Congrats Philly, you finally ‘won’ something. Obviously the NBA Draft Lottery was last night and now the question for Philly is do you take Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram? It honestly shouldn’t be that tough of a decision but because that’s what happens now with the NBA Draft (i.e. Towns/Okafor last year) this is what happens.
So we’ll get into this from a college basketball side. What NCAA player is the best fit for each lottery team? The NBA Combine took place last week and despite the top players not participating in the games, we were able to learn a little bit more about this draft. Yes it’s true right now it looks like there are only two franchise type players, but this is a deep draft and expect a lot of these guys to step in the rotation right away.
With that out of the way, here are the best college hoops fits for each lottery team:
- Philadelphia 76ers – Ben Simmons (LSU)
It should be a no-brainer here for the 76ers, who need a ton of help. Simmons is the better player right now compared to Ingram and can do more. Yes, Ingram is a more pure shooter and scorer, but Simmons can handle the ball and is a superb passer. Now the problem is the Sixers still don’t have a point guard, unless they are running Ish Smith and Kendall Marshall out there, so they still need a ton of help. With Simmons they at least can run sets and short stretches with him at the point forward spot but that lane will be crowded with him, Noel and Okafor.
- Los Angeles Lakers – Brandon Ingram (Duke)
No team is in a better position than the Lakers right now. They don’t have to decide between Simmons/Ingram and have an excuse if Ingram is a bust. They have a young core of D’Angelo Russell at point and Julius Randle at the power forward spot, so you can slide Ingram into the wing position next to Jordan Clarkson and there’s your core four moving forward.
- Boston Celtics – Buddy Hield (Oklahoma)
Yes, this is a stretch for the Celtics here, but they are in a unique position. First off the No. 3 spot is the worst spot for the Celtics to be in because they have to make a decision and the jump from the top-2 players to everyone else is massive. They may take Dragan Bender here, but for NCAA sakes Hield is their best option. The Celtics need someone who can shoot from the outside and Hield was the most prolific shooter in college hoops last season. On top of that he’s an above average defender and rebounder and can help a team that’s looking to compete now.
- Phoenix Suns – Henry Ellenson (Marquette)
Much like the Celtics the Suns are in a horrible spot. They have solid guard play thanks to three Kentucky guys in Devin Booker – who broke out last year as a rookie – Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe. They need help on the wing still, but really their biggest needs are in the post. Ellenson can do both here thanks to his ability to step out and stretch the floor. Yes, he’s a slower guy and not a great defender, but stretching the floor with him and Booker opens the lane for Bledsoe.
- Minnesota Timberwolves – Jamal Murray (Kentucky)
The Timberwolves are in a great spot and the second best position outside of the Lakers. They will get one of the two best shooters in the draft in Murray or Buddy Hield and when you think about putting one of them with the core of Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins that gets you giddy. Murray has as good as a chance to be the best player in this draft. He has experience playing in the Pan-Am Games and we saw how he scored the ball at Kentucky. Playing with great passers like Rubio and Towns will only make his life easier.
- New Orleans Pelicans – Kris Dunn (Providence)
This is another no-brainer here for the Pels, but they will likely find a way to screw this up. The Pelicans need to find help for Anthony Davis or he will likely leave come free agency. Right now the backcourt is up in the air with Eric Gordon being a free agent and Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday set to hit the market next year. Dunn can step in and play either on or off the ball with Holiday and provide defense on the perimeter to go with Davis inside.
- Denver Nuggets – Jaylen Brown (California)
The Nuggets need help on the wing. They have their point guard and big man of the future in Emmanuel Mudiay and Nikola Jokic so getting a player like Brown to fill in on the wing with Gary Harris will help this team. Yes, the Nuggets need help shooting but Brown can develop a shot as he grows in the NBA.
- Sacramento Kings – Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame)
Sorry Demetrius, but you get to head to the dumpster fire that is the Kings. Obviously Sacramento has Boogie and Willie Cauley-Stein to play down low and Rajon Rondo is an unrestricted free agent. Jackson is a dynamic point guard that can do it all. He’s a decent enough shooter – shooting 43% from deep as a sophomore and 33% last year and is insanely athletic. He’s also a strong passer and putting him in pick-and-rolls with Boogie and WCS will help his game.
- Toronto Raptors – Damontas Sabonis (Gonzaga)
Pretty obvious what the Raptors needs right now? As long as DeRozan doesn’t leave in free agency, the backcourt is set with Lowry and DeRozan but the frontcourt needs help. I mean the Raptors started Luis Scola at times at the power forward spot this year. Sabonis can stretch the floor to 15 feet and play either the four or five spot in the NBA. He’s not as great as a defender as you want someone his size to be, but can protect the rim at times.
- Milwaukee Bucks – Jakob Poeltl (Utah)
The Bucks need help with size and/or the point guard spot and right now it’s best player available for them. Poeltl was the best big in the country this past season and has a fairly polished game for someone his size. The Bucks can go big playing Giannis at the point spot and surrounding him with Greg Monroe and Poeltl.
- Orlando Magic – Deyonta Davis (Michigan State)
It’s an absolute crapshoot here for the Magic, who just lost their head coach. They won’t go point guard because of Elfrid Payton and they do have two strong players in Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic, so Davis can come in off the bench and provide energy in the post.
- Utah Jazz – Denzel Valentine (Michigan State)
The Jazz looked to bet set at the point guard spot with Trey Burke and Dante Exum. But, then Exum got injured and there’s no timetable for his return so the Jazz will go with a guy who can play on or off the ball. Valentine is a prolific passer and shooter, allowing him to play next to Burke if the Jazz want.
- Phoenix Suns – Skal Labissiere (Kentucky)
The second pick for the Suns in the lottery they take the chance on Skal, letting him play behind Alex Len. There’s obviously a ton of risk and upside here but getting Brown earlier in the draft, the Suns can work on beefing up their frontcourt.
- Chicago Bulls – Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)
The Bulls need point guard help. They can’t count on D-Rose anymore and Ulis makes too much sense here. Thanks to Isaiah Thomas the fear of size isn’t a thing anymore as he was the best point guard in college basketball last year. Ulis can step in and immediately contribute, forming a nice two-man game with him and Butler.
NBA Combine: The combine was last week and obviously didn’t feature the top guys, but that’s not to say some of those late first-round picks didn’t come away winners. The biggest winner of the combine was Cheick Diallo from Kansas, who was buried on the bench this year behind Perry Ellis and Landen Lucas. Diallo was a projected lottery pick heading into his freshman year, then fell off the radar because Bill Self doesn’t love freshmen. He checked in with a 7’4” wingspan and showed his athleticism off in the 5-on-5 games, to secure his spot in the first round.
The biggest loser? UConn’s Daniel Hamilton. What in the hell are you thinking signing an agent? There’s a very good chance Hamilton goes undrafted after being one of the worst players in the 5-on-5 games last week in Chicago. On top of that he graded out as unathletic with only a 29-inch vertical leap. I mean I’m all for players to go get their money, but with the rules in place it makes no sense for him to hire an agent for a D-League career.
There were decisions made by Justin Jackson to go back to UNC (smart) and Malachi Richardson to leave Syracuse after one year (equally as smart). We’ll have more later on next week about those declaring for the draft or going back to school as we’re just a week away from the deadline.
Podcast with Greenie: Your guy Greenie was a broken man last night after the Celtics got the No. 3 spot so like any good friend, I had him come on the podcast. We talked conspiracy theories, hypothetical trades for the Celtics and what they should do with the No. 3 spot. Check it out: