6. Orlando Magic
Team Need: Playmaking Point Guard
Ideal Pick: Trae Young
While Trae Young offers limited upside compared to players like Mohamed Bamba with Young’s rather diminutive frame (standing at 6-2 with a 6-2 wingspan), his ability to supercharge a team’s offense, as shown by his lone season in Oklahoma, should have the Magic intrigued. Once again, the Magic gain the #6 pick off the heels of another disappointing season but have the chance to fill their biggest need at the point guard position with Trae Young. The Magic have failed to find a franchise point guard with Elfrid Payton, jettisoning the former #13th overall pick for a second-round pick. Enter Trae Young, a dynamic scorer with incredible range and polish. Young’s polish as a scoring guard justifiably draws comparisons to two-time MVP Stephen Curry; however, his lack of athleticism, inability to finish, and inefficient play are glaring weaknesses he may not be able to overcome. Coupled with a frame that lacks the versatility to switch onto larger players, Trae Young’s resume also has scouts skeptical of his ability to adjust to the next level. However, certainty has been an element in which the Magic’s recent draft picks lack. Victor Oladipo has gone on to develop into a robust offensive focal point for the Indiana Pacers out of the confines of the Magic’s stagnant offense; Aaron Gordon, while promising, is due for a max contract after putting up good stats on a bad team; Mario Hezonja has failed to develop into a prototypical 3 and D player; Jonathan Isaac, while also promising, has played sparingly within the Magic’s rotation and is far removed from even sniffing stardom at this point. The Magic have lacked direction for years with draft picks that just don’t seem to pan out. Trae Young is a prospect that offers certainty with his ability to put pressure on the defense and take charge as the lead ball handler (37.1% usage rate) to bolster the Magic’s 24th ranked offense, scoring 103.4 points per game.
7. Chicago Bulls
Team Need: Certainty at Center and Small Forward
Ideal Pick: Mo Bamba
The Chicago Bulls’ roster is littered with young talent; however, still has a significant dearth of star level talent. While Lauri Markkanen’s promising rookie year (averaging 15.2ppg and 7.5rpg) has him becoming the offensive focal point for years to come, the rest of the roster offers little to be desired. Zach Lavine comes to mind as a second scoring option when healthy, but whose restricted free agency status skyrockets his salary and whose limitations as a defender/injury history caps his potential. With keepers such as Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis set for restricted free agency soon, the Bulls cap hold could exceed past the salary cap with a substandard roster. The Bulls need to gamble on a star and Mohamed Bamba not only offers unparalleled measurables for an NBA prospect (standing at 6-11 with a 7-10 wingspan) but also incredible athleticism for an athlete his size. Bamba’s agility and length make him a nightmare not only for opposing big men, but also guards who dare to switch onto him. Bamba’s wingspan, in particular, gives him much leeway in contesting jumpers and shadowing from the weak side before erasing a layup. In addition, his footspeed only offers more versatility to switch through positions 1-5. On the other hand, Bamba’s offensive game remains undeveloped but could function as a roll man who can occasionally pop for the jumper. His jarring lack of lower body strength puts him at a disadvantage in the post despite his incredible length, preventing him from bullying smaller players. On the Bulls, Bamba would immediately cover up for a lackluster defensive pair of Lavine and Markkenan. Even if Bamba’s offensive game might not catch up any time soon, the Bull’s can take their chances on a 6-11 center who is willing to shoot and has the most impressive physical measurables recorded this millennium. Despite how raw his game may seem now, Bamba is already expected to be a top defender on his team with his versatility and length. Any less would simply be a disappointment.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Nets)
Team Need: Best Player Available
Ideal Pick: Wendell Carter Jr.
Once again, Lebron James leads an all-time bad Cavaliers roster back to the NBA Finals. No doubt, James isn’t exactly free from blame for constructing a roster lacking upside and littered with overpaid role players like Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, and even Kyle Korver to a lesser extent. However, it seems Lebron’s herculean performance has him playing his way out of Cleveland for a second time with his championship ring count as stagnant as the Cleveland offense. In any case, while the Cavaliers roster is built to sustain the “LeBron system”, it is not built for longevity. Thus, the Cavaliers, lacking upside in every position, need to take the best player available at the 8th pick to soften the potential blow of “The King’s exit pt. 2”. With the 8th pick, Duke Freshman Wendell Carter Jr. jumps out immediately as the most polished player with impressive measurables (standing at 6-10 with a 7-3 wingspan). By making use of nifty post moves, Carter possesses a polish in his post-game beyond many players his age, explaining his high efficiency from the field (shot 56.1% this season). Additionally, Carter has also threatened an outside jumper by stroking 41.3% of his threes and 73.8% of his shots from the line. Carter’s offensive game was understandably limited, having to share frontcourt minutes with Marvin Bagley. Nonetheless, this should just go to show how great Carter can be with the ball in his hands more as he has already produced at a high level next to another high usage big (13.5 ppg and 9.1 reb). However, a big man with such offensive polish should not drop this low unless he has glaring weaknesses, which for Carter is his subpar explosiveness and lateral quickness. While his speed is deceptive, it remains to be seen whether he could hold his own against NBA point guards that could punish a switch. Even as a weakside shot blocker, his distinct lack of explosiveness could limit his effectiveness. Overall, Carter’s offensive game should have teams salivating over his potential; however, his limited athleticism also should raise questions on his defensive effectiveness and versatility at the next level.
9. New York Knicks
Team Need: A Wing around Kristaps Porzingis
Ideal Pick: Kevin Knox II
Mikal Bridges and Miles Bridges have dominated the “best small forward” discussion in the past few weeks, but while both Mikal and Miles are talented in their own right and would fill the Knick’s need of a wing, Kevin Knox’s offensive upside is hard to pass up. Right now, the Knicks’ roster consists of semi-decent role players and unproven young talent… oh, and Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis is undoubtedly the focal point of the Knicks rebuilding plans and it is important to keep him competitive by surrounding him with as much talent as possible. The talent depth in New York is largely concentrated in the backcourt with Frank Ntilikina, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Emmanuel Mudiay. Knox projects to be a score-first wing that will have lots of opportunities to develop with the Knicks. He possesses solid measurables (standing at 6-9 with a 7-0 wingspan) and fluidity that many players his size lacks. Offensively, he has shown the ability to score in a variety of ways, on all three levels. He has a compact jumper with a high release point, which he uses on spot ups and pull ups alike to punish defenders. He can put the ball on the ground and utilize his soft touch around the rim if he has to (he shot 94th percentile on runners). However, he had proved very inconsistent and even uninterested at times in the season. His toughness and mentality have been brought into question, which is justified by his low rebounding numbers (only 5.4reb per game) and lackluster defense for someone his size. The seeming lack of toughness is troublesome for Knox, especially considering that score-first players in the NBA need a certain edge and fearlessness to be successful. But Knox only turns nineteen in August and will have plenty of time to develop under the right coach and system. Drafting Knox so high in the lottery will definitely be a lucrative investment on the Knicks’ part, but one that they should be willing to take considering their lack of a wing and the general dearth of palpable talent.
10. Philadelphia 76ers
Team Need: Role Player that Compliments the Embiid-Simmons Core
Ideal Pick: Mikal Bridges
The Philadelphia 76ers overachieved the 2017-18 season by finishing the year 52-30 (third in the East) and making it to the second round of the playoffs. Both budding superstars, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, have solidified their positions as franchise anchors with stellar performances throughout the season and partly in the playoffs. It seems that Sam Hinkie’s process is finally taking shape and the future is looking scary. However, a second-round loss to Boston exposed Philly’s lack of bench depth and surrounding talent, which severely hinders them from challenging the Eastern conference elites. It only seems right that Philly product, Mikal Bridges, should fill the missing piece in the 76ers puzzle. Mikal is arguably the best “3-D” prospect in the draft, in addition to being the most NBA ready. With a wiry strong 6-7 frame, 7-1 wingspan, and great work ethic, Mikal took over college competition (18ppg, 5.4reb, 1.5stl, and 1blk) on a championship-winning Villanova team. Philadelphia currently ranks 26th in the NBA in 3-point percentage at 35% and Ben Simmons literally does look at the three-point line (0-11 on threes for the year). Mikal, who shot 97th percentile on spot ups at 43% from three and 51% percent from the field, would be a perfect floor-spacer for Simmons’ drive and kicks and Embiid’s passes out of the low post. On defense, Mikal gives the 76ers an alternative perimeter defender to Robert Covington. Mikal finished his junior campaign in the 90th percentile in defensive efficiency and can effectively use his length, instincts, and fluidity to thwart any offense. He is the perfect candidate for the NBA’s switch-heavy defensive schemes and the impact he will offer on defense definitely provides the 76ers with some much-needed identity. Mikal Bridges will address the 76ers two biggest needs in floor spacing and perimeter defense while simultaneously shoring up the budding young core with a 3-D presence who does not need the ball to be effective.