With another NBA lottery come and gone it’s time for the real mock draft season to begin. This will be the first of several mock drafts on the site leading up to the draft in July. Orlando, Oklahoma City, and Houston have the first three picks in a draft that has plenty of big-name prospects at the top. For this mock we’ll be doing a full first round with pick explanations for the lottery picks only:
1.Orlando Magic: Chet Holmgren
–Orlando has a golden opportunity to add a franchise building block at the top of this class. There’s the defensive anchor in Chet Holmgren. An alpha scorer in Paolo Banchero. Or even the sharpshooting wing Jabari Smith Jr. But out of these options, Chet Holmgren should be the favorite. The Magic have a host of guards and wings/forwards who play both ends but grabbing a defensive superstar is the right choice. Holmgren will pair with Wendell Carter Jr to become one of the top defensive frontcourts in the NBA right away.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Paolo Banchero
–Sitting at number two the Thunder should go to the best player available and that is Paolo Banchero. He’s fallen a bit on some boards but remains a unique talent due to his blend of size, strength, speed, and fluid three-level shot creation skills. Banchero is also a super good passer for his size and position. This will go nicely with the Thunder’s core since they’re building a strong nucleus of jumbo playmakers. OKC also needs a true score first forward to balance out their guard-heavy young core.
3. Houston Rockets: Jabari Smith Jr
-At three the Rockets are set up nicely to add another piece to their budding young core of guards and bigs. They drafted a score-first two-guard in Jalen Green who provides incredible amounts of rim pressure and shot-making abilities. To balance that out they should take the elite three-point shooting prospect that is Jabari Smith Jr. He will give any team big-time floor spacing, off the bounce shot creation from the mid-range, and terrific on-ball defense. Houston can slot Smith Jr at the three or four and will find great success with him
4. Sacramento Kings: Keegan Murray
-Sacramento strikes many as a team that could be the first to stray away from the grain and pick a more NBA-ready prospect with a lower ceiling. Keegan Murray fits that description as a wing prospect who will be a fantastic secondary piece in an offense. He was used more in a post-up scoring role in college but flashed a lot of translatable skills. Murray is a projectable outside shooter with some smart cutting and finishing skills around the rim. He will fit in well as an advantage capitalizing wing who will play well off the King’s best players.
5. Detroit Pistons: Jaden Ivey
-This is the dream scenario for the Pistons. They fell a bit in the lottery but are still able to scoop up a dynamic top-three talent in this draft class. Ivey fits so well with the former number one pick Cade Cunningham. Ivey is an extremely busty athlete who will supply an offense with a ton of rim pressure. He’s also not a natural point guard which works perfectly in this case because Cunningham is. Together they make up a potential Yin and Yang backcourt. They have different styles but together they can be very dangerous in the future.
6. Indiana Pacers: Shaedon Sharpe
-It’s a fresh start in Indiana so why not go for the best player available that may end up being the steal of the draft. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Sharpe since he didn’t play a single college game for Kentucky. But make no mistake about it, he may be the most talented player in the class. Sharpe is a ridiculous vertical athlete who also displayed high-level slashing and outside scoring tendencies at the high school level. He won’t be great right away but if Sharpe blossoms into a star then the Pacers have a running mate for Tyrese Haliburton.
7. Portland Trail Blazers: Johnny Davis
-The look on Dame Lillard’s face after he saw Portland would be drafting seventh was one of disappointment. However, he won’t be disappointed if they end up with Johnny Davis. Davis excels as a mid-range heavy-scoring shooting guard who can also get after it on the defensive end. His scoring package is a bit reminiscent of a raw Devin Booker with a lot of his drives ending in tough two-point jumpers. Davis can also take on your best offensive player on defense. This mix of shot creation and defense is exactly what Portland needs around Lillard.
8. New Orleans Pelicans- Benedict Mathurin
-New Orleans can add an excellent supplementary piece to complement their star trio of Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, and a healthy Zion Williamson. You can never go wrong with adding a 3&D wing with self-creation upside. Mathurin brings a much-needed three-point shooting punch. He can run off designed sets and shoot it well on the move. Mathurin projects to be a strong defensive presence too who can get stops on positions 1-3. New Orleans needs to round out the other pieces around their star core and taking Mathurin does just that.
9. San Antonio Spurs: AJ Griffin
-Griffin has seen a slide on consensus boards because of concerns in his medical profile. Griffin has had knee problems in the past but was able to showcase his skills at Duke. San Antonio could use a boom or bust kind of prospect. Griffin is the best shooter in this class and has some serious flash off the bounce. He can be slotted in as a big two-guard or traditional wing. The Spurs don’t have a particularly strong direction as a team right now which is all the more reason to take a strong upside play in Griffin.
10. Washington Wizards: Tyty Washington
-Washington has strayed away from taking backcourt players in the recent past but this year might be different. With Beal’s future uncertain in Washington it’s a good idea to take a potential lead guard for the future. Tyty Washington checks a lot of boxes. He has fine size at 6’3 and has good speed. He can thrive as a playmaker and passer when put into that kind of a role with the right pieces around him. Washington is also a spot-up shooter from three and hits pull-ups in the mid-range with regularity. He would be a fantastic fit in DC.