The NBA Draft sneaked right up on us in this awkward offseason and is set to get underway on Wednesday night. Aside from being a condensed offseason with limited resources to scout players, this is widely considered one of the weakest draft classes in years. The board is as difficult to project as ever, starting right at the top without a consensus No. 1 overall pick.
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Without further adieu, here’s my best guess at how the first-round shakes out.
1st overall pick — Minnesota Timberwolves — LaMelo Ball (Illawarra, PG)
Anthony Edwards is the safe pick, but in the end, I think Minnesota goes for the talent. Ball and D’Angelo Russell make for a good backcourt of combo guards that can push the ball and knock down shots. Both would fare well with Karl-Anthony Towns in the pick and roll. The Wolves should draft for ceiling here.
2. Golden State Warriors — James Wiseman (Memphis, C)
If I’m the Warriors, I’m adding the best win-now piece. Wiseman will have zero pressure on him in this atmosphere and can just be a role player at a position of need. He fits well alongside the Stephen Curry/Klay Thompson/Andrew Wiggins/Draymond Green foursome.
3. Charlotte Hornets — Onyeka Okongwu (USC, PF/C)
Charlotte already has lot of backcourt pieces and has a need up front. Okongwu has been compared to Bam Adebayo as that type of do-it-all big man. He’s super versatile and talented, and shooting up draft boards.
4. Chicago Bulls — Anthony Edwards (Georgia, SG)
So there’s a 50/50 shot Edwards winds up the first pick in this draft, but if he doesn’t, his draft position gets a little murky. I think the Warriors and Hornets draft bigs, leaving an odd fall for Edwards here. The Bulls don’t mind in this scenario and get a great scoop. The same thing applies if the Wolves do go with Edwards, and the Bulls wind up snagging LaMelo at No. 4.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers — Obi Toppin (Dayton, PF)
Toppin is one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the draft, coming in as the National Player of the Year. Cleveland has a lot of young backcourt prospects, but has a clear need in the frontcourt. Toppin provides help right away and for the future.
6. Atlanta Hawks — Deni Avdija (Maccabi, G/F)
The Hawks are as likely as anyone to trade out of the top 10, making it tough to gauge what they’d be looking for here. Atlanta is pretty well set with bigs and Avdija is an enticing prospect that starts to slide in this scenario.
7. Detroit Pistons — Patrick Williams (FSU, SF)
Williams is one of the biggest pre-draft risers, and we’ve heard rumors he has a promise from Detroit at No. 7, if he’s still on the board. The Warriors and Bulls have also shown interest, but in the end, this seems like the fit.
8. New York Knicks — Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State, PG)
Haliburton is also a riser in this draft, despite breaking his wrist to end his season. He’d give the Knicks a versatile PG with size and fits well alongside R.J. Barrett.
9. Washington Wizards — Isaac Okoro (Auburn, SG/SF)
The Wizards have needs at nearly every position and draft in a spot where the talent starts to run thin. Okoro is a talented player that can play multiple positions and fits nearly anywhere offensively.
10. Phoenix Suns — Saddiq Bey (Villanova, SF)
The Suns are now set in the backcourt after acquiring Chris Paul to play alongside Devin Booker and will now look to add win-now pieces. Bey is 21 years old and a tremendous shooter that has defensive versatility.
11. San Antonio Spurs — Killian Hayes (France, PG)
Do the Spurs need a PG? No, but they are about to start a rebuild and Hayes is arguably one of the most talented players in the draft. This just feels like a Spurs pick.
12. Sacramento Kings — Devin Vassell (FSU, SG)
With De’Aaron Fox at PG and some lottery tickets still out on bigs, it feels like wings are the biggest need. Vassell is a good shooter with versatility on both sides. He and Bey are very similar prospects at this stage of the draft.
13. New Orleans Pelicans — Kira Lewis (Alabama, PG)
The Pelicans are looking to shop Jrue Holiday this offseason, so they’ll look to add some young talent at the position moving forward.
14. Boston Celtics — Precious Achiuwa (Memphis, PF)
Achiwa gives the Celtics a much needed big that can rebound the ball and lock down on defense. His versatility to defend every position on the floor is perfect for the way Boston plays.
15. Orlando Magic — Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky, PG/SG)
Orlando has plenty of bodies in the frontcourt, so it can go for an upside guard here. Maxey has a ton of scoring potential and could fit alongside Markelle Fultz or backup at PG.
16. Portland Trail Blazers — RJ Hampton (New Zealand, PG/SG)
Like the Blazers did in the past with Anfernee Simons, they can sit back and take a high-upside player that slips. Hampton was once considered a high lottery pick, so Portland can see if Hampton has any star potential.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves — Aaron Nesmith (Vanderbilt, SG/SF)
Nesmith is a nice grab for Minnesota this late in the first round. He is a similar 3-and-D prospect to Bey and Vassell, which is a need for the Wolves.
18. Dallas Mavericks — Jalen Smith (Maryland, PF)
The Mavericks were already a bit thin in the frontcourt and now will start the season without Kristaps Porzingis (knee). Smith is a high motor big that can help on the glass.
19. Brooklyn Nets — Josh Green (Arizona, SG)
The Nets are obviously pretty well set entering this season. Without needs for ball handling or bigs, just go for the best wing and move on.
20. Miami Heat — Aleksej Pokusevski (Serbia, C)
Miami may want to look for more of a win-now player, but the big from Serbia is turning heads as a very high upside prospect down the road. A well-rounded team with a deep rotation can afford this gamble.
21. Philadelphia 76ers — Desmond Bane (TCU, SG)
The Sixers likely want someone who can shoot the ball and help win now. Bane is a senior and was one of the best from distance in the country last season.
22. Denver Nuggets — Jaden McDaniels (Washington, PF)
McDaniels was once a very highly touted prospect in this class, but really struggled at Washington. As Denver has done with Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol, scoop up the talent and see what happens.
23. Utah Jazz — Cole Anthony (UNC, PG)
Anthony slides pretty deep in this draft, but Utah can use any high upside pick here. Anthony also provides a safe floor as a bench scorer if he doesn’t pan out.
24. Milwaukee Bucks — Theo Maledon (France, PG)
The Bucks, maybe to a fault, are already one of the deepest teams in the NBA. Maledon is an intriguing prospect, but Milwaukee can go any direction here.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder — Malachi Flynn (San Diego State, PG)
OKC is losing both Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder, starting up a full rebuild. PG will be a position of need, and Flynn is a very solid prospect.
26. Boston Celtics — Isaiah Stewart (Washington, C)
Maybe the C’s go for a wing at some point, but I’ll keep circling back to a position of need. Stewart offers great versatility that Boston is pretty thin on as a big.
27. New York Knicks — Vernon Carey (Duke, C)
Carey was a pretty dominant big as a freshman at Duke. He’s not going to stretch the floor, but can be used to pound the ball down low.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder — Tyrell Terry (Stanford, PG)
Another addition to the backcourt given all the losses for the Thunder. Terry brings back some of the shooting lost when they acquired this pick for Schroder.
29. Toronto Raptors — Isaiah Joe (Arkansas, SG)
Toronto adds some solid shooting, which could be needed with the offseason losses the Raptors potentially have coming.
30. Boston Celtics — Leandro Bolmaro (FC Barcelona, SG/SF)
The Celtics can’t possibly use all these picks. They have to move around some, but if it comes down to it, time to draft and stash.
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