1. Houston Rockets: Chet Holmgren, SF/PF, Gonzaga Fr.
As he showed against UCLA in Las Vegas, Chet Holmgren is a game-wrecker far beyond the box score. While he was credited for 4 blocks, the number of shots he contested or altered is far more than just 4. His unique skillset for a seven-footer, including tight handles and freakish body control, makes him one of the most unique prospects we have ever seen. He is already knocking down three-pointers, leading fast breaks, and defending at an elite level. Oh, and he is only 19. His Friday matchup with Paolo Banchero could factor into who is selected first overall in late June.
2. New Orleans Pelicans: Jaden Hardy, SG, G-League Ignite Fr.
Hardy is going up against physical competition night in and night out and while his numbers are far from stellar, you can already see his game beginning to grow and develop with the Ignite. He is averaging 35 minutes per game, and he is already showing off his ridiculous shooting range and sound mechanics on his jumper. He is also one of the more athletic players in this class with good handles, which allows him to get to, and finish at, the rim. Hardy’s stock will only continue to grow with his experience as he adjusts to professional basketball.
3. Orlando Magic: Paolo Banchero, PF, Duke Fr.
In a lot of ways, Banchero is an ideal fit for today’s NBA. He is a versatile defender who can guard anyone on the court. He can score at all three levels, his three-point shot is a work in progress, but will only improve as the season goes on. Plus, he gets to the line early and often, and is efficient at the charity stripe when he does get there. He does all of this at the height of 6’10 with a wingspan that is longer than 7 feet. Banchero might be dominating collegians right now, but he will be dominating against the pros soon enough. While Banchero may lack the upside of Holmgren and Hardy, he arguably has the highest floor of any prospect in the class.
4. Detroit Pistons: Jabari Smith, PF, Auburn Fr.
Smith is another freshman who is a perfect fit for the modern style of NBA basketball. Standing at 6’10, and with a reported 7’4 wingspan, the Auburn freshman showcases a promising three-point shot and has even shown the ability to pull up smoothly in transition to knock down these perimeter jumpers. He is very fluid in his motion and plays intense defense while guarding any position on the floor. He can be very disruptive with his length and use this to his advantage rising up for jumpers. A rebuilding team like the Pistons could be an excellent fit as a team willing to be patient to see Smith reach his full potential, and grow around a young nucleus.
5. San Antonio Spurs: Jaden Ivey, SG, Purdue So.
Jaden Ivey is a player who is ready to contribute right away and a team like the Spurs, who is not used to losing, and will welcome him with open arms. The explosive finisher, Ivey stands at 6’5 and is more than capable of handling the ball and running the offense. He has a quick first step, good handles, and can knock down any shot on the floor. There is plenty of room for improvement to refine his offensive skills, but defensively there are few questions around his game. He has elite length and quickness to stick with any guard and disrupt ball-handlers for 94 feet. Ivey is one of the best backcourt defenders in this draft with elite potential on both ends of the floor.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder:Bennedict Mathurin, SG, Arizona So.
Mathurin’s shooting percentages are down from his freshman season, but he is still averaging 5 more points per game and is showing added skills. At 6’7, Mathurin (pictured) has great length for a wing and should be a 3-and-D star at the next level. He has great mechanics and athleticism which allows him to create open looks for himself and knock them down. The Thunder add more firepower to an already promising backcourt.
7: Sacramento Kings: Jalen Duren, C, Memphis Fr.
Duren is a physical, traditional center who can score and rebound with anyone in the nation. He is currently the leading scorer on the talented Memphis Tigers and is shooting 75% from the field so far. He is also averaging a double-double and nearly 5 blocks per game to go with it. We have yet to see him go against a big man with a similar frame, but he undoubtedly has the talent and size to play in the NBA right now and should be an immediate paint presence next season. The Marvin Bagley era has not worked out as planned, enter Jalen Duren.
8. Indiana Pacers: MarJon Beauchamp, SG/SF, G-League Ignite Fr.
I don’t think anyone is benefiting as much from the G-League Ignite right now than Marjon Beauchamp. He is averaging as many points as Jaden Hardy and is also shooting 55% from the field compared to Hardy’s 31%. Beauchamp is quick off the dribble and can create space for himself on jumpers and attack the basket with speed and flexibility. He is a classic boom-or-bust player with elite potential if he can start making threes, but could also become a liability on both ends with poor shot selection and only average defending.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Max Christie, SG, Michigan State Fr.
Christie is a lengthy combo guard at 6’6 who has an elite jump shot and defensive energy. The numbers are not quite there in the early part of this season, but all of the tools are there for Christie to make the jump to the professional level next season. His athleticism is not necessarily a weakness, but it is far from a strength at this point. He can still improve as a playmaker, but the upside with his langth and shooting is intriguing enough to make him a top-10 pick.
10. Toronto Raptors: Blake Wesley, SG, Notre Dame Fr.
Wesley is a true sleeper in this year’s draft as an unheralded freshman from South Bend. He exploded onto the scene with 21 points in his first game for Mike Brey, who is integrating the talented freshman into the rotation gradually. But it is clear he is already the most talented player on the Irish team. Joshua Primo was a lottery selection last year because of his upside, and Wesley could easily follow suit this year. He is an explosive athlete with a ton of energy on both ends and great length with a 7-foot wingspan. He also shows the ability to create and hit shots. He is still coming off the bench for the Irish, but I do not expect this to continue as his role continues to expand and he continues to deliver for Mike Brey. Keep an eye on this extremely underrated true freshman.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves: (via LAL): Bryce McGowens, SG, Nebraska Fr.
McGowens is a highly touted freshman who is a prolific scorer who could be one of the more natural shot-makers in this class. With many prospects in this class, you do not know what you’re going to get. With McGowens it is simple: he is going to score. He is a 6’7 guard with decent playmaking skills, good rebounding, and a deep arsenal with scoring moves. A true three-level scorer who crowds the stat-sheet and impacts the game in a variety of ways. He could pair very well with Ja Morant in the backcourt at the next level.
12. Memphis Grizzlies: TyTy Washington, PG/SG, Kentucky Fr.
We are already seeing Washington come into his own for the Wildcats in the early part of this season. He is not an elite scorer or athlete, but he is a smart player who always seems to make the right decision and finish plays off with pinpoint accuracy on his passes. The game moves very slowly for him already and he is the perfect calming presence that any team wants running the offense. Even with all of these traits that stand out more than his scoring, he is still averaging 15 points per game and shows a lot of upside with his shooting stroke.
13. Boston Celtics: Jabari Walker, SF/PF, Colorado So.
Walker is an athletic forward who shot the lights out from distance as a freshman in a limited role that is sure to expand this year. He is smooth in his mechanics and athletic enough to switch onto 1-4 as well. He already has a year under his belt and is still only a young 19-year-old, which is valuable experience for a player with a ton on potential. With an NBA pedigree, his father Samaki Walker was a top 10 pick (9th), Walker has a leg up on other prospects having grown up around the game and the foundation of professional sports in his genes.
14. Atlanta Hawks: Josh Minott, SG/SF, Memphis Fr.
Much like Blake Wesley, Minott is not seeing a large role at this point in the season, but there is no doubt that he will be playing an increased role for the Tigers as they look to make a deep run in March. He has elite size, length at 6’8 with a 7-foot wingspan and he uses all of it to his advantage at the offensive end of the floor. He can attack the basket but most of his prowess is with jump shots in the mid-range and from beyond the arc. An explosive finisher, he is almost impossible to stop if he gets to his spot on the floor and could ultimately play a Khris Middleton type of role at the next level.
15. Denver Nuggets: Patrick Baldwin Jr., Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Fr.
Baldwin has a similar skillset to Banchero and Smith above him, with shooting and ball skills, but he falls just outside the lottery due to his sometimes poor shot selection and lack of polish and consistency. There are plenty of question marks related to his drive and competitiveness and those were intensified with to his decision to play for a much smaller school for his father at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The size, skill set and potential are there, but Baldwin may need a little longer to adapt to the NBA game, which drops him just out of the lottery.
16. Memphis Grizzlies: Nikola Jovic, PF, Serbia, Fr.
Jovic has been in the international spotlight for years now, and he is finally eligible for the NBA Draft this season. Jovic plays as a 6’10 point forward, and he is more crafty than quick, but still effective with the ball in his hands. He turned 18 in June, giving him plenty of time to refine his skills and possibly play an additional year or two overseas. I believe Jovic can easily make the immediate jump to the NBA with his good ball-handling and jump shooting at 6’10 as a team will likely give him a chance in the late lottery or just outside like his is projected here.
17. Philadelphia 76ers: Ousmane Dieng, PG/SG, France
We project a small run on international prospects here with Dieng following right behind Jovic. Dieng is a similar player standing at 6’9 with combo-guard skills, but he is quicker and more athletic than Jovic with less craft than Jovic. He attacks with his long strides and great body control, while also keeping his eyes up looking to find the best shot offensively. He is not afraid to shoot from the outside, but still must improve from beyond the arc in order to entice teams in the mid-first round area.
18. Chicago Bulls (via POR): Kendall Brown, SF, Baylor Fr.
Brown is climbing up our draft board because of his hot start to the season. We will learn a lot more about him at the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament this week, but for now he is the second-leading scorer for the Bears and is shooting 69% from the field and 3-4 from distance. He is a lengthy, athletic wing who is showing that he has plenty to offer as a freshman. He is also an active defender averaging 2 steals per game. Brown is a freak athlete who has been better than advertised as a scorer. if he can continue to show the ability to put points on the board, he can maintain or even enhance his draft position.
19. New York Knicks: Kennedy Chandler, PG, Tennessee Fr.
Chandler is a solid playmaker with a terrific jump shot and poise running the offense. He is already shooting an elite 8-12 from the perimeter, but his 2:1 AST/TO is more impressive to me. He has already played against elite competition and the fact that he is taking care of the ball that well while still creating chances for others, at only 19, speaks volumes to his true skill and effectiveness as a playmaker.
20. Oklahoma City Thunder (via LAC): Keegan Murray, SF/PF, Iowa So.
Murray’s development of a three-point jumper has proved pivotal for his draft stock. After Luka Garza left, a massive hole was created in Iowa’s offense. Murray has filled it in spectacular fashion. He is averaging 26 points in 24 minutes per game and shooting with 62/40/89 splits through five games this season. The only remaining obstacle is proving he can be as efficient and productive against legitimate competition. If he can continue this efficiency and productivity, there is reason to believe he will be a first rounder this summer.
21. Milwaukee Bucks: Ochai Agbaji, SG/SF, Kansas Sr.
Agbaji has been lurking in the shadows behind Kansas star guards for years, but he is finally embracing the superstar role for the Bill Self and the Jayhawks. He has an elite jump shot combined with physicality on the defensive end, but where he has improved the most is with his slashing ability. He is no longer afraid to put the ball on the ground and attack the rim, turning him into a well-rounded experienced prospect who could take on a Chris Duarte role as an immediate starter and impact player.
22. Dallas Mavericks: Trayce Jackson-Davis, PF/C, Indiana, Jr.
The sweet shooting Indiana lefty is a lengthy, athletic forward who has filled out and is having another impactful season in Bloomington. The junior jumped from 1.4 blocks per game to 3.6 so far this season and this rim protection could be showing teams that he can play the 5 at the next level to mitigate his lack of shooting range. His improvement is apparent, thus far as he climbs into the first round of our mock.
23. New York Knicks (via CHA): Caleb Houstan, SF/SG, Michigan Fr.
Another player who falls into that developmental category is Caleb Houstan. He is struggling mightily from beyond the arc shooting 6-26 and he is shooting only 31% from the entire field. His struggles in adjusting to the collegiate game causes a steep drop in our mock draft, but his upside is too great to drop him out of the first round entirely. Houstan should climb back up draft boards if he can improve his ability to hunt quality shots.
24. Washington Wizards: Dyson Daniels, PG/SG, G-League Ignite Fr.
Teams looking for more of a high upside, developmental player will prefer looking at Daniels over a player like Murray or Agbaji who will turn 22 before the next NBA season starts. Daniels will only be 19 and his athleticism and playmaking ability are enticing qualities in a modern combo-guard. He has the versatility and length to play both of these positions and has the potential to find a role for an NBA team with some refining of his skills and time to adjust to the NBA game.
25. Chicago Bulls: JD Davison, PG/SG, Alabama, Fr.
Inconsistency with a jump shot is also causing another elite freshman prospect to slip down in the first round. Davison possesses tremendous athletic ability that jumps off the screen, but his inability to knock down shots in the early part of the season is causing a dip in his draft stock. The Tide are a deep roster and Davison risks falling out of the rotation if he doesn’t start making shots soon. However, Davison’s athleticism and upside cannot be ignored as he is best equipped to make a huge leap into the lottery out of anyone outside of it right now.
26. Houston Rockets (via MIA): Julian Strawther, SF, Gonzaga So.
Strawther is already taking huge steps for the Zags with Jalen Suggs, Joel Ayayi, and Corey Kispert leaving this summer. The true sophomore is stepping up in a major way shooting 48% from the perimeter and averaging 14 points per game after being a non-factor in Spokane a season ago. The 19-year-old rebounds well and gets into moods when he can score at will. With his great frame as a physical, 6’7 wing, Strawther is working his way into the first-round discussion.
27. Memphis Grizzlies (via UTAH): Trevor Keels, PG/SG, Duke Fr.
A physical specimen who plays more with strength than skill, right now, worked his way into the first-round discussion after an incredible debut in Madison Square Garden. Keels isn’t the quickest or the craftiest guard you’ll see, but he gets where he needs to go with great determination and strength. He has a solid NBA floor and should find a role at the next level. Given his young age, and the progression of OKC Thunder defensive dynamo Luguentz Dort, he could still develop in other areas and enjoy a long professional career, providing solid upside in the late first round.
28. Miami Heat (via BKN): Carlos Alocen, PG, Spain, 2000
Alocen is a crafty point guard who runs an offensive efficiently and safely. He could be a valuable backup point guard at the next level and provide great playmaking with decent size at 6’5. He does not provide much of a scoring or shooting threat, but his ball-handling, poise and passing accuracy are valuable traits for a role player in the NBA.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder (via PHX): Taevion Kinsey, SG, Marshall Sr.
The Marshall product is an experienced three-level scorer who chose to stay for his final season despite getting some looks and entering his name into the NBA draft pool last season. Kinsey possesses good size and length for a guard and has improved as a playmaker every year for the Thundering Herd. His numbers are down so far this season, but a player this talented will find his groove eventually and live up to this first-round projection.
30. Golden State Warriors: Andre Jackson, SF, UConn So.
Jackson still has a ways to go as an offensive threat and seems to have been slotted as a role player at Connecticut with a number of scorers on the team, and he will likely have quite a few single digit scoring games this year. But he’s a very intriguing prospect due to his athleticism, defensive ability and willingness to help the team win with his unselfish play. He shows solid ability to pass and handle and is an elite level athlete capable of highlight reel finishes at any point.