With the remainder of the NBA season still to play out and the lottery order yet to be set, the NBA Draft feels like eons away. But the calendar's slow burn is steadily moving towards draft night, which is just shy of three months out.
In the new timeline on which teams are operating, the benefit of additional time is spent digging deeper on prospects; not only are they looking into their game, but they're studying what drives them, who they are, and how they'll fit in the NBA. It's given teams real time to scour every crevice of the draft preparation spectrum, and many teams are becoming more comfortable and confident with what they're getting with this class.
Of course, all of those opinions formed in pandemic prep are subject to change -- teams haven't conducted in-person workouts or face-to-face interviews, nor have they gathered medical data en masse or got measurements via a central event like the NBA Combine -- but a mock draft is nothing if not a snapshot in time. So with that, here's an updated look at the first round projections pre-Disney bubble and pre-lottery night on how we think things could shake out.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Memphis • 7'0" / 244 lbs
Golden State's backcourt with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson should, in theory, hold up for another few years. So with the Warriors' championship window still flung open, I'd feel oddly comfortable about sticking 7-foot-1 big man James Wiseman through it. They need a reliable center who can finish lobs and wreak havoc around the rim, and Wiseman, with his 7-6 wingspan and shot-blocking savvy, would be a perfect remedy.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Georgia • 6'4" / 229 lbs
Cleveland's conundrum here will be its already-full backcourt of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, but it can ill-afford to pass on the talent of Anthony Edwards. He's an explosive athlete with polished shot-creation abilities, and while he was inefficient in college as a scorer, the hope is that he could become more effective in a wide-open NBA system with better structure around him.
Round 1 - Pick 3
The question I have with LaMelo Ball is not IF he'll be a star, but WHEN. He still needs to add muscle to his 6-7 frame and his shot -- after making just 25% of his 3-point attempts in the NBL last season -- needs some tweaking if not an outright overhaul. Still, at just 18 years old, I'd feel good if I'm Minnesota taking him here at No. 3 knowing he has an incredible feel for the game, presents immense upside as a gifted passer, and has shown promising development in recent years. It's ambitious to think he can step in and be a third banana right away alongside D'Angelo Russell and Karl Towns, but it's not an implausible gamble given his high hoops IQ and skill level.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Iowa State • 6'5" / 175 lbs
Tyrese Haliburton's been effective and efficient for both winning teams and losing teams, showcasing himself as a reliable 3-point shooter, ball-handler and defender with great instincts and feel to boot. But there is at least some concern among talent evaluators that his lack of athletic burst could hinder him as a true lead guard. In Atlanta, with Trae Young, that makes no difference. He has the skill set to play off the ball or even capably run the second unit, which figures to be a focal point either in free agency or via the draft this year.
Round 1 - Pick 5
As Derrick Rose inches closer to the end of his current deal, Detroit may look ahead and consider a reset at its point guard position. Killian Hayes can give them youth in that endeavor and a top-end talent to build around long-term to boot. The 18-year-old is a crisp passer and good decision maker who has grown considerably as a playmaker on the ball over the last year. He's not flashy, but he's a safe pick with a high floor, giving the Pistons a competent guard to groom for their future.
Round 1 - Pick 6
In a point guard-heavy draft, particularly at the top, the Knicks, fittingly, miss on the upper crust. But there's value to be had in this range in the non-PG department, and I think Deni Avdija's fit would be a seamless one. He's a selfless forward who can put the ball on the floor and attack closeouts to create, and he's got an improving 3-point stroke that, up until recently, was the only clear weak point in his profile.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Isaac Okoro SF
Auburn • 6'5" / 225 lbs
In Isaac Okoro, the Bulls land a 3-and-D wing whose 3-point shooting remains a work-in-progress but whose D remains strong. So for a Chicago franchise already brimming with potential stars in Coby White and Zach LaVine, who command a lot of touches, he could step in immediately as a role player on the wing who can make an impact without requiring a high usage rate.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Southern California • 6'8" / 245 lbs
I'm actually a little bullish on what Charlotte has in place with Devonte Graham, PJ Washington and Miles Bridges. But evaluating this roster, there's a pretty glaring weakness at the center spot. Onyeka Okongwu should fill a need and make an impact right away because of that. He's a more traditional big who didn't take 3-pointers at USC, but he's a great shot blocker who can slide his feet well, scores it efficiently around the rim, and loves to defend.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Obi Toppin PF
Dayton • 6'9" / 212 lbs
This is probably the floor for Obi Toppin, one of the most gifted athletes and leapers in this class. The reigning Naismith National Player of the Year is a dynamic offensive weapon who admittedly has flaws on defense, but what he can bring as an athletic, do-it-all force around the bucket could do wonders for a Washington franchise already with some nice weapons in its backcourt led by Brad Beal.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Vanderbilt • 6'5" / 215 lbs
Before a season-ending foot injury in January, Aaron Nesmith shot 52.2% from 3-point range through 14 games -- a breakneck pace that would have made him one of only three players in the last 20 years to shoot above 50% from deep on 200+ attempts, per college basketball reference. He's the most lethal shooter in this draft. That's exactly the skill set Phoenix -- with Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton -- needs to complement them as they continue to build.
Round 1 - Pick 11
For a team like the Spurs that values versatility and has already had immense success scouting the international route before, Théo Maledon seems like a win-win proposition in this range. The French guard can play on or off the ball with an improving jumper that should translate to early success. His blend of shot creation and shot making should fit into a Spurs team that could use an infusion of both in their backcourt.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Florida State • 6'5" / 195 lbs
As the Pelicans construct their roster around Zion Williamson, shooting and defense will be key traits to look for in role players. Devin Vassell checks both boxes with ease. He's an NBA-ready 3-and-D type wing who shot above 41% from 3-point range in each of his two college seasons, and he should be ready to step in and contribute defensively from Day One.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Tyrese Maxey SG
Kentucky • 6'2" / 191 lbs
Shooting 29.2% from 3-point range in his lone college season at Kentucky dinged Tyrese Maxey's stock, but he'll add instant value in Sac-town as an elite on-ball defender and tough-to-stop driver, giving the Kings a change-of-pace option alongside De'Aaron Fox.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Cole Anthony PG
North Carolina • 6'2" / 190 lbs
Portland's backcourt is already a load, but adding a player like Cole Anthony could take things to a new level. He's a dangerous 3-point shooter and capable ball-handler, but more than that, he can drill shots in myriad ways, rendering him incredibly difficult to guard when he's pulling out all the stops. Give him the ball and let him run the second unit and don't think twice.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Alabama • 6'1" / 170 lbs
Orlando should consider a point guard in this draft regardless of how the future of Markelle Fultz turns out, and so here I'm giving them Kira Lewis Jr. Magic fans: You are welcome. You just got the fastest and most underrated point guard in this draft at No. 15 overall. He averaged 18.5 points and 5.2 assists last season for Alabama ... and just turned 19 in April. The sky is the limit for him. He has an incredible pull-up game, plays with breakneck pace and loves attacking. Just wait until he figures out how to change gears outside turbo speed.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Saddiq Bey SF
Villanova • 6'7" / 215 lbs
Minnesota went for a homerun swing in LaMelo, yet here they go safe with Saddiq Bey. The Villanova product shot a whopping 45.1% from 3-point range last season on high volume, and he can defend 1-4 on the opposite end of the floor. His consistency as a two-way force and spot-up shooter should be a real asset for the Wolves right away.
From Memphis Grizzlies
Round 1 - Pick 17
Memphis • 6'8" / 235 lbs
Danny Ainge values versatility and in Precious Achiuwa he could find plenty. The Memphis product should be a productive power forward but could also be a lethal small-ball five in some situations with the way his motor always runs hot. He's a tenacious rebounder, rim-runner and shot-blocker -- a trio of skills Boston could put to use right away. Even with the emergence of Daniel Theis, reliable depth in the frontcourt has been a sore spot for Boston all season.
Round 1 - Pick 18
This is going to be a trendy projection because Hampton, a Texas native, has the skills to be a big-time backcourt player -- and Dallas needs depth in its backcourt. R.J. Hampton played overseas in the NBL last season, and while he struggled on both ends of the floor, the 19-year-old has an intriguing blend of athleticism, shot-creation and ball-handling that makes him a worthwhile gamble in this range of the draft.
From Indiana Pacers
Round 1 - Pick 19
Josh Green SG
Arizona • 6'5" / 210 lbs
Josh Green's got 3-and-D role player written all over him. He's a smart cutter, reliable 3-point shooter, and heady defender who impacts winning in various ways and knows his role. That combination could be what the doctor ordered for the Bucks as they add assets around Giannis Antetokounmpo.
From Philadelphia 76ers
Round 1 - Pick 20
Florida State • 6'7" / 227 lbs
Patrick Williams has good length and size and should be a popular prospect teams target in this range given his upside. He's still raw and underdeveloped as an offensive player, but he's shown good touch, can disrupt the game on defense with his length, and could be a high-level role player for a team like Brooklyn with an established presence of stars already in place.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Michigan State • 6'8" / 245 lbs
Consider this to be Al Horford insurance. Xavier Tillman is a Horford mirror, too: a low-usage big who affects winning by setting screens, rebounding and being a defensive menace. He's not the most flashy big but he plays bigger than his size and should be an upgrade to Philly's frontcourt.
From Houston Rockets
Round 1 - Pick 22
Washington • 6'8" / 250 lbs
Despite his throwback style of play, Isaiah Stewart has a new-age impact on winning as an energizing big who can block shots, finish around the rim and score it efficiently. As a freshman at UW last season he ranked third among all Pac-12 players in Player Efficiency Rating (PER), and led the league in total rebounds. He's shown some touch as a shooter, too, and potentially with development could become a floor-spacer.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Tre Jones PG
Duke • 6'1" / 185 lbs
Miami has the DNA of a contender and an investment in the point guard position is long overdue. Here, they can add quality depth in Tre Jones, a smart decision-maker who can run an offense and operate as a menace on the defensive end of the floor at the point of attack. At the very least he should be a competent second unit guard who knows how to make high-level reads and still has a chance to be effective on offense, as he showed marked improvement as a shooter in his sophomore season at Duke.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Grant Riller PG
College of Charleston • 6'2" / 190 lbs
Utah needs help at point guard, and here it gets it. Grant Riller is a seasoned college player who grew into a killer shot-maker as Charleston's lead guard, and in the NBA he should find a role as a reliable offensive weapon with the array in which he can knock down shots. He lacks no confidence and could be a Lou Williams-like sixth man for the Jazz or the Robin to Donovan Mitchell's Batman, given his ability and willingness to run the show.
From Denver Nuggets
Round 1 - Pick 25
Washington • 6'9" / 192 lbs
Sam Presti loves himself some high-upside athletes who have length, so of course Jaden McDaniels fits the profile. He struggled a bit at Washington with consistency but the 6-9 combo forward has some real potential with a polished handle and pull-up game that stands out for his size and position.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Devon Dotson PG
Kansas • 6'2" / 185 lbs
Boston's depth at point guard is a real weak spot for a team whose aspirations are as high as they are, and Devon Dotson can make those aspirations less fantastical. He's a downhill driver who can create and embraces his role as a disruptive defender on the perimeter, two critical traits that the Cs may find valuable in a pairing behind Kemba Walker as a second-unit stopper.
From Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 - Pick 27
Desmond Bane SF
TCU • 6'5" / 215 lbs
The Knicks were the fourth-worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA next season, and their depth at shooting guard is an area they need to address. Getting Desmond Bane can accomplish the killing of two birds with one (draft pick). He ranked second among all Big 12 players last season in 3-point shooting percentage (44.2%), and with four college seasons under his belt, has the experience to step in and contribute right away.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Duke • 6'9" / 255 lbs
The center position is the oldest on the Raptors roster and is ripe for addressing, making Vernon Carey Jr. a potential fit here. The Duke big man is a tenacious rebounder and, somewhat uniquely, an incredible foul-drawer: last season he ranked third in Division I in fouls drawn per-40 minutes. His physical style of play on both ends of the floor would be a boon to Toronto as it adds youth to its frontcourt.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Michigan State • 6'1" / 185 lbs
Time and again in college, Winston overcome his athletic limitations by shooting the leather off the ball and using his smarts to outwit opponents. That, combined with his experience at the college level, makes him an ideal fit in L.A. on a team that could use an experienced and reliable floor general to potentially soften Rajon Rondo's twilight years and maximize the championship window still open with LeBron and A.D.
From Milwaukee Bucks
Round 1 - Pick 30
Texas Tech • 6'3" / 195 lbs
Jahmi'us Ramsey was one of the most lethal catch-and-shoot 3-point scorers in the Big 12 last season as a freshman, rating in the 91st percentile in that category in the half court, per Synergy. He's a bit stiff as a ball-handler and has some room to grow as a scorer in other areas, but his size and scoring upside should translate.