I’ll post four of these between now and June 26. The first one will only feature the 14 lottery teams, but I’ll breakdown why each player fits that team.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Joel Embiid, Kansas C
The Cavs have passed up on Jonas Valanciunas, Andre Drummond and Nerlens Noel in recent drafts. Cleveland couldn’t possibly pass up on another, right? It’s going to come down to Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. But before any workouts take place, Embiid provides the Cavs with a franchise center, which immediately helps Kyrie Irving this season. Embiid won’t miss anytime with his back injury. He’ll be cleared to workout for teams, and his back shouldn’t be a problem at all. It’s different from Noel last year. Embiid will be healthy, and be able to play in October. The Cavs need help at the three (depending on if Luol Deng leaves or not) and the five.
2. Milwaukee Bucks – Andrew Wiggins, Kansas F
The Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo, one of my favorite players. He has incredible length, and can be a real difference maker on defense. His offense, however, might not develop as good as his defense. The Bucks have two legit options here: Wiggins or Jabari Parker. Parker would help their poor offense this season, but Wiggins provides the best long-term solution. The Bucks should take Wiggins. Imagine a defense featuring Wiggins, Antetokounmpo and Larry Sanders?
3. Philadelphia Sixers – Jabari Parker, Duke F
I’ll say it right now. Don’t be shocked if Philly picks Dante Exum right here, especially with so many good power forwards potentially available at the 10th pick. But right now, Parker’s the choice for Philadelphia, and I’m totally fine with that. Parker’s biggest issue is his defense. But on offense? He’s the most NBA-ready prospect. Parker instantly makes Philly a better team. I would love to see Parker in a Sixers uniform.
4. Orlando Magic – Dante Exum, Australia G
I think you needed a top-four pick in this draft. The first four guys are in the first tier, and then there’s a drop-off in talent after Exum. Orlando gets a combo guard who will get chance to play point guard. The Magic have been looking for a point guard for the last couple seasons. They’re fine with Jameer Nelson, but he’s getting older. Exum could learn under Nelson.
5. Utah Jazz – Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State G
Utah traded for Trey Burke last draft. Burke had a fine rookie season, so Smart wouldn’t replace Burke at point. Smart can be the two-guard, and Utah could have an offense similar to Phoenix. I think it’s fun when teams play two guards who can handle the ball.
6. Boston Celtics – Julius Randle, Kentucky F
Boston might trade this pick to try and get Kevin Love. Love reportedly has expressed interest in Boston. Randle, Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon or Doug McDermott wouldn’t surprise me here. The Celtics need talented players to help them immediately. Randle and McDermott are both NBA-ready, where as Vonleh is still a work in progress.
7. Los Angeles Lakers – Doug McDermott, Creighton F
Kobe Bryant needs guys who can score the basketball right now. McDermott has the potential to be the best scorer in this draft. The Lakers aren’t used to drafting this high, so I doubt they’d want to wait for Vonleh to develop.
8. Sacramento Kings – Noah Vonleh, Indiana F
It’s already been reported that the Kings want to trade their 8th overall pick. They’re asking for a veteran player. I want Philly to offer their 32nd pick and Thaddeus Young for Sacramento’s 8th and Derrick Williams’ expiring contract. But as of right now, Sacramento should draft Vonleh. Vonleh could be the perfect four for DeMarcus Cousins. Vonleh’s a tremendous offensive rebounder because of his length. He has incredible physical tools that should translate into a very solid pro.
9. Charlotte Hornets – Aaron Gordon, Arizona F
This is why I wouldn’t mind Philly picking Exum. Gordon, Vonleh, McDermott and Dario Saric are all right here. The Hornets get an incredible athlete in Aaron Gordon. He would immediately help their defense. Gordon struggles mightily from the free-throw line, but coaching should definitely improve that.
10. Philadelphia Sixers – Nic Stauskas, Michigan G
The Sixers were an awful shooting team last season. Stauskas instantly makes it a better one. The Sixers could go with James Young, Gary Harris, Parker’s college teammate Rodney Hood or Zach LaVine. There’s some really strong guard prospects that will fall between the 10th and 19th picks.
11. Denver Nuggets – Dario Saric, Croatia F
Injuries were the biggest blow for Denver last season. They have lots of talent and depth on their roster, so they could afford Saric staying overseas for a couple seasons. The Nuggets could also use a two-guard, so Young, Harris and LaVine could be options.
12. Orlando Magic – Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia C
There’s a lot going on in Orlando. If they add Exum, they’ll have him, Victor Oladipo, Arron Afflalo, Mo Harkless and Tobias Harris. That’s fantastic talent at the guard and small forward position. Jusuf Nurkic is a 6’11 center who is a very polished offensive player. I know Orlando has Nikola Vucevic, but Nurkic could work with him. Tyler Ennis is a possibility if the Magic pick Julius Randle with the fourth pick.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves – James Young, Kentucky G/F
Young can play either shooting guard or small forward. He has an incredible wing span. He would help the T-Wolves on defense, and eventually with his shooting.
14. Phoenix Suns – Rodney Hood, Duke F
Rodney Hood is a good 3-point shooter. Phoenix is a star away from being a contender, so Hood can only help so much. The Suns have two more first-round picks from Washington and Indiana, so don’t be surprised if the Suns trade a pick or two for a veteran who can immediately make them a better team.