Welcome to the New Year, where the draft conversation will intensify with each passing week as the NBA standings crystallize, the college season nears March Madness, and prospects’ performances begin to feel more significant.
Wait, actually, let’s take back the part about the standings. If you haven’t noticed, there’s an enormously confusing pack of lottery-bound teams still running neck and neck with each other as we near the halfway point. As of Tuesday, we have a 10-win team, an 11-win team, three 12-win teams, three 13-win teams and two 14-win teams. If the Bulls’ recent stretch of winning basketball didn’t prove it already—anything can happen. Some serious effort (or lack thereof) may be a prerequisite for choice lottery odds this year.
As always, our mocks aim to project what the draft could look like on a given day, and as June gets closer, team needs will become more of a serious factor. If you’re looking for rankings, check out our most recent Big Board update. (Draft order is based on reverse standings and player information current as of Jan. 2.)
| DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona | Fr.
Height: 7'0" | Weight: 260 pounds | Age: 19 | Last: 1
The quality and variety of talent atop this class creates a difficult decision for whichever team ends up picking first. Ayton’s freakish physical ability, dominant interior play and soft shooting touch give him the highest long-term ceiling in the draft. He’s been outstanding for Arizona and largely unstoppable on the glass and in the paint. His defensive positioning has started to improve, and he has the length and mobility to handle himself on that side of the floor as he gains experience. The total package here will be difficult to pass up for any team.
Celtics* | Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid | 18 years old
(Note: Boston owns the Lakers’ 2018 first-round pick unless L.A. selects No. 1 or between Nos. 6–30, in which case it conveys to Philadelphia.)
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Last: 2
Doncic continues to do his thing for Real Madrid, with superb playmaking skills and basketball smarts that serve as the foundation for his well-rounded game. He leads the entire EuroLeague in PER with a 30% usage rate, and has bolstered his team in a number of ways. He’s the most individually accomplished European teen ever and a great fit for where the pass-shoot-dribble NBA is headed. Doncic’s average athletic ability may preclude him from dominating in any one area, but he’s given teams little reason to doubt the impact he can make at the NBA level. If this Lakers pick conveys to the Celtics, Doncic could slot right into Boston’s rotation as another oversized ballhandler.