For the second year in a row, Marc and Matt are e-mailing back and forth through a Mock Draft. Last year's iteration had almost no resemblance to the actual draft, and Marc took Christian Wood in the lottery. This year's promises to be just as ridiculous and lacking in perspective. Strap yourselves in, because it's bound to be an adventure!
1. Philadelphia 76ers - Ben Simmons, PF, LSU
Thousands of words have been written here and elsewhere about Ben Simmons, and after a stretch where Sixers-land was pretty split between Simmons and Brandon Ingram, most of the fanbase seems to have hopped on board with Simmons, with good reason. Despite the questions about his work ethic and his teammates, Simmons's numbers were on another level from the rest of the pack. A player with Simmons's size, quickness, court vision, and ability to get to the rim and finish does not come around often. He is the franchise player the process was designed to acquire. As Ben Simmons goes, so goes the Sixers franchise for the next decade. Let's get nuts.
Let’s do this!
2. Los Angeles Lakers - Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke
Believe it or not, I’m actually starting to believe Dragan Bender should be in consideration for the second pick in the draft. I just feel that he has a pretty high floor on both ends of the floor, and that he’ll be a unique and important player in the league for the next decade. Still, Ingram is the choice here, as he should be. His shooting, physical tools, and natural hoops acumen give him All-Star potential, and it’s easy seen how he’ll fit in at the next level without forcing teams to contort themselves to fit him into the lineup.
Ingram to me remains an absolute no-brainer for the Lakers and if they pass on him, Danny Ainge will run to the podium to select him, despite the fact that he's probably in Boston.
3. Boston Celtics - J̶a̶h̶l̶i̶l̶ ̶O̶k̶a̶f̶o̶r̶,̶ ̶C̶,̶ ̶D̶u̶k̶e̶ Dragan Bender, PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv
The Celtics have leaked their interest in pretty much every prospect on the board, I think I saw a rumor that they were considering Jaylen Bond here at one point, but I love Bender here and I'm surprised it hasn't gotten much traction. This is the perfect landing spot for Bender, a place where he won't be counted on to make a massive immediate impact and can slowly be integrated into the NBA game. I'm the president of the Jamal Murray fan club, and if he's the pick here, I can't really blame the Celtics, but Bender's upside and uniqueness would make him an easy pick for me if I'm the Celtics. That said, if the Celtics would just like to send this pick down to Philadelphia, that'd be great too. In that case, I would pick Murray.
4. Phoenix Suns - Timothe Luwawu, SF, Mega Leks
Oh boy. Geez. I… um… I really don’t know what the Suns should do here with Bender off the board. I don’t see Murray, Hield, or Brown being worth a pick this high in the draft, but I don’t know where else the Suns would turn. Chriss is one of those guys that I see as far more probable to flop than to pan out, and I would let someone else be the team to actually find out. So here’s a lukewarm endorsement of Timothe Luwawu, replete with disclaimers about not having scouted him extensively, and a reticence toward his actual defensive ability. But… uh… at least the Suns get another crack at this thing in the late lottery?
That top three is the nightmare scenario for the Suns. I think if that goes down, that pick is in play for Okafor, I really do. At that point, trading the pick for Okafor is a far better scenario than anything that remains on the board.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves - Jamal Murray, PG/SG, Kentucky
This is another fit that isn't getting much play that I really like. A lot of Murray's weaknesses coincide with Ricky Rubio's strengths, especially on the defensive end. You could cross-match the two, using Rubio to guard bigger guards and hiding Murray, who is probably a below-average defender at this point, on smaller or weaker guards. Offensively, however, Murray is a perfect complement, a spot-up shooter who can run around screens is something is the perfect addition to this offense. A young core with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Jamal Murray is what I dreamed the Sixers would become.
Calling Murray, "probably a below-average defender at this point" may be the understatement of the month. The guy can’t guard anything that moves, and it’s not for lack of trying. He just can’t play defense at all.
6. New Orleans Pelicans - Wade Baldwin, PG, Vanderbilt
Man, the Pelicans have so many issues once you get past Anthony Davis. It’s only Jrue, and a bunch of pieces that are terrible. I’m going to go with my own BPA here in Wade Baldwin. Jrue could continue to handle the majority of the primary creation responsibility, while Baldwin would provide a better fit and more unselfishness than Tyreke Evans does now. Add in his defense to complement Jrue’s in the backcourt, and the Pellies should have a much more robust arsenal around Anthony Davis thanks to his presence.
7. Denver Nuggets - Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington
If I'm Denver, this pick is for sale for somebody who wants to come up for Kris Dunn, who should not still be on the board right now. I would have sent him to Denver, but two point guards with shooting question marks probably isn't the best long term solution for them, and they don't strike me as a team who would pick Dunn and see how it goes, not with their current depth at guard. As it stands, a freak athlete with Chriss's skillset seems like a very interesting fit in Denver. Kenneth Faried has been on the trade block since about 30 seconds after he signed his new contract, and pairing Chriss with Denver's two intriguing young centers, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic, would make for a frontcourt that would be hard to contain.
8. Sacramento Kings - Kris Dunn, PG, Providence
Good thing the Kings traded away all of their future draft rights to the Sixers so they could sign Rondo for a year and then take his replacement with the 8th pick in the draft, huh? I don’t think Dunn is going to be a Top 10 point guard in the league because I think his offensive limitations are too great, but he shouldn’t slip anywhere below this.
Sacramento would be doing backflips if Dunn fell to them at #8.
9. Toronto Raptors - Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma
As those who were brave enough to watch the Eastern Conference playoffs realized, the Raptors need some help with their outside shooting. Getting a guy like Hield who can likely be an immediate contributor to a team that thinks they're a contender would be a real coup for them at #9. I think they'd also love Chriss if he fell to this point. This team desperately needs guys who can sink a three reliably.
I’m just going to let you keep taking all the guys I’m down on while I reach on some others. You’re welcome to take Jaylen Brown whenever you’d like!
10. Milwaukee Bucks - Denzel Valentine, SG, Michigan State
Man, how awesome would this team be with a decision-maker like Valentine helping grease the wheels on the Giannis bandwagon? Defense is a slight worry (but actually only slight in his case, unlike Murray), but Valentine brings so much else to the table in terms of passing, shooting, rebounding, and general IQ that he can’t fall far beyond here. I would watch so much more of Milwaukee’s games next year if they wind up with either of Valentine or Baldwin to pair with Middleton and Giannis. All that’s left is for them to ditch their own version of Jah, and this is an actually fun team. The knee problems are worrisome, but I'd like to live in an alternate reality where he excels anywhere, so that's how I'll live in this mock draft.
11. Orlando Magic - Skal Labissiere, PF/C, Kentucky
Orlando is going to be renamed Skal Country. Despite his poor season at Kentucky, he's hung around the late lottery because his workouts are off the charts. He's destroying more folding chairs than a 1999 WWF show. I like the pick for Orlando because they just don't have many guys with top-level upside. Aaron Gordon has shown flashes, but other than that, they have a lot of guys who are likely going to top out at "pretty good." Orlando has bought a lot of low-yield scratch-off lottery tickets over the last few years, but Skal is a Powerball ticket.
Wow. WOOOOOOWWW. Skal had a poor season at Kentucky because Skal is not actually any good at basketball. All the Orlando fans reading our blog (which is to say, none) just shuddered at the thought of that pick.
12. Utah Jazz - Furkan Korkmaz, SG Anadolu Efes
The Jazz are in pretty good shape in that they have everything you could want on your team except for the primary creator superstar on offense. Which is only, you know, the most important part of your team. So they’re going to swing on a really young prospect who is an elite shooter and brings more creation potential than he was given the opportunity to show at Efes this year. Plus, with Gobert and Favors manning the back-line, Korkmaz’s porous defense should be slightly more easily covered up than it might have been on a different team.
Every one of our drafts needs an athletic big man with no business being drafted this high getting snagged in the lottery.
13. Phoenix Suns - Henry Ellenson, PF, Marquette
The Suns are crossing their fingers hoping for Bender at #4, but getting Ellenson at 13 is a nice consolation prize. Trading Markieff Morris for a big man who can stretch the floor like Markieff Morris used to do would be a really nice fit here. He's a good scorer, and he's a mismatch nightmare that gives the Suns some flexibility to potentially deploy some interesting small-ball lineups if they so choose. He's not a good rim protector, so they'd still be best served playing him with somebody who's stronger on the defensive end, but I like the fit here for Phoenix. Deyonta Davis would be a good fit here as well if Phoenix sought to have somebody who's stronger on the defensive end.
I like that one. Reasonable time to take a risk on Ellenson’s defense, while hoping his offense becomes elite for his position, which is fully within the realm of possibility.
14. Chicago Bulls - Deyonta Davis, C, Michigan State
Davis didn’t really have any business falling this far, so the Bulls are thrilled to be able to take him here. While he’s about an inch undersized, Davis is probably the best center prospect in the draft, as he’s already an impactful defender and rim protector, and his form suggests the potential to add a jumper down the line. Chicago has to start from scratch anyway, so there’s no one standing in the way of his development.
Speaking of people who fell too far...
15. Denver Nuggets - Jaylen Brown, SF, California
I know, I know, you hate Jaylen Brown. But the bottom line is that Brown is an an athletic wing with a quick first step and athletically, projects as a better defender than he showed at Cal. This is a point where it's worth taking a chance on Brown correcting some of the flaws in his game, most notably his poor shooting. I think being surrounded with teammates that can stretch the floor, catch and shoot, including Danilo Gallinari and longtime Carey favorite Gary Harris would be an improvement over what he had at Cal as well.
Yeah, 15 is a totally reasonable spot to swing on Brown if you’re going to do that. Not gonna hate the move this late in the game.
Check back tomorrow for the Part 2 of Marc and Matt's Extravaganza, as well as the Sixers' two other first round picks.