It feels like it's been a while since the NBA Draft has had 3 guys atop the draft board that all are talented enough to go #1. One has separated themselves from the pack, but it's not like anyone could argue that one player is extremely far ahead of the others.
Alternating picks, myself and fellow writer LJ Nesler collaborated to do our own mock draft. We'll give explanations for the lottery picks as well as the 76ers pick and everything else will just be listed up to the second round.
Keep in mind this is what we think these teams WILL do, not what we think they SHOULD do. LJ is a Pacers/UNC fan and I am a Sixers/Duke fan but we tried our absolute hardest to be unbiased. Enjoy.
1. Orlando Magic- F Jabari Smith, Auburn(Alex)
Smith has been the favorite for #1 since the Magic were awarded the pick and it makes a lot of sense. Smith's mix of length and shooting is something that is hard to find in many players. Orlando has been building young talent over the past couple of years and Jabari will complete that young core. A lineup of Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs , Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter and Jabari Smith with Markelle Fultz/R.J. Hampton/Jonathan Issac/Terrance Ross coming off the bench is very inexperienced but not half bad. Look up in a couple of years and I could see that core being a playoff team.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder- F Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga(LJ)
With the Magic electing to not take Chet at #1, Sam Presti gets a prospect that is a more raw version of Evan Mobley from last years class. Oklahoma City has their backcourt figured out with Shai and Giddey, but they need to add versatility to their front court. Holmgren is an elite shot blocker and provides a ton of value switching onto guards.
3. Houston Rockets- F Paolo Banchero, Duke(Alex)
Now Houston gets the #1 player on my personal draft board all the way down at pick 3. Not only that, I love the fit that Banchero gets in Houston alongside two great young guards in Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. Banchero's strengths are obvious: great size, burst and footwork. Coming from someone who watched every single one of Banchero's games last season at Duke, Paolo's defense is not great but is definitely able to be hidden in the modern NBA. Look no further to his one-and-only season at Duke, where he played alongside projected lottery pick Mark Williams. Teams could go at Banchero all they wanted but Williams would always be there to protect the rim; a tactic I expect the Rockets to use depending on who is playing alongside Banchero at the time.
4. Sacramento Kings- F Keegan Murray, Iowa(LJ)
The top 3 prospects are virtually locked into the top 3, so Sacramento can really shake things up at 4. Jaden Ivey may seem like the best player on the board, but the Kings did just elect to trade a young star in Tyrese Haliburton to clear up the backcourt for De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell, who both need the ball in their hands to thrive. Keegan Murray is great playing off ball, and he is the perfect player to slot into the power forward spot next to Sabonis.
5. Detroit Pistons- G Jaden Ivey, Purdue(Alex)
Ivey is another guy I feel like I'm higher on then most, but 5 is probably around the spot he deserves to be taken. If I was selecting at 4 I would've taken him just because he was the best player available in my eyes, but I totally get the Kings going more with fit there. For Ivey, I see the comparisons to Ja Morant in terms of his burst but I'd hold off on that until we actually get to see him play on a pro basketball court. Wether he's playing as the 1 guard or an off ball guy in Detroit, he'll fit unbelievably alongside Cade Cunningham and try to bring playoff basketball back to the city.
6. Indiana Pacers- G Shaedon Sharpe, Kentucky*(LJ)
*Sharpe committed to Kentucky prior to the 2021-22 season but did not play in a single game for the Wildcats.
The Pacers would have loved the hometown kid Jaden Ivey to fall to 6, but there is still plenty of elite talent on the board. With the Pacers electing to trade away All-Star Domantas Sabonis for a young star in Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana looks to add a young potential superstar in Shaedon Sharpe. Sharpe is a wild card, but a place like Indiana with minimal distractions and a great track record of developing talent seems like one of the best fits for Sharpe.
7. Portland Trail Blazers- SF Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona(Alex)
Most non college basketball fans were introduced to Mathurin during March Madness where he had an outstanding dunk and performance against TCU in the round of 32. But Mathurin was great during the entire season for the Wildcats and is one of my favoirte wing prospects in the entire draft. Portland is desperate to surrond Damian Lillard with a team that is able to contend in the Western Conference and one glaring need right now is small forward. Mathurin can create his own jumpers or play off ball and find his shot in various ways. A core of Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Mathurin is not a bad start for a team trying to find it's way in a stacked West.
8. New Orleans Pelicans- G Dyson Daniels, G League Ignite(LJ)
New Orleans made the playoffs last season, and superstar Zion Williamson is expected to return for the Pelicans. Add that to another young superstar from Duke in Brandon Ingram and the Lehigh legend CJ McCollum, the Pelicans could be competing for a championship in the Western Conference. The Pelicans landed an All-NBA level defender last draft with small forward Herbert Jones, and they elect to stick with the “defense wins championships” motto by selecting the versatile Dyson Daniels. While some could expect the Pelicans to draft a more NBA ready player, Dyson Daniels is already an NBA level defender, as he is a 6’8” PG who can guard 1-4. If Daniels can continue to improve his shot, he has multiple All-Stars in his future.
9. San Antonio Spurs- F A.J. Griffin, Duke(Alex)
San Antonio should be happy to get Griffin at this point in the lottery but the pick doesn't go without risk. Griffin has suffered many injuries in his career already, including minor injuries throughout the season last year and a more major one in high school. A genuine concern last season was how those injuries seemed to limit his explosiveness to the rim. However, there is also a major upside to selecting the wing, which is why he probably won't fall out of the top 10. His smooth shooting stroke stood out on on the poor outside shooting of the Blue Devils last year. I've also heard some concerns about him being able to create his own shot which are entirely false- there were games last year where AJ hit takeover for Duke and was making all kinds of shots all over the court. If Griffin can reach the athleticism he had pre-injury then he could end up being a top 5 player from this class. However, that is a big if.
10. Washington Wizards- G Johnny Davis, Wisconsin(LJ)
Washington is in the running to trade for Pacers veteran point guard Malcolm Brogdon, but for this mock they’re selecting another fundamentally sound guard in Johnny Davis. Johnny Davis was playing at an elite level before the nagging injuries in the middle of last season, causing his explosiveness to drop. Davis also might just be the second or third best defender to come off board, and he can give the Wizards a young guard to pair with their elite scorer Bradley Beal.
11. New York Knicks- G Malaki Branham, Ohio State(Alex)
Frankly, this would be an incredibly risky pick for the Knicks. Branham is not exactly a flashy player and the fans would probably eat him up considering he wasn't much of a multi-tool player in college. I even have him ranked at #17 on my big board, so you are probably wondering: why in the world do you have him being taken this early? Honestly, I'm going to take the risk on the fact that he can score. He scored at a pretty impressive rate last season and can more than hold his own on the defensive end. The only long term ability the Knicks have at the guard position is Immanuel Quickley and even he showed some signs of regression this past season. Branham probably wouldn't bring the ball up the floor for the Knicks but he works as a 2 guard alongside R.J. Barrett in that somewhat stable core. The fit here really intrigues me, especially if the Knicks can get someone like Donovan Mitchell at PG.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder- F Jeremy Sochan, Baylor(LJ)
With the Thunder electing to snag Chet Holmgren earlier in the draft, they continue to build their front line with another elite defender in Jeremy Sochan. Sochan has a nice post game, but the rest of his offensive game is extremely raw. He has solid handles and a solid form for a guy his size, and he moves really nice. I expect his shot to come over time, but he will make money with his elite intensity level and skill on the defensive side. The Thunder could completely change the outlook on their defense with Holmgren and Sochan.
13. Charlotte Hornets- C Mark Williams, Duke(Alex)
I promise you that it wasn't intentional that I was able to pick all 3 Duke Players that are projected to be in the lottery. However, it works since I am probably the best suited to talk about all of them. Williams came onto the scene at the end of the 2020-21 season but he chose to come back to school and play with the stacked class that Duke had coming in. Having distributors around him helps, but the reality is that if you get the ball into Williams' hands down low not many people are going to stop him. Add the ACC DPOY onto that and you have yourselves a pretty good pick at 13. The only concern with Williams is that he can't really stretch anywhere outside the paint to make a shot, but depending on how the new Hornets coach uses him that shouldn't be an issue. Williams is a local guy and the Hornets have desperately needed an impact center for years now.
14. Cleveland Cavaliers- F Tari Eason, LSU(LJ)
Cleveland was safely in the playoffs last year but collapsed towards the end of the season. The Cavaliers have one of the best front courts in the league, with an elite young point guard in Darius Garland. If the Cavaliers want to compete in the Eastern Conference, it would be smart to add defensive versatility and size to the wing. That’s exactly what they’re doing with Tari Eason, who’s reminiscent of a young Kawhi Leonard. If Tari Eason can continue to take strides forward as an offensive playmaker, the Cavs could have just landed the steal of the draft.
15. Charlotte Hornets- F Ousmane Dieng, NZ Breakers(Alex)
16. Atlanta Hawks- C Jalen Duren, Memphis(LJ)*
*Atlanta trades Clint Capela and/or John Collins in this scenario
17. Houston Rockets- G TyTy Washington, Kentucky(Alex)
18. Chicago Bulls- C Walker Kessler, Auburn(LJ)
19. Minnesota Timberwolves- F Ochai Agbaji, Kansas(Alex)
20. San Antonio Spurs- F Nikola Jovic, Mega Mozzart(LJ)
21. Denver Nuggets- G Jalen Williams, Santa Clara(Alex)
22. Memphis Grizzlies- G MarJon Beauchamp, G League Ignite(LJ)
23. Philadelphia 76ers- F E.J. Liddell, Ohio State(Alex)
The site being called Philly Sports Today means that I need to make some comments about who the Sixers select at 23. There is a very high chance that this pick is packaged in a deal for the Sixers to acquire a veteran starter, but let's just assume for a second that Daryl Morey opts to draft a player here. This selection comes down to team need over best player available. I don't think Liddell was the best player remaining on the board in this mock but the Sixers are going to need a long term 4 as Tobias Harris is most likely on his way out sometime over the next year or so. Paul Reed has been solid, but I think at this point in his development he's more of a backup to Embiid and probably can't play alongside him. I think Liddell can play alongside the MVP-snub and is already 21 years old. Knowing Doc Rivers he probably won't play much in his rookie year but I think he could potentially be a starter in his second year. That's high praise, but I watched Liddell beat down on my Blue Devils earlier in the season and I'm not as worried about his size/shape as others.
24. Milwaukee Bucks- G Blake Wesley, Notre Dame(LJ)
25. San Antonio Spurs- G Jaden Hardy, G League Ignite(Alex)
26. Houston Rockets- F Kendall Brown, Baylor(LJ)
27. Miami Heat- G Kennedy Chandler, Tennessee(Alex)
28. Golden State Warriors- F Patrick Baldwin Jr., Milwaukee(LJ)
29. Memphis Grizzlies- F Jake LaRavia, Wake Forest(Alex)
30. Denver Nuggets- F David Roddy, Colorado State(LJ)