When teams analyze the draft, they often look for the best available players and don’t necessarily look to fill needs.
The key is for teams to stick to their boards come draft time. Teams get themselves in trouble when they draft a player based on need and not on the most long-term value.
If Utah center Jakob Poeltl is head and shoulders the best available player when the New Orleans Pelicans pick, then they should draft him. It should not matter that New Orleans already has centers Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca on its roster.
Teams are in the business of collecting assets. The more assets you have, the better flexibility to improve your roster going forward. The draft is not a place to fill needs. That’s what free agency and trades are for.
With the NCAA tournament about to begin and numerous marquee players getting prime-time exposure, Jonathan Givony of Draft Express presents the first mock for the NBA draft on June 23. (Order reflects Sunday's results.)
1. Philadelphia 76ers
SF (Duke - freshman)
18.5 years old | 6'9" | 196 lbs
Salary slot: $4,919,300
Insider info: Philadelphia is in desperate need of shooting, leading the 76ers to take Ingram over Ben Simmons. The Sixers can't afford to cut any corners in their rebuilding strategy. There are red flags surrounding Simmons' inability to help his team win games, as well as the fact that he is more than a year older than Ingram. In the minds of many, Ingram has surpassed Simmons.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
SF/PF (LSU - freshman)
19.6 years old | 6'10" | 239 lbs
Salary slot: $4,401,400
Insider info: In a draft many consider to have a significant drop-off after the No. 2 pick, the Lakers will be happy to "settle" for whomever the Sixers decide not to draft. It will be interesting to see how the Lakers fit the non-shooting Simmons alongside the ball-dominant backcourt of D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson, but there really isn't much of a choice here.
3. Phoenix Suns
SF (California - freshman)
19.3 years old | 6'7" | 222 lbs
Salary slot: $3,952,500
Insider info: The Suns have a major hole on the wing, and Jaylen Brown is an excellent candidate to fill it. He possesses the necessary size, strength and length to play the small forward position alongside the very promising Devin Booker. The two complement each other nicely in many ways.
Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn)
PF (Maccabi Tel Aviv – Israeli league)
18.3 years old | 7'1" | 216 lbs
Salary slot: $3,563,600
Insider info: Starting Amir Johnson and Jared Sullinger most nights, the Celtics have no clear-cut power forward of the future. They will likely be attracted to Bender's blend of size, shooting prowess, basketball IQ and versatility.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
PG (Providence - junior)
21.9 years old | 6'4" | 205 lbs
Salary slot: $3,227,100
Insider info: The Timberwolves don't appear to be set on Ricky Rubio as their starting point guard of the future and could be attracted to Kris Dunn, who is the clear-cut best PG in the draft. At 22, he should be polished enough to join the outstanding young core the Timberwolves have built with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
6. New Orleans Pelicans
C (Utah - sophomore)
20.3 years old | 7'1" | 242 lbs
Salary slot: $2,931,000
Insider info: The Pelicans could use another skilled big man to pair alongside Anthony Davis, who would rather play facing the basket at PF. Poeltl is considered the best center in this draft and has plenty of upside to continue to develop both physically and skill-wise.
7. Sacramento Kings
PG/SG (Kentucky - freshman)
19 years old | 6'5" | 201 lbs
Salary slot: $2,675,700
Insider info: The Kings seem to have soured on incumbent shooting guard Ben McLemore, and could very well look to fill that spot with Murray. He's proven to be one of the most prolific scorers in college basketball despite only recently turning 19, and his work ethic and character should help him on a team that has struggled with chemistry for years.
8. Denver (from New York)
SG (Oklahoma - senior)
22.2 years old | 6'4" | 214 lbs
Salary slot: $2,253,300
Insider info: The Nuggets have built a very promising core, and will likely be attracted to the strong perimeter shooting and overall scoring of Hield. The four-year senior should be set to contribute immediately. His deficiencies defensively could be mitigated playing alongside a physically gifted point guard like Emmanuel Mudiay, and Hield seems to complement him nicely offensively.
9. Toronto Raptors (from Denver)
PF (Marquette - freshman)
19.1 years old | 6'10" | 231 lbs
Salary slot: $2,451,200
Insider info: The Raptors look fairly set at almost every position except power forward, and thus will likely give a long look to the highly skilled Henry Ellenson, who can play both on and off the ball and gives them some shooting range they currently lack at the position.
10. Milwaukee Bucks
PF/C (Kentucky - freshman)
19.9 years old | 7'0" | 216 lbs
Salary slot: $2,140,500
Insider info: Greg Monroe has been somewhat of a disappointment as a free-agent signing, and the Bucks certainly need to continue to add perimeter shooting and skill to their frontline. Labissiere is a project, but his potential as a floor-stretching rim-protector is exactly what many NBA teams want these days.
11. Orlando Magic
PF/C (Michigan St. - freshman)
19.2 years old | 6'10" | 230 lbs
Salary slot: $2,033,500
Insider info: Orlando desperately needs to find a big man who can play alongside Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon, and Davis is a strong candidate. He's one of the best rim protectors in this draft, and may be able to develop his shooting range enough to play on the perimeter at times.
12. Phoenix Suns (from Washington)
PF (California - freshman)
19 years old | 6'10" | 215 lbs
Salary slot: $1,835,200
Insider info: The Suns are in the hunt for a starting-caliber power forward and could be attracted to the size and rebounding ability of Rabb. He will be able to swing to the five in smaller lineups and has the basketball IQ and competitiveness you look for in a rotation big man. At age 19, he also has the upside to potentially develop into more than that.
13. Utah Jazz
PG (Notre Dame - junior)
21.4 years old | 6'1" | 194 lbs
Salary slot: $1,931,900
Insider info: Utah has plenty of young talent, but could look to add depth at point guard. Jackson has NBA-caliber athleticism, but is also a good enough shooter to play off the ball in spurts as well.
14. Chicago Bulls
SG/SF (Mega Leks – Adriatic league)
20.8 years old | 6'7" | 205 lbs
Salary slot: $1,743,500
Insider info: Whatever the Bulls lack or need probably won't be fixed by a mid-first-round draft pick, but there are a number of areas they might be able to address. One is the wing position, where they could certainly use some help alongside Jimmy Butler. You can never have too many athletic, multipositional floor-spacers in today's NBA, and the Bulls will have to take a long look at the Frenchman, who offers all of those things at this point in the draft.
15. Boston Celtics (from Dallas)
PF/C (Vanderbilt – junior)
20.6 years old | 6'10" | 248 lbs
Salary slot: $1,656,200
Insider info: One thing the Boston Celtics are lacking is a legit rim-protector in their frontcourt rotation. Jones is one of the most physically gifted big men in this draft and has excellent upside alongside the team's existing young core.
16. Denver Nuggets (from Houston)
SG (Anadolu Efes – Turkish league)
18.6 years old | 6'7" | 185 lbs
Salary slot: $1,494,800
Insider info: With three first-round picks, the Nuggets will likely be looking for one or two players they can stash in Europe for another year or two. Adding too many young players at the same time doesn't make a great deal of sense for a team that is already among the youngest in the league.
17. Detroit Pistons
PG (Vanderbilt – sophomore)
19.9 years old | 6'3" | 195 lbs
Salary slot: $1,573,500
Insider info: After trading Brandon Jennings to Orlando, the Pistons could look to add some depth at point guard, particularly with a bigger guard who can spend time alongside prolific scorer Reggie Jackson. Drafting a player like Baldwin, who can defend multiple positions and make an open shot, makes sense, all things considered. Baldwin has significant upside as well.
18. Denver Nuggets (from Portland)
C (Maryland – freshman)
19 years old | 7’ | 255 lbs
Salary slot: $1,420,100
Insider info: The Nuggets have ample size in their frontcourt with Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic, but at this point in the draft it makes sense to take the best talent available. Adding a long, skilled 7-footer who can operate with his back to the basket could work. Stone is talented enough to get drafted higher than this, but the evaporating market for players in his mold may push him down further.
19. Indiana Pacers
SG (Michigan St. – senior)
22.3 years old | 6’6” | 223 lbs
Salary slot: $1,356,100
Insider info: Valentine can space the floor, play multiple positions and comes ready to contribute with a tailor-made role. The Pacers have two long-armed and versatile defenders in George Hill and Paul George they could use to hide the ultra-skilled but defensively challenged Valentine, which is something that is almost a requirement if Valentine is to find success. His passing ability and perimeter shooting could make him extremely effective if he can find the right fit.
20. Charlotte Hornets
SF (Baylor – senior)
21.5 years old | 6’7” | 215 lbs
Salary slot: $1,301,900
Insider info: With the contracts of Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams expiring, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist coming off an injury-plagued year, drafting a tough, perimeter-oriented combo forward like Prince could be the right move.
21. Atlanta Hawks
C (UNLV – freshman)
19.4 years old | 7’ | 235 lbs
Salary slot: $1,249,800
Insider info: With the question marks about Al Horford's return, and Tiago Splitter having an injury-ravaged season, the Hawks could very well look to add a player to their frontcourt through the draft. Zimmerman is a skilled 7-footer with the basketball IQ needed to play in the Hawks' system, making him an attractive option at this spot.
22. Philadelphia 76ers (from Miami)
PG (Kentucky – sophomore)
20.1 years old | 5’9” | 160 lbs
Salary slot: $1,199,900
Insider info: The Sixers at some point will need to address point guard, which has been a revolving door of players for some time now. Ulis has the perimeter shooting needed to play alongside Philly's non-shooting bigs and shows great potential in the pick-and-roll. His intangibles and locker-room presence have to be considered positives as well.
23. Boston Celtics
SG (Denain – French 2 league)
19.2 years old | 6’5” | 190 lbs
Salary slot: $1,151,900
Insider info: With their third first-round pick, the Celtics will likely be looking for a player they can stash in Europe for another year or two to continue to develop. Cordinier offers them a talented wing player with intangibles who would benefit from more experience and growing physically stronger overseas.
24. Memphis Grizzlies
C (Cibona Zagreb – Adriatic league)
18.9 years old | 7’1” | 265 lbs
Salary slot: $1,105,800
Insider info: The Grizzlies can afford to swing for the fences on an unproven prospect like Zubac, who could very well have gone 10-15 spots higher had he waited another year. His size, toughness and budding skill make him a project worth investing in long term.
25. Los Angeles Clippers
PF/C (Gonzaga – Adriatic league)
20 years old | 6’10” | 231 lbs
Salary slot: $1,061,600
Insider info: The Clippers will need to find some rotation big men to play behind DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, especially because Cole Aldrich has probably outplayed his $1.2 million team option. Sabonis is a physical and mature player who can play either frontcourt position and brings nice toughness to the table.
26. Toronto Raptors
SF/PF (Estudiantes – ACB)
20.4 years old | 6’9” | 220 lbs
Salary slot: $1,026,300
Insider info: With their second first-rounder, the Raptors will likely be looking to pick a player they can stash in Europe for another year or two. Hernangomez has nice upside as a face-up power forward who has been very productive in the competitive ACB league this season.
27. Philadelphia 76ers (from Oklahoma City)
SG (Duke – Sophomore)
20.4 years old | 6’4” | 185 lbs
Salary slot: $996,700
Insider info: Incumbent shooting guards Nik Stauskas and Hollis Thompson have struggled this season, indicating it might be time to start looking toward the future. Grayson Allen is one of the best shooters/scorers in college basketball, making him an attractive option.
28. Phoenix Suns (from Cleveland)
C (Cibona – Adriatic league)
19.1 years old | 6’11” | 240 lbs
Salary slot: $990,700
Insider info: With their third first-rounder, the Suns will likely be looking for a player they can stash in Europe for another year or two. Zizic is the type of player who could have been picked 10-15 spots higher had he waited another year, making him a strong value pick. He's a bruiser who will only continue to improve down the road.
29. San Antonio Spurs
PF ( Le Mans – French league)
20.6 years old | 6’11” | 220 lbs
Salary slot: $983,400
Insider info: The Spurs don't have many minutes (or roster spots) to offer a younger player right now and could look to draft and stash a European prospect. Cornelie's size and perimeter shooting make him a player potentially worth investing in.
30. Golden State Warriors
SG (Virginia – senior)
23.2 years old | 6’5” | 215 lbs
Salary slot: $976,300
Insider info: The Warriors have a great deal of talent and finding a player who can contribute this late in the draft is challenging. Shoring up their guard and wing rotation with a heady and versatile senior like Brogdon, who can stretch the floor and defend, makes sense.
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