Tuesday, May 28, 2024
HomeSportsNew U Sports Speedruns: NBA lottery mock-draft

New U Sports Speedruns: NBA lottery mock-draft

- advertisement -

The NBA lottery results finally dropped on May 12, and this year’s top draft pick is tentatively headed to Georgia to play with point guard Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks. 

In a draft widely regarded as one of the weakest in NBA history by league executives, the mid to late lottery will likely be the most consequential portion of the entire 60-pick draft. The possibility of trades is understandable given the fact that the recipient of the top overall pick was two wins away from a playoff berth in 2024. This mock will include the possibility of trades, and will variably focus on both team needs and best player availability strategies of drafting.

Research for this article was conducted via my own scouting of players entering the draft, in addition to reporting done by The Ringer, Bleacher Report, ESPN and CBS. Trades were schemed with Fanspo’s Trade Machine. Basketball positional abbreviations can be found here.

14: Portland Trail Blazers (Via Golden State)

Team Needs: Versatile forward, three and D wing

The Pick: Ja’Kobe Walter (SF), University of Baylor freshman

Mini Analysis: Walter may be the highest-floor player in the entire draft, and seems to fit in any location. The University of Baylor freshman enters the NBA with a smooth shooting stroke, hitting 34.1% of his three pointers in college. Despite the slightly above average mark, pro-scouts salivate over Walter’s ability to catch-and-fire off screens and in transition.

13: Brooklyn Nets (Via Sacramento)

The Trade: To Brooklyn: #13 overall, Sacramento’s 2026 first and second round picks. 

To Sacramento: Mikal Bridges (F)

Nets’ Team Needs: Lead guard

The Pick: Isaiah Collier (PG), USC freshman

Mini Analysis: Stuck in the mud of the Western Conference, no draftable player moves the needle for Sacramento. Luckily for the Kings, there lies a team middling in the much worse Eastern Conference that is desperate for draft picks after the disaster of the James Harden era in Brooklyn. Mikal Bridges gives the Kings an elite three and D second option and, even as a rookie, Isaiah Collier gives the Nets a lead guard that can control the tempo of games and bully his way inside.

12: Oklahoma City Thunder (Via Houston)

Team Needs: Backup big man, starting shooting guard

The Pick: Cody Williams (F), Colorado freshman

Mini Analysis: Oklahoma City has a tendency to go with raw talent when they see themselves as contenders — we saw it with draftees such as forwards Terrance Ferguson and Josh Huestis in the Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant era. Armed with a war chest of picks and coming off of a Western Conference number one seed berth, OKC is firmly back in contender talks. Cody Williams is a boom or bust prospect depending on who you ask, and his potential as both a playmaker and defensive star likely has noted people-drafter General Manager Sam Presti foaming at the mouth.

11. Chicago Bulls

Team Needs: Raw talent to nurture

The Pick: Zaccharie Risacher (F), France

Mini Analysis: The Bulls are stuck in purgatory, at least until we know what guard Lonzo Ball’s long term prognosis is. In the meantime, they should be swinging big. Fittingly, Zaccharie Risacher is a project, and the Bulls are going nowhere right now. The forward has a nice shooting touch and is only 19 years old, giving him time to grow under all-star wings Zach Lavine and DeMar DeRozan.

10. Utah Jazz

Team Needs: Floor spacing, more young talent

The Pick: Tidjane Salaun (F), France

Mini Analysis: Utah is stuck rebuilding in a brutal Western Conference and is in a similar situation as the Bulls. Biding their team seems like the best option, and what better way than with a European project? Tidjane Salaun moves extremely well for a 6’9 18 year old, and flashed an improving jumpshot as a pro.

9. Memphis Grizzlies

Team Needs: Best available NBA ready player

The Pick: Dalton Knecht (G/F), University of Tennessee senior

Mini Analysis: The Grizzlies are not truly a lottery team; affected by injuries, starting guards Ja Morant and Desmond Bane’s absences resulted in Memphis quickly losing control of their season. Here, they figure to take the best available win-now, high floor player. Naturally, Dalton Knecht should fall right into their lap. Knecht is a jack of all trades on offense that excels at floor spacing and projects well as a steady defender.

8. San Antonio Spurs (Via Toronto)

Team Needs: Lead guard, floor spacing

The Pick: Jared McCain (G), Duke freshman

Mini Analysis: Picturing Jared McCain running around off of Victor Wembanyama screens for the next decade sounds like a fun trip. The guard is likely the best pure shooter in the draft, and excelled in his only season at Duke shooting off the catch and at times off the dribble. McCain is unlikely to be an All-Star caliber player, but is a perfect complementary guard prospect in the modern NBA.

7. Portland Trail Blazers

Team Needs: Best prospect available

The Pick: Ron Holland (G), G League Ignite

Mini Analysis: A popular pick for the first overall selection in the past, Ron Holland has boom or bust written all over his 6 ‘8 guard frame. Portland already has a bevy of combo guards and guard-ish forwards, but that is what the NBA in 2024 is all about. Holland will enter the NBA as a plus defender already, but it will be up to him and the team that drafts him to develop his offensive game as he goes along.

6. Charlotte Hornets

Team Needs: Floor spacing, size

The Pick: Rob Dillingham (G), University of Kentucky freshman

Mini Analysis: Dillingham is an anomaly of a basketball player. The small guard plays fearless and far above his 6’1 175 pound frame. Charlotte could use Dillingham as a bench spark plug, or immediately insert him into the starting line up next to oft-injured franchise guard LaMelo Ball. Either way, Dillingham’s scoring and improving playmaking figures translate to the NBA level, but his defense and other aspects of his game are likely to be lacking throughout his career.

5. Detroit Pistons

Team Needs: Talent

The Pick: Matas Buzelis (G), G League Ignite

Mini Analysis: Buzelis has mouthwatering potential as a 6’11 point guard, but leaves a lot to be desired as he enters the NBA. He has shown elite potential as a ball handler, passer, shooter, general scorer and even as a solid off-ball defender, but his finishing issues at his size cause much concern. Buzelis’ best landing spot for his own growth is actually anywhere but Detroit, but the Pistons cannot afford to pass on his meteoric upside.

4. San Antonio Spurs

Team Needs: Lead guard, floor spacing

The Pick: Reed Sheppard (G), Kentucky freshman

Mini Analysis: When I think about Jared McCain coming off of Victor Wembanyama screens shooting a three, I get excited. When I think about Reed Sheppard coming downhill off of Victor Wembanyama screens and throwing a lob to the big man, I get giddy. Sheppard has an elite feel for the game, and has shown maturity far beyond his years as a 20 year old at Kentucky. Talks of a Trae Young trade to San Antonio have been around for months now, but Sheppard can likely produce the playmaking that fans sought in a Young-Wembanyama pairing at a much cheaper price.

3. Houston Rockets (Via Brooklyn)

Team Needs: Young pure point guard

The Pick: Stephon Castle (G), UConn

Mini Analysis: Castle rocketed up draft boards with flashes of elite playmaking and solid on-ball defense. At 6’6 and 190 pounds, Castle is a point guard made in a lab in terms of size and stature. The UConn product lacks consistent shooting, but will have an opportunity to grow alongside a relatively young Houston Rockets core that is not quite ready to win yet. Castle likely won’t start from day one, but it is hard to convince anybody that the Rockets see Fred VanVleet as the point guard that will lead them out of their rebuild.

2. Washington Wizards

Team Needs: Point guard of the future, best available prospect

The Pick: Nikola Topic (G), Serbia

Mini Analysis: Topic projects as a starting guard with a long career in the NBA as a lead playmaker. Topic has weaknesses as a shooter, but shooting is widely regarded as one of the easier skills to attain when already in the NBA. The Wizards need direction, and the poor play of pure scorer Jordan Poole in 2023-2024 has shown their clear need for a lead guard. Topic may never average 20 points, but he projects to be a stalwart in the NBA for a long time.

1. Atlanta Hawks

Team Needs: Long term security on defense

The Pick: Alex Sarr (C), France

Mini Analysis: The highest upside prospect in the draft typically goes first, and in 2024 there is little debate on who has the most potential of all draftees-to-be. Freshly 19 years old and 6 ’11, Alex Sarr has the tools to be a Defensive Player of the Year anchor of the Hawks defense. Sarr has much to improve on offense, especially with his lack of ability to truly space the floor. However, Sarr has shown potential as an elite roll-man off of the screen and roll, and has been able to attack smaller defenders off the dribble in his time at France. Hawks franchise star guard Trae Young and Sarr in the pick and roll will be enticing enough for the Hawks to keep the top overall pick in-house.

Jacob Ramos is a 2023-2024 Opinion Editor. He can be reached at jacobtr@uci.edu.

Edited by James Huston and Annabelle Aguirre.