The best young basketball prospects in the world will learn where their future lies this evening as the NBA Draft takes place in New York.
The draft system allows the lesser teams the opportunity to add the best of the upcoming talent to their roster. Having finished with the worst record last season, the Timberwolves had a 25% chance of winning the number 1 pick in the draft, which they did. The ping pong balls fell well for the Lakers at the draft lottery, who’ll be picking second even though they had the 4th worst record, whilst the 76ers stood pat at third. Having had the top 3 decided by the lottery, the rest of the teams are then sorted by winning % in ascending order, in order to encourage parity within the league.
Seen as one of the deepest drafts in a long time, with truly elite talent at the top and great value throughout the draft. Considering that a team can only have 5 players on court at one time one player can make a massive difference to a franchise’s success. Pick someone who turns out to be a flop and the franchise could be stuck in mediocrity for years to come. Choose an all-star and your team could be headed for the playoffs sooner than you expect. There’s also the toss up of drafting potential who can develop over a few years or drafting instant impact talent that’ll improve your team in the short term but maybe not reach the heights of that other player with more potential in the long term.
Here’s a look at what the top 10 teams could do with their picks in order to improve their teams from the pool of talent available.
1.Minnesota Timberwolves – Karl-Anthony Towns
This is quite simply a no-brainer. Whilst Flip Saunders may be enamoured with Jahlil Okafor, Towns is a far better prospect. Towns provides great shooting for a big man at one end, and is a great protector of the rim at the other. Whilst not as elite in the post as Duke’s Okafor, Towns is still comfortable and also works well in space. Towns’ ability at the line sets him aside from any other big man in the draft, shooting 81% – a staggering rate for the only statistic which should carry perfectly over to the NBA. Whilst Kentucky’s loaded roster meant that he didn’t see the minutes college stars normally see, he’s far and away the best player in the draft and should be an NBA star for many years.
2. LA Lakers – Jahlil Okafor
The Lakers were originally said to not be particularly impressed with Towns or Okafor, however recently it’s been rumoured that they’re 80:20 in favour of taking the Duke big man over any other prospect. Whilst his ceiling isn’t viewed as being particularly high compared to other prospects, his superior offensive game and passing out of the post are perfect for one of the least patient franchises in the NBA. Whilst Russell may be tempting it’s far easier to find a great starting point guard than it is a franchise big.
3. Philadelphia 76ers – D’Angelo Russell
It’s impossible to try to predict what Sixers GM Sam Hinkie will do here. Nothing is out of the question. Recent rumours of the franchise being high on Latvian seven-footer Porzingis are said to be solely a smoke screen in order to force a trade up from another franchise. Whilst he doesn’t have the defensive skill or athleticism of fellow top ranked PG Mudiay, this is made up for by his ability on the offensive end. The 6’5″ guard can catch fire quickly when shooting, and has been described by scouts as seeing 2 or 3 passes ahead of the game for a scoring opportunity.
4. New York Knicks – Justise Winslow SG/SF
The Knicks clearly weren’t impressed when they fell two spots in the lottery, which is understandable. Porzingis’ potential will be enticing here, as will trading down and picking up assets for a team fairly bereft of talent outside of Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is the reason the Knicks pass on Porzingis though; they need to try to win now, and can’t wait for someone to develop over a couple of years – even if their potential is higher. Winslow is a physical beast, as he showed in Duke’s winning NCAA tournament run.
5. Orlando Magic – Kristaps Porzingis PF/C
Orlando are said to be firmly on the Porzingis hype train, which is picking up speed as the draft approaches. It’s so rare to find a big man with such a good shooting touch. The Latvian has outrageous length at 7’1″ for his power forward skill set. With a young roster the Magic are in a position to give him the time he needs to develop an NBA body over the next few years, to become a real threat. He likely has the highest upside of any player in the draft, but picks from Europe always seem more risky than others.
6. Sacramento Kings – Mario Hezonja, SG/SF
The European Wiggins. Not short on confidence whatsoever, Hezonja isn’t the greatest team player, however with his potential that can’t be seen as a stumbling block. When asked if he’d watched Messi at Barcelona he simply replied, “Let Messi come see me.”. Elite athleticism and a strong outside scoring game (38% from downtown), along with playing at a professional level in Europe already, makes Hezonja great value at six. Players from Europe are often underrated and had he been playing at his current level in the NCAA he’d be a lock to go in the top 3. Vlade Divac has expressed that he’d be more comfortable with a European prospect than most GMs would be, and Hezonja is well worth the Kings’ 6th pick.
7. Denver Nuggets – Emmanuel Mudiay, PG
Denver sit tight and get their replacement for Ty Lawson, who seemingly appears to be on the way out in the near future. Originally seen as a top 4 lock, scrutiny of his poor shooting ability has seen him slide down boards. Playing in China did the Congolese point guard no favours, although before he got injured he was competing with grown men. His upside comes from John Wall type athleticism and superior defensive ability and at 7 it’s impossible to turn down.
8. Detroit Pistons – Stanley Johnson, SF
The Arizona prospect is the third youngest player in the draft, having only turned 19 a month ago and somehow slid down draft boards despite a solid showing in the NCAA tournament with Arizona. This was likely more down to other rising prospects as opposed to major flaws being exposed in Johnson’s game. With youth on his side there’s plenty of room for development, which’ll be allowed by Detroit who have no other wing players who can score from the wing like the 6’6″ Johnson can.
9. Charlotte Hornets – Myles Turner, PF
The stretch four out of Texas was the second best recruit coming into the year, however his suspect athleticism has led to a small slide. Having traded away last year’s first rounder, Vonleh, to the Blazers a spot on the roster has been opened for some front-court youth. On defence Turner’s only great skill is his shot blocking, but his solid offensive game in the post and in space are too difficult to turn down at 9.
10. Miami Heat – Willie Cauley-Stein
Miami are in a position to take the best player available. Although with Whiteside and Bosh, Miami look set in their front-court there’s nobody in this draft who can defend like the ex-Kentucky Wildcat can. Cauley-Stein has the athleticism and length to guard every position on the floor. His defensive prowess is so highly rated that he is seen by many as the only player in the draft who could’ve had an impact in the recent NBA finals.
The NBA Draft is on ESPN with coverage starting at 7pm USA Eastern time, and Minnesota will be on the clock at 7:30pm Eastern time.