Although the NBA postseason does not start until Saturday, the league saw a small bit of drama on Friday as tiebreakers were conducted to determine a few draft positions.
However, those come with a caveat for the lottery picks. For example, the Dallas Mavericks won a tiebreaker with the Atlanta Hawks, but that only means that they will get a few more pingpong ball combinations prior to the lottery. Atlanta can still jump over Dallas and earn a better draft slot.
The lottery will take place prior to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday, May 15, but until then, here’s a look at a mock draft alongside notes on two players and teams that seem like great fits prior to the pre-draft process.
All NBA draft lottery odds are from Tankathon, and the official NBA draft order is via ESPN NBA draft analyst Jonathan Givony.
NBA Draft Lottery Odds for Top Three and No. 1 Picks
1. Phoenix Suns: Top-three pick (64.2 percent), No. 1 pick (25.0 percent)
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Top-three pick (55.8 percent), No. 1 pick (19.9 percent)
3. Dallas Mavericks: Top-three pick (46.9 percent), No. 1 pick (15.6 percent)
4. Atlanta Hawks: Top-three pick (37.8 percent), No. 1 pick (11.9 percent)
5. Orlando Magic: Top-three pick (29.1 percent), No. 1 pick (8.8 percent)
6. Chicago Bulls: Top-three pick (15.0 percent), No. 1 pick (4.3 percent)
7. Sacramento Kings: Top-three pick (21.5 percent), No. 1 pick (6.3 percent)
8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Top-three pick (9.0 percent), No. 1 pick (2.8 percent)
9. New York Knicks: Top-three pick (6.1 percent), No. 1 pick (1.7 percent)
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Top-three pick (4.0 percent), No. 1 pick (1.1 percent)
11. Charlotte Hornets: Top-three pick (2.9 percent), No. 1 pick (0.8 percent)
12. Los Angeles Clippers: Top-three pick (2.5 percent), No. 1 pick (0.7 percent)
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Top-three pick (2.2 percent), No. 1 pick (0.6 percent)
14. Denver Nuggets: Top-three pick (1.8 percent), No. 1 pick (0.5 percent)
Remaining First-Round NBA Draft Order
15. Washington Wizards
16. Phoenix Suns (originally via Miami Heat)
17. Milwaukee Bucks
18. San Antonio Spurs
19. Atlanta Hawks
20. Minnesota Timberwolves (originally via Oklahoma City Thunder)
21. Utah Jazz
22. Chicago Bulls (via New Orleans Pelicans)
23. Indiana Pacers
24. Portland Trail Blazers
25. Los Angeles Lakers (originally via Cleveland Cavaliers)
26. Philadelphia 76ers
27. Boston Celtics
28. Golden State Warriors
29. Brooklyn Nets (originally via Toronto Raptors)
30. Atlanta Hawks (originally via Houston Rockets)
Two Great Fits
Villanova G/F Mikal Bridges and the Philadelphia 76ers
Putting aside the fact that Villanova swingman Mikal Bridges wouldn’t have to leave the Philadelphia area in his move from college to the pros, the two-time NCAA Division I national champion would be a great fit on the 76ers.
Starting shooting guard J.J. Redick has done well for the 76ers, but he’s a free agent after this season. It’s possible that the team looks to Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, to assume a starting role in the backcourt alongside Ben Simmons next year. Ultimately, the team will still need some more depth at the wing if Redick (and 2018 free agent Marco Belinelli) head elsewhere next year.
Enter Bridges, who scored 17.7 points per game and shot 51.4 percent from the field (43.5 percent from the three-point line). Remarkably, his overall field-goal rate was actually his worst mark in three years at Villanova: For his career, Bridges made 52.5 percent of his shots.
He’s also fantastic on the defensive end, making him one of the best two-way players in this draft. Bridges shared Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors during his sophomore season, and for his career, he posted 1.4 steals and 0.9 blocks per game.
ESPN NBA draft analyst Mike Schmitz raved about how well Bridges progressed during his collegiate career in addition to commenting on his pro prospects:
Few players in college basketball have improved as much as Mikal Bridges each year. Averaged 6.4 points per game and shot 29.9% from 3 as a freshman. Now a potential top-10 pick. High floor prospect with his length, shooting, defense, and intangibles.
With him at 2-guard or forward, the 76ers would be one of the tallest and longest teams in the league. Remarkably, Bridges would be the shortest 76ers starter at 6’7″ (everyone else is 6’9″ or taller).
Opposing offenses already have a hard time against Philadelphia (third-best in defensive efficiency), but with Bridges in the mix, the 76ers could have the best defense in the league for years.
Arizona F/C DeAndre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns
I promise the goal here wasn’t to match star collegiate players with their local NBA team, but Arizona big man DeAndre Ayton seems like the most obvious choice for the Phoenix Suns if they land the first or second overall pick (it’s hard seeing him fall to No. 3).
The Suns frontcourt is going to have a different look soon. Center Alex Len is an unrestricted free agent, and judging by his late-season comments to Scott Bordow of azcentral.com, it doesn’t sound too likely that he’ll be back: “I had a great five years here. I had ups and downs but I feel like it’s been a great time and a great learning experience with everything I’ve had thrown at me so I feel like anywhere I go or stay here from here on out I’m going to keep rising and get better.”
Per Bordow, Len also said that he is “‘very much’ looking forward to free agency.”
The Suns’ other primary big man, 35-year-old Tyson Chandler, has just one year left on his contract. He’s enjoyed a successful career, but it’s feasible that next season will be Chandler’s last as a Sun.
If Chandler and Len head elsewhere, then that leaves long-term gaps in the Suns frontcourt. Enter the 7’1″ Ayton, who posted 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game during his lone season in Tuscon. Ayton was also an efficient scorer, making 61.2 percent of his shots.
The one issue is whether Ayton would be a good fit alongside the Suns’ top three usage leaders in shooting guard Devin Booker (31.7), wing Josh Jackson (26.0) and forward T.J. Warren (24.9).
Per Sports-Reference, Ayton had a 26.6 usage rate at Arizona. To put those numbers in context, the average usage mark is 20 percent, per Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight. Someone’s going to have to give up the ball a bit more.
However, Ayton is the type of player who doesn’t necessarily need the ball in his hands to dominate a game thanks to his scoring efficiency and strong rebounding skills. He could fit alongside the Suns’ top trio of scorers in addition to whoever is at point for the team next year.
It will be difficult for the Suns to pass on Ayton if they are in position to draft him. NBADraft.net’s pro comparison for Ayton is NBA Hall of Hamer David Robinson, which is high praise for such a young player (the former Wildcat isn’t turning 20 years old until July). If Ayton’s ceiling is anywhere near Robinson’s, then he’s the obvious pick for Phoenix.