The Vertical Mock Draft, Version 2.0
1. Boston (from Brooklyn): PG Markelle Fultz
The Celtics cash in once again with a top-three pick and land the player most teams consider to be the prospect with the highest upside. Fultz will have the luxury of being able to ease his way into the NBA alongside some talented guards.
2. L.A. Lakers: PG Lonzo Ball
The Lakers will be on pins and needles once again on the night of the lottery because this pick will be conveyed to Philadelphia if it falls outside of the top three. Ball’s size, perimeter shooting and unselfishness make him an ideal partner in the backcourt with combo guard D’Angelo Russell, who can also play off the ball. Ball has transformed UCLA’s culture with his court vision and passing acumen, and the Lakers’ new regime will want to see him do the same in Luke Walton’s up-tempo offense.
3. Phoenix: SF Josh Jackson
The Suns could use an injection of toughness, unselfishness, athleticism and defensive intensity on the wing. Jackson provides all of those things, as well as positional versatility with the ability to operate anywhere from shooting guard to power forward. His red-hot shooting over the past two months has eased some of the concerns about his lack of range, which is considered the biggest flaw in his profile.
4. Orlando: SF Jayson Tatum
There is considered to be somewhat of a drop-off after the top tier of the four elite freshmen, each of whom will get consideration at No. 1. For the team picking fourth, the choice may already be made, and in this case it also happens to be a positional fit. Tatum can create offense, as well as make jump shots, and offers lineup versatility along with his ability to play anywhere from shooting guard to power forward.
5. Philadelphia: PG/SG Malik Monk
The 76ers are still trying to figure out their point-guard spot, where Ben Simmons may end up spending quite a bit of time offensively. With that in mind, it makes sense to draft a big-time, shot-making guard like Monk, who has no issues operating off the ball. He can score in bunches, stretch the floor for the streaky shooting Simmons and Dario Saric, and defend point guards, where his average length suits him best.
6. Sacramento: PG De’Aaron Fox
The Kings have been looking for a long-term answer at point guard for years, and will certainly be attracted by Fox’s speed, creativity and defensive intensity. He’s an unselfish player who excels in the open court and could complement fellow Kentucky Wildcats Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere, as well as sharpshooter Buddy Hield.
7. New York: PG Dennis Smith
North Carolina State
With Derrick Rose’s tenure in New York unlikely to continue after this season, the Knicks will need to think about their future at point guard. Smith has the right temperament to handle the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, even if he’s far from an ideal fit for the triangle offense.
8. Minnesota: PF Lauri Markkanen
The Timberwolves are one of the worst shooting teams in the NBA, which could make someone like Markkanen an attractive fit alongside Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. He’s arguably the best shooter in the draft and plays an unselfish brand of basketball.
9. Sacramento (via New Orleans): SF/PF Jonathan Isaac
The Kings are shallow at the forward spots and will need to take a long look at Isaac. He has the versatility to play the three or the four because of his quick feet, deep range and rebounding ability. He’s an unselfish player who isn’t afraid to mix it up inside and could offer flexibility alongside either Skal Labissiere or Willie Cauley-Stein as a stretch four.
10. Dallas: PG Frank Ntilikina
The Mavs need to start thinking about long-term guard prospects. Ntilikina plays the brand of unselfish, intelligent basketball that coach Rick Carlisle likes and projects as a multi-positional defender.
11. Charlotte: SF Miles Bridges
The draft hits a bit of a drop-off after this point. Charlotte could benefit from some athleticism, toughness, perimeter shooting and positional versatility on the perimeter, and Bridges offers all of those things and can guard multiple positions.
12. Portland: SF Justin Jackson
Ht./Wt.: 6-8/ 193
The Trail Blazers could be in the market for a bigger wing who can space the floor, pass and defend multiple positions. Jackson has become a vastly improved 3-point shooter and is a versatile player with a high basketball IQ.
13. Chicago: SG Terrance Ferguson
Adelaide, South Australia (National Basketball League)
The Bulls rank dead last in 3-pointers made and could be looking to add some shooting. Ferguson has excellent size, explosive leaping ability and range on his jump shot. As his frame fills out, he could potentially see some minutes at small forward as well.
14. Miami: PF John Collins
Ht./Wt.: 6-10/ 225
Miami has rotated power forwards in and out of their lineup all season and could be looking to find a long-term solution. Collins is one of the most prolific per-minute scorers and rebounders in college basketball, and is also one of the youngest players in the draft, giving him some upside to grow into.
15. Denver: SF/PF OG Anunoby
Ht./Wt.: 6-8/ 215
With Danilo Gallinari’s contract expiring and Wilson Chandler’s name popping up in trade rumors, the Nuggets may be looking to add depth at the forward positions. Anunoby would have no problem playing off the ball alongside Denver’s playmakers and is a capable floor spacer. He also offers tremendous defensive versatility, which is attractive for a team that really struggles on that end of the floor.
16. Detroit: SG Donovan Mitchell
Ht./Wt.: 6-3/ 210
Stan Van Gundy may be looking to add some toughness and athleticism to his backcourt. Mitchell offers both and has improved his perimeter shooting considerably this season. His defense-first mentality playing under coach Rick Pitino would suit the Pistons well.
17. Milwaukee: C Justin Patton
The Bucks don’t have a great deal of depth at center, and with Greg Monroe on an expiring contract, the team could look to add some size. Patton is a project, but has size, athleticism and lob-catching ability.
18. Indiana: PF Isaiah Hartenstein
Zalgiris Kaunas (Euroleague)
The Pacers could decide to add another skilled big man to their roster to pair with Myles Turner because they don’t have a great deal of frontcourt depth. Hartenstein is extremely mobile for a 7-footer and shows nice versatility on both ends of the floor, giving him a good framework to build.
19. Atlanta: PF Ivan Rabb
With Paul Millsap likely to enter free agency and Dwight Howard in his 13th season, the Hawks may look at their frontcourt as an area they’ll need to address. Rabb is an outstanding rebounder who can play either big-man position and will likely benefit from the spacing of the NBA game.
20. Oklahoma City: SF/PF Tyler Lydon
Ht./Wt.: 6-10/ 205
Oklahoma City has struggled to make shots consistently all season and hasn’t been getting enough out of its forwards offensively. Lydon’s high basketball IQ, shooting stroke and ability to play multiple positions could be the right fit.
21. Portland (via Memphis): SF Rodions Kurucs
Barcelona II (Spanish-LEB Gold)
With three first-round picks, the Trail Blazers may look to draft someone they can stash in Europe for a year or two. Kurucs has impressive size for a wing and a budding skill level as a shot-creator and perimeter shooter that suggests he has a great deal of upside.
22. Toronto: PF T.J. Leaf
Ht./Wt.: 6-10/ 220
With power forwards Serge Ibaka and Patrick Patterson on expiring contracts, the Raptors could find an ideal fit in Leaf, whom they can develop on a rookie-scale deal.
23. Orlando (from L.A. Clippers): SG Luke Kennard
Ht./Wt.: 6-6/ 202
Orlando ranks last in the league in 3-point percentage, which could lead it to look at Kennard, one of the best shooters in college basketball. Kennard is not just a spot-up shooter, but is also adept at making pull-up jumpers, as well as coming off screens.
24. Brooklyn (via Washington): PF Harry Giles
Ht./Wt.: 6-11/ 222
The Nets may look to take a flyer on Giles, who was once considered one of the top prospects in this class before suffering multiple knee injuries. At this stage in the draft, he could emerge as a steal if he’s able to rediscover the athleticism and intensity level that made him such a coveted prospect.
25. Utah: PF Johnathan Motley
Ht./Wt.: 6-9/ 230
The Jazz may take advantage of the depth of big men and nab a frontcourt contributor. With Derrick Favors’ contract expiring and some tough salary-cap and luxury-tax decisions ahead, Motley – who can play power forward and center – could be attractive.
26. Brooklyn (from Boston): PG Jawun Evans
Ht./Wt.: 6-1/ 177
The Nets are still in the market for a long-term solution at point guard, where Jeremy Lin is currently holding down the fort. Evans ranked as the most prolific passer in college basketball in virtually every metric and has quite a bit to offer with his pick-and-roll prowess, midrange shot-making ability and quick hands defensively.
27. Portland (from Cleveland): PF Semi Ojeleye
Ht./Wt.: 6-7/ 235
The Trail Blazers have had success using a variety of combo-forwards and may look to increase their depth at that spot with one of the most productive players available. Ojeleye is an excellent shooter who draws fouls with his strong frame and shows potential defensively as well.
28. L.A. Lakers (via Houston): C Bam Adebayo
Ht./Wt.: 6-10/ 250
The Lakers could be in the market for some more frontcourt depth. Adebayo has an NBA-ready frame and the explosiveness to be a banger and finisher inside.
29. San Antonio: PF/C Caleb Swanigan
Ht./Wt.: 6-9/ 247
The Spurs lack some depth in their frontcourt and could take one of the most productive players in college basketball. Swanigan is a tremendous rebounder who has shown the ability to score on the block and from beyond the 3-point line. If he’s able to emerge as a contributor, he could provide great value on his rookie-scale deal.
30. Utah (from Golden State): C Anzejs Pasecniks
Ht./Wt.: 7-2/ 229
Gran Canaria (Spain)
With two first-round picks and plenty of young players under contract, the Jazz may look to draft and stash a European player. Pasecniks is a few years away from being ready for the NBA, but has great height and mobility to go along with budding skill offensively.
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