With the NBA Draft less than three weeks out, basketball analysts are still tinkering with their pre-draft day mocks making the case for their number one overall pick in a very top-heavy draft class.
No Syracuse Orange men’s basketball players were included in first or second-round mocks from any major sports outlets. While Buddy Boeheim, His brother Jimmy, and Cole Swider have all declared for the draft and have worked out with NBA teams, none of them are expected to be selected in the two-round draft.
Out of the top 14 lottery picks in this year's draft, 3 ACC players hover within many major sports media outlets' published mock drafts so far. Former Duke players Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin, and Mark Williams hold spots within the top 14 on ESPN and FOX Sports mock drafts.
Both ESPN and FOX Sports have Banchero locked in at the number three spot to the Houston Rockets behind Auburn star forward Jabari Smith and Gonzaga unicorn Chet Holmgren. This isn't a surprise to see Banchero at the three spot considering Smith’s unique blend of size and shooting and Holmgren's dominant two-way ability to impact games.
Griffin is currently hovering in between the nine and 11 spots, ending up either on the New York Knicks or the San Antonio Spurs. The more realistic landing spot for Griffin out of these two teams has got to be the Knicks, where he would have a greater chance to flourish alongside guard R.J Barrett.
However, when looking at CBS Sports mock, the best potential suiter for Griffin's services may be the New Orleans Pelicans. Coming off a surprising six-game first-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, the Pelicans may have the greatest potential to be a surprise contender out of the West with a hopefully healthy Zion Williamson to start the 2022-23 season.
Drafting Griffin with the eighth pick may seem to be a reach for some, but actually makes the most sense considering Griffin's offensive skill set and physical intangibles that could make him a solid defender in the years to come and a great fit alongside Williamson and C.J. McCollum.
Williams currently is sitting around the mid-late lottery between the 7 and 15 picks. All three mock drafts analyzed had different pick selections for the Duke big man. ESPN had him going to the Hornets at 13, FOX had him going to the Portland Trail Blazers at seven, and CBS had him 15 to the Charlotte Hornets.
Charlotte is probably the best fit for Williams, given their need for a bruiser big man who can rebound and dunk. It's hard not to see how that wouldn't benefit Charlotte’s star point guard LaMelo Ball who would create situations that play to Williams's strengths using his one-of-one playmaking ability to put him in favorable positions.
Keels has been hard to project where exactly he will end up on draft night. ESPN has him at 26 to the Dallas Mavericks, FOX at 23 to the Brooklyn Nets, and CBS put him outside of the top 30. The most realistic landing spot for him is the Nets due to their need for a tough and gritty defensive-minded guard/forward. Keels fits the bill and would be a solid option for second-unit rotation minutes off the bench.
LaRavia was a projected second-round pick on ESPN’s most recent mock while CBS Sports had him at the 25 pick to the Spurs. Considering LaRavia’s well-rounded versatile two-way skill set, Greg Popovich and the Spurs seem like the best fit for the Wake Forest alum.
Wesley on the other hand has been anywhere from the late teens to the bottom of the first round. ESPN had the Notre Dame alum slotted at the 30th pick to OKC, FOX at 28 to the Golden State Warriors, and CBS to the Minnesota Timberwolves at 19. Realistically, Wesley is probably gonna be a late-first-round pick but for some reason, Minnesota seems like an ideal fit for the young guard.
The Wolves are in desperate need of reliable scoring wing players, and while Wesley's shooting percentages from last year were below average, this number could be attested to the fact that many of his shots came from isolation plays. If the Wolves can carve out a role for Wesley that involves more shooting from the corners of the three-point line and cutting to the rim, his efficiency should improve, in turn giving the Wolves a nice young wing for the future.
Where do you see the top players from the ACC last year ending up on draft night? Are you surprised to see any of these names mentioned as first-round selections?