Final NBA Mock Draft
Here is my final mock draft as Thursday’s real deal quickly approaches. Since Joel Embiid’s foot surgery news didn’t break until shortly after my last one was published, and Dario Saric is now going to play in Turkey, this version definitely has a different feel.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Jabari Parker, F, Duke
Joel Embiid’s back injury was already a pretty big concern, and the fact he’ll possibly miss all of next season after foot surgery means the Cavs would be taking a big gamble in drafting him. And after the Anthony Bennett disaster last year, they need a stone-cold lock play here. I still think Andrew Wiggins will be the bigger star down the line, but Parker appears to be ready to play and contribute right now. And as I said, the Cavs simply can’t afford to screw this up with another rookie bust.
2. Milwaukee Bucks – Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
The Bucks appear to be in a win-win situation here, assured to end up with Wiggins or Parker. They’ll happily take either player and need help everywhere. And if the Cavs go with Parker, the Bucks might just land the best player in this draft three years from now.
3. Philadelphia 76ers – Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
There is chatter out there that the Sixers will take Embiid, and they may not pass on Dante Exum if he’s available. But Vonleh’s stock appears to be on the rise and the Sixers can always go with Thaddeus Young at small forward if they draft Vonleh. Yes, they could take a shot at Embiid, but I find it hard to believe the fans would be behind another top pick that may miss his entire rookie season, like Nerlens Noel did last year while recovering from knee surgery. But with everyone outside of Parker and Wiggins on the table, the Sixers have limitless options with this pick. Exum is certainly in play here, if the Cavaliers don’t take him No. 1, but you have to think the Sixers are feeling secure at PG with Michael Carter-Williams locked and loaded for the future.
4. Orlando Magic – Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Exum looks like a perfect fit for the Magic, as Jameer Nelson is on his way out and Exum’s arrival would give them every reason to end the Victor Oladipo point guard experiment and just start him at shooting guard. If Exum’s available here, I’m now fully on board with the Magic grabbing him. If he’s gone, I still like Vonleh to the Magic here.
5. Utah Jazz – Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
The Jazz might be ready to just go with Derrick Favors at center, a guy like Gordon, Vonleh or Julius Randle at power forward, and then bringing Enes Kanter off the bench to back up Favors. They have their point guard of the future in Trey Burke, but they could still jump on Exum here if he falls.
6. Boston Celtics – Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
At some point in the Top 10, Embiid’s potential stardom outweighs the injury risk he’ll bring with him. To me, that point feels like No. 6 to Boston, and they could use a true center after living with guys like Kris Humphries, Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger and Vitor Faverani last season. If the Sixers take Embiid at No. 3, it will obviously shake up the entire lottery.
7. Los Angeles Lakers – Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
I had the Lakers taking Exum here, but am now convinced he’ll be long gone by pick No. 7. The Lakers need a lot of help and Smart is one of the better point guards in the draft. Steve Nash is about done, Kendall Marshall looks like a backup and Jordan Farmar is a free agent. The Lakers would probably love to see Embiid here, but if he’s off the board, a point guard probably makes the most sense.
8. Sacramento Kings – Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
I had Randle going to the Jazz at No. 5 last time, but that felt too high. The Kings have ancient Reggie Evans, underwhelming Derrick Williams, and oft-injured Carl Landry at power forward, so taking Randle here makes sense to me.
9. Charlotte Hornets – Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
All indications are that the Hornets are dialed in on McDermott, who might be the most underrated shooter and all-around player in the lottery. And with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist looking like nothing more than a defensive specialist, McDermott to the Hornets looks like nearly a sure thing.
10. Philadelphia 76ers – Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Shooters like Stauskas don’t come around every day and the Sixers, like most NBA teams, could use one. And considering James Anderson was (mostly) their starter last season, Stauskas looks like a nice fit for the Sixers.
11. Denver Nuggets – James Young, G/F, Kentucky
I really thought the Nuggets were going to go for SF Dario Saric here, but he just signed a deal to play in Turkey for the next three years. The Nuggets could use a reliable small forward option with Danilo Gallinari constantly hurt, and Saric would have fit the bill. The loss of Saric should boost Young’s draft-day stock, although whether he’ll go as high as 11 is still up for debate.
12. Orlando Magic – Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
The Magic are overloaded at forward, set at shooting guard and center, and could be ready to let Payton and Exum battle it out for point guard duties. Exum is getting all the hype right now, but Payton would likely push him if they were both battling for the starting job next season.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves – Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Hood might be a ‘tweener, but with guys like Corey Brewer, Luc Mbah a Moute, Shabazz Muhammad and Chase Budinger failing to impress, taking a flier on Hood might be the way they go here.
14. Phoenix Suns – Gary Harris, G, Michigan State
We don’t know where free agency will send Eric Bledsoe and Harris has some flexibility to play both guard spots. No one saw the Suns being as good as they were last season, but if they lose Bledsoe, finding a competent shooting guard should be a top priority.
15. Atlanta Hawks – Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
The Hawks could use a forward or true center, and the fact that Dario Saric recently signed to play in Turkey could end up sending the Hawks after a big man. While they could still use some depth at the wing positions, my best guess now is that they finally try to land a true NBA center and take Nurkic. He’s only 19, has been compared to Nikola Pekovic, and it sounds like he’s ready to come over and start his NBA career if he gets drafted high enough.
16. Chicago Bulls – K.J. McDaniels, F, Clemson
The Bulls are still looking to replace Luol Deng, while Carlos Boozer will likely be replaced in the starting lineup by Taj Gibson next season. McDaniels has the skills to make an impact right off the bat, but will likely have to cut his teeth off the bench, no matter where he lands.
17. Boston Celtics – Zach LaVine, SG, UCLA
LaVine has talent and Avery Bradley and Jerryd Bayless don’t exactly strike fear in opposing team’s hearts, but Bradley did have a solid season last year. LaVine is a solid talent and is someone the Celtics could feel good about taking here, especially if they get Embiid at No. 6. LaVine can contribute right away if necessary.
18. Phoenix Suns – Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
If the Suns take Ennis, he would quickly become Goran Dragic’s backup and would be able to learn the position from one of the best in the league right now. The Suns could use a center, but finding a good one this late will be very tough.
19. Chicago Bulls – Kyle Anderson, F, UCLA
Anderson is another ‘tweener, meaning he’s not really a classic small or power forward in the NBA, but the Bulls have made things work with Taj Gibson and are still looking for a Luol Deng replacement. Anderson can play and would be a good fit in Chicago.
20. Toronto Raptors – Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Payne has a little Taj Gibson in his game, but also has a better outside shot at this point. The Raptors have plenty of holes to fill and both forward spots are weaknesses for them. He should provide some scoring right off the bat, regardless of where he ends up.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – T.J. Warren, F, North Carolina State
Warren can flat out score and the Thunder wouldn’t mind having some instant offense coming off their bench. He won’t get much run with Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka locked into 35-plus minutes a game, but Warren might end up being better than anything the Thunder currently have coming off the pine.
22. Memphis Grizzlies – Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
Robinson didn’t exactly blow up as expected last season, but still has his daddy’s name that is impossible to ignore. The Grizzlies are already terribly thin at small forward after trading Rudy Gay, and might lose Zach Randolph to free agency, so this looks like it could be a perfect match.
23. Utah Jazz – Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
Grant was much better in his sophomore year and was possibly the best athlete on his team at Syracuse. The Jazz need a small forward badly, and Grant makes for a very sensible pick here. And it’s possible he could be one of the late steals in this draft if he continues to improve.
24. Charlotte Hornets – Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn
The Bobcats have been doing just fine with Kemba Walker running the point, but a decent backup wouldn’t hurt, with Luke Ridnour a free agent and Jannero Pargo, well, still Jannero Pargo.
25. Houston Rockets – Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
Terrence Jones had some big games and turned some heads in Houston last year, but seemed to disappear just as often as he blew up. Donatas Motiejunas doesn’t look like an NBA starter and the Rockets could certainly use some depth at power forward, making Stokes a possible target.
26. Miami Heat – P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends
The entire Heat roster is essentially one big free agent, while there appears to be a real chance they’ll roll out a starting lineup next year of Norris Cole, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. And since Wade may very well take half the regular season off next year, Hairston, or Zach LaVine could actually even have some fantasy value if either one lands in Miami.
27. Phoenix Suns – Mitch McGary, C, Michigan
McGary was quiet during the regular season of his freshman year, but came on in the NCAA Tournament and helped the Wolverines get to the championship game. A back injury limited him to just eight games as a sophomore, but it sounds like he should be healthy enough to be drafted in the first round. And after watching Miles Plumlee nosedive after a hot start, the Suns won’t be afraid to add a serviceable center to the mix on draft night.
28. Los Angeles Clippers – Clint Capela, PF/C, Switzerland
Capela had a nice season in France and was one of the top big men in Pro A, effective in scoring, rebounding and shot blocking. Yes, he’s a project, but the Clippers are in no rush to add a big man with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin holding down the fort. And he’s only 20 years old.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder – Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA
The Thunder could always use another shooting guard, as Thabo Sefolosha is a defensive specialist and Jeremy Lamb is still learning his way around the league. Adams has a nice wingspan and trimmed his body down over the last year. He’s not a great athlete and maintaining his weight could be an issue, but the Thunder could get a mini version of Vic Oladipo with Adams here.
30. San Antonio Spurs – Patric Young, C, Florida
Young isn't projected to go this high in most other mocks that I've seen, but with Kristaps Porzingis pulling out of the draft, Young should see a boost in his stock. He's got several things working against him, like a poor wingspan, no jumper and not standing 7-feet tall, but he does have an NBA body and should be able to play in the NBA. Guys like Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and Al Horford all come to mind, although I doubt he ends up being as good as any of them.