The top teams in the draft will probably look different after August 25th, the date of the NBA lottery, but this is the likeliest order of the draft. The actual draft is only three weeks after; on October 15th. The shortened college basketball season will make this draft plenty interesting with surprises bound to happen. Keeping that in mind, this is what we believe will go down on draft day.
1. Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman, C, Memphis
The Warriors will be title contenders next year. A healthy Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green alone would get them into the playoffs. Andrew Wiggins and maybe Kevon Looney would round out their starting five, but they don’t have a true starting-caliber center. James Wiseman, perhaps the best all-around talent in the draft, would be ready to help get the Warriors a top seed in the West.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers: Deni Avdija, SF, Maccabi Tel Aviv
The Cavs do not need to draft the best player available here. Their backcourt in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland has a bright enough future that they can pass on Anthony Edwards, Killian Hayes, and LaMelo Ball. What they do need, however, is every other position. Avdija, a small forward, showed great promise in the Euroleague and can fit in with almost every team’s system.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards, SG Georgia
The T-wolves’ future looks… bright? Especially if they land Anthony Edwards, they seem to be going in the right direction. Karl-Anthony Towns is a perennial all-star and a top center in the league. D’Angelo Russell is one of the better point guards in the league. Anthony Edwards, who might be the best prospect of the draft, can make a big three for the Timberwolves and potentially lead them to a playoff birth down the road.
4. Atlanta Hawks: Obi Toppin, PF Dayton
Toppin, who won the Naismith College Player of the Year, is one of the most athletic players the draft has seen. Putting him on the floor with John Collins and Clint Capela would be a nightmare for opposition. Trae Young can only carry the Hawks so far. The combination of Collins, Capela, and Toppin would take pressure off of Young and back him up defensively. We would also see more highlights of the Atlanta Hawks than any other team.
5. Detroit Pistons: LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawarra Hawks
What the Pistons need, above all else, is relevance. Well, they could also use a point guard. Or a center. Ball fulfills the first two desires, and he’s 6’8, so who knows. On a serious note, Ball can turn this franchise around. Rookie Sekou Doumbouya was the lone bright spot for Detroit last year, but a healthy Blake Griffin could do wonders. Ball would pick up much of the scoring slack from those two and hope to return the franchise to its glory days.
6. New York Knicks: Killian Hayes, PG, Ratiopharm Ulm
For Knicks fans thinking, “Oh great. Frank Ntilikina part two,” not so fast. Hayes shows a lot more promise than any of the Knicks past or current point guards, including the other one from France. Hayes has elite guard skills, including passing and ball-handling, and will be a key piece of the Knicks’ future. This would also mean that the three best players on the team would be left-handed, in Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and Hayes.
7. Chicago Bulls: Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn
Okoro is a strong human being. His offensive skillset isn’t quite there yet, but it doesn’t need to be. The Bulls’ rebuilding process is taking longer than expected, but they’re being patient. All Okoro has to do with the Bulls is play to his strengths. He doesn’t need to play out of position because Zach Lavine and Coby White play the guard spots and Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. will play power forward and center, respectively. White, Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr, and especially Lavine will provide the scoring. The Bulls would let Okoro to play aggressive defense, finish around the rim, and clean up the boards, which is exactly what he does best.
8. Charlotte Hornets: Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State
Haliburton is the safest pick here. Haliburton is an excellent passer, an even better decision maker, a good all-around scorer, a well above-average defender, and a great shooter. He and Devonte Graham could make an extremely underrated backcourt, which could be more beneficial than only Kemba Walker. Graham can slide into shooting guard and Terry Rozier can move to the bench where he can go back to being one of the best 6th men in the Eastern Conference.
9. Washington Wizards: Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC
The Wizards hope to get John Wall back next season. If they don’t trade Bradley Beal, they have a legit roster. Beal and Wall form one of the best backcourts in the league. Davis Bertans, Rui Hachimura, and Thomas Bryant round out that starting five. Bryant seems to be the most replaceable here. Okongwu is a an elite defender and shot blocker and he can finish at the rim with the best of them while not demanding the ball from Wall and Beal. Okongwu would bring a toughness and energy to the Wizards, even if he doesn’t start right away.
10. Phoenix Suns: Cole Anthony, PG, North Carolina
The Suns will be able to score a lot of points. The defense might be questionable, but the offense will be able to run with almost anyone. Whether Anthony would come off the bench behind Ricky Rubio as a score-first player or a starter who would ultimately take turns with Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre Jr. in scoring, Anthony would give Phoenix a multi-layered offense that they haven’t had in quite a while. Booker will finally have a back-court partner who can score with him, not just be able to give him the Ball. Anthony will be valuable in either taking pressure away from Booker or scoring on his own.
11. San Antonio Spurs: Aleksej Pokusevski, C, Olympiacos
Gregg Popovich loves versatile players. Pokusevski is very good at a lot of things. This is a match made in Heaven. Pokusevski is a classic big with guard skills. He can shoot, dribble, pass, and move like a guard. His footwork, rebounding ability, and size are all qualities of a solid big man. When you put it all together, you get an excellent prospect who doesn’t have any glaring weakness. He probably won’t be the best power forward in Spurs history when it’s all said and done, but we can only wonder what the legendary Gregg Popovich will be able to do with one of the best all-around prospects in this draft class.
12. Sacramento Kings: Precious Achiuwa, PF, Memphis
The Kings lack an energetic, intense player such as Achiuwa. De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield are likely the backcourt of the future. They’re stuck with Harrison Barnes and his contract for a while and Marvin Bagley needs some help, so a big makes a lot of sense here. In addition to his high rebounding ability and overall quickness, Achiuwa would provide an urgency that the Kings have lacked for many years.
13. New Orleans Pelicans: RJ Hampton, SG, New Zealand Breakers
Shooting guard might be the only position that the Pelicans don’t have a future all-star caliber player in. Brandon Ingram is an all-star, Zion Williamson likely will be one next year, and Jaxson Hayes, Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Josh Hart, and others round out the solid Pelicans core. Hampton has a natural scoring ability that will take some pressure off Ingram and Williamson. Pairing this with his solid defense, Hampton would be a solid pick for the Pels.
14. Portland Trail Blazers: Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt
Damian Lillard deserves someone like Nesmith. The Vanderbilt product can score in a multitude of ways but doesn’t necessarily need to ball to do so. CJ McCollum has been Dame’s sidekick, and he’ll continue to do so, but Nesmith will be able to pick up some of that slack. He can catch and shoot, cut, score off the dribble, and can rebound. He plays like a 20 year old, though, occasionally taking plays off, he isn’t a great defender, and he has some injury concerns, but his upside is worth it.
15. Orlando Magic: Theo Maledon, PG, ASVEL
Maledon is a good shooter, passer, rebounder, and defender, but he is not great at any of these. Orlando can take a gamble and hope that either he or Markelle Fultz develops into their point guard of the future.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn Nets): Saddiq Bey, SF, Villanova
Villanova players are historically NBA ready. Bey will be drafted with the expectation that his solid shooting and defense will make him a valuable asset, even if he won’t be a star.
17. Boston Celtics (via Memphis Grizzlies): Jaden McDaniels, PF, Washington
McDaniels has the potential to be a late round steal who can score better than he gets credit for. He can create his own shot with ease, whether it’s a jump shot or a finish at the rim.
18. Dallas Mavericks: Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
The Mavericks seem to like players like Mannion. He has an impressive playmaking ability and shows good basketball IQ. He has the potential to be a solid backup for Luka Doncic.
19. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana Pacers): Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky
Maxey is a great scorer and decision maker, as well as an above-average defender. There are concerns about how well his game will translate to the NBA, but he can have a future as an instant-offense 6th man.
20. Brooklyn Nets (via Philadelphia 76ers): Devin Vassel, SF, Florida State
Vassel is similar to many players on the Nets already. Much like Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and even Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, Vassel can score in different ways and can hold his own defensively.
21. Denver Nuggets (via Houston Rockets): Zeke Nnaji, C, Arizona
Nnaji runs the floor, gets rebounds, finishes at the basket, and can score in more ways than the defense might expect. He is much different from Nikola Jokic, but Nnaji would prevent the offense from taking too much of a hit when Jokic comes out.
22. Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City Thunder): Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington
Stewart can be considered a less skilled but more mobile version of Joel Embiid. Given Embiid’s injury history, Philly could draft Stewart hoping he can contribute right away.
23. Miami Heat: Kira Lewis Jr, PG, Alabama
Lewis would be a great depth addition for the Heat at guard. He shows promising enough guard skills to be a solid bench player for a championship contender like the Heat, even if he likely won’t crack the starting lineup.
24. Utah Jazz: Jahmi’us Ramsey, SG, Texas Tech
Ramsey is another player who plays with pure passion and energy. He would fit in with Quinn Snyder’s defensive-minded system while also contributing more than enough offensively.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver Nuggets): Patrick Williams, SF, Florida State
Williams would play very well with Steven Adams defensively, forming an elite shot-blocking duo. His prowess in scoring without needing the ball in his hands is something that Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would surely make use of.
26. Boston Celtics: Vernon Carey Jr, C, Duke
Carey Jr. is a really strong kid and the Celtics’ only real hole in the roster is at center since Al Horford left. Carey Jr. might not be the long term answer, but he would greatly improve their depth at the position.
27. New York Knicks (via Los Angeles Clippers): Josh Green, SG, Arizona
After the Knicks get their point guard of the future at number 6 overall, they would hope to get their shooting guard at number 27. Green can shoot, handle the ball, play defense, and is a great decision maker with the ball in his hands. Green could develop into a longterm player for New York.
28. Toronto Raptors: Jalen Smith, C, Maryland
Smith is a good scorer, defender, and rebounder, but he is undersized which leads to questions about his future as a center in the NBA. If he bulks up and works on his offensive skills, he could be a solid backup to the aging Marc Gasol.
29. Los Angeles Lakers: Tre Jones, PG, Duke
Jones has all the tools he needs to be able to play with Lebron James. He finds open teammates, doesn’t turn the ball over often, can shoot, and can guard the point guard on any team. He won’t start for the Lakers, at least as a rookie, but he would be a solid depth addition for a team with championship aspirations.
30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee Bucks): Cassius Stanley, SG, Duke
Stanley is probably the most athletic player in this draft. His skillset is above-average but he is very raw. The Celtics makes sense for Stanley because they have more than enough depth at the forward position and can afford wait until he develops into a starting caliber player.