Final NBA Mock Draft: Head to Head

The draft is finally here and we here at the Pick and Pop are over the moon about it.  Evan and I have decided to each do our own Mock and post them together as a head to head battle from two NBA and NCAA basketball junkies.  As we go, my selections will be in GREEN, while Evan’s will be in BLUE. We have not seen each others selections till right now. Off we go:

Greatness

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

 Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF Kansas:

Wiggins is the only player besides Joel Embiid, who has the potential to be a generational talent.  Wiggins showed us glimpses of what he could do at times this season, but struggled to put together monster efforts with consistency.  While this certainly has Cleveland feeling a little uneasy, the combination of athleticism, speed, second jump ability, improved shooting and elite level defense is too much to pass on.  People have said Paul George is a good comp for him, but I believe his ceiling is even higher than that.

For Cleveland, either Wiggins or Parker would be a good pick for their team, as they need big time talent at either wing position, but it remains a very real possibility that they trade this pick in order to clear up room for making a run at Lebron. Cleveland holds all the cards right now, I’m excited to see how they gamble.

Jabari Parker, Forward, Duke

Parker goes number one because he can produce immediately. Whatever team drafts him will get 15-20 points a game out of the gate. However, I don’t think he plays in Cleveland. With Milwaukee and Utah reportedly pining for Jabari expect the Cavs to pick up an asset to help their team now in return for moving back a couple spots.

2. The Milwaukee Bucks:

Jabari Parker, Forward Duke

The Sixers find themselves in a pretty good position. Jabari is as close to a sure thing as there is.  He will come in right away and score close to 20 while grabbing 7 boards.  He is a good leader and teammate, I’m just not yet convinced he is a good defender.  Honestly though, I think he is the perfect scorer to compliment the defensive minded and athletic Giannis so he will work nicely in their system. The Bucks will be making a huge immediate step forward with this pick.

Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF, Kansas

Wiggins is the second best healthy player in the draft, so he will go second. If the Bucks aren’t able to work out a deal with Cleveland for the first pick, expect the 76ers to aggressively pursue moving up to nab “Maple Jordan”. Whoever gets him will get one of the most athletic players in the league, elite defense and shooting. The question is do teams, get a scorer who is always engaged?

3. The Philadelphia 76ers:

Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia

Exum combines freakish length at the guard spot with great athleticism and instincts.  He is a smart, well intentioned diligent kid from all reports and I think he will absolutely be an all-star caliber player. His shooting mechanics are inconsistent but they are not broken and with some hard work he will perfect his higher release.  I think he may struggle off the bat, but we should see him come into his own by the new year. His biggest obstacle will be adding the strength necessary to guard NBA 1’s and 2’s. The pairing of Exum and MCW is a frightening thought for opposing backcourts.  Their length, speed and ball handling will allow them to wreak havoc in the open floor fast paced offense the sixers have adopted.  

Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia

Exum has been reported by many to be the quickest player in the draft, who excels in transition. Philadelphia’s fast paced system is made for Exum, who can score in the open court with the best of them. If Exum is the pick here look for Michael Carter-Williams to be dealt to the Lakers, Kings, Hornets or Magic for an upcoming pick. Sixers fans, if Exum is as good as everyone says, then you won’t miss MCW at all.

4. The Orlando Magic:

Marcus Smart, PG Oklahoma State

Smart would have been the choice for the Magic last year had he declared and I don’t see them passing on him this time around.  He has the strength, skill and competitiveness to be a very good player during his rookie campaign.  Defensively, I think he will be an impact player right away using a quick lateral first step and outmuscling leaner guards. Offensively,  he may not be the most efficient prospect, but he can create his own shot and get to the rim.  One of his biggest strengths will be drawing fouls, He should shoot 5.5-6.0 free throws per game during his rookie year.  Him and Jabari are the two most NBA ready of the top 7 prospects, and I expect one to win ROY.

Noah Vonleh, PF/C, Indiana

Noah Vonleh has length, shooting touch and a rebounding acumen. During the season Vonleh did not look like an explosive athlete, but at the combine we saw this simply was the case. Vonleh’s 37 Max Vertical at the combine outshines big men such as Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudemire  when they were tested at the combine. With the makings of a reliable jump shot Vonleh could be the whole package. He will never be the first scoring option on his team, but he will provide excellent defense and rebounding while improving offensively every year.

5. The Utah Jazz:

Noah Vonleh, PF/C Indiana

I truly believe this is a no brainer for the Jazz. If the top 4 healthy players are off the board, they get to take Vonleh, who in my opinion is the best PF prospect in this draft, and add him to a young rotation with Derek Favors and Enes Kanter.  Vonleh, a Massachusetts native, has great handles for a 6’10” big man with a 7’4” wingspan and excellent shooting touch from the outside, which compliments his back to the basket game making him a dangerous threat offensively all around. Not only can Vonleh score, which he showed at Indiana despite Indiana having some of the worst guard play in the conference, but he also was a monster on the glass.  I think Vonleh has the potential for 20 + 12, but he will need a season or two to mature physically in order to handle the physicality of the NBA for a big man during an 82+ game schedule.

Marcus Smart, Guard, Oklahoma State

Marcus Smart. It has been leaked that the Jazz are considering packaging their 5th pick with Derrick Favors, in order to draft Jabari Parker at one. If this is the type of package they offer I would be shocked if it wasn’t Cleveland picking at 5. Both the Cavaliers and the Jazz could use a combo guard that brings elite defense, which is why Marcus Smart makes sense here

6. The Boston Celtics:

Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

Danny gets his man! Embiid is certainly a risky pick now with his stress fracture, but the talent and potential to be the best center in the league is wayyyyyy too much to pass on.  When healthy, Embiid displayed a dominant defensive presence, altering shots and handling the pick and roll.  Furthermore, Embiid has a beautiful shot with soft touch out to 17 feet. He displayed a surprisingly high level of instincts and playmaking on the block with his back to the basket, and, like few big man we see, is fleet-footed like a guard.  He has all the physical prerequisites to be a franchise player—-except health.  Celtic fans will need to be patient, but a year from now, they could be looking at a quick turnaround into a contender with a healthy Embiid to go along with a slew of young prospects Danny will have if they don’t make big moves this offseason.

Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

The Celtics are not ready to contend. Even if they were able to trade this pick for Kevin Love, they are still at least one big piece away. With the rebuild under way, the Celtics pick the player with the highest upside despite his huge injury risks. If healthy Embiid can be the best center in the league by the end of his rookie contract, however that is a big if. This pick could have a big effect on Rondo, if they draft Embiid the Celtics are showing they are fine with the rebuild continuing, something Rondo will not be fine with. I love Embiid, but it could be bittersweet knowing that his arrival signals the departure of number 9.

7. The LA Lakers:

Julius Randle, PF Kentucky

This would be a great pick for the Lakers.  Randle is ready to play at the NBA next season as he has an NBA body to go along with his high level of passion for the game.  If his foot is okay following surgery, I think he is a double double machine at the NBA level and will pair nicely with Kobe as they prepare to turn the Lakers ship around from last years horror show. Everyone is curious to see whether he will be able to shoot the ball from mid range with high efficiency, and honestly I can’t say either way with confidence, but I do know, if he can, especially being a slightly undersized player, that his potential will skyrocket.

Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky

I expect the Lakers to trade this pick, probably to Boston, Atlanta, or Philadelphia. Regardles of who picks here Julius Randle provides the best value. Although he was strictly a low post scorer in college, his high free throw percentage could indicate that he has the ability to become a good shooter.

8. The Sacramento Kings Select:

Aaron Gordon, Forward, Arizona

As a player who excels without the ball, Gordon would fit in quite well being paired with a volume shooter like Gay and another shot hungry player in DeMarcus Cousins.  Gordon, and I believe this without any hesitation, will make the biggest impact on the defensive end of any player in the draft next season.  He is so quick laterally with incredible strength and amazing verticality. If his shot has improved like I have been hearing, the Kings could get the perfect compliment for their current team here.  If Marcus Smart slips, I think they choose him, but they won’t go wrong choosing Gordon here. Quality player and quality person. He could be a combo of Scottie Pippen and Shawn Marion if he reaches his potential.

Aaron Gordon, Forward, Arizona

In my estimation there is a 75% chance the Kings make a trade. With Rudy Gay opting in the Kings will be right up against the cap next season. Ownership is not paying for a high priced roster just to select a player that won’t have immediate impact, the Kings are trying to win now. I put Aaron Gordon here because he has the highest value for any prospective trade partner.

9.  The Charlotte Hornets:

Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan

The Hornets (formerly the Bobcats) get the shooter they covet here.  I went and saw Stauskas play in person this past season at Michigan and he seems to score effortlessly, getting off shots both coming off screens and rotating on penetration.  He has excellent footwork on the offensive end—he squares up to the basket fluidly and consistently. I think this is a great pick.  I know he isn’t where he needs to be on the defensive end yet, but he’s coming along….and you just can’t teach someone to shoot the way he does.  Gym rat!

Doug McDermott, Forward, Creighton

Charlotte needs shooting and scoring, Doug McDermott is the best scorer in the draft. Pairing McBuckets with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist gives the Hornets a wing combo that allows Charlotte to hide McDermott on defense

10. The Philadelphia 76ers:

Gary Harris, SG Michigan State

A spartan after a wolverine, like the rivalry needs any more juice. Gary Harris could be the steal of this draft.  He does everything well, seriously.  Offensively, he can get to the bucket and is a better shooter than his numbers would indicate.  He isn’t afraid of the big moment and comes up big when it counts.  He is also a top tier defensive prospect, cutting into passing lanes and creating chaos for ball handlers.  Worst case scenario he is Avery Bradley with consistent offense, best case scenario he is James Harden with Defense.

Elfrid Payton, PG, Lousiana Lafayette

Elfrid Payton is an elite defender at the point guard position. With great athleticism and effort his upside is potentially the greatest of any pg in the draft. Pairing Payton with Exum gives Philadelphia it’s long athletic and supremely quick back court of the future.

11. The Denver Nuggets:

Dario Saric, SF/PF Croatia

Saric is signed on to play in Europe for two more seasons, but the potential is great.  I think he is worth the risk for the Nuggets here if they don’t trade this pick.  Blessed with the court vision of a guard and the body of a PF, his smooth style of play will translate well to the NBA.  He needs to get stronger and fine-tune his shooting mechanics, but he is without question, a top 10 talent in this draft.

Nik Stauskas, Guard, Michigan

Stauskas can really fill it up, especially from 3 point range. If Galinari is back to 100% this international pair could make the Nuggets shooting deadly next year. Stauskas will provide scoring as well as ball handling when Ty Lawson needs a breather.

12. The Orlando Magic:

Doug McDermott, Forward, Creighton

Instant offense.  The Magic will get exactly that next season with the NBA ready McDermott.  He is one of college basketball’s most prolific scorers of all-time and I don’t see how his offensive game won’t translate.  He is very capable of knocking down both open and guarded jump shots, but what makes him truly special is his one or two (max) dribble moves.  He is able to use his advanced footwork in a series of step backs, step throughs, and side steps to create offense for himself despite lacking elite lateral quickness or agility. He is a huge huge weapon on the offensive end of the court.  Sadly, he is also likely a liability on the defensive end.  He just doesn’t have the foot speed to guard 3’s, nor the strength/length to guard 4’s, but with good instincts and high basketball IQ, he should be passable enough to allow his offensive game to flourish.

Gary Harris, Guard, Michigan State

I expect the Magic to draft a point guard with either of their picks in this draft. If they go Vonleh like they did in this mock draft, expect them to try and package Aflalo and this pick to move up and get Elfrid Payton. If they are not ale to move up they will pick the best guard available, which is Gary Harris.

13. The Minnesota Timberwolves:

James Young, SF Kentucky

The sweet shooting lefty will provide much needed spacing for the Timberwolves who desperately need a shooter like Young to help limit the double teams Kevin Love faces.  He is ready to have an immediate impact next year despite being one of the younger prospects in the draft.  Sit in the corner and drain threes and James Young could be a solid NBA player for the next 12 years.

TJ Warren, SF, North Carolina State

All the news on Minnesota trading Kevin Love seems to be pointing in the same direction, the Wolves aren’t interested in a rebuild. With this pick they add the best remaining scorer in the draft, TJ Warren, who should be able to immediately come in and score for them.

14. The Phoenix Suns:

TJ Warren, SF, NC State

Warren is an amazing scorer.  His outside shot isn’t pretty but I don’t think it’s totally broken.  He has great footwork and an ability to score in the lane reminiscent of a young Paul Pierce.  He needs to get better on the defensive end and tighten up his handle, but on an offensive minded team like the Suns, he could be a huge addition on a night where the Suns could be adding a few prospects to their team.

Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State

 Channing Frye just opted out of his deal. Phoenix will look to replace him with a young, athletic, sweet shooting big. While Payne won’t immediately shoot like Frye, his defense is already better than his predecessor.

15. The Atlanta Hawks:

Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia

Nurkic is just a massive person. He is 7 feet tall and 280 pounds. He plays with soft hands and good energy when focused.  He seems to get caught out of position on both ends of the floor too frequently, but at his age and possessing his rare physical gifts, he is worth the risk here for the always international leaning Hawks.

 Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia

The Hawks have one of the best European scouting departments in the NBA, Expect them to pick Nikola Pekovic 2.0 here at 15. Nurkic is quick footed but not vertically athletic and a load to handle in the post. So Far Ferry has shown very patient with the Hawks, and I think this patience continues with this young center.

16. The Chicago Bulls:

Elfrid Payton, PG Louisiana Lafayette

The Bulls and coach Thibs get the defensive minded physical point guard they have craved as a back-up next to D Rose.  Payton is quick and strong going to the basket, but needs to improve his finishing ability.  He also needs to clean up a messy looking perimeter jumper, but thanks to his defense, i think he is ready to contribute right away with rotation minutes.

Rodney Hood, SG/SF, Duke

The Bulls desperately need shooting. Rodney Hood is the best shooter available. Although I have concerns about his defense and ability to create, coach Thibbs has developed a  lot of players with less talent than Hood.

17. The Boston Celtics:

Zach Lavine, SG, UCLA

Don’t be fooled, Lavine is a SG all the way.  While he is very physically immature, he has absurd athleticism and a pretty shooting stroke making him well worth the gamble at this point for the Celtics.  He could either be Kedrick Brown or Russell Westbrook.

 

Zach Lavine, SG, UCLA

 The Celtics have already drafted Embiid, and probably traded Rondo. Since they know next year will be a rebuilding one, why not draft the best athlete available. Although he might take a couple years LaVine has the speed length and athleticism to end up being a top 5 player in this draft.

18. The Phoenix Suns:

Shabazz Napier, PG UCONN

Shabazz is battle tested, NBA ready and has an explosive offensive game.  He can create his own shot on the perimeter with ease and is as scrappy as the came on defense.  He reminds me of a young Derek Fisher.

Dario Saric, Forward, Croatia

The Suns have 3 first round picks, so they can afford to draft a top ten talent even if he won’t play for them for at least two years. While I question whether Saric will ever have the quickness to defend in the NBA, he has top ten offensive talent and is great pick at this spot.

19. The Chicago Bulls:

Adreian Payne, PF Michigan State

An older player, he isn’t going to improve too much, but he doesn’t have to. He is a highly useful rotation player in the NBA as he can stretch the defense in the half-court offense, can get out and play above the rim on the break and he can provide some rim protection on the defensive end. Very safe pick here and he is exactly the type of player the Bulls need if they want to get back into contention in the east right away.

James Young, SF, Kentucky

Young is the best shooter left in this draft. There is also a good chance he develops as a slasher and becomes a complete scorer. The Bulls come out of the draft with two deadly 3 point shooters to bolster their offense.

20. The Toronto Raptors:

Tyler Ennis, PG Syracuse

Ennis’ stock was higher earlier on during the season, but he is a solid pick here for the point guard needing Raptors.  He always seems to make the needed play, relying on instincts over athleticism.  He needs to get in better shape, but he could be a solid point guard immediately.  I think this is really best case scenario for the Raptors.  They would also take Shabazz or Payton should they be available.

Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut

With Kyle Lowry’s tenure with the Raptors in flux, drafting a point guard is a great insurance policy. Shabazz Napier is a winner, who will hit the big shot whenever his team needs it, despite his physical limitations, that is all that matters.

21. The Oklahoma City Thunder:

PJ Hairston, SG/SF NBDL/UNC

Hairston is a strong, physical, sweet shooting scorer from the D League.  He left UNC after being dismissed from the team, but I tend to think he has grown from his mistakes.  He can get to the bucket and could be a very good defensive player.  He, Westbrook and Durant along with Ibaka and Adams could make for one hell of a physically dominant and gifted starting unit.

PJ Hairston, SG/SF NBDL/UNC

Evan: PJ Hairston. Despite the emergence of Reggie Jackson, the Thunder desperately missed having a top notch scoring coming off the bench. Hairston can really shoot and is a good option to eventually take on the bench scoring mantle.

22. The Memphis Grizzlies:

Rodney Hood, SF Duke

The other sweet shooting lefty from an elite college program, Hood is a lanky yet skilled scorer from mid range and long distance.  I don’t see him being able to achieve stardom at the next level, but he could play in a similar way that Tayshaun Prince does.  Corner threes and good defense will be the keys to a long career for Hood.  I think he works for Memphis here, but I’m not wild about his long term prospects, he needs to get a lot stronger.

KJ McDaniels, SG/SF, Clemson

McDaniels is already a great defender and athlete. He is the prototypical 3 and d guy. Memphis’ system more than any in the league is built to utilize types of players. He will come in and immediately improve upon Tayshawn Prince’s production. 

23. The Utah Jazz:

KJ McDaniels, SF, Clemson

After drafting a big man in Aaron Gordon at number 5, they continue their effort to bring in elite athletes and defensive talents with McDaniels.  If he learns to be a passable shooter, McDaniels will be a great pick here as he can score in big time ways in the open court and is good at everything defense.  I’d be excited about this draft if I were a Jazz fan.  It’s a big step forward.

Kyle Anderson, Forward, UCLA

I believe Kyle Anderson will be a power forward in the NBA because he has no chance of staying with a small forward on the perimeter. With the Jazz sporting two brutes in the post, adding a skilled passer and shooter to their rotation should do wonders.

24. The Charlotte Hornets:

Patrick Young, C Florida

Young may be undersized in terms of height, but he has the strength and leaping ability to be a factor on the defensive end. He won’t do much on offense except finish off open dunks, but he looks the part of emotional leader/backup defensive minded center to me.  For the Hornets (Bobcats) this makes sense as they need to add some leadership and a winner in order to get over the first round hump next year.

CJ Wilcox, Guard, Washington

Wilcox is the best available shooter. The Hornets would be best served to surround Al Jefferson with shooters since they currently don’t have any Wilcox fills a need.

25. The Houston Rockets:

Glen Robinson III, SF Michigan

I know, I know, Robinson hasn’t produced consistently yet, but he does have the mandatory physical tools to play at the NBA level.  He can leap out the gym, is quick both laterally and north/south and shows a serious fire in his belly.  He play above the rim and has a pretty shot.  I think he could be the steal of the back end of the draft.  He is everything Kyle Anderson is not, and that’s a good thing.

Clint Capela, PF/C, Switzerland

Houston is at the forefront of the analytics movement in basketball. According to Kevin Pelton’s WARP metric Capela is a the second best player in the draft. With James Harden’s ambivalent attitude towards defense the Rockets can use all the rim protectors they can get.

26. The Miami Heat:

Cleanthony Early, SF Wichita State

Early is another player who looks to have all the physical requirements for a successful player.  He was the number one option for a great college program and showed up huge in the tourny. For a team that may lose Lebron, he is worth a pick here.

Tyler Ennis, PG, Sycacuse

With Mario Chalmers being non existent in the finals the Heat could use a distributing point guard like Ennis to make sure the big 3 all get good shot opportunities.

27. The Phoenix Suns

Mitch Mcgary, PF/C Michigan

If Mcgary has recovered from his back surgery, he has great strength and agility for his position. He is a solid player on both ends, and would do well in the Suns rotation.  The Suns will almost certainly trade this pick, but if they don’t, they could end up with a quality player in McGary.

Glen Robinson III, SF, Michigan

GR3 is a great athlete and when you are a great athlete in the Phoenix system you can get a lot of easy buckets. The Suns add to their turbo paced offense while adding a prospect with high defensive upside.

28. The LA Clippers:

Kyle Anderson, SF/PG/PF, UCLA

Personally, I’m a huge hater of Anderson’s game.  I think he is too slow laterally and too weak to play any position defensively in the NBA.  He is a terrific passer and ball handler for a player his size though.  If he can add strength, he could be Boris Diaw like, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.  Boris Diaw was an amazing prospect, far better than Anderson.  I think the Clippers reach here to try and add a facilitator rather than a scorer to their prolific offense. I just think they could do better.

Jordan Clarkson, Guard, Missouri

Jordan Clarkson is a scoring two guard who is deadly in the pick and roll. With Daren Collison opting out, Clarkson should be able to play with Jamal Crawford to create a strong bench back court.

29. The Oklahoma City Thunder:

Jarnell Stokes, PF Tennessee

Stokes is a physical monster, a bull that reminds me of Craig Smith.  He is a top end rebounder and finisher at the basket.  I’m not worried about being undersized, I think he can be a rotation player for years.  He adds another huge piece to a Thunder team who is close to breaking through for a championship shot.

Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State

Early might be a tweener because he doesn’t have the handle to create for himself on the wing. What he can do is run the floor, play solid defense and knock down open shots, an excellent addition to the OKC bench.

30. The San Antonio Spurs:

Clint Capela, PF/C Switzerland

Why? Best remaining international prospect and this is the Spurs we are talking about.

Mitch McGary, Center, Michigan

The Spurs will gamble on McGary’s back and they will get the type of production from a solid passing big that only they can.

 

THAT’S A WRAP! Thanks for reading! Let us know what you think…

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