With the draft just over 24 hours away, the excitement is reaching a fever pitch. Will the Cavs take Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker? Will they trade the pick? How far will Joel Embiid fall? Do any teams trade up? Do the Lakers hold onto their pick? Do they bring in a player or trade down for multiple picks?
In the end, no one can truly know, but they certainly can predict what will happen. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll assume no trades are made in the first round, but let’s be honest, the odds of that happening are slim to none.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers select Andrew Wiggins, Guard/Forward, Kansas
The Cavaliers had part of the difficulty taken out of their hands when Embiid injured his foot and crushed his draft stock. Now they’re left picking between Wiggins and Jabari Parker. It’s a debate which doesn’t appear to have an incorrect answer, but if there was a way or a team that could screw it up, it’s certainly Cleveland.
2. Milwaukee Bucks select Jabari Parker, Guard/Forward, Duke
The Bucks, realistically, are in a perfect spot. Embiid should not be an option here, so they should be left with picking whoever the Cavs don’t select between Parker and Wiggins. Parker revealed recently that the Bucks promised they’d take him at #2, and if he’s there, it’s the no-brainer.
3. Philadelphia 76ers select Dante Exum, Guard, Australia
This is likely the first spot that Embiid is seriously considered, but I don’t see the 76ers biting. A mixture of their reported love of Exum and their willingness to depart with Michael Carter Williams makes this seem more and more realistic. Exum is a stud prospect that scouts are falling more and more in love with.
4. Orlando Magic select Marcus Smart, Guard, Oklahoma State
Like every other team in this range of the draft, the Magic will have to weigh the option of drafting Embiid. However, with Nikola Vucevic already on the squad, it won’t be a long consideration for Orlando. Instead, they take Smart, who will pair with Oladipo and manhandle back courts defensively for years to come.
5. Utah Jazz select Noah Vonleh, Forward, Indiana
Like the Magic, the Jazz are already set at the center position with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Instead, they continue their growing tradition of molding big men by bringing in Noah Vonleh to play alongside their two centers. A project of a prospect, Vonleh has the tools to become a serious force in the league
6. Boston Celtics select Joel Embiid, Center, Kansas
Finally, someone bites on Embiid. Danny Ainge is committed to the long-term rebuild, and Embiid fits his strategy. The rumored timeline for his return is 4-6 months, meaning he won’t be ready until roughly November of this year. The Celtics could even treat him similar to the 76ers with Nerlens Noel and sit him out the whole season to ensure his health.
7. Los Angeles Lakers select Julius Randle, Forward, Kentucky
All signs seem to be pointing at Randle for the Lakers pick, assuming they hold on to it. I’m leaning more toward the Lakers trading the pick than hanging on to it, but I don’t imagine a decision will be made until they’re on the clock Thursday night. If they hang onto the pick, Randle is a fantastic pick-up and could be an instant-impact player.
8. Sacramento Kings select Doug McDermott, Forward, Creighton
The Kings are looking for someone to pair with DeMarcus Cousins as well as some shooting. In theory, McDermott fills both those holes as a stretch four. Personally, I see him as a future bust, but I’m not a GM, and this spot makes sense for him.
9. Charlotte Hornets select Nik Stauskas, Guard, Michigan
Similar to the Kings, the Hornets are looking for shooting. Few players in the draft are better shooters/scorers than Stauskas. With Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson already on the roster, Stauskas could be a 6th man that can poor in points similar to a Jamal Crawford or our own Swaggy P.
10. Philadelphia 76ers select Aaron Gordon, Forward, Arizona
Each year in each draft across each sport, some player inexplicably slips down draft boards. Do I think this would necessarily be Gordon? There’s nothing to base that on, but he’s tweener status could cause it. With the 76ers, they already have a young Noel who can protect the rim and allow Gordon to play the power forward spot.
11. Denver Nuggets select Gary Harris, Guard, Michigan
In a draft filled with shooters, teams like the Kings, Hornets, and Nuggets are lucky to find themselves in the lottery. Realistically, a lot of the picks in the 6-12 range could be traded, and the Nuggets seem like a prime candidate, but if they hang on to it, they get a supreme athlete in Harris.
12. Orlando Magic select Dario Saric, Forward, Croatia
Saric is committed to playing in Turkey for at least the last two years. However, he has promised to join the league in two years. With enough promise, teams can comfortably stash him overseas for two years and reap the benefits later. The Magic aren’t in an instant-win mode, so they can afford a pick like this.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves select Rodney Hood, Guard, Duke
The Timberwolves lacked scoring outside of the Kevins last year: Love and Martin. While his name isn’t Kevin, Hood can come in and provide another scorer, possibly off the bench, to help the ‘Wolves next season. Will it be enough to hang onto Love? Unlikely, but that’s a whole other story for another time.
14. Phoenix Suns select Adreian Payne, Forward, Michigan State
There’s a lot of things that can happen here. With multiple first-round picks, the Suns may package some of them and move up, or maybe they package picks for a superstar, a la Love. But what is certain is that they will be in the middle of the action Thursday night. If they hold onto the pick, they can grab Payne who would perfectly fit their uptempo style as a stretch four.