The NBA Lottery was this past Tuesday, which means the draft order is officially set. Although the draft is still over a month away, it’s definitely not too early to start doing mock drafts. Most of these top prospects are one and done players that I got to meet, interview and watch at the McDonalds All American Game and Jordan Brand Classic, so I know them very well, which means this draft a little more exciting for me. Those who follow this stuff closely have been saying this is the most talented draft class in years and I couldn’t agree more!
1. Boston Celtics- Markelle Fultz
A lot of people say there isn’t a “Clear cut number one” well, I disagree. I think Fultz is definitely the best player in this draft. The gap isn’t huge, it’s actually pretty small, but for me it’s definitely there, he has everything you want. And no, this doesn’t mean if he doesn’t win “Rookie of the Year” and doesn’t turn out to be the best player in this class, you can tell me I’m wrong. Right now Fultz is the best pick at 1 because he’s what the Celtics need, another scorer along side Isaiah Thomas. Markelle averaged 24 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds per game at Washington on over 41% from three and nearly 50% from the field. I know Washington didn’t win a lot of games, but I really don’t think it’s fair to hold that against Fultz. Every scouting report was to stop him, and he still put up those numbers. He’s gone from “Unranked” to the probable number 1 pick since he was cut from Varsity his sophomore year at DeMatha. He told me it made him “Humble and Hungry,” and I don’t see him stopping any time soon.
2. LA Lakers- Lonzo Ball
This was a hard pick for me, because if I was purely ranking prospects, I think De’Aaron Fox is the second best player in the draft. But, everyone has been assuming that if the Lakers got 2 it was obvious that they would choose Ball. Even though we all saw Fox absolutely expose Ball in the sweet sixteen in his 39 point performance, with no three pointers. Lonzo’s two big issues are: Ball security and Defense. And, I always come back to the fact that he hasn’t had to play defense in a long time. His high school, Chino Hills ran a system like none other, and they won, but sometimes I wonder if it really hurt Lonzo to play high school basketball there. They don’t play defense and don’t care about turnovers (Also what people critique his brother, LaMelo for). But I won’t forget about the fact that he has the best vision from a college player that I’ve seen in a long time, and he is a very underrated three point shooter with nearly unlimited range. Lonzo and Fox both have the opportunity to be special, but I think Lonzo’s LA roots, his ability to sell some tickets and bring back the “Lake Show” allow him to edge out Fox on this slot.
3. Philadelphia 76ers- De’Aaron Fox
With the Sixers stacked lineup of young forwards, I think they’d be crazy to pass on Fox for another 6’9″ swingman. Assuming everything goes as planned, I would go as far as to say, that Fox fell into the Sixers lap at 3. I think he’s the second best player in this draft based on skill, and he also has the passion and poise to be a great point guard and leader for the next 15 years. I was able to talk to Fox twice before he went to Kentucky and I’ve always considered him one of my best interviews. He was so easy going and fun to talk to, but you could tell he took pride in his role on the court, which is a leader. I promise, after this I’m done comparing Fox and Ball, but we all so the video of Fox in the locker room after that Elite 8 loss. He’s bawling his eyes out and hugging fellow freshman and “Brother” Bam Adebayo, as he called him multiple times. Compared to Lonzo, after getting cooked by Fox, and arguably being the reason his team lost the game, he doesn’t even look upset, and declares for the draft right there on the spot. Right in front of all his teammates that have poured all their energy out throughout the course of the season, and right when their season ends, all Ball is worried about is the NBA. Fox also put up good numbers, averaging 17 points, 5 assists and nearly 2 steals per game. Fox’s intangibles, athleticism and defense will definitely translate to the NBA. Along with his passion. I assume some NBA players look at Lonzo Ball as a big shot with a Dad who talks too much, but I guarantee the second Fox steps into an NBA locker room, he will be respected. And that’s why it is a must, that the 76ers do not pass on Fox.
4. Phoenix Suns- Josh Jackson
I had Jayson Tatum ahead of Jackson for almost the entire season, especially after Tatum’s outburst at Virginia, but Jackson was just too dominant in the last six weeks of the season. He is the most athletic player in the draft and maybe also the best defender. He also has a good handle and a great feel for the game at his size. His only issue is his shooting stroke, shooting only 37% from 3 and 56% from the free throw line. Both of those will need to get better if he wants to reach his maximum potential, but his three ball got a lot better throughout the season, so I have no reason to believe he won’t keep improving. He reminds me a lot like Kawhi Leonard, they are both great two way players and while Kawhi is obviously a better shooter, I think Jackson is more athletic. I think there are other people in this draft that will be more impactful than Jackson right away, but it would be foolish to doubt him. I think he has the chance to be an NBA superstar in just a couple of years.
5. Sacramento Kings- Jayson Tatum
Last but hardly least, rounding out the top 5 is Jayson Tatum. There are arguments that say that Tatum has the best upside out of anyone in this whole draft, and honestly, I can’t dispute that. He also averaged 17 points per game at Duke last year, he only shot 35% from 3, which he probably should improve on. But, that’s not really his forte anyways. He is a matchup nightmare because of his deadly midrange game and athleticism. He has the ability to rise up and shoot over his defender with ease. It may take him some time to adjust to the speed of the game at the next level, but when he hits the ground running it’ll be hard to stop him. The Kings have two top 10 picks in this draft to go along with Buddy Hield. And I think Tatum is the guy they should want to build their franchise around.
This was only 1-5 of my mock draft, check back in a couple of days for 6-10, this should be a very interesting draft!