With the NBA Draft just a day away, here is a projection of how we think the first 14 picks of the draft will shake out. This isn’t taking into consider of what teams may do with trading picks and players in the coming days or there plans in Free Agency, but how we think teams will select based on team needs best player available. Let’s get into it.
1: Cade Cunningham, Forward, Oklahoma State
Cade Cunningham is a 6’8 220 forward/guard coming out of Oklahoma State. Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in his only collegiate season. Cunningham’s game translates directly to the NBA. He is a big guard who can score and facilitate and be the main engine on a high-level offense. The Pistons can pair him next to PG Killian Hayes in the backcourt. Cunningham can be a 50/40/80 kind of guy for a team while making multiple All-Star and All-NBA teams in his career. I believe Cade will be the type of player that leads his team to deep playoff runs. I see shades of Luka Doncic and Grant Hill in Cunningham. Both are big wings that dominate the ball and kill teams with scoring as well as passing.
2: Jalen Green, Guard, NBA G-League Ignite
Jalen Green is a slender but extremely athletic scoring guard who played for the G-League Ignite team. Green averaged 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. Green shot fairly well from three in his 15 games, making 31 of 85 attempts. On the defensive end, Jalen Green competes as well. He has great lateral quickness and uses his length and leaping ability to bother opponents’ shots. His slim 180lb frame though will be an issue against some of the league’s stronger wings and guards. Green will have to develop his ability to playmake and make proper and on time passes. Green and Houston F/C Christian Wood will be a dynamic 1-2 punch for years to come in Houston. Green will play next to Kevin Porter Jr. in the backcourt. The two young guards can be on the best scoring combos in the NBA very soon. Jalen Green has shades of Zach Lavine scoring potential with Ja Morant’s athleticism
3: Evan Mobley, Center, USC
Evan Mobley is a lanky and athletic Center who played his college hoops at USC. He averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 33 games as a Trojan. Mobley is one of the most versatile players in the draft, with his size, skill level on offense, and defensive potential. Although he shot 30% from three, only making 12/40 attempts, Mobley did show the ability to shoot with good mechanics and confidence. At 7’0, Mobley is a very skilled passer, using his size to see over the defense and make quick decisions, especially in high-low situations and kicking out of double teams for open shooters. With his 7’4 wingspan, Mobley averaged 2.9 blocks per game and showed great awareness when defending the rim. The best thing about Mobley’s rim protection is his ability to contest and block shots without fouling.
Mobley’s biggest challenge though will be guarding true bigs with his slim frame (215lbs), but as his career progresses that will not be an issue. Mobley reminds me of a young Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett with their mix of offensive versatility and defensive prowess. He will be able to play alongside either Kevin Love or Jarrett Allen in Cleveland. Mobley may even one day become a primary initiator like Nikola Jokic is for the Denver Nuggets.
4: Jalen Suggs, Guard, Gonzaga
Jalen Suggs was the point guard that made the best offense in college basketball history go. Suggs averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game in 30 games at Gonzaga. Suggs is an athletic but savvy guard who can play on or off the ball. He shared a lot of the backcourt responsibilities with Andrew Nembhard in his season with the Bulldogs. Suggs will bring teams a scoring punch, as well as a solid guard to run the offense who is comfortable playing with other high-level players. He also is a fierce competitor on defense. He isn’t the best defender, but he is not a player teams will target. Suggs will be a good fit in Toronto alongside Fred VanVleet and Og Anunoby in the case that Veteran Kyle Lowry departs in free agency. Suggs can impact Toronto and play big minutes for the Nick Nurse from Day 1.
5: Johnathan Kuminga, Forward, NBA G-League Ignite
Johnathan Kuminga, a 6’6 Forward who opted out of college to play with the G-League Ignite team alongside other possible top-5 pick Jalen Green. In 13 games, Kuminga averaged 15.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. Even though Kuminga struggled shooting the ball, (24.6% from three) he still showed the willingness and confidence to shoot. I can see Kuminga playing minutes right away for whoever drafts him because of his versatility and potential on the defensive end. Kuminga has the frame and athleticism to guard 1-3 in the NBA. He also showed the ability to create off the dribble for himself. With Orlando looking for talent at the wing position as they try to replace Evan Fournier, Kuminga would be a good fit next to Cole Anthony and the other young assets in Orlando.
6: Scottie Barnes, Forward, Florida State
Scottie Barnes is a 6’9 forward who played his college basketball at Florida State. Unlike the typical lottery pick, Barnes came off the bench in his one season for the Seminoles. Barnes embraced his role and was the most impactful player for that team. Barnes averaged just 10.3 points per game with 4 rebounds and assists per game as well. But Barnes’s game goes beyond the numbers, as he showed the ability to play point guard on offense and guard 1 through 4 on defense. He can bring secondary playmaking and a good downhill presence. Barnes’s biggest weakness at this stage is his jump shot. But Barnes’s playmaking ability and defense make him a player with a very high ceiling. Barnes reminds me of a more athletic Boris Diaw or Draymond Green-esque player.
7: James Bouknight, Guard, UCONN
James Bouknight is a super athletic, 6’3 190lb guard from UCONN. Bouknight averaged 18.7 points and 5.7 rebounds a game. Bouknight was a career 32% three-point shooter at UCONN in his two seasons, but that didn’t stop him from being a dynamic scorer. Bouknight’s elite athletism and handle allowed him to knife through defenses and finish through and over defenders. Bouknight shot just 29% from three in his sophomore campaign, but he is not unable to shoot. During the NBA Draft combine, Bouknight impressed teams with how well he shot the ball in catch-and-shoot and off-the-dribble situations. The consensus comparison for Bouknight around the league has been Zach Lavine, but he can be a Jordan Clarkson like a player coming into the league. Bouknight can be a spark plug off of the bench for the Warriors, and be a scorer in the second unit.
8: Moses Moody, Wing, Arkansas
Mosey Moody is one of the most compelling prospects in this class. The 6’5 wing from Arkansas possesses a 7’0 wingspan along with a high ceiling for his defensive and offensive upside. Moody averaged 17 points on 37% from three and 81% free throw shooting. His wingspan allows him to comfortably shoot over defenders. He also showed his potential to be a versatile defender, both on and off the ball. Moody is a great scorer in the mid-range and has the potential to be a knockdown shooter at the NBA level. He can be a good fit in the young core of Orlando. Moses Moody reminds me of Mikal Bridges and TJ Warren.
9: Franz Wagner, Forward, Michigan
Franz Wagner is one of the best defenders in this draft. The 6’9 220lb forward from Michigan showed the ability to guard nearly every position on and blew up plenty of actions with great anticipation and awareness. He makes up for his negative wingspan (6’8) with effort and hustles Wagner isn’t the best scorer, but he isn’t a negative on offense. He showed the ability to space the floor at Michigan, be an opportunistic scorer, and be a very good passer. I think that Wagner can be an instant contributor to any team he goes to, especially the Sacramento Kings at the 9 spot. Wagner playing alongside guards De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, and Buddy Hield can make the Kings a dangerous young team. Franz Wagner reminds me of Andrei Kirilenko or Nicolas Batum.
10: Trey Murphy, Forward, Virginia
Trey Murphy had one of the most efficient offensive seasons in the nation, shooting 50% from the field, 43% from three, and 92% from the free-throw line. His elite shooting, as well as defense, makes him a prototypical 3-and-D player in the NBA. New Orleans lacked shooting and defensive versatility on their roster last season, and I think Murphy can help solve some of those problems. At 6’9 205lbs, he can take some of the pressure off of Brandon Ingram guarding those wings Ingram struggled with last season. Murphy also has a 7’0 wingspan Also creating more space for Zion Williamson and newly acquired Jonas Valuncuinas. Trey Murphy reminds me a lot of Phoenix Sun’s young wings Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson.
11: Kai Jones, Forward, Texas
Kai Jones is a super athletic forward who plays extremely hard on both ends of the floor. Jones’ stats don’t pop off the screen, as he averaged just 8.8 points per game and 5 rebounds, but he did play for a very well-balanced Texas team. Jones flashed his potential to be a floor spacer, handle the ball in transition and defend multiple positions effectively. Although Jones is still very raw as a prospect, I think that in the right system with complementary players Jones can be a very good player. In an uptempo offense next to electric guards like Lamelo Ball and Terry Rozier and wings like Gordon Hayward and Miles Bridges, Jones can find a nice role in Charlotte. In the pick and roll, he can space the floor from the perimeter and vertically. He is only 220lbs so he will struggle against the NBA’s best bigs like Giannis, Embiid, Jokic, and Adebayo. Kai Jones has shades of Pascal Siakiam when he first entered the NBA.
12: Josh Giddey, Forward, Adelaide
Josh Giddey is a 6’9 versatile forward coming from Australia’s NBL. Giddey averaged 11 points and 7.4 assists per game while also grabbing 7.4 rebounds per game. Giddey, at just 18 years old, who is also playing in the Olympics showed he can compete at a high level against other seasoned professionals. Giddey’s size allowed him to see over the defense and make a lot of plays. With added confidence and experience, Giddey can be a swiss army knife kind of player. Defensively though, he struggled against shiftier players as well stronger wings. As he ages, I don’t think that will be as big of a problem. The 18-year-old reminds me of fellow Australian, Joe Ingles, but with a much higher upside. Giddey, like a plethora of other cerebral foreign players over the years, will thrive in the Spurs system.
13: Cameron Thomas, Guard, LSU
Since high school, no matter what team Cameron Thomas has played for, he has been the best scorer on his team, and I believe it is only a matter of time before that becomes the norm in the NBA. In his lone season at LSU, Thomas averaged 23 points per game while shooting 88% from the line. Even though Thomas only shot 32% from three, I attest that to him taking a lot of tough shots throughout the season. Thomas’s ball-handling and shot-making will directly translate to the NBA. The 6’4 guard will have to improve his playmaking, especially in pick and roll at the next level. I think Thomas will be a good fit off of the bench for the Indiana Pacers, learning under Caris Levert and Malcolm Brogdon. The consensus comparison for Thomas has been Wizards guard, Bradley Beal
14: Davion Mitchell, Guard, Baylor
Davion Mitchell was the best player for the national championship-winning Baylor Bears, and he will bring his ferocious, winning mentality to the next level. Mitchell averaged 14 points on 44% shooting from three, as well as 5.5 assists per game. Mitchell was one of the best defenders at the guard position in college basketball. Mitchell was a dynamic ball-handler and shooter as well. He used his strong stature combined with shifty handles to break down defenses to either drive and finish or make tough side and step-back threes. The biggest knock on Mitchell is his age and size. Mitchell who is just 6’0 and 22 years old, may have teams pass on selecting him, but I do not think that will affect Mitchell from being a great player for years to come. If Mitchell is drafted to Golden State, he will be a ready-to-go player that can back up Stephen Curry and still be effective running the offense. Davion Mitchell reminds me a lot of Jrue Holiday and Eric Bledsoe on offense and defense.