With the NBA's seeding games finished and the non-playoff portion of the league's season officially in the books, the NBA Draft steps into the spotlight Thursday night for the annual draft lottery. And while we won't yet learn the official draft order -- that will be decided in part based upon how the remainder of the season unfolds for the 16 teams still standing -- lottery night will determine the selection order for the 14 teams who have been eliminated from playoff contention.
Every team involved has at least a shot at securing the No. 1 pick, but Golden State, Cleveland and Minnesota have the best statistical odds -- at 14% -- to win it. Descending odds are given to the remaining 11 teams all the way down to 0.5% for the Boston Celtics. Drawings will be conducted to determine who gets the first four picks, then the remainder of the teams will pick in inverse order of their regular-season record.
Based upon the odds going into the event, we've constructed our final pre-lottery mock draft to project how this year's draft could unfold, with fit and team need taken into consideration. So with that, Golden State, you're on the clock ...
Round 1 - Pick 1
Sure, Golden State has Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. But that's exactly why a pick like LaMelo Ball makes sense. Because the Warriors already have a championship contender in place, Ball, the most electric and decisive playmaker in this draft class, can perhaps give this franchise a solid building block for the future in a post-Curry Warriors era. Even if he doesn't fit perfectly now, the long-term star potential he carries is worth the gamble that he can one day be Curry's successor.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Memphis • Soph • 7'1" / 240 lbs
Cleveland's in a bit of a conundrum here, as it traded for big man Andre Drummond earlier this year and also has a crowded backcourt of young players (Darius Garland and Collin Sexton) whom it invested heavy draft capital in to acquire. But in this instance I think going big to complement its other young assets makes sense, and James Wiseman has the most star potential. "He's rare," one scout told me recently. "I think Wiseman is the guy that can be the No. 1 player from this class if all goes well for him."
Round 1 - Pick 3
Iowa State • Jr • 6'5" / 185 lbs
Minnesota already has a playmaking guard in D'Angelo Russell and a franchise-caliber big in Karl-Anthony Towns, so a player with Tyrese Haliburton's pedigree and promise figures to be a seamless fit. He's a selfless ball-handler who is likely best paired with another initiator, like Russell, and the two-way impact he'd make in Minnesota with his defensive playmaking and pass-first mentality would be immediate.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Georgia • Jr • 6'4" / 225 lbs
Anthony Edwards is No. 1 on the big board for a number of NBA teams, so Atlanta scooping him at No. 4 is excellent value and an excellent fit. With the Hawks likely looking to bolster wing depth, they can do so with Edwards, an explosive leaper who has some intriguing creation skills that'd give Trae Young another young weapon in the backcourt.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Detroit should have an eye on its future at point guard with Derrick Rose aging, making Killian Hayes a wise investment for its future. He just turned 19 years old and is already an accomplished international star, having won MVP honors at the FIBA Europe U16s three years ago and working his way into a top-10 caliber prospect in the years since because of the blend of playmaking and vision he possesses.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Alabama • Jr • 6'1" / 170 lbs
The Knicks simply can't afford to pass on a point guard in this draft, and in Kira Lewis Jr. they can get a young, explosive player whose blend of youth, speed and playmaking should warrant looks for him in this range on draft night. He was the youngest active player at the Division I level in 2018-19 and at just 19 years old, he has so much potential and so much promise that New York could realistically take him and develop in time to become its No. 1 at the position.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Israeli star Deni Avdija is a point forward-type prospect with great playmaking skills who could help alleviate the offensive load in Chi-town. He's also been a winner everywhere he's been. At just 19 years old, he's a two-time Israeli League champion, Israeli League MVP, and a two-time FIBA European champ. With Chicago's recent front-office shakeup, it wouldn't be surprising to see them gravitate towards his upside. He finished the season on a high note for Maccabi Tel Aviv and has improved both as a scorer and with his physicality in recent months.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Southern California • Jr • 6'9" / 240 lbs
Charlotte has quietly accumulated an interesting young core with Devonte' Graham, Miles Bridges and PJ Washington. To round its roster out positionally and reset its youth down low it could benefit from what Onyeka Okongwu brings to the game as a shot-swatting, do-it-all defender. He can create in the post and is a general havoc-wreaker on the interior, and he'd provide an immediate defensive boost for a Hornets team that ranked 26th in the NBA last season in adjusted defensive rating.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Obi Toppin PF
Dayton • Jr • 6'9" / 220 lbs
Washington needs a lot of help in a lot of different places, but Obi Toppin fits the biggest need and has the most potential star power. The reigning Naismith National Player of the Year is a lob threat on every possession and would give the Wizards a dynamic leaper who could crash the boards and play above the rim. The hope is that those lob finishes would come from a healthy Brad Beal and John Wall in a core the front office clearly isn't ready to give up on just yet.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Tyrese Maxey SG
Kentucky • Jr • 6'2" / 200 lbs
Phoenix's 8-0 run through the NBA bubble was a real moment of progression for the franchise, but depth at point guard looks to still be a major sore spot on the roster. In Tyrese Maxey, they can address that while also upgrading their perimeter defense with one of the most tenacious on-ball defenders in the draft. He's not the most gifted passer but his creation off straight-line drives and defensive havoc he creates makes him a potentially great fit with Devin Booker and the rest of the Suns's young core.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Isaac Okoro SF
Auburn • Jr • 6'5" / 225 lbs
A muscled-up, well-built wing, Isaac Okoro's only glaring weakness is his shot -- something the Spurs proved in their development of Kawhi Leonard that they can fix. Outside that, the 6-foot-6 swingman is as dynamic a player at the position in this class with switchability and smarts defensively, and major potential on offense because of his passing instincts and ability to make plays driving to the hoop. If the shot comes around, he'll be a top five player to come out of this draft.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Vanderbilt • Jr • 6'5" / 215 lbs
It's unclear exactly what Vlade Divac's recent ouster means for Sacramento's future, but it's abundantly clear that Aaron Nesmith would fit into it. He's a knockdown shooter who made 52.2% of his 3-pointers last season before a season-ending injury, and his spot-up shooting numbers suggest his game would project perfectly with De'Aaron Fox. Nevermind the clog in the backcourt with Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes: Nesmith has the goods to be an on-the-cheap depth piece at wing with potential in time to be a starter.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Florida State • Jr • 6'7" / 215 lbs
As a freshman at Florida State last season, Patrick Williams' numbers weren't eye-popping -- he was just a high-level role player who did a lot of things well without much fanfare. But scouts I've talked to rave about him and his NBA potential because of his size (6-8), wingspan (6-11) and defensive playmaking potential. Wings with his skill and feel don't come around often. He's a raw product offensively and there's physical development that may be needed before he reaches his potential, but teams see in him a role player in the NBA like he was in college, and that's a perfect fit in New Orleans with a star like Zion Williamson already in place.
From Memphis Grizzlies
Round 1 - Pick 14
Florida State • Jr • 6'5" / 200 lbs
Boston's done an incredible job drafting length and athleticism on the wing and developing players with those traits into valuable players. Devin Vassell falls exactly in line with that recent draft history and ideology. He's long and skilled and projects as a 3-and-D wing who can make plays with his length on the wing and doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Cole Anthony PG
North Carolina • Jr • 6'3" / 185 lbs
Orlando's invested in Markelle Fultz as its future point guard but Cole Anthony's intrigue and upside is too enticing to pass on. He can make plays as a lead guard, but his role in the NBA will simply be as a gunner: a scorer who can knock down shots from either guard position. That versatility, and the potential he's shown to fill it up playing off the ball, shouldn't give Orlando pause as it adds firepower to the least efficient offense that made it into the NBA bubble.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Saddiq Bey SF
Villanova • Jr • 6'7" / 215 lbs
Portland's got a good thing going with Dame Lillard and CJ McCollum scoring the Trail Blazers -- quite literally -- a playoff berth. Yet the Trail Blazers regularly rank among the bottom of the NBA teams in defensive efficiency. Saddiq Bey would be an immediate boost to that end -- he's 6-9 and one of the most tenacious, switchable defenders in this draft -- plus he's a reliable spot-up shooter from distance who could mesh well with what they already have in place.
From Brooklyn Nets
Round 1 - Pick 17
Michigan State • Jr • 6'7" / 245 lbs
After grabbing Tyrese Haliburton earlier in this draft, let's get Minnesota some help down low defensively with Xavier Tillman, one of the most savvy and strong bigs in this draft class. Tillman sets hard screens, plays above his size and does all the little things that contribute to big winning -- the type of selfless player the Wolves need to maximize D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. He should be able to shore up their bottom-10 defense and improve the team's frontcourt defense specifically, which is dragged down by Towns, who this season ranked 407th out of 529 players in defensive win shares.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Memphis • Jr • 6'8" / 225 lbs
With a 6-9 frame and a 7-2 wingspan, Precious Achiuwa's best asset is his size, length -- and how he uses it. He was a monster rebounder at Memphis and that strength, coupled with his rim-running ability and energizing style of play, should translate well to the NBA.
From Philadelphia 76ers
Round 1 - Pick 19
Josh Green SG
Arizona • Jr • 6'7" / 200 lbs
Brooklyn needs depth at shooting guard so much it brought 40-year-old Jamal Crawford out of retirement to finish out the season. Moving forward, Josh Green may be a more spry solution. He's an athletic two-way guard with great size and role-playing potential who impacts the game with his defense and off-ball smarts -- two key traits for blending in with a Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant-starred roster.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Tyrell Terry PG
Stanford • Soph • 6'2" / 170 lbs
Let's be clear about this: Tyrell Terry is not ready to contribute substantially to an NBA team, much less a playoff team. At least not yet. But for a savvy franchise like Miami, he may be a lottery ticket in a few years when he physically develops, and he's worthy of that gamble. He's already a star because of his shot-making ability and there's plenty of tools in his bag that project him to be a really valuable scorer in the NBA from any range.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Grant Riller PG
College of Charleston • Fr • 6'1" / 190 lbs
The Sixers need someone who can create their own shot and run the offense, and Grant Riller -- a four-year player at Charleston -- can fill both those needs. He's a ridiculously skilled creator who can pull-up and score but also gets to the rim easily and has good finishing ability. His vision isn't advanced, but his offensive firepower and capability of making basic reads would lift Philadelphia's thin backcourt.
From Houston Rockets
Round 1 - Pick 22
Denver runs its offense in a non-traditional way through Nikola Jokic, the best passing big in the league. But Theo Maledon's ability to generate offense off the bounce and play either guard position could benefit the Nuggets and their backcourt, giving them a versatile player who could run the offense and score off the ball.
Round 1 - Pick 23
The Jazz value wings who are capable playmakers and passers, and Leandro Bolmaro -- a 6-7 international prospect -- checks those boxes. He can create off the dribble and is electric with the ball in his hands. When he's playing downhill he can generate offense and act as an initiator, which would lighten the load for Donovan Mitchell. Bolmaro's still got work to do as a 3-point shooter, but his size and creation has point-forward potential Utah would undoubtedly find hard to pass on.
From Indiana Pacers
Round 1 - Pick 24
The biggest X-factor of the first round, Pokusevski is a high-risk, high-reward international player with great size and fluidity who has star potential. (Sound familiar, Milwaukee?) "He has great size, but he's very skinny," one scout told me of him. "He's a roster development type of guy that I think teams will have higher than what people think." Milwaukee already has a championship-caliber roster so looking ahead to the future with a player of Poku's upside would be wise.
From Denver Nuggets
Round 1 - Pick 25
Maryland • Jr • 6'9" / 215 lbs
The Thunder have a big man to build around with Steven Adams, but Jalen Smith's ability to knock down 3-pointers and block shots would give OKC a change of pace big who could be equally effective in a smaller role. His value lies in being a reliable floor-spacer and opening up the offense.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Washington • Jr • 6'8" / 250 lbs
Isaiah Stewart has some throwback big-man vibes but a promising shooting touch that many believe, in time, will translate to 3-point success in the NBA. But whether that comes or not, he's a hard-nosed rebounder and defender who could give the Celtics toughness in the post and developmental depth at a position it needs to address.
From Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 - Pick 27
Duke • Fr • 6'5" / 193 lbs
Cassius Stanley's athleticism and hops are jaw-dropping, but it's his tenacious defensive mentality and off-ball smarts that portend best for his NBA success. He's a low-usage wing who doesn't need the ball to affect winning basketball, which is a perfect recipe for success with RJ Barrett and likely another lead guard out of this draft to play alongside.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Desmond Bane SF
TCU • Jr • 6'5" / 215 lbs
The Lakers are the second-worst 3-point scoring team to make the playoffs this year, and that is frankly unacceptable. LeBron James needs reliable 3-point shooters around him to succeed. In Desmond Bane they could find at least a reliable bench scorer: he made 43.3% of his 575 3-point attempts at TCU, and thrived in roles ranging from little-used role player to often-used leading scorer.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Killian Tillie is a first-round prospect despite nagging injuries the last two years because of his size, smarts and scoring ability. He made 44.4% of his 239 3-point attempts in four seasons at Gonzaga and has immediate value as a floor-spacing big who can play team defense at a high level if he's able to stay healthy.
From Milwaukee Bucks
Round 1 - Pick 30
Washington • Jr • 6'9" / 185 lbs
There was a lot of inconsistency in Jaden McDaniels's play at Washington as a freshman, but when you break him down the truth is that it's hard to find a 6-9 wing who moves the way he can and has the handles he does. There's enough to work with to validate him as a first-rounder despite some real concerns about his strength and motor.