Before the mock, a thought on how to address prospects. It comes from San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s1, but it’s a principle I believe in wholeheartedly. This quote probably explains better than anything else my perspective on drafting and how I hope the Jazz operate leading up to June 26th.
“As time evolves and you get older in the business, you figure out what’s really important, and you don’t waste time trying to make people what they’re not going to be,” Pop said. “You’ve just got to figure out who people are and what they can give you and take advantage of their positives. A lot of people talk about they’re going to draft this guy or that guy, and in time he’s going to really be something.”
The 2014 Coach of the Year continued: “It’s usually with big guys. You look around, and you say, how many big guys, these 7-foot guys, have really gotten better five years later? You look at Hakeem (Olajuwon), and Hakeem was Hakeem when Hakeem started to play in the league. He didn’t become Hakeem; he already was. So you learn that you can’t make everything the way you think you might. You can’t make somebody great, so you don’t waste your time. You make a trade. You get rid of somebody. You make sure you’re bringing people in who fit in all the areas you want. Competitiveness and team play, that kind of thing.”
I believe in teaching, but I believe you teach someone to be a better, more fully realized version of themselves. You can’t make them someone else.
It’s an important question when it comes to the draft: do you draft a player for who they are or who you think you can make them?
Now to the mock!
#1: Cavaliers–Joel Embiid, C
Unless his back is red flagged (unlikely given the limited workouts he’ll risk), Embiid will go first because of his class-topping upside. The Cavs need a defensive anchor, and having young stars at PG and C leaves plenty of room for number six to come home.
#2: Bucks–Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF
Jabari Parker makes a lot of sense if the team is looking to win now, but I still think defense and upside will win out on draft night given the Bucks new ownership.
#3: 76ers–Jabari Parker, SF/PF
The Sixers will be crestfallen if Embiid goes first yet Wiggins still doesn’t fall to them, but they won’t hesitate to take the polished scorer to compensate for offensive liabilities in Michael Carter-Williams (shooting) and Nerlens Noel (everything).
#4: Magic–Dante Exum, PG/SG
I think the Magic truly love Smart and would take him if Orlando fans would accept the known product over the tantalizing Australian youngster–but they won’t and that combined with Exum’s better prospects as a shooter will induce management to take the riskier player.
#5: Jazz–Marcus Smart, PG/SG
Quin Snyder is a coach who loves and depends on ball handlers who can score as well as distribute to make his offense flow, and Smart’s defensive aptitude and leadership will be welcome additions to Trey Burke in the backcourt.
#6: Celtics–Noah Vonleh, PF/C
Consistent word from Boston is Danny Ainge loves Aaron Gordon, which makes me think Vonleh is the guy, as Ainge is known for being transparent as duct tape.
#7: Lakers–Julius Randle, PF
Randle will be in play starting with the Jazz at five, but concerns about Randle’s surgically repaired foot healing improperly and requiring summer surgery will keep him on the board until the Lakers take him as a piece for their push to rise from the ashes next season.
#8: Kings–Doug McDermott, SF/PF
McDermott has produced some sterling workouts, the Kings want to surround DeMarcus Cousins with as many shooters as possible, and Dougie McBuckets can contribute immediately for a win-now team, which all suggest the reigning NCAA Player of the Year becomes a King.
#9: Hornets–Nik Stauskas, SG
The once-again Hornets have already built a great defensive culture that employs Al Jefferson to better ends than the Jazz ever did, and Stauskas’ ability to stretch the floor will give Big Al more room to do his thing.
#10: 76ers–Aaron Gordon, SF/PF
The Sixers may have wanted Wiggins in place of Parker, but the polished Duke scorer makes it easier for them to pick the best remaining talent in two ways: Parker will play at a high level immediately where Gordon will take some time, and Parker can carry an offense while Gordon will need to be carried offensively, at least initially.
#11: Nuggets–Gary Harris, SG
The Nuggets are in a tough spot given their roster full of good but not great players and downward trend in the loaded west, which I think will induce them to try to make a big trade for a star, and Harris will be a solid asset while bolstering their weak off-guard position.
#12: Magic–Dario Saric, SF/PF
Saric isn’t doing a single workout, which means he isn’t making the jump to the NBA this season, and it only makes sense to draft him if you’re a team like Orlando, who already has a franchise prospect in this draft and are willing to wait a few seasons to add Saric.
#13: Timberwolves–Zach LaVine, PG/SG
This is high for LaVine in my opinion, but I’m assuming Minnesota knows deep down that Kevin Love is already gone so they’ll swing for the fences in the hopes the uber-athlete LaVine eventually fills the superstar void in their roster and gives Wolves fans hope in the meantime.
#14: Suns–Rodney Hood, SF
I don’t think the Suns have written off Alex Len, so Hood makes a lot of sense stretching the floor as Phoenix’s two-guard tandem drives the offense and Len develops.
#15: Hawks–Kristaps Porzingis, PF/C
Without an available player who is a clear immediate upgrade on their current roster, I expect Danny Ferry to take another play from his Spurs handbook and stash the young big overseas in the hopes he provides lottery quality talent in a few seasons.
#16: Bulls–Tyler Ennis, PG
No team knows the importance of a backup point guard as well as Chicago, and they’ll be pleased to land one with the upside of Ennis.
#17: Celtics–James Young, SG/SF
Young is a risk/reward pick, but combined with Vonleh will provide Danny Ainge with more ammunition to pull off a franchise-altering trade, which requires talent, and talent Young has.
#18: Suns–Clint Capela, PF/C
After getting a contributing role player at a position of need earlier, the Suns have the latitude to take Capela, leave him overseas for a few seasons, and hope he becomes a major talent.
#19: Bulls–Adreian Payne, PF
So long as the Bulls have Rose and Noah on contract, they will try to win now, and Payne can contribute to that effort immediately.
#20: Raptors–Elfrid Payton, PG
Kyle Lowry’s future is uncertain, and Payton would be fine security in case the Raptors lose their best player from last season.
#21: Thunder–P. J. Hairston, SG
Incredibly, the still-young Thunder are starting to feel their contender clock ticking, and Hairston can offer immediate scoring and shooting support for next season’s title run.
#22: Grizzlies–Jusuf Nurkic, C
In a great value pick, the Grizzlies draft a replacement for Marc Gasol who possesses a similarly diverse game.
#23: Jazz–Kyle Anderson, SF
The Jazz hired a coach with diverse experience who stressed the importance of adaptation in competition, and such a coach can make the unique (outside the Spurs secret finals weapon, Boris Diaw) skill set of Anderson a nice value pick here.
#24: Hornets–T.J. Warren, SF/PF
The Hornets played Josh McRoberts thirty minutes a game last season, and Warren will offer them some insurance of floor spacing if McRoberts moves elsewhere in free agency.
#25: Rockets–Jerami Grant, SF
The Rockets have let Chandler Parsons become a restricted free agent in a calculated move to keep him, but Grant would be a nice defensive specialist coming off the bench for a team that really needs long, active help defenders.
#26: Heat–Shabazz Napier, PG
I expect the Heat are sick and tired of watching point guard play put them on the edge (or likely over) of losing titles to the Spurs, and Napier would bring championship mettle to a team always under the greatest of expectations and stress.
#27: Suns–K. J. McDaniels, SF/PF
The Suns go to the wing once more, this time taking a player with the defensive acumen to compensate for the possible loss of fan favorite P. J. Tucker.
#28: Clippers–Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG
Darren Collison has backed up the league’s best point guard so well he may well opt out of his contract in the search of more money, so having Clarkson to fill the gap would make sense for a team determined to win now.
#29: Thunder–Cleanthony Early, SF/PF
In another attempt to provide more weaponry beyond their big three, OKC may look to add depth and length at the wing in the form of the 23-year-old Early.
#30: Spurs–Jordan Adams, SG
Adams offers a number of assets both offensive and defensively, but only in a strong team context that emphasizes his skills, which is what the Spurs do better than anyone.