There really is no “NBA offseason”. In the blink of an eye, the NBA Finals transition to the NBA Draft and then a frenzied free agency period.
Thursday’s draft is now front and centre, with teams busily gathering final intel while taking and making calls. For a few days at least, LeBron James’ free agency and Kawhi Leonard’s possible exit from San Antonio can be put on hold (though Leonard’s situation may have an impact on Thursday night).
There will be a decent dose of mystery too. While the number one pick (DeAndre Ayton) seems to be a lock, the rest of the top 10 could unfold in various ways. Of course, some of that depends on what trades are lurking behind the scenes. Several teams are thought to be looking to make such a move.
Unquestionably, this is a talented draft class. While even the top picks have flaws, it is easy to picture a handful of future All-Stars emerging.
Here’s a best guess at how the lottery picks (numbers 1 to 14) might unfold on Thursday night:
- DeAndre Ayton (Arizona) to Phoenix Suns
- Marvin Bagley III (Duke) to Sacramento Kings
- Luka Doncic (Real Madrid) to Atlanta Hawks
- Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State) to Memphis Grizzlies
- Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri) to Dallas Mavericks
- Trae Young (Oklahoma) to Orlando Magic
- Mo Bamba (Texas) to Chicago Bulls
- Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke) to Cleveland Cavaliers
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky) to New York Knicks
- Mikal Bridges (Villanova) to Philadelphia 76ers
- Collin Sexton (Alabama) to Charlotte Hornets
- Kevin Knox (Kentucky) to Los Angeles Clippers
- Lonnie Walker IV (Miami) to Los Angeles Clippers
- Robert Williams (Texas A&M) to Denver Nuggets
A couple of picks stand out here. All the signs point to Doncic emerging a real force in the NBA, yet it looks as though he will fall outside the top two. That could prove head-scratching a few years down the line. Michael Porter Jr. and Trae Young are the two wildcards that could flip the draft in different directions.
Porter Jr.’s injury history is a red flag and will deter some teams (he might fall as low as number 7 or 8) but his ceiling is higher than most.
Young has been billed as a second coming of Steph Curry. While that is unlikely, he has the tools to be an explosive offensive player, even if his defense needs major work. He would give a team like the Magic, Bulls or Cavaliers an instant spark.
The NBA Draft is an opportunity for a franchise to turn the page. A rebuilding project can be quickly sped up by nailing these kinds of choices, or stalled by missing the mark (just ask Phoenix, Sacramento and Orlando). Thursday night is sure to be a wild ride.