Because of the heightened anticipation for the draft this year, we’re releasing an early look at our first mock draft.
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1. Milwaukee Bucks â€“ Andrew Wiggins
6-8, 197 lbs. SF
No one prospect or talent can save the Bucks in one year, that much is most definitely for certain. The team needs a draw, someone who in the future can be an All-Star caliber player, and at the very least hope. With Wiggins you can create an elite athletic core with unmatched length with Wiggins, Larry Sanders and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The excitement for Wiggins has died down a little, but he has shown flashes of being a versatile scorer and an elite defender at the NBA level.
2. Orlando Magic â€“ Joel Embiid
7-0, 240 lbs. C
The Magic already have Nikola Vucevic as a double-double machine in the paint and could use help at other positions, but this is a draft where in the top 4-5 picks you take the best available prospect. That is Joel Embiid. Over the years the Magic have built themselves around great big men with Shaq and Dwight Howard, territory that Embiid could reach at his full potential. After just three years of basketball Embiid has already shown some of the best footwork and skill inside of any big man in years.
3. Philadelphia 76ers â€“ Jabari Parker
6-8, 241 lbs. F
Last summer the 76ers drafted the athletes in Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel to get the rebuilding process started. Now they get a chance to add a potential 20-plus point scorer in-between those two that is efficient and versatile. Parker could be the No. 1 overall pick in any other draft with his size, shooting ability, and overall package. He is not the athlete that his peers are, but Parker has a smooth, smart way to his game that allows him to be effective no matter the athletic competition.
4. Boston Celtics â€“ Julius Randle
6-9, 248 lbs. PF
The final shoe to drop in the “potential franchise player pool” lands here with the Celtics, who could use Randle right now. Over the years the team has drafted a handful of big men already making Randle a less obvious choice here despite his ability to be a double-double machine and one of the best athletic scorers at the four at the next level. Randle is one of those prospects where the ball just finds him on the glass because he is active and always in a good position. A Rajon Rondo and Julius Randle duo could be very formidable, if they keep the All-Star point guard.
5. Utah Jazz â€“ Dante Exum
6-6, 188 lbs. G
If the Jazz could get a little higher and nab Embiid this would be a homerun past 3-4 years in the draft for them. They already have a nice core with Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke with other complementing pieces. Adding another dynamic playmaker like Exum really could elevate the team in a few years with his ability to play both the one and the two. Playing in Australia does not help Exum with NBA fans because he is out of sight, but he has impressed every NBA decision-maker when he has been in front of them against the top talents, including most of the prospects in this top 10 over the summer.
6. Sacramento Kings â€“ Aaron Gordon
6-9, 225 lbs. PF
This is a perfect marriage for the Kings. Let me explain. They have the potential star center in DeMarcus Cousins and the perimeter scorers to be a good team. What they lack is an athlete that is as unselfish as Gordon, who is willing to do all the little things that makes a team good. He is also dynamic enough to become an All-Star down the road.
7. Los Angeles Lakers â€“ Marcus Smart
6-4, 225 lbs. PG
Oklahoma State, So.
Falling from potential No. 1 overall pick in 2013 to the franchise with 16 championships is not a bad consolation prize. Smart is everything the Lakers do not have in terms of intangibles, defensive ability, and versatility. He could also add a few years to Kobe Bryant‘s legs.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers â€“ Gary Harris
6-4, 205 lbs. SG
Michigan State, So.
Eventually they have to get one of these picks right, right? Outside of Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson the draft has not been good for the Cavaliers, who have tried to be the smartest team in the room consistently with little to show for it. Harris is a combo guard that can make plays with the ball and shoot the ball to stretch the floor. His biggest asset might be his defense, which is not talked about enough.
9. Denver Nuggets (via New York Knicks) â€“ Noah Vonleh
6-9.75, 242 lbs. PF
The Nuggets want to play a more traditional lineup and still get up and down the floor, which is why Kenneth Faried has taken a step back this year. Vonleh is a traditional power forward that rebounds, plays his position, and can play in a fast pace offense if needed.
10. Charlotte Bobcats (via Detroit Pistons) â€“ Jerami Grant
6-9, 215 lbs. F
Well, the Bobcats are usually the team that makes the wildcard picks like Bismack Biyombo, Cody Zeller and even Kemba Walker. Some have paid off and at this point in the draft there are no more certainties so a roll of the dice on Grant who could be a playmaker at the forward position, rebound at a high rate, and contribute as a quality defender is worth the risk. After all, it is the Bobcats.