With the NCAA Tournament wrapped up, it signals the beginning of NBA draft season. Teams who are set to miss the playoffs are already looking towards the future and the plethora of strong point guards that are available. So who built their draft stock following the NCAA Tournament? Here’s mock draft 2.0.
1) Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn Nets) – PG Markelle Fultz (Washington)
This couldn’t be a better scenario for the Celtics. They’re currently the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference and may wind up with the #1 pick in the NBA Draft. Isaiah Thomas has clearly been the team’s MVP this season, but why not pair him with another guard out of Washington? Markelle Fultz is the only player since 1992 to average at least 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists and shoot over 40% from three. Despite his team losing 22 games this year, his tools, athleticism and well-rounded game can translate to the next level. The idea of him playing at the point and Thomas at shooting guard is sure to scare Eastern Conference sides in the years to come.
2) Phoenix Suns – SF Josh Jackson (Kansas)
The Suns traded P.J. Tucker to the Raptors and replacing him with Kansas standout Josh Jackson seems like the right move here. Jackson is the most complete player in this draft, having shown major improvement from Day 1 to Kansas’ Elite 8 loss against Oregon. He improved his three-point shooting, finishing with 34 threes at 37.8% and looking sharper in 1-on-1 situations. His explosiveness, quickness and IQ suggests he can become an elite defender and although he needs to work on his playmaking, Jackson has shown he’s good enough to be considered a top-3 pick.
3) Los Angeles Lakers – PG Lonzo Ball (UCLA)
Lonzo and the Lakers seems like a match made in heaven. He’s recently said in interviews that he would rather play for the Lakers than be the #1 overall pick. Luke Walton’s up-tempo offense would suit Ball really well, having played in fast offenses at Chino Hills and UCLA. However, Ball was exposed during UCLA’s Sweet 16 loss against Kentucky. He allowed De’Aaron Fox to score 39 points and failed to take over late in the game when the Bruins were down. Despite this mishap, Lonzo’s floor leadership is second to none and his 80 three-pointers this year makes him a threat from downtown. As the best passer in the draft, Lonzo could slot right into the point guard position, allowing D’Angelo Russell to move to his preferred two-guard position.
4) Philadelphia 76ers – SF Jayson Tatum (Duke)
A point guard could be in play here, but it looks as though Ben Simmons could take up this spot when he returns from injury. Therefore, the Sixers focus on the best player available. Tatum has proven himself as an elite scorer, with the ability to shoot from three, pull up from mid-range, as well as step backs and handles to help him drive to the rim. He lacks the explosiveness that helps him finish at the rim and there are questions over his shot selection, as he tends to shoot two-point jumpers a lot. Despite this, Tatum is still an elite offensive wing, averaging 16.8 points this season. He has shown glimpses on defense with his long arms, quick feet and ability to guard multiple positions.
5) Orlando Magic – SF Jonathan Isaac (Florida State)
Isaac lacked the takeover scoring ability late in the season, only averaging 12 points a game. However, he was incredibly efficient, shooting 59.3% from inside the arc and rarely turning the ball over. At 6’10, his handles and ability to create shots shows his potential to be a mismatch on the offensive end. His defense is also strong, averaging 2.3 blocks per 40 minutes and he’s shown he can go out and guard the perimeter. Here, he gives the Magic an option on the wing with Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic manning the middle and Elfrid Payton passing the rock.
6) New York Knicks – PG De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky)
The Knicks are a mess right now. With Carmelo Anthony rumors circulating throughout the season and a team that on paper, should’ve made the playoffs, but instead failed to live up to expectations, something needs to change in the Big Apple. De’Aaron Fox had a strong NCAA Tournament, which included a 39-point outburst against Lonzo Ball and the UCLA Bruins. He’s starting to show promise on the offensive end, putting pressure on defenses at the rim and making two-point pull-ups. He’s not a strong three-point shooter, but the damage he can do as a driver, facilitator and defender puts him just outside of the top-5.
7) Minnesota Timberwolves – SG Malik Monk (Kentucky)
Monk had a rough final two months of the season that exposed his questionable shot selection. In Kentucky’s loss to North Carolina in the Elite 8, Monk finished with just 6 points. Despite this, he still averaged 19.8 points and 2.7 threes for the year. His shot-making ability in unmatched in this class and he can shoot in transition, off screens and pulling up. Since 1992, Monk is one of 12 freshman guards to average at least 19 points and 2.5 threes with a true shooting percentage above 58%. This list includes Stephen Curry, Eric Gordon, Jamal Murray and C.J. McCollum. Monk gives the T’Wolves bench some scoring and the idea of Monk and Kris Dunn coming on for Rubio and LaVine next year should excite fans in Minnesota.
8) Sacramento Kings – PG Dennis Smith Jr (NC State)
With NC State struggling during the regular season, fans didn’t get a chance to see Smith play during the NCAA Tournament. However, during the year, Smith was flat in many big games. Nonetheless, Smith finished with 18.1 points and 6.2 assists for the year, with explosive athleticism and dangerous ball skills. He can shoot from anywhere on the court and can generate offense for himself and teammates, but the question is whether he can do so at an efficient level? Decision-making is one of his biggest weaknesses, but the idea of Smith pairing with Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein in the rebuilding of Sacramento should intrigue fans.
9) Dallas Mavericks – PG Frank Ntilikina (France)
The run of guards continues with Dallas taking international standout Frank Ntilikina. The MVP of last year’s U18 European Championships, Ntilikina was recently named as starter with his club Strasbourg IG and with the rise in minutes, the rise in production has followed. He doesn’t offer the elite playmaking ability that other point guards in this draft class possess, but he does have the promise of playing off the ball and locking down multiple players. He’s currently shooting 41.3% from three and is probably the best perimeter defender in this class, so despite his limitations of playing overseas, Ntilikina should fit right in with the NBA game. The Mavericks need a point guard, with Yogi Ferrell showing potential, but he’s not the answer in the long run. Ntilikina may be the answer.
10) Sacramento Kings (from New Orleans Pelicans) – PF Lauri Markkanen (Arizona)
The Kings use their second top-10 pick on Markkanen, who could play a nice role as a Frank Kaminsky-type character in Sacramento. He cooled off in the final month of the season, yet still finished with 42.3% shooting from three. He looks like one of the top shooters in the draft, however his lack of explosiveness and strength at the rim is a concern. He is also not a rim protector, with a low block percentage of just 1.8%. However, pairing him with Willie Cauley-Stein in Sac-Town should help lessen the damage.
11) Detroit Pistons – SF Miles Bridges (Michigan State)
In a Round of 32 matchup against Josh Jackson and Kansas, Bridges scored 22 points on Jackson, showing off his range and explosiveness around the rim. He finished the year averaging 16.9 points, showing 38.9% from three. However, his 68.5% mark from the free-throw line raises some concerns. His defense has gotten stronger as the season’s progressed, averaging 1.5 blocks per game and showing the ability to defend along the perimeter. There will be questions on whether he’s a small forward or power forward, but in today’s game where positions seem to be meaningless, Bridges should fit in just fine.
12) Charlotte Hornets – C Zach Collins (Gonzaga)
Collins has become the fastest riser in this draft, putting on big performances to lead Gonzaga to the National Championship. One of these big performances included a 14-point, 13-rebound, 6-block effort against South Carolina in the Final Four. Despite being limited in the National Championship game due to foul trouble, we still saw a glimpse of his shot-blocking ability and solid hook shot. Collins possesses great size, mobile feet and soft hands that will help him at the next level. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him return for another year, but with the first-round buzz he’s generated, it’s best for Collins to leave now.
13) Denver Nuggets – C Jarrett Allen (Texas)
As the season went on, Allen began to show more confidence and an even better offensive game. Allen finished the season averaging 16.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. He doesn’t have a flashy game, but has shown a strong mid-range game. The Texas big man isn’t an advanced shot-creator or explosive leaper, but his mobility and 7’5 1/2 wingspan should help him as a finisher, rim protector and pick-and-roll defender.
14) Miami Heat – PF Isaiah Hartenstein (Germany)
Hartenstein hasn’t had the opportunity to show scouts what he can do with a limited amount of minutes, but he’ll get his chance at the Nike Hoop Summit. At 7’1, he’s an athletic big man with unique perimeter skills. He’s also flashed ball-handling, passing and quick feet. The Heat may take this international stud as a project player, working with him behind Hassan Whiteside and eventually giving the two bigs a chance to work alongside each other in the future.
15) Chicago Bulls – C Justin Patton (Creighton)
16) Portland Trail Blazers – PF John Collins (Wake Forest)
17) Indiana Pacers – PF TJ Leaf (UCLA)
18) Milwaukee Bucks – PF Harry Giles (Duke)
19) Atlanta Hawks – SG Donovan Mitchell (Louisville)
20) Portland Trail Blazers (from Memphis Grizzlies) – SG Luke Kennard (Duke)
21) Oklahoma City Thunder – SF Justin Jackson (North Carolina)
22) Toronto Raptors – SF Rodions Kurucs (Latvia)
23) Brooklyn Nets (from Washington Wizards) – PF Johnathan Motley (Baylor)
24) Orlando Magic (from Los Angeles Clippers) – SG Josh Hart (Villanova)
25) Utah Jazz – C Bam Adebayo (Kentucky)
26) Brooklyn Nets (from Boston Celtics) – SG Sindarius Thornwell (South Carolina)
27) Portland Trail Blazers (from Cleveland Cavaliers) – PF Caleb Swanigan (Purdue)
28) Los Angeles Lakers (from Houston Rockets) – PF Jordan Bell (Oregon)
29) San Antonio Spurs – SG Terrance Ferguson (Adelaide)
30) Utah Jazz (Golden State Warriors) – PG Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State)