I’ve been doing mock drafts since high school. Since that was way back the 80′s, that’s four decades of prognosticating, basically. My best hit rate was probably the 1992 NBA Draft that saw Shaquille O’Neal go first overall when I guessed — and let’s face it, this is guessing — 21 of 27 correct. Genius, right?
Well, this seems like the perfect time to note that I haven’t seen every eligible draftee live and in person, so I delve into the meccas of drafthood such as Draft Express and other sources on the Internets to read and watch video and then form an opinion. Below are my best guesses for this first of three mock drafts leading up to to the NBA Draft on June 23rd at the Prudential Center in New Jersey.
Order set by final record during the regular season. The NBA Draft Lottery goes down on May 17th.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves – Kyrie Irving, 6’2” PG, Duke
Is Ricky Rubio ever coming? Irving is super-quick, has excellent vision, is explosive with great handle, and can shoot from anywhere on the deck. Yeah, sounds like Rubio, but with a jumper. Despite a surplus of young point guards, Irving is too good to pass up as he has the upside to be special. Durability is the only issue.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers – Derrick Williams, 6’8” PF, Arizona
Williams is the best big man in the draft and his production during the NCAA Tournament really boosted his stock. He’s fundamentally sound in the post on both offense and defense, and he has the raw ability to build upon and become a very solid NBA player. Williams has the work ethic to improve in his movement, but will also need to make quicker decisions on the court, both when a double comes down and in natural in-lane traffic.
3. Toronto Raptors – Enes Kanter, 6’10” PF/C, Turkey
Kanter is the perfect complement to Andrea Bargnani who is more of a perimeter player. Kanter doesn’t mind banging in the box and has a base of good post moves. He’s strong and will do the dirty work to get things done. Kanter benefits from playing at high levels of competition in Europe, which he has been doing from a young age. Only issue may be his knees.
4. Washington Wizards – Jan Vesely, 6’11” SF/PF, Czech Republic
This might be a couple of picks higher than others are projecting, but Vesely would be a very good fit with the Wizards’ current personnel. He can finish on the break, has an endless motor, and plays with tenacity. He’s still somewhat limited and needs to find an NBA position to play consistently, but the physical tools are hard to ignore. Since there aren’t extremely high expectations for the Wizards, Vesely could get a chance to make his mistakes and grow with the team.
5. Sacramento Kings – Brandon Knight, 6’3” PG, Kentucky
It wasn’t too long ago that Knight was considered a potential No. 1 overall prospect. While he won’t go first, he’ll still go high thanks to his height, vision, immediate decision-making, quickness, one-on-one ability, leadership skills, and true passion for the game. Don’t be surprised if he ends up being better than Irving at the next level.
6. Utah Jazz (from New Jersey Nets) – Kemba Walker, 6’0” PG, Connecticut
Walker really upped his value during the NCAA postseason, beginning with the Big East Tournament and his incredible run to the NCAA title. He’s short, but makes up for it with speed, attack mode mentality towards the rim, stop-and-pop jumper, and a good feel for the pick-and-roll, something that the Jazz’s bigs will love. Walker also provides immediate insurance for the inevitable Devin Harris injury.
7. Detroit Pistons – Bismack Biyombo, 6’9” PF/C, Congo
Biyombo has been making a lot of noise with draftniks lately, and if you can forget about the importance of offense, well, then Biyombo is your man. He shows great instincts to get after a shot and make shooters feel silly. He’s a physical specimen with the ability to use his body and athleticism to get rebounds and put back shots with dunks. Biyombo doesn’t have any offensive moves, but Ben Wallace didn’t either. The Pistons would basically have a younger and less-polished Serge Ibaka, a fellow native of Congo.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Los Angeles Clippers) – Alec Burks, 6’6” SG, Colorado
After going big with Williams, the Cavaliers should go smaller and get a running mate for Baron Davis. Burks has excellent athleticism and can finish at the rim. He has a physically good frame that could get bigger and stronger, but his quickness and length will serve him well, particularly on the boards. If he gets a consistent jumper, he could be an offensive force, especially considering his ability to create for others.
9. Charlotte Bobcats – Jonas Valanciunas, 6’11” C, Lithuania
Valanciunas dropping down to ninth could be a great thing for the Bobcats. He’s a young player at 19, but Valanciunas has shown dramatic improvement over the past few years. He’s obviously still a bit raw, but has the tools and desire to succeed in the NBA. Valanciunas is aggressive, has a nose for the ball and takes advantage of his long wingspan for putbacks. Patience for whomever drafts him is key.
10. Milwaukee Bucks – Donatas Motiejunas, 7’0” PF/C, Lithuania
It looks like Lithuania has cornered the market on big men. However, Motiejunas is one of those European big men that likes to work from the perimeter as he’s compared mostly to Andrea Bargnani. He has good handle for a big, size, and dexterity and can be a stretch-four complement to Andrew Bogut. Motiejunas will need more intensity when it comes to rebounds and defense, however.
11. Golden State Warriors – Marcus Morris, 6’9” PF, Kansas
Marcus is the more offensively-gifted of the Morris brothers and that should suit the Warriors well. Marcus has the ability to score from the post, something the Warriors don’t really do a lot of, but he can also hit the perimeter shot. Pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops with either Stephen Curry or Monta Ellis could be the stuff that dreams are made of for coaches. He also plays with intensity on defense, another thing the Warriors don’t really do a lot of.
12. Utah Jazz – Kawhi Leonard, 6’7” SF, San Diego State
Leonard is somewhat enigmatic, much like Andrei Kirlenko was at the beginning of his NBA career, which is an appropriate comparison since Leonard may replace Kirilenko. Leonard has the instincts, length, and quickness to be an outstanding defender, both on the perimeter and down low while helping. He’s a solid rebounder, can slash to the basket, post-up, has a high motor and sets up teammates. However, he’ll need to improve on his jump shot in order to find a solid position in the NBA due to his lack of height to play the four.
13. Phoenix Suns – Jimmer Fredette, 6’2” PG, BYU
Fredette is known for his scoring and ability to shoot from anywhere on the court. What could be a better fit in a Phoenix Suns offense? However, Fredette also has good court vision and can actually pass the ball. He’s an excellent protege for Steve Nash to teach and pass the torch to after a few seasons. And like Nash, Fredette doesn’t play any defense at all. Perfect!
14. Houston Rockets – Markieff Morris, ‘6’10” PF, Kansas
Between the Morris brothers, Markieff is the more aggressive one, especially on defense and when it comes to rebounding. He’s limited offensively, but has steadily improved his perimeter shot. Where he’ll make his mark with the Rockets will be on defense where he should be able to man-up against any post player and provide some help against other offensive players.
Like the picks? Hate the picks? Feel free to let Dennis know on Twitter. He’s a big boy and can handle it.