With the NBA draft just a day away, we take a fourth and final look at the extended mock with team needs factored in.
||Zion Williamson 6-6 280 PF Duke Fr.||Zion is a phenomenon, the likes of which we haven’t seen since LeBron James from a media and fan interest stand point. He made true on all the hype surrounding him, which was not easy to accomplish. He’s not only an athletic specimen, he proved to be incredibly consistent and coachable. He showed noticeable improvement as the season progressed, and even developed some confidence in his perimeter shot. His leaping ability seems to defy physics, and he’s not just an explosive juggernaut. He also shows amazing body control and speed to make adjustments on drives as well as defend smaller guards on the perimeter. His ability to anticipate plays before they happen is one of the keys to his greatness. He also plays with emotion, like Sir Charles, opponents often appear to wilt in his presence. While there are still some wrinkles to his game that need ironing out, he’s got the highest ceiling of anyone in the past few drafts. LeBron is destined to go down as the second best player to ever play the game, it seems a little unfair to place those kind of expectations on Zion. For him to have the same type of health, let alone ability, would seem to be a longshot.
Why the Pelicans take Zion Williamson: AD has been moved and while the returns weren’t what they might have been back at the trade deadline, it’s obvious they were able to bring in a nice haul for the Brow. New Orleans and new GM David Griffin has a plan in place to build a team around Zion that will age like fine wine. They can lose for another season or two , add additional assets through the draft, and when the time is right make a push through trades and free agency to be complete team that can challenge. With Zion as their centerpiece, and a GM showing a willingness to exercise patience, the future appears bright for New Orleans.
NBA Comparison: Charles Barkley
||Ja Morant 6-3 175 PG Murray St. So.||
Morant was the biggest break out star of this year’s NCAA season. Entering the year he was seen as a mid first rounder at best by most talent evaluators. He had made a name for himself around 2018 draft time at the Chris Paul camp. But it was hard to envision him breaking out and becoming such an impactful player, efficient in both scoring and leading the nation in assists, and even drawing some consideration to be the number one overall pick. Morant doesn’t have Zion’s hype, but he deserves all of the recognition that came his way late in the season. Zion may have the higher ceiling, but if staying injury free is factored into the equation, Morant may have the higher floor.
Why the Grizzlies take Ja Morant: Mike Conley was moved today, a day before the draft, clearing the path for Ja Morant to be the starter from day one. This pick is as etched in stone as the Pelicans taking Zion at one. Memphis was extremely fortunate to land the second overall pick, as there isn’t a safer pick in the entire draft, and Ja has the potential to be a Westbrook type of athletic specimen, only with patience and a team focus. It’s not every day that you land a point god. Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson form an enviable nucleus to build around for the future. Watch out for the Grizzlies in 3-4 years!
||RJ Barrett 6-7 210 SG Duke Fr.||Barrett was overshadowed on Duke’s team due to Zion’s excellence, but he’s a high level talent in his own right. His game is a bit unorthodox as he doesn’t have a clean shooting form and isn’t the smoothest of athletes. But he has high level competitiveness and a winner’s mentality. He may not have franchise level talent, but don’t bet against him as he’s got a lot of determination, as he proved in leading an undermanned Canada team to the 2017 U19 World Championships Gold Medal. Barrett can get caught up in playing hero ball and over-dribbling trying to create his own looks, but he’s young and still developing his decision making. He’s locked in as a top 5 pick with an excellent chance to be the third pick.
Why the Knicks take RJ Barrett: The Knicks threw a giant curve ball by bringing Darius Garland in for a last minute workout. Most likely it will be forgotten when they select RJ Barrett. Is it possible that the Knicks would move down a spot and select Garland and the Pelicans would somehow get involved in a three team deal that involves adding picks from the Hawks. Atlanta seems to be as sold on Barrett as any team in the draft, apparently figuring he would fit well alongside Trey Young. Could Atlanta offer up enough assets to appease both New York and New Orleans is the question. A longshot at best, look for New York to grab the obvious pick at three.
||Darius Garland 6-2 175 PG Vanderbilt Fr.||The son of former NBA point guard Winston Garland, Darius was seen by many as the top PG prospect heading into the season. That was before his injury and Ja Morant establishing himself as a top 2 pick. He’s an extremely fast point with great shooting ability and decent size. What he’s missing is what should have been a year of development and college experience, which is more crucial at the point guard position. There are also question marks about his body strength and toughness, particularly coming off a knee injury.
Why the Pelicans take Darius Garland: The Pelicans are actively trying to move this pick and Darius Garland is the player mentioned most often as the guy that teams would like to target. Chicago is a possibility to move up to 4 to select him. Jarrett Culver appears to be on top of the Pelicans draft board at 4 if they hold onto the pick. While Culver doesn’t offer the same upside of other prospects, they are already hitting a home run with Zion, so going for a single instead of swinging for the fences pick is probably the line of thinking should they take him.
||DeAndre Hunter 6-7 225 SF/PF Virginia So.||Hunter is a 3-and-D type. He’s got a strong frame with a massive 7’2 wingspan and really improved as a 3 point shooter in his sophomore year, displaying the ability to hit at a high rate and solid volume. Detractors will point to his lack of an ideal fit, being somewhat stiff as a SF and lacking the height and strength at PF. But in today’s position-less league, he offers a potential mismatch with the ability to defend 4s and knock down three pointers.
Why the Cavs take DeAndre Hunter: The Cavs are a team devoid of talent at this point and will likely look to move Kevin Love during the offseason. It’s a complete reboot, and GM Koby Altman will look to add talent to a young roster. Last year’s lottery pick, "Young Bull" Collin Sexton showed surprising improvement as a three point shooter. As score first lead guards, North Carolina’s Coby White may be too similar to Sexton to play the two together. They will likely listen to offers and may force the Suns to give up an asset to change positions in order to select White here. If they stand pat, look for the Cavs to select Hunter, who is said to be well liked by coach John Beilein.
||Coby White 6-5 185 PG/SG North Carolina Fr.||White is a lightning quick combo guard who pushes the ball up the floor quickly and also terrorizes defenders off the dribble with his first step. Roy Williams called White the quickest guard that he’s had since Ty Lawson. High praise for a guy that is 3-4 inches bigger than Lawson. White is a solid defender who at 6’4 has the size and speed to play either guard position. He went on a tear mid way through the season and never looked back, becoming one of the deadliest weapons on the college level. His game figures to fit perfectly at the next level, and his competitiveness gives him a chance to be a star.
Why the Suns take Coby White: The Suns are quickly running out of point guard options following the trades of both Lonzo Ball and Mike Conley. They would be fortunate if White is available here as there’s a chance teams make trades and there’s a run on available point guards in the 4 and 5 slots. White would be an excellent addition to a young, talented team with a lot of upside to develop.
NBA Comparison: Gilbert Arenas
||Jarrett Culver 6-6 195 SG Texas Tech So.||
Culver really exploded into a star and a well rounded player as a sophomore. He expanded his skill set in his sophomore year, embracing the role of go-to scorer and offensive team leader. He made huge strides in his ability to create offense for himself, as well as his ability to shoot. He has a strong, physical frame and plays with consistent effort. He went from a great role player, as a freshman, doing the little things to help his team win, to the team’s superstar. He still has a ways to go to as a shooter and NBA shooting guard, and going too high could set expectations too high for him. He’s a tremendous kid, but may struggle to live up to the amount of hype that has been bestowed on him. Culver is considered one of the top character guys in the entire draft.
Why the Bulls take Jarrett Culver: The Bulls will need to give up an asset and this pick in order to get to 4 for a point guard (White or Garland). If they stand pat, the Bulls could look at a number of players here including Cam Reddish and Jaxson Hayes. Culver’s shooting efficiency was lacking, so obviously there are some that feel that his shooting motion and abilities are better than what he showed, and that he can improve as a shooter. The Bulls did extremely well taking Jimmy Butler at 30, despite the fact that he was unproven as a scorer and shooting guard. Can Culver be a Jimmy Butler part two? GM Gar Foreman has developed a reputation for taking safe picks and Culver fits that from a draft perception standpoint.
||Cameron Reddish 6-7 215 SG/SF Duke Fr.||
Reddish’s talent level has never been in question as he’s an NBA athlete with an advanced skill set for his age. The main concerns revolve around his lack of consistency and how infrequently he plays to his abilities. He’s a charismatic kid who will impress in team interviews, but skeptics worry that he may always force coaches to expend energy in order to get him to fully apply himself. Apologists will contend that he was forced to assume the role of a complementary player, unable to fully stand out due to the fact that he wasn’t given the opportunity. But in reality he may be more suited in that role and may have been exposed at a program where he was expected to be the star. He doesn’t appear to be wired to be an alpha dog with ultra competitiveness.
Why the Hawks take Cameron Reddish: With picks at 8,10, and 17 the Hawks are being extremely active in trade talks, targeting a number of players but specifically working on a deal for 3 to land RJ Barrett. But it appears the Knicks asking price will be too high. The Hawks may have to settle for Barrett’s teammate, who is a much more fluid athlete and shooter but is missing RJ’s competitiveness and desire. The hawks can;t risk taking another player if the indeed covet Reddish as there’s an excellent chance the Wizards would grab him at 9. Jaxson Hayes is another possibility here, but stands a better chance of being available for them at 10.
NBA Comparison: Rudy Gay
||Sekou Doumbouya 6-9 230 SF/PF France Intl.||Doumbouya is a talented prospect combining great size and versatility as he excels at ball handling and passing. He gets caught up in making the spectacular play at times and needs to become a better decision maker and more disciplined. He’s a bouncy athlete but in need of American Weight training. He may be as dependent upon landing in the right situation as anyone. With the right coaching he could become a versatile forward in the mold of Boris Diaw. But his skill set shows a lot of promise but remains unrefined.
Why the Wizards take Sekou Doumbouya: Doumbouya is a swing for the fences pick, and this is an organization that needs to take a chance. Interim GM Tommy Sheppard needs to prove himself in this draft, but may feel the pressure to not make a mistake and take a safer pick. Doumbouya is a risky pick, but could reap rewards if he has a smooth adjustment to the NBA.
||Jaxson Hayes 6-11 220 PF/C Texas Fr.||Hayes is the son of long time NFL player and current Bengals tight end coach Jonathan Hayes. With this being a weaker draft, and potential always being at a premium, Hayes has a real shot to go top 10. He’s a bit of a risk to be a guy that takes up an NBA roster spot and develops on a team’s dime before finding his game and being a true contributor on his second contract, and possibly second team. His free throw percentage gives intrigue about his ability to develop his offensive game, but he will need to show more aggressiveness and toughness as he gains weight and experience in order to fulfill his upside.
Why the Hawks take Jaxson Hayes: Hayes is considered a likely top 10 pick and would infuse a lot of athleticism and potential into the Hawks frontcourt. He didn’t shoot at a very high clip, but his shot actually shows decent potential to improve. The team is still in rebuild mode, and Hayes projects as a less athletic Clint Capella type of rim runner, only with more offensive potential.
||Rui Hachimura 6-8 235 SF/PF Gonzaga Jr.||Rui made a great decision to both attend Gonzaga and not rush the process, allowing his game and confidence to mature over three years in Spokane. He’s a focused, hard working kid who figures to elevate the popularity of basketball in Japan as well as other Asian countries. While his size and skill set is still a bit tweenerish, he plays with such great energy and is developing into a knock down mid range shooter. He should find a spot in the top 10 and can even be a top 5 pick with good workouts. One of the highest character kids in the draft and his development curve seems to be as sharp as anyone’s.
Why the Timberwolves take Rui Hachimura: The Timberwolves have had issues with team chemistry and learned their lessen with Andrew Wiggins, that character and attitude are as important as talent for winning. Rui has an inner strength that will ensure a level of success at the NBA level. His personality also fits in well in Minnesota where other players might not be as comfortable. Rui would be a tremendous first ever pick for International GM Gersson Rosas, out of Colombia.
NBA Comparison: Antawn Jamison
||Nassir Little 6-6 220 SF North Carolina Fr.||
Little is a borderline freak athlete with a sturdy frame and a 7′ plus foot wingspan. He excels at being an energy player and scores a lot of garbage baskets with his physical gifts. The form on his shot is decent, although his efficiency wasn’t ideal. Little struggled with consistency and didn’t fully live up to expectations. Some feel that was partially due to the short leash that Coach Roy Williams gives to many freshmen. Little can be a top 10 pick if he can impress in workouts, as he did put forward some solid performances at season’s end.
Why the Hornets take Nasir Little: It’s been a few years since the MJ’s Hornets took a North Carolina product and the scouting staff is said to be extremely high on Little. He offers a lot of upside for a late lottery team that may lose Kemba Walker this offseason. If available, look for Little to be the pick here.
NBA Comparison: Gerald Wallace
||PJ Washington 6-8 235 PF Kentucky So.||Washington had a strong sophomore season punctuated by an excellent showing in the NCAA tourney. He’s a versatile four, showing solid ability to handle the ball and pass it. While he lacks ideal height, his huge 7’2.5 wingspan allows him to play bigger. He projects as a solid role player for the next level. While likely not a standout, he can assist a team with some scoring and overall versatility. He proved to be an impact player for one of the elite teams in the nation in his sophomore season, and many are projecting him as a mid first rounder.
Why the Heat take PJ Washington: When Hassan Whiteside is out, Washington could team with Bam Adebayo to form a Kentucky frontcourt. Washington would give the Heat solid versatility with his passing and face up skills. Washington figures to be selected somewhere in the early teens, and Miami has been mentioned as a distinct possibility to take him.
NBA Comparison: Trey Lyles
||Keldon Johnson 6-6 215 SG/SF Kentucky Fr.||Johnson is an athletic wing capable of above the rim finishes as well as a solid offensive skill set. He possesses a lot of determination and leadership for his age. He still needs to become a better ball handler which would allow him to better utilize his athletic gifts as a basket creator. Keldon’s play grew in consistency as the season went along. He’s a bit of a potential pick, but a team willing to wait on his talent could grab him somewhere in the mid-to-late lottery, and be pleased with the results in a few seasons.
Why the Celtics take Keldon Johnson: Johnson is one of the players the Celtics have targeted. While their front court would appear to be a greater area of need, Danny Ainge has three picks to work with and will likely take the player he feels is the best value regardless of position. Trades can obviously be made to juggle a purples at a position. And one thing Ainge has proven to do extremely well is make trades.
NBA Comparison: Corey Maggette
||Goga Bitadze 6-11 250 C Rep. of Georgia Intl.||Bitadze is a tough nosed European center with a great set of skills. Sort of a Marc Gasol lite. Bitadze can really shoot it and has a toughness to him. He’s not the fastest or most athletic player but his skill level and knowledge of the game are advanced. He’s considered one of the few European prospects, along with Doumbouya, with a chance to go in the first round this year. Goga is well liked by most on the international scene with our Stefanos Makris being one the first media scouts to push him as a first round talent.
Why the Pistons take Goga Bitadze: The Pistons already have a dominant center, but there are whispers that Andre Drummond may be on the trading block. The Pistons don’t have much flexibility to improve due to their salary cap situation, but moving Drummond could open the door to cap relief, if they decide he’s not in their future plans. Bitadze is nothing like Drummond as he lacks athleticism but is extremely skilled. He’s a possibility at 15, 17 and 19, and the Pistons are said to be strongly considering him.
NBA Comparison: Nenad Krstic
||Romeo Langford 6-6 210 SG Indiana Fr.||Romeo is a high level prospect who seems to have perfected the nonchalant look. He’s a smooth athlete and scorer with above average ball skills. He can really handle the ball and create shots for a 2-guard. His outside shooting is still a work in progress as it wasn’t as efficient as one would like. He has a tendency to look as if he’s day dreaming, which doesn’t put NBA talent evaluators at ease regarding his focus and intensity. But he has a chance to be a steal if he falls.
Why the Magic take Romeo Langford: Orlando is signed up for a number of years of Evan Fournier, but if Langford works out he could come up for his next contract around the time that Fournier’s is coming off of his. Langford gives Orlando some much needed
||Tyler Herro 6-6 195 SG Kentucky Fr.||Herro combines a great feel for the game with elite level shooting ability. He’s a decent athlete that will surprise with his leaping ability at times. He may not have the strongest of frames and will need to focus on getting stronger in order to be more effective driving to the rim. His defense has shown steady improvement, and while he may always struggle with lateral speed, the fact the he could develop into a high level NBA shooter gives him intrigue. He’ll have to polish his ability to move without the ball and setting up open looks, but his shooting stroke is his biggest asset.
Why the Hawks take Tyler Herro: Hawks GM Travis Schlenk is infatuated with shooters. They already have a similar player in Kevin Huerter, though Huerter is a superior athlete and shooter. But with three picks, assuming they keep them all, the Hawks can load up on shooting and depth in the back court and Herro is likely to find a spot in the teens.
||Bol Bol 7-2 235 C Oregon Fr.||Bol is the 2019 draft’s other Unicorn, with Zion being the first. He is extremely unique and difficult to accurately project or find a good comparison for. Porzingis was establishing himself as one of the game’s great young big men before his injury and off court issues. One thing that appears accurate, aside from the length, shot blocking and outside shooting is that both player’s size make them injury prone. With such extreme length, a lot of pressure is put on their lower legs. Bol is one of the biggest wild cards available, as some even speculated he could challenge to be the number one pick early on. Having missed a great deal of the season, he also has developed a bit of a questionable work ethic, look for Bol to slide to the mid-to-late first round.
Why the Pacers take Bol Bol: Bol Squared is the biggest enigma in this year’s draft. He’s been described as a guy that is sure to get a GM fired whether it be selecting him, or passing on him. The Pacers sit at a position, 18, where the bust factor wouldn’t be as tough to absorb, should Bol end up flaming out.
||Bruno Fernando 6-10 245 C Maryland So.||The bigman from Angola, Fernando, has a lot of composure and maturity for his age. He’s an above average athlete who is solid in nearly all areas. His footwork stands out, along with his great hands. He’s still developing the confidence to be a go to scorer and lead the team every time out. But he has a lot of determination and passion for the game. His spin moves and offensive skill are very good for a player that picked up the game at 9 years old in Angola, and really didn’t start playing at a high level until moving to the US during high school and playing at both Montverde and IMG Academy. Is he older than he’s listed? Possible, but unlikely as he looked like a 16 year old when he competed for Angola in Dubai at the U17 World Championships. And even if he is, is it really a huge concern? He is already a polished player with above average athleticism for the next level.
Why the Spurs take Bruno Fernando: Bruno is shaping up to be one of the draft’s biggest sleepers. He’s arguably a lottery level talent, but did not receive a green room invite and has been pegged by some as a borderline first. The Spurs make it a habit of identifying underrated talent (Kawhi Leonard, George Hill, Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, the list goes on), and targeting them in drafts. Bruno has a chance to be the top center out of this year’s draft and the Spurs wouldn’t be able to take the risk that he would be available to them 10 spots later at 29 if they want him.
NBA Comparison: Steven Adams
||Brandon Clarke 6-8 210 PF/C Gonzaga Jr.||Clark is too old (22) and small (6’8 with a 6’9 wingspan) to be a first rounder, yet here he is. He’s one of the most explosive players not named Zion in this year’s draft. He also played with incredible energy and drive all season. His work in the offseason, revamping an ugly jumpshot and turning it into a consistent one with decent form in a testament to his dedication. Clark’s ability to play bigger than his size and convert alley oops as well as protect the rim gives him solid intrigue. Whether his game will in fact translate to the next level, despite his age and lack of length remains to be seen. But his quickness, motor and work ethic gives him a real shot to grab a spot in the first round, after such a strong season.
Why the Celtics take Brandon Clarke: With Al Horford opting out and likely leaving in free agency, the Celttics suddenly have a real need at the position. With three picks, the Celtics can grab a bouncy, undersized four to give them added defense. Clarke gives the Celtics a nice allyoop target and versatile defender. Bol Bol is said to be another target for the Celtics, but the generally conservative drafting Danny Ainge would probably be going too far out of his comfort zone taking 14th pick on Bol, and will roll the dice he can get him here.
NBA Comparison: Larry Nance
||Nickeil Alexander-Walker 6-5 205 SG Virginia Tech So.||Alexander-Walker is a highly efficient 2-guard with a smooth offensive game. He knocks down the 3 ball with excellent speed and efficiency, and can also create baskets for himself off the dribble. Adding some legitimate body strength would be very beneficial as he struggles to finish through contact at the rim. But he may just be a guy that will always be on the skinny side, a la Will Barton. He had some solid performances throughout the season, and helped Virginia Tech come very close to upsetting Duke in the NCAA tourney.
Why the Thunder take Nickeil Alexander-Walker: The Thunder are still looking for the ideal fit to pair Russell Westbrook with in the backcourt. Alexander-Walker is more of a controlled decision maker, while Westbrook is controlled chaos. Alexander-Walker, despite being a underrated prospect, could easily be the last man standing, or sitting actually, in the green room.
NBA Comparison: Spencer Dinwiddie
||Eric Paschall 6-7 255 PF Villanova Sr.||Paschell is an absolute winner having won a title with Villanova a season ago. He had a very impressive performance at the Nike Academy in front of scouts (media were not permitted), but this was important as it showed his ability to shine in a second environment, and outside of the friendly confines of the Villanova system. Paschall’s game seems to fit the current analytics driven NBA to a tee.
Why the Celtics take Eric Paschall: Paschell has the length and versatility to get out and guard on switches and also can knock down perimeter shots, giving him some NBA 3 point shooting potential. He’s been a player on the rise and is being considered by Boston here.
NBA Comparison: PJ Tucker
||Mfondu Kabengele 6-10 250 PF/C Kentucky So.||Kabengele has excellent basketball genes as his mother is the sister of Dikembe Mutombo. He came off the bench this season for Florida State, and by the end of the year, he was having a huge impact on the team at both ends of the floor. His legs don’t appear to be very sturdy, so how he comes out in medicals will be instrumental in his draft position. His game impressed former Bull standout Horace Grant enough to compare him to himself, so he must be doing something right. He’s a big with a huge wingspan and the ability to face up and knock down shots. He obviously needs to add leg and core strength, but if he’s able to do so, his upside could have his stock much higher than this by draft night.
Why the Grizzlies take Mfondu Kabengele: After grabbing their point guard of the future at 2, the Grizzlies can look for frontcourt help here and there are a number of options potentially available. Kabengele has possibly dropped some due to medical issues, but that could make him a very good gamble this low.
NBA Comparison: Vin Baker
||Ty Jerome 6-5 200 PG Virginia So,||Jerome is one of the toughest competitors in college. He overcomes his physical shortcomings with great intangibles and competitiveness. He impacts the game with his great passing ability, elevating his teammates and playing a steady and disciplined brand of basketball. A strong showing in the Final Four would be beneficial for his first round chances.
Why the Sixers take Ty Jerome: Jerome is a point guard that has shown a very solid shooting stroke in workouts. He would give them a potential long term back up to Ben Simmons, and the ability to keep big line ups on the floor to exploit small opposing point guards.
||Matisse Thybulle 6-6 200 SG/SF Washington Sr.||Thybulle’s supreme length and attention on that end, makes him one of the top defenders in the entire draft. He struggled on the offensive end for much of his career at Washington. But his three point took a turn for the worse as a senior. He’s a solid free throw shooter, so there’s optimism that he can improve from deep. With a 7+ foot wingspan, Matisse has elite defensive ability and potential. Thybulle showed some solid improvement in his outside shooting in his senior year.
Why the Blazers take Matisse Thybulle: Thybulle is in the same region and time zone, so no one should be more familiar with him than the Blazers. Thybulle skipped the combine, giving the impression that a team has a promise in place somewhere in the 20s to take him. There’s speculation that team is the Blazers who had a similar player in Nicolas Batum a few years back.
||Kevin Porter 6-6 220 SG/SF USC Fr.||Porter is a top ten pick on talent. The problem is that he has developed a reputation for being virtually uncoachable. He butted heads with USC coach Andy Enfield on a number of occasions and in turn was suspended. There are real concerns about his focus and dedication to the game and whether he has what it takes to fit into an NBA team’s framework.
Why the Cavaliers take Kevin Porter: Cleveland is in the midst of a rebuild and could decide Porter is worth the risk here at 26. He has lottery talent but comes with a reputation for being difficult and potentially disruptive. Cleveland currently has Jordan Clarkson and Nik Stauskas competing for minutes at the 2. The opportunity to play would be there if Porter shows a dedication to being a professional.
||Chuma Okeke 6-8 235 SF/PF Auburn So.||Cheme Okeke was beginning to break out and may have challenged to be a lottery pick if not for the devastating ACL injury that ended his college career. He’s a risky pick as there’s no certainly that he will recover completely and get back to where he was athletically. But in today’s day and age, most players, especially young players are able to recover from this type of injury and regain most of their athleticism.
Why the Nets take Chuma Okeke: Brooklyn is said to be trying to move out of their pick and into the second round. With Kyrie Irving in their sights, every last cap dollar is important. They have shown a willingness to draft injured players, having luck with Caris LeVert at the 20th pick when he was coming off a similar knee injury.
||KZ Okpala 6-8 195 SG/SF Stanford So.||Okpala was one of the biggest risers among the returning group of NCAA prospects for this year’s draft. He’s a highly skilled wing with the ability to attack the rim with a quick first step and solid ball handling ability. He is more of the lead by example type and will need to work on becoming more vocal, but at just 19 years of age, he has a lot of development in front of him. He was productive in a number of areas with 18 ppg, 6 rpg and 2 apg. He has excellent efficiency, shooting a high clip from 3 along with solid ability to create baskets off the dribble utilizing his quick first step. One legitimate concern is how much the Stanford team has under-performed this season. And the fact that weren’t exactly devoid of talent surrounding KZ. It brings into question Okpala’s impact and why they didn’t have a better record this season.
Why the Warriors take KZ Okpala: Okpala would be excellent value here at 28 as he grades out as a top 20 player for us. The Warriors are in need of players that can come in and play right away with Klay Thompson likely out for the entire year and KD’s status as a Warrior up in the air, and him being unavailable for another season. Okpala gives the Warriors solid athleticism and versatility at his size and potential as a scorer.
||Luka Samanic 6-11 230 PF Croatia Intl.||Samanic is one of the more versatile and athletic bigmen to emerge from Europe in the past few seasons. He underachieved a bit over the past few years, but appears to have pulled things together in the nick of time, with a very solid NBA Combine performance. He has some face up ability but is still a long ways away from a physicality standpoint. He improved some in the past year, but still struggles against strong Europeans, so getting on an NBA weight training program should be a huge benefit.
Why the Spurs take Samanic: The Spurs taking Samanic seems to be one of the obvious projections as Samanic is considered a bubble first rounder, and the Spurs are considered by many as the most Euro-centric organization in the league. The Nets have proven to be a strong European drafting team as well with Kiwi Sean Marks being a Spurs disciple.
||Nicolas Claxton 6-11 215 PF Georgia So||Claxton was one of the top risers out of the combine. He is a versatile big with the ability to play an athletic brand of basketball, and impact both ends of the floor. He’s shown a surprising ability to knock down shots after the season in which that wasn’t a huge part of his game at Georgia. While somewhat under scouted this year, he has really come on of late and is trending in the right direction. His defensive versatility to switch and check smaller guys on the perimeter gives him added intrigue.
Why the Bucks take Nicolas Claxton: Claxton figures to be a bit of a project which may not fit in as well for a team trying to get over the hump and contend for titles. But a quick fix (NBA ready) player doesn’t offer the same upside as a guy like Claxton, who can bring defensive versatility as well as all around athleticism to the front court. Despite the fact that this team is young, it’s important to continue to infuse young talent. Naz Reid would be an interesting option, considering his agent’s ties to the team. Sharp shooter Nikola Mirotic is an Unrestricted free agent, so shooters Dylan Windler and Cameron Johnson are also possibilities, if the team feels that they need to reload with their outside shooting.
NBA Comparison: Taj Gibson