There’s a scene in 500 Days of Summer where Joseph Gordon-Levitt is getting ready to go see Zooey Deschanel at her party, without knowing that she’s engaged to someone else, and the screen shows both his expectations and reality at the same time while Regina Spektor’s ‘Hero’ plays in the background. The scene is absolutely crushing, and exactly how I imagine this year’s NBA Draft going. I can see a world in which every team in the lottery does the right thing, but reality will set in and most teams will ruin it. On June 21st I’m going to walking around like a crazed person thinking about how everyone in the league is nailing their picks and then the harsh reality of the actual draft is going to set in. I’m just going to get it all out of my system now.
#1 – Phoenix Suns
Expectation: Luka Doncic
Reality: DeAndre Ayton
Just like that, I’ve turned into sad JGL. On the left we see JGL thrilled that the Suns made the right choice by drafting Luke Doncic, and on the right JGL has seen that the Suns drafted Ayton. In truth, I think both players are going to become excellent NBA players so it isn’t a huge deal if the Suns pick incorrectly here. It’s just obvious to me that if they draft Doncic they could have a generational backcourt between him and Booker. Instead they’ll take Ayton which will just cause their ball movement issues to remain the same.
#2 – Sacramento Kings
Expectation: DeAndre Ayton
Reality: Luka Doncic
Similar situation to the prior pick here. They’re both going to be absolute dynamos but Ayton is a much better fit here than Doncic. You could put Ayton with Fox to have a good foundation to your team. Fox and Doncic playing the same position is problematic.
#3 Atlanta Hawks
Expectation: Mo Bamba
Reality: Jaren Jackson
The Hawks need a lot of things. That’s why Mo Bamba is their best pick here. Bamba is one of the best players available on the board but he is likely the safest bet remaining. If the Hawks could snag him they’d have had the least a great defensive big. However, they’ll probably pick Jackson out of MSU. Jackson has incredible potential, but also has massive bust potential. The Hawks can’t afford a bust here.
#4 Memphis Grizzlies
Expectations: Marvin Bagley III
Reality: Mo Bamba
Look, I don’t hate Bamba here. He’s just not quite what the Grizzlies want. They have Conley and Gasol (at least temporarily) and taking a high-ceiling guy like Bagley is their best bet. He’s long, athletic, and can play next to Gasol if they want. He also has the potential to be a scoring machine if developed properly.
#5 Dallas Mavericks
Expectations: Jaren Jackson
Reality: Michael Porter Jr.
Both of these players are virtual unknowns entering the draft. Porter Jr. has an incredibly high ceiling, however he is a massive injury risk. Jackson is very young and raw, so while he is still a risk he is the type of player that could develop under Carlisle and form a great young team with Dennis Smith Jr.
#6 Orlando Magic
Expectations: Trae Young
Reality: Marvin Bagley III
The LAST thing the Magic need is another raw big like Marvin Bagley, which is exactly why they will draft him. Instead, I think they should roll the dice on Trae Young. With in an incredible need for a point guard the Magic would get star potential here. Trae struggled a lot down the stretch this year, but that was due to facing double and triple teams every possession. While his size is another concern, I think Trae Young could at the least be an incredible scorer for Orlando.
#7 Chicago Bulls
Expectations: Miles Bridges
Reality: Mikal Bridges
I can already picture the Bulls picking the wrong Bridges here. Mikal Bridges is a solid three-and-d guy, but I’m not sure that’s what the Bulls should be putting with Zach Lavine and Lauri Markkanen. Miles, in a weird way, reminds me of Draymond Green actually. Part of is the Michigan State connection, the other part is that he does a lot of the small things much like Draymond. The Bulls could us a defensive presence who can rebound and score a bit.
#8 Cleveland Cavaliers
Expectations: Mikal Bridges
Reality: Trae Young
If Trae Young was to make it to this pick in my expectations, I’d absolutely have him going here. I don’t necessarily know if this is the right pick for them because they need so much. But we know this much, the Cavaliers need a point guard who is comfortable with the ball, especially if LeBron is going to stay. That’s why Young makes sense in reality. In my expectations, however, the Cavaliers definitely need a shooter who can play some defense. Enter Mikal Bridges.
#9 New York Knicks
Expectations: Michael Porter Jr.
Reality: Collin Sexton
Most simply put, the Knicks are the Knicks. Drafting Sexton would be an absolutely bizarre thing to do just one year after taking Franky Smokes, and that is exactly why they will do it. If I had it my way, they’d land Michael Porter Jr. His scoring ability would be an excellent addition to Kristaps Porzingis, provided he can stay healthy.
#10 Philadelphia 76ers
Expectations: TRADE. The 76ers package this with Markelle, RoCo, Jerryd Bayless, and a future first-rounder to land Kawhi Leonard
Reality: Wendell Carter Jr.
These are very different things. I don’t know if I actually want to see Kawhi Leonard leave the Spurs or not, but it would make sense in this scenario. The Spurs coaches could turn Markelle into a stud, RoCo would be a solid three-and-d guy, they could waive Bayless, and then use this pick to pick Carter Jr. to grow their depth down low. The 76ers, in turn, would get one of the five best players in the league in Leonard.
That said, the reality will be the 76ers drafting Wendell Carter Jr. to add depth and a security blanket for Joel Embiid.
#11 Charlotte Hornets
Expectations: Collin Sexton
Reality: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
It’s looking more and more like Kemba is done in Charlotte, so they’ll need a scorer and a point guard, unfortunately for them the Knicks reached for Sexton. This forces them to take Shai a little early. The combo guard could be solid in a more defined roll, but being thrusted into this weird Charlotte situation will turn him into a dud.
#12 Los Angeles Clippers
Expectations: Troy Brown Jr.
Reality: Robert Williams
The Clippers could use a good defensive guard to put in their backcourt with Beverly, Rivers, and Lou. However, they’e going to take a big here to possibly replace DeAndre Jordan. Look for them to pick Williams here.
#13 Los Angeles Clippers
Expectations: TRADE. The Clippers trade this pick to Charlotte for Dwight Howard and a future first.
Reality: Troy Brown Jr.
In reality, the Clippers are going to land themselves a defensive guard here. A pick I like one slot early. I’m just not sure how this roster works with all these young guys and coach that isn’t known for developing talent. In my expectations they bite the bullet on Dwight Howard right now, knowing they get a future first-round pick out of the deal.
#14 Denver Nuggets
Expectations: Robert Williams
Reality: Kevin Knox
The Nuggets absolutely LOVE scorers who can do nothing else, which is why they eat up the possibility of drafting Knox here. They SHOULD draft Williams here though. As a presence down low on both offense and defense he would be and excellent compliment to Jokic.
This draft is going to make me sad. I hate seeing teams make mistakes. And teams WILL make mistakes. Guess I’ll just be sad until Autumn.
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