This is the first of hopefully two mock drafts I'll be running at RCT. For the record, this is what I think the teams will do not what I think they should do, though I imagine some personal bias will creep through at some point.
Before I get started with the actual points, I think I've decided that this draft is weaker than last year's. Anthony Davis is the guy everyone wants, for good reason, but is he going to have a better career than Kyrie Irving? I'm not so sure. Irving is already a top 10 point guard in the league, and I think could be a top 5 guy before long, whereas I have questions about how Davis's offense will develop unless he adds some serious bulk to his frame. Beyond that, there aren't any sure bets in this draft, but I will say there is a much better shot to grab a long term starter at pick 15 or so than in last year's draft. More on that in the actual mock:
(Note: as commenter Connor Moylan pointed out, I left out Jared Sullinger. There's a simple explanation for this: I'm an idiot and forgot to put him in. It will be fixed in the next mock as well as my rankings. Sorry for the mistake.)
1. New Orleans Hornets - Anthony Davis, F, Kentucky
Davis is the surefire number one pick, and showed the ability to dominate a game on the defensive side of the ball only, but his offense has been limited to dunks and putbacks only to this point. He's a great player and a future All-Star and if his offensive game improves he has massive upside. I do think his first couple years will be rough as bigger NBA bodies push him around a bit, but once he adjusts to the NBA game he should do great.
2. Charlotte Bobcats - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, G/F, Kentucky
I briefly thought about putting Harrison Barnes here because hey it's Michael Jordan and that's what the Bobcats do, but the Bobcats need winners and MKG is just that. MKG is a great energy guy, a player who tenaciously attacks the basket and is a great defender. He's a likely bet to be a long term starter in the league, but he doesn't scream all-star to me. Is that what you want as a #2 pick? On one hand, if a team can teach Kawhi Leonard to shoot well perhaps they can do the same with MKG. But he did shoot 26% from three and 37% on two point jumpers. If he can't contribute much on the offensive end, is he really a #2 overall pick?
3. Washington Wizards - Thomas Robinson, F, Kansas
There doesn't seem to be much of a need for TRob in Washington with Nene in the fold, but I think the lure of drafting a hometown kid will be a bit too much to resist. Like the previous two guys I am a bit skeptical of Robinson's offensive ceiling at the NBA level, but he provides a lot of muscle down low and can shore up Washington's awful rebounding and if he can score one on one as well as he did in college he could develop into a nice pro.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers - Bradley Beal, G, Florida
Beal is one player whose offensive ceiling is not in question. He only shot 34% from three last year but he was a great shooter in high school and has great, consistent shooting mechanics. The Cavs should be able to turn him into a very good shooter, and combined with his other offensive gifts, he'll give Kyrie Irving the running mate necessary to turn Cleveland back into a contender.
5. Sacramento Kings - Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina
The Kings really need help at the small forward spot, but I still hate this pick for them. Barnes had under a 50% eFG last year, and at this point really is a spot up shooter only on offense, despite being known as a very polished player. He seems a lock to be a decent player, but he seems hesitant to impose his will on a game and probably won't ever be an all-star. Doesn't scream "top 5 pick" to me.
6. Portland Trail Blazers - Andre Drummond, PF, UConn
Drummond is maybe the highest upside guy in the draft outside of Davis. He's the second youngest guy in the class, and despite standing 6'10" and weighing 250 lbs he has tremendous mobility and was a top 30 offensive rebounder and top 25 shot blocker last year for UConn, despite being a non factor offensively. The biggest question scouts have about him are regarding his fire for the game, which is why Portland, who also owns the 11th pick, can take a chance on him.
7. Golden State Warriors - John Henson, PF, North Carolina
With Andris Biedrins, David Lee and Andrew Bogut up front, the Warriors have a bigtime interior defense need. Henson had a 9.6% block rate for the Tar Heels, and had a 25.1% defensive rebound rate. He wont have to score, but he's shown an improved shooting touch if need be.
8. Toronto Raptors - Jeremy Lamb, SG, UConn
Not sure whether he is a PG or SG, but he should probably settle in as a #2. He has the type of frame that would allow him to develop into a good NBA defender if the want is there, and Dwayne Casey is the type of guy to get him there. He's shown the ability to score as well and could develop into a nice Jose Calderon replacement
9. Detroit Pistons - Austin Rivers, SG, Duke
The Pistons would love Henson to fall here as a hyperathletic big man to pair with Monroe, but neither Jared Sullinger nor Perry Jones fits he mold they'd need in an extra big. Enter Rivers, who improved his decision making tremendously over the course of his only year at Duke and could exploit defenses who pay a bit too much attention to Greg Monroe.
10. New Orleans Hornets - Kendal Marshall, PG, North Carolina
Damian Lillard is the best point guard prospect, but Marshall is the best passer, and he could make a nice living throwing lobs to Anthony Davis. He'll get exploited defensively, but what PGs can guard the likes of Westbrook, Paul, Rondo, etc? If he develops a consistent outside shot he could be a really solid pro.
11. Portland Trailblazers - Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State
Lillard dominated the competition in the Big Sky, posting a 63.5% true shooting percentage despite an insane 32.2% usage rate, and he can pass, shoot, get to the line and defend. He immediately upgrades Portland's backcourt and watching him pair with LaMarcus Aldridge should be fun to watch.
12. Milwaukee Bucks - Perry Jones III, PF, Baylor
Jones has disappeared from too many big games for me to like this pick, but he has tremendous offensive upside like few players in this draft, and can run the pick and roll with Brandon Jennings. He can do a little of everything on offense and if he bulks up a bit could be a pretty good low post scorer.
13. Phoenix Suns - Tyler Zeller, PF, North Carolina
Zeller isn't a great defender, but I think he is a bit underrated on that side of the floor (see his 5.3% block rate). Though, with Marcin Gortat to pair with, he won't have to worry about that too much. Instead he'll bring his offensive talents to Phoenix, such as his 55.3% shooting from two and his ability to get to the line, where he shot 81% last year.
14. Houston Rockets - Meyers Leonard, PF/C, Illinois
The Rockets have a ton of assets, and thus have no needs and a ton of needs all at once. I think Andrew Nicholson could make big strides in workouts and could end up in this range, but the Rockets go with the 7 footer who still has room to get bigger. Though, they could also grab Terrence Jones if they've already soured on Marcus Morris.
15. Philadelphia 76ers - Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky
If the Sixers think Jones can guard 4s they'll take him here and let go of Spencer Hawes. He's tough, rebounds well, and I think has the ability to consistently knock down a 15 footer a the pro level.
16. Houston Rockets - Terrence Ross, SF, Washington
Seemingly everyone has Ross to the Rockets, and for good reason. It just makes too much sense. He had good numbers at Washington as their biggest offensive threat, and could force the aforementioned Morris to get moved in a trade.
17. Dallas Mavericks - Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky
Probably a bit higher than he should go, the Mavericks nonetheless need a point guard of the future with Jason Kidd getting up there in years. I don't love Teague's game, but he's very athletic and that's something the Mavericks need.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves - Quincy Miller, SF, Baylor
Another pick everyone seems to have pegged, the Wolves probably want to move on from the Wesley Johnson pick ASAP. Miller still needs to grow, but has a versatile offensive game. He can post up smaller guards, and create his own shot on the perimeter. He could be a steal at 18.
19. Orlando Magic - Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse
The Magic need athletes, and Waiters fits the bill. He can run the pick and roll well and he really gets after it defensively as well. With Dwight Howard leaving, the pressure will be back on the perimeter defenders to get better.
20. Denver Nuggets - Moe Harkless, SF, St. Johns
Harkless needs to fill out a bit, but at 6'8" with the ability to play on the perimeter, he took advantage of having to play the 4 and even some 5 in college to develop a dependable low post game as well. The Nuggets could also take a big man here, but Harkless figures to be the highest upside guy on the board.
21. Boston Celtics - Royce White, PF, Iowa State
The Celtics need some big men with Garnett's contract expiring and just Brandon Bass and Greg Stiemsma in the fold. White would be a solid option off the bench who can also provide a mismatch with his passing ability and ability to handle the rock.
22. Boston Celtics - Evan Fournier, SF, Poitiers (France)
I obviously have never seen Fournier play, so I only have secondhand information to go on. Fournier is his French team's go to guy, which is rare for a European 19 year old, and has shown the ability to create his own shot and the versatility to score in a number of ways. He looks like a tailor made Paul Pierce replacement who can be stashed in Europe for a couple seasons.
23. Atlanta Hawks - Tony Wroten, PG, Washington
ESPN's Chad Ford has compared Wroten to Rajon Rondo, and while he can't shoot (at all) he is tremendously athletic and gives last year's 6th best defense (though you have to look at their competition) a potentially great perimeter defender.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers - Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt
Ezeli isn't anything special, but he played Anthony Davis tough in their meetings this year. Plus he has a ready made NBA body and is a guy who can compliment Tristan Thompson well down low.
25. Memphis Grizzlies - Tyshawn Taylor, PG, Kansas
The Grizzlies need a backup point guard bad. I imagine they'd like to take someone younger but with how well Tyshawn played at both guard positions this year they could take a shot on someone who can be the guy on the second unit.
26. Indiana Pacers - Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State
The Pacers were solid defensively this year, but sucked on the defensive glass, ranking 21st in the league. Enter Moultrie, who had a 21.8% defensive rebounding rate for MSU.
27. Miami Heat - John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt
If Tyshawn is here he'll probably be the guy picked, but Miami needs a guy to stretch the floor on offense and there's no one better to grab than the best pure shooter in the draft.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder - Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure
Nicholson has great footwork down low and can face up defenders as well, but he needs to get a lot better on defense. His selection could allow the Thunder to trade Ibaka to avoid overpaying him, or they could grab a more defensive big man and amnesty Perkins if they wish.
29. Chicago Bulls - Jeff Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt
The Bulls could take a guard like Doron Lamb if they feel like Derrick Rose's rehab isn't going well, but Taylor stretches the floor well (42% from three) but when Rose comes back his ability as a spot up shooter and a cutter should allow him to play with Rose much better than their current bigs.
30. Golden State Warriors - Draymond Green, PF, Michigan State
The Warriors need a big and while Green isn't a prototypical NBA big man he's so versatile that he could help a team off the bench. He has shown the skills necessary to develop a decent jumper, and he's a great passer. The problem is defensively: he's not big enough to guard a 4 and not fast enough to guard a 3. But the effort that he shows could convince a team to take him in the first round.