This is my annual mock draft and my personal Christmas. The draft just gets me so giddy with excitement. We're at a time before Summer League overreactions and draft anger turned acceptance turned homerism, before armchair GM trades where you refuse to give away your new draft pick for talent that will always be better than what you're giving away, but you still cling to hope because you want this relationship to really work out.
The 2015 mock draft I did last year is lost in space and time, but I am proud of slotting Porzingis in at number three and having Booker at eight. A word of caution before you have an embolism, these predictions aren't exactly how I think it'll go down, it's more along the lines of what I'd like to see happen + team needs + a small dash of gut and feeling. I am also allowed one Petty Point -- for instance, I did not put DeAndre Bembry in the first round because of how his afro is shaped in relation to his head. He has the Josh Childress afro and Josh Childress really strikes a nerve with me for reasons I'll never be able to explain.
Let's get it started.
(1) Ben Simmons (F, LSU)
"The higher I get, the less they accept me, Even had the OG's tryna press me, Ha-ha-ha-ha!"
There will never be a better moment than right now to be light-skinned and in the NBA. Coincidentally, there is probably never a better time than right now to be Australian and in the NBA as well. Ben Simmons is both, which means you have to pick him if you're the Sixers. Look at Dellavedova, off being a rabid mercenary for hire in Cleveland. Look at Dante Exum, still shrouded in mystery and stardust -- it's said he's still playing against unknown competition to this day. Look at Bogut, he's held the door open for over a decade now letting his countrymen join him in greener basketball pastures, managing to become an oft-injured but useful cog on one of the greatest teams of all time -- the list goes on and on. Ben Simmons seems like the quintessential Lakers pick, but the Sixers have to go 100% at this jawn and let him rock with a mostly blank canvas of talent.
Remember kids, Hinkie fell on the sword for this pick and he delivered in the end with the help of Mutombo the Seer. It's time for B.C. to pick Simmons, high five some high ranking smiling Sixers officials, and then go back to his popcorn bag as Embiid, Okafor and Noel play a spirited game of janken. Loser goes on the trading block.
(2) Brandon Ingram (F, Duke)
Cthulhu sent Brandon Ingram to wreak havoc upon the walking earth. "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!" the fans chant as Brandon Ingram catches a lob from a similarly colored jersey, the silhouette not registering just quite yet in his name index reader. It looks something like "-'------ 🎥 -------" to him. Odd. The records show Brandon's ancestry tracing back to Dhalsim and most recently Kevin Durant, which is a hell of a lineage. The only thing left to do is stuff his gob full of Animal Style Fries and say really nice things about Kobe for 82 games.
(3) Kris Dunn (G, Providence)
This is possibly my first "whoa" pick, ring the alarm! Okay, it's not that crazy at all, and in all honestly I just wonder what Bill Simmons would think about Dunn going to Boston. This is also a precursor to a trade that I have bubbling in the gut a little later on. In the meantime, who doesn't want a rook that expresses such fearless demeanor? Sure, he'll be stuck behind guards like Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley, but it's not like anybody in the league is really untouchable, just faux untouchable. Plus, guards are the new centers. You can get away with playing a bunch of good guards at the same time. Something only Phoenix managed to royally fuck up.
Speaking of Phoenix...
(4) Dragan Bender (PF/C, Maccabi Tel Aviv)
Daenerys walked slowly over rugged gravel that was littered with pieces of seared flesh and unidentifiable bone fragment. Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion all glared and hissed at the unknown shadowy seven footer encroaching upon their territory.
His cape looked hand-woven, and depicted a rising sun with a large red cross next to it. He flicked two bronze coins at Daenerys, which she managed to haphazardly catch despite being in awe of what she was witnessing. He did all of this while carrying a half eaten loaf of bread in his left hand, which he soon devoured in one large chomp. He confidently strode toward the dragons with no regard for his near future, and began to slowly stroke the surprisingly cold scales on the side of their mouths.
"I am now the dragon." he whispered in an almost soothing tone.
"You are free."
(5) Marquese Chriss (PF, Washington)
A decent number of mocks have slotted a point guard here, but I don't agree that the Wolves have to go down that route. It's tempting because Curry has been disintegrating records and slicing limbs off with dribbling exhibitions, but Ricky Rubio is still the Spanish love stallion that has captured countless hearts in the Twin Cities area. Marquese Chriss is interesting to say the least. Here is Matt Moore of CBSSports describing his defensive instincts:
Luckily, General Thibs is reporting for duty and can give him all of the 48 minutes he could handle to work on it. Oh? There is an offseason, and practices as well you say? Even better. He's like an unfinished Leonardo da Vinci sculpture and Thibodeau can finish chiseling Chriss into a bouncy four that will stretch the floor and run around with bad things on his mind (hopefully not Lisa Ann) while adding defensive impact. The rebounding... I'm not so sure about, but one thing at a time here! More importantly, Big KAT can slide over to the center position and rule over teams that try to punish them with small-ball lineups.
(6) Jamal Murray (PG/G, Kentucky)
I'm sure there is a 6 God x Toronto illuminati situation going on here but I already used up all of my Drake material on the first pick. Jamal can really shoot, as reports out of a Boston Celtics workout recently confirmed. The Pelicans fielded hospital beds last year as a starting lineup, managing to incur the wrath of Lil B or Santeria from the only good season of True Detective. While Jrue Holiday is solid, Jamal Murray can easily slide into any of the guard spots and start his own archery club.
(7) Buddy Hield (G, Oklahoma)
Pairing Mudiay with somebody like Buddy is just what the Nuggets and Mudiay and the doctor ordered. It also doubles as a great working movie title, "Somebody Like Buddy". I'll take my royalties later. But for now this puts Denver on the map with a "oh shit, they're a sneakily good rebuilding team with tons of promising talent!" narrative that they can build off of.
The Bahamanian Baller is going to be a sight to behold, and it's always intriguing to see how NCAA juggernauts translate to the NBA. Redick, Hansbrough, Curry, they all go unknown distances like your kids after high school. Plus weed jokes, Air Bud, etc.
(8) Jaylen Brown (SF, California) (Via Sacramento for Marcus Smart and 16th Pick)
The Celtics make the first power play of the draft and move Marcus Smart and the 16th pick for Jaylen Brown. I know what you're thinking: "Dude, why would the Celtics select two wing players with their first two picks when the most pressing need is a big?" The answer is quite simple, and it's free agency and trades. If they manage to snag Horford or any other big man that doesn't play like they see ghosts fucking each other inside of the 3 point line, they'll be perfectly fine.
Smart could be used as a trade chip for an impact veteran or superstar, but I think he's better served to be flipped for a young player that has a higher offensive ceiling and wears shorter shorts. There are still a lot of picks and talent that the Celtics can potentially package for a bigger splash later on down the road.
As much as it hurts to give up on Marcus Smart this early, it's hard to imagine his shot becoming anything more than "acceptable" and his shot selection anything more than "atrocious". For the Kings, they get a player with a ceiling comparable to the talent level of a top 6-10 pick from this year's draft and move back a bit to a position where there is still a considerable amount of talent, even if the ceiling isn't quite as high.
(9) Skal Labissiere (F, Kentucky)
A few sports above where he's been projected to go, the allure of Skal lies not in what he achieved at Kentucky but what he projects to in the NBA. This is a really "duh" statement, but I already see people arguing against his NBA potential because of what he didn't show in college. Gliding around the court like a more athletic Channing Frye, Skal is a tempting pick for the "new NBA" style. While he rarely attempted threes at the college level, he's made it no secret in workouts that he has range and wants to show it off as much as he wants to show off that ugly ass Kentucky hat. (Sorry, I have no issue with Kentucky or their fans, it's just an ugly hat.)
(10) Jakob Poeltl (C, Utah)
This is Poeltl's "I'm going to Milwaukee? Really? Stop joking." face. I had something written here about it being okay because he went to school at Wisconsin anyway but it turns out that he went to Utah and I'm an idiot. I blame the jersey. Don't take away my basketball credentials, I beg of you.
Anyway, I was just joking about Milwaukee being a miserable place for a draftee. They have Giannis and his smoothies, Jabari and his underground hip-hop, Monroe and his packed bags. A perfect situation for all involved.
Jalen Rose butchered Hezonja's name last year and I was oddly perturbed by it. It just sounded so aggressive and ugly: "He-ZONGA!", so I really want him to tackle this guy's name this year*.
(*It's pronounced "Yakob Pertle".)
(11) Chieck Diallo (PF/C, Kansas)
As an Orlando Magic fan, every year I get giddy about the draft because that's all I've had to look forward to. I study up on a lot of the prospects during pre-draft and prepare myself to learn to love these awkward teenagers. But I must admit, I cannot crack the Rob Hennigan code of Drafting 101. He speaks in buzzword speak, he sports a wry smile, facial tics, and never tips his hand ever. He always drafts the one guy I have the least knowledge about out of the handful that I obsessively scout, and I consider myself decently up to par on college prospects and range appropriate players.. So I'm just throwing shit to the wall here and saying that Chieck Diallo will be the pick because why not? He's been mocked everywhere from mid teens to the end of the first round, but he ticks a lot of the boxes that Hennigan loves to gush about.
There are other bigs that could be available in this range like Ellenson, Poeltl or Skal but their talents tend to overlap with Vucevic a bit too much. Deyonta Davis is a player that doesn't overlap at all, but from interviews I've seen of him he just doesn't seem like the "Hennigan type."
(12) Henry Ellenson (PF, Marquette)
The Jazz finally get back to making a Jazz pick. Yes, that's a joke about them drafting white people. Henry Ellenson provides a skill-set that both Gobert and Favors do not currently posses. In that sense, Ellenson fits both a need and could very well be the BPA at this spot if the draft was to shake out exactly like this (I mean, why wouldn't it?). More importantly, he's primed to be recruited by Gordon Hayward to his League of Legends team and they will be the first multi-sport athletes to excel at both video games and basketball when the Jazz launch their own esports club.
(13) Timothé Luwawu (SG/SF, Mega Leks)
The Suns double up on international talent and select Luwawu with the 13th pick. Luwawu sports a long lanky frame that mimics gazelle-like movement (think LaVine without the shot). There would be an immediate (fun) dynamic brewing with Booker, Warren, Bledsoe and even Knight.
Stylistically, Luwawu would be a one of a kind on the Suns roster. Let the Luwawu-Booker connection flow through your veins and embrace it.
Side note: Mega Leks have the best jerseys in the world, bar none., and coincidentally the best team to watch while on acid.
(14) Wade Baldwin IV (PG/G, Vanderbilt)
The writing could be on the wall right behind the rose that grew from concrete. According to reports, Derrick Rose is being shopped by the Bulls and that would leave a gaping hole that the Bulls and recently acquired Spencer Dinwiddie + mustache cannot fill. For Baldwin IV to become truly great, he will need to set and accomplish small reachable goals. The first order of business is to be a better than Acie Law IV, and after that beat out E'Twaun Moore or something.
(15) Deyonta Davis (PF/C, Michigan State) (Via Denver for 21st + Future Second Round Pick)
The Nuggets are rich in draft picks in a "bad draft" and they realize that many players that they would like to choose at this spot will still be there if they move 6 spots down. The Hawks do not have that luxury with Deyonta Davis and realize that he will be taken in the next few picks, so they swoop on up and add an early second rounder to send to Denver. Deyonta provides toughness, shot blocking, defense, and media hatred. Just look at his eyes, he totally doesn't want to answer any of those questions. Who can blame him? He's also potential insurance for losing Horford in free agency if he decides to bounce.
(16) Taurean Prince (SF, Baylor) (Via Boston for 8th Pick)
Taurean Prince explaining to a reporter about how his team didn't secure more rebounds than the other team will never get old. He's a beautiful flower. The Kings re-tool with a mid-first and Marcus Smart, which is not a bad coup at all considering Collison has recently done a very bad thing and Rondo speaks like a man that is not returning to Sacramento. Taurean can do a lot of different things on the floor, which is actually kind of rare in Sacramento if you think about it.
Next order of business is to move Rudy Gay and his contact losing self as quick as possible and the Kings may just sneak into the playoffs next year!
(17) Dejounte Murray (PG, Washington)
The Grizzlies have aged hard in every area, sort of like Shane MacGowan. However, their most pressing need is going to be at the PG spot. Conley is no lock to return to Memphis, Chalmers felt his achilles explode and found himself teamless, Farmar is unrestricted and not good anymore, and the rest of the guards are not going to take Memphis anywhere (Born Ready aside). There are some very good options that are still available that would be great Z-Bo replacements down the line, but Murray fills a need and has intriguing skill that the Grizzlies may just want to bite on.
(18) Domantas Sabonis (PF, Gonzaga)
Domantas Sabonis is not a stretch four yet, but little does he know that it is his destiny. Drummond is too busy clogging up the middle and doing all of the '90s center stuff that Shaq jerks off about on Inside the NBA, so that means Sabonis has the chance to become the player that SVG holds most dear to his heart -- the stretch four. I think this is a considerable drop for where a lot of people have him slotted, but I think he's the potential slider that may end up proving a lot of teams wrong if they pass on him.
(19) Demetrius Jackson (PG, Notre Dame)
Demetrius Jackson would be a brilliant pick at 19 for the Nuggets, and I'm not just saying it because I made this pick, I made all of these picks. I just feel *good* about this one. The fact that they only have one real backup point guard and he's on the verge of playing himself out of the league (love you Jameer!) is one thing, but getting a player that has the potential to be a top 10 pick in talent is another. Sure, Mudiay is good. We've seen his ability playmaking and athletic ability, but we also know that the league is starting to chew up and spit out guards that cannot shoot worth a lick with no regard for Kevin Harlan. Insurance, potential, depth. What's not to like?
(20) Ivica Zubac (C, Mega Leks)
I am not going to write about Ivica Zubac pretending to know that I know a lot about Ivica Zubac. But what I can tell you is that Ivica Zubac would love me talking about Ivica Zubac the way that I am talking about Ivica Zubac. Ivica Zubac? More like IBIZA Zubac, it's a fucking EDM block party. and you're invited.
(No, but seriously, from what I've watched from Zubac, I think that him and Myles Turner would play great off of each other as a 4/5 combo. The other option would be going for a guy like Malachi Richardson or Furkan Korkmaz.)
(21) Thon Maker (F, Orangeville Prep HS) (Via Atlanta for 16th Pick)
Thon Maker and the Nuggets make perfect sense. There is a considerable amount of average veteran talent on the roster, and all sorts of young talent that have yet to fall head first out of the crib and waddle out of the room. Thon is a risk, no question. But who isn't a risk? Life is all about risks and taking the Cyborg From Down Under is a risk that I would jump on quicker than you could say pork chop sandwiches.
Let him develop amongst your other younger talent and see where he falls. There are a lot of minutes that will be needing to go around, so you let the oil rise and you let the bland ass tap water fall to the bottom.
(22) Furkan Korkmaz (SG, Anadolu Efes)
This is actually Furkan Korkmaz. If you thought you hated dunk props in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, watch Furkan Korkmaz in his dunk contest. He dunks over a dinner table with people eating dinner, and then dresses up above as Darth Vader. The only issue is that he's built like a skinnier version of Evan Fournier, so it wouldn't look as cool as if, say, LeBron James did it. Courtney Lee is a free agent, Jeremy Lin opted out and may or may not return, Batum is said to want to stay but could also find himself playing elsewhere, so Korkmaz would provide a much needed addition on the wings and once again is a player that has slid from where he has been projected to go.
(23) Damian Jones (C, Vanderbilt)
There we go, the Celtics finally add beef to their frontcourt. Gifted with an imposing physique and brains, Damian has impressed quite a few teams during workouts. The only thing he really needs is a mean streak and more even play from a game to game basis and he will be that big man that the Celtics desperately need.
(24) Malachi Richardson (SG/SF, Syracuse)
Look at the flick of the wrist. Malachi has been shooting up the draft boards the last few weeks, but finds himself slipping a bit because of a few "need' picks. The Sixers are in a drought when it comes to any sort of guard talent, so taking a flyer on Malachi is something they'll be happy to do. Let's just hope it turns out better than the last guard from Syracuse they drafted.
(25) Brice Johnson (F, North Carolina)
Is it just me or does Brice Johnson just sound like the name of somebody who's destined to play for the Clippers? Brice, at least to me, is the safest pick of anybody from the 20-30 range, where I think his efficiency and production will translate to the NBA. The Clippers are a Cursed Franchise (TM) so he will fill in nicely for any big man that injures himself sneezing or trying to catch a falling iPhone like Darren McFadden.
(26) Malik Beasley (SG, Florida State)
Look at him dance! I'm actually not sure why I have him ranked this low. He's basically exactly what you want out of a SG. Good shooter, athletic as all hell, confident and fun to watch. What can go wrong? He can improve in a lot of areas like defense and passing the ball more, but I would be extremely hyped if my team came away with Simmons, Malachi and Beasley in the draft.
(27) Denzel Valentine (SF, Michigan State)
Every year there is a guy that slides about 10 spots lower than you expect him to. It's reported that Denzel Valentine has a bad case of the Brandon Roy knee, and this has caused quite a few teams to sour on the prospect of bringing along that all around Draymond type of player that they all covet. The Raptors say to hell with all of that, and we're bringing some love (or a massacre) back to T Dot.
Carroll is going to need a lot of rest and maintenance and Terrance Ross once scored 51 points in a game (he's only 25 and that seems like ages ago) and is too busy throwing shade on social media. If Denzel truly isn't hampered by his knee and can give you a few good years before having to worry about that sucker, you have to take him here.
(28) Juan Hernangómez (F, Movistar Estudiantes)
Third straight international prospect for the Suns. This time, they'll stash Juancho for a few years and bring him over in 2017 or 2018 and let him shine as a quality role-player. It's a good play for a team that has suddenly collected a vast amount of young talent with not enough minutes to give to them all.
(29) Paul Zipser (SF, Bayern Muenchen)
You can't tell me that this isn't a Spurs pick. If you look at tape of this guy, you really wonder why he's being projected as a second rounder. He looks the part, but needs to learn under a coach like Popovich to realistically play the part. There's a lot to like about Zipser including his size and athleticism at the SF position, and the Spurs continue to chug along with a solid pick at the back of the pack.
(30) Diamond Stone (C, Maryland)
Win or lose, after watching what LeBron has been doing to them in the finals, the Warriors need to pick up a player that isn't afraid of Copperfielding up a few dirty tricks. Now, I don't condone potentially giving somebody a concussion or worse, but you want a player with a little bit of grit and nastiness. If you can channel that into something positive, you now have a recipe for something special. There are also a lot of headline worthy puns that newspapers are frothing at the mouth over when looking at his name. Don't let them down.