By Eli Yankelevich
- 1. Phoenix (21-61):
- Deandre Ayton
- Pick Explanation-Easily Ayton is the most NBA ready out of anyone in this draft class from a physical standpoint. Ayton is a 250 lb, 7’1 center with potentially more versatility than any other big-man with his ability to post-up and step outside to take a jumpshot. The Suns drastically need to change up their culture and adding someone like an Ayton can alter the prior misfortunes of the franchise. The one knock on Ayton’s game is his defensive intensity but there is nothing standing in his way in becoming a capable rim protecter since he has a 7’0 wingspan.
- Comparison: David Robinson
- 2. Memphis (22-60):
- Luka Doncic
- Pick Explanation-Executives in the Grizzlies organization have adamantly made it clear that the team has no intention of rebuilding even though the team ultimately failed last year due to injuries, and an ineffective nucleus of players. In order for Memphis to reach playoff relevancy once again the organization must not fall back on their prior draft mistakes but instead entertain the idea of Slovenian combo guard Luka Doncic. Doncic is a skilled guard that can fit into any system seamlessly. As the primary ball handler for Real Madrid he wowed scouts with his creativity, touch and overall shot mechanics. The European has the ability to play offball proving that he can coexist in a backcourt with an injury prone but still skilled Mike Conley. Noticeable shortcomings in Doncic’s development can be his athleticism, perimeter defense and durability at the next level.
- Comparison: Manu Ginobli, Toni Kukoc
- 3. Dallas (24-58):
- Marvin Bagley
- Pick Explanation-Bagley is a standout athlete but his sole reliance on his athleticism alone is not enough to guarantee him the 1st overall spot. Bagley has one of the highest ceilings in this draft class, it would be essential for a storied franchise like the Mavericks to make sure the former Blue Devil capitalizes on his insane potential. This year at Duke Bagley was an impact player who should signs of brilliance but also displayed immaturity on the defensive end. Bagley is quite raw when it comes to his shot mechanics but this can be altered with some training at the next level. As Dirk’s replacement in Rick Carlisle’s system Bagley would be ferocious running pick and rolls with Dennis Smith.
- Comparison: Chris Bosh, Anthony Davis
- 4. Atlanta (24-58):
- Michael Porter Jr.
- Pick Explanation-In the modern NBA the most coveted players are multi-positional defenders with a jumpshot. Examples of this include Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Paul George and what the Magic see in Jonathon Isaac. Travis Schlenk and the Hawks organization understand this as they currently have Taurean Prince and John Collins on their roster but the one problem Atlanta has had over the past decade is their lack of a superstar. By selecting MPJ at four they are fulfilling their need of a first option. MPJ’s injury caused him to miss the majority of his college season at Mizzou but because of a strong high school career and potential solid pre-draft workouts it could seal his fate in the top five.
- Comparison: Kevin Durant
- 5. Orlando (25-57):
- Trae Young
- Pick Explanation-Rarely do small market teams come across ticket selling prodigies. Trae Young is a prodigy when it comes to shooting the basketball. No team in the NBA is as desperate for reconstruction as the Magic are. Bad trade after bad trade have left Terrence Ross on the roster instead of Oladipo and Sabonis. The Magic have also shot themselves in the foot with the terrible contracts of Biyombo and Fournier. In a sea of chaos Young can be the savior of an utterly lost and out of control franchise.
- Comparison: Stephen Curry, Mike Bibby, Tim Hardaway
6. Chicago (27-55):
- Jaren Jackson Jr.
- Pick Explanation-The Chicago Bulls have two needs to address this draft their center and small forward positions. Although Denzel Valentine is a skilled ball-handler and adequate shooter he is more suited for a bench role. However, from the Mirotic trade at the deadline the Bulls can answer their small forward problems in the early 20’s. The Bulls must draft best available and that is Jackson Jr. from Michigan State. Jackson Jr. lead college with 3.0 blocks per game in only 21.8 minutes! There are questions about his lankiness but he has the best motor out of any big man in the draft. By selecting Jackson Jr. the Bulls can not only space the floor but also have a guy who can defend guards, forwards, and some centers. A priority for him prior to playing his first NBA game should be bulking up as that is the major road block in his game.
- Comparison: Tristan Thompson, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Chris Webber
7. Sacramento (27-55):
- Mohamed Bamba
- Pick Explanation-The Kings took a risk on the over-hyped prospect in Willie Cauley-Stein a few years ago. The current roster is filled with young talent and in this years draft they must target a true defensive anchor in order to allow Fox and Hield to develop as offensive players. This draft is filled with talented bigmen so it makes sense for Sacramento to round out their front court with Bamba. Bamba proved at Texas that he can not only guard the paint but also step out to contest the perimeter. He also showed the foundation of a jumpshot and reliable post game while playing for Shaka Smart. In today’s NBA, centers who can guard 1-5 are valuable pieces in constructing championship caliber defenses. With Bamba on the roster David Joerger can establish a young versatile core that can look to compete in a few years.
- Comparison: Clint Capela, Nerlens Noel, Rudy Gobert
8. Cleveland [VIA Brooklyn] (28-54):
- Wendell Carter
- Pick Explanation-With the potential of Trae Young off the board early it makes sense for the Cavaliers to address their issues in the front court. A pairing of Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson has not yielded the success as desired from the front office so perhaps revitalizing the center position with Carter alongside Kevin Love could contribute to more wins. The former Blue Devil displayed great touch and defensive versatility in his one year at college. His high basketball IQ will allow him to contribute immediately on the next level as he is an adequate passer for his position with potential to average three or more assists as a pro. What the Cavaliers would be adding is a bigman who can space the floor and better yet play alongside with Lebron James. And in the scenario that Lebron departs from Cleveland, the Cavs will have a young nineteen year old to develop into an all-star.
- Comparison: Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Juwan Howard
9. New York (29-53):
- Mikal Bridges
- Pick Explanation-The Villanova standout impressed fans and scouts with his athleticism, improved shot and defensive impact. Although he will be 22 years old in his first NBA season, he still has as much if not more potential than any 20 year old in any other draft class. What New York needs is a 2nd or 3rd option along with what they have in Porzingis. With Bridges they are not only fulfilling a hole at the small forward position but they are also bringing in a potential defensive anchor who can guard the 1-4 spots. Since the hiring of David Fizdale, New York is beginning their transition from mediocrity to a perennial playoff contender. Bridges can add to their already intriguing core of Porzingis, Ntilikina and Dotson.
- Comparison: Kawhi Leonard, Kent Bazemore
- 10. Philadelphia [VIA Los Angeles] (35-47):
- Zhaire Smith
- Pick Explanation-Philly already has a dynasty in the making with Simmons and Embiid. All the Sixers need to do now is to surround their blossoming talent with grade A role players. Zhaire Smith with his effort, athletic ability and defensive persona can transform the Philly defense past any other team in today’s NBA. The only problem with taking Smith so early could be him not surpassing picks after him but for what Philly needs (which is an eventual replacement for Redick) he fits that mold. Smith is a player who is very raw but with time and proper development he can become a glue guy that takes the Sixers to the next level in regards to competing for a championship.
- Comparison: JR Smith, Jonathon Simmons