By JUSTIN BAXLEY (@JbClusterSports)
Photo credit goes to ESPN
One team is just eight (seven if you’re the Thunder) wins away from being crowned the champions of the NBA. But on Tuesday night, it was the teams who were out of the playoffs that were put in the spotlight.
The NBA draft lottery just ended, and the draft order is set. Last year, the Timberwolves grabbed a franchise changer in Karl-Anthony Towns, and it is time to see if someone else will strike gold. On June 23, the NBA’s next set of stars will be selected. For the next few weeks the draft board should start to take shape. Here is the first of many NBA mock drafts for the lottery teams.
1. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons, SF, LSU
Despite not being able to showcase his skills in the NCAA Tournament, he is still considered the top player in this draft. In Simmons, the 76ers land a Lebron James-type in terms of being able to facilitate from the forward position. For a team that does not have a solid point guard, Simmons can provide that along with scoring and rebounding. He has a chance to shine from day one on a team that still seems to be a couple years away from escaping the lottery.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram, PF, Duke
Ingram closed what was once considered a large gap between Simmons and him. It is possible he could go No. 1 to the 76ers, depending on which player they prefer. The Lakers will take either one of the top two players -- Simmons or Ingram. The Blue Devil is a home run pick and will start his own era on the heels of Kobe Bryant if he is selected here. He has a high basketball IQ and is a great passer, which should allow him to take over games as a rookie.
3. Boston Celtics: Jamal Murray, SG, Kentucky
Murray could play at point guard or shooting guard, which helps him in terms of draft stock. The Celtics are already a playoff team and are a couple pieces away from competing for the Eastern Conference crown. Murray will have the chance to make an impact off the bench and as insurance for Avery Bradley. Murray is great all around with a solid shooting stroke and willingness to attack the basket.
4. Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender, PF, Croatia
He has top-three talent, but because he did not attend the combine, teams have cooled on him. He is currently playing for Maccabi in Tel Aviv, which kept him from showing off his skills. If he can have good workouts with teams, he could find his way into the top three. Bender would replace Markieff Morris, who was traded in a deal to the Wizards at the trade deadline.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma
I love what the Timberwolves are building. With back-to-back Rookie of the Year winners on the roster, they have the chance to add the best shooter to come out of college since Steph Curry. Hield would benefit from being a 3-point specialist with guys like Andrew Wiggins and Towns freeing him from the defense.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Kris Dunn Jr., SG, Providence
Dunn could easily go third overall, as the gap between Hield, Murray and him is almost non-existent. Dunn may be the best player out of that group, but he is also older than Murray. Some teams have shied away from older players -- both Hield and Dunn have that going against them. Dunn is a great all-around point guard and would be a nice sidekick to Anthony Davis.
7. Denver Nuggets: Henry Ellenson Jr., PF/C, Marquette
His low-post game looks to be NBA ready. He never seems to be short on energy and always hustles to make the best play. Ellenson is one of the most NBA-ready prospects in this draft. He could be a darkhorse for Rookie of the Year next season.
8. Sacramento Kings: Jaylen Brown, SG, California
Brown struggled at times during his only year at Cal, as he just did not seem to possess the basketball intangibles at times. He might be the best player in the draft if you just look at his physical gifts. His upside is why he should be drafted in the lottery, but he could easily fall out because of question marks surrounding how much work he might need in order to perform at the NBA level.
9. Toronto Raptors: Skal Labissiere, PF, Kentucky
The Raptors are currently playing in the Eastern Conference Finals, and yet they sit in the top-10 of the draft after a trade that landed them the Knicks’ pick. This is a luxury pick -- in a way -- but they have the chance to fill a need. Labissiere is a raw prospect who struggled at the college level. His upside makes him appealing here. Labissiere can stretch the floor with his 3-point shot, but he struggles in the post.
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah
Poeltl is considered to be the top center in this draft, and with the Bucks possibly losing Greg Monroe this summer, he would fit in immediately. The Bucks are loaded with young talent and a player’s coach in Jason Kidd. They are one year removed from the playoffs and will be looking to get back to that level. Poeltl is a nice fit as a solid athlete. One concern is that he is not strong enough right now to match up against the top centers in the league.
11. Orlando Magic: Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington
He is an athletic forward with great size. He is very raw on the offensive end but will provide help on the defensive end right away. The Magic are a young team with Aaron Gordon and Vucevic already manning the inside, but Chriss will be another solid piece on the team. He has the ability to knock down the 3-point shot.
12. Utah Jazz: Malachi Richardson, SG, Syracuse
Richardson has watched his stock go up since his performance in the NCAA Tournament. Richardson is one of the top-three shooting guards in this draft. One of the biggest knocks against him is that he was not very consistent in college. He will need to become a more consistent player to contribute to a young Jazz team early.
13. Phoenix Suns (via WAS): Denzel Valentine, SF, Michigan State
Valentine can shoot the ball well and play multiple positions. He has four years of college basketball under his belt, so he has more experience than some of the one-and-done players. The Suns hit big with Devin Booker last year. Valentine, along with the selection of Dragan Bender, will help build towards the future.
14. Chicago Bulls: Tyler Ulis, PG, Kentucky
The last time the Bulls had a lottery pick, they selected a point guard. That guy was Derrick Rose, and he won an MVP before his knees derailed his career. Ulis was a solid floor leader in college for Kentucky and would fit well behind Rose on the depth chart. He would give Chicago a young point guard with some upside while making an impact as a rookie off the bench.