 83% of their games last year and Okoro was the main reason why.
Okoro’s opponents included a couple other lottery picks in Edwards and Maxey. He competes both on and off the ball and shows the willingness to attack passing lanes and fight through screens to remain on an elite guard. His versatility is his biggest strength as he can play the two or three in the modern game because of his size but he can also guard positions 1-3 on defense.
As an offensive player, he is pretty raw but he is a productive attacker and can finish very well with either hand and through contact. He is very athletic and has a useful spin move in the halfcourt which resulted in him being ultra-efficient, shooting 60% on two-point shots in college.
Overall he still has plenty to work on as an all-around shot creator but he won’t be asked to be a go-to scoring threat in Washington as the Wizards were top five in offense pre-bubble. If he works on his shooting mechanics and gains a reliable three-point shot, then he will be a good starter that won’t require the ball from Beal and Wall.
10. Phoenix Suns- RJ Hampton
One of the Sun’s key remaining moves is finding that backcourt mate to thrive with Devin Booker. They have two building blocks in Booker and Ayton that proved they can win in the bubble by going undefeated in pre-playoff basketball. Bridges, Oubre, and Johnson are crowding the wing so the lone positional need appears to be a point guard that fits with Booker.
Hampton is that guy they should be targeting as a backcourt mate because of his intangibles and scoring potential. He shows off his speed and athleticism in transition and has long strides for a guard going to the basket. There is lots of fluidity in his game and he makes tough shots and his finishes look easy.
Hampton can become a smooth scorer at the next level due to his ability to blow by his defensive matchup and shield off bigger defenders at the rim. He has a great shooting form but struggles with consistency. Still, with NBA training he can develop an efficient three-point shot.
His strongest attribute might be his winning attitude and ability to go on hot streaks as a scorer. Hampton and Booker would make for a great offensive backcourt.