Thomas: NBA Mock Draft #1

R1, P1: Golden State Warriors select James Wiseman, C, Memphis

The Warriors need a playmaker inside, and Wiseman addresses a glaring need at center. Warriors – if they are picking first – are in a weird position as they don’t necessarily face a long rebuild. Wiseman undoubtedly has huge upside that comes with his freakishly athletic frame, but he seems like a great fit in Golden State, which will look to resurrect its dynasty. 

R1, P2: Cleveland Cavaliers select Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia

Cleveland needs help just about everywhere, and I think this pick comes down to Edwards or Lamelo Ball. Ultimately, Cleveland goes for the safety net of college ball, as Lamelo hasn’t played in the States in several years, and Edwards is as pure a scorer as they come. 

R1, P3: Minnesota Timberwolves select Obi Toppin, Dayton

Toppin was lauded as one of the most dominant players in the country this past season, and he looks to join a long-suffering Minnesota squad. The Timberwolves have a bevy of issues to address, and Toppin is the first piece of what promises to be a continued rebuild up north. 

R1, P4: Atlanta Hawks select Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn

I really like what Okoro brings to the table as an NBA-ready defender, and if he fulfills his potential, he projects as a solid wing for years to come at the professional level. The Hawks don’t have one problem that jumps out more than the other on their roster, but their defense has been an increasing concern, and grabbing one of the draft’s best two-way players at #4 could work very well for Atlanta. 

R1, P5: Detroit Pistons select LaMelo Ball, PG, USA

LaMelo didn’t play college ball, but if the Pistons somehow do see LaMelo fall to #5, they should jump on him right away. He’s the best point guard in the draft and fits a huge need for Detroit. Can Detroit handle the razzle-dazzle, hype, and bright lights that comes with the Ball family? For a team that has floundered offensively for much of the decade, it’s worth the risk. 

R1, P6: New York Knicks select Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC

As per usual, the Knicks have multiple glaring issues to address, so we see them go with one of the best players still available here in Okongwu. I do see Okongwu being a potential #1 pick, as I think he’s more NBA-ready than James Wiseman, so the Warriors may go after him, but if he’s still available here, expect New York to snag the freshman sensation, bringing him to the East Coast. 

R1, P7: Chicago Bulls select Killian Hayes, PG, France

There’s a few different point guards projected as fringe lottery picks, and Hayes is the one I’m the highest one. I think he has huge playmaker potential, and he could combine with Zach LaVine to bring the Bulls back to relevancy. With 72 professional games overseas under his belt, Hayes could be an immediate impact player in the Windy City. 

R1, P8: Charlotte Hornets select RJ Hampton, PG, USA

Hampton projects as a creative player who could potentially run the offense in Charlotte for years to come. He may not be a game-changer, but for a team that hasn’t won a playoff series since 2002 and is picking 8th, he’s pretty solid value here. 

R1, P9: Washington Wizards select Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State

Haliburton rounds out a group of three intriguing point guard prospects. All three have different skill-sets, and I believe Haliburton is talented and fills a big-time need at the position for Washington. He plays his best when he’s alongside a better shot creator, so he may not stick at point guard in the NBA, but the Wizards get one of the highest basketball IQs in the draft in Haliburton.

R1, P10: Phoenix Suns select Deni Avdija, PF, Israel

I could really see Avdija going way higher than this. He’s got lottery talent for sure, but where he goes depends on where NBA teams see him slotting in at the professional level. He’s got a power-forward frame but seems comfortable in a point-guard role. He may go way higher, but if he slides to here, a Phoenix team with a lot of issues to address should jump at the chance to select the Israelian product. 

R1, P11: San Antonio Spurs select Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina

Cole Anthony can create shots with the best of them, but can he become an efficient facilitator in the NBA? That’s one of the major questions that comes with Anthony, along with healthy and streakiness, but he’s versatile offensively, creates space for his own shots, and is one of the best scorers in this draft class. He’ll need to develop another strong tool to complement that, but at #11, he’s great value for San Antonio. 

R1, P12: Sacramento Kings select Theo Maledon, PG, France

This may be one of the bigger darkhorse picks here, but Maledon brings a lot of experience and upside into the draft, and he’s a good pick at #12 for Sacramento. The Kings may have bigger issues in the paint, particularly at center, put I don’t see a player worth reaching for, and Maledon offers some promising tools as well, featuring great size, a solid shot, and very good efficiency. He may not be a long-term point guard in the NBA, but he could thrive if placed in a lineup with a commanding floor general. 

R1, P13: New Orleans Pelicans select Precious Achiuwa, PF, Memphis

Memphis has their second player taken in the first half of the first round, as Precious Achiuwa, a versatile defensive prospect, joins a young core that includes Lonzo Ball and Zion Williamson in New Orleans. Although the Pelicans are involved in the NBA restart playoff bubble, this wasn’t supposed to be their year – the best is yet to come down in Louisiana, and getting a physical power forward who can play defense and shoot the three is a great pick-up. 

R1, P14: Portland Trailblazers select Saddiq Bey, PF, Villanova

Villanova prospects are always interesting, because they truly learn to thrive within Jay Wright’s system at the collegiate level, so it’s a bit of a risk that they can thrive outside that system. He can fill a lot of holes well, but it’s unclear whether he has that impact skill that will land him in a lineup or with a prominent role off the bench. Portland does desperately need reinforcements at power forward, and Bey is the best available at this point in the draft, so the Trailblazers grab the ‘Nova star. 

R1, P15: Orlando Magic select Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona

Mannion is a pretty safe pick at 15 – his skill set looks more or less NBA-ready, although he could add consistency to his three-point shot. There are questions regarding his physicality, but at the very least, he’s a high-IQ player who can facilitate the offense. For a Magic team that definitely needs that to reach the next level, Mannion is a solid selection at the mid-way point of the first round. 

R1, P16: Minnesota Timberwolves select Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt

With their second selection of the draft, the Timberwolves go to the SEC. If, in the unlikely situation that the draft has occurred exactly as I’ve predicted here, the Timberwolves should be selecting between Nesmith and Tyrese Maxey of Kentucky. Maxey may be more dynamic, but Nesmith could make a case for being the best shooter in the draft. There are health issues, but the upside is undeniable if he pans out in Minnesota. 

R1, P17: Boston Celtics select Jaden McDaniels, PF, Washington

It’s no secret that the Celtics will covet a big player in the paint, whether that be a center or power forward. Jaden McDaniels fits the bill here with plenty of defensive upside due to his agility and 8’11 standing reach. He may not be NBA-ready immediately, but McDaniels can work under a great coach in Brad Stevens and a young core in Boston before stepping into the professional spotlight. 

R1, P18: Dallas Mavericks select Patrick Williams, SF, Florida State

Williams is currently ranked the 15th overall prospect by ESPN and may not be available here. If he is, the Mavs should be happy to address one of their bigger needs at shooting forward with a physical prospect with defensive skills and lots of upside out of a top-10 program in FSU. 

R1, P19: Milwaukee Bucks select Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky

Talk about a diamond in the rough. Maxey could very well go late, but after the Timberwolves passed on him in favor of Aaron Nesmith, the Bucks get a physical and versatile prospect out of a true blue-blood in Kentucky. Getting a gem like Maxey this late in the draft would go a long way towards convincing star Giannis Antetokounmpo to stick around for a run at a dynasty. 

R1, P20: Brooklyn Nets select Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Serbia

Pokusevski is a bit of an unknown in this draft, after being out for three months and playing just 254 minutes in the Greek second division. Pokusevski, however, is the youngest player in the draft class and could be a while away from helping Brooklyn, but he’s got the best upside of remaining paint players, which is a clear area of need for the Nets. 

R1, P21: Denver Nuggets select Jalen Smith, PF, Maryland

Power Forwards could find themselves in high demand in this draft, and that trend continues, as Smith is the sixth taken at his position. The Nuggets are a contending team and don’t have many glaring needs, and Smith addresses their biggest weakness. He’s a great shot-blocker and versatile offensive threats, but questions about his overall defense will need to be addressed before he finds significant playing time in Denver. 

R1, P22: Philadelphia 76ers select Tyler Bey, PF, Colorado

Another one. 22 picks in, and 7 power forwards are off the board. It’s simply an area of need with many teams, as the 76ers pick up one of the better defensive players at the position with pick #22. He has a 7-foot wingspan, making up in some level for his 6’7 height, a short mark for power forwards. He was the Pac-12 defensive player of the year and shot 42% from three, and scouts are high on his ability to continually improve his shooting. 76ers haven’t been a laughingstock in a while, but they need to find their way to break the ceiling now. 

R1, P23: Miami Heat select Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington

The second of two projected Washington freshman first-rounders, Stewart swaps the northwest for the southeast, heading for the beaches of Miami, where he joins a spectacular squad that appears ready for title contention. Stewart would be a great selection here, addressing a position of need, as the Heat continue to show Cleveland how a team moves on from the post-Lebron era successfully (even if it takes a while). 

R1, P24: Utah Jazz select Zeke Nnaji, PF, Arizona

This was a tough selection. It’s unclear if Nnaji will be a first-round pick, but if there is a high volume of power forwards selected early, that could very well happen. The Jazz have studs and solid contributors in Donovan Mitchell (PG), Rudy Gobert (C) , Mike Conley (G), as well as shooting forwards Joe Ingles and Bojan Bogdanovic. The Jazz are entering a win-now mode, and so it makes sense to address their clearest position of need, even if it means reaching a little bit. 

R1, P25: Oklahoma City Thunder select Robert Woodard II, SF, Mississippi State

The Thunder could also use power forwards and centers, but they have more prominent issues, despite a better-than-expected campaign in their first year sans Russell Westbrook. They have a lot of issues to address, and shooting forward is as glaring a problem as any other, so look for OKC to grab the SEC product here in Woodard, who provides great upside and a fairly lethal three-point offering. 

R1, P26: Boston Celtics select Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas

Another fringe first rounder, Azubuike heads from a blue-blood in Kansas, the #1 team in the nation at the time of the season’s cancellation, to Boston, who looks ready to contend for a bevy of championships in the near future, behind their core of Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, and Jaylen Brown. Azubuike was the most dominant player on the court many times during his time with the Jayhawks, and he was in contention to be named the national player of the year. After dropping to 270 pounds, he was better defensively and can rebound and finish with the best of them. Unclear whether he may be already near his peak, but he could offer the C’s minutes off the bench right away. 

R1, P27: New York Knicks select Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama

Lewis could still return to Alabama, but if he remains a projected first rounder (ranked as the 23rd best prospect by ESPN), I would expect him to keep his name in the draft pool. One of the quickest players in the draft, Lewis features an improving shot, although he faces questions about his physicality and finishing at the rim. He may be a work in progress, but the Knicks are in a constant state of rebuild, so they’ve got time to develop the Alabama star. 

R1, P28: Toronto Raptors select Vernon Carey, C, Duke

Duke rarely waits this long to see a player drafted, but Carey, not projected in some first-round mocks, heads to the Raptors here, offering Toronto a physical presence in the paint. Carey has great agility and rebounding, but there are injury concerns, as well as questions about his polish in the passing game. 

R1, P29: Los Angeles Lakers select Daniel Oturu, C, Minnesota

Oturu gladly leaves the cold Minnesota winters behind for the bright lights of Los Angeles. If he earns a roster spot, he’ll get a chance to play with Lebron James and one of the best teams in the NBA. With DeMarcus Cousins not working out, Oturu does have a path to minutes in L.A. 

R1, P30: Boston Celtics select Devin Vassell, SG, Florida State

The Celtics have already addressed their most glaring needs with their first two picks, and it wouldn’t necessarily be surprising to see them trade the third for other value, but in the case they don’t, I see the C’s just going best available at this point. That best available player is clearly Vassell who has slipped drastically and relatively undeservedly. He’s a mid-first round talent, but the high demand for power forwards sees the FSU wing slip, where he can get a chance to develop behind that aforementioned core in Boston.

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