11. Charlotte Hornets
Team Need: Best Player Available
Ideal Pick: Collin Sexton
Coming off another consecutive season of not making the playoffs (36-46 record), the Charlotte Hornets find themselves in “No-Man’s Land”, picking at 11th for the second straight year. The current roster is filled with mediocrity and aging all-stars and yet another underwhelming season points to a clear lack of direction. Gambling on potential should give them the opportunity to escape the NBA purgatory. Under the circumstance that Alabama guard Colin Sexton is available, the Hornets should pounce on the opportunity to add a competitive, slashing point guard who plays with edge and aggression. While Kemba Walker currently occupies the lead guard role, the Hornets should not hesitate to add a talent like Sexton due to their tendency to suffer from a complete offensive debacle once Walker is off the court(Walker owns an on/off net rating of -10.8 points on the bench). Furthermore, the possibility of a Kemba exit is very plausible, since it doesn’t make sense to pump the Hornets’ hilarious cap situation further into the stratosphere by offering the max. In the case that the Hornets do find a suitor for Walker, this pick only makes more sense as the Hornets can gamble on Colin Sexton’s youth and cheaper contract. Understandably, Colin Sexton’s lack of playmaking awareness and lack of control mars his draft stock; however, Sexton’s athleticism and approach to the game should have current Hornets General Manager Mitch Kupchak highly interested in his potential as a locker room leader and star.
12. LA Clippers
Team Need: Solution at Point Guard
Ideal Pick: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
With Blake Griffin and Chris Paul both jettisoning from the Clippers via trade and Deandre Jordan seeking greener pastures, Los Angeles should look for a complete overhaul of the roster. The Clippers’ season has been plagued by injuries and instability. The trade of Blake Griffin and injuries to veterans like Beverly and Gallinari contributed to snap Los Angeles’ 6 consecutive playoff appearance streak. While a stand-up work by Doc River’s has prevented this floundering team from imploding, the Clippers’ roster has a distinct lack of high-level talent that would only continue to keep them out of the playoffs. As a result, assuming the Clippers do not trade up from their picks at #12 and #13, the Clippers should look to address the problem at point guard. The Clippers at the point this season has been lackluster, to say the least, with Patrick Beverly, Milos Teodosic being perpetually injured and Austin Rivers doing his best Jamal Crawford impression by chucking up shots and watching his efficiency crater. Thus, adding a player like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would benefit the Clippers greatly in the long run. Gilgeous-Alexander is an intriguing prospect who makes up for average athleticism with skill and feel for the game. Offensively, Shai well-utilizes pullups, hesitations, and floaters to score. Defensively, Shai’s 6-6 height and 7-0 wingspan is elite and would allow him to potentially switch onto small forwards without losing too much leeway. However, while he is defensively versatile, lateral quickness and on ball defense could be limited by his lack of athleticism once again. At #12, a guard with elite length, size, and skill with only one glaring weakness is difficult to come by and the Clippers should take the opportunity to bolster their lead guard position by taking Gilgeous-Alexander.
13. LA Clippers
Team Need: potential replacement for Deandre Jordan
Ideal Pick: Robert Williams III
With Deandre Jordan outwardly expressing his interest to play for the Dallas Mavericks, it is likely that “Lob City” has finally reached the end of the line. Even if Deandre re-signs, he is not projected to move the needle much for a Clippers team that has failed to make the playoffs. Thus, immediately, with the #13 pick, the Clippers would be wise to fill the potential gaping hole left by Jordan at center by drafting fellow Aggie Robert Williams. Robert Williams plays a style of ball similar to Jordan, posing as an intimidating presence in the paint, sky walking lob target, and seamless fit into the pick and roll heavy offense constructed by Doc Rivers. In fact, unlike Jordan, Williams does project to have a higher offensive ceiling, as it was only last year that Williams was touted as a potential stretch 4 in the NBA. While Williams did not progress as expected, he did still showcase jaw-dropping athleticism in his second season at Texas A&M. Nonetheless, scouts alike have yet to completely give up on his oozing potential as an offensive threat outside of a lob target and roll man. What does this all mean for the Clippers? By selecting Williams, Los Angeles can rest easier knowing that their defensive anchor would be replaced by another explosive athlete with similar skillsets. While it would be difficult for Williams to replicate the complete and utter defensive dominance Jordan establishes in the paint, Williams is likely the only prospect in this draft (not including Deandre Ayton) with the physical gifts to replicate the same effect in Doc Rivers’ system.
14. Denver Nuggets
Team Need: Guard and Wing Production
Ideal Pick: Lonnie Walker IV
The Nuggets Nucleus, while promising, is likely to become extremely expensive in the near future. Gary Harris is only into his first year of his 4 years $84 million deal; Jokic is set to sign the max contract; Jamal Murray hasn’t reached restricted free agency. Yet a playoff appearance seems so close yet so far. This is the harsh reality of rebuilding in the Western Conference. Furthermore, key pieces such as Will Barton and Wilson Chandler are likely to price themselves out of Denver after successful campaigns, thinning the bench behind this core even further. With Paul Millsap’s bloated contract eating into the salary cap, the Nuggets have their hands tied behind their backs come this free agency period. Thus, it makes it all the more important for the Denver Nuggets to strike it home with their lottery pick this year. While the Nuggets draft boards are likely dearth with talent in such a top-heavy draft, they have the opportunity to gamble on potential with their 14th pick if Miami Hurricane guard Lonnie Walker remains available. Walker is a strong and athletic combo guard who has flashed strong one on one scoring ability and a beautiful stroke. However, injuries and inconsistencies dominated Walker’s lone year at Miami, which explains his shaky draft stock. Walker is, along with Michael Porter Jr., one of the more polarizing prospects in the draft. Nevertheless, his tools and skill with the ball should be too much to ignore and a welcome addition to the barren playmaking at the guard position once Murray sits. Besides, the Nuggets should learn from their mistake last year of passing on an athletic combo guard with skill, seeing that Donovan Mitchell (picked 13th by the Nuggets!) is blossoming into a superstar.
15. Washington Wizards
Team Need: Versatility and Production in the Frontcourt
Ideal Pick: Miles Bridges
In all honesty, Miles Bridges is a prospect no one gives enough credit to. In addition to his immense athleticism and strength that many point to as his main selling point, he has produced at a high level for both of his years as a Michigan State Spartans. Clearly, recording identical freshman and sophomore statlines wasn’t ideal, but scouts should blame the stagnation on his new role as the focal point of the offense. At #15, most draft boards suggests that Bridges would already have been taken; however, his awkward fit as a player could pose an issue, knowing that he is too short to match up against power forwards (6-6 height and 6-9 wingspan) and not skilled enough with the ball to attack opposing small forwards. Picking at #15, the Wizards can afford to gamble on Bridges’ boom or bust potential, as they should value his versatility as a defender and surprising ability to stroke the three (0.364% from 3pt). While Bridge’s shooting stroke comes under question, Bridges was able to raise his free throw conversion rate from 65% to 85%, showing the potential that his three-point could translate to the NBA. Overall, Bridge’s intrigue should lie within his potential and production in college, and would serve to bolster a thin Wizards frontcourt that lacks toughness and athleticism.