NBA Draft Reaction

So the NBA Draft came and went. Unlike the NFL Draft, which is a 3-day event, the NBA Draft lasts a single night and is only 2 rounds long. 60 young men saw their dreams realized and will take the first step towards what we all hope will be long NBA careers. And to those players who didn’t get drafted, here’s a list of players you’ll be joining:

Ben Wallace

Udonis Haslem

Bruce Bowen

Jeremy Lin

Raja Bell

Jose Calderon

Fred Van Fleet

Robert Covington

Kent Bazemore

Wesley Matthews

Aron Baynes

Timofey Mozgov

JJ Barea

All of these guys became good players in the NBA and heavily contributed to their teams’ success. Keep your heads up, your journey isn’t over.

With that being said, as I mentioned yesterday, I was working during most of the first round of the NBA Draft (I got home as the Celtics’ pick was being announced). So I couldn’t go pick-by-pick to chart my reactions. So instead, I’m going to do some winners and losers of the Draft.

Winner: Phoenix Suns

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When you’re picking first overall, you’d better nail your picks. The Suns finished with the worst record in the NBA last season, which included a game where Warriors head coach Steve Kerr took a game off and the Warriors still beat them by 40. They had to have a good draft and, on paper, they freaking nailed it. First they land DeAndre Ayton of Arizona #1 overall, the consensus top prospect and safest player in the Draft. That one was a no-brainer. Then they trade the 16th overall pick in Zhaire Smith of Texas Tech plus a first rounder next year (which originally belonged to the Miami Heat so the pick is based on how they do rather than how the Suns do) to the 76ers for Mikal Bridges of Villanova, one of the best prospects in this class. So the Suns load up on two top-10 prospects at areas of need and all it really cost them was a draft pick that’s probably going to end up being outside of the lottery next year anyway. Fantastic draft for Phoenix.

Loser: Michael Porter Jr

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I don’t know if anyone has had a worse draft process than Porter. Porter was so hyped coming out of high school that one analyst said that he would’ve been the top overall pick had he been eligible in last year’s draft. Porter originally committed to Washington until they fired their head coach, causing him to flip his commitment to Missouri. However, he suffered a season-ending back injury after just 3 career college games and 1 start, scoring a grand total of 10 points. This back injury caused him to go from potentially being the #1 overall pick to barely staying within the lottery. However, if you’re the Denver Nuggets, the team that got Porter, you have to be thrilled that he fell into your laps at pick #14. He’s a potentially franchise-altering talent that you didn’t even have to trade up in order to land.

Winner: Boston Celtics

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There were a million rumors surrounding what the Celtics wanted to do for this draft. There were some saying they wanted to trade into the top 5 to land Mo Bamba out of Texas (he ended up with the Orlando Magic). Instead, they land the next best thing: Texas A&M center Robert Williams with the 27th pick. Williams was a guy that was considered a lottery-talent (I had him as a lottery pick in my first mock and just outside the lottery in yesterday’s mock). He’s basically the same type of player as Bamba, minus the 7’10 wingspan. While his offense needs a lot of refinement, his defense is arguably the best in the class and there isn’t a better center to learn from than Al Horford, whom Williams will have 2 years to learn behind.

Loser: Mo Bamba

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As I mentioned above, the Orlando Magic landed Mo Bamba out of Texas, a genetic freak but raw as Hell. He has no idea just how good he can be, but the Orlando Magic are one of the worst teams in the league at developing talent. It took Victor Oladipo leaving Orlando for him to become the star he was supposed to be. Plus the Magic have a long track record of missed picks. Here’s each of their first rounders since they lost the NBA Finals in 2009:

2009: No Picks

2010: Daniel Orton-Kentucky (29th overall)

2012: Andrew Nicholson-St. Bonaventure (19th overall)

2013: Victor Oladipo-Indiana (2nd overall)

2014: Aaron Gordon-Arizona (4th overall), Dario Saric-Croatia (12th overall, traded to the 76ers)

2015: Mario Hezonja-Spain (5th overall)

2016: Domantas Sabonis-Gonzaga (11th overall, traded to the Thunder)

2017: Jonathan Isaac-Florida State (6th overall, Anzejs Pasecniks-Latvia (25th overall)

See what I mean? I’ve never even heard of Orton or Nicholson and Isaac basically did nothing despite having some impressive dimensions. I mean for god’s sake the man is 6’10 and he shot 38% from the floor in just 27 games! You’re standing right under the hoop all game! Hezonja basically doesn’t exist right now and the only reason Gordon has any relevance whatsoever is from a great performance at the Slam Dunk Contest a couple years ago. I’d have a little more confidence for Bamba if he had an established stud to learn behind but he doesn’t. Best of luck to you, kid, you’re going to need it.

Winner: Chicago Bulls

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I love Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr and I think the Bulls made a great pick selecting him here. As I’ve mentioned on several occasions, I love the way that he’s strong enough to just bully people down low and he will be a real presence for them down in the paint, which will allow Lauri Markkanen to stretch the floor a little better. Not much more to say about this pick that I haven’t already said in other blogs. They also landed Boise State swingman Chandler Hutchison, a more raw player but can do a lot with the basketball and could be a potentially exciting option off the bench.

Loser: My Data Bill

I may or may not have streamed the draft on my phone at work, killing a large portion of data on my plan. I’m just going to have to be careful the rest of the month. But it was totally worth it, work was pretty dead and the draft kept things a little livelier than they would’ve been otherwise.

Looking at these pictures, it’s got me thinking: exactly how freaking tall is Adam Silver that he’s at a reasonable height with all of these centers??? A quick google search says he’s 6’3, which kind of caught me off guard. I always pictured Silver as some tiny dorky-looking dude but I guess he’s got half a foot on me (I’m 5’9). Who’s the tiny dorky-looking dude now? That’s going to do it for this NBA Draft recap, let me know what you thought of it in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

2018 Full NBA Mock Draft

So the NBA Draft is today and for you basketball fans out there, I apologize for not going nearly as in depth about this as I did with the NFL Draft but as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’m not nearly as good with basketball as football. Also, I’m not going to lie, I didn’t do nearly as much research before doing this as I should have. I’ve been VERY busy with some things that may or may not be in the works right now as well as being a cashier at a liquor store. So if you’ve been following this draft and my analysis is just flat out wrong, that’s why. But I’m going to do my best with this one and I’m going to do the entire 2-round NBA mock. I’m only doing explanations for the lottery picks (1-14) because really those are the only picks anyone cares about. So with that, let’s get to the mock.

Round 1

1. Phoenix Suns-DeAndre Ayton-C-Arizona

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This is pretty much the only guarantee I can make with this draft because it’s basically a foregone conclusion that Ayton is going to be the top pick to the Suns. He’s the best prospect and probably the safest, too. I liken him to DeMarcus Cousins minus the mean streak (that we know of) and I think at worst he’s going to be a quality starter.

2. Sacramento Kings-Marvin Bagley-F-Duke

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Marvin Bagley was the preseason pick to be the top selection in the draft but with the rise of Ayton and Bagley not being as amazing as everybody thought (he was still really good, though). But Bagley’s potential is too high to pass on so I think the Kings will take their shot here.

3. Atlanta Hawks-Jaren Jackson-F-Michigan State

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The Hawks have nothing right now and Jaren Jackson is among the best prospects in this draft. Jackson needs to put on some muscle but his basketball skills are top-notch. He might get bullied in the paint a little bit at first but if he can fill out, there may not be a bigger threat in the post.

4. Memphis Grizzlies-Luka Doncic-G/F-Slovenia

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This is the biggest question mark of the draft. Yeah, Doncic is 6’8 with really good handles, but his competition is trash. Also I guess he’s getting fat? I don’t know, like I said at the outset, I haven’t done as much due diligence as I probably should have. But from what I understand, Doncic could be another Ben Simmons, but he could also be another Andrea Bargnani.

5. Dallas Mavericks-Mo Bamba-C-Texas

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Bamba’s potential is off the charts but he’s raw as all Hell. He’s going to need a year or two before he’s really ready for the big time. But he’s a 7-footer with a 7’9 wingspan, which at worst he’s just going to block every single shot. Dirk Nowitzki’s not getting any younger and there’s nobody better for Bamba to try and model his game after.

6. Orlando Magic-Michael Porter-F-Missouri

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We really don’t know anything about Porter since he missed basically his entire season at Missouri with a back injury. He was the number 1 recruit last year, though, and that doesn’t just get handed out for nothing so I think the Magic, who really have no marketable talent right now, should take a chance on him.

7. Chicago Bulls-Trae Young-G-Oklahoma

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Young was the story of the college basketball world last year as his shooting numbers were just stupid. However he faded down the stretch and people are really wondering whether he’s another Jimmer Fredette. Quite frankly, I think he’s going to be another Monta Ellis but better passer (Young’s a better passer than people give him credit for).

8. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Boston Celtics through Brooklyn Nets)-Mikal Bridges-F-Villanova

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Despite Jalen Brunson garnering all the attention, Bridges is the better prospect. With Cleveland expecting to lose LeBron James, they need to nail this pick in order to remain relevant. Bridges, of course, is far from being LeBron James, but he’s a similar style of player and has the potential to be a star in this league.

9. New York Knicks-Wendell Carter-C-Duke

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I mentioned this the last time I did a mock, but when Duke came to Indiana last year, I actually came away more impressed by Carter than I was by Bagley and I think he has the potential to be the steal of this draft. Aside from Kristaps Porzingis, who may not even want to be there much longer, the Knicks don’t have shit from a talent standpoint so adding a bruiser like Carter could give them a very dominant duo down low.

10. Philadelphia 76ers (from Los Angeles Lakers)-Collin Sexton-G-Alabama

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Full disclosure, I actually like Collin Sexton a bit more than Trae Young, mainly because I think I trust Sexton a little more. I think he’s the safest of the two and he’s a better passer. He doesn’t have Young’s shooting ability, which is why I think Young will go higher, but Sexton is more of a traditional point guard that could be a real asset to the 76ers, especially if Markelle Fultz is as broken as everyone says he is.

11. Charlotte Hornets-Kevin Knox-F-Kentucky

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Knox was a high-ranking recruit but he didn’t do as much at Kentucky as everyone expected. He’s a bit raw right now and pretty much everything we have on him is projection at this point. But there’s no doubting his talent and if developed properly, he could be the perfect sidekick for Kemba Walker in Charlotte.

12. Los Angeles Clippers (from Detroit Pistons)-Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-G-Kentucky

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This is a guy whose draft stock is rising a lot lately. In fact, there are rumors that the Raptors are so enamored with Gilgeous-Alexander that they are trying to trade into the top 10 to land him (the Raptors do not have a pick in this year’s draft). Since they don’t have a pick, a trade to land this guy would likely cost a star player such as Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan. If a team is that in love with a guy, there’s definitely more worth delving into.

13. Los Angeles Clippers-Miles Bridges-F-Michigan State

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Miles Bridges was my favorite player in college basketball, but as far as NBA talents go, he’s a little raw. There is definitely something to work with, though, as he took over plenty of games while in East Lansing. If he can translate that over to the NBA, the Clippers could find themselves with a Hell of a player.

14. Denver Nuggets-Lonnie Walker-G-Miami (FL)

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Full disclosure, I know nothing about this guy, but that hair is so absurd that he has to be a lottery pick. Not as nuts as Elfrid Payton’s, but it’s pretty damn close But he’s rated pretty highly on all draft boards so he’s probably a guy who could help the Nuggets in the short and long term.

15. Washington Wizards-De’Anthony Melton-G-USC

16. Phoenix Suns (from Miami Heat)-Zhaire Smith-G-Texas Tech

17. Milwaukee Bucks-Robert Williams-C-Texas A&M

18. San Antonio Spurs-Kevin Huerter-F-Maryland

19. Atlanta Hawks (from Minnesota Timberwolves)-Troy Brown-F-Oregon

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Oklahoma City Thunder)-Elie Okobo-G-France

21. Utah Jazz-Jacob Evans-F-Cincinnati

22. Chicago Bulls (from New Orleans Pelicans)-Mitchell Robinson-F-N/A

23. Indiana Pacers-Keita Bates-Diop-F-Ohio State

24. Portland Trail Blazers-Melvin Frazier-G-Tulane

25. Los Angeles Lakers (from Cleveland Cavaliers)-Khyri Thomas-G-Creighton

26. Philadelphia 76ers-Shake Milton-G-SMU

27. Boston Celtics-Grayson Allen-G-Duke

28. Golden State Warriors-Donte Divincenzo-G-Villanova

29. Brooklyn Nets-Dzanan Musa-F-Bosnia and Herzegovina

30. Atlanta Hawks (from Houston Rockets)-Jerome Robinson-G-Boston College

Round 2

31. Phoenix Suns-Jalen Brunson-G-Villanova

32. Memphis Grizzlies-Devonte Graham-G-Kansas

33. Atlanta Hawks-Chandler Hutchison-F-Boise State

34. Dallas Mavericks-Aaron Holiday-G-UCLA

35. Orlando Magic-Anfernee Simons-G-IMG

36. Sacramento Kings-Landry Shamet-G-Wichita State

37. New York Knicks (from Chicago Bulls)-Mo Wagner-F-Michigan

38. Philadelphia 76ers (from Brooklyn Nets)-Bruce Brown-F-Miami (FL)

39. Philadelphia 76ers (from New York Knicks)-Gary Trent Jr-G-Duke

40. Brooklyn Nets (from Los Angeles Lakers)-Jarred Vanderbilt-F-Kentucky

41. Orlando Magic (from Charlotte Hornets)-Rodions Kurucs-F-Latvia

42. Detroit Pistons-Gary Clark-F-Cincinnati

43. Denver Nuggets (from Los Angeles Clippers)-Josh Okogie-F-Georgia Tech

44. Washington Wizards-Trevon Duval-G-Duke

45. Brooklyn Nets (from Milwaukee Bucks)-Omari Spellman-C-Villanova

46. Houston Rockets (from Miami Heat)-Kenrich Williams-F-TCU

47. Los Angeles Lakers (from Denver Nuggets)-Hamidou Diallo-F-Kentucky

48. Minnesota Timberwolves-Justin Jackson-F-Maryland

49. San Antonio Spurs-Rawle Alkins-G-Arizona

50. Indiana Pacers-Ray Spalding-C-Louisville

51. New Orleans Pelicans-Tony Carr-G-Penn State

52. Utah Jazz-Malik Newman-G-Kansas

53. Oklahoma City Thunder-Vince Edwards-F-Purdue

54. Dallas Mavericks (from Portland Trail Blazers)-Isaac Bonga-F-Germany

55. Charlotte Hornets (from Cleveland Cavaliers)-Chimezie Metu-C-USC

56. Philadelphia 76ers-Devon Hall-G-Virginia

57. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Boston Celtics)-Svi Mykhailiuk-F-Kansas

58. Denver Nuggets (from Golden State Warriors)-Alize Johnson-F-Missouri State

59. Phoenix Suns (from Toronto Raptors)-Jevon Carter-G-West Virginia

60. Philadelphia 76ers (from Houston Rockets)-Kevin Hervey-F-UT Arlington

That’s going to do it for this NBA Mock Draft. I’ll try and get a recap out after the actual event is over, but I can’t promise anything since I’ll be working during it (I’m going to try and stream it on my phone but I won’t be able to get instant reactions onto paper like I did for the NFL Draft). Let me know how you think this draft is going to go in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Post-NBA Draft Lottery Mock Draft

I haven’t gotten a chance to REALLY break down what each top prospect can and can’t do yet so my explanations for this are going to be brief and I’m only going to focus on the Lottery Picks, which is really about as much depth as I’ve gone into on this rookie class so far. So with that intro, let’s get to the mock.

1. Phoenix Suns-DeAndre Ayton-C-Arizona

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The Suns won the NBA Draft Lottery last night in the last year where the team with the worst record in the league has the best odds (starting next year, the three worst teams will have equal odds). Devin Booker is a good scorer but he’s going to need some help out there. Enter DeAndre Ayton, who is probably the most polished player in this class. Alex Len is their only big man of note as Dragan Bender has yet to make a serious impact. Ayton reminds me of DeMarcus Cousins in that he’s a big, muscular, genetic freak who you can pretty much pencil in for 20 points 10 boards every game. He’s also a decent mid-range shooter to boot. His defense isn’t great but he’s athletic enough that he can use that to overcome some of his defensive inefficiencies.

2. Sacramento Kings-Jaren Jackson-C-Michigan State

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Jackson is 6’11 240 pounds and is more projection than finished product, but damn is his ceiling high. The Kings could really use a boost. If you only ever watched college hoops, you’d think that the Kings were the best team in the league on paper given the success their players had in college. But aside from De’Aaron Fox, who looks like a budding star, there really hasn’t been a ton of production from their recent slew of draft picks. Jackson might not be the safest pick in the world, as he’s pretty skinny for his size and struggles when engaged with physical players, but he’s an excellent shot blocker and he did shoot 39% from 3.

3. Atlanta Hawks-Luka Doncic-G-Slovenia

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Doncic is this year’s “can’t miss” foreign star, which has included guys like Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja of late (very hit or miss) and this is a guy I admittedly have not gotten to see much of. But he’s 6’8 with handles and is a matchup nightmare. He’s not super explosive but he’s an excellent distributor and is one of those guys that elevates the play of those around him. The Hawks have been rolling with Dennis Schroder as their primary ball-handler and while he doesn’t suck, per se, he is probably better suited coming off the bench. Doncic at the very least can become the team’s primary distributor.

4. Memphis Grizzlies-Marvin Bagley III-F-Duke

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Bagley was the preseason consensus number 1 player but questions arose about his jump shot and his being very lanky. I got to see him live and he very quietly had a 20-10 double-double. The Grizzlies were at their best when Zach Randolph was dominating the low post and if Bagley can put on a few pounds of muscle he can become that type of player.

5. Dallas Mavericks-Wendell Carter-C-Duke

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I was actually more impressed by Carter than I was by Bagley when Duke visited Indiana. Carter was just bullying IU defenders below the hoop and that type of physicality make him troublesome for opponents at the next level. The Mavericks have a nice point guard in Dennis Smith Jr, now they just need someone for him to pass to, especially considering Dirk Nowitzki is up there in age.

6. Orlando Magic-Mo Bamba-C-Texas

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Mo Bamba has one of the most fun names to say in all of sports and he’s a Hell of a basketball player to boot. He’s 7′ with a 7’9 wingspan and he plays with a lot of intensity. He’s still a work in progress but he could become the big man the Magic have lacked since losing Dwight Howard.

7. Chicago Bulls-Michael Porter Jr-F-Missouri

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A back injury derailed Porter’s season and potentially cost him being a top-3 pick. Nonetheless, as long as his back checks out, the Bulls will be chomping at the bit to land a talent like him. He was the #1 recruit in the nation and unfortunately for Missouri, they never really got to reap the benefits of his all-around game. The Bulls could have a potential star on their hands.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers-Mikal Bridges-F-Villanova

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This is the Nets pick the Cavaliers acquired from the Celtics in the Kyrie Irving trade. For Villanova’s championship-winning team, Jalen Brunson was the guy who got a lot of the credit (his winning Player of the Year would be a good indicator of that) but Mikal Bridges is actually the better prospect. Bridges might be the best defender in the class and is a pretty good 3-point shooter. His ceiling is limited but he’s a guy who can contribute right away and be a quality starter for years to come. The Cavaliers lack any really great defenders right now and Bridges can do that and perhaps keep Cleveland from being blown out in playoff games.

9. New York Knicks-Trae Young-G-Oklahoma

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Trae Young is perhaps the most boom-or-bust player in this class. He put up absolutely STAGGERING numbers for Oklahoma but by the end of the season he was looking so streaky that teams began to wonder if he didn’t just get hot early in the season. He’s a good shooter and a good passer but he’s not an elite athlete. However it’s a weak guard class so a guy with his upside will easily make him more enticing to teams. The Knicks have Kristaps Porzingis and if he and Young can develop good chemistry, it could become a Durant-Westbrook type relationship (until one eventually leaves the team).

10. Philadelphia 76ers-Collin Sexton-G-Alabama

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I think Collin Sexton could be a dark horse to be a really good player in this class. He reminds me a lot of the underrated Elfrid Payton (and no, it’s not JUST because of the hair). He’s a good distributor and basically carried Alabama to the Round of 32 all by himself. He’d be a luxury pick for the 76ers, who still don’t really know what they have in last year’s #1 overall pick Markelle Fultz but they can get creative with their lineups with a guy like Sexton around.

11. Charlotte Hornets-Robert Williams III-C-Texas A&M

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Full disclosure, I actually hadn’t heard of this guy prior to writing up this mock, but scouts seem to be really high on him. He’s an excellent rebounder and a very physical defender, which is something the Hornets sorely lack outside of Dwight Howard, whose effort can be inconsistent at times. His offensive game could use some work but he’ll be an enforcer under the basket.

12. Los Angeles Clippers-Miles Bridges-F-Michigan State

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Miles Bridges is pretty raw but he can take over a game if you’re not careful. He’s an exciting dunker and a pretty good defender. The problem is that his best position is probably power forward but he plays more like a shooting guard which kind of makes teams unsure of what to do with him. If put in a system like the Clippers with Doc Rivers, Bridges could find a role that best suits him.

13. Los Angeles Clippers-Kevin Knox-F-Kentucky

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Another pick for the Clippers, who sorely need more playmakers after we saw how they struggled without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Knox is really raw and he never really realized his full potential with Kentucky. However he has a good shot and he can be a real mismatch if he can continue to develop it.

14. Denver Nuggets-Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-G-Kentucky

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The Nuggets are a team that suddenly feels like they’re on the cusp, they just need to knock a couple picks out of the park. Gilgeous-Alexander is a good distributor, which is good because he’s not a great shooter. But he’s a very unselfish player whose confidence grows with every game. As long as you have a good scoring option to go along with him, Gilegeous-Alexander could be the distributor to take him to the next level.

So that’s going to do it with the Lottery Mock Draft. I’ll do another mock the day of the Draft at the end of June, I haven’t decided if I’ll do the entire first round or just stick to Lottery Picks like I did today. Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Preview

College basketball is always one of the tougher sports to predict typically because it is ALWAYS experiencing turnover, with all the one-and-dones that enter and leave the league before we really get a chance to see what they can do. It’s hard to blame them, with how messy the NCAA can get it’s no wonder these players jump to the NBA first chance they get. So that being said, I’m anticipating a fun year of college basketball. In this preview, I will try and project who will win each of the Power 5 conferences as well as putting in my own Top 25 and my preseason All Americans. I will not be predicting who I think will be the champs, as March Madness is so insane every year that I feel like trying to predict how it’s going to go in November doesn’t give the tournament its full due. I will, however, give who I think will be the number 1 overall seed, if that helps. Let’s get to the conference champs.

ACC: Duke Blue Devils

Duke Countdown To Craziness

photo credit: Sports Illustrated

The ACC is probably the best conference in college hoops right now. You’ve got the blue bloods such as Duke and reigning champs North Carolina, but the second tier of this conference is typically super competitive as well, such as Notre Dame, Miami (FL), and Louisville (though with the whole Rick Pitino situation, Louisville may be removing themselves from this discussion). I’m going with Duke to win the ACC this year for two main reasons: Coach K and the recruiting class. Mike Krzyzewski is arguably the best college basketball coach on the planet right now and he always turns out a plethora of NBA talent, whether that be from one-and-dones or guys who stay all four years. This year he has a particularly talented group to go with Grayson Allen. Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter, Trevon Duval, and Gary Trent Jr are all in the TOP EIGHT of ESPN’s Top 100 Recruits for the class of 2021 (whether these guys are here that long is another story). Bagley is the highlight here as he is a big time recruit who was able to reclassify in order to be a part of this Duke roster. He’s 6’11 with all the tools you can look for in a player: athleticism, shooting, and post moves being major positives with this kid. The one thing that may hold this team back is Grayson Allen. Yes he is a supremely talented point guard, but his emotional outbursts are more renowned than his game is and that can become a distraction. He’s got to be the leader of this young team, being a senior this year, and if he’s having hissy fits on the bench then it could do a lot of damage to this team.

SEC: Kentucky Wildcats

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photo credit: A Sea of Blue

Was there really any other choice here? While the SEC may be a dominant conference in football, they are essentially a one-man race in basketball, with Kentucky having won the conference each of the last 3 years (feels like it should be more than that). John Calipari rivals Coach K as the best coach in the game but the main challenge Kentucky deals with every year is the one-and-done. Kentucky goes through these types of players more often than seemingly any team in the country, but Cal also encourages it. He feels that his guys should take the opportunity to go to the NBA as soon as they feel they’re ready, but has all his guys declare for the NBA Draft anyway so they can all get a sense of their draft stock before deciding whether they want to go forward or return to school. And with his coaching prowess and skills as a recruiter, he has no problem finding replacements for the guys he lost the year prior. This season, Kentucky’s top players are Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Nick Richardson, Hamidou Diallo, and Jarred Vanderbilt, joining a roster that returns very little from last year’s SEC champs. Kentucky’s only real competition this season will likely come from Florida, Texas A&M, or Alabama, but I think the gap between these schools are big enough that everyone else is playing for second place in the SEC.

Big Ten: Michigan State Spartans

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

Tom Izzo’s Spartan squad has never been one that typically deals with the one-and-dones, as Deyonta Davis is the only player in recent memory to leave for the NBA after one season in East Lansing. That bodes well for Michigan State because they’ve got a lot of good returning talent, particularly Miles Bridges (who may be my favorite player in all of college basketball) and Lourawls “Tumtum” Nairn. Michigan State also landed Jaren Jackson, ESPN’s #9 recruit, who looks to be a major contributor for this season. In the Big Ten, Michigan State’s main competition will likely come from Wisconsin, Purdue or evenĀ  quietly good Minnesota and Northwestern teams. Indiana’s potentially a wild card because it’ll be interesting to see how Archie Miller transitions to major college basketball after great success at the University of Dayton. But Michigan State is so loaded and have a Hall of Fame head coach, making it awfully difficult to pick against them.

Big 12: Kansas Jayhawks

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photo credit: KUSports.com

Do I really even need to do this one? The Big 12 has been OWNED by Kansas of late, as the Jayhawks have won the Big 12 every year since 2005. That’s THIRTEEN STRAIGHT CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS! Despite this, Kansas only has one national championship victory to show for it (2008) but they will be looking for another run this year. They lose Player of the Year Frank Mason to the NBA, but they do have Devonte Graham returning, which was huge for Bill Self’s squad, as Kansas’ recruiting class was a little light this season. Billy Preston was their only recruit in ESPN’s Top 50. But having another season of Devonte Graham will likely be good enough for the Jayhawks to hold off such competition as West Virginia, Baylor, and possibly Iowa State for a fourteenth straight conference title.

PAC-12: Arizona Wildcats

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photo credit: Arizona Daily Star

Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins are back for Arizona and they’ll be running this offense with one new toy to play with: DeAndre Ayton, the 7-foot 250-pounder out of Phoenix. Ayton is the #3 overall recruit according to ESPN, trailing only Bagley and Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr (both guys are in the discussion for number 1 pick in the NBA Draft). Ayton is arguably as good as either of these guys and will be key to replacing Lauri Markkanen. Head Coach Sean Miller (older brother of Indiana coach Archie Miller) has had Arizona playing some really good basketball these last few years and it wouldn’t shock me to see these guys unseat UCLA as best in a weak conference, as only the Bruins and USC are expected to be competitive in this conference.

Preseason Top 25:

1.Duke Blue Devils

2.Michigan State Spartans

3.Kentucky Wildcats

4.Kansas Jayhawks

5.Arizona Wildcats

6.Villanova Wildcats

7.North Carolina Tar Heels

8.Florida Gators

9.Wichita State Shockers

10.West Virginia Mountaineers

11.Miami (FL) Hurricanes

12.USC Trojans

13.Notre Dame Fighting Irish

14.Cincinnati Bearcats

15.Minnesota Golden Gophers

16.Louisville Cardinals

17.Purdue Boilermakers

18.Gonzaga Bulldogs

19.Xavier Musketeers

20.Wisconsin Badgers

21.Northwestern Wildcats

22.UCLA Bruins

23.Baylor Bears

24.St. Mary’s Gaels

25.Seton Hall Pirates

Preseason All Americans

First Team:

G-Collin Sexton-Alabama

G-Devonte Graham-Kansas

F-Miles Bridges-Michigan State

F-Marvin Bagley-Duke

C-DeAndre Ayton-Arizona

Second Team:

G-Joel Berry-North Carolina

G-Trevon Bluiett-Xavier

F-Michael Porter Jr-Missouri

F-Johnathan Williams-Gonzaga

C-Mohamed Bamba-Texas

Projected Player of the Year: Miles Bridges-F-Michigan State

Mississippi Valley State v Michigan State

photo credit: CBS Detroit

Bridges is one of the most exciting players in the game and as a freshman last year, he scored 16.9 points per game with 8.3 rebounds while shooting almost 50% from the field and 39% from 3. He’s got another year under his belt and I think given his abilities, we are in for a tremendous season from the sophomore forward from Flint, Michigan.

Projected #1 Seed: Duke Blue Devils

Duke is just too stacked on paper for it to be anyone else at this point in the year. As I mentioned, in a sport typically dominated by freshman, Duke has 4 of the 8 best, including the number 1 overall player as well as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. However, we often see these super teams fall apart under the weight of media expectations, as teams with this much hype rarely ever live up to it, so while I am super high on Duke, it also wouldn’t shock me to see them underwhelm.

Those are my predictions for this college basketball season. Probably going to look WAY different when I do the postseason edition. Do you agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.