Welcome Back, Violators.
Now some of you should know how things usually go around here. I'm not a big fan of doing a large number of installments when it comes to Mock Drafts. Yes, I know they are popular in the draft fanatic world, but I personally like to wait till this time of the year to get a couple of editions out there. With the NBA Draft rapidly approaching, this is usually a popular weekend in which things seem to "cool down" a little. Then next week...the flood gates of hell will open up. There's going to be a massive amount of smoke leaking next week, most likely starting on Monday. Be careful with all of the information that you hear. and make sure you take it all with a grain of salt. But also make sure that you analyze each of the rumors that will come out. Do they make sense, why would this team or both teams do that, etc.
Now, this mock is going to be a little different compared to what I usually do. Last year, my final two mock draft installments were a "What would I do" edition followed up by a "What I'm Hearing." This specific one you'll read below is going to be one I had some fun with, BUT there are also some specific picks that you might want to pay close attention to the ANALYSIS. As is tradition around here, Thursday morning will be the BUZZ MOCK, which will feature every possible amount of intel I can feed you about what I'm hearing. Last year we had some juicy tips and I'll hope for some more chaos this year.
Let's Get Started
"Let's not blow this out of proportion"- The Joker.
ANALYSIS: But seriously, this shouldn't be a surprise and I've been saying on our Podcast that everyone was going to spend this month trying to stir up a story that's most likely not even there. Yes, I'm not surprised that the Detroit Pistons might have thrown some buzz out there that they liked Jalen Green a lot. That's what a smart Front Office should do in case the Houston Rockets all of a sudden offered the Pistons 10 first-round draft picks. It wouldn't surprise me if the Pistons really do like Jalen Green, but at the end of the day, I bet they like Cade Cunningham a lot more and have laughed about the idea of trying to pass on his talent. Cunningham should be the pick and it will move the franchise direction in the hurry. After a strong 2020 class of Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, and Killian Hayes, the Pistons are quickly back on the right track after adding Cunningham.
ANALYSIS: Personally, I think that the Houston Rockets should take a SERIOUS look at USC big man Evan Mobley here. While that's probably the direction I would lean, I understand the hype and excitement when it comes to the superstar upside that Jalen Green has. The rumblings have been growing for Green here at 2, and it seems like there's some serious momentum towards him being the selection here. Green is still developing his game on both sides of the ball but the tools he already has are special. With a reportedly strong worth ethic and hunger to be a great player at the next level, the athletic wing would be a fun piece for the Rockets to build with.
ANALYSIS: I still believe that this would be an absolute win for the Cleveland Cavaliers organization and their fans. I expect they will give big man Jarrett Allen a qualifying offer and we will eventually see what happens with the Collin Sexton rumors that have been floating around as of late. This would seem to be the best win possible for the Cavaliers. They get a potential franchise cornerstone type of big man with the potential to be a dominant presence on both sides of the floor. The Cavaliers could easily wait to see what happens on draft night before they make decisions on what to do with the surrounding pieces. If they were to draft Mobley here, they could easily try to make the Allen/Mobley duo work, or they could look to see if a team tries to get Allen potentially as an RFA or via a sign-and-trade. At the end of the day, Mobley gives the Cavaliers an exciting young big to groom with their young guards. For the sake of enjoyment, please just allow us to get Mobley pick-and-roll mania with SEXLAND.
ANALYSIS: I have had this crazy feeling of Scottie Barnes being the pick here for weeks now and it basically wakes me up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. So I'll just leave you with that thought. That being said, this might be my favorite possible fit in the Top 5. We all know what the story is with Kyle Lowry, who is set to become a free agent this offseason. Although Lowry enjoyed himself a heck of a career with the Raptors, it seems as if it's time for both sides to part ways. What better option to replace Lowry than a feisty guard with good size who has explosive athleticism. Gonzaga freshman Jalen Suggs is the real deal and I'm a bit surprised he hasn't gotten more love throughout the draft community. Rumblings say that there are a lot more fans in Jalen Suggs around the NBA than you might expect, especially when it comes to teams picking early in this class. So yes, I would think that Toronto would be extremely thrilled to add Suggs to their roster. He fits too well with a lot of the pieces that are already there and this should be a good match from the start.
ANALYSIS: While I do believe this is the area in which the Jonathan Kuminga conversation starts to begin, I still think that Florida State forward Scottie Barnes gets the nod here. While there will be plenty out there that will point out the obvious when it comes to the struggles as a shooter, the rest of the tools are INSANE. I'm a massive believer that Barnes has the potential to turn into a player who has himself a successful career for a long time in this league. He's a versatile weapon on both sides of the ball. If you go back and look, he's been a winner at every level he's played at. Barnes stands out with his feel for the game on both sides of the floor. Pairing Barnes with a healthy Jonathan Isaac, as well as the talented crop of young talent the Magic have in their backcourt, will have the Magic back on the right path. This is a good start and Orlando Magic fans should be rooting for this match.
YES I'M BUYING INTO THE SMOKE FOLKS.
ANALYSIS: This is where the draft could theoretically "begin." I know that some might say it will above, but I do believe this is where things can get a little crazy on draft night. How fitting, that Sam Presti can be the conductor of chaos for our viewing pleasure. There have been rumblings that OKC is intrigued by UConn guard James Bouknight here and it doesn't come as much of a surprise to me. Let's just try to visualize a backcourt featuring SGA and Bouknight...oh my goodness that's some shifty fun that we should all root for. Bouknight was asked to carry the load for UConn last year on the offensive side of the ball but he's got the potential to become a dangerous player at the NBA level. He plays the game with good awareness and he can shock you with the amount of athleticism he has in his game. There are tools that need to be developed, especially when it comes to his defensive consistency, but Bouknight is worth a top 10 selection no doubt. If OKC doesn't go Bouknight, then I think Kuminga has a real shot here...but I could see OKC trying to find their backcourt duo of the future with Bouknight and Shai.
ANALYSIS: CURVEBALL CITY. Yes, I know what most of you are thinking when you read this at first..."But the Warriors need early contributors!" Yes, that is true, but allow me a second to throw some knowledge at you. Golden State will be in a position here that they are "hoping" they aren't going to be in again for a long time. If Golden State does end up keeping both of their selections during this draft, I would think they would try to swing for a little more upside here at 7. If the Dubs do that, they can then target a potential "early contributor" with their second lottery pick. Kuminga is just too enticing of a player to pass up here. Yes, I'm a little higher on Kuminga than some. He's one of the youngest players in this class, had himself a small sample size at the G-League Bubble, etc. But this kid has the tools to become a dangerous two-way player down the road. Golden State would give Kuminga a pretty promising environment to develop his game. Imagina Kuminga dealing with the Warriors roster in practice on daily basis. You're talking about adding talents like James Wiseman (stop with the Rumors) and Kuminga in consecutive years. If those pieces both click...GOOD LORD. For what it's worth...the feedback I've heard about Kuminga has been very strong...take it for what it's worth.
LET'S GET WEIRD.
ANALYSIS: ALL ABOARD THE SENGUN EXPRESS. Yes, I'm getting a little crazy here for the Orlando Magic. After trading Nikola Vucevic for this selection, why not get crazy and replace him with another young talented international big? On a serious note, I actually am warming up to this match in a hurry. There are going to be teams in this draft that are simply All-in on Alperen Sengun or they will have him much lower on their boards. He's going to be one of the more debated prospects in this class. Still, Sengun is one of the more skilled young big man prospects to come out in a long time. He plays the game with an exceptional combination of awareness, anticipation, and feel. The footwork and ability to do the small things at a high level also make him a special prospect. Orlando should just take Sengun here and let him thrive on offense. Barnes and Isaac would take care of plenty on the defensive side of the ball. Introduce some anarchy Magic fans.
JUST GIVE ME A SECOND TO EXPLAIN KINGS FANS.
ANALYSIS: Okay, now before I get the whole city of Sacramento searching for my address, there are some things we need to talk about. This has been a connection that has been heating up in a hurry this week. I usually take everything with extreme caution around this time of the year, but multiple times I got the "Rumored Promise at 9 with Franz" text...so there's obviously some smoke that's heating up in a hurry out there. Personally, I would think that the Kings will take a long look at Arkansas wing Moses Moody, Duke forward Jalen Johnson, and potentially even Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert here. If the Franz Wagner buzz turns out to be true, this is an interesting fit for a number of reasons. Wagner won't be the sexiest pick in terms of offensive upside, but he's a versatile forward who can do some great things on both sides of the ball. The Kings need to continue to add some solid pieces to get them back on the right path towards becoming a playoff team again. Wagner is a piece that can help them take steps towards that goal, and he does make some sense here in terms of fit.
ANALYSIS: Still think that Corey Kispert will be in the discussion here, but I do like the Josh Giddey fit a lot. With Lonzo Ball expecting to become a free agent this offseason, it seems like it would be a smart decision to add a younger player in the same mold that could eventually have more offensive upside. Giddey has a great combination of size and playmaking ability and there's a lot to his game that is just starting to scratch the surface. While there have been rumblings that New Orleans could trade this pick for a veteran, I believe that every team in the first round would like to trade their pick for a veteran to help them right away.
ANALYSIS: It's always interesting to see what Mitch Kupchak does in the draft, so I'll be a bit intrigued with the direction they go here. While many think that this could be a big man like Texas big Kai Jones or Kentucky's Isaiah Jackson, I'm going to get a little crazy here. How about the Hornets draft themselves a sharpshooting wing with some scary offensive upside? Maybe even give LaMelo Ball a long term running mate? Moses Moody has the tools and upside to be a strong scoring asset in the league. He'd be a fun 3-and-D prospect for this Hornets team and would give them another exciting piece to add to the puzzle. I can 100% see the Hornets going with a big man here, or even another type of outside shooter, but I think the upside Moody has on both sides of the ball should be too intriguing to pass on.
ANALYSIS: The annual tradition of not knowing the direction the Spurs will go with their pick and being convinced this pick will become a star has begun. While plenty of others have projected this to be a popular spot for Duke forward Jalen Johnson to end up, I don't want to be them. I want to get weird. What if the Spurs just say screw it...Garuba Mania! San Antonio will find itself in a good spot to add a heck of a piece in this class. Garuba will need some time to let his offensive game come around, but he's the type of defensive presence that doesn't come around often. It would be scary to think of the possibilities with his upside if he ended up with the right developmental staff. This could be a fun match.
ANALYSIS: It would not surprise me if Davion Mitchell goes anywhere at this point. While plenty will have him positioned in the Top 10, let's say for right now that he goes a little bit later. Although it wouldn't surprise me if the Spurs would take a player like Davion a pick earlier, I do like the idea of Mitchell landing with the Pacers. Mitchell plays like a possessed demon on the defensive side of the ball, using his fantastic lower body quickness and lateral movement to wreak havoc. His game offensively took some big strides last year and he'd be a fun player to add to this Pacers roster.
ANALYSIS: I've been wanting this marriage to basically happen since before the college basketball season started and it would seem like it's too obvious to not happen. Continuing off of what I talked about with Golden State's previous selection at 7th overall, this is where they should be looking more towards a "safer" selection. The Dubs will want to find a player here that can come in a make an early contribution. They want to make some noise next year and they are hoping they get a healthy Klay Thompson back. Kispert is a much better player than some might think and he's more than just a lethal shooter. If Kipsert is off of the board here, don't be surprised if Golden State takes a hard look at some names such as Virginia's Trey Murphy III, Oregon's Chris Duarte, and even Baylor's Jared Butler.
ANALYSIS: Washington will find itself in a position to potentially add the best remaining player on their board. Let's get a little creative with this one though. While there seems to be a wide range around the league when it comes to Tennessee wing Keon Johnson, I think there's going to be a point in the draft in which you have to jump all over the upside. This would be a fantastic get for the Wizards and their fans. Johnson is an absolute freak of nature when it comes to his combination of athleticism and explosiveness. He's got the potential to be an absolute lockdown defender at the next level and he plays the game with a SERIOUS motor. GM Tommy Sheppard should just keep wanting to add as many intriguing pieces to the puzzle as he can. Johnson can come in early and make an impact with his defense and effort. This also gives him some time to let his offensive game develop. Duke forward Jalen Johnson could be a wildcard here.
ANALYSIS: With the OKC Thunder having themselves three selections in the first round of this draft (and most likely every draft until the year 2080), they have the opportunity to have some fun. I do think there's a serious chance that Jalen Johnson is on the board here when the Thunder pick. He's a name that people keep buzzing about slipping, and at some point...some team is going to have to jump at the talent. Why not the Thunder? OKC should be in a position to just add as many "golden tickets" as they can get their hands on. If OKC landed James Bouknight and Jalen Johnson after their first two picks...it'd be a heck of a haul. Johnson has a great combination of size and playmaking ability and could potentially thrive in a position in which he doesn't have to be the go-to option. His outside shooting and the rest of his game needs some work, but he's got the makings of a transition monster with a great feel for the game.
ANALYSIS: I love everything about this fit, but there are also about 10 other directions the Memphis Grizzlies could go here that I would like a lot. Virginia wing Trey Murphy III has been one of the hottest names throughout the pre-draft process. He's a lengthy wing with the potential to become an absolute menace as a 3-and-D prospect. The rest of his offensive creativity will need time to come around, but he could thrive immediately with the right team. Memphis has done a great job lately in the draft, and this could be another strong selection.
ANALYSIS: Why not another upside pick for the Thunder? Kentucky freshman Isaiah Jackson made some noise with his play during the second half of the season for the Wildcats. He's still a raw product when it comes to his offensive versatility, but there's plenty of tools to work with already. Jackson can make a serious impact on the boards and he's got a great combination of athleticism and explosiveness. He runs the floor like a deer in transition and can get up in a hurry. With OKC, Jackson can make an impact early with his defensive presence and athleticism. Once the rest of his offensive game comes around, he's got the potential to be a good one in this league.
ANALYSIS: Yes Knicks fans, you should be more than familiar with Chris Duarte at this point. There are going to be plenty of rumblings about the New York Knicks trying to package 19 and 21 to move up into the late lottery. The problem is who will be willing to bite and move down to 19? Could the Knicks potentially get the Warriors to come down for both picks? Now I'm not reporting anything here (you should know better), I'm just speculating. New York needs to add offense in this draft. 19 would be a great spot to get a serious burst of scoring in some capacity. Duarte has the intangibles and scoring ability from all over the floor that should be a welcomed addition. He's been the hottest name throughout the pre-draft process and it's for good reason...the kid can play. The age (24) will be the negative everyone runs to immediately...but the Knicks need guys who can fill up the scoring column and play efficient basketball. Duarte can be a great piece.
LET'S GIVE ATLANTA SOME MORE FIREPOWER SHALL WE?
ANALYSIS: This is a prospect I would not be surprised if he goes MUCH earlier than this, but for now...I'll have Thomas positioned here to the Hawks. I love the fit. A team with an explosive offense and intriguing surrounding young talent can go in a variety of directions with this pick. Although I understand that the Hawks could be a team that looks at adding potential bigs here, I do like the idea of adding a talent that could turn into a dynamic weapon in the entire NBA. Cameron Thomas was one of the most explosive guards in College Basketball last year. If Thomas can become a more efficient scorer, he's got the creativity and shot-making ability to become a terror for opposing defenses. This would be a pick that is worth the upside, no question.
ANALYSIS: How about I get a little bit weird here for Knicks fans. While this is a popular area in which New York might have added a point guard like Florida's Tre Mann or Auburn playmaker Sharife Cooper, I am intrigued about the idea of them going in another direction. Jared Butler recently just received clearance from the NBA after dealing with a previous health concern. It's awesome news because Butler has the talent and ability to be a serious asset for his next NBA team. He's not going to wow you when it comes to his size and length, but Butler just is an absolute joy to watch as a basketball player. His game keeps taking steps forward and he's a crafty ballhandler who can get through traffic in a hurry. A potential asset as a two-way player, Butler would be a fan favorite in New York in a hurry.
ANALYSIS: The rumblings as of late have been that there's a promise of Oregon wing Chris Duarte is on the board here. Unfortunately for Lakers fans, I think Duarte is too hot of a name in draft circles as of now, so I doubt if he will still be on the board. Tre Mann is another name that has been generating some buzz here. It's an intriguing fit, Mann still has plenty of upside when it comes to his game, and he's got the ability to stretch the floor from serious NBA range. Mann reportedly gained two inches and gained 15 pounds from his freshman year to sophomore year, so there's still some fun potential when it comes to his game. I'm a bigger fan than others might be when it comes to his offensive weaponry and potential to only get better. This would seem like a great spot for him and it has the upside to be great value down the road.
ANALYSIS: Houston is going to be another team with multiple picks in the first round, and they have back-to-back selections here. I would imagine that Houston goes with the star upside at 2 followed by some intriguing smart selections here that have the potential to become something special. Texas big man Kai Jones will be an absolute wildcard on draft night. If you watch Kai Jones highlights alone, you think he's a top 3 selection in this draft. The problem is that he's still incredibly raw and needs to become a way more consistent option. Still, at some point in this draft, an organization is going to be all-in on the terrifying upside he has to his game. Houston would be a great spot for Kai because the Rockets can stress patience in developing their athletic big man. Jones runs the floor like a 6'6" shooting guard that is looking to go between the legs on a transition dunk. He's scary athletic but he's going to need some serious time.
ANALYSIS: Another player I could easily see go much earlier in this draft if a team falls in love with the game, but I do believe that Cooper will more likely come off of the board towards the second half of the first round. After missing the first couple of games of the NCAA season while dealing with ineligibility issues, Cooper exploded onto the scene for the Tigers with his rare combination of playmaking ability and vision. If his outside shot can come around (it's looked better during pre-draft workouts), then he has the upside to become a potential steal in this draft. He's a bit undersized and his defense will need some consistency, but Cooper plays much bigger than his size especially when he's on the attack.
ANALYSIS: The Clippers will be in spot to add an intriguing piece. Personally, I think there's going to be some really good value for teams picking in the 20-40 range to jump all over. This could be one of those situations with the selection of Tennessee guard Jaden Springer. The 6'4" guard is a bulldog of a presence on the defensive side of the floor. If he can land with the right team that makes the game simple for him early on as the rest of his offense comes around...then he could be a heck of a pick. Rumors have been floating that Springer spent most of last year playing with a banged-up ankle, and he's been drastically more explosive in pre-draft workouts. If that's the case, and Springer has impressed with his workouts, then he could be off the board much earlier than this.
WE WANT MORE FIREPOWER
ANALYSIS: I think that Denver can go in a number of different directions here at 26, but I wanted to get a wild. What if the Nuggets just decide to add another dangerous bucket getter to pair with its roster? Yes, the shot selection for Arizona State guard Josh Christopher was a bit all over the place last year. But, I'm not convinced that's going to be a concern down the road, as it could have simply been the result of where he was playing. The Nuggets could add a dangerous offensive weapon like Christopher to their team and allow his role to be simplified early on. Denver will find themselves in a position to either draft a development project with some high upside or they could look to swing for the fences and add an early contributor with dangerous upside. Let's get dangerous.
ANALYSIS: Brooklyn will be in a position to let the board fall to them on draft night, which is usually a great spot to be in. While they could easily go in a number of different directions here, I think there's going to be an argument to add a developmental piece as well. Stanford wing Ziaire Williams had a bit of a roller coaster freshman year for the Cardinals, but he's still got some scary upside to his game. He's becoming another prospect that could go earlier in this draft and it wouldn't surprise me. Still, this would be a great potential value for the Nets, as they get a player with strong potential to be a dynamic threat and they get him towards the end of the first.
ANALYSIS: BONES. Philadelphia will need to continue to add some more pieces to the puzzle, especially if they decide to move on from Ben Simmons this offseason...but let's not go down that rabbit hole just yet. Let's keep rolling with the idea of getting some more shooting for this team. Nah'Shon "Bones" Hyland has been a name on the rise throughout the pre-draft process after his performance at the NBA Draft Combine. When you watch Bones on tape, you find yourself in awe of how deep he can pull up and hit three's consistently from. He's a bit undersized for an off-guard, but he makes up for it with a near 6'9" wingspan. A slithery ballhandler with the ability to light it up in a hurry, he'd be a fun piece next to last year's rookie Tyrese Maxey.
ANALYSIS: I can't get the idea of Joshua Primo and the Phoenix Suns not being a perfect marriage here. Primo surprised NBA scouts when he announced he would keep his name in Draft. It's not for a bad reason, just most expected that Primo would return to Alabama for his sophomore year and put up some massive numbers. He's one of the youngest players in this draft and his statistics won't wow you, but he can shoot the crap out of the ball. There's serious upside here with Primo and he could be a great addition for a rotation early on as he continues to develop. There's also a number of names I'm intrigued by here for the Suns including West Virginia's Miles McBride, Houston's Quentin Grimes, or how about a wildcard of Western Kentucky big man Charles Bassey? (Yes, I know they just took Jalen Smith)
ANALYSIS: I have a weakness for Villanova's Jeremiah Robinson-Earl as a draft prospect. I'll admit it. He's going to be a name that the moment Adam Silver calls his name out, plenty of draft evaluators and fanatics are all going to say the same thing at the same time..."Oh, GREAT Pick." He won't wow you with his numbers on a nightly basis, but Jeremiah Robinson-Earl will flat out make your team better in a hurry. He's the type of player who ends up playing 10+ years in the NBA and someone that you need on the floor at the end of games. There's intriguing potential for him to become an asset on both sides of the floor, and he's a much better shooter from outside than his numbers from last year might suggest. Someone is going to get a heck of a talent.