Welcome to the first mock draft here on Bright Side! First I want to express that these picks are not predictions of what I think is going to happen and that they are just my own opinion. I hope everyone has as much fun reading as I did going through this crazy scenario. We get started with the team that can't stop winning the lottery.
#1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
The Cavs have a $9.8 million team option for a 32-year-old Anderson Varejao next year who struggles to play more than 70 games in a season. If this were the selection, the Cavs would start Embiid/Thompson/Bennett/Waiters/Irving with Jack/Zeller/Sergey off the bench AND have $36 million in expiring contracts (if Varejao goes). Yes. That's right. Thirty. Six. Million. Not bad for a team selecting first overall. If Embiid is the pick and the Cavs make the playoffs, you-know-who will start to pay some attention... Anyway, Embiid is healthy and is the most unique prospect in the draft given his skill set and position. The fit helps this decision.
#2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
There's a weird debate going on as to whether or not it's Jabari or Wiggins who wouldn't be able to play well with Giannis. I think it's Jabari who can play well with him, as Wiggins and Giannis both still struggle in ballhandling, and you've got Giannis and Larry Sanders who can back up Jabari defensively. Jabari is the elite scorer they need, sees the floor well, and is a great passer. He's not the better prospect than Wiggins in my opinion, but it's a much better fit for the Bucks and Jabari.
#3. Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Wiggins, SG, Kansas
The Sixers have wanted Wiggins for so long and they somehow get him even if they slipped one spot on lottery night. Playing with a real point guard is going to help him not have the ball all the time, and bringing in him and Noel fresh next season is going to give them two true defenders. Wiggins needs time, and a team that plays the fastest pace in the league and is rebuilding is the perfect spot for him.
#4. Orlando Magic: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
I've had the Magic getting Smart since October and I'm not going to change it (sassy). Smart is the general that the Magic need, and although the long and athletic backcourt duo of Victor Oladipo and Dante Exum sounds enticing, the Magic need a leader. They have a great group of young talent after this draft, and now it's time to come through and win. Smart is the guy you take for that, not Exum.
#5. Utah Jazz: Aaron Gordon, SF, Arizona
The Jazz really want Jabari Parker. I don't see him getting past the Bucks, so the Jazz would have to give up a lot to move up. Like I've been heralding for months, the Jazz have Kanter, Favors, Hayward (presumably), and Burke all in the starting lineup for now and the future. Alec Burks is just fine as the perfect compliment off the bench, now they just need a small forward. Gordon is that man, and with two guards like Hayward and Burke who need the ball and two bigs who want post touches, Gordon is the perfect fit. He's the best defender in the draft, and is going to need a while to figure out his offensive game. Luckily for him, the Jazz can afford to wait.
#6. Boston Celtics: Noah Vonleh, PF/C, Indiana
This all depends on if you think the Celtics are keeping Rondo. If they aren't, the pick is Exum. For now, it's been quiet, so I go Vonleh here. Handing Brad Stevens a developmental player like Vonleh is great, and the Chris Bosh comparisons are very real. I'm not sure where the Celtics roster can go, but a player like Vonleh is a start.
#7. Los Angeles Lakers: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Sigh. The Lakers get their man after all. There's really no way for the Lakers to screw this pick up, as they are void of just about any young talent. The Lakers have been obsessed with Exum, and he's one of four guys in the draft that has star appeal. I could see his career go just about anywhere, and the Lakers love that.
#8. Sacramento Kings: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
The tiers in my opinion are Embiid, Parker/Wiggins, and this group of 5. It's the biggest drop of the draft in my opinion. This is important to note because this makes the Kings and Lakers very likely to have people wanting to trade up. Moving on, despite all the money being paid to Carl Landry and Jason Thompson, the Kings still don't have a fit alongside DeMarcus Cousins. That would be Randle, as him and Cousins would end hopes and dreams on the glass. I rank him above both Gordon and Vonleh, but the way the board plays out has him slip here. It's great value for Sacramento. If the Kings do not want to pay Isaiah Thomas, Elfrid Payton is in play here.
#9. Charlotte Hornets (via Pistons): Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
I love me some Nik Stauskas. Gerald Henderson was an atrocity against the Heat and the Hornets need more shooters. Stauskas fills both needs, and I think him and Kemba would compliment each other perfectly in the backcourt. Some have McDermott here, but that just isn't a good roster fit with MKG, McBob, and Zeller already. Their five would be Kemba/Stauskas/MKG/McBob/Al. Sign me up. BACK THE BUZZ.
#10. Philadelphia 76ers (via Pelicans): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
This is a tough spot. Stauskas is the failsafe for the Sixers if Vonleh/Randle/Gordon are gone, and even he's not here. I go between McDermott, LaVine, Saric, and Harris here. Let's just go with Harris. He's the most complete shooting guard in the draft, and would form a nightmare defensive unit with MCW, Wiggins, and Noel. Once again with Wiggins, you want playmakers around him, and Harris has some point guard genes in him. If Harris can shoot the ball consistently from 3 (I think he can), this is a steal.
#11. Denver Nuggets: Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
The only position the Nuggets aren't locked into financially is shooting guard, but still, Randy Foye had a career year. They also have Evan Fournier still developing here, but if they think they are missing their window with Ty Lawson, LaVine is intriguing. He will take a loooong time to develop. The athleticism is there, top two or three in the draft. He's got a long way to go, but he has one of the highest potentials in the draft. For a team with a bunch of guys committed long term in their mid to late 20's, it's a good pick.
#12. Orlando Magic (via Knicks): Dario Saric, PF, Croatia
The Magic are the one team that keep getting linked to Saric, and the 3 and 4 position are not looking as solid as they did at the start of last season. Tobias Harris fell off a cliff double fisting cheeseburgers and Mo Harkless was shaky until the last 15 games of the season. Saric is a point forward in every aspect of the phrase, but you've got to wonder who he could set up on this team (lack of shooters). That makes McDermott a possibility here, but Saric is another playmaker like Smart and Oladipo that could make the Magic very intriguing.
#13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
McDermott is the best shooter in the draft, one of the best scorers, and the intangibles and little aspects of his game are still going under the radar despite a prolific national career. The Wolves need shooters despite being financially committed to just about all of their roster from last year. Doug can get them some buckets (hehe).
#14: Phoenix Suns: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana
"Sometimes you just take the best player available and move on." A sentence centered around that thought is heard nearly every draft. I am hesitant about James Young, Rodney Hood, and just about every other player graded around this range. Payton is going to be a very good basketball player and would be an excellent backup point guard for this team. He also gives the Suns insurance on Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe if they feel they really need that. It's not the kind of perfect fit you want from this pick, but it could be much worse.
#15. Atlanta Hawks: James Young, SF, Kentucky
The Hawks need some more shooters, and I think Young can do that in the NBA. He needs some time to focus on defense and some of his erratic play offensively, but I think he will pan out. His slashing is very underrated.
#16. Chicago Bulls (via Hornets): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Well then.... My favorite selection so far. The Bulls get fantastic Derrick Rose insurance here, and if Rose is all fine and dandy, they get a great backup point for a few years that they can deal when it's necessary. I think Ennis is going to be very very good. Ennis is a game manager in every sense and he is already there in terms of a passer and how fast he is with the ball in getting rid of it. He just evaluates the floor, picks a spot to penetrate, and just kicks it out as soon as the defense adjusts. He already has a good shot and if he doesn't kick on that penetration he usually finishes in the key. I can't count that many better situations to start his career than learning from Rose and Thibs.
#17. Boston Celtics (via Nets): PJ Hairston, SG, FORMERLY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AND NOW THE D-LEAGUE'S FINEST
The Celtics lost Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley is still their only solid deep shooter (NOT. GOOD.) so they grab one of the best shooters in the draft here. Hairston is an absolute man who is built to play in the NBA right away and he could mold into a super sixth man off the bench VERY quickly. Stevens will know what to do with him.
#18. Phoenix Suns (via Wizards): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
My hesitations on Payne are that the power forward position is currently filled with two good basketball players right now. However, Channing Frye will be 32 after his contract is up next year (assuming he accepts his player option). If Payne is the kind of player we hope he is this could possibly leave Markieff Morris on the bench in 2015 which might be a better role for Keef anyway. I look forward to you disagreeing with me on just about all of those points.
#19. Chicago Bulls: Rodney Hood, SG, Duke
The Bulls need shooters, and that's the thing that Hood does. He's a 6'9 shooting guard who can really shoot and is above average at getting to the rim as a slasher and crafty lefty. I don't see much in the guy despite those two things. He's a horrible defender, and does not rebound at all despite that monster height for the position. He has a lot he needs to improve on, but the Bulls need another shooter, and Hood can do that.
#20. Toronto Raptors: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
The Raptors are probably losing Patrick Patterson to free agency, and even if they aren't, Early is still a good pick. This is the team that played John Salmons and Landry Fields off the bench last season. Early is a tough and physical player inside, who can score there as well as from three. His very good athleticism and motor make me think he can be a pretty good defender in the future too. Good fit.
#21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas): CJ Wilcox, SG, Washington
This is high for Wilcox, but the Thunder can't take another guy in the draft who can't shoot. Surround KD and Russ with shooters at all costs. Wilcox is Ray Allen 2.0 if you took away a bit of Ray's offense and replaced it with better defense. Yeah. I said it.
#22. Memphis Grizzlies: KJ McDaniels, SF, Clemson
What McDaniels does on the floor is what the Grizzlies love from their forwards, and getting Quincy Pondexter back next year will negate that one shooter they had missing this postseason. McDaniels and Jamal Franklin will continue to develop in practice while the Grizz take a couple more runs at it.
#23. Utah Jazz (via Warriors): TJ Warren, SF, North Carolina State
The Jazz need bench weapons as soon as possible, and I'd put money on Warren averaging 15 points a game at some point in his NBA career. Yes, they were bad defensively, but Warren is good value here. You need offense first and foremost, grab that man.
#24. Charlotte Hornets (via Blazers): Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
Holy moly please let this draft happen for the Hornets. Grant's athleticism has the potential to be a lockdown defender and a game-changer. His shot was inconsistent in college, but he is reportedly knocking it down in workouts. He plays hard and is a great weapon attacking the rim and in transition with that athleticism. Go small with Kemba, Stauskas, MKG, Grant, and McBob and you can pretty much have my children. BACK. THE. BUZZ.
#25. Houston Rockets: Kristapas Porzingis, PF, Greece
Something tells me the Rockets roster will be very different in the coming months, but they still don't need any more young players. Porzingis can develop and be ready when the Rockets need him or they can play him over Dontas Montiejunas, which is always a solid option as well.
#26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn
I'm not kidding, I think LeBron grabs his phone once we hit 20 and tells the Heat they better grab Shabazz here. It sounds ridiculous, but he tweeted about him a lot in how he's a real NBA prospect, and Mario Chalmers could be gone next year. That is a reference to both his contract being up and the chances of him surviving in Miami after how he played in the first three games of the NBA Finals. Napier, like Chalmers was, would be fascinating to watch with the big 3.
#27. Phoenix Suns (via Pacers): Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
Sigh. I wanted to take Kyle Anderson here, but Payton is now the guy who will run the show off the bench. Capela has an extremely long way to go as a basketball player, even for a developmental prospect. At 27 though for a team who only wants one or two rookies, it's a good fit.
#28. Los Angeles Clippers: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
You only grab Anderson if you think you can get the best out of him, and I think Doc Rivers has the right mindset and players around to get it out of Anderson. Darren Collison will get a big pay day somewhere else so Rivers could just hand the keys of the backup unit to Anderson and Jamal Crawford. How fun would that be? You can find my preview piece on him here. I think he's a steal at this point.
#29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
Yes, the Thunder grab another fading lottery talent here, but Robinson is different. The biggest revelation of the combine for me was that Robinson was nearly 6'9, much taller than the undersized 6'6 he was listed at. He has a unique package that includes his dad's force inside, but with more athleticism than strength and he is shooting the 3 at a great rate in workouts. I'm high on GR3 and think the Thunder come out of this draft looking great with Robinson and Wilcox off the bench.
#30. San Antonio Spurs: Mitch McGary, C, Michigan
Look, the year off distracted everyone from how much of a good basketball player McGary is. The Spurs always do this, and it would be so them to get McGary here. I don't want to call him the successor to Duncan, but there's no way you watch McGary play and not love the way he plays. He's the best passing big man in this draft and you may have noticed how good the Spurs are at ball movement, particularly in the key.
Two. Round. Hype.
#31. Milwaukee Bucks: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
As you can tell, I am very very very low on Nurkic. His conditioning and overall athleticism issues are extremely concerning, and for a "true big man" to not be able to rebound is another red flag. Sure, he's got a nice touch around the rim and he's big, but what else? Not a fan.
#32. Philadelphia 76ers: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
Stokes is a monster rebounder and overall presence in the key. He relies on his strength a lot to score on his post moves, so I'm not sure if that 100% translates. He's still one hell of a player though in terms of how he gets after it, and I think he has a future in the NBA. The Sixers need just about everything, so they get the best available guy left in my opinion.
#33. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Magic): Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA
I love Adams. He's the best pure steals guy in the draft (2.2 and 2.6 a game in his two years at UCLA), is a very underrated scorer, can shoot, and is really good at the rim despite being undersized. He still needs time to become a better overall defender besides the insane steals numbers, and his size hurts him. Still, I think he's a great pick at this range.
#34. Dallas Mavericks (via Celtics): Patric Young, C, Florida
Young has been a late first rounder projection for three years straight, and although he has improved in various aspects of the game, it's not the type of player we imagined for those three years. He's still an absolute hulk of a man, and knows his role on the floor and most importantly, how to use that huge body defensively and on the boards. He was hoping to make up for his 6'9 height offensively, but it just hasn't happened. Still, his workrate at that size for how well he rebounds and defends is enough to play in the NBA, and the Mavs only have Sam Dalembert on the roster for next year under centers.
#35. Utah Jazz: Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG, Missouri
Trey Burke needs a backup, and here he is. Clarkson impressed everyone through the combine and workouts, which has most giving him a first round grade. He's a combo guard who can score all over the place, and his shooting in those workouts has bumped him a little bit. At 6'5 some guys are a little loose with the ball, but Clarkson keeps a lid on it and can run the point still.
#36. Milwaukee Bucks: DeAndre Daniels, SF, Connecticut
Daniels is a strange prospect. He barely meets the height requirement for his position, but he only weighs 196 pounds. With that in mind, he's a great shotblocker with a lot of explosion and force inside. He's a great athlete who moves well and can shoot. I have no idea what his floor and ceiling are, but the Bucks need wings, and Daniels highly benefits from an early second round with only PGs ranked around here.
#37. Toronto Raptors (via Kings): Semaj Christon, PG, Xavier
Kyle Lowry and Grevis Vasquez are expiring next year, and it is safe to assume that both are not coming back. Christon is one hell of a talent, which had him as a possibly late first rounder this season. He's a long, athletic, fast point guard who has the ball on a string. Sometimes he does a little too much which forces turnovers, and he can't shoot still. I still love him as a talent though, and think he can really make an impact in basketball games.
#38. Detroit Pistons: Vasilije Micic, PG, Serbia
Micic is one of my favorite guys in the latter round. He's everything you would expect from an international point guard, and most importantly, is a consistent three-point shooter. This is what keeps other guys from coming to the Pistons at PG, so Micic lands here. He isn't a good athlete, so defending will be a big issue. But a pure point guard like Micic is something the Pistons desperately need, and if he gets his chance he could be big.
#39. Philadelphia 76ers (via Cavs): Spencer Dinwiddie, PG/SG, Colorado
The Sixers are in a lovely spot for the second round. They can take a guy like Stokes up there because the teams in between the two picks don't want the kind of point guard they want. Dinwiddie is one of my favorite guys in the entire draft. He is soooo looooong, and you add that to a guy who is already 6'6 at PG. He is in attack mode always, and has that complete package as a point guard when it comes to his handle, scoring, and the range on his jumpshot. It sometimes hurts him how aggressive he is though, as he gets rocked at the rim a lot and hasn't quite figured out how to finish or draw fouls consistently yet. You might think foreign here for the Sixers here with all the young talent already, but I think they want to stockpile all of it now and let them grow together. With MCW and Dinwiddie's length, they could possibly even play together. He's a steal in my opinion.
#40. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Pelicans): Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG, Serbia
The Wolves roster is too strange at this point for me to pick a guy to make it. Bogdanovic might take a year or two to come over, but he can shoot. The Wolves need that.
#41. Denver Nuggets: Artem Kilmenko, C, Russia
The Nuggets roster is very strange, so here is the 7'1 international center who is mobile and can hit a mid range jumper on top of the normal rebounding and shot blocking for a 7 footer.
#42. Houston Rockets (via Knicks): Joe Harris, SG, Virginia
Remember Troy Daniels? Harris can shoot like Daniels, and proved at Virginia that he can be a very good defender and scorer. His athleticism overall has him around here and the lack for much development, but the Rockets could use him.
#43. Atlanta Hawks: Isiah Austin, PF, Baylor
Austin's journey as an NBA prospect has been interesting to watch. He was a surefire top 10 pick coming out of high school, and now he could go undrafted. He's a 7 footer who can really shoot and block shots, but is extremely soft which makes him the first ever 7 footer tweener in history I believe. He's too soft right now to play center, so he's a 7'1 power forward? Someone will probably take a look.
#44. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nikola Jokic, PF, Serbia
The Wolves have almost everyone coming back from last year's roster, so they need to keep going international. Jokic is an extremely intriguing offensive prospect, who is a great passer inside and can shoot.
#45. Charlotte Hornets: Jahii Carson, PG, ASU
Oh my goodness this draft for the Hornets is giving me heart palpitations. Carson is soooo fast and such a good scorer and finisher despite his size. He needs a lot of tweaks to his game though, and backing up Kemba would be the start. If he can get his jumpshot to become consistent, he will be a steal.
#46. Washington Wizards: Thanasis Antetokounmpo, SF, THE D-LEAGUE'S FINEST
Just like his brother, Thansis is one hell of an athlete. He's got a long way to go, but like his brother, you see flashes that show you how good of a basketball player he could become.
#47. Philadelphia 76ers (via Nets): Deonte Burton, PG, Nevada
Burton is a great overall point guard who just runs the offense, finds guys in their spots, and scores when he needs to. Even at 6'1, he's got an NBA body right now. Good backup for MCW.
#48. Milwaukee Bucks (via Raptors): Dwight Powell, PF, Stanford
The Bucks. Again. Powell's one of my favorite guys around this range. He's a very very poor version of Blake Griffin's athleticism in terms of strength and agility for a power forward, who can handle the ball and shoot as well like a very very poor version of Blake.
#49. Chicago Bulls: Russ Smith, SG, Louisville
I have no idea where to put Russ. Rick Pitino tried to convince us that he was a point guard but I still don't buy it. He's a fantastic scorer who can shoot and the Bulls need offense. Why not?
#50. Phoenix Suns: Damien Inglis, SF, France
Inglis is very intriguing. He's an NBA athlete right now and is a very good defender. He's also a very good finisher at the rim and rebounder. He can't shoot, but he's got bulk and uses it well on both ends. If you could ever get him to shoot this is a robbery.
#51. Dallas Mavericks: Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona
The guard position is at a weird place for the Mavs right now, and Johnson is a good fit for a team still trying to make the playoffs. Johnson somehow never got a national reputation as a lockdown defender, as he continued to defend NBA first rounders that were bigger than him and he shut them down. He's got NBA range on his jumper, just needs to find his consistency. His athleticism is ridiculous, and he really figured out how to become a scorer all over the floor in his junior year. He is great value at this point.
#52. Philadelphia 76ers (via Grizzlies): Melvin Ejim, PF, Iowa State
OH YOU THOUGHT IT WAS OVER?!?! Well, Ejim is a great scorer who is a large large man for 6'6. The part that gets him into the NBA is his perimeter game, which is slowly getting there. If he can find an NBA role in less than 2 years he's a steal.
#53. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Warriors): Jordan McRae, SG, Tennessee
McRae has turned into a great scorer over the course of his career, and has turned that improvement all the way out to the three-point land. Like the Bucks and Sixers, I'm just out of ideas at this point for the Timberwolves.
#54. Philadelphia 76ers (via Rockets): Johnny O' Bryant, PF, LSU
NOTHING IS OVER! NOTHING! O' Bryant is everything you want out of a power forward. He's so strong in both his post play and rebounding that it will even be as good in the NBA. The problem is that he has had such an inconsistent career at LSU that includes conditioning problems. He's a player you take if you can develop him, and the Sixers could mold him into a beast.
#55. Miami Heat: CJ Fair, SF/PF, Syracuse
Fair's another guy that has been fun to see improve over his career. He's now a great scorer, and his athleticism and activity combination have always been there. A guy with that and coming from a dynamic defensive system already can do well in Miami. They need young wings baaaaad.
#56. Denver Nuggets (via Blazers): DeAndre Kane, PG, Iowa State
While the Nuggets hope and pray that LaVine works out, they can have Kane play in the spot they could use him in. He's a great power point guard who does everything you expect those guys to do.
#57. Indiana Pacers: Bryce Cotton, PG, Providence
If you put Providence all the way to the title instead of UConn, I believe Cotton and Napier flip spots in this draft. Cotton is one hell of a leader and scoring point guard, and the Pacers could use another guard so Donald Sloan doesn't play. If you are completely off the George Hill point guard train, I think they should try really hard to move up in that Ennis spot, or even to early second for Clarkson or Burton.
#58. San Antonio Spurs (via Clippers): Mike Moser, PF, Oregon
I love Moser. He rebounds so well, can stretch the floor, defend multiple positions, and is a great athlete for his size. His problem lies in his development, as he looks like he's just about done already. In terms of major changes, you might not see any in 2-3 years. But Moser can ball, and this is the kind of player the Spurs turn into a regular contributor.
#59. Toronto Raptors (via Thunder): Alessandro Gentile, SF, Italy
Gentile is a capable scorer who can really shoot. Worth a shot for the Raptors with those players I mentioned earlier.
#60. San Antonio Spurs: Lamar Patterson, SF, Pittsburgh
Patterson reminds me of Solomon Hill last year, but with way less potential. He's good at just about everything, but not great at one particular skill. These kinds of players though get overlooked for that balance, which is including rebounding, ballhandling, shooting, passing, defending, etc. The Spurs have been searching for this kind of guy for a while, and Patterson could be him.