I've never been a fan of mock drafts, simply because they are educated guesses, and I use the word "educated" loosely. Mock Drafts often mislead the public because the people that create them, such as the Mike Mayocks and Mel Kipers of the world, make them sound as if they are 99% factual and 1% opinionated. Chad Ford is the biggest name when it comes to NBA Mock Draft, people tend to follow his like they follow Kiper's and Mayock's NFL mock draft.
Because I despise the term "mock draft" so much, I couldn't title this article that. Instead, I choose to predict my picks as if I was the general manager for each team. This is 100% opinionated unless the players are actually drafted to the team, then it becomes FACTS!
1. Boston Celtics (Traded to Philadelphia Sixers) - Markelle Fultz, G, Washington
Danny Ainge should get GM of the Year for putting together the #1 team in the Eastern Conference record-wise and snagging the #1 pick in the same season. The Celtics didn't make it out of the East though and that was mainly because of lack of consistent scoring. Just days before the Draft Ainge made another major move, he traded the #1 pick to the Sixers in exchange for the #3 pick and a few other future picks. No matter what, Fultz will still be the top pick, and for the Sixers this is a great pickup. The Sixers have built a frontcourt that is filled with size and potential but now it is time to put together a stellar backcourt. Fultz will be that first building block. While he isn't the traditional point guard that the Sixers, Fultz will create space for Embid and Simmons with his perimeter scoring. The process is beginning to look positive in Philly.
2. Los Angeles Lakers - Josh Jackson, G, Kansas
Magic Johnson first big test will be what he do in this upcoming draft. The people at the Big Baller Brand did their best to lobby for Lonzo Ball as the best option for the Lakers, but a lackluster workout by Lonzo has the Lakers keeping their options open. After trading D'Amgelo Russell, all signs are leading to Lonzo being their guy. I think the Lakers should look in a different direction though. The best choice for the Lakers would be to take Josh Jackson. r. Jackson would be a great piece to add to the young core the Lakers already have. At 6'8, Jackson can play shooting guard and with a good strength program, he'll be able to defend some small forwards in the league. I don't think it's a stretch to consider Jackson as the best player in the draft. Pairing him with Ingram on the perimeter adds a different dynamic to the Lakers backcourt, with his size, explosiveness, and scoring ability.
3. Philidelphia 76ers (Traded to Boston Celtics) - De'Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky
Danny Ainge can go in many directions with this third pick, but it depends on what the Lakers do. If they do in fact draft Josh Jackson, then De'Aaron Fox is the next best option. Fox is probably the smartest player in the draft and I think that could help the Celtics perimeter offense. Isiah Thomas was the Celtics only threa on the perimeter, which also made him a liabilty on the defensive end. Adding gives them another floor general that can create scoring opportunities for others on the court.Drafting Fox is just one scenario for the Celtics. Ainge could also trade the pick away for a guy like Paul George, who recently admitted that he wants to play for the Lakers, that would surely ignite the Rivalry. None the less, the Celtics are the most interesting team in the lottery.
4. Phoenix Suns - Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
Suns need a couple things. Defense is the main priority but that's something that has to be coached, not found in the lottery. The Suns' other needs are a guard and a forward. Since they already have one of the best young guards in the league in Devin Booker, a forward is the best option for them right here. Jayson Tatum is the best forward in the draft and the smoothest player also. Tatum will bring consistent scoring to the Suns and possibly create a dynamic duo with Booker. The Suns are in a spot where no matter who they draft, they will still struggle to wins games but Tatum will give the fans in Phoenix a better glimpse of the future.
5. Sacremento Kings - Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA
Lonzo Ball to the Kings would be pure irony. The UCLA star that only worked out for the Lakers, drafted to one of the Lakers former rivals. This wouldn't be a bad a deal for both parties, though. The Kings decided to take the franchise in a different direction and away from Demarcus Cousins. Vlade Divac took heavy criticism for dealing away the All-Star big man for "nothing" so this pick is crucial. Selecting Ball would restore faith and trust in him and the Sacramento faithful. Not only is Ball one of the best players in the draft, but he is also the most polarizing player, which will bring attention back to Sacremento. On the court, Ball prides himself in making others better and that's what the Kings need. He will also be the backcourt mate of Buddy Hield, who the Kings acquired for Cousins. A backcourt with Hield and Ball could turn into something special.
6. Orlando Magic - Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
Orlando is a similar position as the Suns, except they don't have a player like Booker to build around. Orlando's pick will have to be a franchise player and Malik Monk has the tools to be that. Monk is the purest scorer in the draft, but it will take some time before he can be the Magic's savior. Monk has the potential to be what Booker is turning out to be for the Suns. Monk's college career turned out to be better than Booker's, averaging 10 more points and winning the SEC Player of the Year award. Let's also not forget about the 47-point game against UNC, where he went 64% from the field and 8/12 from behind the arc. Monk is not 6'6 like Booker, which means scoring could be a slow process for Monk, but when it does happen for him, beware.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves - Lauri Markkanen, F, Gonzaga
The T-Wolves are in a good position, similar to the Lakers, Celtics, and Sixers. They have a talented young core already in place and will get an opportunity to add more to it with a lottery pick. The 7'0 Finlander will give the T-Wolves another solid scoring big man to play next to Karl Anthony-Townes. Markkanen is the best offensive big man in the draft, some would say the best overall big man. He can create his own shot in the post, he can face up, and he has range. He will take some of the scoring load off of Big Kat, which will allow him to be more of a defensive enforcer that KG wants him to be.
8. New York Knicks - Dennis Smith Jr., G, NC State
The Knicks have a lot of questions to answer and paths they can take this summer. This pick is solely based on if they decide to stick with Carmelo Anthony and if he decides to stick with the Knicks. The Knicks desperately need a playmaker to compliment Carmelo and Smith has those tools. He has been compared to Baron Davis and Russell Westbrook, which gives you an idea of the type of point guard he is. He is a drive and kick type of guard, which Carmelo has needed since he's been in New York. The most important tool Smith will have to develop though is decision making. He will have to be that floor general for the Knicks, in order to orchestrate an offense that has two dynamic scorers in Carmelo and Kristapas Porzingis. The Knicks will need more though, along with Smith. A culture change.
9. Dallas Mavericks - Jonathan Issac, F, Florida State
This was a tough pick to decide. Many of the Draft experts were suggesting that The Mavericks take 18-year old Fran Ntilikina out of France but the Mavs already have four guards on the roster. Picking a player like Issac makes more sense, especially when you factor in they were last place in rebounding and their best player in franchise history is on his way out. Issac has the abilities to be a solid successor to Dirk Nowitzki. Issac has perimeter skills, athleticism, and can rebound the ball. Issac entered high school as a guard but grew seven inches by time he graduated. He will have to bulk up more but that's not a big weakness.
10. Sacramento Kings - Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
With two picks in the lottery this year and a lottery pick player from last year, the Kings have an opportunity to create a solid Big Three for the future. To replace the size lost in the paint, Zach Collins will be a good fit. He isn't as offensively gifted as Boogie Cousins but he has great potential. Collins can score the ball though, recognized for post game and mid-range shot. Something that Collins can be better than Boogie at is defense. Collins has a fiery competitive spirit and it shows on the defensive end. Collins spirit will go well with the laid-back style of Lonzo Ball and Buddy Hield.
11. Charlotte Hornets - Luke Kinnard, G, Duke
The Hornets don't have many perimeter scorers, and essentially no shooters. Luke Kinnard can come in and make an instant impact with his left-hand trigger. Kinnard also has great size, standing a 6'6. Kemba Walker hasn't played with a perimeter scorer during his tenure, stuck with players Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who struggle to score on the perimeter. Kinnard can give Walker and the Hornets the spacing they need to become a more effective scoring team.
12. Detroit Pistons - Justin Jackson, F, North Carolina
The Pistons are in dire need of some scoring. Tobias Harris was the only perimeter player shooting above 45% last season and he led the team in scoring averaging 16 points, while only starting 48 games. Justin Jackson will give the Pistons another perimeter scorer. Jackson has a great mid-range game and can be a consistent shooter behind the arc. He has the length and size that will translate well to the NBA and after watching him play four years at UNC, he has the attitude to get better as a basketball player. Drafting Jackson would leave the Pistons with the question to what to do with Stanley Johnson. Johnson was the Pistons' 8th pick in 2015 but offensively, doesn't give the Pistons much help. He has the size to be a great defender in the league at 6'8 240lbs but the game is still about buckets. Jackson could be that added offensive threat the Pistons need on the perimeter.
13. Denver Nuggets - Trade pick and Wilson Chandler for Small Forward
The Nuggets have a roster full of guards and a limited number of small forwards. Some are suggesting that they take a small forward with this pick, OG Anunoby being a name many are connecting to the Nuggets. Picking Anunoby would be a risk since the sophomore out of Indiana is coming off a season-ending knee injury. Everyone is questioning how the injury will affect him, which I think should be a red flag for the Nuggets. The Nuggets could use this pick to go after players like Paul George or Gordon Hayward. They're are one piece away from becoming a playoff team in the west, no need to waste a pick on a hopeful.
14. Miami Heat - T.J. Leaf, F, UCLA
With the breakup between the Heat and Chris Bosh, it's time for them to find his replacement. Leaf would be the closest player to Bosh's skill set. Leaf is a versatile power forward that can score in multiple ways. The Heat will need a scoring big man to pair with Hassan Whiteside, who can put together a 20-point performance, but that isn't why they paid him the big bucks. Leaf will be the stretch floor to open up the floor for their perimeter players. This pick is solely based on if they can bring back Dion Waiters, who is an unsrestricted free agent this summer. If the Heat do lose Waiters, they may need to think about drafting a perimeter scorer.
There you have it, all 14 lottery picks. The NBA Draft will take place next Thursday, June 24th at 8pm, Stay Tuned!