I love the NBA draft, I really do, but despite my Christmas-like anticipation for it, it’s hard to sit down and blog about it ahead of time.  Sure, I could do a mock draft, but everybody does one of those.  And I could do that old 100-Slot Challenge I made up, but who can I beat?  Nobody else is playing along.

So instead, this year I thought maybe I’d do a “mockery” draft.  The concept is this:  What is the absolute worst pick that each team could reasonably make?  Now, the word “reasonably” is operative here.  The worst pick that the Sixers could possibly make at #1 would be somebody like Ingrid Sewa (yes, a real early-entry candidate from Arizona Western Community College)…but that’s not remotely plausible.  Let’s be honest – even for all the smoke they’re blowing about Jaylen Brown, there’s not even a snowball’s chance in hell of them drafting him, and he’s a surefire lotto pick.

In order to give myself some sort of guidance on this, I’m arbitrarily breaking players down into tiers – two in the top tier, three in the second tier, four in the third tier, and so on.  (The numbers are arbitrary, just wanted it to be halfway clean.)  So that things don’t get too silly, no team may select from a tier more than one lower than the tier of the highest player available.  This keeps players from absolutely tumbling and ensures that I don’t have too large of a pool to select the worst reasonable pick for each team.  Of course, this also means that some teams are bound to get it right in the mockery draft simply because they can’t justify the mistake we know they so desperately want to make.  Somebody is going to get Ben Simmons.  Well, that’s the way a draft should go, right?

This year, the tiers as I have arbitrarily determined them based on my own biases (as well as reputable mock drafts and green room invites) are as follows:

Tier 1: Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram

Tier 2: Kris Dunn, Dragan Bender, Jaylen Brown

Tier 3: Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield, Jakob Poeltl, Marquese Chriss

Tier 4: Henry Ellenson, Wade Baldwin, Deyonta Davis, Skal Labissiere, Domantas Sabonis

Tier 5: Dejounte Murray, Malachi Richardson, Furkan Korkmaz, Timothe Luwawu, Cheick Diallo, Denzel Valentine

Tier 6: Demetrius Jackson, Ivica Zubac, Ante Zizic, Taurean Prince, Damien Jones, Diamond Stone, Malik Beasley

Tier 7: Juan Hernangomez, Brice Johnson, Thon Maker, DeAndre Bembry, Zhou Qi, Chinanu Onuaku, Stephen Zimmerman, Ben Bentil

And so, without further ado…the mockery draft


Pic Team Player Biting Commentary
1 Philadelphia Brandon Ingram Philly has been doing this so long, it’s almost impossible to imagine them getting it right and picking Ben Simmons, the player who could finally get them out of Hinkie-Hell.   This, of course, is the mockery draft where we assume they’re going to get it wrong if they possibly can, and while Brandon Ingram should be a nice player, whoops! go the Sixers.
2 L.A. Lakers Ben Simmons While it would have been legal under the mockery draft tier rules for the Lakers to pass on Simmons, it’s just not reasonable that they would do so.  I had a hard enough time making Philly skip on a possibly generational talent for a really good player, but I can’t do the same against the next tier down.  The Lakers get lucky in the mockery draft (just as they did in the lottery) and rebuild from the Kobe era immediately.
3 Boston Buddy Hield The Celtics’ biggest strength is in their guards, so the way they screw this up is to draft another one.  The only real question is which one.  The answer is Buddy Hield – and they draft him purely based on the fact that he hit 85 of 100 threes in an empty gym.  He turns out to be only a mediocre shooter and the Celtics rejoice in the fact that they still have another unprotected Brooklyn pick to screw up in 2018.
4 Phoenix Marquese Chriss Chriss could easily have gone to the Celtics in this one, but I’m guessing he didn’t torch their shooting workout quite like Buddy.  Chriss is the opposite of a shooter – heck, he’s the opposite of a basketball player.  There is a really long list of players drafted in the high lottery solely on their athleticism who busted right out of the league, and Chriss is going to add his name to the list.  Sometimes people like to say “only been playing basketball a few years” as some sort of talisman that will make a player suddenly figure it out.  Few do.  Sorry, Phoenix.
5 Minnesota Jaylen Brown The Timberwolves do not need a wing.  Wiggins has the SF covered, and between LaVine and Muhammad they’ve got guys they like to play the SG as well.  So naturally, with a PF and a few young PGs who could replace the broken-jumpered Rubio, they’re going to go for a guy whose best spot is SF and who will be stuck behind Wiggins until he and his also-questionable basketball talent wash out of the league.  Good picking, Minny!
6 New Orleans Dragan Bender The Pelicans get the option of picking between two PGs, a solid C and a Euro PF.  With Holiday perpetually injured, a PG wouldn’t be a bad call.  And Davis is really a PF, so Poeltl would probably suit them just as well.  So the Pelicans pick Dragan Bender, who will struggle to find a niche on the floor for the nearly 40 minutes a game that AD will be on the floor.  Just what he needs to follow in the footsteps of Jan Vesely!
7 Denver Jakob Poeltl Denver’s pickings are getting slim, and all of them are pretty bad fits.  They have Mudiay at PG, a guy they really can’t give up on yet, and they have Nurkic and Jokic emerging in the frontcourt.  Murray and Dunn both have a bit of ability to go combo here and can cover for Mudiay’s inability to stretch the floor, so the mockery draft will go with Poeltl to give the Nuggets exactly what every NBA team needs – three seven-foot Eastern Europeans.  (Does Austria count as Eastern Europe?  It’s not former Iron Curtain, but it actually is pretty far east, so I’m not really sure.)
8 Sacramento Jamal Murray With Darren Collison facing some (misdemeanor) domestic violence charges and Rajon Rondo seemingly a longshot to return, what the Kings could really use in this draft is a PG ready to step in from day one – especially given their obvious desire to start winning the moment they step into the new Golden 1 Center.  The mockery draft has allowed that player to slip into their hands – so they have to pass on him to take another pretty solid player and good fit (some teams get lucky here), but nonetheless a player who will take a few years to come into his own.
9 Toronto Kris Dunn By rule, with Tier 3 empty the Raptors have to take the last player from Tier 2.  Dunn falling to nine is a blessingcurse for the Raptors (is there a word in German for that?  There’s gotta be.)  While he’s obviously the consensus best player left in the draft, he’s also stepping into a situation with a really solid PG in Lowry who he isn’t going to displace any time soon.  Toronto would have loved to see a guy like Bender or Chriss here, but Dunn it is, for better and for worse.
10 Milwaukee Malachi Richardson With Tiers 2 and 3 closed, things really open up for the Bucks here, and they are given the opportunity to make a huge mistake by having 11 players to choose from.  They make the easy pick in Malachi Richardson.  Let’s see…goes to Syracuse so you can’t tell if he can play D?  Check.  Has a lackluster year punctuated by a single tournament game where every stupid shot he took was falling and parlays that into a Green Room invite?  Check.  About to be the worst pick in the entire draft?  Sounds right to me.  Sorry, Bucks.  You were on the wrong end of the Tier 4/5 stick there.
11 Orlando Skal Labissiere Here’s a case where the hype doesn’t match the game.  Labissiere was touted as a possible #1 overall pick in this draft coming into his single (terrible) year at Kentucky.  While he turned it on towards the end of the year, he just looks too thin and too timid to do anything remotely close to succeeding in a man’s league.  But the lure of a silky smooth big man is too much, even for a team that has Vucevic and thus will have trouble finding development time for their prized rook.  Skal was bound to bust out, may as well do it near Disneyworld.
12 Utah Furkan Korkmaz Everybody and their mother thinks that Utah is going to be looking to upgrade their frontcourt this offseason, with lots of buzz that they’re open to dealing Favors and have perhaps even promised Sabonis at #12.  So naturally, they go for a guy who duplicates their max player in Gordon Hayward.  That’s exactly what the mockery draft is about.
13 Phoenix Dejounte Murray In this mockery draft, Phoenix has already taken Marquese Chriss, so they might as well take his also-not-ready-for-prime-time teammate Dejounte Murray.  Murray will get stuck behind Bledsoe and Knight (note: rumors are flying about Bledsoe being on the trading block, but still) and wash out only slightly slower than Chriss.  But don’t worry, Phoenix still has one more first round pick to blow completely!
14 Chicago Timothe Luwawu Chicago actually has some pretty decent options here, considering that Rose isn’t the player he used to be and with Noah on the way out and Gasol this close to needing a walker they could patch the frontcourt as well.  That’s why they obviously go with Luwawu, the one player left who will probably be stuck behind Butler, the one player the Bulls can probably count on at this point.
15 Denver Domantas Sabonis This mockery draft has Denver cornering the market on Eastern European big men like they’re going out of production, Trabant-style.  Hopefully Tier 6 is going to open up by the time their #19 comes around…
16 Boston Wade Baldwin More guards for the Celtics!  This one never really tickled my fancy in college, though a lot of folks think Baldwin is going to be a player.  Well good luck with that, being stuck behind IT, Smart, Bradley, and Hield.  The Celtics will be forced to trade Baldwin for pennies on the dollar in a few years with a lineup like that.
17 Memphis Henry Ellenson The one thing Memphis does not need is another slow dude in the frontcourt.  They just lost their coach who was able to play slow, and the addition of Ellenson is going to ensure that they never field a lineup where all five guys cross the timeline before the clock is down to 18.  The bright side here is that Ellenson is a pretty solid pick at 17.
18 Detroit Deyonta Davis And what could the Pistons use more than an athletic big man who isn’t very good at basketball?  They’ve got one named Andre Drummond who is currently able to do all of the things that Deyonta Davis might one day be able to do.  So it’s a perfect mockery pick.  Besides, I really, really needed to clear out Tier 4 because Denver is coming up…
19 Denver Ivica Zubac AND Ante Zizic Boom.  That’s now six Eastern European big men for the Nuggets, and a complete mic drop for the mockery draft.  Hey, look, my mockery draft, my rules, and my rules say that Denver gets to select two players here in compensation for…believing that Timofey Mozgov was a key piece worthy of holding up the Carmelo Anthony deal all those years ago.  You falls in love with your Eastern Euro big men, you gets to pay the piper.
20 Indiana Taurean Prince Here the key question was: “Who will be most effectively blocked by Paul George?”  The answer is in the column to the left of this one.  Like most other players in the twenties draft, Prince has a pretty decent chance to pan out, and barring the ability to tell who really is going to bust from this crowd, it’s all about blockage.  Ah, blockage.  Good old find-me-some-prune-juice blockage.
21 Atlanta Demetrius Jackson With Teague and Schroeder fighting for PT in Atlanta, what could be better than the Hawks drafting a #3 PG to warm the bench behind them?  As far as the mockery draft is concerned?  Nothing!
22 Charlotte Malik Beasley I’m not really sure that Charlotte has anybody worthy of blocking a draftee – not even Al Jefferson – so I’m going with the biggest risk in my eyes in Malik Beasley.  He’s going to take some time to develop, that’s for sure, so even if he pans out the Hornets will be treading water for a few more years if they take him.  A guy like Valentine could have helped right away, but no…
23 Boston Denzel Valentine I actually like Denzel Valentine a lot.  He’s a solid player who people seem to think can’t defend (I never got that impression) and who now has his stock tumbling even more because the rumor is that his knees are shot.  I have no idea how much of that is smoke, but what I do know is that for every Eastern European big man I have Denver drafting in this mockery, Boston has to take a guard.  Denzel is the only one left by rule, so he’s the guy.
24 Philadelphia Cheick Diallo Well, there’s not much to choose from again.  Cheick Diallo seems to be more Serge Ibaka than Nerlens Noel, but that’s still enough to make it tough for him to get PT in Philly.  At least Diallo (as opposed to say Damien Jones) allows me to finally shut down Tier 5 and get more players to choose from, just in time for the Clippers.
25 L.A. Clippers Zhou Qi The last time there was a hyped-up Chinese prospect, he really schooled a chair in a YouTube workout and then washed out of the league so fast that Calgon sued for copyright infringement on the “Ancient Chinese Secret, Huh?” tagline.  Why should Zhou Qi be any different?
26 Philadelphia Juan Hernangomez I’ll be honest – I really have no idea who this guy is.  He’s a PF, he’s Spanish (I think…that “Hernangomez” might be Welsh or Finnish as well), and the one thing that Philly has covered is their frontcourt.  So why not pick another frontcourt player to stay in Europe?  He can hang out with Dario Saric, they can trade polenta recipes and check out the Northern Lights, teammate stuff like that.
27 Toronto Stephen Zimmerman Sadly, there’s no PG on the board for Toronto to take to follow up tabbing Dunn at #6.  Of the players left, I figure Zimmerman is the most likely to get stuck behind Valanciunas, so he gets the nod.
28 Phoenix Brice Johnson The Suns took two Huskies at the top of this mockery draft, but with no Husky left on the board I figured we could go with the anti-husky in Brick Johnson.  Johnson is a real wet-noodle type, the guy who looks like John Henson with an intestinal parasite.  And with Henson struggling to find minutes, I don’t see how Johnson can make any sort of splash at all.
29 San Antonio DeAndre Bembry Bentil, Stone, and Maker are all players that I think San Antonio could mold into future contributors.  Bembry, on the other hand, is already molded – into the shape of a mushroom (well, his hair, anyway).  Bembry can’t hold a candle to Kawhi Leonard, so he’s a waste of a pick here.  And that’s what the mockery draft is all about!
30 Golden State Ben Bentil I actually like Ben Bentil.  In my mind, he’s the guy Draymond Green could be if Green were about two inches taller.  So how can Golden State pass up having two?  They can’t!  Hilarity!  Traveshamockery!  (And that’s the whole point.)