NBA Mock Draft: Pre-lottery

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  1. Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz: PG – Washington

With the first pick in the draft, the Celtics need to draft the best player. Markelle Fultz is the best player in the draft. They already have Isaiah Thomas, but he has only 2-3 elite seasons left. It’s better to get rid of a star a year too early than a year too late. Thomas and Fultz may be able to coexist, but the long-term point guard for the Celtics should be Fultz. He’s the obvious choice.

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  1. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson: SF – Kansas

The choice for the Suns is between Josh Jackson and Lonzo Ball. If the Suns are ready to trade away Eric Bledsoe, the choice should be Ball. If they want to keep Bledsoe after his career year, the choice should be Jackson. They are both similarly ranked players, so this pick will be made because of need. The Suns have emerging star Devin Booker as their shooting guard, but he’s not a good defender. They need a wing defender to start with Booker. T.J. Warren is a great offensive small forward, but he doesn’t fit in a starting lineup with Booker. He’d be a better sixth man off the bench. Jackson needs to improve his offensive game, but he has the potential to be a 3-and-D superstar.

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  1. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball: PG – UCLA

This would be an ideal scenario for both Lonzo Ball and the Los Angeles Lakers. Ball has made it clear that he wants to play for his hometown Lakers. Ball would be a great fit with D’Angelo Russell. Ball and Russell both have the ability to play with and without the ball. They could both start in a two point guard lineup. Both Ball and Russell have enough size to defend either guard position. Ball has a unique jump shot, but he makes it more often than not. He’s a great passer and has a knack for making his teammates better. If they can get over his crazy father LaVar, Lonzo could be the type of player to change the Lakers’ culture.

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  1. Philadelphia 76ers: De’Aaron Fox: PG – Kentucky

Although the Sixers already drafted their primary ball-handler in Ben Simmons with the first pick in last year’s draft, they need a point guard that can play on both ends of the floor. Simmons is essentially a point forward, and will not be able to defend point guards on defense. Fox has the ability to guard point guards and handle the ball on offense as a secondary ball-handler. He’s a great athlete with the ability to get to the rim with ease. He’ll need to improve his jump shot, but he has a chance of becoming the best point guard in this draft. Fox will be a great fit for the up-and-coming 76ers.

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  1. Orlando Magic: Dennis Smith Jr.: PG – North Carolina State

The Magic could draft Dennis Smith Jr. as their replacement for Elfrid Payton. Although he hasn’t been a bad player, Payton hasn’t lived up to the hype since being selected in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft. Smith isn’t a perfect prospect, but he has a lot of skills that could translate into him becoming a top tier point guard. He was inconsistent at North Carolina State, but showed the ability to get to the hoop. He needs to improve his playmaking skills and tighten up his jump shot, but he’s an elite athlete and ball-handler. He should be an upgrade over Payton.

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  1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jayson Tatum: SF – Duke

Jayson Tatum initially had a difficult time fitting into Duke’s lineup, but started to figure out his role towards the end of the season. He’s an elite scorer with the ability to dominate in isolation. He’s too athletic for bigger defenders and too strong for smaller defenders. He is extremely skilled as an offensive player. Tatum can score off the dribble and shoots threes at a high rate. He isn’t a great athlete and will never be a lockdown defender. But as a scoring wing, there isn’t a better prospect in this draft. He’ll become Minnesota’s second option behind superstar Karl-Anthony Towns.

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  1. New York Knicks: Malik Monk: SG – Kentucky

Malik Monk is instant offense. He’s a great athlete that will make his money as a jump shooter. He has an uncanny ability to get off jump shots quickly before defenders can react. His range is endless, which will make him a hot commodity in today’s NBA. He has a solid pull-up jumper, but can sometimes get into trouble when defenses key in on him. He’s best as a spot-up shooter, so he’ll need to improve as a ball-handler and passer if he wants to become a combo guard. The Knicks can use an efficient scorer, and there’s nobody in this draft class that can shoot deep threes at a high rate like Monk.

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  1. Sacramento Kings: Jonathan Isaac: F – Florida State

The Kings need a lot of help at multiple positions, so they’d be wise to take the best player available. Jonathan Isaac is a versatile combo forward that will fit nicely into today’s NBA. He has the ability to dominate bigger defenders on the perimeter and post up smaller players on the block. He’s a great athlete that plays and moves like a guard. He’ll need to improve his strength to become a better defender, but he has the skill set that could lead him to becoming a versatile defender. Isaac has one of the highest ceilings in this draft class. He could become a star in Sacramento.

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  1. Dallas Mavericks: Lauri Markkanen: PF – Arizona

Lauri Markkanen is a 7-footer with the ability to stretch the floor. He’s a great three-point shooter and has the ability to handle the basketball. His athleticism and ability to move without the ball are uncanny for someone his size. He’ll need to get stronger, which will help improve a few of his weaknesses. He struggles to post up smaller defenders and defend larger bigs. These issues can be alleviated once he gets into an NBA weight room. Markkanen could be the replacement for Dirk Nowitzki as Dallas’ next seven-foot stretch four.

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  1. Sacramento Kings: Frank Ntilikina: PG – France

French point guard Frank Ntilikina looks like a future starter in the NBA. At 6’5 tall, Ntilikina is bigger than your average point guard. He has the ability to play with or without the ball, which should allow him to be a combo guard in the NBA. But he’s elite with the ball in his hands. Ntilikina can defend multiple positions and has improved his jump shot. He’ll need to improve his ball-handling and passing to become a complete guard, but the elite traits are evident when watching him play. He could be the point guard of the future in Sacramento.

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  1. Charlotte Hornets: Zach Collins: PF/C – Gonzaga

Zach Collins has the potential to develop into an elite big in a few years. He isn’t strong or polished enough to dominate in an NBA game right now, but he has an elite skill set that could allow him to flourish after a few years of development. He needs to get stronger so he can defend larger bigs and post up smaller defenders. Collins is an elite shot blocker and three point shooter, which is a rare commodity in today’s NBA. Teams are looking for 7-footers that can space the floor offensively and protect the rim on defense. Collins has that elite skill set, but will need time to improve his strength and consistency. He should develop into Charlotte’s starting center if he reaches his potential.

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  1. Detroit Pistons: Donovan Mitchell: SG – Louisville

Donovan Mitchell is an elite athlete that could develop into a starter for the Detroit Pistons. His jump shot is pure, but he sometimes struggles putting the ball in the basket because of his questionable shot selection. He’s a good passer, but isn’t quite skilled enough in this area to be a full-time point guard. His elite athleticism and high basketball IQ help him thrive on the defensive end of the floor. His quick hands help him collect steals at a high rate. He’ll need to improve his shot selection and consistency if he wants to become a starter. He’d be a great fit in Detroit as a developmental shooting guard.

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  1. Denver Nuggets: OG Anunoby: SF – Indiana

OG Anunoby is an elite athlete that will defend at a high level in the NBA. He has a large wingspan and has elite quickness and strength that will make opposing players’ lives miserable. If he improves as a ball-handler and jump shooter, he has the potential to be a superstar. He struggles shooting from distance and doesn’t have the ability to defeat a defender in isolation. He seems to be a hard worker, so he might be able to improve his offensive game drastically once he receives NBA coaching. With Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler’s future in Denver possibly coming to an end soon, Anunoby could become their small forward of the future.

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  1. Miami Heat: Justin Jackson: SF – North Carolina

Justin Jackson is one of the safest players in this year’s draft. He’s improved every year at North Carolina. Jackson won’t be an elite player, but he’ll be a solid role player in the NBA. The only question about his game is his three-point shot. He improved his jumper last year, but it’s not a given that he’ll be a good three-point shooter in the NBA. If he can consistently knock down threes, he’ll be a solid 3-and-D role player. He’d be a perfect fit in Miami as a sixth or seventh man coming off the bench.

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  1. Portland Trail Blazers: Terrance Ferguson: SG – Australia

After commiting to the University of Arizona, Terrance Ferguson decided to skip college basketball and play one season in Australia. Ferguson didn’t have a great season overseas, but he has enough potential that a team will take a chance on him in the first round. He’s an elite shooter and has enough athleticism to become a great defender once he gets stronger. He’ll need to improve as a ball-handler and passer, but he has the tools to become an elite shooting guard in the NBA. The Trail Blazers have a great backcourt already, but they could use another guard to spell minutes for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

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  1. Chicago Bulls: Jarrett Allen: C – Texas

Jarrett Allen is a physical center with enough size and strength to take advantage of smaller defenders at the next level. He’ll need to improve his offensive game, but he’s already a great finisher near the basket. He’s not a great athlete, which hurts him on the defensive end of the floor. But he’s already an elite shot blocker. Allen also rebounds at a high rate. He’ll take a few years of developing before he’s ready to be an impact player, but he has an extremely high ceiling. Allen could eventually develop into Chicago’s starting center.

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  1. Milwaukee Bucks: Harry Giles: PF – Duke

Harry Giles was the top ranked high school basketball player in America last season. His one year at Duke was disastrous. He’s had multiple knee injuries, and wasn’t healthy to start the season. Once he returned from injury, he looked lost and hesitant. He’s the biggest boom-or-bust prospect in this draft. The Bucks have a habit of swinging for the fences in the draft. That strategy worked with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thon Maker, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see them go to the well one more time with Giles. If Giles doesn’t regain form, he’ll be a solid energy big off the bench. If he starts to show the ability that made him the top high school basketball player in the country, Milwaukee will have made the best pick in the draft. While the rest of the NBA has taken a liking to Golden State’s small ball strategy, the Bucks are implementing a tall ball strategy. Giles would fit nicely into their lineup due to his length and lateral agility that the Bucks covet in their bigs.

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  1. Indiana Pacers: Ivan Rabb: PF – California

Ivan Rabb was supposed to be a one-and-done player at California with Jaylen Brown last season. After a disappointing freshman season, Rabb returned to California to try and elevate his draft stock as a sophomore. Unfortunately for Rabb, he didn’t improve his draft stock and is stuck in a much deeper draft class than last season. Although he didn’t have an elite season, he’s still a talented power forward with the ability to become a solid role player in the NBA. Rabb’s skill set was poorly utilized at California, so NBA teams will likely give him a pass for his lackluster years in college. He’s an athletic power forward that will likely be an energy big off the bench. He likely won’t ever become a great defender, but he could improve if he gets stronger. He doesn’t have a high ceiling, but he’ll be a solid role player at the next level.

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  1. Atlanta Hawks: Justin Patton: C – Creighton

Justin Patton is an athletic big with the potential to become a starter in the NBA. He’s a good athlete for his size, but needs to get stronger if he wants to defend at a high level against NBA centers. He struggles offensively without playmakers that can get him the ball, but he’s great at getting open. Patton needs to improve his jump shot if he wants to stretch the floor. Right now, most of his shots come from within a few feet of the rim. He needs to improve his rebounding and toughness at the next level. He’ll probably spend most of his rookie season working on his weaknesses in the D-League (or Gatorade League) before getting a chance to play in a meaningful NBA game. The skills are there, but it will take him time to develop.

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  1. Portland Trail Blazers: John Collins: PF/C – Wake Forrest

John Collins is an athletic big that has a lot of potential. He needs to improve as a passer and jump shooter at the next level. He’s already an elite finisher near the basket, but he’ll want to improve his range. Collins is a great rebounder and shot blocker, but he often gets into foul trouble by being too aggressive. He needs to learn how to rebound and block shots without picking up fouls. He’s a hard worker with a high motor, so there’s a good chance he improves his weaknesses and develops into a solid rotational big at the next level.

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  1. Oklahoma City Thunder: T.J. Leaf: PF – UCLA

Although he got overshadowed by Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf had a phenomenal freshman season at UCLA. He’s an athletic power forward with the ability to shoot threes. He’s a perfect modern-day stretch four. He’ll need to add strength to improve his defense and rebounding abilities, but that shouldn’t be an issue once he’s in an NBA weight room. Leaf is a great ball-handler for his size, and is skilled enough to score both inside and outside. He has the potential to develop into a long-term starter in Oklahoma City.

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  1. Brooklyn Nets: Ike Anigbogu: PF – UCLA

Ike Anigbogu may be a few years away from playing important minutes in an NBA game, but he has a lot of upside that could make him one of the steals of the draft. He’s an incredible athlete with great size and strength. He’s a great rebounder and shot blocker, but needs to improve the rest of his game. He’s very raw on offense. He’s able to score when he’s near the basket, but he doesn’t have the ability to shoot from distance. He’ll need to improve as a passer and jump shooter if he wants to become a starter. The Nets need a lot of help, so it would be wise to gamble on a high upside player.

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  1. Toronto Raptors: Johnathan Motley: PF – Baylor

Johnathan Motley is an athletic big that should become a great role player. He isn’t a great shooter, but he can score when he’s near the basket. He’s a good passer and rebounder, but won’t be a complete player until he can expand his range on his jump shot. He’s a solid shot blocker, but can sometimes get wild and pick up fouls. He needs to improve his ball-handling skills so he can avoid being turnover prone. He should be ready to play in an NBA game as a rookie, and could develop into a starter if his jump shot improves. He’d be a great fit for Toronto’s bench unit.

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  1. Utah Jazz: Semi Ojeleye: F – SMU

Semi Ojeleye is an athletic combo forward that will be a great offensive player in the NBA. He’ll never be a great defender, but his offensive skills should make up for his defensive limitations. He was a one-year wonder at SMU (after transferring from Duke), but flashed skills that should make him a first round pick. He’s a great scorer from all areas of the court. Ojeleye is strong enough to bully smaller defenders. At worst, he should be a solid role player in the NBA. If he maximizes his potential, Ojeleye could become a starter for the Jazz.

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  1. Orlando Magic: Jordan Bell: PF – Oregon

Jordan Bell is an athletic big with the potential to develop into a solid role player in the NBA. He doesn’t have great strength or length, but he has a high motor and will be able to switch onto guards while defending the pick and roll. He’ll want to improve his offensive game, but he already has the skills to be a defensive big coming off the bench. He’s an elite rim protector, but will need to get stronger to become an elite all-around defender. Bell probably won’t ever become a starter, but he’d be a great fit as a backup in Orlando.

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  1. Portland Trail Blazers: Tyler Lydon: PF – Syracuse

Tyler Lydon is one of the safest players in the draft. He doesn’t have a high ceiling, but he should become a solid roational player in the NBA. He isn’t a great athlete, but he’s extremely smart and skilled on offense. He’s a great shooter with the ability to score from all areas of the court. He’s a good passer and rebounder too. He’ll never become an elite starter because of his athletic limitations. He played well in a zone defense at Syracuse, but doesn’t have the skill set to be a great man-to-man defender in the NBA. He’ll need to get stronger, but should be able to contribute off the bench as a rookie. He’d fit in nicely into Portland’s second unit.

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  1. Brooklyn Nets: Jawun Evans: PG – Oklahoma State

The Nets need a lot of help, so they should take the best player available regardless of position. Jawun Evans has the potential to develop into a starting point guard. He needs to improve his jump shot, but made a high percentage of his three-point shots in college. He’s a great ball-handler and is able to set up his teammates. He’s a bit undersized, so he’ll never be a great defender. But he makes up for his lack of size by working hard on the defensive end of the floor. Evans knows how to get to the rim, but needs to improve his ability to finish over larger defenders. Even if Evans doesn’t develop into a starter, he should be a solid backup point guard for the Nets.

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  1. Los Angeles Lakers: Bam Adebayo: PF/C – Kentucky

Bam Adebayo is an athletic big with a high motor. Although he probably won’t ever develop into a starter, he has the skill set of an energy big off the bench. He’ll need to improve his jump shot if he ever wants to develop into a starter. He can score near the basket, but he isn’t a player that will space the floor. His athleticism and motor make him a great shot blocker and rebounder. He’ll probably always be a better defensive player than offensive player, but this skill set could be useful as a backup power forward on the Lakers. They need high-energy players like Adebayo to help change the culture in Los Angeles.

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  1. San Antonio Spurs: Luke Kennard: SG – Duke

Luke Kennard is the perfect bench player in Greg Popovich’s system. He’ll never be an elite defender, but he has one skill that will keep him in the league for years. Kennard is one of the best shooters in the draft. He’s able to score in a variety of ways. His mediocre athleticism won’t allow him to dominate in isolation, but Popovich isn’t an isolation coach. Kennard will fit nicely into San Antonio’s second unit as a scorer that can space the floor.

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  1. Utah Jazz: Josh Hart: SG – Villanova

Josh Hart is one of the safest players in the draft. He won’t be a star, but he’s a hard-nosed player that will thrive as a sixth man. He isn’t elite at anything on the court, but he’s good at everything. He’ll likely be this year’s Malcolm Brogdon. Hart plays physical defense and is a great rebounder for his size. He’ll be an immediate impact player for the Jazz.

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