It’s still early to project top picks — or NBA teams’ records — but I’m going to try to update my mock draft every quarter of the season.
Here’s the latest, with a draft order based on current standings:
(1) Philadelphia: PG Markelle Fultz, Washington
There were a handful of candidates for the #1 pick, but no one has been lighting up the stat page like Fultz right now. The Huskies are only 4-3, but you can hardly blame that on Fultz. The big 6’4″ lead guard is averaging 22.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 1.6 steals, with good percentages to match (54% FG, 48% from three). He projects as a top-level scorer at the next level, and would step right in as the Sixers’ perimeter threat.
(2) Dallas: PG Lonzo Ball, UCLA
Rick Carlisle won a title with Jason Kidd, and Lonzo Ball may be the next incarnation. Like Kidd, Ball’s a big point guard at 6’6″ with a funky shot, but savant-level passing and instincts for the position. He’s averaging a nation-high 9.3 assists, leading UCLA to an undefeated start (and a huge win on the road at Kentucky).
(3) Boston (from BKN): SF Josh Jackson, Kansas
One of the favorites for the #1 pick in the pre-season, Jackson compares to Andrew Wiggins, and not just because he plays for the Jayhawks. Both are immensely athletic wings, who at times look like they’re playing on cruise control. But make no mistake about it, Jackson’s better than his raw stats (14.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg) show, and has superstar level upside. He may be similar to last year’s #3 pick Jaylen Brown, but a “superstar” is what the Celtics need.
(4) Minnesota: SF Jonathan Isaac, Florida State
Isaac wasn’t talked about in that #1 pick discussion, but when you watch him play, you wonder why not. He’s a string bean at 6’10” who looks similar to Brandon Ingram with a great wingspan (7’0″+ feet) and the ability to stretch the floor (44.4% from three so far). The idea of him as a third banana to KAT and Wiggins in Minnesota is terrifying.
(5) Phoenix: PF Harry Giles, Duke
During his high school career, Giles was considered the frontrunner for that #1 pick, with size and skill that reminded you of Chris Webber. Injuries have completely derailed him, and prevented him from suiting up for Duke so far. However, in his case, the upside may be worth the injury risk, a la Joel Embiid. In Phoenix, I see him as a potential replacement for restricted free agent Alex Len, in the case the Suns decide Len’s not worth big money. If healthy, Giles and Marquess Chriss would be a heck of a 4/5 combo down the road.
(6) New Orleans: SF Jayson Tatum, Duke
His teammate Giles may be risky, but Tatum’s one of the safer prospects in the class. He’s a prototypical SF, with solid size (6’8″) and scoring/shooting ability. He reminds me some of Otto Porter in that regard. He may not be your franchise player, but he can be a “plus” starter for you. In New Orleans, he can slide in for Tyreke Evans and give Anthony Davis some much-needed help.
(7) Miami: PF Ivan Rabb, Cal
On this list so far, Rabb is the only non-freshman. He’s a cagey “vet” at the ripe old age of 19. The lean and athletic PF would provide some more interior help for Hassan Whiteside, giving them one of the better rebounding front courts in the league.
(8) Sacramento: PG Dennis Smith Jr., North Carolina St.
“Junior” Smith was touted as a possible #1 pick in the draft, but a combination of Lonzo Ball’s upswing and his own poor shooting (40.9%, 28% from three) have caused him to take a few steps down the ladder. He’s a pure PG and a good leader, so he may rise up again. If he does fall to Sacramento, the Kings would happily snap him up and plug him right into the starting lineup.
(9) Washington: SF O.G. Anunoby, Indiana
As a freshman, Anunoby averaged less than 4.9 points per game. Still, he entered this sophomore year on everyone’s radar, because of his enormous upside (and enormous wingspan, purported to be 7’6″!) In today’s NBA, that’s a huge feather in your cap. Anunoby’s been developing his skill level (now shooting 38% from three) but still projects best as a stopper at the next level. He’d fit in well with Washington as someone who could give you minutes at either SF or PF, especially with Otto Porter a restricted free agent.
(10) Denver: PF Lauri Markkanen, Arizona
Usually when we read about European stretch fours, we have to go based on practice reports and hearsay. The Finnish Markkansan actually came to play college ball, and has been proving that he’s been more than a hype job. The 7-footer is currently shooting 46% from three, which would give the Nuggets another element to their frontcourt that they don’t get from Kenneth Faried, Nikola Jokic, or Jusuf Nurkic.
(11) Philadelphia (from LAL): SG Malik Monk, Kentucky
The super prospect been scoring easily for the Wildcats, pumping in 19.9 points per game. At only 6’3″, the combo guard may best be suited for a 6th man role in the NBA, where he can come off the bench and provide instant offense. The offense is exactly what the Sixers would need from their guards, even if they do take one at #1 as they have here.
(12) Atlanta: PG De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
Monk’s speedy backcourt mate Fox is playing better than this ranking indicates, with 15.9 points and 7.8 assists per game, even chipping in 5.3 rebounds for good measure. He could go higher, even in the top 5, depending on team need and how much of a PG run we have. On Atlanta, he’d battle with Dennis Schroder for playing time, and may prove to be a steadier hand than the German.
(13) Orlando: SF Miles Bridges, Michigan State
Another bluechip prospect, the combo forward has been playing well for the Spartans so far. He’s a little turnover prone (3.4 per game), but has been active on both ends, even swatting 1.5 shots per game. He may need another year or two to develop, but there’s room for PT in Orlando, especially if the team doesn’t re-sign Serge Ibaka or Jeff Green.
(14) Indiana: SG Terrance Ferguson, Australia
Ferguson (an American playing overseas) is limited as a player, but he has two attributes that the Pacers’ shooting guards like Monta Ellis and Rodney Stuckey don’t: shooting ability and length as a defender. If he turns out to be a J.R. Smith type at the next level, that’s a valuable rotation piece.