Now that the order for the NBA Draft is set and we know that the Lakers have the 7th pick, we can finally start predicting how the draft will turn out. And so here is my version of what I think will happen with the first 7 picks of the draft.
1) Cavaliers - C Joel Embiid, Kansas - The Cavs lucked out again, landing the 1st pick for the 3rd time in the last 4 years. Unlike last year, the Cavs cannot possibly screw up this pick. I'm kind of torn between Wiggins and Embiid here, and even Jabari Parker is an option. That being said, players with Embiid's size, skill, and athleticism don't come around often, and if he can manage to stay healthy, I have no doubt he'll be the top center in the league one day. (Note: there is also talk that the Cavs could trade this pick for Kevin Love)
2) Bucks - G/F Andrew Wiggins, Kansas - Yep, make that two Jayhawks going #1, and #2. I think Wiggins is the best player in this draft. His athleticism is off the charts (he reportedly measured in with a 44" vertical last week), his defense is stellar, and although his offensive game isn't as developed as a guy like Parker's, he still put up pretty comparable numbers to Jabari.. The biggest knock on Wiggins is his aggressiveness. While he's seen as a potential franchise player, many don't think he has the right mentality to do it. Personally, I think this is a bit overstated, and he'll be an All-Star one day.
3) Sixers - F Jabari Parker, Duke - Parker is the best offensive player in this draft. He can shoot the three, post up, control the offensive glass, push the tempo. He gets comparisons to Carmelo Anthony and even though I don't think it's completely accurate, they definitely have striking similarities. Unfortunately like Carmelo, Parker struggles on defense as well. With the Sixers needing a wing to build with Noel and Carter-Williams and Jabari being the best player available with Wiggins and Embiid, off the board, this seems like a no-brainer.
4) Magic - G Dante Exum, Australia - Sadly, the Exum to LA dream isn't going to happen. Despite a good showing at the combine, Exum is still unknown. He didn't play college basketball, and his exposure as a whole has been really limited. I think they'll pick Exum here, not only because he's the best player available, but also because I think an Oladipo-Exum backcourt would be extremely intriguing. Reportedly, the Magic really wanted Marcus Smart in last year's draft, but obviously Smart decided to return to school. As a result, don't be shocked if they opt for Smart over Exum, even though it could be seen as a reach.
5) Jazz - PF Julius Randle, Kentucky - This is a really tough pick. The Jazz already have a young point guard and front court. They need a 2 or 3, but there really isn't an ideal player for that at this stage in the draft. So, I think they'll go with the best player available and that would be Julius Randle.
6) Celtics - PF/C Noah Vonleh, Indiana - This is another tough decision, with the two candidates being Aaron Gordon and Noah Vonleh. I don't think the Celtics can go wrong with either of these two, but since centers are harder to come by, and Vonleh appears to be able to play center (based on how he measured at the Combine), I think Boston will take the big man from Indiana.
7) Lakers - F Aaron Gordon, Arizona - Finally, what we've all been waiting for! The Lakers need to get younger and should take the best player available here, and that would be Aaron Gordon. I got to see Aaron Gordon up close a lot this season, since I attend the University of Arizona as well, and I was really impressed by him. His best facet of his game is his defensive ability and versatility. Not only is he extremely athletic, both laterally and vertically but his defensive fundamentals are very impressive for a player that has yet to turn 19. He can guard quicker guards because of his quickness, and can also guard bigger forwards because of his IQ and fundamentals. On offense he's a bit limited. His jumper isn't the best, he doesn't have much of a post game, and could be seen as a bit undersized for his position. He can handle the ball pretty well though, and his passing ability is stellar for a player his size.
The key with Aaron Gordon is his potential. He has a great work ethic, elite athleticism, and he showed a lot of improvement throughout his first year in college. I could really see him excelling as a pick-and-roll player in the NBA as his leaping ability and quickness will allow him to be an elite finisher around the rim, and an improved jumper would make him a threat as a pick-and-pop guy. As mentioned earlier, his jumper isn't great, but i'm confident that it'll improve and even so, he still managed to shoot 36% from three last season, which is acceptable. To me, Gordon is more of a 4 than a 3, but he should be able to have success at both positions at the next level.
It sucks that the Lakers didn't get a top 3 pick (or stay at the 6 spot) as we all hoped, but Gordon would still player to be excited about and the Lakers are getting good value here. He would've easily been the first pick in the draft in 2013.
I'm interested to see what you guys think of this mock draft, so don't hesitate to comment or criticize. Go Lakers.