**No Mock Trades**
#1 The NBA Draft is upon us, and the Orlando Magic have the #1 overall pick. However, they have the "tough choice" of picking between the big 3 of Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren, and Paolo Banchero. I see them taking Jabari Smith out of Auburn, who would pair well with Mo Bamba's shot-blocking if the restricted free agent returns to the Magic. They could be tempted with Banchero, with how quickly he moves at 6'10, but then the Magic would be jam-packed with bigs.
#2 The Thunder are in "add as much talent to the roster as possible." With that being said, Holmgren is the pick at 2. Banchero is probably the safest pick in the draft and most NBA-ready with how he is built and moves, but with how the center is used in today's game, Holmgren can play in today's game with his handles and perimeter shot despite his slim size frame. Plus, I am in love with pairing him with one of the basketball's better young passers Josh Giddey.
#3 The Rockets land best available in Banchero. Honestly, the Rockets are happy to snag any of these three prospects. Now, the organization just recently traded Christian Wood, and they are bringing in his replacement. It is becoming a scoring fest in Houston with Jalen Green and Banchero in the lineup.
#4 The Kings have their choice of a couple of players. The two that come to mind should pair exceptionally well with De'Aaron Fox in the backcourt: Jaden Ivey and Shaedon Sharpe. My choice would be Ivey, which would create one of the quickest backcourts in recent memory. Mike Brown thinks he already has a top-3 duo in Fox, and Sabonis adding a dynamic combo guard/wing will do wonders.
#5 Like the Rockets' pick allowing them to trade Christian Wood; the Pistons can be even more willing to unload Jerami Grant to the highest bidder by drafting Keegan Murray out of Iowa. He is a three-level scorer, one of the more NBA-ready prospects in the draft, and it is already rumored that the Pistons organization likes his game.
#6 I am now moving on to my hometown Indiana Pacers. This selection may not make much sense on paper, but the Pacers have movable pieces in the backcourt in Buddy Hield and Malcolm Brogdon. The Pacers should snag a backcourt partner for their young, up-and-coming playmaker Tyrese Haliburton. I think that selection is Bennedict Mathurin. He is an impressive athlete and an above-average scorer that would pair nicely with Haliburton. This pick also allows the Pacers to deal with Brogdon for another lottery pick if they choose to do so.
#7 With the 7th pick, we have the Portland Trail Blazers. They take the player with perhaps the highest ceiling in this draft in Shaedon Sharpe. Depending on their direction, he fits the spot for the Trail Blazers with or without Damian Lillard. If Sharpe ends up in Portland, it can go three ways:
Sharpe and Lillard gel together with Anfernee Simons and create quite the trio.
The Trail Blazers trade Sharpe for a proven veteran and go into win-now.
Portland pulls the plug on Lillard, and they build around Sharpe/Simons and commit to the complete rebuild.
#8 Number 8 belongs to the New Orleans Pelicans; if this pick doesn't scream defense, then I don't know what does. Dyson Daniels is the pick. He has terrific length for a guard and makes the necessary intelligent plays that cover up the lack of offense, which the Pels do not lack.
#9 The San Antonio Spurs have been known to make that shock/scratch of the head pick that people were not expecting (Joshua Primo). I see them doing that again this year with Ousmane Dieng. The French project has some flashes of offensive prowess and did a solid job down the stretch with the New Zealand Breakers. The Spurs have done a stable job developing the offensive scoring of Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell, and I expect them to do the same with Dieng.
#10 To round off the top 10, we have the Washington Wizards. Deni Avdija struggled a bit in his first year in the pros, and the Wizards still need some scoring from the wing, so AJ Griffin being available is a no-brainer pick for them. He can play multiple positions depending on what you try to run offensively. The biggest question is the three-point land consistency and whether he can stay healthy. Griffin enters the draft as one of its most prominent question marks.
#11 The New York Knicks own the first pick outside the top ten, and they snag a guy who thinks he can immediately impact Johnny Davis. Even though he doesn't have that true superstar potential that the guys picked before he does, he is one of the safest, most consistent players in this draft class. He can create his shot, and he is a hard worker who loves the game of basketball.
#12 Right in this range is where the majority of draft-day trades will likely happen, they could start at 8 or 10 as well, but around this area, many teams are interested in trading into this bottom part of the lottery. The Thunder are back on the board, adding to the backcourt and selecting Jalen Duran. The Thunder take Holmgren will do more on-ball, perimeter action while Duran beefs up the middle of the paint for the second unit and adds tremendous shot-blocking and rebounding to OKC.
#13 The absolute farthest I see Jeremy Sochan dropping in this draft is this spot right here, and the Hornets add the most defensively versatile player in this draft with his ability to guard 1-5. Sochan had a terrific combine showing his shooting stroke, his most significant question mark. With the uncertainties at the 3 and 4 spots in Charlotte, this is a slam dunk pick.
#14 The Cavaliers own the last pick of the lottery; they have been in talks to trade this pick; however, if they do pick here, I see them selecting Ochai Agbaji. He is a plug-and-play guy who can score from the perimeter, and he is a nice counterpart to the up-and-coming defensive stalwart Isacc Okoro.
#15 One of these two or both of the Hornets' picks are getting traded, but since there are no mock trades, I have the Charlotte Hornets selecting the big man out of Duke Mark Williams. He is athletic and would be a perfect lob threat for Lamelo.
#16 The Hawks have been talking about trading John Collins for about a week now and want to get it done before the draft. With one scenario revolving around Dejounte Murray. I see them trying to add a more reliable backcourt partner for Ice Trae, and it does not get any easier for them as TyTy Washington is sitting in their lap. He is excellent with the floater and moves well off the ball.
#17 With trade talks around Eric Gordon, the Rockets take a wing to replace him. That wing resided at THE Ohio State University, Malakai Branham. He can do the same work that Gordon did in Houston. Branham scores the ball at will and is a polished knock-down shooter.
#18 The Bulls make what seems to be an easy pick as they select Tari Eason. He is a tremendous defender who can space the floor in transition. He reminds me of a current Chicago Bull, Patrick Williams. Eason needs to grow more consistent on the offensive side of the floor.
#19 The Timberwolves need guys who can contribute immediately, and I think EJ Liddell can do that. He does all the little things right that can bring a positive influence to an NBA locker room. He has a high motor, will work hard on the defensive end and can space the floor.
#20 The Spurs had some scoring to the mix with Jalen Williams from Santa Clara. A fast riser in the draft process 6-6 with a 7-2 wingspan. He can shoot the three well, either spot-up or on the move. With the measurables and shooting ability, he should be able to contribute quickly.
#21 Denver is on the clock, and they add a wing to their roster. The MPJ experiment has been inconsistent with his injuries, so the Nuggets add some insurance if things continue to go south in Dalen Terry. His role at Arizona was an odd one. However, his do-it-all role and offensive upside should intrigue Denver in snatching him up.
#22 There is a good chance Blake Wesley is selected before this pick, perhaps 19 or 20, but he is here for Memphis, and they are smiling like the Grinch. He can create his shot with quickness and plays with an attitude that screams Memphis Grizzlies. He will be a splendid second-unit scorer for the Griz.
#23 There is a solid chance this pick does not belong to Philly as they are trying to clear space for PJ Tucker. If the selection sticks, the 76ers are not looking for projects. They want guys who can contribute and help compete for the O'Brien immediately. At this time in the draft, that guy is Wendell Moore Jr. He has one of the best basketball IQs in the draft, fits the 3-and-D mold to perfection, and will do anything to help his team win.
#24 The Bucks require some guard depth. George Hill is 36 and will be a free agent after this season. Good thing Kennedy Chandler is still on the board. Chandler racked up some serious accolades in his only year under Rick Barnes at Tennessee. He is small but explosive and gets by many with his first step. He can also shoot the ball well unless it is from the free-throw line, where he averaged 60 percent.
#25 This pick is a flip of a coin. In my eye, it is either Nikola Jovic or MarJon Beauchamp. I am taking Jovic. There is too much upside with Jovic not to take the gamble on at this pick. He is 6'11, but he ran the point for his team in Serbia. He can shoot it from deep and just turned 19, so he has time under a Spurs organization that does a great job developing players.
#26 The Rockets end up happy with the other side of that coin flip as they select Beauchamp. He is a lengthy defender who moves well for his size. There are some concerns about his shooting, as he shot 24 percent in his time with the Ignite, but the Rockets have plenty of offense in this draft with Banchero and Branham.
#27 With PJ Tucker testing free agency and not a ton of backcourt depth, the Heat does the best they can to replace his defense with Jaylin Williams out of Arkansas. He brings great energy every time he touches the hardwood. Williams takes charges, grabs rebounds, and does all the small things Coach Spoelstra will love. He is a classic glue guy for this Heat roster.
#28 The Warriors will probably trade this pick if I had to guess. Although, they could go in a couple of different directions.
Add a backup Point Guard.
Snag some wing depth with Andre Iguodala close to retirement
Draft Kevon Looney's replacement
Jake LaRavia grew into a solid player from his days at Indiana State to his lone year in the ACC at Wake Forest. He has good handles for a guy who can play the four. LaRavia can shoot the three at a decent clip. He has solid post moves and can pass it out of the post to the open cutter quite well. This would be a terrific pickup for the Warriors.
#29 The Grizzlies need a shot blocker. Who better than the Naismith Player of the Year? Walker Kessler has a decent chance of going higher than this. He led the country last year with 155 blocks. Kessler runs the rim well, which the Grizzlies need as well as they like to push the pace. He would be an excellent presence to add in the middle of the paint down in Memphis.
#30 The Wizards are looking to add Monte Morris, so if that were to happen, then a nice backup point guard spot just opened up in Denver. Andrew Nembhard has good size for a point guard. He does a great job of running an offense and distributing the basketball. He will have plenty of scoring around him where he can do just that.