The big winner from this year's NBA draft lottery? The Minnesota Timberwolves, who will add a third No. 1 overall pick to their roster. A close second were the Los Angeles Lakers, who will have a chance to add a franchise player to succeed Kobe Bryant.
The big loser? The New York Knicks, who after mailing in the second half of the season and finishing with the NBA’s second-worst record will pick fourth overall. That’s what the franchise gets for sending GM Steve Mills, not Phil Jackson, to the lottery.
Without further ado, let's get to my Mock Draft 2.0. Here are my first-round projections now that the lottery is set.
Here’s where the draft gets a little murky. The Sixers need a playmaker; two potential elite ones are on the board. Mudiay is unknown—he spent an injury riddled season in China—but he is an explosive point guard cut out of the mold of Russell Westbrook. Expect Philadelphia to go back and forth on Mudiay and Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell.
Steve Mills's face said it all. Fourth? The Knicks GM certainly expected better after his team effectively tanked the second half of the season. Still, grabbing Russell, a gifted playmaker, is far from a consolation prize. Russell reads defenses like a five-year veteran and thrives in transition. Can he learn—and excel—in the triangle? That’s a more difficult question.
Comparisons coming out of Porzingis’s camp are lofty: Kevin Garnett. Porzingis isn’t as skilled of a post player as KG, but he is a legitimate stretch four, athletic with a fluid shooting stroke. Porzingis will need a year to bulk up but he has enormous potential.
Too high for Kaminsky? First you have to identify what his major flaws are. Kaminsky is a smooth shooting big who can score off the dribble and from beyond the three-point line. The Kings have a gaping hole at power forward, and Kaminsky could complement DeMarcus Cousins nicely. There are issues defensively, but few better scoring options for George Karl’s offense.
Here’s what we know about the Nuggets: They want to play fast again. Here is what we know about Winslow: He is excellent in transition. Winslow’s size could be an issue, but a strong NCAA tournament run with Duke opened eyes and revealed a more complete game. That will help Denver, which needs a few more complete players.
Detroit has a sizeable hole at small forward and Johnson, a defensive-minded swingman who has evoked comparisons—at least physically—to Metta World Peace, looks like a nice fit. Johnson needs polish offensively but he made 37.1% of his three’s last season, far better than many scouts predicted. Myles Turner is a candidate here, too.
One of the bigger surprises of the combine was Booker; not because of how he played (he didn’t) but executives' opinion of him. Several execs identified Booker as the best shooting prospect in the draft. The Hornets—last in three-point shooting last season—need a perimeter threat to take pressure off of Al Jefferson.
Larry Bird telling Willie Cauley-Stein he was a $100 million player was one of two things: A smokescreen—why would the Pacers jump at a defensive minded center—or (another) message to Roy Hibbert to opt. A pick closer to reality is Hezonja, a sweet shooting two-guard who could emerge as a starter next season.
After years of having a surplus of bigs, Utah needs help there. Lyles isn’t as advanced offensively as his UK teammate, Towns, but he is a solid face-up power forward who has shown flashes of a decent perimeter game. If the Jazz prefer a more NBA-ready forward, another Lyles teammate, Willie Cauley-Stein, is a candidate here, too.
The Suns would love an offensive-oriented big to fall to them here. Cauley-Stein is limited offensively, but he is a versatile defender who can help solve the Suns' rebounding problems. And he is the most NBA-ready big man in the draft.
There was a measurable buzz around Payne at the draft combine in Chicago, with executives seeing a natural playmaker who blends scoring and distributing well. Payne is a little undersized, but the Thunder can patiently develop what could be a quality backup to Russell Westbrook.
Portis’s greatest strength: He competes like crazy. Executives love his relentless motor, which complements a diverse skill set. Portis is terrific in transition and is a strong floor-spacing big man prospect. The Hawks also love perimeter shooting big men.
Some intriguing freshmen are on the board here—Kevon Looney, Kelly Oubre—that could appeal to Celtics GM Danny Ainge. For now, pencil in Dekker, who tested extremely well athletically at the combine and, more importantly, shot well from three-point range. Dekker has an NBA body that executives love.
A postseason appearance accelerated Milwaukee’s youth movement, but there are still holes. The Bucks need a pivot, though drafting a five here would be a stretch. Expect Milwaukee to grab a swingman like Hunter, one of the draft’s best shooters, a nice fit to develop behind Khris Middleton.
Oubre is raw and struggled last season in the role of Andrew Wiggins' replacement. But he has tremendous physical tools and a shooting stroke scouts like a lot. In time, Oubre could develop into an elite defender. Oubre is likely destined for the D-League next season, but the Rockets have enough depth to wait for him to develop.
Nene is 32 years old and entering the final year of his contract. Looney isn’t ready to play yet—the word “project” was attached to him by several executives at the combine—but he has tremendous physical tools and is a rugged rebounding prospect. Looney could be a nice long-term investment in D.C.
The Mavs need a point guard, and Utah’s Delon Wright is a candidate here. But Harrell—a high motor scorer/rebounder with an NBA body—could be tough to pass up for a team that will eventually need to start thinking of life after Dirk Nowtizki.
The rapidly developing Wood is a bit of a risk here—Justin Anderson or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, two defensive-minded players, are safer picks—but the Bulls need frontcourt offense and Wood has terrific inside-out potential. He won’t play much in his first year, maybe two, but he has an enormous upside.
With Wesley Matthews' future uncertain and Aaron Afflalo headed for free agency, Vaughn, a solid scorer for the Rebels last season with a diverse offensive skill set, is a solid choice.
The Cavs add a defensive-minded wing as insurance in case Iman Shumpert becomes too pricey to bring back next season.
It’s tough to get a read on Grant’s stock. He’s polished and isn’t short on confidence. But he’s older (22) and teams don’t know if he’s a true point guard. He could go anywhere between 15-25. If he’s on the low end, Memphis will happily scoop him up and plug Grant into its backcourt rotation.
The Spurs are always on the lookout for value and Anderson—an NBA-ready defender with a powerful physique—could develop into a steal if his offensive game comes along.
If the Lakers draft Okafor, the next biggest hole is at point guard. Enter Wright, a big, savvy playmaker who plays unselfishly and could provide L.A. with minutes next season. He’s an excellent defender, which the Lakers could badly use in the backcourt.
Keep an eye on Vezenkov. International scouts like him, often citing his jumper and skills in transition as strengths. This is a luxury pick for Boston; the Celtics could stash a quality European prospect with a nice upside for a year or two. Syracuse's Chris McCullough is a strong candidate here, too.
An ACL injury in January crippled McCullough’s stock. Pre-injury, McCullough was an athletic, shot-blocking forward with a sound shooting stroke. If he lives up to his potential, he could be a steal here.
An athletic combo forward who can face up and attack the basket? For a Warriors team that could have decisions to make on Draymond Green and David Lee this summer, Martin could provide needed depth.