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Both the NBA and College Basketball season just tipped off but that doesn’t mean we can’t do a mock draft. This mock draft will be constructed based on first impressions of both NBA teams and prospects. Things will be very different by the time the actual draft rolls around, but seeing how much it changes can be a lot of fun. This mock will be using projected NBA standings since it is still very early into the NBA season.

1. Houston Rockets: Chet Holmgren, Center, Gonzaga

The unicorn and so far number one pick Chet Holmgren has every right to be as hyped up as he is. Despite being the height of a center, he has the skills of a guard. On top of that, he is an amazing paint defender averaging five blocks a game, and he is a gifted passer for a big man. However, the obvious concern for Chet is his weight, as he’s is way too frail for the NBA. If he doesn’t get his weight up and add some muscle, he will be prone to be bullied in the post by the majority of NBA bigs and wings. Chet also needs to become a better perimeter defender to become a legit threat on defense. Houston shouldn’t mind these flaws though because he is that good at everything else. Chet is a really unique player and Houston would love to pair him with Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr, and the rest of their young core.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Paolo Banchero, Power Forward, Duke

Going into this college basketball season, Paolo is my pick for Freshman of the Year due to the projected success of Duke and him being the top option on their roster, and I’m interested to see how he develops there. Paolo is the perfect modern NBA four with the perfect body for the position, and he can seemingly score from anywhere. Paolo also has a nice handle on the ball. His defense is still a question as he hasn’t proven to be a versatile defender or shot-blocker yet, but he has the physical skill set to be a dominant defender. OKC has a hole at the four and Paolo can slide in and contribute right away.

3. Detroit Pistons: Jalen Hardy, Shooting Guard, G-League

As we start to get used to seeing some players take the professional route instead of the collegiate route, we should start getting used to these guys being top picks. In this case, Jalen Hardy is that guy. Hardy playing in a professional league already gives him a head start but there is so much more Detroit would get from Hardy. Hardy is the best pure scorer in the class. He has a pure shot and an incredible handle on the ball. But like most of these young scorers, Hardy comes off as lazy on defense and having a questionable IQ. Detroit added number one pick Cade Cunningham last year and with questions about Killian Hayes, Hardy can slide in and be a big part of this organization right away.

4. Orlando Magic: Jabari Smith Jr, Forward, Auburn

Every year there seems to be a two-way wing who goes very high in the draft and succeeds early on. Scottie Barnes, Patrick Williams, Deandre Hunter, Mikal Bridges, etc. In this class, it seems as if Jabari Smith will fill that role. Smith has a nice all-around game providing a lot of versatility on both sides of the floor. Defensively, he can guard any position; and on offense, he has shown to be great in the pick and roll as both a roll/pop man and a ball handler. His shooting isn’t the most consistent but his mechanics are good. So far at Auburn, we have also seen him dribble too often. That shouldn’t be a problem in Orlando as they have a ton of young ball handlers in Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony, and Markelle Fultz.

5. San Antonio Spurs: Jalen Duren, Center, Memphis

After reclassifying to the 2022 NBA draft, Duren will maintain his high draft slot. This is because, for his age, he has the body of an NBA veteran at 6’11, 250 lbs. On top of that, Duren is a great athlete. He can jump out of the gym and runs the floor very well, making him a lob threat. His defense in the paint is also impressive, averaging nearly six blocks a game. Duren is limited offensively as he has a raw skill set and really only scores in the paint with a lack of range, and his play on the perimeter is quite poor. San Antonio should make a great spot for Duren as they have a plethora of young wings that can shoot the ball.

6. Toronto Raptors: Jaden Ivey, Shooting Guard, Purdue

Jaden Ivey has very high expectations going into this CBB season with Purdue looking like a top team and Ivey coming off of an impressive freshman season. Ivey shows a ton of promise as a two-way combo guard. He’s is an elite slasher with great burst and bounce, and he’s is an aggressive defender. Also, his top-notch athleticism allows him to be a lockdown defender. However, there are a lot of concerns with Ivey’s jump shot and playmaking abilities, and in today’s NBA, guards need to be able to do both or excel at one. Ivey would fit amazing with the Raptors as they have built the reputation of developing two-way players.

7. Cleveland Cavaliers: Caleb Houstan, Small Forward, Michigan

Houstan is a very interesting prospect. In high school and so far at Michigan, he has displayed a very high basketball IQ as he knows where to cut, when and where to pass, and what shots to take. On top of that, he is a good pick and pop shooter. So, why isn’t Houstan higher? Houstan isn’t the greatest athlete and his body isn’t NBA ready. He is also inefficient as a shooter. Cleveland’s young core seems to have a very bright future and adding a project like Houstan can make their lineup that much better in the future.

8. New Orleans Pelicans: TyTy Washington, Point Guard, Kentucky

The Pelicans are in a weird spot. They have one of the best young duos in the league when healthy in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram with a nice supporting cast yet they are consistently out of the playoffs, and this season looks like it’ll end in another disappointment. If he does end up here, TyTy Washington will fit great next to this duo. Washington is a pure scoring guard with a nice pace to his game, and he’s is an effective passer at well. So far at Kentucky, he has looked turnover happy but that should change with more ball handlers on the roster.

9. Sacramento Kings: Patrick Baldwin, Forward, Milwaukee

Baldwin has been hyped up for a while but was questioned for choosing his father’s Milwaukee team over blue bloods and other top programs. Despite being from a small school, Baldwin should still get lottery considerations. Baldwin is a smooth 6’10 sharpshooter who has the body of a small-ball center. The only thing people question about his game is his defense against NBA players and how he will be able to adjust to playing against small schools with not as much talent to the NBA. Sacramento, unfortunately, finds themselves here again and maybe instead of choosing another guard, they can go with a scorer who can eventually replace Harrison Barnes.

10. Minnesota Timberwolves: Daimion Collins, Power Forward, Kentucky

Daimion Collins is a hyper-athletic forward with an incredible vertical. He brings unmatched energy when on the floor. For his size, he has a nice handle. He also has great upside as a shot creator for himself and others. There are concerns about his frame and strength which leads him to not score as much in the paint as he should. Minnesota would be a fun spot for him especially since they do not have a consistent power forward on the roster.

11. Indiana Pacers: Peyton Watson, Small Forward, UCLA

Peyton Watson is a personal favorite prospect of mine. Watson is a 6’8 point forward with a nice feel for the game. In transition, he’s great as a scorer and playmaker. His efficient passing and rebounding makes him a well-rounded player. He does lack range and needs to put on some weight. He can carve out a nice role on a middling Indiana Pacers team.

12. Portland Trailblazers: Benedict Marthurin, Small Forward, Arizona

Marthurin could have been a late first-round pick last year but decided to come back to school to work on his stock. He’s got all the tools to be a very effective 3&D player, but he still has work to do. Portland has struggled a lot this season especially, on the defensive end, and Mathurin can come in and have an immediate impact.

13. Charlotte Hornets: Yannick Nzosa, Center, Spain

Nzosa is the first of a lot of solid international prospects this year. Nzosa is a paint beast as he is an incredible shot-blocker, rebounder, and post passer. However, he is limited outside of those skills. With that said, Charlotte doesn’t have a consistent center on the roster and Nzosa could join Kai Jones as the future of Charlotte bigs.

14. Atlanta Hawks: Jabari Walker, Forward, Colorado

Walker is this year’s sharpshooter who goes in the late lottery. His shot mechanics don’t look the prettiest but it works. Walker also has a nice build to be an impactful defender in the NBA due to his long arms and strength. Other than that, he is limited everywhere else as he hasn’t developed as a playmaker or all-around scorer yet.


Photo: The Athletic