My last mock draft looked at the possible ripple effects that could present in the draft if the Cavs decided that, instead of drafting Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid, they took Jabari Parker. This mock draft will be along the same lines as that, a type of thought experiment. The thought experiment is this: What happens if David Griffin is a lot more like Chris Grant than we thought, and decides to take a high-upside guy who isn’t one of those top three again?
Before we get started, we have to figure out which player is going to be our Anthony Bennett/Dion Waiters/Tristan Thompson guy that every Cavs fan would spend the next four years redrafting with? Given what these three players have in common, it appears that our dumb pick is going to have to have the following three qualities:
1. Upside. This player has to be enticing enough for the Cavs to think he could be better than the big three at the top. Remember, Chris Grant always wanted to outsmart people.
2. Rawness. Apparently the fact that the player might not be able to do much immediately is irrelevant, and perhaps even required.
3. Positionless. If you can pick a tweener, preferably one that plays point guard or power forward primarily, even better.
With that in mind, let’s get on with the horror (I promise to have a real mock next time. Don’t worry).
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Dante Exum, Australia
David Griffin appears to be an improvement over Chris Grant, so if he’s following the same blueprint, we can only hope that he will find someone to fit the Grant profile without reaching too much. Exum has been considered as high as at number two for the Bucks. He hits all our check-marks above, in that he has a lot of upside, looks pretty raw at the moment (particularly shooting), and is a combo guard that primarily plays on the ball, which he will share with Kyrie Irving, Waiters, Jarrett Jack, and Matthew Dellavedova. Realistically the Exum pick would likely signal the end of days for Dion Waiters, and would be a better fit than Julius Randle or Marcus Smart because he’s primarily a distributor, which would help. Really, y’all got off easy here.
2. Milwaukee Bucks – Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Well, this one becomes easy. The Bucks suddenly get the pick of the litter at number two, and they go Wiggins, because the possibility of Wiggins and Giannis enjoying life and generating 5-6 off-ball steals per game is to good to pass up. They’d need to look for shooting elsewhere, but Wiggins would give Milwaukee a legitimate star for the first time since they traded Ray Allen to the Sonics.
3. Philadelphia 76ers – Jabari Parker, Duke
At this spot, Parker makes more sense for the Sixers than Embiid. With Nerlens Noel already filling the center position in Philly, I don’t think they take the chance on two centers with injury histories that might struggle to play together, especially early. Instead, Philadelphia opts for a primary scorer who could coexist with Thaddeus Young or replace him. Parker would give them immediate star power, and his ability to create off the bounce would help take some of the burden off of Michael Carter-Williams offensively.
4. Orlando Magic – Julius Randle, Kentucky
I’m sorry. I just can’t do it. There is no way that I can reasonably justify the Magic taking Joel Embiid. Since I’m not doing trades here, Orlando would be stuck with him and Nikola Vucevic moving forward, which wouldn’t work. Vucevic and Embiid basically work in the same space, and attempting to play both together is foolish on a team built on athleticism like Orlando is. Instead, the Magic do the same thing Philly did, opting for a post scoring threat who could give their offense a boost. Randle would likely be the best fit in Orlando, as he offers a little better floor spacing and scoring punch than Embiid, and can offer more immediate impact for a team that’s looking to make a jump next year.
5. Utah Jazz – Joel Embiid, Kansas
Utah, however, is a place where Embiid could fit, even though it’s not intuitive to their current roster. Embiid would be a vast upgrade over Enes Kanter at this point, and would allow Derrick Favors to slide back to his natural power forward position. Utah’s a team full of middle-of-the-road prospects, and Embiid could be the one that puts them over the top in a couple of years. Utah would instantly become a lot more interesting with Burke/Embiid PNR and that defense-oriented frontcourt swatting shots.
6. Boston Celtics – Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Reports have been circulating that Boston wants Gordon, so let’s entertain the possibility. I’m not that high on him, given his total lack of an offensive game outside of finishing at the rim, but if Boston wanted him, it could work. By the time Gordon would be approaching his real ability, Jeff Green would likely be gone. Gordon could eventually be the teams’ full-time four, with the ability to defend shooting guards through centers next to Kelly Olynyk, or whoever the C’s center is in 2016.
7. Los Angeles Lakers – Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Usually if Marcus Smart is here at seven, I pull that trigger for L.A., because the idea of Smart working under Kobe is too enticing. But what if the Lakers want to build from the frontcourt? Vonleh is an athletic freak, and his shooting ability combined with his ability to protect the rim makes him a perfectly versatile piece to pair with anyone the Lakers want to move forward with. Immediately, Vonleh would likely work to improve his offensive game and shot-blocking timing, but in a few years, could be an Ibaka-like third option for whatever this next iteration of the Lakers looks like.
8. Sacramento Kings – Dario Saric, Croatia
I like the fit of Saric for the Kings, in terms of both the immediate and the longterm. Immediately, Saric could stay in Europe for a few seasons, which helps the Kings’ cap situation and power forward logjam. Long term, Saric is the type of utility weapon the Kings would love next to DeMarcus Cousins, thanks to his passing and improving defensive ability. I think Saric is an ideally versatile piece for Sacramento to add at this juncture.
9. Charlotte Hornets – Doug McDermott, Creighton
McDermott is simply perfect for what the Hornets need at this juncture. He’s a great shooter, which will allow them to spread the floor a little more, and can play the three or four, allowing them to go big or small as needed. He’s not a great defender, but he’s not a bad athlete, and if there’s anyone who can implement McDermott into a top defense, it’s defensive witch doctor Steve Clifford. McDermott makes enough sense for the Hornets that they also have passed on Marcus Smart, and we have our second big slide of the mock draft.
10. Philadelphia 76ers – Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Well…..nevermind. Smart actually makes sense to pair with this new Sixers unit we’ve assembled, thanks to his ability to also create shots and attack the basket. Smart is a solid player who can contribute on both ends, and wouldn’t suffer too much off the ball offensively or on the ball defensively. With MCW, Smart, and Jabari, I fear we might have created a little bit of a PUJIT-fest in the Sixers’ offense, but they have Brett Brown, who should be able to sort that out at least somewhat well. Philly grabs the best player available and moves on.
11. Denver Nuggets – James Young, Kentucky
With pretty much every position outside of shooting guard stocked with capable NBA players, Denver elects to improve at that position by taking Young to pair with Randy Foye and Wilson Chandler. Young has a lot of potential as a 3+D type at the NBA level, and while he’s a little erratic now, he’s the type of guy that should be a solid two-way player eventually, and the Nuggets, a team full of one-way guys, need that.
12. Orlando Magic – Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
With Julius Randle on board, we need shooting and point guard play in Orlando, both of which make Ennis a solid fit at pick 12. Ennis can stroke it a little from outside, is excellent in the clutch, and is most importantly a strong distributor, and would add a nice dynamic to the Orlando offense. He could also hide well on defense, as Victor Oladipo gives the Magic a solid on-ball defender to throw at point guards, while Ennis can prowl off the ball and pick off steals. It’s a nice little setup.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves – Rodney Hood, Duke
Seeing as I can’t realistically draft a player who’s ceiling I described as Kevin Martin to the team who currently employs Kevin Martin, Hood enters the fold in Minnesota in order to offer basically the same offensive positives Stauskas does, although with more hope on defense and more shooting ability. The T’Wolves really needed better floor spacing last year, and Hood gives them another weapon at that spot. With Hood, an improved Shabazz Muhammad, and a potentially healthy Chase Budinger, Minnesota should have plenty of options for that.
14. Phoenix Suns – Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Phoenix then pounces on Stauskas, given that he’s the best player available. Stauskas with the Suns is a great dynamic, because a true shooting guard who can give them even MORE offensive spacing is exactly what they need. He can also play the point a little bit, which allows them to have a safety valve if Eric Bledsoe gets overpaid. The pace which Phoenix plays at would help hide him defensively as well. Easy choice.
15. Atlanta Hawks – Zach Lavine, UCLA
This pick was really down to Lavine vs. Gary Harris, and given Danny Ferry’s draft history, the higher-upside pick is probably the one they would go with. Lavine is one amazing athlete, but doesn’t really do anything particularly well on the court. He played a lot of point in college, but with Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder, Lavine should play more off the ball if he’s taken by Atlanta. He’d be an excellent fit as a shooter and off-ball finisher, and can play some defense as well. He’s another great multi-use tool for the Hawks to play with.
16. Chicago Bulls – Gary Harris, Michigan State
Chicago needs backcourt improvement, and Harris is someone they’d really like to drop this far. He is a decent defender who should be able to guard both backcourt spots, and his ability to attack the basket and shoot from outside would bolster the Bulls’ offense. He can also handle the ball well, and that’s very important on a team that doesn’t know what their point guard situation will be like going forward. This is probably as far as I’d see Harris sliding in this draft, because he just fits so well with Chicago’s needs.
17. Boston Celtics – K.J. McDaniels, Clemson
With Gordon appearing to be the guy for Boston at six (for now), why don’t we just turn the Celtics fully into an NBA Butler? McDaniels and Gordon is a tangle of arms and defensive ability, and when you pair that with Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger, you have the makings of a very solid defensive team. While McDaniels isn’t a great offensive player, he improved significantly over his time at Clemson, and in a more supporting cast role, he should be able to become a very strong three-and-D player.
18. Phoenix Suns – Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Nurkic is a big but athletic center, and as a PNR finisher and strong potential rim protector, is the type of player Phoenix could use to anchor their team in the middle. I assume Phoenix is going to draft at least one player to leave over in Europe for at least a year with three picks in the first round, and Nurkic is by far the best player available. He should be able to become their version of Nikola Mirotic.
19. Chicago Bulls – Clint Capela, Switzerland
Chicago has needed another backup big for a few years now, given their obsession with allowing Nazr Mohammed continue to attempt basketball. That becomes even more important with the potential amnesty of Carlos Boozer looming this summer. Capela is a shot-blocking, rim-destroying forward that would be excellent for the Bulls, in that he can protect the rim and pass a little bit. He could play next to Taj Gibson or Joakim Noah and add a fun component to the Bulls’ frontcourt.
20. Toronto Raptors – Adreian Payne, Michigan State
All of Toronto’s power forwards are hitting free agency at some point in the next two years. Patrick Patterson is a restricted free agent this year, and Tyler Hansbrough, Chuck Hayes, and Amir Johnson all hit unrestricted free agency next summer. Therefore, a power forward might be the best option for the Raptors, and Payne is certainly a great choice. Payne could step in and contribute right away, and his skills mimic Patterson’s, which could make #2Patz expendable if a team overpays him. 3-point shooting and defense are always useful, and if that’s coming from a 6’11” forward, even better.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – P.J. Hairston, Texas Legends
With Derek Fisher retiring (YAY), and Thabo Sefolosha potentially leaving in free agency, the Thunder grabbing another wing off the bench is a strong idea. Hairston is incredibly athletic and a strong two-way prospect, and he should be able to contribute right away. With Hairston, Andre Roberson, and Perry Jones, the Thunder’s bench wing rotation should be plenty terrifying.
22. Memphis Grizzlies – T.J. Warren, N.C. State
Warren isn’t a great defensive prospect, but he is a great scorer, which is probably more important to Memphis. Warren is a great off-ball cutter and shooter, and while he’s not the 3-point shooter that the Grizzlies need, they are getting Quincy Pondexter back next year. Warren can pair with Pondexter in order to give Memphis some offensive punch from the wing, something the team has sorely lacked since the Rudy Gay trade.
23. Utah Jazz – Jerami Grant, Syracuse
Embiid makes things a little complicated at No. 23 for the Jazz. The question is whether they go with Elfrid Payton, or opt for a stretch four-type to give them more flexibility. Grant makes sense for them, as he’s incredibly athletic, a great transition finisher, and solid defensive prospect. Grant should fit in here well off the bench in Utah.
24. Charlotte Hornets – Elfrid Payton, UL-Lafayette
With their second pick, Charlotte should look to grab an upgrade at the backup point guard position over Luke Ridnour. Payton fits what Charlotte likes at the point; he can attack the basket, he’s a decent distributor, and he has solid potential as an on-ball defender. Payton would be a solid choice to be Kemba Walker’s understudy.
25. Houston Rockets – Kyle Anderson, UCLA
With Chandler Parsons potentially now sign-and-trade bait, there’s a chance that the Rockets could look at another facilitatory three in order to support or replace him. Anderson fits that bill, as his passing and shooting ability could help open up the Rockets’ offense even more than it is already. In addition, Anderson projects as a better defender than Parsons due to his length. In all, Anderson makes a ton of sense for the Rockets.
26. Miami Heat – Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
With so much decision-making to do this summer, the Heat would love to fall back on a guy who could make an immediate impact. Early is an outstanding athlete that can play multiple positions, and he’s definitely ready to be a bench scorer on the offensive end. If the Heat can develop him into a better 3-point machine, Early would be an excellent addition to the Flying Death Machine.
27. Phoenix Suns – Jordan Adams, UCLA
Nik Stauskas is an offense-first prospect at the wing, and so is Adams. The difference between the two is that Adams projects as a better defensive prospect. Adams is also a better cutter and transition weapon, and the two could compliment each other well. If Adams is here at 27, I think Phoenix pulls the trigger.
28. Los Angeles Clippers – Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
With the Clippers losing basically every backup frontcourt player they have this summer, they need some help there, through free agency and the draft. Stokes is a power rebounder with limited other skills, but he has the potential to be excellent on the boards in the NBA, much like Reggie Evans. He’d be an excellent contributor for the Clips.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder – Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia
Porzingis is a raw scoring big who the Thunder will look stash. He’s 18 and won’t be heard from for a few years.
30. San Antonio Spurs – Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
On the off-chance the Spurs draft a player they won’t stash, Napier fits the Spurs’ needs with Patty Mills potentially leaving. He can score and distribute from the point guard position, and while he’s a tad undersized, his talent fits well with the Spurs’ system.
31. Milwaukee Bucks – Vasilije Micic, Serbia
The Bucks don’t have a great history with international prospects (Hi, Yi!), but Micic is a great distributing point guard, which is what the Bucks have been lacking. We’ll see if he actually comes over to the NBA, but Micic, in theory, is a good fit with this team.
32. Philadelphia 76ers – Artem Klimenko, Russia
The Sixers use one of their 537 draft picks to stash the gargantuan Klimenko, who looks the part of an incredibly talented big. He doesn’t have the technical skill, but he’s an excellent athlete for his size. That sounds like something Philly could get behind.
33. Cleveland Cavaliers – Glenn Robinson III, Michigan
Since we went good and dumb at pick No. 1, the Cavs would hopefully make the smart decision at No. 33 and take Robinson, a great shooter and athlete who could be the answer at backup small forward.