After a 10-10 start to the season, did anyone expect we’d be worrying about mock drafts come mid-January? Alas, here we are. Sunday’s abysmal performance paired with some wins from Miami and Phoenix of late (shouts to Dion Waiters) means the Los Angeles Lakers suddenly are sitting in the No. 2 spot in the NBA Draft Lottery.
Whether you want it or not, the tank is back.
With that in mind, it’s time to start thinking mock drafts and who the Lakers might potentially target should they retain their top-three pick this spring.
1. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn) – Markelle Fultz, PG/SG, Washington
The Nets are going to finish with the worst record this season which means the Boston Celtics are well on their way to a top pick. Problem for them is, the top players in this draft are wing players and the Celtics have plenty of those. As is, the Celtics would take the top player in the draft, which is Fultz, and figure out which trade to hint at but not make later.
2. Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
While I’m not as high on Lonzo Ball as others, I think the Lakers would be hitting a home run by taking him. I do have Josh Jackson higher on my board, but the allure of adding a local star from UCLA that also fills a need might be too hard to turn down. And Ball paired with D’Angelo Russell would be a true backcourt of the future.
3. Phoenix Suns – Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
The Suns are a mess with a mindset from the front office that isn’t fully committed to rebuilding. The result has been countless years in the draft lottery and a franchise that doesn’t seem to know where they’re going. However, adding someone as good defensively as Josh Jackson is right now is rare for a rookie and he’ll fit nicely next to Devin Booker.
4. Miami Heat – Dennis Smith, Jr., PG, NC State
Again, while Dennis Smith, Jr. is not this high on my list, the chance to get a franchise point guard to go along with Hassan Whiteside and Justise Winslow is rare. I do think the Heat will move Goran Dragic to continue tanking and I don’t think you could walk into a better pick here. Smith can do it all offensively and will be a perfect cornerstone for Miami.
5. Dallas Mavericks – Malik Monk, PG/SG, Kentucky
I’m higher on Malik Monk than most, but I still have him securely in a tier below the guys listed above. That being said, for a Mavericks franchise without much young talent, Monk can step in and become a starter for this team alongside Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews.
6. Philadelphia 76ers – De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
How quickly fortunes change. The Sixers went from laughing stock to legitimate playoff contender in about two weeks and are soaring up the draft lottery. As it stands, their biggest need is still on the perimeter and De’Aaron Fox is the best talent on the board that fills that need.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves – Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
Do I think Jayson Tatum fills a need for the Timberwolves? Not necessarily. But I do not think he slips this far in the draft. I’m very high on Tatum, to the point where I’d consider taking him as high as third. If Minnesota is sitting seventh and Tatum is there, you take him and pair him with an already star-studded young core.
8. Orlando Magic – Jonathan Isaac, SF, Florida State
What a mess Orlando finds themselves in. After seemingly going all-in on 2016-17, they’re closer to the eighth pick than they are the eight seed. There will be some serious questions asked if they finish in the draft lottery this year, and if they do, they take the best player available here.
9. Sacramento Kings – Frank Ntilikina, PG, Belgium
New year, same Kings in the draft lottery. They SHOULD take a perimeter player, namely a point guard. However, they’ll probably just take the highest center on the board.
10. New Orleans Pelicans – Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State
While they look better this season, there’s still many things wrong with the New Orleans Pelicans. Anthony Davis has done little to prove he’s not injury prone and there still isn’t much young talent around. I have concerns about Miles Bridges (namely in that he can’t shoot), but I think in New Orleans, you could play him as a small ball four next to Davis and help his transition.
11. Portland Trailblazers – Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
What a difference a year makes. The Blazers no longer look like playoff contenders and now have some soul-searching to do moving forward. For now, I’d imagine they keep Mason Plumlee and add Lauri Markkanen, another seven-footer, to their front line.
12. New York Knicks – Harry Giles, PF, Duke
Predicting anything the Knicks do would be fruitless and frustrating. I still think Harry Giles has a lot of talent, but he’s also coming off some major knee surgeries and his stock has taken a hit. Down the line, though, he could pair very nicely next to Kristaps Porzingis.
13. Detroit Pistons – Ivan Rabb, PF, California
The Detroit Pistons once looked promising, but are now stuck in a rut. After competing hard against Cleveland in last year’s playoffs, they haven’t been able to find the same form and have sputtered all year. I would not be surprised if they dealt this pick for someone to kickstart their season.
14. Milwaukee Bucks – OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana
I’ll be honest, until about a week ago, I didn’t know the Bucks weren’t even a playoff team. They have lots of pieces, but a mix of key injuries (Khris Middleton) and youth have them on the outside looking in, at least for now. I don’t anticipate them missing the playoffs and I think they’ll go on a run with Middleton’s return, but if they don’t, they can afford to draft a player like OG Anunoby, who recently suffered a season-ending knee injury, and allow him to develop slowly behind the scenes before becoming a big contributor.
15. Denver Nuggets – Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky
There is no better name in this draft than Bam Adebayo. The Nuggets have an absolutely loaded core of young players, which could make this pick expendable. If it’s not, you likely just take the best player available regardless of position.
16. Indiana Pacers – Rodions Kurucs, SF, Latvia
The more Paul George talks, the more frustrated he’s becoming. While the Pacers are currently in the playoffs, the margin for error is slipping. Would the Pacers move this pick to try to find an impact player and hopefully appease George?
17. Chicago Bulls – Terrance Ferguson, SG, USA
Here’s a shocker: the Chicago Bulls are mediocre. Who would have thought a team with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade in 2017 wouldn’t be that good? Wade has publicly said that their mediocrity would factor into his decision this summer on his option. Should he leave, the Bulls could snag Terrance Ferguson, who took the Emmanuel Mudiay rout of playing overseas instead of in college.
18. Charlotte Hornets – Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M
While the Hornets just gave a lot of money to Cody Zeller as their big man of the future, their back-up right now is Roy “I’ve Fallen And I Can’t Get Up” Hibbert. Zeller has missed some games this season and the Hornets could use someone who can stand up for two minutes without falling. Roy Hibbert should be able to accomplish the task.
19. Washington Wizards – Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, International
The Wizards’ bench is so bad that Isaiah Hartenstein could step in and immediately be their best player of the bench. I’m joking (for the most part) but Hartenstein is a player that has had some hype around him for a couple years. At 6’10 and with some shooting touch, he could play some small forward or smallball four and could help alleviate the potential loss of Otto Porter.
20. Denver Nuggets (via Memphis) – Tyler Lydon, SF/PF, Syracuse
No but really, why do the Nuggets always have so many picks?
21. Atlanta Hawks – Thomas Bryant, C, Indiana
Do I think Thomas Bryant is ready to contribute right away in the NBA? No. But the Dwight Howard Era never ends well for any franchise that has him, which gives Bryant about two years until Howard leaves and he’s needed as more than a backup.
22. Oklahoma City Thunder – TJ Leaf, PF, UCLA
It’s hard to pinpoint where the Thunder could go with this pick because what they need right now is NBA talent. Russell Westbrook is playing out of his mind and adding a rookie who probably won’t contribute right away isn’t really going to put this team over the top. If they do choose to keep the pick, though, I think Leaf could be a solid addition to the Thunder’s front line.
23. Brooklyn Nets (via Boston) – Alec Peters, PF, Valparaiso
While the Nets gave a whole lot of money to Jeremy Lin for him to be constantly injured this season, I don’t think they go point guard here. They have some options for ball-handlers moving forward. Instead, they can grab Alec Peters, who is averaging 23.6 points and 10.6 rebounds while attempting five threes a game as a power forward.
24. Utah Jazz – Anzejs Pasecniks, C, Latvia
The Utah Jazz Big Man Development Camp has produced a whole lot of really good big men in recent years. With Boris Diaw and Derrick Favors having expiring contracts coming up in the near future, I’ll just assume they draft another big man and develop him into a future star.
25. Toronto Raptors – Edmond Sumner, PG/SG, Xavier
I still expect the Raptors to empty their cabinet of assets to acquire someone like Paul Millsap and any trade they make would likely include this pick. Should they retain it, I think they’d look for some more backcourt help with Cory Joseph and Normal Powell likely having big paydays coming up alongside Kyle Lowry.
26. Toronto Raptors (via LA Clippers) – Donovan Mitchell , SG, Louisville
See item #25.
27. Portland Trailblazers (via Cleveland) – Jaron Blossomgame, SF, Clemson
Turns out giving Evan Turner a bajillion dollars didn’t end well for Portland. While they also just paid Moe Harkless and Allen Crabbe a lot of money, you can never have too many 3 & D guys.
28. Houston Rockets – Justin Jackson, SF, UNC
The Rockets can never have enough shooters to surround James Harden with and Justin Jackson is shooting 39 percent from three this year. With contract year Trevor Ariza about to be unleashed, the Rockets might have a hole at the small forward position by next summer.
29. San Antonio Spurs – Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
With Manu Ginobili likely retiring in the near future, the Spurs need a new left-handed shooting guard to replace him. Enter: Luke Kennard. Kennard, though, is a great scorer from all over the court and could contribute off the bench as a combo-guard of sorts.
30. Utah Jazz (via Golden State) – Grayson Allen, PG, Duke
I mainly want to see if the Jazz can remain everyone’s favorite neutral team to root for even after adding the most hated Duke player since J.J. Redick.