The Lakers have gone 1-2 in the past week, dropping back-to-back contests against the Pacers and Grizzlies and picking up a home win against a Kings team missing its best player. Boston was just as bad this week, leaving the Lakers a half game ahead of them in the standings. Like last week, the Lakers are projected to have the fifth pick in the first round.
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1. Milwaukee Bucks (11-47): Jabari Parker (Duke) – Parker struggled offensively in the Blue Devils’ lone game this week netting just 11 points on 3 of 11 shooting, but contributed in other areas of the game, showcasing his versatility by logging 12 rebounds, 3 steals, and 3 blocks.
2. Philadelphia 76ers (15-45): Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) – With a young point guard and center already on their roster, I can see the Sixers opting for a wing player here. A poor showing against Oklahoma this week will have Wiggins doubters talking louder, but his potential remains sky high and the pressure to have an instant impact will be relatively low as a part of a young Sixers core.
3. Orlando Magic (19-43): Joel Embiid (Kansas) – Even though Nikola Vucevic is enjoying a career year, I don’t expect the Magic to pass up on Embiid as he will be able to protect the rim in a way that Vucevic cannot. Clearly the best player available here, Embiid helped his Jayhawks to at least a share of their 10th consecutive Big-12 title this week with a monster performance. Following a moderate slump, he has been red hot in his last five games and many scouts already consider him the best prospect.
4. Boston Celtics (20-40): Dante Exum (Australia) – With trade rumors surrounding Rajon Rondo year in and year out, I don’t think anybody would be surprised if the Celtics drafted a point guard. However, Exum has recently mentioned that he is a fan of Kobe Bryant and would love to be a Laker, leading some to believe he might just try to force his way to Tinseltown.
5. Los Angeles Lakers (20-39): Julius Randle (Kentucky) – The Lakers are desperate for an infusion of young talent at virtually every position, so they will probably go with a “best player available” approach here. Randle was held to just one field goal in Kentucky’s loss to South Carolina this past week, but he also attempted only seven shots. He continues to clean the glass night in and night out, but his team needs to find a way to get him more involved offensively.
6. Sacramento Kings (20-39): Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) – The Kings have a pretty competitive frontcourt with one of the best young centers in the league in Demarcus Cousins and a reinvented Rudy Gay. The best move here is to take a point guard and Smart is a great pick because he fits perfectly into the lineup. Isaiah Thomas is not a true lead guard and Smart will be able to share ball-handling duties with him while hiding some of Thomas’ shortcomings on the defensive end by defending the opposing shooting guard. With Thomas and Gay in the lineup, the Kings can afford to be patient with the development of Smart’s jump shot.
7. Denver Nuggets from New York Knicks (21-39): Noah Vonleh (Indiana) – Starting center Timofey Mozgov has been serviceable in limited minutes for the Nuggets this season, but I doubt their front office sees him as their center of the future. Vonleh is a value pick at seventh overall. He is already arguably the best rebounder in the country and is still improving. He posted solid numbers in a loss to Wisconsin, but followed it up with just two shot attempts against Iowa.
8. Utah Jazz (21-38): Aaron Gordon (Arizona) – Gordon is a big upgrade over any of Utah’s current starting forwards. Athletically, he is far superior to both Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson. However, he will not be able to dominate with just his size and athleticism at the next level and will need to develop ball skills and perimeter shooting to shed the dreaded “tweener” label.
9. Charlotte Bobcats from Detroit Pistons (23-36): Dario Saric (Croatia) – It might be too early to say, but it seems like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is not the player the Bobcats envisioned they were getting second overall in the draft. With Al Jefferson and combo guard Kemba Walker as their main building blocks, a point forward type player seems ideal and Saric has been drawing rave reviews from GMs who have seen him play. His average athleticism is a bit of a concern, but in today’s game, there is always space for a floor-spacing four man.
10. Philadelphia 76ers from New Orleans Pelicans (23-36): Gary Harris (Michigan State) – With the Sixers projected to select Wiggins earlier in this mock, their most glaring hole remains at the shooting guard position. Harris’ game is that of a classic shooting guard, but he may be slightly undersized at 6’4”. With the lengthy Michael Carter-Williams in the backcourt though, he fits right into the Sixers’ lineup. And despite the Spartans’ loss to Illinois this week, Harris notched 19 points and five triples, showing scouts the rock solid shooting they’ve been waiting to see.
11. Cleveland Cavaliers (24-37): Rodney Hood (Duke) – The Luol Deng experiment in Cleveland has been disastrous, and while the Cavs are just on the outside of the playoffs looking in, they are far better off missing them entirely as they don’t even remotely resemble a postseason squad. Deng will probably be moved before his contract is up and they have a chance here to pick up a talented three in Hood. Hood has been incredibly consistent, failing to score in double digits in just three games this season (8 points, 8 points, and 9 points no less) and is very effective in mid range, an art that is quickly being lost in the NBA.
12. Orlando Magic from Denver Nuggets (25-33): Tyler Ennis (Syracuse) – Orlando can get a quality floor general here in Ennis, and they should. Victor Oladipo is not ready to play point guard and Jameer Nelson is not the long term solution. Although Ennis isn’t a great three point shooter (something that Orlando needs), he will provide great decision making for a Magic team that just needs to play smarter collectively. Syracuse struggled in the past week, but Ennis has continued to impress as a freshman with his cerebral play, maintaining an incredible 3.2 assist to turnover ratio on the year.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves (29-29): Nik Stauskas (Michigan) – The Wolves are desperate for a sharpshooting off guard and Stauskas fits the bill to a T. At the minimum, he will be an elite spot up option as a pro, but his craftiness gives him the chance to be more in spite of middling athleticism. They may draft a small forward instead, but they are paying Chase Budinger like he is the long-term solution (even if he clearly isn’t), so if they keep the pick, expect them to look for a running mate for Ricky Rubio.
14. Memphis Grizzlies (33-25): K.J. McDaniels (Clemson) – McDaniels at fourteen is a bit of a reach at this point, but he possesses all-world athleticism and an all around game. He fills in nicely at a position of need, perhaps backing up Tayshaun Prince for the early part of the season before taking over starting duties. His versatility was on full display in a double overtime win against Maryland to the tune of 26 points, 14 boards, 3 dimes, 6 blocks, and a steal.
15. Atlanta Hawks (26-32): Clint Capela (Switzerland) – Atlanta may look to make an investment in their future here by selecting Capela who is still a ways off from contributing to an NBA squad. His ceiling is pretty high as he is an above the rim player who actually possesses the strength and size of an NBA big. Being selected by Atlanta would be great for Capela’s career as well, as he will be able to grow as a player and professional behind two high character All Stars in Paul Millsap and Al Horford.
16. Chicago Bulls from Charlotte Bobcats (27-32): Zach LaVine (UCLA) – The selection of a point guard here does not mean that the Bulls are throwing in the towel on Derrick Rose, but given the history, having insurance on the oft-injured Rose can’t be a bad policy. LaVine cannot yet be counted on to create shots for his team on every possession as he is an attacking guard in more of the mold of Rose than a true lead guard. His physical traits and athleticism are enticing and he takes great care of the basketball. Without leading scorers Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams this week against Oregon, he showed what he can do in a bigger role, posting 18 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and most impressively, zero turnovers in 48 minutes.
17. Boston Celtics from Brooklyn Nets (28-29): Doug McDermott (Creighton) – Even though the Celtics have a glaring hole at center, I can’t envision McDermott falling any further. The Celtics just as badly need to to find a way to score the ball and what better way to do so than by adding college basketball’s most lethal scorer. McDermott is a wonder as he may not even have average Division 1 athleticism, but can score in every way imaginable. Doing so as a pro will be significantly more difficult and McDermott will struggle to guard NBA threes and fours. But, McDermott bottoms out as an elite shooting stretch four and his potential to take some of the scoring burden off of Jeff Green is well worth it at this pick.
18. Phoenix Suns from Washington Wizards (31-28): James Young (Kentucky) – Young has been pretty underwhelming in his freshman season at Kentucky, but the Suns can really use a wing shooter. With Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe logging most of the backcourt minutes, the Suns can employ Young as a third guard or even at the three as he is an above average perimeter defender. As I said last week, his shooting percentages need to start creeping up to merit such a high selection. In two games this week, he shot the three ball a lot better (4 of 9), but his overall field goal percentage leaves a lot to be desired.
19. Chicago Bulls (33-26): Jerami Grant (Syracuse) – Grant had a disastrous week, suffering a back injury in the first of two games and logging just a total of 26 minutes between the two. Scouts are well aware that he has the physical tools to play in the league, but as an “upside” guy, Grant will be quickly forgotten if he doesn’t log minutes. Teams will be looking for him to improve his perimeter skills and to add weight to play the small forward position in the league.
20.Toronto Raptors (33-26): Montrezl Harrell (Louisville) – Harrell is one of the hotter players in the country right now, having dropped 21, 21, and 25 points in his last three games. His game relies a lot on his athleticism and while he can get away with it at the college level, he will need to improve his post game as a pro. The Raptors can use some depth, and stashing Harrell and playing him a handful of minutes in relief duty will allow him to develop at his own pace.
21. Phoenix Suns (35-24): Kyle Anderson (UCLA) – Anderson will give the Suns frontcourt a different look as he is a very adept ball handler and passer. His athleticism is a major concern for scouts, especially on defense where he lacks the strength to guard fours and the lateral speed to guard threes. What he will bring is another dimension to Phoenix’s offense as he will be able to initiate the second unit’s offense.
22. Dallas Mavericks (36-25): Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky) – The Mavs haven’t had a true rim protector since they let Tyson Chandler walk following their 2011 championship run. Cauley-Stein provides just that as he possesses the rare size of a true NBA center. He is already a shot blocking machine in limited minutes, but doesn’t have anything resembling a go-to move offensively. This is a high value pick here, and it is more of a move for the future than one that will best utilize Dirk Nowitzki’s waning years.
23. Utah Jazz from Golden State Warriors (36-24): Adreian Payne (Michigan State) – Payne looks to have the makings of a versatile forward at the NBA level and the Jazz can certainly use an upgrade in their frontcourt. He is a very strong player who makes a living bullying defenders in the post, but certainly has the capacity to develop into a reliable stretch four. He has shot the ball very well on the season, but struggled in the past week. Expect a strong game from him against Iowa next week.
24. Houston Rockets (40-19): C.J. Wilcox (Washington) – If the Rockets are looking to bolster their chances at a championship, Wilcox is their guy. Wilcox’s age (23) would usually detract scouts, but for the Rockets, adding a mature shooter and scorer like him is a low-risk great way to add talent without distractions.
25. Los Angeles Clippers (41-20): Glenn Robinson III (Michigan) – The Clippers are poised for a championship run and already boast one of the deepest teams in the league. They would be best served by utilizing their pick on a high upside player that can learn the pro game in his first few seasons. Robinson is a player who has had his ups and downs, but has shown a well-rounded offensive game through two seasons with the Wolverines. He is a very high upside pick at this point in the draft and the Clippers have the luxury of being able to wait on him.
26. Charlotte Bobcats from Portland Trailblazers (41-18): P.J. Hairston (Texas Legends, NBA D-League) – Hairston provides the Bobcats with reliable long range shooting from the two guard spot. Gerald Henderson is a serviceable NBA player, but Hairston’s range really makes him a great piece for the Bobcats. He has been dominant in the D-League and is a proven scorer at the college level as well. Unlike some of the other two guards in this class, Hairston already has both the height and bulk to hold his own defensively at the position.
27. San Antonio Spurs (43-16): Wayne Selden, Jr. (Kansas) – Selden is a very productive competitor who has flourished in his role on a stacked Jayhawks squad. He fits the mold of a Spur perfectly as he is extremely unselfish and has a certain poise and basketball IQ that belies his age. Even as just a freshman, he is physically ready for the NBA, and general managers have to wonder what he is capable of with an expanded role.
28. Miami Heat (42-14): Semaj Christon (Xavier) – Christon paced his Musketeers with 21 points in a win over top ten Creighton this past week. He is a point guard with great size who is constantly looking to attack. While not a high volume three point shooter, he seems to have improved in that department even on his limited attempts. Miami currently has a spot up shooting specialist in Mario Chalmers, but Christon is a more typical drive and dish type point guard who has the potential to become a coveted young player.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder (45-15): Russ Smith (Louisville) – Since the Thunder traded James Harden, they have lacked a legitimate scoring punch off the bench. Reggie Jackson has been good in stretches, but he isn’t a truly explosive scorer. Russ Smith, on the other hand, is a guy who just wants to get buckets. The Louisville guard is a great fit for the Thunder as he can relieve the starters to great effect and shoulder a bit of the scoring load when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook take a breather. He is one of the fastest players in the country and has plenty of talent, but his size will have some teams doubting him.
30. Phoenix Suns from Indiana Pacers (46-13): T.J. Warren (NC State) – Warren recorded his 11th and 12th consecutive 20 point games in the past week. He is a very efficient scorer at the college level, sporting a 52% field goal, but NBA wings these days are expected to be able to shoot the three ball and he has done so at just 28.6% this season. He does look more like an NBA wing than many of the other tweeners in this class and he just has a knack for putting the ball in the bucket. I know the Evan Turner experiment in Indiana is just beginning, but if the Pacers could use something, it’s a player that can bolster their second unit scoring.
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