Editor’s note: The first part of Baker City Herald sports editor Corey Kirk’s mock NBA draft was published in the Tuesday, Sept. 1 issue. It’s also available at www.bakercityherald.com.
The NBA’s draft lottery took place Aug. 20 and the draft itself is scheduled for Oct. 16.
The Minnesota Timberwolves came out with the first pick of the draft. I decided I wanted to put on my NBA GM hat and see where these prospects should land.
• No. 21 — Philadelphia 76ers (43-30, 6th in the Eastern Conference, acquired from Oklahoma City Thunder)
Jahmi’us Ramsey, guard, Texas Tech
As a team struggling to find its identity while remaining in the playoff hunt, the 76ers need to continue to build around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Ramsey is a top defender, and as a bonus he has a reasonably good perimeter game, although he struggles at the free throw line.
• No. 22 — Denver Nuggets (43-22, 3rd in the Western Conference, acquired from the Houston Rockets)
Vernon Carey, forward/center, Duke
Carey is an appealing choice for the Nuggets, as he can easily be their solution to pair with Nikola Jokic. Carey exudes versatility and has a reasonably good shot. He averaged nearly 18 points per game for the Blue Devils. He will thrive in the Nuggets’ system, as they are great at molding players to fit. Carey provides insurance at his position, as both Noah Vonleh and Paull Millsap can become free agents, and Jerami Grant has an option in his contract.
• No. 23 — Utah Jazz (41-23, 4th in the Western Conference)
Kira Lewis Jr., guard, Alabama
After picking up Mike Conley this past offseason to match with their superstar Donovan Mitchell, grabbing a guy like Lewis is sensible to support their starting duo. Lewis is a project that will take time, but he is a strong defender and is young enough to be molded into what they want him to become. Overall, he really needs to work on all facets of his game, but he can really become something special.
• No. 24 — Milwaukee Bucks (56-17, 1st in the Eastern Conference, acquired from the Indiana Pacers)
Tre Jones, guard, Duke
Although perennial MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo’s future with the Bucks in uncertain, it really looks like Milwaukee has no intention of letting him go, so they need to continue to build around him, and getting Tre Jones is a good start. He is a fantastic floor general but he needs to be a more consistent shooter and improve on creating his own shots. He will learn much from NBA journeyman Eric Bledsoe.
•No. 25 — Oklahoma City Thunder (acquired last offseason from the Denver Nuggets)
Aleksej Pokusevski, guard/center, Greece
Even though they recently signed Steven Adams to a long-term contract, I don’t see him being a part of the Thunder’s long-term plans. Pokusevski is a 7-footer who plays like a guard. He crashes the defensive boards better than most, is an excellent passer and is able to knock down the easy points from the free throw line. Where he struggles in offensive rebounding and committing turnovers. But Pokusevski has a long-term project appeal.
• No. 26 — Boston Celtics (43-21, 3rd in the Eastern Conference)
Elijah Hughes, forward, Syracuse
Hughes is a disciplined defender and a good shooter from the field and free throw line. He needs to improve his work on the defensive side of the ball. I see him being a good role player for the team.
•No. 27 — Toronto Raptors (46-18, 2nd in the Eastern Conference)
Theo Maldeon, guard, France
As the reigning NBA Champions, the Raptors are managing well despite losing star forward Kawhi Leonard to the Clippers. Maldeon is a long-term project, no doubt about it. Though he is only 19, he does need to become better offensively across the board, and avoid sloppy turnovers. You put Maldeon behind Kyle Lowry, he has an opportunity to learn from one of the best, work on his game especially in the G-League, he is worth the risk this low into the draft.
• No. 28 — New York Knicks (acquired pick from the Los Angeles Clippers)
Paul Reed, forward, DePaul
After getting their point guard of the future in Tyrese Haliburton with their first pick, the Knicks grab some help in their front court with Reed. He’s a strong defender and rebounder, but he’s older than most prospects, which could scare some teams away.
• No. 29 — Los Angeles Lakers (49-14, 1st in the Western Conference)
Cassius Stanley, guard, Kentucky
As the Lakers have everything clicking on all cylinders, they can invest in a guard like Stanley as a long-term project. He has the potential to be a good role player, and an upgrade for the Lakers defensively at guard. He is also a great rebounder on both sides of the ball. However, he really hasn’t found his footing offensively, and he will need to find his way to gain production on that side of the ball. That is something he can work on easily in the G-League.
• No. 30 — Boston Celtics (acquired in a trade from the Phoenix Suns through the Milwaukee Bucks last offseason)
Xavier Tillman, forward/center Michigan State
As the first round concludes on this pick, and the Celtics having already addressed other needs, Tillman makes sense at this point in the draft.
A great defensive rebounder, Tillman is capable of also being able to find the open man, racking up some steals and avoiding sloppy fouls. He needs to improve on the offensive boards and at the free throw line.