NBA mock draft: This would be the perfect pick for every team

Draft week is finally here. After months of speculation swirling around the top selections, we’re about to know how everything goes down on Thursday night.

This is setting up to be a potentially wild draft night. Some of the league’s most unpredictable franchises are choosing at the top of the order, and there’s a lack of consensus throughout the first few picks. It still feels like there’s so much uncertainty in this draft even just days away from the real thing.

Instead of trying to predict what’s actually going happen, we’re using this mock to determine what should happen. This is the pick that would get each team high marks in the draft.

1. Phoenix Suns – Luka Doncic, G, Slovenia

It sure seems like the Suns are going to take Deandre Ayton with this pick. Ayton is a tremendous physical talent and it’s easy to see his appeal to Phoenix, but Doncic has been my choice as the best player in the draft from the very start of the process due to his ability to have the greatest influence on winning.

Doncic has won at every level he’s ever played at, from leading Slovenia to a gold medal at EuroBasket last summer to winning Euroleague MVP and Finals MVP with Real Madrid earlier this year. His skill set also translates perfectly to this era of the league. He’s an advanced playmaker and developing shooter who stuffs the stat sheet every time he takes the court.

There are concerns about Doncic’s lack of elite athleticism, but that doesn’t diminish his advanced skill set or everything he’s accomplished in Europe. It seems like he’s not going to be the No. 1 pick, but he should be.

2. Sacramento Kings – Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State

This draft is stacked with talented center prospects, but we’ll take Jaren Jackson Jr. over any of them. He’s going to be the best big man in this class because his game translates to the modern era better than anyone else.

Jackson blocked shots at a better rate than Mohamed Bamba, hit 40 percent of his threes and has the quickness and agility to stay with guards defensively. He didn’t put up huge numbers at Michigan State, but he’ll be better in the pros because his skill set is perfectly suited for today’s game.

The Kings are rumored to like Marvin Bagley III or Michael Porter Jr. with this pick, but Jackson’s long-term potential as a 3-and-D center makes his the most prescient selection.

3. Atlanta Hawks – Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona

Ayton’s talent is evident from the moment he walks into the gym. He’s a massive center with elite athleticism and soft touch both around the rim and on his face-up jumper. It is no surprise that he is the strong favorite to go No. 1 overall.

There are real questions about his defense, and that’s what pushes him to No. 3 for me. In an era that’s marginalizing traditional centers, it’s fair to wonder how much of an impact on winning a poor defensive center can have. Granted, Ayton has the gifts to improve on the defensive end, particularly when he’s finally playing center at the NBA level, and not power forward as he often did at Arizona.

Still, it’s Ayton’s lack of instincts defensively that make him a somewhat risky bet for the modern era. He’s definitely going to put up huge per-game numbers, but the jury is out on whether he can be the centerpiece of a winning team.

4. Memphis Grizzlies – Marvin Bagley III, C/F, Duke

Bagley has similar appeal and similar question marks to Ayton. Like Ayton, he put up absolutely massive numbers during his one year in college, thriving as an inside scorer and rebounder at Duke. Like Ayton, there are also major concerns about his impact on the defensive end.

Memphis is a perfect landing spot for him. Marc Gasol could cover up some of Bagley’s defensive issues, while also being able to space out to the three-point line offensively, giving Bagley plenty of room to eat in the paint.

If Bagley continues to improve as a shooter and ball handler, his offensive potential is immense. Memphis would be lucky to get him at No. 4.

5. Dallas Mavericks – Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

The Mavs need a star and Bamba has the most star potential of any player left on the board.

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He is a risky pick. How much will he be able to do offensively outside of catching lobs at the rim? Will his shot blocking remain as valuable when an opposing team makes him defend a perimeter player at the five? Does he play with a high enough motor on a consistent basis to get the most out of his physical gifts?

These are fair questions, but at a certain point it’s worth it to bet on Bamba’s talent. An athletic center with a historic 7’10 wingspan, impressive shot blocking instincts and a developing shooting stroke, the ideal version of Bamba is a monster rim protector on defense and a floor spacer and rim runner on offense. It would be fun watching him play on a spaced floor with Dennis Smith Jr. in a high screen-and-roll game in Dallas.

6. Orlando Magic – Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma

Yes, Trae Young is the most polarizing player in the draft. He’s the best shooter and arguably the best passer (with Doncic) in the class, but he’s also undersized and not particularly athletic. Despite his limitations, Young’s offensive ceiling makes him the best point guard prospect in the draft, and a perfect selection for an Orlando team that has an obvious hole at the position.

It’s possible Young provides so much value offensively that it offsets the fact that he may be the worst defensive guard in the NBA early in his career. His off-the-dribble shooting ability changes any defensive scheme, and he also has the vision and passing touch to find a teammate when teams trap him.

Orlando needs a point guard, it needs shooting and it needs someone with star power. Young checks every box.

7. Chicago Bulls – Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke

Why is Carter the best pick for the Bulls? Because he offers a rare combination of a high floor and a high ceiling, giving the Bulls a young player who’s a safe bet to be a productive pro while also offering enough upside to one day grow into an All-Star.

Carter is a beast in the paint as an inside scorer and rebounder, and also hit 40 percent of his three-point attempts at Duke. The question is his lateral quickness, but he should be able to make up for it with a combination of length (7’3 wingspan) and basketball IQ.

The Bulls would be able to lock in their front court of the future with Carter joining Lauri Markkanen. He’s a dependable player who should have a long and successful career.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers – Michael Porter Jr, F, Missouri

Porter is a worthy gamble for the Cavs whether LeBron James sticks around or not. He’s the biggest boom-or-bust player in the draft, offering rare star power and offensive potential at the No. 8 pick.

Porter was the top recruit in the country heading into Mizzou, building his reputation as a 6’11 scoring forward who could get buckets from all three levels. He’d give the Cavs a new dimension in the front court, one that can space the floor out to three and take his man off the dribble on the perimeter.

The injury concerns are real. Back surgery limited Porter to two unimpressive games at Mizzou, and his health remains a mystery just days before the draft. At this point in the top-10, Porter’s upside is worth the risk. Cleveland could do a lot worse with this pick.

9. New York Knicks – Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State

The Knicks need a jolt of athleticism and positional versatility around Kristaps Porzingis. That’s what Bridges brings to the table as a 6’6 combo forward who lacks one elite skill, but is capable as a shooter, passer, defender and ball handler.

Bridges didn’t do himself any favors by returning for his sophomore year at Michigan State, but he remains an enticing prospect for the league’s modern era. Today’s NBA values wings who can switch defensively, run in transition, hit a catch-and-shoot jumper and attack a closeout. Bridges can do all of that as one of the best pure athletes in the draft.

10. Philadelphia 76ers – Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova

Mikal Bridges spent four years perfecting his 3-and-D skill set at Villanova. Two national championships later, the Philly kid is ready to be called big leagues by the Sixers, who badly need someone with his specific skill set around stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

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Bridges is one of the best pure shooters this class, offering knock down catch-and-shoot ability from beyond the arc. He’s also a long and active defender who will be even more versatile on that end if he can continue to add strength to his thin frame. The worry with Bridges is his lack of creation ability, but the presence of Embiid, Simmons and the potential of Markelle Fultz makes him a great fit in this specific situation.

11. Charlotte Hornets – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Charlotte needs to add talent in the worst way and should go with the best player available at this pick. To me, that’s Gilgeous-Alexander, a long and slippery point guard prospect who just had a breakout freshman season for Kentucky.

SGA has great size at 6’6 with a 7-foot wingspan. He created so much of the Wildcats’ offense in the half court, using his advanced footwork to break down defenses off the dribble to either finish or set up a teammate. His weakness is his pull-up jumper, but that’s where Kemba Walker thrives. This would be an intriguing match in the Charlotte backcourt.

12. Los Angeles Clippers – Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

The Clippers need to find a new face of the franchise after trading Blake Griffin and losing Chris Paul. Sexton has the game and demeanor to be exactly that.

The 6’3 lead guard is a force going to the basket, showing the ability to finish at the rim while also drawing fouls at a rapid rate. He has room to grow as a shooter and passer, but he’s arguably this draft’s greatest competitor, which should give LA belief in his ability to continue improving.

13. Los Angeles Clippers – Zhaire Smith, G, Texas Tech

Zhaire Smith is loaded with upside. This is the draft’s best athlete, a former three-star recruit who exploded onto NBA radars during his freshman season at Texas Tech thanks to his knack for making plays above the rim on both ends of the court. He’s a 6’4 guard who plays like a big man, collecting rebounds and blocks at a rate no one his size should be able to reach. He needs to improve his shooting and ball handling.

14. Denver Nuggets – Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky

Denver could use another versatile wing. Kevin Knox is a no-brainer if he’s still on the board.

There’s a good chance he could be gone by this point: Knox has been generating top-10 buzz over the last week, in part because he’s the type of athletic, oversized wing the league is in short supply of. At 6’9, Knox can knock down shots and run the floor. He needs to tighten his handle and prove his feel for the game after a discouraging assist-to-turnover ratio, but he’s also one of the youngest players in the draft and could just be scratching the surface of his talent level.

15. Washington Wizards – Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M

The Wizards need some youth and athleticism in the front court. Williams would be a great fit.

With a 7’6 wingspan, Williams is a long and bouncy center who can run the floor, catch lobs and block shots. He has the type of game Clint Capela has helped make trendy for modern centers.

16. Phoenix Suns – Lonnie Walker IV, G, Miami

Adding Luka Doncic and Walker in this draft would be a pretty incredible haul for Phoenix. Walker is a former McDonald’s All-American who projects as a 6’4 off-guard with a 6’10 wingspan who can hit threes, pull off acrobatic finishes at the rim and hound opposing ball handlers defensively.

Like, how did he do this?

Walker’s scoring efficiency left a lot to be desired (perhaps in part because of a preseason knee injury?), but there’s no doubting his talent.

17. Milwaukee Bucks – Troy Brown, G, Oregon

Brown is a high IQ 6’6 wing who can handle and pass like a point guard — which is exactly what he was throughout his high school career. With a 6’11 wingspan, he’d give the Bucks another versatile defender. His jump shot is a big question mark.

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18. San Antonio Spurs – Elie Okobo, PG, France

Okobo is a 6’3 point guard with a 6’8 wingspan who excels at off-the-dribble shooting. He ended the season on fire for his French pro team and is now likely the favorite to be the fourth point guard off the board in this draft.

19. Atlanta Hawks – Josh Okogie, G, Georgia Tech

Okogie has serious 3-and-D potential. He’s a high motor defender as a 6’4 wing with a 7-foot wingspan. He also hit 38 percent of his threes during each of his seasons at Georgia Tech.

20. Minnesota Timberwolves – Kevin Huerter, G, Maryland

The Wolves desperately need some shooting. That’s what Huerter provides. A 6’8 wing, Huerter is one of the draft’s better shooters and also showed an ability to quickly read the floor and make smart passes during his two years at Maryland.

21. Utah Jazz – Dzanan Musa, F, Bosnia

The 6’9 forward with a one-track mind: scoring the basketball.

22. Chicago Bulls – Jacob Evans, G, Cincinnati

Evans has 3-and-D potential as a tough 6’6 guard who was a key part of the nation’s No. 2 overall defense at Cincinnati. He can’t do much off the dribble, but he’s a reliable catch-and-shoot threat who can add value on offense without holding the ball.

23. Indiana Pacers – Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova

Brunson should be able to step in and give quality minutes in the backcourt right away for a Pacers team on the cusp in the Eastern Conference. The two-time national champ and reigning player of the year can hit threes, run an offense and score over the top of smaller defenders in the post.

24. Portland Trail Blazers – Keita Bates-Diop, F, Ohio State

Bates-Diop is a huge senior forward from Ohio State, measuring at 6’8, 225 pounds with a 7’3 wingspan. He turned into a dependable (36 percent) outside shooter during his fourth year at Ohio State. He’s such a good rebounder that he’s an ideal candidate to play stretch four and even some minutes as a small ball five.

25. Los Angeles Lakers – Mitchell Robinson, C

Robinson is an ultra athletic 7-footer who projects as a shot blocker and rim runner in the vein of Hassan Whiteside. He’s spent the entire year training for the draft after deciding to drop out of Western Kentucky at the start of the year, making him one of this draft’s biggest mystery men.

26. Philadelphia 76ers – Jerome Robinson, G, Boston College

A straight bucket-getter who put up 20 points per game in the ACC on impressive shooting efficiency all over the court. The question is whether he can guard anyone.

27. Boston Celtics – Donte DiVincenzo, G, Villanova

Boston loves tough-mind guards with athleticism. DiVincenzo fits the bill after posting the draft combine’s best vertical jump at 42 inches. He arrives in this draft after a breakout performance in the national title game, scoring 31 points to win Most Outstanding Player and forcing his way onto draft boards. He ideally projects as a two-way guard who can shoot with range.

28. Golden State Warriors – De’Anthony Melton, G, USC

Melton missed last season after USC ruled him ineligible following details uncovered in the FBI corruption case. NBA teams should remember why he was such an enticing prospect last time he took the court as a freshman for the Trojans. He offers potential as a lockdown perimeter defender who can also handle and pass the ball. The jump shot is the question mark, but the Warriors will take all the things he does well and turn him into a productive player.

29. Brooklyn Nets – Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton

Thomas is a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year who hit over 40 percent of his threes throughout three college seasons. He’s undersized for a two-guard, but he makes up for it with a 6’10 wingspan. He has potential to be a high energy 3-and-D option.

30. Atlanta Hawks – Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy

Simons enters this draft as a fifth-year high school player who was considered a top-10 recruit in his class. He’s a 6’4 combo guard with explosive leaping ability who projects long-term as a guard who can score off the dribble.

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