NBA Mock Draft 6.0: Trade rumors and final projections before the big event
Earlier in the week, Celtics GM Danny Ainge went on local radio and said he expects a frenzy of league-wide activity on draft night. Others agree. The NBA rumor mill ramps up before the draft every year, but several executives told SI.com that there are more realistic trade scenarios being discussed this week than in years past.
Get ready for a wild night. Among the storylines to watch:
• Will the Lakers keep the No. 2 pick? They've had discussions with the Kings about DeMarcus Cousins and could set the tone for an eventful draft if they decide to deal the pick. If L.A. keeps it and Karl-Anthony Towns goes No. 1 as expected, the front office is torn on whether to take Jahlil Okafor or D'Angelo Russell, according to sources.
• Where will Kristaps Porzingis land? Several teams reportedly covet the big man, but it's hard to pin where he'll go in the draft. Among the teams looking hardest at the Latvian forward: the Knicks at No. 4.
• Rumors, smokescreens and chatter. Some teams (Celtics) are looking to move up, some teams (Kings, Rockets) are open to moving down. And then others (76ers, Bucks, Magic), are all over the place.
Without further ado, here's SI.com’s final Mock Draft:
What are the Sixers up to? That’s what several executives have asked in recent days. It’s hard to believe the Sixers would take Porzingis, not with a gaping hole at point guard and Russell, who is well liked in the organization, on the board. More likely: Philadelphia is trying to manipulate the Knicks or Magic to trade up for Porzingis. You know Sixers GM Sam Hinkie loves collecting draft picks.
Several sources say the Knicks are looking hardest at Porzingis and former high school phenom Emmanuel Mudiay. Porzingis has a lot of support amongst Knicks execs. A Porzingis pick won’t be popular amongst Knicks fans—he’s at least two years and a lot of weightlifting away from offering much of anything—but he has enormous offensive potential. The Knicks like Willie Cauley-Stein but the feeling in the organization is that four is too high to take him.
The Magic have been active and trade talks and executives that have talked to Orlando say they are willing to move up, down or out of the draft for a good deal. The Magic love Porzingis, and sources say Porzingis's team prefers Orlando, but without a trade, it's unlikely Porzingis is available here.
The Nuggets have done extensive research on Hezonja, a flashy two-guard with a solid all around offensive game, and would love to see him here. Winslow stock has plateaued around the league the last few weeks, but he is the kind of hard nosed defender who would fit nicely in Mike Malone's. Mudiay is a strong candidate here too, if he's on the board.
Stan Van Gundy has made it clear: Unless a superstar is available, the Pistons will keep the pick. Van Gundy says the team won’t draft for position; they will take the best player on the board. Johnson doesn't have the offensive skills of Dekker, but he is a rugged defender with an NBA body—Van Gundy will love him.
The Pacers are looking hard at two players: Cauley-Stein and Murray State point guard Cameron Payne. Indiana, desperate to become more dynamic offensively, loves Payne's potential but Cauley-Stein is the type of defensive anchor who can dominate on that end. With Roy Hibbert's future uncertain, Cauley-Stein is a safe pick.
It's been tough to get a read on Turner's stock; he could go as high as No. 9 or fall into the late teens. The Jazz have a need for another big and Turner has mouthwatering potential. He's a project—Turner will need to get a lot stronger before he's ready to play—but he's a rebounding, shot-blocking center who can shoot threes. Hard to pass up on that.
Dekker has had strong workouts recently, quieting some of the concern about his shooting. The Wisconsin forward's versatility and athleticism would seem to be strong fits for the Suns' system, as is his ability to post up and score in halfcourt sets.
It's been widely believed for a while that the Thunder have promised Payne that they will take him at No. 14. Oklahoma City is pretty well stocked and it has reportedly sent Jeremy Lamb to Charlotte and shopped Perry Jones and Steve Novak, according to rival executives. Payne could develop into a nice backup for Russell Westbrook—or even more.
Celtics GM Danny Ainge continues to be one of the most aggressive executives during the draft process. Boston would love to move up, and at this point, with all of its assets and several teams in the top 10 willing to deal, it would be a surprise if Boston doesn't sneak in. One GM said the Celtics “are one of the few teams thinking big.” How big? Two executives who have spoken to Boston's front office say no one is untouchable on the roster. If the Celtics stay put, Oubre looks to be the best player on the board.
Trade rumors are everywhere in Milwaukee, but despite chatter that the Bucks have shopped Michael Carter-Williams and John Henson, two executives told me that Milwaukee has flat-out told teams neither is available. Lyles's stock is all over the board. It’s an NBA axiom: power forwards should be shot blockers or three-point shooters—or both. At this point, Lyles is neither. But he does have strong potential as a post player, a skill the Bucks are short on.
Watch out for Houston to possibly draft for someone else here. The Rockets have engaged a few teams on trades and are willing to move back—or even out—of the first round, per several rival executives. Hunter, a sweet-shooting guard with a lot of moxy, is coveted by several teams who would love to grab him in this range.
The Wizards would love to see Looney here. Washington has looked hard at several frontcourt players and Looney, a rugged rebounder with tremendous physical tools, is a nice fit. The Wizards could use a floor spacing big and Looney showed flashes of a perimeter game that extended beyond the three-point line with the Bruins last season.
The Raptors' need for a defensive-minded wing could be solved with Hollis-Jefferson, a long, athletic defender who can guard multiple positions. Hollis-Jefferson needs work offensively, but he can step into a rotation and defend right away. Justin Anderson, another defensive specialist, is a candidate here, too.
The Mavericks are point guard shopping (again) and Grant is one of the best prospects at the position. The Notre Dame product has great size for his position and plays with a lot of confidence. He's on the older side but the Mavericks need someone who can contribute sooner rather than later.
The Bulls crave offense, and Vaughn is a pure scorer with great size for his position. He could provide some instant offense off the bench for a team that is looking to bolster its reserves.
The Blazers—after flipping Batum and with Wesley Matthews and Arron Afflalo headed to free agency—need perimeter help. Anderson is an elite defender who shot the ball well from three-point range last season at Virginia. If he can be a threat from three in the pros, he’s a nice pick here.
Zach Randolph will turn 34 this off-season, and though he is still highly productive, it’s never too early to look towards the future. Harrell is a relentless rebounder who makes up for a lack of size (6’8”) with an impressive wingspan (7’4”). A year or two getting worked over by Randolph at practice could be educational.
The Spurs, predictably, have kept a tight lid on who they are looking at. But San Antonio intends to be aggressive in free agency so drafting a player who could be stashed overseas for a year or two makes sense. And San Antonio has a strong history of identifying top international talent. Hernangomez is a physical five man with potential to develop into a solid midrange shooter.
Jones could go as high as the high teens, but with so many playmakers available in the back half of the first round, somebody has to fall. The Lakers will aggressively pursue a veteran point guard this summer, but Jones is a nice prospect to groom for the future.
I like Alexander a lot here. It wasn’t long ago that the ex-Jayhawk was considered a lottery pick. A turbulent season at Kansas put an end to those thoughts, but there is no denying Alexander’s potential. He’s a big, physical shot-blocker who plays well off the ball. At the back end of the first round, Alexander is a worthy risk.
Martin is an athletic forward prospect with a similar skill set to Thaddeus Young, the Nets forward who will be a free agent next month. Martin can face up, score off the dribble and run the floor. His post game is rudimentary at this point, but teams that have scouted Martin project him as a versatile role player who can provide instant offense to a second unit.
McCullough—whose season ended early due to a knee injury—would seem to be an ideal fit for Golden State’s up-tempo system. He is long, athletic and has a nice looking jump shot. He will need to bulk up and the knee injury was certainly a setback, but the deep Warriors can afford to be patient with a player with terrific talent.