Today is the day that NBA fans have been waiting for since the end of the NBA Finals: Draft Day! As it draws nearer, some players have fallen and others have risen. A consensus top three have emerged (in terms of order of selection, not actual rankings). Then, a second tier of three has emerged, although one of those three is rumored to be possibly falling (just to Golden State at 7 though). This is a first-round only mock draft and will be the only one I release this year. All mock drafts fall apart rather fast, so the most important part is having proper reasoning. Having the proper team need is a must, and getting the player in the right range is crucial. Outside of that, these are supposed to be fun, so let’s have some fun.
1. Detroit Pistons – Cade Cunningham, Guard, Oklahoma State
Cade Cunningham is not necessarily a lock for the Pistons at this point, but if they do not want to select Cunningham, the best option would be a trade down to pick up multiple assets from who they want to trade down with. Both Cleveland and Houston would be interested, so it would depend on if they want Jalen Green or Evan Mobley. As far as the fit with Cunningham on the Pistons, he is very similar to what Troy Weaver went after last year in his first draft as general manager. He is an intelligent basketball player with good vision, and also very skilled. He shot the ball well last year and will probably be a good shooter in the NBA. Cunningham lacks elite athleticism for his position, which could be a challenge for the Pistons as a team given all of their core also lacks elite athleticism. He would fit well next to Killian Hayes, as both should be able to eventually play both on and off the ball. Cunningham has issues with a loose handle and has a high turnover rate. Turnover rate typically does improve in the NBA. He also is not great defensively. Cunningham lacks the athleticism to stay in front of the more explosive guards and also is not the best off-ball, which should be a strength given his basketball intelligence. He is often out of position and sometimes even facing the wrong way. However, his offensive prowess should be proficient to make him the selection at #1 overall.
2. Houston Rockets – Jalen Green, Guard/Wing, G-League Ignite
Jalen Green has only worked out for teams with the top two picks in the NBA Draft. He is likely going to Houston unless something weird happens where Detroit falls in love with him, and in that case, a Houston and Detroit trade is likely. Green will almost certainly end up as the second overall pick. He has the potential to be an elite scorer and is the most high-upside shot-creator in the draft. If the Rockets select him, he can play off-ball early in his career and eventually develop into a better on-ball distributor without being forced into it early. He also has a quality center behind him in Christian Wood that is going to be beneficial for him defensively, which he will struggle on initially. Green possesses the athleticism to eventually be a solid defender if he puts in the work, which G-League Ignite coach Bryan Shaw believes he will.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers – Evan Mobley, Forward/Center, USC
Mobley should be in contention for the best player in the draft and would be a surefire top overall pick in most drafts. A good athlete in his own right, Mobley possesses the most sacred and sought-after ability in basketball, consistency. He needs to improve his shooting and his post defense, but the rest of his game is very solid. Mobley can play with Jarett Allen, although long-term would ideally play the five. He would give a good pick and roll partner to Garland (and possibly Sexton if he is not traded) and a good defensive big behind them given their lackluster (might be too kind) defense. Mobley will become the centerpiece of the Cavalier’s rebuild if he is drafted by them.
4. Toronto Raptors – Jalen Suggs, Guard, Gonzaga
The Toronto Raptors are going to lose Kyle Lowry this offseason, and have a need at guard. Fred VanVleet can play either spot, so the fit is not much of an issue. They could also very easily take Scottie Barnes here as well who offensively played point guard in college, but is the size of a forward, and will defend forwards, although he provides potential one through five versatility. The Raptors also have a massive need at center, so if Mobley were to fall he would be a possibility, although that seems unlikely at the moment. Suggs offers a very good defensive guard, something the Raptors have gone after in the past. Putting him on this roster puts a lot of solid players around him who can help with his development. Suggs needs to improve his shot, but outside of that, he is a very good prospect. He is unselfish and a good distributor works well within a team construct and plays intense defense. The quarterback on offense and defensive back on defense analogies are overused, but with Suggs, these fit a tee. Suggs is a player who in some years would have a legitimate case for the number one pick, and some believe him to be of that caliber in this class as well.
5. Orlando Magic – Jonathan Kuminga, Forward, G-League Ignite
The Magic front office loves nothing more than taking a chance on a raw, athletic forward with good length. That describes Jonathan Kuminga to a tee. Kuminga probably does not fall past seven, but could very well be passed by a less raw player. The Magic are not going to be good next year and can take a chance on a high upside player. He is going to need a lot of time to develop, and some have even suggested having him play in the G-League again next season. The Magic have a couple of intriguing young wings, but none have yet blossomed into superstars, and even then you can never find enough quality forwards.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder – Scottie Barnes, Forward/Guard, Florida State,
Scottie Barnes is perhaps the player best suited for defending one through five in this draft. He played point guard for the Seminoles and was successful there. He needs to develop a jump shot, although he was better in high school than he was as a freshman. If the shooting can come along, Barnes will look like a steal at 6. Oklahoma City is willing to take chances on projects, and Barnes is even less of a project than others they’ve taken on during the beginning portion of the rebuild. There is not a defined fit in Oklahoma City as they only have one surefire future starter, that being Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who can play either guard spot. Oklahoma City currently sits in a spot to select whoever falls to them, although rumors are swirling that they may not take Kuminga if it were him, and instead would select James Bouknight out of UConn, who would be a good scoring guard for them and will likely be a high-caliber sixth man for many years. They are also looking to trade up as well.
7. Golden State Warriors – James Bouknight, Guard, UConn
The Warriors are reportedly looking more towards the future with this pick unless they can flip it with 14 and perhaps James Wiseman for a veteran. Bouknight offers a good mix of both potential and immediate production, as he can come in and be a rotation level guard who will be a solid scorer and can potentially be a very effective sixth man in the future.
8. Orlando Magic – Moses Moody, Wing, Arkansas
The second of the Magic’s picks, they can look to give themselves another wing to add to their rotation along with Jonathan Kuminga.
9. Sacramento Kings – Franz Wagner, Forward, Michigan
Wagner is an analytics darling, as he mixes efficiency and high defensive turnover outputs with being a young player for a sophomore. It would be shocking if both Sacramento and Memphis pass on him.
10. Memphis Grizzlies – Corey Kispert, Wing, Gonzaga
The Grizzlies got this pick in the Jonas Valencunis for Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe trade, swapping 17 for it. Kispert provides shooting on the wing for the Grizzlies who have a desperate need for help on the wing. Expect Wagner to be their number one target, but Kispert can provide an offensive spark for them. He will struggle defensively and needs to improve on that side of the ball, but he is better than a lot of sharpshooters only coming out of college.
11. Charlotte Hornets – Davion Mitchell, Guard, Baylor
Davion Mitchell can fill in next to LaMelo Ball as they potentially lose Devonte Graham this offseason. They also have a massive hole at center that could be filled as well.
12. San Antonio Spurs – Alperen Sengun, Center, Besiktas (Turkey)
Sengun was the Turkish League MVP, an accomplishment not to be taken lightly. Sengun needs to work to develop his game to fit better in the NBA, but it is rare for someone to fail that is as accomplished as him. He needs to develop a jump shot and improve defensively. The Spurs will probably take him if he is available.
13. Indiana Pacers – Chris Duarte, Guard, Oregon
Duarte provides a ton of year one value to whoever drafts him, but lacks high end upside given that he is 24. The Pacers get a ready-made contributor to help them make a playoff push.
14. Golden State Warriors – Josh Giddey, Guard/Wing, Adelaide 36ers (Australia)
Giddey provides good passing in a big body. If he can develop either a shot or defense he can be an impactful player. The Warriors are one of the best teams to get those traits out of a player.