NBA Mock Draft

Varun Vishnubhotla and Mihir Kulkarni

In light of the NBA Draft on Nov. 18, The Howler has decided to provide insight on the first 10 picks of this year’s highly coveted draft. 

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: G LaMelo Ball 

Illawarra (National Basketball League): 17 points per game (ppg), 7.5 rebounds per game (rpg), 7 assists per game (apg)

Since his days at Chino Hills High School, Ball has been in the spotlight, for better or worse. We’ve seen the tapes of Ball throwing down monstrous jams and lighting up defenses with his insane passes to his open teammates. Although his awful shooting splits—37.5% from the field and 25% from the three-point line—during his lone year in Australia may scare some teams, there’s still an upside. Ball is the biggest enigma in the draft, and in their current state, the Timberwolves are the team to take the risk. 

2. Golden State Warriors: C James Wiseman

Memphis: 19.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg

Only two years removed from their appearance in the NBA Finals, the Warriors have housed some of the best players in NBA history. But one thing has always been missing: a powerhouse center. Wiseman is that guy. As arguably the best shot-blocker in the draft, Wiseman couples his interior presence with an ability to switch onto smaller guards in the pick-and-roll. Even though he’s only played three games at Memphis due to a suspension, Wiseman has shown enough to terrorize other centers on both ends of the floor. Look out for a potential trade here, as the Warriors could easily flip this pick to bring in a superstar to help them win now.

3. Charlotte Hornets: G Anthony Edwards

Georgia: 19.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.8 apg

At this point, the Charlotte Hornets are in no-man’s land. Their roster has been in shambles ever since the front office’s decision to let go of franchise cornerstone Kemba Walker in the 2019 free agency cycle, a decision that has been deemed one of the worst in recent memory. A bright spot was the team’s leading scorer Devontae Graham, but the Hornets will need to surround him with more pieces to contend. Standing at 6 feet 5 inches and weighing 225 pounds, Edwards possesses great size as an NBA shooting guard and his 6 feet 9 inch wingspan projects him as a pest on the perimeter. Coupled with his shooting prowess, the Hornets will have their backcourt for the future with this pick, and things might finally start to look bright in Charlotte. 

4. Chicago Bulls: F Deni Avdija

Maccabi Tel Aviv (EuroLeague): 8.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg

Avdija’s spot-on fundamentals and polish as well as his blend of boldness and flare at a height of 6 feet 9 inches make him one of the most enticing prospects, behind Ball. With the emergence of Luka Doncic, another EuroLeague veteran dominating the NBA, many scouts have faith that Avdija’s production will transfer to the NBA. Although Avdija isn’t the dynamic ball-handler creator that Doncic is, he is more than competent to fill the secondary creator role on any team. On a team like the Bulls, which doesn’t have the best wing production outside of Zach LaVine, Avdija is a sure-fire pick.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers: F Obi Toppin

Dayton: 20 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.2 apg

With years removed from their historic NBA Finals run, the Cavaliers have plummeted to irrelevancy and should be looking for a young player to replace aging star Kevin Love. Obi Toppin is the perfect player to do so. As a hometown hero, Toppin would provide some much-needed athleticism to the Cavaliers’ front-court. His high-flying playstyle in addition to his lovable charisma would contribute to some necessary ticket sales for the Cavaliers’ front office. Toppin will need some time to develop, but all the Cavaliers have is time. 

6. Atlanta Hawks: G Tyrese Haliburton

Iowa State: 15.2 ppg, 6.5 apg, 5.9 rpg

The Hawks have fully embraced the pace and space offense, so if they take a player who can’t consistently knock down a jump shot, a lot of the burden will be on Trae Young, which didn’t turn out well this season. The Hawks desperately need more than a one-man show to succeed and solidifying their backcourt with Haliburton at pick 6 is the logical choice. Looking at Young’s on and off numbers, the Hawks were abysmal with Young off the court; Haliburton could cover that role nicely. Not to mention, Haliburton would excel at playing alongside Young. A terrific shooter off the catch, Haliburton hit 41.9% of his three-point shots at Iowa State, all while being a monstrous team defender. Look for Haliburton to be in contention for the Hawks’ pick. 

7. Detroit Pistons: G Killian Hayes

Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany): 11.6 ppg, 5.3 apg, 3.1 rpg

As we saw in his Los Angeles Clippers days, Blake Griffin is a powerhouse from all three levels on offense when he plays with a pick-and-roll maestro. Hayes is just that. A pass-first player with a great feel for the game, Hayes provides some much-needed stability to the Pistons’ guard position. He’ll also be able to help budding star Christian Wood while avoiding the intense spotlight of a larger market. It’s a win-win for both sides. Keep an eye out for a trade here, as the Pistons may be interested in trading up to draft a guard like Ball.

8. New York Knicks: F Devin Vassell

Florida State: 12.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.6 apg

The Knicks have lots of room for improvement after yet another disappointing season, but they seem to have some building blocks. RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson all look promising, but the team still needs an elite wing and point guard. Vassell would help fill one of these holes with his fantastic three-point shooting and his reliable midrange shot. He is also an elite defender and hustle player, so he can help new head coach Tom Thibodeau create a tough defensive culture in New York. 

9. Washington Wizards: F Isaac Okoro 

Auburn: 12.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.0 apg

A well-built defender possessing a smooth offensive repertoire, Okoro provides some much-needed versatility to the Wizards’ offensive attack and defensive strategy. Defense needs to be a major focus for the Wizards, as they are notorious for letting other teams score enormous amounts of points, giving up 159 points in a regulation four-quarter game just last year. The Wizards already have an elite guard in Bradley Beal, and former All-Star John Wall is coming back from an injury that sidelined him for two years. If Okoro is able to show glimpses of his former explosive self, the Wizards could go from zero to hero in no time.

10. Phoenix Suns: F Onyeka Okongwu

USC: 16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.1 apg

In the modern NBA, all players regardless of position need to be mobile and agile, and Okongwu fits the mold perfectly. He’ll fit perfectly into the Suns’ system and add a frontcourt presence to couple with Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton. His offensive game from outside of the paint could use some work, but the Suns already have plenty of shooters to take care of that. Okongwu has many of the qualities that one of last season’s undisputed rising stars Bam Adebayo possesses, and if he is able to fulfill his potential, Phoenix will have a star on their hands.