NBA Mock Draft 1.0: Lonzo Falls, Pacers Make Splash

NBA Mock Draft 1.0: Lonzo Falls
Oregon big man Jordan Bell fills a critical need for the Pacers. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

1.  Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn)-Markelle Fultz, G, Washington

While trading this pick for Paul George or Jimmy Butler would be atypical of the Brad Stevens-era Celtics, don’t be shocked if they trade down, as they attempted to do last year. They have a dire need for frontcourt help; no team that starts Amir Johnson at power forward is getting out of the Eastern Conference finals.

If they do keep the pick, it’s going to be Fultz. He’s a consistent, versatile scorer who can function as the second unit facilitator Marcus Smart often struggles to be; moved off the ball, Smart can focus on locking down the opponent’s top scorer while drawing better looks on offense due to the increased attention on Fultz.

A tall point guard with uncanny passing instincts, Fultz is the definitive top prospect in this Draft. A little refining on defense and he’s going to be one of the league’s top 10 players for a long time to come.

2.  Los Angeles Lakers-Josh Jackson, SG/SF, Kansas

If the Lakers plan to add Paul George, then it doesn’t make sense to have him and Brandon Ingram on the court at the same time; Ingram, with his primarily scoring-oriented skill set, is a very similar player to George, albeit further away from his full potential.

Jackson, meanwhile, would be far more complementary. He’s not the most consistent scorer, but he does absolutely everything else. Great rebounder, willing passer, and takes his defense very seriously-basically the wing equivalent of Draymond Green.

Jackson’s involvement in the assault allegations surrounding Kansas guard Lagerald Vick remains troubling, however, and the notoriously publicity-hungry Lakers will need to keep a close eye on him off the court.

3. Philadelphia 76ers (from Sacramento)-Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA

The Process is still in full effect in Philly, and it’s not likely they’d particularly care about Lavar Ball. Everything that can be said about how the Sixers conduct their business has been said, and it hasn’t phased ownership yet.

From a basketball standpoint, Lonzo does make a lot of sense in Philly. The Sixers’ late-season turnaround coincided with the decision to switch their starter at point guard from ball-dominant Sergio Rodriguez to pure point TJ McConnell.

Ball plays the game the same way as McConnell, but is a far superior athlete, has a frame (6’6″, 190) that will make him a matchup nightmare for opposing guards, and shoots consistently enough that he’ll still fit in the lineup if Ben Simmons spends a lot of time playing as a “point forward.”

4. Phoenix Suns-Jayson Tatum, SG/SF, Duke

Assuming the Suns don’t conduct another fire sale, they’re actually much closer than you’d think to building a perennial playoff team. They just need a couple of talented forwards alongside Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, and Alex Len and they’ve got themselves a young, high-octane starting five.

Tatum needs work on his long-range shooting but is as deadly as they come inside the arc. Always looking to make plays on both ends, Tatum’s blend of volume rebounding and isolation scoring make him a lethal weapon in transition. Phoenix’s shooters will benefit immensely from having Tatum to draw in zone defenders.

5. Sacramento Kings (from Philadelphia)-DeAaron Fox, PG, Kentucky

After spending the last few years building up the league’s biggest collection of centers, it’s time for the Kings to rectify their trade of Isaiah Thomas. Fox plays the point in much the same way Thomas does; he’s even left handed, and also struggles to consistently hit threes. The difference is that Fox is taller (6’4″) and likely faster.

No joke-Fox is one of the fastest basketball players I’ve seen in a long time. His ability to sprint past defenders makes him look more like an NFL kick returner than an NBA point guard. He will force opponents to struggle to keep up with him in much the same way Allen Iverson once did.

The Kings have made some shaky draft choices over the years, but even they can’t mess this one up.

6. Orlando Magic-Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky

With the increasing unlikeliness that Mario Hezonja is going to fulfill his potential as a top-five draft pick, Orlando needs to look elsewhere for a sixth man they can rely on. Monk is a pure scorer at this stage in his development, but his range is limitless and his consistency as a shooter, especially from deep, is uncanny in such a young player.

Monk is essentially Jamal Crawford, but with the potential to become something more if he refines his passing and defense. Playing under Frank Vogel can teach him to be better in both of those areas, as any Pacer fan who remembers 2013-era Lance Stephenson knows.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves-Johnathan Isaac, SF/PF, Florida St.

Much like Phoenix, the Wolves are far closer to competing in the West than their record would indicate. If Ricky Rubio has finally figured it out, then Minnesota already has one of the league’s most gifted starting lineups that is, as long as Zack LaVine stays healthy.

Kris Dunn and Shabazz Muhammad form the basis of a good second unit defensively, but the Wolves’ bench lacks scoring punch. Isaac is a 7-footer who is equally comfortable taking opponents off the dribble or taking contested jumpers. His skill set would give Minnesota the luxury of running the same sets even when Karl-Anthony Towns takes a rest.

8. New York Knicks-Dennis Smith, Jr., PG, NC State

Whether Phil Jackson sticks around long term or the Knicks decide to ditch him and rebuild, a serious injection of mature, unselfish leadership is needed to save this franchise. Fortunately for New York, they can get some of that and pick up one of the most well-rounded prospects available by drafting Smith.

Only a moderately hyped recruit coming into NC State, Smith exploded onto the national scene with a 32-point performance against Duke in January. Despite losing their head coach midway through the season, Smith kept the otherwise middling Wolfpack focused on basketball, managing to salvage 15 wins in a brutally tough ACC.

Equally comfortable scoring and passing, Smith has great instincts and knows exactly what’s needed from him in any game situation.

9. Dallas Mavericks-Lauri Markkanen, PF/C, Arizona

The emergence of Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry as a reliable starting backcourt has been a revelation for Dallas, and the emergence of a transition-friendly post presence could turn their rebuild into a very quick one.

The comparisons between Markkanen and Dirk Nowitzki will be inevitable, and from a shooting standpoint, they aren’t inaccurate. The key difference is that while Markkanen is still developing his inside game as a rebounder and defender, he’s very willing to go to the block and try to make things happen.

He can refine these skills under Rick Carlisle, and with Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews flanking him, the Mavs should be able to run-and-gun just about anybody off the floor.

10. Sacramento Kings (from New Orleans)-Luke Kennard, SG/SF, Duke

If the Kings do end up taking Fox, they’d be wise to complement him with a reliable three point shooter who can take advantage of drive-and-dish looks. The Kings do have Buddy Hield, but he could use some help while he continues to adjust to being the rare rookie who gets dealt mid-season.

Shooting is basically Kennard’s only consistent skill right now, but he’s good at it; though he will still need work on creating his own shots. He is willing to rebound and defend but is inconsistent at both. Still, the potential for a good 3-and-D wing is there.

11. Charlotte Hornets-John Collins, PF/C, Wake Forest

Tempting though it is to put Justin Jackson here (since he fills a key need and would give Michael Jordan another UNC alum to try and build around), the Hornets must address the frontcourt to return to postseason form. Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams are offensively gifted, but the closest thing they have to a consistent rebounder and interior defender is Frank Kaminsky, and he’s still working on the whole “consistent” thing.

Those two areas are nearly the only things Collins can do at this point, but he’s well above average at both. Only he and Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan averaged double-doubles last year amongst highly-regarded prospects. Collins provides a better fit because his physique is slightly lighter and thus more pro-ready, and it doesn’t hurt that he played his college ball only 79 miles away from Charlotte.

12. Detroit Pistons-OG Anunoby, SG/SF/PF, Indiana

Much as this pains me to do as a dyed-in-the-wool Hoosier fan, this pick just makes too much sense not to happen. The Pistons play in the same division as Paul George, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokunmpo, and Jimmy Butler, but lack a capable defender who can isolate them and keep them from taking the game over.

OG is that and then some. While he has a long way to go offensively to live up to the Kawhi Leonard comparisons he used to draw, his aggressive rebounding and rare quickness (physically and mentally) on a 6’8″ frame with a 7’3″ wingspan give him the ability to defend all 5 positions equally well.

Scoring and passing can be taught, but OG is a rare prospect who can make the All-NBA Defensive Team from the get-go.

13. Denver Nuggets-Frank Ntilikina, PG, France

Despite a very talented roster, Denver came just short of the playoffs last year. This can largely be traced to the fact that they have quite a lot of shooters, but nobody who’s really willing or able to initiate the offense.

Ntilikina is a completely unselfish passer, and at 6’5″, he can create looks even under pressure. The good news is that his play style is exactly the opposite of Emmanuel Mudiay-no rushed shots, more accurate passes. The downside is that he’s so unselfish that he’s a lot like Ricky Rubio in his early years, so he’ll need work on building up the confidence needed to take shots when no open looks are available.

14. Miami Heat-Zach Collins, PF/C, Gonzaga

The official announcement that Chris Bosh won’t get medical clearance to resume his career leaves a massive hole at power forward on what is otherwise a surprisingly competitive Miami roster. The good news is that Collins, the first 5-star recruit in Gonzaga history, is cut from a very similar mold to Bosh.

The upside there means that Collins can develop into a reliable double-double machine with just enough of a mid-range game to prevent double teams on Hassan Whiteside. It also means that, when both Whiteside and Collins are on the floor, Miami becomes one of the league’s fiercest shot-blocking squads.

Collins would be a top 5 pick, maybe #1 overall, if he played with more confidence and aggressiveness. He needs to learn to not be afraid to go down low and battle with stronger bigs, something that hampered Gonzaga in their National Championship battle with North Carolina.

15. Portland Trail Blazers-Justin Jackson, SG/SF, UNC

The fact that this team has been able to achieve success in recent years despite starting the like of Al-Farouq Aminu and Mo Harkless on the wing is a testament to how good Portland’s starting backcourt is. They’ve got to get serious about building around Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to keep them around long-term.

A 3-year starter at UNC, Jackson is one of the few players in this Draft who brings upperclassman status and a National Championship ring with him. He’s good at just about everything–most notably, at scoring inside the arc and creating his own shot–but not particularly above average in any particular area. He’s a leader and very coachable, though, and teams won’t be able to get away with simply allowing Lillard and McCollum to take all the shots in the world anymore.

16. Chicago Bulls-Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville

The Bulls had Boston on the ropes in the Eastern Conference playoffs, right up until Rajon Rondo got hurt. Then they had no one to defend Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart, and they were summarily drummed out of the postseason.

With a 7-foot wingspan and excellent vision and instincts, Mitchell is a premier backcourt defender. He projects as a combo guard offensively, though he needs to become a more willing passer and get pickier with his shot selection to become a consistent starter in the pros.

17. Milwaukee Bucks-Harry Giles, SF/PF/C, Duke

Conventional lineups and draft wisdom mean nothing to the Bucks with Jason Kidd running the show, and it’s hard to argue with the results thus far. The closest anyone can really come to accurately predicting their pick is to aim for a versatile, highly athletic player with a high ceiling.

It’s near impossible to gauge where Giles is at in his development as a player, given the rarity of double knee surgeries amongst 19 year-olds. Before he got hurt, Giles was far and away the top recruit in his class, but his injuries have limited his minutes so dramatically over the last two years that his skill-set is difficult to project on anything but a per-36 minute basis.

Thankfully, Giles currently only carries around about 225 pounds, which should make his full recovery that much more likely. He can give Milwaukee a more scoring-capable version of John Henson, but he’s going to need patience and plenty of refining to get back to his elite status.

18. Indiana Pacers-Jordan Bell, PF, Oregon

Paul George is still a Pacer, and unless/until he gets dealt, the team’s strategy is going to be finding a way to contend in the East. Luckily, Indy can go a long way towards convincing George to stay by addressing three clear needs: more (consistent) shooters, a backup point guard, and a true stretch four that can free Myles Turner to roam the perimeter on offense.

An outstanding athlete with premier rebounding instincts, Bell is ideally built (6’9″, 235) for a modern power forward. He comes from a college team that very much embodies the up-tempo principles the Pacers want to play with, and while his jumper and passing from the post are average at best, they are improving.

With Bell in the second unit, the Pacers wouldn’t have to rely on the offensively-limited Lavoy Allen to complement Kevin Seraphin anymore.

19. Atlanta Hawks-Terrence Ferguson, SG/SF, Adelaide 36ers (via USA)

Hawks head coach and former Spurs disciple Mike Budenholzer seems to share Gregg Popovich’s aversion to the three pointer, since Tim Hardaway, Jr. is the only player left on the roster who can hit it consistently. Having Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince as your starting wings is great for your defensive profile but leaves a significant scoring vacuum.

Ferguson went the international route rather than play in college this past year, and it doesn’t seem to have done him much good. On the one hand, he’s a very consistent shooter who can create his own looks. It also speaks volumes for his maturity that when he starts to go streaky, he’d rather pass than chuck up endless bricks, JR Smith-style.

Sadly, he needs to work on his actual skill as a passer, as his A/T ratio is far from ideal. He also lacks a willingness to compete for rebounds or play aggressive defense. He’s still very young and raw when it comes to everything but shooting.

20. Portland Trail Blazers (From Memphis via Denver and Cleveland)-TJ Leaf, PF, UCLA

The Blazers continue to address their shaky frontcourt depth with a stretch four that won’t have to hover around the basket like Jusuf Nurkic and Ed Davis did all of last season. Leaf isn’t the most aggressive rebounder or defender, but on this roster, he won’t have to be.

Where Leaf will thrive with Portland is his range and rare skill putting the ball on the floor. He still needs to learn to follow through contact, but having a bevy of shooters around him would increase his percentage of isolation matchups.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder-Tyler Lydon, SF/PF, Syracuse

Severely lacking in any wing depth outside of Andre Roberson, the Thunder need to find someone who can at least try to fill the gap left by Kevin Durant’s departure. Lydon, who plays like a wing despite standing at 6’10”, would step in and start at the three right away in OKC.

A pure slasher who can rebound but needs work as a shooter, Lydon does know how to use his length at both ends and gives the Thunder a perimeter presence that will do more than just play defense, like Roberson. Most importantly, like most Syracuse alums, Lydon plays with that perpetual chip on his shoulder that should fit in quite well alongside the likes of Russell Westbrook and Enes Kanter.

22. Brooklyn Nets (from Washington)-Justin Patton, C, Creighton

You could slot any player left in this Draft to the Nets and he’d fit somehow; that’s how barren this roster has become. The closest thing the Nets have to a clear priority for their rebuild is to find Brook Lopez’s eventual replacement at center.

Though his mid-range game is still evolving, Patton can run the floor and drive like a wing in a way that most other 7-footers can’t defend. Also, he’s a great rebounder but prefers to sit and wait for a rebound opportunity rather than force a missed shot.

With a number of centers still left on the board, what separates Patton is his ability to impact the game around the basket while keeping up in transition.

23. Toronto Raptors (from LA Clippers via Milwaukee)-Semi Ojeleye, SF/PF, SMU

If Toronto manages to keep Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka around, their priority will be finding a more scoring-oriented small forward to balance out DeMarre Carroll-ideally, one without Carroll’s long injury history.

Ojeleye doesn’t focus much, if at all, on rebounding or defense, but he can score the ball in any way you can imagine, and isn’t afraid of any matchup. He’s a more consistent long-range option than Demar DeRozan, and at 235 pounds, smaller squads will struggle to defend a frontcourt of Ojeleye, Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas.

24. Utah Jazz-Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA

The Jazz are in the enviable position of being able to go two-deep almost everywhere on the roster, except their frontcourt. And if they have to let Rudy Gobert walk in free agency for the sake of re-signing Gordon Hayward, Utah will need another defensive anchor down low.

Anigbogu is a very raw prospect who didn’t see a ton of minutes on a deep UCLA squad. While the potential to contribute as a rebounder and interior defender right away is definitely there, he hasn’t gotten enough experience to develop the other facets of his game just yet. He’s athletic enough to keep up with the modern NBA but isn’t on par with similar players in this draft class as far as lateral quickness is concerned.

Anigbogu is clearly another case of drafting on potential over proof, but organizations as well-run as the Jazz can afford to take chances on such players.

25. Orlando Magic (from Toronto)-Rodions Kurucs, SF, Latvia

A second-unit point guard to relieve Elfrid Payton is a clear need, but the Magic can afford to wait until the second round to grab one. The arrival of Malik Monk would send a clear message to Mario Hezonja to step his game up, but the Magic would do well to have a plan B ready to go just in case.

An excellent shooter and decent passer, Kurucs carries an almost frail 190 pounds on his 6’9″ frame. Orlando can leave him overseas to continue his physical development while they get their front office sorted out, then let the new GM make the call on when to bring him over.

26. Portland Trail Blazers (from Cleveland)-Jarrett Allen, PF/C, Texas

Having covered their biggest needs with their first two picks, Portland has the luxury of drafting a project player who doesn’t have to contribute right away. Festus Ezeli, Noah Vonleh, and Meyers Leonard are basically sitting around taking up cap space at this point, and with Evan Turner’s $72 million weighing the team down, finding a cheap but effective replacement would go a long way.

Allen, like his friend and fellow Longhorn Myles Turner, is the rare center with three point range and a strong isolation game. Allen doesn’t possess Turner’s consistency from deep at this point, however, and hasn’t quite figured out how to use his length to compensate for his lack of strength just yet.

He’s got all the physical tools you could want, and that’s what you can’t coach.

27. Brooklyn Nets (from Boston)-Frank Jackson, PG/SG, Duke

Brooklyn will have a starting point guard once Jeremy Lin is healthy again, but there’s a startling lack of options behind him. There’s no commanding presence to lead their second unit.

Jackson is more of a scoring point than a passing point, but he’s comfortable with the ball in his hands and capable of dropping points in bunches. At 6’4″ and 210 pounds, he can bull rush past point guards and pull up and shoot against bigger defenders.

He’ll need to be a little more unselfish to be anything more than just a reserve, and his defensive contributions remain to be seen, but for Brooklyn, he can be a double-figure scorer from day one. As similar as he is to Marcus Smart, the Nets would be wise to consider moving Jackson off the ball.

28. Los Angeles Lakers (from Houston)-Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky

Julius Randle and Larry Nance are an enviable pair of power forwards, but neither give the Lakers a consistent interior presence. If Magic Johnson wants to get the Lakers back to the way things were under Dr. Jerry Buss’s ownership, restarting the Laker tradition of a dominant center is an absolute must.

Adebayo is a pro-ready rebounder and shot-blocker with more speed and agility than 250-pound true centers usually have and a great array of post moves. In a situation with enough minutes, he’d be putting up double-doubles right away.

Unfortunately, he has two crippling flaws; he has no jump shot and is incredibly undeveloped as a passer. He risks becoming a black hole and a foul magnet on offense without some serious work.

29. San Antonio Spurs-Isaiah Hartenstein, PF/C, Germany

After getting swept by Golden State in the Western Conference Finals, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich conceded that despite his objection to the existence of the three pointer, he needed to go out and get more guys who could shoot it. Here, he can grab a guy who excels in that area and fills a position of need.

Hartenstein seems like the sort of prospect almost tailor-made for the Spurs’ system-a cerebral, coachable foreign player who goes hard from start to finish. He has great range and chases down all his missed shots, but isn’t a ball hog. The trouble is that he’s still only 18, and hasn’t developed his instincts or learned how to take the right angles on defense or in the paint. Can’t think of a better teacher than Pop, though.

With Dewayne Dedmon opting for free agency, and Pau Gasol playing on borrowed time, the Spurs need to revamp their frontcourt ASAP, preferably with someone who can eventually go shot-for-shot with KD.

30. Utah Jazz (from Golden State)-DJ Wilson, PF, Michigan

Continuing to revamp the frontcourt, Utah would also benefit immensely from a stretch four that will be ready to go when Derrick Favors gets hurt again. I’ll give Wilson the edge here over Caleb Swanigan.

While Swanigan is the superior rebounder, Wilson is about fifteen pounds lighter, so there will be fewer concerns about his need to double down on NBA-level conditioning programs. Wilson plays very similarly to Jordan Bell, but whereas Bell is a better athlete with a higher ceiling, Wilson has pro-ready polish on key aspects of his game, most notably as a passer and on-ball defender.


About Derek Hutton 96 Articles
I’m Derek Hutton, proud Indiana sports fan. Born in Indianapolis and raised in New Albany, IN, I’ve wanted to be in sports media since I used to read the sports page while watching ESPN as a six-year old. I’m dedicated to keeping you up to date on all your teams in both Indiana and Kentucky. Also, as a former play-by-play broadcaster, I’m excited to take my skills into the digital age as the cohost of Blue HQ Media Live.