The Playgrounder Mock Draft

Featured Image By Rick Rycroft/AP

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves – LaMelo Ball, Guard, Illawarra Hawks

The consensus on internet mock drafts had been centering on Ball as the top pick until some late action for Edwards yesterday. Still, Ball is the better prospect. He has been famous for years, but LaMelo has some real game, too; he is a 6-foot-7 point guard who can make all the passes in the book and has a great handle to boot. Sure, his game has warts—namely shooting and defensive effort—but Ball has the most potential of anyone in this class. Andrew Lawlor

  1. Golden State Warriors – James Wiseman, Center, Memphis

The Warriors have been linked to countless players, and it is very possible they trade it for immediate help. If they do keep it, Wiseman is a good fit for their current roster as a center with the size to effectively protect the rim and the quickness to step out and defend on the perimeter. He is still very raw and only played three games in college, so this pick is a risk, but the potential benefits are enormous.  AL

  1. Charlotte Hornets – Anthony Edwards, Guard, Georgia

There are a lot of rumors connecting the Hornets to a big man, so they would probably take Wiseman if he is there, and they may look at Onyeka Okongwu as well. But at the end of the day, they need talent. It looks like GM Mitch Kupchak agrees, as he told the Charlotte Observer, “right now I think it’s premature to sit down and say, ‘Listen, this team is a 50-win team, and where do we need the most help? Let’s try to get this team to a 55- or 57-win team.’ We’re not there right now.” Assuming Wiseman and Ball are gone, they’ll take the third of the consensus three best players in this draft in Edwards, a wing who’s built like a linebacker and can power his way through defenders to the rim, with a solid jumper as well. There are questions about his feel for the game and shot selection, but he could be great. AL

  1. Chicago Bulls – Deni Avdija, Forward, Maccabi Tel Aviv

Avdija is a jack of all trades, master of none. He is big (6-foot-9, 6-foot-9 wingspan), but not huge; he is a good playmaker, but not a visionary like Ball or Hayes; he is a good defender, but not a true stopper. The Bulls need all of the above, especially on the wing, so it is no surprise that most mocks are linking them with the Israeli forward. The one area where Avdija struggles is his shooting, and this will need to come around for him to have success. But Avdija has solid form, so it is not out of the question that he becomes at least an average shooter. If he does, he will be a solid starter in the NBA for years to come. AL

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Obi Toppin, Forward, Dayton

Ah, yes, the eternal draft conundrum: do you pass on a better prospect in favor of a cleaner fit? Or do you hoard talent and figure out the rest later? The Cavaliers could try to thread the needle—they appear to have something resembling a viable roster plan, and with Isaac Okoro, Onyeka Okongwu, and a pair of Seminoles still on the board, Cleveland has several options to shore up their legendarily bad perimeter defense without passing on a clearly better prospect. Instead, general consensus is that they’ll choose Option C and draft Obi Toppin, who both feels like a reach at five and could join Collin Sexton and Darius Garland to form a Triforce of anemic defenders the likes of which professional basketball has rarely seen. On the bright side, Toppin could provide SexLand with a more dynamic pick-and-roll partner than they’ve yet had and, at 22 years old, projects to have a relatively high floor. But this pick feels less like threading the needle than the Cavs poking themselves in the eye with it. Nick Trizzino

  1. Atlanta Hawks – Onyeka Okongwu, Center, USC

Okongwu has been compared to John Collins often during the pre-draft process due to Okongwu’s propensity for finishing lobs. The main difference is that Collins is a better shooter while Okongwu projects as a better defender and rim-protector. Being able to switch them out depending on personnel would be a huge plus for the Hawks’ depth. Okongwu stated he thinks he can be a player similar to Bam Adebayo. For a team that has struggled on defense, adding a player who some consider the best defender in the draft fills a big need for Atlanta. James Garcia

  1. Detroit Pistons – Patrick Williams, Forward, Florida State

Williams is flying up draft boards and has been heavily linked with Detroit; John Hollinger said in his last mock draft that Williams may even have a promise from the Pistons. Williams is a 19-year-old forward with great size and athleticism, the kind of player who could develop into a star. He is also a good enough defender where he can play quality minutes in the NBA right off the bat. He does not have much of a track record after serving as Florida State’s sixth man in his lone season in college, but Williams is a relatively safe play with high upside. AL

  1. New York Knicks – Kira Lewis Jr., Guard, Alabama

The Knicks finished the 2019–2020 season ranked near or at the bottom of the league in three-pointers taken, three-pointers made, and three-point percentage. They have to draft someone who can shoot. The Knicks are also in dire need of a dynamic talent who can push the pace. Drafting Kira Lewis, a player with blinding speed and an impressive pull-up game from deep, would signal that the franchise is committed to building around RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson. Time will tell whether Lewis is more of a point guard or a shooting guard, but there is no question about his talent and what he can bring to the Knicks. Geoffrey Campbell

  1. Washington Wizards – Isaac Okoro, Forward, Auburn

The Wizards have been heavily linked with Okongwu, but he is already gone in this mock draft. Instead, in Okoro, they get a wing who can help out on defense instead. The Wizards were incompetent defensively last season, and need to get better quickly if they hope to compete for the playoffs this year. Okoro is divisive; he is a great defender with great athleticism, but his jump shot is still developing. AL

  1. Phoenix Suns – Tyrese Haliburton, Guard, Iowa State

After trading for Chris Paul, the Suns need to rebuild their depth, and Haliburton is the kind of player who can fill in the gaps in a lineup. He is an excellent passer with a great feel for the game; the type of player teammates love to play with. There are questions around his ability to run the pick-and-roll or serve as a primary ball-handler, but that is less of a worry with Devin Booker and Paul in place. AL

  1. San Antonio Spurs – Devin Vassell, Guard, Florida State

Apparently the Spurs are looking for help on the wings, and Vassell is one of the highest wings on the board. He is a great defender already, with a good three-point shot (minus one notorious video from a couple weeks ago). If he still has a workable shot, Vassell is a great three-and-D option who can help right away. He falls here because he lacks the ceiling of some of the other prospects; teams are worried he will not offer much in the way of shot-creation. But with his high floor, the Spurs could do worse than to end up with Vassell. AL

  1. Sacramento Kings – Killian Hayes, Guard, Ratiopharm Ulm

Hayes is Kevin O’Connor’s top prospect, with a great feel for the game and passing ability, but poor three-point shooting numbers (his free throw numbers, historically a better predictor of outside shooting ability in the NBA, are much better) and questionable athleticism could hold him back. The Kings already have De’Aaron Fox, but lack secondary ball-handlers, making them a good fit for Hayes, the best player left on the board. AL

  1. New Orleans Pelicans – Saddiq Bey, Forward, Villanova

New Orleans has a solid young core in place and now needs pieces to complement their potential stars. Bey is a great shooter and a good defender—the kind of wing that no NBA team can ever have enough of—with some upside as a playmaker as well. He is a match made in heaven for the Pelicans. AL

  1. Boston Celtics – RJ Hampton, Guard, New Zealand Breakers

The top rumor about the Celtics is that they are trying to trade this pick. But if they keep it, Danny Ainge loves former top recruits who have fallen a little bit after their first year out of high school—ask Romeo Langford last year. Hampton is an explosive guard with lots of potential, but he needs to work on his jumper and defensive fundamentals. AL

  1. Orlando Magic – Aaron Nesmith, Forward, Vanderbilt

The Magic have consistently drafted players with length since Jeff Weltmann and John Hammond took over. Nesmith is no different, with a 6-foot-10 wingspan. But, unlike the other players they have drafted, Nesmith is also a marksman from long range, shooting 41% from three and 83% from the free throw line over two seasons at Vanderbilt. The Magic were incompetent from deep last year, so Nesmith really is a perfect fit. AL

  1. Houston Rockets – Precious Achiuwa, Center, Memphis

A former five-star high-school recruit who hasn’t fully put it together, the player Precious Achiuwa thinks he is and the player he actually is are very different. Achiuwa sees himself as a big wing, and often wants to play from the perimeter. What scouts see is a small-ball big. Playing center without Wiseman actually did wonders for Achiuwa’s draft stock because he was able to show his high motor, particularly on the boards. After getting this pick from the Blazers, the Rockets get a young energy big with untapped offensive potential. Rob Shaw

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves – Jalen Smith, Forward, Maryland

As a 7-footer who can shoot from outside, put the ball on the floor, block shots, and rebound, Smith fits the profile of the prototypical modern big. However, despite his shot-blocking ability, he is not a great defender  due to his slight frame and poor mobility, and he also needs to develop as a passer. Still, his shooting should make him a productive member of Minnesota’s bench. AL

  1. Dallas Mavericks – Josh Green, Guard, Arizona

For this pick, we turned to the host of the Mavs Draft podcast (and one of the best draft analysts on Twitter), Richard Stayman:

“The Mavs need high level defenders and spot up shooters, and Josh Green checks both of those boxes. With one of the highest motors in the class and all-world athleticism, if Green’s intangibles check out, look for Dallas to heavily target him on draft night.” Richard Stayman

  1. Brooklyn Nets – Cole Anthony, Guard, North Carolina

There are rumors swirling that the Nets may trade this pick as part of a package for James Harden. If they keep it, Brooklyn is apparently interested in ball-handlers in this draft, so they may look to target Anthony, a former top recruit who struggled in his only season at North Carolina. But there were mitigating circumstances; the Tar Heels played lots of non-shooters, severely cramping the floor, and Anthony was hurt for a lot of the season. At the end of the day, Anthony is a talented ball-handler who can create his own shot, and that is one of the rarest skills to find in the NBA. AL

  1. Miami Heat – Tyrese Maxey, Guard, Kentucky

Maxey’s production at Kentucky was only okay, but he carried a lot of hype as a recruit and can defend while serving as a secondary playmaker. Stick him in Miami’s legendary development program and he could be a solid defensive guard, a la Derrick Jones Jr. AL

  1. Philadelphia 76ers – Desmond Bane, Guard, TCU

For help with this pick, we turned to Daniel Olinger, contributor for Liberty Ballers and The Step Back:

“Bane has the best shooting track record in the class, making around 44 percent of his threes over his four-year TCU career, and he provides versatility in terms of shot making as well. Bane is also an expert pick-and-roll passer and someone the Sixers can trust with the ball in his hands from day one.” Daniel Olinger

  1. Denver Nuggets – Aleksej Pokusevski, Forward, Olympiacos

This may be too low for Pokusevski (pronounced Uh-Lek-See Poh-Koo-Shev-Ski), who seems to be gaining steam in NBA circles. But if he is still around, Denver has a love for European prospects and taking swings. Pokusevski could be incredible—he is an 18-year-old 7-footer with a legit handle, creative passing chops, and impressive shot-making ability. But he also hasn’t played above the Greek second division and is only carrying 208 pounds in that 7-foot frame, so there are concerns about his ability to hold up to NBA strength. The draft’s mystery man, Pokusevski could be the next unicorn, or he could be Dragan Bender. Somebody will take a swing on him, and it may be pretty high. — AL

  1. Utah Jazz – Theo Maledon, Guard, ASVEL

The long-armed Maledon brings a good feel for the game, solid shooting, and the potential to be a good defender. There is not much excitement here, but he should stick as a rotation player, and could develop into a starter as Mike Conley Jr. and Joe Ingles age. — AL

  1. New Orleans Pelicans – Malachi Flynn, Guard, San Diego State

The Pelicans acquired this pick from Milwaukee in the Jrue Holiday trade. Flynn is a steady playmaker who gives them another secondary ball-handler after giving up Holiday. As an upperclassman, he can also contribute right away as they look to compete in the loaded West. — AL

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder – Jaden McDaniels, Forward, Washington

There’s not a guy left on the board who has higher upside than McDaniels, a 6-foot-10, wing-y forward who possesses a 7-foot wingspan and has shown the ability to make an impact on the defensive end and gives the Thunder the option to roll out a Bazley/McDaniels pairing at the 3 and 4 spots to provide defense and floor spacing. McDaniels can handle the ball fairly well too and has displayed excellent touch on runners, flashed the ability to shoot threes off the dribble, and shot it well from the charity stripe (76.3 percent on 114 attempts). Oh, and he just turned 20 in September. Dustin McLaughlin

  1. Boston Celtics – Leandro Bolmaro, Forward, FC Barcelona

The Celtics have a full roster and three first-rounders, so if they use all of them, it makes sense to take at least one raw player they can stash overseas. Bolmaro fits the bill. The Barcelona forward is a great playmaker, but there are questions surrounding his jumper and athleticism. If the jumper comes along, he could be useful. Otherwise, he probably is not an NBA player. The Celtics can afford to take that risk with their deep roster. — AL

  1. New York Knicks – Xavier Tillman, Forward, Michigan State

Standing 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Tillman is a great finisher out of the pick-and-roll, and is also a very good passing big. A smart, high-character player, Tillman will add value to any team that drafts him. He’s not much of a shooter, but his form isn’t terrible. He could be a great backup option for Julius Randle and/or Mitchell Robinson. — GC

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder – Immanuel Quickley, Guard, Kentucky

It’s hard to find better value at 28 than a guy who can shoot the lights out and defend opposing guards fairly well. Quickley had a monster year shooting the ball at Kentucky this past season, knocking down ~42 percent of his three-pointers with a solid distribution of on- and off-ball attempts. It’s no secret that the Thunder have had trouble finding good shooters in recent years so it is easy to see Quickley stepping and providing a reliable scoring punch off the bench. He also does a great job of using his 6-foot-8 wingspan to bother opposing shooters, whether  in isolation or pick-and-roll actions. In a three-point heavy league, Quickley is sure to provide excellent value, even if he’s just an off the bench contributor. DM

  1. Toronto Raptors – Zeke Nnaji, Center, Arizona

If there is one thing the Raptors like, it’s versatile defenders. Nnaji’s 7-foot-1 wingspan provides just that for a team who could well lose one or both of their centers in free agency. Nnaji is an extremely fluid athlete, which is something the Raptors haven’t had at the center position in a while. For a guy who has a decent-looking jumper and could play next to a traditional center or a more-mobile frontcourt partner like Pascal Siakam, the Raptors couldn’t find a more seamless fit. Zach Wilson

  1. Boston Celtics – Tyler Bey, Forward, Colorado

Like their other picks, there is a high likelihood the Celtics trade this. But regardless of who ends up with it, Bey is almost certainly the best player left on the board. He is crazy athletic and will be able to stick in an NBA rotation from day one thanks to his defense. Bey played mostly as a big in college, so he will have to adapt his offensive game to produce in the pros, but he has shown some potential as a spot-up shooter and will have no problem finishing at the rim. — AL

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