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NBA Mock Draft (Picks 1-14): End of Regular Season Edition

USC's Evan Mobley

  With the NBA regular season recently concluding on May 16th, fourteen NBA teams will be watching the NBA Playoffs from home. The next event these teams will be looking forward to is the NBA Draft Lottery which will take place on June 22nd in order to finalize the draft order. The NBA Draft itself will take place on July 29th and is scheduled to be back in-person at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

  1. Houston Rockets select: Cade Cunningham, 6’8” 220 lbs Point Guard, Oklahoma State

     Analysis: As the team that finished with the worst record in the entire league, the Houston Rockets’ strategy should be to select the best player available and figure the rest out. Although the Rockets currently have John Wall as their point guard, he’s 30 years old and doesn’t seem to be a part of the team’s future. With a few years of development in areas such as avoiding turnovers and making better overall decisions, Cunningham along with Kevin Porter Jr. could become one of the best backcourts in the NBA.

  1. Detroit Pistons select: Evan Mobley, 7’0” 215 lbs Center, USC

     Analysis: Although the Pistons have a couple of serviceable centers in Mason Plumlee and Isaiah Stewart, there’s no way they pass up on a player that’s as talented as Evan Mobley. Perhaps Mobley could share the court with Plumlee or Stewart. He would also start a young core alongside their point guard Killian Hayes and would give him a lob target. At the moment, Mobley is a tweener between the 4 and 5 spots. He’s not quick enough to guard smaller 4s but doesn’t possess the toughness to guard NBA 5s as of yet. Overall, if Mobley develops into the franchise big man that many scouts believe he can become, the Pistons will be glad they drafted him but time will tell.

  1. Orlando Magic select: Jonathan Kuminga, 6’8” 220 lbs Wing, G-League 

     Analysis: Jalen Suggs is a tempting pick at 3 but the Magic have a logjam at guard and they’re all tweeners between the 1 and the 2 (Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, and R.J. Hampton). Therefore, Kuminga makes more sense and he fits the direction of the Magic. During his time in the G-League bubble, Kuminga has flashed the abilities to score, handle, and set up his teammates for easy baskets. However, his feel for the game isn’t there yet. He could improve on becoming a more efficient scorer as well as showing more effort defensively.  If Kuminga applies himself on the defensive end at the next level, he and Jonathan Isaac could potentially cause problems along with Wendell Carter and perhaps Mohamed Bamba as their big men. At the moment, Kuminga is only 18 years old and is just scratching the surface on what he can eventually become.

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder select: Jalen Suggs, 6’4” 205 lbs Combo Guard, Gonzaga 

     Analysis: The Oklahoma City Thunder are in a situation where their best strategy is to draft the best available prospect and figure the rest out. In this case, Jalen Suggs falls right into the lap of the Oklahoma City Thunder. This pick would give the Thunder an interchangeable backcourt of Suggs along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is also a combo guard. Although the Orlando Magic are in a similar situation it’s different because the Magic have Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, and R.J. Hampton and they don’t know who their guy is going to be as of yet. For Oklahoma City, there’s more clarity on who their guy is and they’re not as talented in the backcourt as Orlando. Ideally, Suggs would play the 1 and Gilgeous-Alexander would slide over to the 2 which would cater more to his strengths which is to score the basketball in this scenario.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Scottie Barnes, 6’9” 227 lbs Point Forward, Florida State

     Analysis: Although the Cleveland Cavaliers just drafted Isaac Okoro with the 5th overall selection in last year’s draft, adding another versatile wing to your lineup never hurts. Scottie Barnes as a point forward would create an interesting dynamic as a tertiary ball-handler with Darius Garland and Collin Sexton who are both undersized score-first guards. The main concern about Barnes is about his long term role in the NBA. It will all depend on the development of his outside shooting ability.

  1. Golden State Warriors (via Minnesota Timberwolves) select: Davion Mitchell, 6’2” 205 lbs Combo Guard, Baylor

Analysis: If the Warriors decide not to trade their two first round picks for a star, it is ideal that they draft players who are ready to play under the bright lights right now, especially if the Warriors dynasty wants to get back on their feet. Davion Mitchell certainly fits that description based on his performance at Baylor. In this scenario,  Mitchell is a combo guard who can space the floor, defend, as well as give the Warriors the secondary playmaker they lacked this past season.

  1. Toronto Raptors select: Jalen Green, 6’6” 186 lbs Shooting Guard, G-League

      Analysis: If Jalen Green were to somehow slip this far in the draft, this selection would be an absolute steal. Either way you slice it, Fred VanVleet is going to need a backcourt mate with the upcoming free agency of Kyle Lowry and Gary Trent Jr. The good thing about VanVleet is that he’s capable of playing either guard spot so whether or not the Raptors draft a point guard or shooting guard won’t hurt him. The reason I had Green slipping this far was that neither Cleveland nor Golden State would fit despite him being the most talented player left on the board. It’s not always about when you get picked, it’s about the organization that picks you. As far as what Green would give to the Toronto Raptors, his skill set compares favorably to that of Zach LaVine’s. Green is a world-class athlete who can score from all three levels. However, he’ll need to improve on the mental aspect of his game which is the difference between him becoming an irrational confidence player versus a star at the next level.

  1. Orlando Magic select (via Chicago Bulls): Franz Wagner, 6’9” 220 lbs Wing, Michigan

     Analysis: Now that the Magic have selected Kuminga and Wagner (hypothetically), they’re redundant across all positions which can be a good problem to have for a young team that is trying to figure out their direction. Wagner is a versatile wing that can score from all three levels and shows some promise on the defensive end. The challenge for the Magic will be figuring out who they will be moving forward with as their core for the future

  1. Sacramento Kings select: Keon Johnson, 6’5” 186 lbs Wing, Tennessee 

     Analysis: The Sacramento Kings have lacked at the wing for years and especially on the defensive end.   Keon Johnson is arguably the best athlete in the entire draft and has the most upside left on the board up to this point. Not only that, he uses that athleticism to his advantage, particularly on the defensive end and he was a regular on the SportsCenter top 10. However, Johnson will have to improve his three point shooting if he wants to have a long career in the NBA.

  1. New Orleans Pelicans select: Corey Kispert, 6’7” 220 lbs Stretch Wing, Gonzaga

       Analysis: Last offseason, the New Orleans Pelicans made the mistake of not addressing the need for three point shooting. Even worse, they traded two of their best shooters in J.J. Redick and Nicolo Melli to the Dallas Mavericks for James Johnson and Wesley Iwundu, who aren’t known as three point shooters.  Passing up on Corey Kispert who is the best pure shooter in the draft would be a head scratcher for the Pelicans.

  1. Charlotte Hornets select: Jalen Johnson, 6’9 220 lbs Wing, Duke

Analysis: Going into the season, Jalen Johnson seemed like a slam dunk as a top five selection in this year’s draft. However, a combination of injuries, inconsistent play and his decision to opt out of the season early have caused his stock to drop. Although the Charlotte Hornets have a logjam at the wing, you can never have enough versatile wings in today’s NBA. Johnson has the potential to become one of those players that has a better professional career than college career.

  1. San Antonio Spurs select: Kai Jones, 6’11 218 lbs Stretch Big, Texas

    Analysis: The San Antonio Spurs have a logjam at the guard and wing positions. However, they could use some help at the 4 or 5 positions, after the departure and retirement of LaMarcus Aldridge. Therefore, Kai Jones makes the most sense in this scenario. At this stage, Jones is considered a project. Luckily for him, Jones fits the direction that the Spurs seem to be headed which is going young. The Spurs are usually known for making the safe pick but this one would be a swing for the fences. Fans will have to wait a few years on Jones’ development in order to see the full extent of his potential but time will tell.

  1. Indiana Pacers select: Josh Giddey, 6’8” 190 lbs Point Guard, Australia

      Analysis: Although Josh Giddey is only 18 years old, he has the experience of playing against grown men in the NBL which could prepare him to play for a team like the Indiana Pacers who could perhaps make it back to the playoffs next season. T.J. McConnell’s contract is set to expire, so the Indiana Pacers should look for a backup ball handler to replace him. Giddey has a long way to go in his development but his experience playing against grown men, although brief, shouldn’t be something scouts take for granted.

  1. Golden State Warriors select: Chris Duarte, 6’6” 190 lbs Wing, Oregon

      Analysis: Chris Duarte may seem like a reach at 14. However, as I mentioned with the Davion Mitchell selection, the Warriors want players who are ready to perform under the bright lights right now and do what is asked of them. As an older prospect, Duarte is ready for that. His role will be as a 3 and D guy who the analytics guys are going to love.

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