How it all shakes out Thursday night NBA draft in Brooklyn?
Here is our dummy project for round 1:
1. Magic: Jabari Smith, F, Auburn
I’d take Duke’s Paolo Bankero here (more on that later), but I certainly see Smith’s appeal as a 6-foot-10 agile athlete with an elite jumper. He shot 42 percent from three-point range on 5.5 attempts per game and 79.9 percent from the free throw line as a rookie at Auburn. He has the athleticism, lateral quickness and length to become a dominant perimeter defender. Orlando has solid pieces, but they need a No. 1 attacking option. Smith’s jumper alone gives him the ability to score over 20 points per game in the NBA early in his career.
2 Thunder: Chet Holmgren, PF/C, Gonzaga
I don’t think Holmgren will ever be the dominant scorer in the NBA, but I’m sure he’ll win on all courts. I see him as Kristaps Porzingis with much better motor skills, especially in the defensive part of the court. He’s going to make trips and act like a high-stance playmaker, and he has the time and instinct to defend the rim defensively. His fragile 7-foot and 195-pound figure is unique, to say the least. I see a world where he struggles to defend in space against NBA wing athletes and is bullied on duty. But he’s competitive as hell and I think he’ll figure it all out.
3 Rockets: Paolo Bankero, F, Duke
Bunchero is the best hitter in this draft. The way the game has changed so much shows that he hasn’t become the number one pick in the slam dunk rankings. He is 6’10”, 250 pounds and can create punches for himself and his teammates at will. Banchero doesn’t shoot down like Smith, but he has a much better game, better passing and a stronger body to get to the ring. I think he is a mixture of Carmelo Anthony and Chris Webber on offense. He will need to dedicate himself to defense, but he has All-NBA talent. I see him averaging 25 points, five rebounds and five assists in the NBA and these guys don’t grow on trees.
4 Kings: Jaden Ivey, Gee, Purdue
Whether the Kings keep the pick or trade it, I think Ivey will be fourth. He has too much talent as a sports fan who can go below that level. He’s a 6-foot-4 jet that averaged 17.3 points and 35.8 percent shooting from three-point range last season. He will do incredibly difficult triples with back steps and throw throws from highlights. Comparisons with Ja Morant are unfair, because he is far from the same passer-by that Morant came out of Murray State. But now that he’s freed himself from the two big Purdue compounds that clogged the paint, Ivey’s ability to attack the ring can really shine. I don’t like the Kings’ game with De’Aaron Fox, so I could see that pick was up for trade.
5. Pistons: Benedict Maturin, G, Arizona
I wouldn’t be surprised if Detroit tries to trade one seat for Ivey, possibly using defenseman Killian Hayes as a sweetener. I love Ivy’s potential compatibility with Cade Cunningham. But if Ivey isn’t playing for Detroit, Maturin makes a lot of sense as a strong 6-foot-6 shooting guard who averaged 17.7 points and shot 36.9% from three-point range as a sophomore in Arizona. Maturin has some brashness in the game and is an explosive sportsman. He would give Detroit a real hit on both ends of the floor.
6. Pacers: Keegan Murray, F, Iowa
Tyrese Haliburton is one of the best passers in the NBA, and Murray could give the Pacers a great hitting forward with their new leading defenseman. Murray exploded seemingly out of nowhere as a sophomore at Iowa, stepping into the offensive void left by Luca Garza, averaging 23.5 points with an astounding 55.4 percent from the floor and 39.8 percent from three-point range. He’s 21 now, but any concerns about his lack of a ceiling can be alleviated by his 6’8″ jumping ability and his maturity at both ends of the court. Murray will be a good professional for a long time to come.
7. Trail Blazers: Jeremy Sochan, F, Baylor
This is where the draft really opens up. I wouldn’t be surprised if Portland use this pick for a veteran who can provide immediate assistance to Damian Lillard. But if the Blazers keep that pick, Sochan will become a potentially dominant quarterback. Portland’s problem for years has been his inability to make stops, and at 6’9, Sochan has the speed, length and motor skills to become an NBA quarterback in a few years.
8 Pelicans: Schaedon Sharp, G, Kentucky (sort of)
With a roster full of talent, the Pelicans are in the perfect position to hit big. Sharpe missed his first season in Kentucky, but his potential as a 6-foot-5 athletic, sharp-shooting guard makes sense for New Orleans. It can develop as Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum take on the offensive load. If he becomes the NBA’s elite shooter, the catch and shoot opportunities in New Orleans will be endless.
9 Tottenham Hotspur: Johnny Davis, goaltender, Wisconsin
The Spurs can use another offensive threat paired with Dejonte Murray, and Davis has shades of Demar DeRozan as a mid-range scorer. Like Murray, Davis was successful in his sophomore year of the Big Ten, averaging 19.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. His shooting percentage was low – 42.7% from the field and 30.6% from three-pointers – but he was asked to carry a huge load for the Badgers. Davis plays hard at both ends of the court and can form a dynamic two-sided backcourt with Murray.
10. Wizards: Dyson Daniels, G, G League Ignite
It looks like Bradley Beal is staying in Washington, and the 6ft Daniels makes a lot of sense as his backcourt mate. The 19-year-old Australian filled the stats in his first season in the G League, averaging about 12 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals per game. Daniels is the first pass playmaker and defender, two things the Wizards desperately need.
11. Knicks: Jalen Duren, C, Memphis
Mitchell Robinson doesn’t seem like a prospect at center for the Knicks. Duren gives New York one of the best draft picks in any position, a 6’10” 250-pound boy who can defend the rim and throw crosses offensively.
12. Thunder: AJ Griffin, F, Duke
Oklahoma City needs shots, and the 6ft 6in Griffin could be the best wide shooter in the draft, hitting 44.7% of threes last season. There is speculation that Griffin may have untapped offensive potential, as his role at Duke was to stand in the corner while Bunchero, Wendell Moore and Jeremy Roach initiated the offense. Griffin has a strong physique in the NBA, but he is currently missing the “D” part of “3-and-D” and needs to improve that part of the court. He already had knee and ankle injuries, which could put some teams off.
13. Hornets: Mark Williams, C, Duke
Williams has huge potential and looks poised to jump right into action as an NBA rim guard. He was the ACC’s top defenseman, using his insane 7-6.5 wingspan to block 2.8 shots per game. He will also sensationally catch crosses from the LaMelo Ball and complete all around the ring; last year he threw 72.1 percent from the floor. Williams won’t be the main offensive option, but he doesn’t need to be to make an impact on Charlotte.
14. Cavaliers: Malachi Branham, G, Ohio State
Collin Sexton’s future at Cleveland is unclear, and the Cavaliers may use another perimeter scorer with Darius Garland. Enter the 6-foot Branham, who shot 49.8% from the floor and 41.6% from three-point range when he was a Buckeyes rookie. He’s a three-level potential scorer who could give the Cavs some kick off the bench while he learns the NBA game.
15. Hornets: Nikola Jovic, F, Serbia
The Hornets may not have room for two rookies, given that none of their first-round picks last season (James Bucknight and Kai Jones) could make it into the rotation. Jovic, a 6-foot 11-point forward with enticing offensive skills, makes sense as a prospect. The Hornets can let him develop overseas and see how his game develops over the next couple of years.
16. Hawks: Usman Dieng, forward, New Zealand Breakers
I wouldn’t be surprised if Dieng moves up a few places, but Atlanta could be a good landing spot as the Hawks look to shuffle the deck around Trae Young. The 6-foot-10 French striker will need some seasoning, but his double-sided potential could allow the Hawks to get past John Collins.
17 Rockets: Tari Eason, F, LSU
The 6-foot-8 Eason can provide much-needed protection when paired with the offensive trio of Banchero, Jalen Green and Alperen Sengan. Iason averaged 1.9 interceptions and 1.1 blocks in just 24.4 minutes per game as an LSU sophomore, using his speed and 7ft 2in wingspan to get into passes and create turnovers. Offensively, Eason knows how to get his way into the paint and get to the free throw line. He is also a sensational athlete in transition.
18. Bulls: Ochai Agbaji, F, Kansas
Agbaji improved in each of his four years of college, leaving Kansas as the national champion and the most outstanding player in the Final Four. He has a 3-and-D custom wing that is 6’6″ tall and weighs 215 pounds. Agbaji became a deadly, high-producing three-point shooter, shooting 40.7% of his 6.5 attempts per game as a senior. He’s not a shotmaker, but he’ll win both ends of the court.
19. Timberwolves: Jalen Williams, F, Santa Clara
Jayden McDaniels and Jarred Vanderbilt, both defensive players, got plenty of playing time in Minnesota last season. Williams could give the Timberwolves some more…