1) Philadelphia 76ers
Pick: Ben Simmons
Analysis: Although the 76ers have a plethora of young big men, Okafor, Noel, Embiid, and Saric, they will likely draft Simmons number one overall because he is the most talented player. Simmons had a great year for the LSU Tigers and displayed talents that most big men do not possess such as a solid mid range game and incredible court vision. During his freshman year, Simmons averaged nearly 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists. If selected, the 76ers could trade one of their other young players for guards. Recently, there have been discussions about playing Simmons at point guard because of his passing ability, but that is simply ridiculous. Although I would not argue with the selection of Simmons, especially if they trade Okafor, I believe that Ingram would be a better fit for the organization due to their other areas of needs.
2) Los Angeles Lakers
Pick: Brandon Ingram
Analysis: Assuming the Lakers do not trade the pick, the Lakers have the easiest selection in the draft because they will either pick Ingram or Simmons. Ingram should be an eventual star because he is exactly the type of player teams are searching for at the power forward position. Due to the fact that teams are playing smaller and want stretch-4s, Ingram will fit into any team because he shot over 40% from three during his freshman season. The Lakers have a multitude of needs and hope that the combination of Russell and Ingram will be the foundation for their next dynasty. Although Ingram has immense talent, he needs to improve his physicality and free throw shooting ability.
3) Boston Celtics
Pick: Jamal Murray
Analysis: The Celtics were able to acquire this pick from the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Pierce and Garnett. Like the Lakers, the Celtics will look to trade their pick for an established NBA star. Murray could play well along with Thomas as they try to advance in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Celtics have one of the most exciting teams due to their extreme youth and talent. Murray is my favorite player in the draft and I believe that he will be a star. During his freshman year at Kentucky, he averaged 20 points and 5 rebounds on 45% shooting from the field and 40% shooting from three. Murray is a very good scorer and should be able to display his talents at the NBA level. Although Murray does not have great physical attributes, he has a lot of talent and is very good three point shooter.
4) Phoenix Suns
Pick: Marquese Chriss
Analysis: The Suns have two selections in the lottery, which gives them many options with both picks. The Suns have many stars in the back court so they will likely draft two big men. Chriss is not the type of forward that will stretch the floor as he only shot 35% from three. Chriss will definitely need time to develop into an effective and useful starter or rotational player. However, due to his strength, size, athleticism, and talent, he does have the potential to become a valuable player for any team. If the Suns opt for Chriss and another player later in the round, they should be able to develop with one another. They should select either a true center or a stretch-4 in order to mesh with Chriss since he has the body and strength to bang with opposing power forwards.
5) Minnesota Timberwolves
Pick: Buddy Hield
Analysis: Minnesota will be able to add another potential star and it will likely be either Buddy Hield or Kris Dunn. Although both would be great choices, Hield is the better selection because he is a more natural shooting guard and would complement Rubio, Wiggins, and Towns. During the NCAA season, Hield was the obvious best scorer and playmaker. Even more impressively, he continued his success in the tournament and led the Sooners to the Final Four. Over the course of the year, Hield averaged 25 points and 5 rebounds while shooting 50% from the field and 45% from three. Although they have young players, they have the opportunity to advance far in the playoffs with the addition of another star player. Although Hield is not Curry and will not become a generational player, he displayed greatness and a shooting ability that reminded me of Curry, especially late in games.
6) New Orleans Pelicans
Pick: Kris Dunn
Analysis: The Pelicans and Anthony Davis took a major step back this season because they failed to meet expectations and stay healthy throughout the season. Their main problem has been their inability to receive effective point guard play. Although Jrue Holiday is a very good player, he is frequently injured and has not shown the skills that he demonstrated in Philadelphia. The addition of Dunn should alleviate the pressure on Holiday and provide depth to the Pelicans’ back court. During Dunn’s four years at Providence, he significantly improved his game and became a complete player. During his senior year, he led the Friars to the tournament while averaging 16 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2.5 steals while playing very good defense. Even though Dunn is not a great three point shooter as he shot under 40% every year, he displayed an ability to score. Dunn has size and length, but has been injured throughout his college career, which should scare the Pelicans.
7) Denver Nuggets
Pick: Jaylen Brown
Analysis: The Denver Nuggets are in a rebuilding phase and could use the best player on the board due to their multiple needs. Brown would be an excellent choice for the Nuggets because he has many talents and the physical traits to excel. Although Brown did not have a great freshman season, he averaged 15 points and 5 rebounds while playing above average defense. Brown is not going to be a star the first day he steps onto the floor in Denver. Alongside Mudiay, the Nuggets will definitely not have one of the best shooting back courts, but they will be able to drive the ball to the basket and overwhelm teams with their athleticism. Luckily, he will not be expected to carry the team and they will give him time and opportunities to develop into a potential star. Due to Brown’s poor shooting numbers in college, it is unlikely that he will one day become a superstar in the NBA. However, it is probable that he could be a very useful rotational player or number four option for a championship team.
8) Sacramento Kings
Pick: Dragan Bender
Analysis: Although the Kings have individual talent such as Cousins, Gay, and Rondo, they have not meshed well together due to the organization’s poor stability. Besides the lack of continuity in the system, the Kings do not have enough quality players to compete with the other elite teams in the West. Their major flaws are their lack of a stretch-4 and a shooting guard that can make plays. Dragan Bender is the likely selection. The Kings have a desperate need for a star to play alongside their Cousins. Bender has the ability to allow the Kings to spread the floor and play 4 shooters. Bender has drawn many comparisons to Porzingis because of his size, three point shooting, and quickness. In addition, he is younger than many of the other prospects so he has more time to develop. Although Bender has the talent and potential to become a star, he has yet to show success at any level since he is currently averaging 2 points and 1 rebound in Israel.
9) Toronto Raptors
Pick: Domantas Sabonis
Analysis: The Toronto Raptors posted the second best record in the Eastern Conference, but will select in the top 10 because of their trade with the New York Knicks. The Raptors won 56 games and have few severe weaknesses. The team’s draft decision will likely be determined based upon their belief in DeMar DeRozan returning to Toronto. If DeRozan decides to re-sign, they will look for front court help alongside Valanciunas and Biyombo. Outside of Patterson, the Raptors do not have a big that can stretch the floor and Valanciunas is the only big with the potential to become a star. The addition of Sabonis should solve one or both of those issues. Sabonis hails from a great basketball family as his father was a talented player himself. During his two years at Gonzaga, Sabonis displayed an ability to score as he averaged 18 points while shooting 61% from the field and 36% from three. In addition to his scoring numbers, he gathered 12 rebounds. Sabonis will never overwhelm players with his athleticism or defensive ability, but he will help the Raptors on offense and alleviate the pressure on Lowry and DeRozan to carry the offense .
10) Milwaukee Bucks
Pick: Jakob Poeltl
Analysis: After an exciting first season with Jason Kidd, the Bucks took a step backward although they added Greg Monroe and Jabari Parker. However, the Bucks remain an extraordinary young and talented team with room for improvement. While teams are looking to play small, the Bucks are searching for big men that can play multiple positions. If a point guard drops in the draft or they opt to reach at 10, they will likely select a guard because MCW is not the answer and Antetokounmpo is not a real point guard. However, Poeltl would be a good addition because he would allow Monroe to switch to his natural power forward position. Poeltl is a legitimate center and averaged 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks while at Utah this past season. Poeltl meshes well with Monroe because he will be able to protect the rim and use his inside moves while Monroe can remain at the power forward position and shoot from outside the paint.
11) Orlando Magic
Pick: Skal Labissiere
Analysis: The Orlando Magic are a team on the rise after many years of picking in the top five of the draft. The addition of coach Frank Vogel and the development of their younger players should lead the team to a potential playoff berth. However, the team has problems especially in the front court. After trading Harris to the Detroit Pistons, the team lacks a true power forward that can rebound and shoot from the three point arc. Although Labissiere was an incredible disappointment during his freshman year at Kentucky, he was one of the best prospects in high school. Labissiere did show occasional flashes of greatness during his lone season in Lexington. The Kentucky big man has size, speed, athleticism, and explosiveness to become at least a defensive stalwart, if his offensive game does not develop. The Magic have a quality offense so they do not desperately need Labissiere to be a double digit scorer.
12) Utah Jazz
Pick: Denzel Valentine
Analysis: Like many other teams in the lottery, the Jazz have many young players and could contend in the very competitive Western Conference in the near future. The Jazz have an excellent front court with Gobert, Favors, and Hayward, but their back court is slightly lacking with Hood and Exum. The addition of Valentine should increase the Jazz’s playmaking ability because he has many talents. Although Valentine does not have one great aspect of his game, like fellow Michigan State player Draymond Green, Valentine has a high basketball IQ, can play multiple different positions, and does many different tasks well on the court. In addition, Valentine should provide the leadership that is missing from the Jazz’s lineup because of battles that he fought during his four years at Michigan State. Even if Valentine does not develop into a player like Draymond Green, Valentine should become a quality rotational player that can score and make plays from the bench.
13) Phoenix Suns
Pick: Henry Ellison
The Suns have two selections in the lottery, which should help in their rebuilding effort. It is likely that the Suns will either take Chrisse or Bender with the fourth overall selection because of their need for a stretch-four. In addition, the Suns could use another big man to pair with either player. The Suns have a wealth of young guards with Booker, Bledsoe, and Knight, but their big men are lacking. Alex Len was suppose to be the answer at center, but he has not developed and they needed to sign Tyson Chandler to a large deal even though he is well past his prime. Ellison is a true center at 6’10”, 275 pounds. Ellison should be able to defend the paint due to his size and instincts, although he does not have the best agility or athleticism. During his year at Marquette, Ellison averaged 18 and 1o and displayed an ability to battle inside with opposing big men.
14) Chicago Bulls
Pick: Malik Beasley
Analysis: For the first time since the team drafted Derrick Rose number one in the 2008 NBA Draft, the Bulls will be selecting in the lottery. The Bulls have been a model for consistency since Rose, but they have never been able to topple LeBron and make the Finals due to numerous injuries. Although the Bulls have experienced a lot of success, they have many holes and difficult decisions to make this offseason. Due to the demise of Joakim Noah and the impending free agency of Pau Gasol, the Bulls will likely lose two big men. However, their biggest problem is the rivalry between Rose and Butler. The team may need to trade one of their star players because they are very similar and their style of play does not mesh together. Even if they do not trade either of the guards, the Bulls could use another scorer that can shoot a high percentage from three. During his freshman season at Florida State, Beasley shot 47% from the field and 39% from three while scoring over 15 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. Beasley has solid size, 6’5″, which allows him to guard opposing two guards and rebound well for a guard.