We always begin our mock drafts with the assurance that we are aware, just as our readers are, that this time is filled with disinformation and smokescreens. But in most years it’s easy to ascertain the top picks, the talents who stand out far above any others. Even a year ago, the 1-2-3 order was simple.
The first disclaimer in this mock draft is that every one of the top 10 picks is available in a trade. Teams are more interested in moving down than moving up, unconvinced that the players projected at the top are anything close to sure things. LaMelo Ball is almost universally regarded as the player with the highest ceiling, the chance to become a superstar. And then, it is noted that he is LaVar Ball’s son, that he has spent the last two years in two different countries and done little to prove that he will reach that potential.
So we venture into this mostly with an idea of the order in the draft that players will land, well aware that the teams may shift willingly and trades could dominate the NBA Draft on Wednesday night.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: LaMelo Ball, Illawarra Hawks (Australia), 6-7, PG
For all of the flaws, he remains the outlier — a player with potential to be something more than a solid starter. At 6-7, he is an outstanding passer and an athletic scorer and really, his father hasn’t turned out to be the distraction we thought he’d be for his brother Lonzo. That said, teams have been less than thrilled with his interviews.
2. Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman, Memphis, 7-1, C
He played three college games. That’s enough for the Warriors to take a shot on an athletic and skilled big man who could add another two-way threat as they attempt to make a quick return to championship contender status.
3. Charlotte Hornets: Anthony Edwards, Georgia, 6-5, SG
He’s the top pick in plenty of mock drafts and with good reason. Athletic and strong, with a game that reminds scouts of Dwyane Wade. But what he doesn’t have yet is a polished game, defensive instincts or the three-point shot expected of today’s wings (although he showed range — just inconsistent). Like Ball, some questions have come out of his interviews and workouts.
4. Chicago Bulls: Deni Avdija, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel), 6-9, SF/PF
He’s been on the radar of NBA teams, winning MVP honors at the FIBA U20 European Championship and also at the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders competition in 2019. He's a skilled ball handler and shooter (although oddly shot just 52% from the free-throw line this season). In an uncertain draft, he seems to have proven in his professional run to be ready for this. Rumors have surfaced of Patrick Williams getting assurances he could be picked here, but an NBA source indicated no guarantee is in place.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Obi Toppin, Dayton, 6-9, PF
While he went to college in Ohio, he is actually a Brooklyn product. Lightly recruited out of high school, Toppin has emerged as this year’s daily highlight reel, dunking everything around the rim. Still raw in many ways but scouts believe he has the potential to be a solid defender and turn his limited outside shooting into a steady weapon.
6. Atlanta Hawks: Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State, 6-5, PG
While he doesn’t possess the eye-opening athleticism of some of the players ahead of him some executives have tabbed Haliburton as the easiest to peg for success. Mature, smart and the best passing point guard in the draft — he led the nation with 6.5 assists per game and did it with a flair that made many of them memorable. Shot 41.9% from beyond the arc and carried the team, playing in every minute of the game 10 times, including a 45-minute appearance in an overtime win over TCU in which he posted a triple-double, before his season ended with a fractured left wrist.
7. Detroit Pistons: Patrick Williams, Florida State, 6-8, SF
Fast riser over the offseason - with talk of him going as high as No. 4, Williams has the body, athleticism and toughness to contribute right away defensively and has shown hints that he can be a more than a competent offensive weapon.
8. Knicks: Devin Vassell, Florida State, 6-7, SG
With the trade to push up their other first-round pick to No. 23, the thought is that pick could pair with this to move up to No. 5 if Obi Toppin is available. Until then we stick with the same pick here. The glut of point guards in the lottery have been the focus of Knicks rumors for so long that it seems odd to note that as the process wore on the front office is believed to have moved off that focus and instead targeted a wing in the draft. Vassell and Isaac Okoro have been the best prospects and in the more offensively advanced Vassell the Knicks can grab a prototypical 3 and D guy, shooting 41.7% from beyond the arc.
9. Washington Wizards: Onyeka Okongwu, USC, 6-9 , PF
By the time this pick comes around, maybe Bradley Beal will have been dealt, but for now it’s still Beal and John Wall dominating the payroll and plans. Want to find the next Mitchell Robinson? Try Okongwu, who shot 61.5% from the floor — and 80% from the line — and showed an ability to dunk everything, run the floor well and defend more than capably. The downsides: Hasn’t showed an ability to move away from the basket offensively and turns the ball over at an alarming rate.
10. Phoenix Suns: Killian Hayes, Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany), 6-5, PG
The French-born 18-year-old doesn’t have crazy numbers, but he displayed instinctive passing skills and has the size and athleticism to get to the rim and merits a top-10 spot.
11. San Antonio Spurs: Saddiq Bey, Villanova, 6-8, SF
The Spurs are unaccustomed to being in this spot but well-acquainted with this type of player. Smart defender and steady shooter. Not super athletic, but good enough that he can log minutes at shooting guard, small forward and power forward.
12. Sacramento Kings: Isaac Okoro, Auburn, 6-6, SF
Okoro has projected as an NBA-ready defender. Strong and athletic, Okoro showed the ability to get to the rim and to shoot from the perimeter. For his size and strength, he showed playmaking ability this season as a freshman.
13. New Orleans Pelicans: Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt, 6-6, SF
Another shooter to complement Zion Williamson — maybe the best shooter in the draft.
14. Boston Celtics: Kira Lewis, Alabama, 6-3, PG
Speed to burn and competitive on both ends of the floor. The Knicks have shown interest in him and could trade down from 8 or up from 27 to try to land him. The Celtics, with three first-round picks, are shopping this spot.
15. Orlando Magic: Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky, 6-3, PG/SG
Long frame and athleticism should let him serve as a combo guard with scoring ability and toughness and smarts on defense.
16. Houston Rockets: RJ Hampton, New Zealand Breakers, 6-5, PG/SG
One of the top high schoolers a year ago, he opted for an overseas payday. Working with Penny Hardaway and Mike Miller to improve shooting, could be a steal in this spot.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves: Precious Achiuwa, Memphis, 6-9, PF
Strong defender with improving offensive skill set.
18. Dallas Mavericks: Josh Green, Arizona, 6-6, SG/SF
Solid 3-and-D wing to fit between Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.
19. Nets: Tyrell Terry, Stanford, 6-2, PG
Another player who has risen during the offseason as his athleticism and shooting ability have drawn some comparisons to the top point guards in the draft. If he slips this far, it’s an asset that can’t be passed up as the Nets search out trades to complement their win-now duo.
20. Miami Heat: Aleksej Pokusevski, Greece, 7-foot, PF
Playing in Greek second division (like Giannis Antetokounmpo) he is untested, but the Serbian shows shooting and playmaking skills.
21. Philadelphia 76ers: Tyler Bey, Colorado, 6-7, F
Athletic defender with three-point shooting.
22. Denver Nuggets: Zeke Nnaji, Arizona, 6-10, F
Athletic big man with ability to defend multiple spots and improving offensive game.
23. Knicks: Malachi Flynn, San Diego State, 6-2, PG
Moving up from 27 - if they stay here, no sure thing, we stick with the same pick before the move up. Flynn is a solid scorer, a hard-nosed defender and could be a rotation piece quickly.
24. New Orleans Pelicans: Cole Anthony, North Carolina, 6-4, PG
His stock dropped with subpar freshman season with Tar Heels, a meniscus tear and shaky interviews. But talent is lottery level.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Isaiah Stewart, Washington, 6-9, PF
Hard-working big man from Rochester with a 7-4 wingspan.
26. Boston Celtics: Leandro Bolmaro, Barcelona, 6-7, G
Smooth offensive game with elite passing ability from 20-year-old Argentine.
27. Utah Jazz: Jalen Smith, Maryland, 6-9, PF
Still raw, but an athletic big man with shooting ability.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Lakers): Robert Woodward II, Mississippi State, 6-7, SF
Converted 43% from beyond the arc and already projects as a solid defender.
29. Toronto Raptors: Cassius Winston, Michigan State, 6-1, PG
He just seems like a Raptor — hard-nosed, undersized point guard.
30. Boston Celtics: Jaden McDaniels, Washington, 6-10, PF
Inconsistent, but scouts like length and agility.