- May 6, 2003
Vecenie put out a new mock draft:
1. Houston Rockets
Cade Cunningham | 6-foot-8, lead ballhandler | 19 years old, freshman | Oklahoma State
The player: Cunningham is a 6-foot-8 primary playmaker. What does that mean? Well, if you need him to play the point, he can do that. His time at Montverde Academy showed he is a smart, unselfish passer who can make all of the necessary reads. If you need him to play as a secondary wing scoring threat, though, he can do that too. Cunningham was the primary scoring option this past season for Oklahoma State, carrying a substandard roster to an extremely impressive season while averaging 20 points per game and shooting over 40 percent from 3. On top of it, heís a good, multi-positional defender who always knows where he needs to be both in help and in switches. Cunningham is the total package and the clear No. 1 player on my board.
The fit: No team has more riding on this lottery than Houston. The Rockets keep their pick if it is in the top four, giving them a 52 percent chance to retain it. If it falls outside of that, they lose their pick to Oklahoma City in a convoluted pick swap scenario that also includes Miami. And for a team reeling after the James Harden trade, without a true centerpiece to build around at this stage (sorry, Kevin Porter Jr. and Christian Wood), losing this pick could set Houston back for another full year while waiting for an influx of major, high-end talent. Cunningham is exactly what they need, but the Rockets would also likely settle for any of the other top-four prospects.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves
Jalen Suggs | 6-5 guard | 19 years old, freshman | Gonzaga
The player: A powerful guard with a well-rounded game, Suggs profiles nicely as a lead initiator in the NBA. He has terrific athleticism and quick-twitch, mixed with terrific power and explosion as a dunker. He pairs that with a real skill level and feel for the game. Heís a tremendous full-court passer in transition who has started to really bring some of those elite plays to half-court settings out of ball screens. He has a real understanding of what a good shot is. Game-winning NCAA tournament shot not withstanding, his jumper still needs to tighten up. But itís far from broken, and he can already take and make pull-up 3s. Plus, when engaged, heís a tremendous on-ball defender. There just arenít a ton of holes with Suggs, and he has the look of a future All-Star if the jumper improves just by a small margin.
The fit: This might seem strange to a team that already has DíAngelo Russell and Anthony Edwards, but I love the fit. Suggs plays such a complete game with a real level of unselfishness that I think pairing him long-term with Edwards would be tremendous and lead to a pretty quick turnaround ó signs of which weíre already starting to see under Chris Finch. Whereas Edwards and Russell are more ball-dominant, Suggs has the flexibility to play with both and change his role based on who is around him. Also, Suggsí high-level on-ball defense pairs well with a duo that can struggle on that end and a team that desperately needs an infusion of energy on that side of the floor. Heíd give Minnesota another real potential All-Star talent.
3. Detroit Pistons
Evan Mobley | 7-0 center | 19 years old, freshman | USC
The player: Mobley is a very well-rounded center prospect, a much stronger fit for the modern NBA than last yearís top-two pick James Wiseman. Mobley is a tremendous defender with incredible instincts, both as a rim protector and away from the basket. Heís really good in pick-and-coverages due to how fluid and mobile his hips and feet are. Offensively, he is really comfortable handling the ball and making plays as a passer. He has some real upside as a shot creator out of dribble handoffs and short rolls. USC even used him as a pick-and-roll ballhandler at times. He has the potential to step away and shoot too, as he made 12 3s this past season. This is another potential All-Star level talent, even with the fact that the replacement level at the center position in todayís NBA is remarkably high.
The fit: The Pistons should be taking the best available player. On top of that, I am OK with the fit of Isaiah Stewart and Mobley because Stewartís mobility and rebounding mixed with Mobleyís length and shot-creation ability should work well together. You wonít play them like that all the time, but I think you can make that work. I think too, Jalen Green would get a real look here next to Killian Hayes given Greenís explosive scoring ability. But Mobleyís all-around game seems to fit more with what Troy Weaver has valued during his time in Detroit and Oklahoma City.
4. Orlando Magic
Jalen Green | 6-5 guard | 18 years old | G League Ignite
The player: One of the better scoring prospects of the last decade, Green will end up with a higher draft grade from me than Edwards, who has taken the league by storm in the second half of his rookie season. Green isnít quite as powerful as Edwards but has a similar level of quick-twitch and converts that twitch into powerful leaping and finishing off both one foot and two around the basket. I also like Greenís pull-up game and where he is as a shooter a bit more than where Edwards is. Green has a bit better touch entering the NBA and a bit more of a polished in-between game. He still has a ways to go in terms of making decisions and providing real defensive value on a consistent basis, but heís one of the surest bets to average at least 20 points per game that Iíve evaluated.
The fit: Pretty perfect. The Magic desperately need more offensive creativity from the backcourt, even with the infusion of Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton over the course of the past year. For a team that has been looking for an answer from its lead guard creators for a long time, pairing Green with that duo and Markelle Fultz would really give Orlando fans something to be excited about moving forward. Greenís polish as a scoring threat and athleticism would work really nicely with that group. Heíd give them the kind of potential All-Star theyíve lacked over the last decade. Frankly, Green has more upside than any guard the team has had on its roster since Penny Hardaway.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
Jonathan Kuminga | 6-7 forward | 18 years old | G League Ignite
The player: Kuminga has many of the tools that NBA teams are looking for from their big wing creators. Heís an athletic wing with real shot-creation potential due to his body control and power. Heís a terrific driver who gets into the paint, and he plays really hard. He cuts well, and while he didnít shoot it well this past season, I donít think his shot off the catch is broken by any stretch. He also struggled a bit on defense within the construct of what the Ignite wanted to do as a team, but he has all of the tools you look for with a 7-foot-plus wingspan and real athleticism and strength. He averaged 16 points and seven rebounds in his first professional experience and profiles well as a starting wing with real All-Star upside if the shot comes around.
The fit: The Cavaliers could use another wing with real two-way potential. Whereas Isaac Okoro was more of a defense-first guy, Kuminga would offset that at the three/four as more of an offense-first guy with real creativity as a scorer. Heís also a smart passer, which would help foster more ball movement with the backcourt ó something J.B. Bickerstaff has mentioned is a priority moving forward. With a legitimate option at center in Jarrett Allen as well as two strong options at guard in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, getting more help from the wing position would really help round out the roster.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder
Scottie Barnes | 6-8 forward | 19 years old, freshman | Florida State
The player: At between 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and a strong, powerful frame, Barnes has prototypical size and length for the wing and switchable big position. His lateral agility also is strong, allowing him to be the one prospect in this class who can genuinely switch one through five right now. Florida State often used him at the point of attack on that end, and he has quick, disruptive hands. More than that, he plays with incredible energy and verve. Heís one of the most positive, energy-giving players youíll evaluate, with a real positive spirit. Offensively, there is some work to do, but heís a tremendous passer with a high feel for the game, having averaged over four assists per game for Florida State while playing some point guard. Heís more of a four at the NBA level, and he needs to improve the shot. But Barnes has a chance to be an elite role player who makes well over nine figures in terms of salary if he becomes even an average shooter.
The fit: The Thunder love these multi-positional, athletic, intelligent players with great character and a high-level feel for the game. Donít sleep on the fact that heíd be a tremendous pairing with burgeoning prospect Aleksej Pokusevski. The latter can be the floater who uses his tremendous defensive instincts off the ball to pair with the strength and switchability that Barnes presents at the four. On top of that, pairing their passing ability in the frontcourt would really lead to a strong, ball movement-heavy attack from the kind of five-out situation that coach Mark Daigneault has been a fan of running. This would be one of my favorite fits in the draft.
7. Sacramento Kings
Keon Johnson | 6-5 wing | 18 years old, freshman | Tennessee
The player: An elite athlete, Johnson has the kind of twitch and explosion most players only dream of possessing. At 6-foot-5, he can jump out of the gym and has real burst as a driver. Heís also an elite defender on the ball already, where he uses that length and quickness to really cause issues for players at the one through three spots. Heís just very raw on offense right now. The jumper needs work, as heís essentially a non-shooter right now ó at least efficiently. He also needs to work on his handle and driving ability. But once Tennessee let him loose late in the season, Johnson was pretty good. He averaged 14.4 points, four rebounds and three assists over his final 12 games, including a bevy of impressive highlights that showcase what his upside is if he can keep rounding out his game.
The fit: The Kings basically have two guys theyíre truly building around in DeíAaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. Richaun Holmes is a free agent this offseason and could be in line for a real payday, so I would imagine they look for a real frontcourt option here. Harrison Barnes also is a very real trade target for contenders due to his declining-in-value contract and all-around game, so a bigger wing also makes sense. Ultimately though, Johnson would give them a very different presence than anything they have in their backcourt due to his defensive value and athletic upside. The Kings have one of the worst defenses Iíve seen on an NBA court, so getting someone who can set the tone on that end while also possessing real long-term value on offense seems like a strong choice.
8. Orlando Magic (via CHI)
Moses Moody | 6-6 wing | 18 years old, freshman | Arkansas
The player: The excitement surrounding Moody has dampened a bit following an inefficient NCAA Tournament, but I think some people are overthinking it. Moody is a terrific 3-and-D wing option with real size at 6-6 with a 7-foot wingspan. He is switchable on defense, with really good feet and a tough mindset. Offensively, he hits shots with a smooth stroke off the catch. He took a ton of contested shots this season as Arkansasí go-to guy, which led to some of his inefficiencies. But he also showcased some difficult shotmaking ability, too, off the move. The big things to work on here are his passing ability and finishing ó and heís not a wild athlete by any stretch. But itís tough to find teenagers who are this good at shooting and defending with a platform to improve his other aspects as well.
The fit: The Magic have a nice group of creative guards, plus have some real upside in the frontcourt with guys such as Jonathan Isaac, Wendell Carter and Chuma Okeke. The thing they donít really have is a true 3-and-D wing who can space the floor and play good defense. Moody fits that and fits the timeline of a rebuilding team well given his age. He doesnít have wild upside, in my opinion, but with handing them Green earlier, plus the fliers on Anthony and Hampton, the Magic can afford to take more of a steady, rock-solid wing who profiles to help teams win games in the future.
9. Toronto Raptors
Davion Mitchell | 6-3 guard | 22 years old, junior | Baylor
The player: The big riser of the NCAA Tournament, Mitchell was one of the best two-way players in the country. He won the national Defensive Player of the Year award due to his toughness at the point of attack. He took on a variety of assignments too, from smaller guards all the way up to guys like Cunningham. But where he made his mark this year was on offense, where Mitchell actualized the tools he has in terms of speed and quickness and became an extremely high-level table-setter as a passer. On top of that, he hit nearly 45 percent from 3. His game looks tailor-made and ready to play in the NBA.
The fit: The Raptors have a long-term answer at point guard in Fred VanVleet, but Kyle Lowry, the best player in franchise history, is a free agent this summer. What better way to replace him than by signing Mitchell, who in many ways has modeled his game after Lowryís brand of toughness, playmaking and shot making. The Raptors certainly donít have to go guard here, though, and likely will just take the best player available. Having said that, Masai Ujiri and the rest of the Raptorsí front office has valued older players who are ready to contribute early more than others across the league (Pascal Siakam, VanVleet and Malachi Flynn stand out, in addition to some of the players theyíve developed through their G League system).
10. New Orleans Pelicans
Josh Giddey | 6-8 wing | 18 years old | Adelaide
The player: Few players have as much momentum up the board right now as Giddey. He posted back-to-back triple-doubles in the Australian NBL last week, showcasing his extremely high-level feel for the game. Heís one of the smartest players in the draft, especially for a teenager. He has an innate understanding of where and how to get his teammates the ball in advantageous positions. Thatís his key skill. At 6-8 without elite athleticism, Giddey is more a secondary playmaker in the vein of a Joe Ingles as opposed to a primary point guard. But he should be able to make plays out of ball screens. The keys here will be shooting and an emphasis on defensive fundamentals. He needs to stay lower in his defensive stance. The jumper should improve in time, as nothing is broken mechanically.
The fit: In my opinion, the Pelicans could use a bit more ball movement within their core. Zion Williamson is still developing as a passer, and Brandon Ingram isnít particularly strong there yet. Lonzo Ball is obviously terrific as a passer, but he is a restricted free agent, and then their younger guards in Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis can move more toward the scoring aspect. Giddeyís ability to play unselfishly and his potential to shoot it profile nicely with this group.
11. Indiana Pacers
Franz Wagner | 6-9 forward | 19 years old, sophomore | Michigan
The player: Wagner is an interesting 3-and-D prospect with real size at 6-9. His movement is terrific, with great lateral quickness. He can guard a variety of perimeter players on the ball, but his off-ball instincts are absolutely spectacular. He knows exactly where to be positionally, and his reactivity to get deflections is outstanding. The big question revolves around his shot, which comes and goes far too often. Sometimes, he looks like a legit 40 percent 3-point shooter in the future. Other times, he looks like a 30 percent guy and totally non-confident in the jumper mechanics. Whichever one he is will determine his career. If he becomes that high-level shooter, heíll be a very high-level role player. If he doesnít, heís more in the vein of his brother, Moritz, as an end-of-the-rotation guy.
The fit: The Pacers need someone like this within their core, a defense-first wing who can pass and be relatively low-usage for wings such as Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren to focus on scoring. The team has also struggled a lot on defense in the minutes and games that Myles Turner has missed this season. This is another excellent fit on draft night if the Pacers end up with Wagner because he really fits from a positional perspective rotationally as well as a team-need perspective.
12. Washington Wizards
Kai Jones | 6-11 big | 19 years old, sophomore | Texas
The player: This is a home run swing. Jones is one of the more high-upside players youíll find in the draft. Having just started playing competitive hoops in his mid-teens, Jones is still figuring things out in terms of defensive awareness and passing reads. But heís a fascinating prospect because he has elite athleticism at 6-11. He moves his feet as fluidly as a wing and has explosive leaping ability as a shot blocker and dunker. He also has the kind of body control you look for as a shooter, with him having already showcased real shooting potential and shot-making upside. He can legitimately attack closeouts and pull up from the midrange to shoot. Heíll pull out Euro steps and maneuvers around defenders with legitimate skill. Heís a project, but heís one the right team could get a lot out of over the years.
The fit: The Wizards still have a significant need inside. Robin Lopez and Daniel Gafford have held things down during this recent run. But Lopez isnít getting any younger, and Gafford is still pretty limited to catching and finishing around the rim athletically. Jones might end up profiling best as a high-energy, high-athleticism backup. Acquiring another option inside seems like a good plan. I wouldnít sleep on the Wizards looking for further backcourt depth, though, given that the Bradley Beal situation long-term isnít going to resolve itself.
13. Golden State Warriors
James Bouknight | 6-5 wing | 20 years old, sophomore | Connecticut
The player: Bouknight is an athlete more in the vein of Zach LaVine, a smooth, floating explosiveness mixed with an authoritative finishing skill. Heís not quite as elite an athlete as young LaVine, but heís going to throw down some monster dunks that raise eyebrows as a rookie. In general, the best skill Bouknight brings to the table is his shot creation. He averaged nearly 19 points per game this past season. He has a strong first step and has real finishing craft around the basket. He hit 62.7 percent of his shots at the rim in half-court settings, in part because he was able to also get a lot of shots at the basket off cuts due to his intelligent off-ball movement. He needs to get better on defense and as a passer, but there is a real gift for getting buckets.
The fit: The Warriors desperately need more shot creation next to Stephen Curry. The offense has completely bogged down with him out of the game. Theyíll get some further firepower next year when Klay Thompson returns, but even with Thompson, the team still needs more creativity and guys who can get buckets in the backcourt. Bouknight would give them a real infusion of scoring, at the very least off the bench to start his career, then he could move into the starting lineup as the Warriorsí stars age.
14. San Antonio Spurs
Alperen Sengun | 6-9 big | 19 years old, international | Beskitas
The player: Sengun is putting up one of the most productive teenage seasons in recent European basketball history. As our John Hollinger outlined last week, the numbers Sengun is putting up in Turkey are dominant and preposterous at the same time. He is second in the league in scoring, rebounding and blocks. As John pointed out, Sengunís PER would be the highest of the decade, and his 32.9 PER leads the Turkish league by a wide margin. From a scouting perspective, he can really finish inside, has a great nose for the basket and a great feel for getting separation. His hands are elite. The only problem comes on defense, where Iím pretty skeptical heís going to be able to guard anyone because heís a 6-9 center.
The fit: The Spurs have one of the best international scouting staffs in the NBA, so they will be familiar with Sengun even in this weird season of interrupted scouting overseas. From a roster perspective, the teamís bigs arenít particularly adept offensively. Jakob Poeltl could use more of an offensive-minded partner inside from a matchup perspective, and Sengunís hands, basketball IQ and finishing ability on the offensive end are about as big a departure from Poeltl as youíll find.
15. Charlotte Hornets
Usman Garuba | 6-8 big | 18 years old | Real Madrid
The player: Defense, defense, defense. Garuba is already one of the best defenders in Europe as a teenager and profiles as a potential All-Defense Team guy in the NBA by the time heís 25. He can really defend on the interior, with terrific fundamentals for verticality and weak-side shot blocking. His ability to slide his feet and drop his hips laterally is ridiculous, and his instincts as a pick-and-roll defender are terrific. The problems come on offense. Heís still not a particularly effective player on that end, but there have been signs of progress. He had two games last week against Anadolu Efes in EuroLeague play that were positive signs, including a ridiculous 24-point, 12-rebound performance. He also has been making more 3s recently, but itís going to take some time.
The fit: The Hornets desperately need a long-term answer at center with Cody Zeller entering free agency this offseason. I know they drafted both Nick Richards and Vernon Carey there last year in the early second round, but I donít see either as really being NBA players. Plus, even if the Hornets do, Garuba is completely different from them and thus is interesting. Garuba would really fit well, helping a team with below-average defense start to put some real pieces together on that end. This would be a tremendous fit, especially given that the Hornets have not been afraid to go small this season. Garuba-at-center lineups would have the same effect as smaller lineups in terms of switchability.
16. Memphis Grizzlies
Jaden Springer | 6-4 guard | 19 years old, freshman | Tennessee
The player: Springer had a strong freshman season for the Vols, since he often played as an off-guard, his advanced numbers and analytics are going to be quite strong for his age. And similarly to Johnson above, Springer was tremendous late in the season. He averaged 16 points, four rebounds and three assists in his final 11 games, finally getting a chance to show off why he was a five-star prospect. Heís also a terrific defender. Having said that, Iíve found that Springerís game isnít loved by many scouts. He plays almost solely off two feet and doesnít seem to get the most out of his athleticism. Thereís a degree of bully-ball here. Heís going to have to adjust his game to have success at the next level.
The fit: The Grizzlies are one of the more analytically inclined organizations when it comes to prospects, and theyíve had an awful lot of success approaching the draft in that manner. They nailed both Desmond Bane and Xavier Tillman last year, plus Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke the year before and Jaren Jackson Jr. the year before that. Springerís age will be attractive to them, as will his defensive intensity and shooting ability, which most evaluators do feel confident will translate at some point.
17. Oklahoma City Thunder (via MIA)
Ziaire Williams | 6-7 wing | 19 years old, freshman | Stanford
The player: A complicated evaluation. Williams had a tough year at Stanford, as the team lived out of hotels for the first six weeks of the season, then he left the team in the middle of the season due to a death in the family. On the court, he had some highs, such as a triple-double against Washington. He also averaged 13 points, six rebounds and three assists prior to his month-long departure. Still, his inefficiency left a bad lasting impression in most evaluatorsí eyes, and he struggled to deal with the physicality of the game at what looked to be about 175 pounds. Williams is a project, although one with major upside if the right team ends up with him.
The fit: Oklahoma City is in a place where itís taking fliers on projects left and right. This is a rebuild, through and through. If the Thunder end up with the No. 1 overall pick, the rebuild could be fast-tracked. But for now, they should be taking as many high-upside shots as they can, especially given how strong their developmental track record is. In this case, they have a real need for a shot-creating wing with size unless they think Darius Bazley is destined to downshift from four and five down to the three more regularly.
18. Boston Celtics
Jalen Johnson | 6-8 forward | 18 years old, freshman | Duke
The player: Weíre in the part of the draft where there are some real flawed but interesting prospects who have high upsides but low floors. In the case of Johnson, heís a tremendous ballhandler and transition player for his size at the four. His best skill, though, is his passing ability. Heís very creative in how he sees over the defense, and he makes a lot of tough reads. The problem is that heís not a particularly adept half-court scoring threat. Teams will just play the pass against him because he doesnít shoot it confidently yet and doesnít have an in-between floater game yet. If he ever shoots it, though, he has a good shot to turn into a real starter.
The fit: The Celtics generally have two draft types. They either go for high-achieving, great character older players (such as Grant Williams, Aaron Nesmith, Payton Pritchard and Carsen Edwards) or elite high-school recruits (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Romeo Langford, Marcus Smart and Jared Sullinger). Johnson would be taking a flier on the latter, given that he was a top-10 recruit in his 2020 recruiting class. The Celtics are always on the lookout for distressed assets they think they can develop, and they particularly value positional size on the wing. Johnson ticks a lot of boxes for them.
19. Atlanta Hawks
Cam Thomas | 6-3 guard | 18 years old, freshman | LSU
The player: Arguably the most natural scorer in this draft class. Few teenagers have the kind of scoring instincts that Thomas does. He has this innate sense for how to get defenders off balance and has a ridiculous pull-up game that allows him to be constantly on balance himself. He was the fourth-leading scorer in college basketball as a teenager after all. That seems good, right? So where is the issue? Well, scoring is all he does. Heís a bad defensive player and plays fairly selfishly on offense to the point that I can see some friction developing between him and some older teammates at the next level.
The fit: The Hawks could use more of a long-term scorer off the bench. Itís the reason they acquired Lou Williams this past trade deadline. Williams is a free agent at the end of the season, so replacing him with a younger version of himself could bear fruit down the road ó especially if Williams would be willing to re-sign for one year, allowing Thomas to come along slowly and learn from the master himself.
20. Houston Rockets (via POR)
Corey Kispert | 6-7 wing | 22 years old, senior | Gonzaga
The player: Maybe the best shooter in the class. Kispert has quiet shot mechanics in the best possible way, shooting 53 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3 this past season while averaging 19 points per game for the nearly undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs. Heís going to shoot the hell out of the ball, and heís going to make elite decisions. The questions come on defense. NBA teams have started to really question Kispertís footspeed and whether heíll be able to keep up at the next level. I personally have him a bit higher than this on my board, but anywhere from No. 10 to 20 sounds right.
The fit: The Rockets are in a bit of a different place than many rebuilding teams. This is really Year 0.5 of their rebuild, not the first year. Plus, they have a first-year coach who has dealt with a ton of roster turnover. And because of that, they havenít really even gotten the chance to establish an identity in regard to what the future is going to be. Kispert is the kind of elite shooter who would really help high-upside players develop. But more than that, heís also an elite character guy. He could really fit as a culture builder who also helps the Rockets with their young guys.
21. New York Knicks
Isaiah Jackson | 6-10 center | 18 years old, freshman | Kentucky
The player: A fascinating situation, as Jackson is considering returning to school, per The Athleticís Kyle Tucker. That tracks with what agents and scouts Iíve talked to have been told as well. Jackson could certainly use another year in college to iron out some of the more raw parts of his game. Having said that, he showed genuine growth, especially late in the season. NBA teams would assuredly take a chance on him somewhere in Round 1, potentially even in the late lottery, due to his elite-level physical tools. Heís 6-10 with a 7-3 wingspan and all sorts of twitchy explosiveness. He is the prototypical run-and-jump, play-finishing, shot-swatting center prospect and has the athleticism to legitimately do it.
The fit: The Knicks obviously have a track record of looking toward the Kentucky program for players, with Julius Randle, Immanuel Quickley, Nerlens Noel and Kevin Knox on the roster, plus John Calipari-coached Derrick Rose. In this case, drafting Jackson could give them some insurance if they decide not to pay Mitchell Robinson this summer. And frankly, given the way their defense has operated with Noel in the middle after Robinson was injured, I donít think Iíd be beating down the door to pay Robinson $15 million-plus per season. Drafting a center like Jackson could give them the kind of high upside that Robinson also presents while restarting the rookie contract timeline and keeping the salary-cap sheet clean for other fits this summer and into the future. With how competent the Knicks finally look, itís not hard to envision a circumstance where New York is the destination.
22. New York Knicks (via DAL)
Chris Duarte | 6-6 guard | 23 years old, senior | Oregon
The player: Some evaluators have docked Duarte for his age, as heíd be the oldest prospect in the first round. But I think his game is so tailor-made for the NBA that heís not going to have any problem making an immediate impact. Heís an All-Defense member in the Pac-12 and a genuine playmaker with how disruptive his hands are in the backcourt with length at 6-6. And on offense, heís a legit 40-plus percent 3-point shooter who can also handle the ball and make comfortable decisions. Duarte has high-level role player written all over him.
The fit: The Knicks have a lot of smaller guards in the backcourt with guys such as Quickley, Rose and Elfrid Payton. Duarte could really fit as a role player who gives them some length and shooting next to RJ Barrett or Quickley long-term. Heís a versatile chess piece whom coaches can utilize in a variety of ways. And with the Jackson selection above and the potential to chase real high-level free agents, I think a safer pick on a player with a higher degree of likelihood to become a good, cost-controlled role player early in his career makes sense.
23. Los Angeles Lakers
Ayo Dosunmu | 6-5 guard | 21 years old, junior | Illinois
The player: Dosunmu was one of the best players in college basketball this past season, posting 20 points, six rebounds and five assists while leading Illinois to a terrific season. Simply put, heís pro-ready and should be able to make an impact early due to his athleticism, vision, defensive ability, length and poise. Having said that, I realize there are scouts who are not enamored with him because his jumper leaves some real questions. He hit 39 percent this past season on under 100 attempts, and over the course of his career, heís hit 34.5 percent of his 300-plus 3-point attempts. But itís a bit of a wonky shot mechanically that scouts will always worry about in terms of consistency. Teams also arenít sure if heís a lead guard or an off-guard from a vision and play-making perspective.
The fit: The Lakers do tend to value shooting around Anthony Davis and LeBron James. But more than that, I think they will value the ability to get an older guy in who could reasonably step into a role sooner rather than later for LeBron, especially with the question marks surrounding Dennis SchrŲderís free agency this summer.
24. Houston Rockets (via MIL)
Sharife Cooper | 6-1 guard | 19 years old, freshman | Auburn
The player: One look at Cooperís numbers will tell you a lot. He averaged over 20 points and eight assists per game in an extremely high-usage role for Auburn after becoming eligible to play (the NCAA held him out for half the season while looking into amateurism concerns). Cooperís ballhandling acumen is absurd as he keeps the ball close to the ground and tight to his body while creatively contorting his body, changing paces and adjusting directions. His live-dribble passing also is an extremely high-level skill. The intersection of those two skills should allow him to at least be a backup in the NBA. Where the upside will come is with his shooting and defense. Heís terrible at both of those things right now. And heís extremely small, making it highly unlikely that the defense is going to come along. For Cooper to reach his ceiling, it involves getting better as a shooter.
The fit: The Rockets should be looking for high-upside swings and culture builders. Cooper would be the kind of upside player who could really help if he hits. Plus, it wouldnít hurt if he got to learn from John Wall for a couple of years.
25. Philadelphia 76ers
Jared Butler | 6-3 guard | 20 years old, junior | Baylor
The player: Butler was as decorated a college player as youíll find this past season, a first-team All-American who has worked his way into a genuine draft prospect over the last two years. Heís a 6-3 scoring guard who can knock down shots from the outside both directly off the catch and off the pull-up. He averaged nearly 17 points per game while shooting almost 42 percent from 3 and taking tough shots too. Plus, he was All-Defense in the Big 12 and generally does a good job of playing within scheme and locking down opposing players.
The fit: The 76ers continue to need more shooting around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid despite the work theyíve done already. Daryl Morey, of all people, will certainly continue to value perimeter scoring. Butler is about as polished as youíll find in that regard and would be nearly an instant rotation player.
26. Denver Nuggets
Roko Prkacin | 6-9 forward | 18 years old | Cibona
The player: Prkacin is a high-IQ forward who can really do a lot of different stuff. He excels without the ball, which is really important for a role player at the NBA level. He finds good cutting areas and soft spots in the defense. He moves well into open areas to get little looks. And when he receives the pass, heís great at moving it quickly on his own. Heís also improved as a shooter this past season, as heís up to nearly 36 percent on 3 attempts per game. The idea here is a point forward who can do a lot of different stuff.
The fit: The idea would be to take a flier on someone who can eventually play in a frontcourt with Michael Porter Jr. and Nikola Jokic. Having said that, I also think a stash pick would probably be interesting to Denver this season given its cap situation. Every dollar is going to count, and the Nuggets are already drat near the tax threshold with 11 players likely to be retained.
27. LA Clippers
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl | 6-10 forward | 20 years old, sophomore | Villanova
The player: Robinson-Earl is about as well-rounded a forward as youíll find. Heís really smart positionally on defense, he passes well, heís mobile enough and he has real potential to shoot it (and already is from the midrange). The Big East Player of the Year this past season, Robinson-Earl is one of those guys I trust will figure it out at the next level despite not necessarily having a traditional game for where the NBA is going. Heís sharp, he knows where he needs to be all the time, he rebounds and he makes good choices. Maybe itís more of a rotation player than a star, but there is plenty of space for those guys around the league.
The fit: The Clippers love toughness, and Robinson-Earl is a well-rounded, tough dude who can bring a lot of different skills to the table. Heís more of a forward than the bigs theyíve drafted in each of the last two drafts in Daniel Oturu and Mfiondu Kabengele. And because of that and his potential switchability, I think there would be some real interest in him playing as an early backup for this group. It doesnít hurt that Villanova guys have a strong track record of being able to play early and on rookie contracts for a team where every single dollar counts against the tax in a big way.
28. Brooklyn Nets
DayíRon Sharpe | 6-11 center | 19 years old, freshman | North Carolina
The player: Sharpe is one of my favorite non-lottery prospects in this class, a weird center prospect whose best skills are his rebounding and his passing. A 6-11 center, Sharpe made some of the best, most creative passes I saw from any prospect on the move this past season. He clearly processes the game well and seems to understand spatially where his teammates are. Heís a big-bodied guy and a bit heavy-footed, so there are defensive concerns. But his brand of toughness on the inside and passing is the kind of weird combination I like to bet on because tough, smart guys with NBA frames tend to make it at a higher clip than most.
The fit: The Nets are still looking for their official long-term answer at center, and Sharpe would actually provide a nice complement for the eminently interesting and athletic Nic Claxton. Sharpeís highly skilled game and strong frame would provide a different type of matchup for opposing teams than the athletic Claxton, who is twitchy and switchable.
29. Phoenix Suns
Tre Mann | 6-5 guard | 19 years old, sophomore | Florida
The player: Mann is a pull-up shooting savant with terrific playmaking ability. He can separate from defenders by changing gears with ease, utilizing impressive deceleration mixed with quick crossovers to get to his stepback. He hit 40.2 percent from 3 and averaged 16 points per game, with most of his shots coming out of such pull-ups. He also has a very impressive floater game that allows him to get into the teeth of a defense and be a threat. Heís also improved as a passer this year at 6-foot-5 but has a ways to go in terms of his defensive acumen and reading complex help defenses. Still, there is some real scoring upside.
The fit: The Suns, weirdly, donít have a ton of great scoring options with size behind Devin Booker and Chris Paul. Mostly, itís smaller guys such as Cam Payne or defense-first guys such as Jevon Carter. Mann would give them a bit of a different look due to his size and iso game.
30. Utah Jazz
Aaron Henry | 6-5 wing | 21 years old, junior | Michigan State
The player: Henry is another guy Iím just a fan of due to his toughness and willingness to play on both ends. He was All-Defense in the Big Ten this past year on the wing and put Michigan State on his back late in the year to push the Spartans into the NCAA Tournament despite a messy roster that never seemed to come together. Where you fall on Henry comes down to the jump shot. The overall numbers donít look great, as he hit just 29.6 percent of his 3s. But he is much better off the catch and projectable in a way you wouldnít expect from such a low mark. Throw in that heís also a smart passer who plays well off closeouts, and I think there is some real upside with Henry that the percentages might not catch.
The fit: The Jazz need another defensive wing to take some of the pressure of Royce OíNeale, who gets the toughest matchup every single night for 32 minutes of wear and tear. Donovan Mitchell leads the team in minutes per game, but itís not Mike Conley, Rudy Gobert, Bojan Bogdanovic or Joe Ingles who is second. Itís the unheralded OíNeale, who does yeomanís work every game and whose skill set is irreplaceable on the Jazz because they just donít have another bigger wing to do a good job on those difficult assignments. Henry would give them another player to develop who could potentially take on those tough opposing guys.
I would not have any complaints if Jared Butler ended up on the Sixers