It's draft season! The Suns are well on their way to a top five pick and it's time to look at the possibilities for June.
Disclaimer: These selections are based strictly on my opinion, which is going to evolve over time as we get closer to June. This current mock is based off the most recent standings and a lot of funky pick ownership situations (#TRUSTTHEPROCESS). Enjoy!
1. Philadelphia 76ers - Ben Simmons, SF/PF, LSU
This is a more difficult decision than you would assume. Brandon Ingram is a far more natural fit for the NBA than Simmons and the Sixers already selected Dario Saric - another point forward - in the lottery in 2014.
If you compare Simmons' overall game to Magic or LeBron you should also do me the favor of directing me to the nearest cliff to jump off. With that said, Simmons is still the No. 1 overall prospect -- pending a long run of great form from Ingram. Simmons certainly has the Magic/LeBron basketball DNA trait in the way he sees the floor and is a tremendous scorer in the key. He's a very good athlete, can score on the block against the right matchup and is a great rebounder.
The problem is Simmons struggles with his shot and defending. You can send me videos of Simmons shooting in practice or an empty gym, but until he starts to consistently score from outside of the key I am concerned. He is barely shooting jumpers and most are coming from a close midrange area. The defense should come with time and he has been improving this season. Still, the race at No. 1 is not going to be over until June.
2. Los Angeles Lakers - Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke
I'm not really loving the fit for any young player trying to get touches off of Jordan Clarkson, D'Angelo Russell, Nick Young or Lou Williams. Regardless, Ingram is going to fare much better in a role where he doesn't have to do most of the work.
His physical profile is much like Kevin Durant's was coming out of his one year and he releases the ball like him when he shoots from deep. He's a very intelligent perimeter player who sees the floor well enough to make defenses pay with passes if they try to over-help. His handle and overall scoring game really come together sometimes, but they are both still a work in progress. With that in mind, he's got tremendous upside and is shooting the ball well enough to contend with Simmons for No. 1.
3. Boston Celtics (via Nets) - Dragan Bender, PF/C, Croatia
Bender is fascinating. He's an amazing athlete for his size and the most unorthodox thing about it is that he uses it very well on defense laterally. The problem for Bender is that he's 7'1" and he would be far better off being more physical inside, but he's not. He can pass the ball and attack mismatches with that speed, but he's also got shooting questions and can't quite bang inside. I've never seen a prospect like him and have no idea what his ceiling is.
4. Phoenix Suns - Henry Ellenson, PF, Marquette
Ellenson is the definition of a skilled power forward. He's a silky shooter with a really quick release, has a great handle and the skill combined with the footwork on the low block. His athleticism and motor attached to his skillset get him this high on the draft board. He has a chance of being a very good offensive player, but defense is going to remain a concern for him in the long-term and he has to add more strength in order for his skills in the post to be the most effective.
Jaylen Brown and Ellenson are the two best options here, but it's obvious that this is a bad scenario for the Suns if they wind up without Simmons or Ingram.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves - Jaylen Brown, SF, Cal
I do not have a firm answer on whether or not Towns is locked in at center (Poeltl) or if Rubio and Lavine are locked in at point guard (Dunn and Murray) so with Wiggins' wing flexibility Brown gets the selection.
Brown is one of the best combinations of power and speed in the past decade. His power slashing game is incredibly more lethal because he's one of the fastest wings I've ever seen coming out of college. Trying to contest his shot is like bumping into a 6'6" swinging sledgehammer and he's getting much better at finishing. His jumper needs more consistency and he needs to get better at picking his spots. Brown is showing signs that he could become an average shooter or more and with his defensive potential, that's huge. He's one of my favorite prospects in this draft.
6. Denver Nuggets - Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma
Another team with center and point guard locked up so let's give them some Buddy. I think Hield is going to continue to move up draft boards with the level of uncertainty surrounding the top prospects. Hield is a tremendous overall scorer and shooter, possessing the pop necessary for that to translate to the NBA. He's becoming such a better all-around player that his role player potential is starting to blow through the roof. The Nuggets roster is so strange that a replacement for Randy Foye kind of makes sense here with the lack of PF's or SF's.
7. New Orleans Pelicans - Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah
This is my favorite pick in the mock draft. Poeltl has excellent fundamentals in every aspect of being a big man and I'd predict him to be the best defensive player in this draft. He just gets it, and has the body to defend the post, players attacking the basket and protect the rim. On offense he can shoot from the midrange, dribble and finish from the pick and roll and works his tail off. He needs to add more complex moves in the post, but him and Davis together requires all your fire emojis.
8. Milwaukee Bucks - Kris Dunn, PG, Providence
I love Kris Dunn more than you love anything. Dunn is a phenomenon in the open court, using incredible court vision, speed, agility and creativity when he's attacking the rim. His jumper has gotten better over the course of his time at Providence and he has the potential to be an absolute lockdown defender at point guard, which is an extremely rare commodity if you think about it.
The problem for Dunn is that he has erratic shot selection, turnover problems and is going to be halfway to 23 by the time the season starts. Guess what? I don't care. At all. The Greek Freak and Dunn will take over the world and there is no one that can stop them. NO ONE.
9. Sacramento Kings - Jamal Murray, PG, Kentucky
Everyone strap in because after this pick we take a very steep fall. The Kings don't have a long-term solution at point guard and Murray sure is one. Being more of a score-first point guard isn't the best fit alongside Trill, Boogie and Rudy, but Murray could develop more into that role as he gets older. He has a rare combination of being crafty and aggressive, which means he doesn't necessarily explode with the ball but doesn't let it deter him.
I see him becoming a very good shooter at the next level and his scoring game is ready for the league right now. His passing and floor vision is right at the border of being good enough to avoid the combo guard gripe (think Bledsoe in this regard) and that's going to make or break him. I could see him being the biggest flop or the biggest steal.
10. Utah Jazz - Timothe Luwawu, SF, France
The Jazz have a good chunk of their roster figured out, but a wing to take the backup SF minutes remains. Unfortunately for them, there's not a lot of prospects available. Luwawu is an intriguing two-way prospect who could definitely wind up developing none of his skills or all of them. A totally raw player, but that's where we are already at in this draft.
11. Orlando Magic - Diamond Stone, C, Maryland
Stone is a treat. He's not very quick, can't jump that high or really dominate guys physically, but he can pass and score with the best of them on the block. That old school feel to Stone is padded very well by a reliable jumper and a physical game on both ends of the floor with a keen understanding on defense. He might struggle against this new breed of athletic centers like Cousins, Drummond and Towns, but he's an intriguing player that has serious all-around potential.
12. Toronto Raptors (via Knicks) - Caris LeVert, SG, Michigan
Toronto could use some youth and flexibility on the wings and that's exactly what LeVert brings. LeVert just seems like a safe bet to be a rotation player in the NBA on the wing. He's a fantastic athlete that can shoot and defend. He's never going to be your primary or secondary option, but that's not the point. He could give Toronto some very good minutes behind DeMar DeRozan and DeMarre Carroll.
13. Washington Wizards - Ivan Rabb, PF, Cal
The Wizards still don't have the power forward position figured out and Rabb's got a load of potential. He's a useful defender, but needs to add a lot more strength if he wants to be a force inside at the next level. That will also translate to his offensive game, which benefits from a natural scoring ability around the rim. The rest of his game is raw, though, which Washington might not have time for. With that in mind, I think his skill is worth being patient for.
14. Charlotte Hornets - Wade Baldwin IV, PG, Vanderbilt
This is a good spot for both the Hornets and Baldwin, who has a real chance to become the best guard on Charlotte. Baldwin's a two-way point guard who has enough floor vision and strength to attack the basket and a developing shot from deep has him sniffing the top 10 of the draft.
15. Denver Nuggets (via Blazers) - Furkan Korkmaz, SG, Turkey
This is a value pick. I highly doubt the Nuggets are going to use all three of these picks if this happens, but if they do they should go BPA and take a guy they could possibly stash overseas. Korkmaz can get out and run, handle the ball and shoot.
16, Denver Nuggets (via Rockets) - Damian Jones, C, Vanderbilt
The Nuggets picked the wrong areas of the draft to have these picks. They already have Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic and Jones wouldn't be an upgrade over either of them. James is a traditional defensive center who needs to show more this season to warrant a high selection. Another value pick for Denver.
17. Detroit Pistons - Thomas Bryant, C, Indiana
Bryant is the exact opposite of Stone. He's incredibly long and plays inside and outside. There's a ton of potential here for him to play some 4 and 5, which Stan Van Gundy should love.
18. Indiana Pacers - Skal Labissiere, C, Kentucky
At some point he's got to get off the board and let's just give him to Frank Vogel. Labissiere was seen by some as the No. 1 overall prospect last summer until his recent play at Kentucky has revealed a soft big man that intimidates no one. He can really run, handle the ball and shoot from deep. It just needs to come together for him and the exact opposite of that has happened at Kentucky. He has played better in the past month, but he will need to carry that form into March to move back up this board. If Skal could develop and play with Myles Turner, loooooook out.
19. Boston Celtics - Taurean Prince, SF, Baylor
Like LeVert, Prince has the athleticism and shooting to have a long career on the wing in the NBA. The Celtics could use another wing and Prince fits.
20. Atlanta Hawks - Denzel Valentine, SG/SF, Michigan State
Valentine's toughness, defensive ability and ball-handling with a solid understanding has him worthy of a selection here. His shooting will be the x-factor and it's been so far so good at Michigan State. The Hawks are still trying to win now and a player like Valentine helps them right away.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (via Heat) - Demetrius Jackson, PG, Notre Dame
The Sixers finally get their point guard and the one who some feel is the best in this year's class. Jackson's the most pure point guard in this draft and the way he is shooting it at Notre Dame has him skyrocketing up some draft boards. He's fast and smart, but his size could hold him back on both ends and is why he's this low.
22. Boston Celtics (via Mavericks) - Cheick Diallo, PF/SF, Kansas
The Celtics have three first-round picks and with the depth their roster has they need to take a chance with at least one pick. Bender was one and Diallo makes two. Diallo's tremendous motor and athleticism have a place in the NBA. It's up to him to turn himself into a type of defensive oriented super role player because he's miles away from being anything on offense other than a finisher and rebounder.
23. Chicago Bulls - Gary Payton II, PG, Oregon State
Derrick Rose is not long for this NBA world so the Bulls get one of my favorite prospects in this draft. Payton is an extremely long and athletic defensive specialist who runs a decent enough offense to warrant a first-round selection. He's one of the oldest players in this draft, but the Bulls want to win now so that makes Payton a great fit.
24. Memphis Grizzlies - Stephen Zimmerman Jr., C, UNLV
The Grit N Grind era is nearing its conclusion and they need to start thinking about the future. Enter Zimmerman, who is a pure seven footer with loads of upside for the current version of the NBA. He's a good athlete who moves well on both ends of the floor, can handle the ball and shoot it. Zimmerman will either sink or swim and that's based on bulking up and being able to battle inside with elite level athletes. Leave it to Z-Bo and Gasol to mold him into that player.
25. Los Angeles Clippers- Domantas Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga
The Clippers can possibly sneak in a potential long-term replacement to their dilemma down low. Sabonis has phenomenal footwork and the elite hands and touch required on the block that thrive with his passing ability. Like many bigs in this draft, it's going to come down to how he evolves as an athlete and supplements a lack of elite strength, speed and overall athleticism.
26. Toronto Raptors - Malik Newman, PG/SG, Mississippi State
The best replacement for Lou Williams that's on the board is Newman. He can load it up and scores everywhere. He is not a point guard, but at a certain point his scoring pedigree should have other issues like his size and decision making overlooked. With what's on the board right now and a prior selection, the Raptors can afford to take a risk.
27. Phoenix Suns (via Cavaliers) - Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington
The Suns should go all out for a high ceiling player here and Chriss fits the bill. He's a long and athletic forward who makes an impact all over the floor, but his consistency is an issue in nearly all the aspects of his game. He's a wonderful shot blocker, is starting to shoot threes, can leap for days and makes high-energy plays. He needs a lot of that to stick for him to succeed in the NBA. If it all came together he would be a frightening two-way monster.
28. Philadelphia 76ers (via Thunder) - Melo Trimble, PG, Maryland
At this point the Sixers should just fill up their point guard quota and Trimble this late is a steal. I get Marcus Smart vibes from Trimble in that he is a freaking warrior and will lead his team well in any situation. He is one of the most dangerous scorers and shooters on the board and would be a fascinating compliment to Jackson in this mock draft scenario.
29. San Antonio Spurs- Juan Hernangomez, SF/PF, Spain
Skilled foreign guy? Here you go Spurs!
30. Golden State Warriors - Nigel Hayes, PF, Wisconsin
I hate myself for this pick. Hayes has improved as a shooter and his long arms and defense are ready to go for the NBA. The additional little things he does all over the floor have him just make the first round and land on a team that will know how to use him.