Well, folks, the fateful day is rapidly approaching. Soon we'll find out where all of these coveted NBA Draft prospects that we've learned so much about over the past year will finally call home. Obviously most of the intrigue surrounds the top three players, Jabari Smith Jr., Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero, but this is a deep draft with potential impact players throughout.
This is my final mock draft, and it went differently than I expected. I often found myself straying from my prospect rankings because the fit just didn't seem right. For example, I rate TyTy Washington much higher than No. 16, but it just didn't make sense for a lot of teams above that to draft a guard with his skill set. That's what makes the draft so interesting -- the best player isn't always the right player. As we just saw with the likes of Andrew Wiggins in the NBA Finals, fit is everything.
In terms of players whose stock has improved, I have Dyson Daniels, Jeremy Sochan and Dalen Terry jumping significantly from my previous mock draft. I also consistently have Blake Wesley higher than most other mocks that I've seen. But alas, there's no more time for tweaking. This is the final version, like it or not, and we'll see how close it is to the truth on Thursday.
Happy Draft Day, everyone.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Jabari Smith PF
Auburn • Fr • 6'11" / 220 lbs
No change on this front as far as I can tell. Smith not only fits into the Magic's organizational emphasis on length and versatility, but he can also put the ball in the basket -- something Orlando desperately craves. The criticisms about his ability to create off the dribble are valid, but with his frame, athleticism and silky shooting stroke, there's reason to believe Smith will eventually develop into a No. 1 scoring option.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Gonzaga • 7'1" / 195 lbs
There's some scuttlebutt suggesting the Thunder are infatuated with Jaden Ivey, but they won't pass up a talent like Holmgren at No. 2. If he were 40 pounds heavier, Holmgren would be considered a can't-miss prospect in the ilk of Anthony Davis given his defensive impact, shooting ability and basketball IQ. The unique frame for a top-three pick -- being less than 200 pounds at 7-feet tall -- might scare some off, but not the Thunder, who have plenty of time to help him develop.
Round 1- Pick 3
Duke • Fr • 6'10" / 250 lbs
The more you watch this guy's film, the more you wonder why he's not the consensus No. 1 pick. Ultimately Banchero's offensive talents may exceed those of the two players picked ahead of him, but his potential shortcomings as a 3-point shooter and on defense will keep at No. 3. The Rockets, who have already cleared room in the frontcourt by trading Christian Wood, will be more than happy to put Banchero next to Jalen Green to form a promising foundation.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Jaden Ivey SG
Purdue • Fr • 6'4" / 195 lbs
This is where the intrigue begins, since many teams are reportedly sending their best packages to Sacramento to see if they can move up to No. 4. The reason is Ivey, who could surpass the consensus top three in this draft with his speed, strength, explosion and finishing ability. At the end of the day, the Kings' traumatic memory of passing on Luka Doncic should prevent them from overthinking this. Just take Ivey and worry about the fit with De'Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell later.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Arizona • Fr • 6'5" / 210 lbs
Who the Pistons will take with this pick is a mystery, so I'll go with the highest player left on my board in Mathurin. He's reportedly blown away teams in workouts and in interviews, and to me he has All-Star upside given his shooting ability, defensive versatility and motor. I've been in love with Mathurin since before he decided to return to Arizona last year, and he'll be a perfect complement to Cade Cunningham in Detroit.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Daniels has been flying up mock drafts given his size and defensive ability from the guard position. He plays with a calmness and certainty beyond his years, and his playmaking will truly reveal itself with better teammates around him. At the very least, Indiana will get a big, stout defensive guard with a high IQ. If his shooting eventually comes around, you're looking at a Lonzo Ball-type impact on both ends of the floor.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Kentucky • Fr • 6'5" / 200 lbs
I still think Sharpe makes sense for the Blazers for a couple of reasons. If they end up keeping the pick, he's the most intriguing prospect at this point in the draft to dangle as a potential trade sweetener for a win-now player or two. Secondly, if Portland eventually decides to part ways with Damian Lillard and commence a full rebuild, Sharpe is exactly the type of young player you'd want to build around -- an elite athlete with size, finishing ability and tremendous shot-creating and playmaking potential.
From Los Angeles Lakers
Round 1 - Pick 8
Baylor • Fr • 6'8" / 230 lbs
With three elite scorers, the Pelicans don't need to focus on offense with this pick. Sochan is a unicorn defender, legitimately capable of guarding one through five. Offense is going to be an uphill grind, but he's reportedly shot the ball well in workouts. It might be hard to play them at the same time initially, but a lineup with Sochan and Herb Williams would leave opposing offenses cowering in the fetal position.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Iowa • Fr • 6'8" / 225 lbs
This might be a bit far for Murray to fall, but the concerns about his athleticism and defense are legitimate. San Antonio will gladly take him, as his 3-point shooting and overall skill set should fit a void on a team with a lot of young guard talent. With San Antonio's development staff, Murray could become an All-Star level player in a few years.
Round 1 - Pick 10
AJ Griffin SF
Duke • Fr • 6'6" / 220 lbs
A sharpshooter with creation and playmaking upside, Griffin would fit nicely on a Wizards team that lacks shooting from the wing. He could play the four in a five-out attack featuring Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis, or could slide down to the three when Washington wants to go big. Griffin owns a 6-11 wingspan and doesn't turn 19 until August, so his upside is thoroughly enticing, but health concerns may make him available at No. 10.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Johnny Davis SF
Wisconsin • Fr • 6'4" / 195 lbs
The Knicks are in dire need of a shot-creating guard, and Davis should be able to provide that immediately. He can play in the pick-and-roll and gets to the free-throw line at an impressive rate. What separates Davis as a prospect is that he brings potentially elite defense with his 6-9 wingspan. He didn't have a good 3-point percentage last season at Wisconsin, but he was solid on catch-and-shoot 3s, showing that he can play off ball as well.
From Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 - Pick 12
Memphis • Fr • 6'10" / 250 lbs
OKC loves a project, and Duren presents the best of both worlds. He'll immediately have an impact in the NBA as a shot-blocker, lob threat and rebounder with his athleticism and ridiculous 7-5 wingspan, but he also has intriguing upside as a playmaker and -- perhaps eventually -- as a shooter. Duren doesn't turn 19 until November, so it's easy to see why a team like the Thunder would be enthralled.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Ochai Agbaji SG
Kansas • Fr • 6'5" / 215 lbs
Agbaji just makes too much sense for the Hornets. At 22 years old, he should be able to slot in immediately for a Charlotte team that has playoff aspirations. He's proven himself as a prototypical 3-and-D wing, capable of guarding multiple positions and knocking down corner 3-pointers off the catch. His 6-10 wingspan allows him to be disruptive on the defensive end and finish above the rim on backdoor cuts offensively. He'll be hard to pass up if he's still on the board at No. 13.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Ohio State • Fr • 6'4" / 180 lbs
The Cavs need wings -- especially ones who can shoot -- and Branham fits the bill to a tee. He's not the most explosive creator, but he's a knock-down 3-point shooter who can also hit a pull-up mid-range jumper when he's run off the line. He may be lacking in the "D" part of 3-and-D, but that's something that J.B. Bickerstaff and the Cavs development staff can help improve.
From New Orleans Pelicans
Round 1 - Pick 15
Duke • Fr • 7'0" / 240 lbs
The Hornets may not select at both 13 and 15, but if they do, why not take another stab at a reliable center? Williams is an absolute beast at 7-foot with a 7-7 wingspan, and he's one of the most ferocious dunkers the college game has ever seen. He's tailor-made for his role in the NBA as a shot-blocker and rim-runner -- he rarely shot outside the paint at Duke -- and it's tantalizing to think of what LaMelo Ball could do with a center of Williams' athleticism and power.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Kentucky • Fr • 6'3" / 195 lbs
The Hawks have needed a reliable backup point guard behind Trae Young for years now, and they'd be fortunate if Washington falls to them at No. 16. He's an excellent off-ball shooter, and in the NBA he'll play more pick-and-roll, where he had success as both a scorer and distributor at Kentucky. He made floaters at a ridiculous clip in college, which is going to be crucial since he's not the best space-creator.
From Brooklyn Nets
Round 1 - Pick 17
The Rockets aren't going to compete for a title any time soon, so taking a big swing here on Dieng seems reasonable. The upside is huge for the 6-10 wing with incredible ball-handling, playmaking and shot-creating potential, but it's going to be a while until the 19-year-old is ready to contribute on a consistent basis in the NBA. That's just fine for the Rockets, who are in the asset collection business for the foreseeable future.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Tari Eason PF
LSU • Fr • 6'8" / 215 lbs
If Eason's 3-point shooting is for real, he's going to be a steal for the Bulls at No. 18. He'll help Chicago's defense after averaging three combined steals and blocks per game at LSU and should be ready to contribute immediately as a 21-year-old. Eason will be a monster in transition running alongside Lonzo Ball, and can finish above the rim with his insane 7-2 wingspan.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Blake Wesley SG
Notre Dame • Fr • 6'3" / 185 lbs
Wesley is a lightning-quick shot-creator who might start his NBA career off the ball, but can eventually develop into a lead guard. His poor shooting percentages at Notre Dame are the product of a lot of iso creation and playmaking that he won't have to do in NBA -- at least not right away. Wesley has been shooting the ball well from 3-point range in workouts and has tremendous defensive upside. He would fit in nicely on Minnesota's second unit or eventually the starting lineup.
From Toronto Raptors
Round 1 - Pick 20
Dalen Terry SF
Arizona • Fr • 6'7" / 195 lbs
There's been a lot of heat around Terry's name as the draft approaches, and it's easy to see why. His 7-1 wingspan projects him as a potential lockdown defender on the wing, but he also has scoring and playmaking upside on the other end. We didn't see much of it at Arizona because of his role, but he's confident that he'll be able to show it in the NBA. He seems like a perfect fit for an increasingly young and athletic Spurs team.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Wisconsin-Milwaukee • Fr • 6'9" / 220 lbs
The Nuggets have already found gold (no pun intended) with one highly rated player who slipped in the draft, Michael Porter Jr., so why not take a gamble on another? Baldwin was one of the top recruits coming out of high school, but his draft stock plummeted after a horrific season at Milwaukee. If you look past the stats, you see a 6-9 bucket-getter with a 7-2 wingspan who has advanced shooting and scoring potential to go along with a "best player on the floor" type of confidence.
From Utah Jazz
Round 1 - Pick 22
Hardy's skill set is obvious -- his shot creation and pull-up 3-point range are among the best in the draft class -- but what makes him a perfect fit for Memphis is his attitude. This guy thinks he's the best player on the floor at all times, and he plays like it, which will endear him to the up-and-coming Grizzlies. Yes, defense and shot selection are major issues, but the Memphis development staff has done a great job, very quickly, with other young, talented players.
Round 1 - Pick 23
E.J. Liddell PF
Ohio State • 6'6" / 240 lbs
Liddell makes sense for the Sixers for a few reasons. As a 21-year-old, he should be able to contribute immediately for a team in need of a backup big man. He also is a versatile, defensive-minded forward with an incredible motor, who gets a ton of blocks and steals due to his 7-foot wingspan and instincts. Offensively he can space the floor as a 3-point shooter and also operate as a playmaker in short roll situations. Overall, Liddell seems like the right guy for Philadelphia if he's still around at No. 23.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Santa Clara • Fr • 6'5" / 211 lbs
Williams could end up being the steal of the draft if he falls this far. The 21-year-old wing should be ready to contribute immediately, with his 7-2 wingspan allowing him to guard multiple positions. He's a knock-down 3-point shooter who can also be a secondary creator with his passing and pick-and-roll proficiency, which will come in handy for a Bucks team that needs help on the wing.
From Boston Celtics
Round 1 - Pick 25
The Spurs have three first-round picks, so they can afford to take a big swing on Jovic, a legitimate prospect who goes well beyond having an extremely similar name to the reigning two-time MVP. Jovic is very raw, but the upside is obvious. At 6-10, he handles the ball like a guard in transition and has deep 3-point range with a consistent, quick release. He needs to work on getting his body NBA ready, but San Antonio isn't in any rush.
From Dallas Mavericks
Round 1 - Pick 26
The Rockets are going to need some defense around all their young offensive potential, and Beauchamp should be able to bring that. He's a powerful athlete who profiles as a solid on-ball defender and can also get out in transition. The difference-maker will be his 3-point shooting, which didn't look great in his year with Ignite. At the very least, he has the size, speed and strength to be a rotation NBA wing.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Duke • Fr • 6'5" / 215 lbs
Moore seems like the type of player who can step into a championship-contending team and earn minutes right away. He has a ready-made role as a 3-and-D wing, with great length and basketball IQ. He reads passing lanes to pick up steals on defense, and is a smart cutter on offense. Moore was also in the 95th percentile in catch-and-shoot situations last season at Duke, according to Synergy, making him an ideal role player who can thrive next to stars.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Jake LaRavia PF
Wake Forest • Fr • 6'7" / 235 lbs
A smart player with a great motor and intangibles? Sounds like a Warrior to me. LaRavia is a Swiss army knife with the skill set to fit into multiple lineup configurations, which is perfect for Steve Kerr and the malleable Warriors. His passing and playmaking should help him fit into Golden State's quick-decision offense, and his defensive instincts make up for a lack of traditional athleticism.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Baylor • Fr • 6'7" / 205 lbs
Brown could go much higher than this, but his skill set leaves a lot to be desired compared to a lot of prospects at his position in this draft. Where he stands out is his incredible athleticism, capable of getting out in transition and finishing with authority. While his defensive potential is certainly there, you'd like to see a little more polish at this point. In other words, Brown's a bit of a project, but Memphis has the depth to be patient with him.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Montero is as big a mystery as anyone in the draft, but his potential as a lead guard is incredibly tantalizing. He's a blur in the open floor with a tight handle, and he's adept at navigating pick-and-rolls -- either finishing himself or setting up teammates. As with most young guards, his defense needs a lot of work, but obviously Denver doesn't mind if he takes a while to develop. The talent is clearly there.