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NBA Mock Draft: Magic Win Lottery, Latest Projections

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CHICAGO — The Orlando Magic were the big winners of Tuesday night’s draft lottery, walking away with the No. 1 pick and a franchise-changing decision to make over the next month. Joining them in the pantheon of great results were the Thunder (who moved up to No. 2 from No. 4) and the Kings (who grabbed the No. 4 pick and moved up from No. 7). The lottery took place amidst a busy week here at the draft combine, where G League Elite camp wrapped up Tuesday and the combine proper begins on Wednesday. With the entire NBA gathering in one place and the rumor mill heating up behind the scenes, the draft puzzle will only get more fascinating from here.

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As usual, this mock draft aims to predict what the picks would look like if they took place on a given day. My projections are heavily informed by intel from around the NBA and ongoing conversations with executives, scouts and others around the industry, in addition to my own personal evaluations of players, which in many cases date back years. Note that these are *not* player rankings: for that, take a look at our latest Big Board, which we’ll update again after players make final decisions on whether to stay in the draft.

1. Magic: Jabari Smith Jr., F, Auburn

Height: 6′ 10″ | Weight: 220 | Age: 19 | Freshman

Orlando struck gold on Tuesday, converting on top odds and winning the lottery for the first time since 2004, when they landed a franchise-changing player in Dwight Howard. While the broader narrative has been that the top of this draft is wide open, for most of the past six months, the vast majority of executives I’ve spoken with around the NBA consider Smith the big prize in this year’s class. The Magic will certainly do their due diligence on all of the top prospects, but for the time being, I’d operate under the assumption the pick will be Smith. His arrival might mean that Orlando moves on from Jonathan Isaac in the long run; whose checkered injury history makes it difficult to view him as an essential piece of the rebuild.

Smith is the youngest of the top prospects by a meaningful margin and brings a rare collection of plus attributes to the table: great positional size, elite jump shooting, modern defensive versatility and an advanced competitive mindset. Smith will have to expand his array of moves and work on getting to the rim more often, but there’s so much to like about a prospect who is polished in so many ways, yet still at a highly nascent stage of his basketball development. I’d take him at the top with confidence.

2 Thunder: Chet Holmgren, F/C, Gonzaga

Height: 7′ 0″ | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Freshman

Oklahoma City moves up from No. 4 to No. 2, an outcome they’ll be pleased with after slipping out of the top four entirely last season. While nobody is ever exactly sure what Sam Presti is thinking, and the Thunder will surely explore all options, Holmgren’s mix of size, skill and upside fits their general ethos quite well. He’ll be in consideration at No. 1 with the Magic, but in this scenario, he comes off the board one pick later.

Holmgren has been a polarizing player among teams I’ve spoken with, but everyone pretty much acknowledges his upside as a high-impact defender with some offensive versatility. He has the size and length to protect the basket, and instincts that have mostly compensated for his lack of strength. What should be tested for the first time in the NBA is his foot speed defending in space and covering ground, and if Holmgren proves he can battle on switches and menace drivers as a roving rim protector, whatever else he gives you as a scorer will be gravy. He is a capable jump shooter and has great touch around the basket, but isn’t likely to be an offensive focal point early in his career, if at all. The Thunder have the patience to take a big swing here, and Holmgren should address a major need for improved interior defense.

3. Rockets: Paolo Banchero, F, Duke

Height: 6′ 10″ | Weight: 250 | Age: 19 | Freshman

Houston will draft in the top three for the second year in a row and has a clear need for frontcourt help, which will be available to them at this spot. While they didn’t win the lottery, they’re still in a favorable position here. Jaden Ivey doesn’t make a whole lot of sense next to the ball-dominant Jalen Green anyway, and Banchero would be an excellent fit if he falls here. The Rockets have the time and patience to find the right players to put around him, and he’s ready to produce as a rookie.

Banchero is the most polished offensive player in the draft, with a unique mix of power, skill and passing chops that lets him operate all over the floor as a playmaking fulcrum. Teams are openly wondering whether he’s a good enough defender to hold his own in the increasingly space-oriented NBA, and his jumper can be inconsistent. He had a strong freshman season on the whole and should be prepared to help contribute on a rebuilding team immediately. Banchero’s feel for scoring and finding teammates should take him a long way, and if his shot-making and defense trend up, there should be All-Star caliber seasons in his future. His playmaking should help take some pressure off Jalen Green, and he’d give Houston a second foundational piece to work with.

4 Kings: Shaedon Sharpe, SG, Kentucky

Height: 6′ 5″ | Weight: 200 | Age: 19 | Freshman

The Kings were among the biggest winners on Tuesday, moving up from No. 7 to No. 4, which puts them in a fascinating position. Presuming the top three bigs are off the board, they may have a tricky choice to make here: Jaden Ivey’s skill set creates some obvious duplication with De’Aaron Fox. And while Sharpe is much less proven, he looks like a natural complement to what’s already on the roster. Having said that, it’s also entirely possible Sacramento could explore trade-back opportunities, considering the franchise’s emphasis on fighting for the playoffs, and the potential value of this selection, considering it may be an opportunity for another team to move into the perceived top tier of prospects and select one. This is an interesting pivot point in the lottery to monitor.

Based on the buzz at the combine, where Sharpe put on a lengthy pro day workout on Monday that included some dazzling footwork and shot-making, it feels very much like he’s going to hear his name called in the top five on draft night. I’d also scrap the notion that the first four picks are locked in as there’s a very real chance Sharpe crashes the party. He’s an amazing athlete who can create space for himself and is also a gifted shooter—rarely do those things all come in one teenage prospect. There are definitely areas of his game he needs to iron out, and he’s behind his peers in terms of high-level game experience, but Sharpe’s upside is significant to the point where someone is going to take a swing. The Kings will have to think hard about it.

5. Pistons: Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue

Height: 6′ 4″ | Weight: 200 | Age: 20 | Sophomore

The Pistons drew the short straw on Tuesday night, missing out a top-four pick despite favorable odds and slipping to No. 5 in the draft. After winning the lottery last year and landing Cade Cunningham, Detroit remains in a terrific spot to add to its core, with either Ivey or Sharpe likely available to them, and both making a lot of sense for the roster. The Pistons need to get more athletic and add scorers to their roster, and they’re in position to do that despite some unfortunate lottery luck.

The pronounced highs and lows of Ivey’s breakout season gave the NBA plenty to nitpick, but ultimately, his unique speed and explosiveness as a downhill playmaker present way too much upside to overthink. He should benefit more than most from the freedom and space of the pro game, and if his passing chops and decision-making tick upward as he matures, Ivey is going to be very hard to stop. He has the ability to be a very good defender when he tries, he shoots the three well enough to think it keeps improving, and if he can slow down the game for himself mentally while still attacking at a breakneck pace, Ivey can be a star . Playing alongside Cunningham would make his life much easier, and he’s an excellent option for Detroit here—assuming he doesn’t come off the board sooner.

6. Pacers: Keegan Murray, F, Iowa

Height: 6′ 8″ | Weight: 215 | Age: 21 | Sophomore

Murray had a strong argument as the best player in college basketball last season,and will likely be the oldest player drafted in the lottery. The age stigma matters less in his case, as Murray was a true late-blooming prospect who’s proven capable of carrying an offense and also being a high-level defender. He won’t be cast as a No. 1 option in the NBA, which should allow him to better balance his energy to impact both ends. His playmaking and jump shooting can certainly improve and would make him even more dynamic. Murray can defend multiple positions and score from all over the floor, and he’s going to help a team next season. The Pacers have a hole at power forward after trading Domantas Sabonis, and while they’ll have their pick from among this next group of prospects, Murray makes a lot of sense here on paper.

7. Trail Blazers: Bennedict Mathurin, SG, Arizona

Height: 6′ 6″ | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Sophomore

Mathurin cashed in on a big opportunity at Arizona, emerging as a go-to scorer and a force in transition while polishing up his game as a playmaker and defender. He’s a high-level athlete with some untapped skill potential, and he should be able to help contribute buckets as a complementary scorer next season. Mathurin isn’t the most intuitive player, but it still feels like he’s coming into his own. He displayed confidence and character while coming up big in some notable spots over the course of the season. He’s also young for a sophomore, which makes his individual development over the past year that much more encouraging. He’s an interesting fit in Portland, which…

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Source: www.si.com

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