NBA draft night will be exciting for fans of the 76ers, Celtics, Suns, and Nuggets. Each of those teams is currently scheduled to make three picks in the first-round. With a few wise selections, Boston could be included on the short-list of 2017 championship contenders. Meanwhile, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Denver hope to add talent in a quest to become competitive again.
Now that we officially know the selection order, it’s mock draft time!
1. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons, PF/SF (LSU)
Many are speculating that Brandon Ingram will end up being the no. 1 pick, but Philly should go with the best overall player. The 6’10 Simmons is versatile and will make an immediate impact with the young Philadelphia team.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram, PF (Duke)
With Simmons gone, it’s a no-brainer for the Lakers. Ingram is the best scorer in this draft, and L.A. has plenty of shots available following the retirement of Kobe Bryant. (I’m sure they’d prefer that Nick Young didn’t take them all.)
3. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn): Buddy Hield, SG (Oklahoma)
Hield could go as high as no. 3 because of the Steph Curry effect. NBA play is trending toward an outside-in style and Boston doesn’t shoot a high percentage from beyond the arc. Hield changes that right away.
4. Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender, C/PF (Croatia)
If he’s still available, Phoenix has to go with Bender. Many scouts think he could end up being the top player in this draft. He’s 7’1 and will provide a much-needed presence inside for the Suns.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jaylen Brown, SF (California)
The T-Wolves are likely to be one of the surprise teams next year and Brown could be a big part of it. He’d buy into new coach Tom Thibodeau’s defense-first mentality while being another dynamic option on the offensive end.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Kris Dunn, PG (Providence)
Dunn is another guy who can get it Dunn (sorry) at both ends of the court. He’s a score-first point guard who is excellent at defending the perimeter. Dunn and Anthony Davis in the same starting five would be a special mix of athleticism.
7. Denver Nuggets (from New York): Jakob Poeltl, PF (Utah)
The 7’0 Austrian has the makings of an elite defender. He’ll be a bit of a project offensively but would fit into the Nuggets’ rotation nicely.
8. Sacramento Kings: Jamal Murray, PG/SG (Kentucky)
The elite shooting ability of the Canadian guard makes him a good fit with any team. Sacramento needs a lot of pieces and Murray is a solid building block.
9. Toronto Raptors (From Denver via New York): Henry Ellenson, C/PF (Marquette)
Ellenson could become a good scorer at the NBA level. He’s certainly a good enough rebounder and passer to fit into most rotations.
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Skal Labissiere, C/PF (Kentucky)
The long and tall (7’0) Labissiere could end up being the steal of the draft. He was considered a no. 1 overall contender at this time last year. He struggled for much of last season but found a confident stroke toward the end.
11. Orlando Magic: Furkan Korkmaz, SG (Turkey)
Korkmaz is just 18-years old so he’ll need time to mature as a player … and human being. But he’s an elite shooter and passer who has the potential to be an NBA star in the future. He also has nice size (6’7) for a perimeter guy.
12. Utah Jazz: Timothe Luwawu, SG (France)
Excellent athleticism and a solid shooting stroke is the word on Luwawu. He’s willing to play defense and do a little bit of everything in order to contribute.
13. Phoenix Suns (from Washington): Deyonta Davis, PF/C (Michigan State)
An elite shot blocker and solid rebounder, the 6’10 PF/C has shown a nice scoring touch but must bulk up to compete in the post.
14. Chicago Bulls: Domantas Sabonis, PF (Gonzaga)
The Bulls appear to be heading the wrong way fast. Sabonis is a big-man who runs the floor well and rebounds at a high level. Chicago can’t rid its troubles overnight but this pick would be a step in the right direction.
15. Denver Nuggets (from Houston): Malik Beasley, SG (Florida State)
Beasley is an exciting player capable of knocking down open looks. His high-energy style would fit in well in Denver.
16. Boston Celtics (From Dallas): Denzel Valentine, SG (Michigan State)
Brad Stevens’ system would be a nice fit for Valentine. The 6’4 guard was a candidate for national player of the year, but it’s a mystery how his game will translate in the NBA. Boston may be his best bet.
17. Memphis Grizzlies: Brice Johnson, PF (North Carolina)
Tremendously skilled with the ball near the basket, Johnson could be a great NBA player if he gains strength and an ability to score from the beyond the paint.
18. Detroit Pistons: Demetrius Jackson, PG (Notre Dame)
Supreme quickness and excellent decision-making from the point guard position are welcome on any team. The Pistons may be fortunate enough to pick up an excellent point guard late in the first-round.
19. Denver Nuggets (from Portland): Wade Baldwin, PG (Vanderbilt)
Baldwin has a high ceiling and this would be the Nuggets taking the player with the most potential. He’s a good shooter and is capable of getting to the rim. He’s probably not going to play point in the NBA.
20. Indiana Pacers: Diamond Stone, C (Maryland)
Stone is not a great athlete but possesses superb basketball skills for a big-man. Indianapolis, a nice halfway point between his hometown of Milwaukee and College Park, MD., would be a nice spot for him given their dearth of size.
21. Atlanta Hawks: Dejounte Murray, PG/SG (Washington)
Murray’s upside should get him into the late first-round. He was expected to return to Washington and could probably use another year of college for development. However, he has impressed scouts and would be an interesting addition to the Hawks’ roster.
22. Charlotte Hornets: Malachi Richardson, SG (Syracuse)
Richardson gained national attention with a breakout performance in the NCAA tournament. He still needs seasoning but has continued to showcase his raw ability in pre-draft workouts. His stock is on the rise.
23. Boston Celtics: Damian Jones, C (Vanderbilt)
Jones improved during his final season at Vanderbilt but not enough to make him the lottery pick many expected. He’s a has a long, athletic body and an impressive skill set. This pick could cap a great night for the Celtics.
24. Philadelphia 76ers (from Miami via Cleveland): Marquese Chriss, PF (Washington)
Chriss is another guy with huge upside. Many NBA folks have been wildly impressed with his skill set; it wouldn’t be surprising to see someone take a chance on him much higher. He still needs a lot of developing and there’s no better place to do that than Philadelphia.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Stephen Zimmerman, C (UNLV)
UNLV had a wacky season and Zimmerman never quite fit into the mix. He’s 7’0, reasonably athletic and has good basketball IQ, so this might end up being a great selection.
26. Philadelphia 76ers (from Oklahoma City via Denver and Cleveland): DeAndre Bembry, SG/SF (St Joseph’s)
This is the 76ers taking the hometown boy with their last of three first-round picks. And why not? Bembry is a freakishly good playmaker and is capable of being the biggest steal of the draft.
27. Toronto Raptors: Ivica Zubac, C (Croatia)
When you’re picking 27th and there’s a 7’1 center with good skills, you take him. (You don’t necessarily do it when you’re picking first.) Zubac is a bit of a mystery but Toronto needs more depth up front as the Jonas Valanciunas injury showcased in the playoffs.
28. Phoenix Suns (from Cleveland via Boston): A.J. Hammons, C (Purdue)
Speaking of 7’0 centers, Hammons is another one who could blossom into a really good player at the next level. He showed the ability to do it all at the collegiate level but will have to learn to excel with consistency.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Gary Payton II, PG (Oregon State)
The son of an NBA Hall of Famer will get a shot to create his own legacy. He’s not a great shooter but possesses a dynamic skill set, like his dad. There’s no better place to find a role than San Antonio.
30. Golden State Warriors: Caris Levert, SG (Michigan)
The 6’7 shooting guard was once considered a potential lottery pick. His final season in Ann Arbor didn’t go well enough for that to happen but he could still turn into a nice player at the next level.
(Photo credit: TonyTheTiger [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)