In celebration of what I call "Christmas in June", I decided to do my own mock NBA Draft. This is purely unscientific, based on watching about 10,000 hours of college basketball this past season and reading another 10,000 draft previews over the last couple of months.
Remember, if I'm right, I'm a genius. If I'm wrong, I'm an idiot. There's no in-between.
1) Cleveland Cavaliers - Joel Embiid/center/Kansas
Before he got hurt (again), Embiid was the consensus #1 overall pick. He's the guy who has the most potential to be a mega-star for the next decade. I know he has a bad back and a bum foot, but injuries heal. He is the best prospect in a loaded draft, and barring a trade or miracle the Cavs are still going to stink like poo next year anyway. Take him and stash him on the injured list for a year. It worked for Blake Griffin and the Clippers, didn't it?
2) Milwaukee Bucks - Jabari Parker/forward/Duke
Parker seems like the logical play here. The guy can score, and the NBA is first and foremost a scorer's league. At worst he's the next Rudy Gay. At best he's some hybrid of Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony. Plus, he's from Chicago, so he has the Midwestern thing going.
3) Philadelphia 76ers - Andrew Wiggins/forward/Kansas
I have seen Wiggins compared to Scottie Pippen on defense and Tracy McGrady on offense. If he finds a reliable shot he could be one of those rare players who controls the game at both ends of the floor. I went with Parker ahead of Wiggins, but I don't think you can go wrong with either. I just think it will be easier to teach Parker to play defense than it will be to teach Wiggins to shoot.
4) Orlando Magic - Dante Exum/guard/Australia
Exum is like Batman. People are more excited about the myth than the man. But the NBA is morphing into a league full of big guards, and Exum is as big and athletic as they come these days - with room to get stronger. A backcourt of Exum and Victor Oladipo could be a terror on defense, but would need some shooting work.
I don't see the Jazz taking a big man after they let Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk in free agency last summer to carve out playing time for Enis Kanter and Derrick Favors. Marcus Smart was a man among boys (physically) in college, even if at times he was a boy among men emotionally. I could see the Jazz taking him here and putting him in a scoring backcourt with former Michigan PG Trey Burke.
6) Boston Celtics - Julius Randle/forward/Kentucky
I'm having trouble remaining rational about this selection. As a lifelong Celtics fan I have witnessed the C's squander first round pick after first round pick on the likes of Kedrick Brown, Michael Smith, and Fab Frickin' Melo. I'd like to see them take Julius Randle here and watch him beat the crap out of opposing power forwards for the next ten years, but I'm not going to hold my breath. The best-case scenario is they package the pick for Kevin Love, but that is only slightly more likely than Sean Keeley getting traded to Casual Hoya.
7) Los Angeles Lakers - Noah Vonleh/forward/Indiana
The only thing that sucks about the Lakers sucking is that the Celtics suck too, so I can't revel in it as much as I'd like. One of my best friends growing up was a Lakers fan, which is why we don't talk anymore. They'll probably take Noah Vonleh, who was the only bright spot for the Hoosiers when Syracuse handed Indiana their asses last December. For his sake let's hope Kobe doesn't invite him to hang out in Colorado.
8) Sacramento Kings - Aaron Gordon/forward/Arizona
Some people say Aaron Gordon is the next Blake Griffin. In related news, some people are dumb. But, Gordon could be a super-athlete and defensive force who scores 15 a game just on putbacks, runouts, and cuts to the rim. You know, what Jerami Grant was SUPPOSED to be. More on him later - if he stays in the first round!
The former Bobcats want to win now, which is why I think they'll pass on a project like Zach LaVine. I also think they don't want a smallish shooting guard like Gary Harris to pair with an already smallish point guard in Kemba Walker. So, it's either Rodney Hood, Nik Stauskas, or Doug McDermott. I think McDermott is a better athlete and will be a better pro than people give him credit for. I'd take him here if I was looking for shooting help, which the Hornets certainly are.
10) Philadelphia 76ers - Dario Saric/forward/Croatia
The Sixers probably aren't going to care about winning any more this year than they did last year, and they REALLY didn't care last year. They could take Embiid at #3 if the Cavs and Bucks pass on him, and tank for two season in a row. The NBA, it's FAN-tastic! Under that line of thinking, I could see them taking Saric, who recently signed with a team in Turkey and going to stay in Europe for the next two years anyway.
11) Denver Nuggets - Zach LaVine/guard/UCLA
The Nuggets are in the midst of a rebuilding project after trading Andre Iguodala and ditching George Karl last summer, even if they won't admit it yet. They already have Ty Lawson at point guard, but he's mentioned in just about every trade rumor involving Denver. I think they take LaVine, who is very much in the Michael Carter-Williams/Dante Exum 'big point guard' mold, but perhaps more athletic. He's also much less refined.
12) Orlando Magic - Jusuf Nurkic/center/Bosnia and Herzegovina
I'll admit, I don't know jack squat about Nurkic. He could sit down next to me wearing a Georgetown t-shirt with his name on it and I'd think to myself "Who's this tall a-hole in the Georgetown shirt?" I do know the Magic could use some size, and Nurkic is among the best of a thin center crop. Since I have Orlando taking Exum earlier, I'll put Nurkic here.
13) Minnesota Timberwolves - Rodney Hood/guard-forward/Duke
Predicting who the Timberwolves are going to draft is like predicting how much food my two-year-old will throw on the floor at dinnertime. No matter what happens, by the end of the night you just know there's going to be a huge mess. The Wolves could use some backcourt scoring help and outside shooting since Ricky Rubio is literally one of the worst shooters in league history. So let's go with Hood here, a versatile wing who can play both SG and SF.
14) Phoenix Suns - Gary Harris/guard/Michigan State
The Suns are set at point guard with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, and even play those two together at times. Add Harris and you have a three-headed monster that could quickly become one of the best guard rotations in the league.
Every year there is one mid-major guard that wows everyone in workouts and leaps into the first round. Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Norris Cole come to mind. I'm not sure the Hawks need a point guard, but I think at this point in the draft you start to look to take the best player available and make a trade if you need to later on.
The Bulls need a forward after trading Luol Deng last season. Even if they get Saint Carmelo Anthony in free agency, they'll need some depth up front. Anderson could provide that depth as a backup small forward and occasional smallball power forward.
17) Boston Celtics - Nik Stauskas/guard/Michigan
I would love to see Adreian Payne go here, but I don't see the C's taking two power forwards in the same draft. Since I have them taking Randle already, how about Stauskas? Boston could lose starting shooting guard who can't shoot Avery Bradley to free agency, and haven't had a deadeye marksman since
Benedict Arnold Ray Allen bolted for the Heat two summers ago. Stauskas could provide outside shooting and backcourt size that Bradley doesn't, though it would mean a significant downgrade in perimeter defense for Boston.
18) Phoenix Suns - Adreian Payne/forward/Michigan State
After taking Harris with the 14th pick, I think the suns get Payne here. I absolutely love Payne's game, and if the Celtics take a guard with the 6th pick I hope they take Payne here. The guy was a beast for the Spartans, and played half the season with mono. Mono! I know people who can't get out of bed if they have a hangnail, and this guy was playing major college basketball an all-conference level.
19) Chicago Bulls - Shabazz Napier/guard/Connecticut
The Bulls are kidding themselves if they don't think they need point guard depth. Derrick Rose has had so many knee problems that Dajuan Coleman probably feels bad for him. Napier, while not nearly as impressive an athlete as a healthy Rose is, would be an upgrade over their current reserve guards. He could provide scoring punch off the bench backing up Rose, or playing alongside him in a small but explosive backcourt tandem.
That said, UConn still sucks.
20) Toronto Raptors - Tyler Ennis/guard/Syracuse
This is where I hope Tyler Ennis lands. It's such a good fit that I feel like there's no chance in hell of it actually happening. The Raptors may need a point guard if they let Kyle Lowry walk in free agency, and Ennis grew up just outside of Toronto. His Twitter handle has "tdot" in it, for Boeheim's sake. This should be one of those territorial picks where everyone agrees to let Ennis go to the Raps, and that's that. Ennis could go higher, perhaps to the Bulls or Magic, but a homecoming would be great for the former Orange guard.
21) Oklahoma City Thunder - James Young/guard/Kentucky
Did you see the Thunder get waxed by the Spurs last month? Starting SG Thabo Sefolosha was so bad that he was benched in favor of Derek Fisher - the same guy that just retired and became the Knicks' head coach. They need a shooting guard in the worst way, and Young is probably the best one available at this point in the draft.
22) Memphis Grizzlies - T.J. Warren/forward/North Carolina State
Take what I just wrote about the Thunder, replace "shooting guard" with "small forward", "Thabo Sefolosha" with "Tayshawn Prince", and "James Young" with "T.J. Warren". Voila.
23) Utah Jazz - Glenn Robinson III/forward/Michigan
Oh look, another Wolverine who was part of the Final Four team that beat Syracuse two years ago. I knew I was annoyed for some reason. The Jazz could use a wing if restricted free agent Gordon Hayward gets an offer that Utah decides not to match.
24) Charlotte Hornets - Jordan Adams/guard/UCLA
The Hornets need size in their backcourt alongside Kemba Walker. Adams is one of those guys who probably could have used another year of college, but he's an excellent scorer who should be able to feed off of center Al Jefferson and get some easy looks at the rim.
25) Houston Rockets - Jerami Grant/forward/Syracuse
Syracuse's own Jerami Grant could go anywhere in the 20s, but I like him on the Rockets. They could use him as an athletic rebounder/defender, kind of like a poor man's Aaron Gordon (as I mentioned above). When Alex Dunbar and I debated Grant's draft stock earlier this week we wondered if Grant would have stayed in school knowing he could drop to the end of the first round. I would have selfishly liked to have seen him return to SU for his junior year, but I hope he lands with a good team that can help him develop into a legit NBA player for years to come.
26) Miami Heat - Jarnell Stokes/forward/Tennessee
Miami got their collective asses handed to them by bigger and tougher teams like the Pacers and Spurs. Jarnell Stokes was one of the best rebounders and post players in the country last season. Sounds like a match to me. He's a little undersized for an NBA power forward, but he makes up for it with strength and width to spare.
27) Phoenix Suns - Cleanthony Early/forward/Wichita State
The Suns have some talent at small forward, but this may be another case there Early is simply the best player available. I don't see him falling much past this portion of the draft.
28) Los Angeles Clippers - Clint Capella/center/Switzerland
The Clippers were painfully thin up front last year behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. They need some frontcourt size, and Capella is probably the best big man available this late in the first round.
29) Oklahoma City Thunder - Dwight Powell/forward/Stanford
Like the Clippers, the Thunder weren't exactly loaded in the frontcourt. They may take a flyer on someone like Powell and see what happens.
30) San Antonio Spurs - Jordan Clarkson/guard/Missouri
What do you get for the team that has everything? With news coming out a couple of days ago that Tim Duncan has opted in for next season, the Spurs should return mostly intact and make a solid defense of their title. So what do they need? A shot of youth n the bench wouldn't hurt, someone who could play a few minutes here and there and spell San Antonio's aging core. Plus, Clarkson could provide insurance should Patty Mills leave via free agency or Manu Ginobili suffers an long-term injury, which has been known to happen from time to time.
So that's it for the first round. I don't have C.J. Fair listed, as you may have noticed. I hope he gets called in the middle of the second round, though a free agent training camp invitation may be better for him in the long run.