We know the draft order. We know the Phoenix Suns have two picks in the lottery.
It’s time to mock. Kellan Olson and Kevin Zimmerman of our Empire of the Suns blog switch off playing general manager for the lottery teams. Who will be available in the NBA Draft and which direction do they think the Suns will go?
1. Philadelphia 76ers – Brandon Ingram, F, Duke
Olson: Trusting the process has finally paid off for Philadelphia on lottery night. I have Ingram No. 1 and the fit is much better for him with the Sixers. He brings length, upside as a scorer and most importantly, shooting. A Simmons selection would force Philly into serious roster moves, and that’s not good for an organization looking to create stability.
2. Los Angeles Lakers – Ben Simmons, F, LSU
Zimmerman: The Lakers don’t have to think much here. Los Angeles’ young backcourt of D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson provides enough shooting around Simmons, and the rookie should complement the pair with his ability to create better shots for them. The only potential schematic problem is how Simmons and forward Julius Randle fit together, but there are worse problems to have.
3. Boston Celtics – Dragan Bender, F, Int’l
Olson: The conflict for the Celtics at No. 3 is whether they need to draft a player for a playoff push or take a flyer on someone with serious upside. Bender is the best prospect on the board, but he’s also the youngest and doesn’t project as a player that’s ready to contribute right away. Boston could use another shooter, and Bender’s defensive versatility fits well with others on the roster. He has a very high ceiling.
4. Phoenix Suns – Jaylen Brown, F, Cal
Zimmerman: Phoenix needs forwards — period. Moreso, it needs forwards who can switch on defense, run the court and hit the occasional spot-up jumper. While that could be had for cheap in free agency, the athletic, 6-foot-7 Brown is close to that player now. With some work, he also has the ceiling to become more. That’s something few behind him (Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield) can say other than point guard Kris Dunn.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves – Jamal Murray, G, Kentucky
Olson: Minnesota only has one perimeter player who shoots well from three and Murray could help there right away. Ricky Rubio is a tremendous passer, defender, and is still only 25 years old. Murray and Zach Lavine would give the Timberwolves someone to turn to for offense at guard at all times.
6. New Orleans Pelicans – Kris Dunn, PG, Providence
Zimmerman: Eric Gordon is a free agent. Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, when they aren’t injured, become just that a year from now. Dunn falling this far is a stroke of luck. It’s a no-brainer. Now to teach him and Anthony Davis how to use their incredible gifts on defense.
7. Denver Nuggets – Timothe Luwawu, F, Int’l
Olson: The Nuggets have a long-term piece on their team at every position except small forward. That brings us to Luwawu, who I’m higher on than most. The 21-year-old from France has the potential to be much more than a prototypical 3-and-D wing. He’s a great passer, an improving shooter and has a budding overall scoring game that could explode at the next level.
8. Sacramento Kings – Marquese Chriss, F, Washington
Zimmerman: I’m well-aware of reports the Kings would have drafted Buddy Hield had they earned a top-5 pick. I’m also aware the Kings change their minds (on front office personnel, coaches and players) quite often. I’m no Vlade Divac, but I think reaching for one of the most athletic, young, raw and naturally skilled players in such a weak draft could go a lot worse. That would allow him to learn from idol and — by his own comparison — a similar player in combo forward Rudy Gay.
9. Toronto Raptors – Deyonta Davis, F, Michigan State
Olson: Center Jonas Valanciunas had a great performance in the 2016 NBA Playoffs, but he’s not much on defense. Enter Davis, who would thrive in a situation where his main responsibility would be blocking shots and defending the rim. His upside after that is questionable, but Toronto’s a good situation for his skill set.
10. Milwaukee Bucks – Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah
Zimmerman: Milwaukee is stacked across the board and will likely ride out center Greg Monroe’s contract for a few more years, but Poeltl is a solid talent here. By the time he’s ready to contribute significant minutes, there might be a need on the roster.
11. Orlando Magic – Buddy Hield, G, Oklahoma
Olson: Buddy’s fall ends here. The Magic are in a strange spot where both ideal power forwards are off the board and Henry Ellenson’s fit defensively with Nikola Vucevic would be a nightmare. Hield gives Orlando some much-needed scoring punch and shooting alongside Mario Hezonja and Victor Oladipo.
12. Utah Jazz – Denzel Valentine, G, Michigan State
Zimmerman: A classic Jazz pick, Valentine falls into the same category of player as Gordon Hayward as a smart, versatile wing who fits well into the team’s culture. He’ll have a tough time earning playing time with Alec Burks and Rodney Hood in the way. Still … classic Jazz pick.
13. Phoenix Suns – Henry Ellenson, F, Marquette
Olson: Ellenson was in consideration for the top five before a subpar season at Marquette pushed him down draft boards in favor of higher upside players like Davis and Chriss. The 6-foot-10 power forward is a smooth stretch four who can handle the ball and score from the perimeter and the post. His athleticism and defense are serious question marks, but he should have success in the NBA with his ability to stretch the floor.
14. Chicago Bulls – Demetrius Jackson, G, Notre Dame
Zimmerman: An athletic tank of a point guard, Jackson has the potential to become an Eric Bledsoe-like defensive presence. This is worth the reach for a Bulls team that could face losing Derrick Rose, whose injury history has required point guard depth anyhow.
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