By Chris Emma-
(CBS) With both high-level talent and depth, this year’s NBA Draft class is one of the best in years. Which means some chaos could play out Thursday evening.
Before it does, 670TheScore.com college basketball writer Chris Emma has given his best shot at how it will play out. Take a look below at his mock draft.
Note: Due to the vast unpredictability of trades, none were projected in this mock. Those teams that are looking to move picks have been noted.
1.) Cleveland Cavaliers: SF Andrew Wiggins, Kansas – For the second straight year, a Canadian will become the NBA Draft’s top overall pick. Wiggins was the top high school prospect in the country one year ago and lived up to the hype during his one season at Kansas. The Cavaliers lucked out with the top pick again and end up with a potential star.
2.) Milwaukee Bucks: SF Jabari Parker, Duke – The Chicago basketball star will play his professional career just up the road in Milwaukee. In Parker, the Bucks land a dynamic scorer who can take over a game — something one of the NBA’s worst teams of last season desperately needs.
3.) Philadelphia 76ers: SG Dante Exum, Australia – The hope would have been for Joel Embiid to hang on the board for the 76ers. Instead, they’ll likely pass due to injury concerns, most recently, a stress fracture in his foot. Here, 6-foot-6 shooting guard Dante Exum is an ideal fit for Philadelphia, teaming up well reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams to form one of the NBA’s best young backcourts.
4.) Orlando Magic: PF Noah Vonleh, Indiana – Another Hoosier will play in the Sunshine State. The Magic will bring Indiana’s Vonleh to Orlando, putting the 6-foot-9 forward in the paint with Nikola Vucevic. In Vonleh, the Magic would add a promising, developing 18-year-old with plenty of room for growth.
5.) Utah Jazz: PF Julius Randle, Kentucky – The one-and-done factory of John Calipari puts out another lottery pick, with Randle landing in Salt Lake City. The Jazz add some size at the power forward position — 6-foot-9, 250 pounds— and a player who posted 24 double-doubles against one of college basketball’s most daunting schedules.
6.) Boston Celtics: C Joel Embiid, Kansas – The speculated top overall pick from one week ago will fall to the sixth pick and the rebuilding Boston Celtics. A team that can take its lumps is able to stay patient with a talented prospect like Embiid, who could make an important impact down the road. Brad Stevens’ team fills an important void at center with the breakout star from Kansas.
7.) Los Angeles Lakers: PF Aaron Gordon, Arizona – The dynamic dunker from Arizona resembles the other power forward in Los Angeles, Blake Griffin. The Lakers rarely find their way to the NBA Lottery, and drafting a player like Gordon to an established core could keep them from making high picks for a while.
8.) Sacramento Kings: PG Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State – With a solid young core in place, it’s likely the Kings will look to trade out of this spot (Hello, Gar Forman?). A talented combo guard, Smart could make an important impact in Sacramento. The Oklahoma State standout would mix well in a rotation with Isaiah Thomas and Ben McLemore.
9.) Charlotte Hornets (from Detroit): SG Nik Stauskas, Michigan – The best pure shooter in this year’s class, Stauskas will work in well with the rebuilding, renamed Hornets. He led Michigan in both scoring and assists. Plus, the Hornets’ owner knows a thing about shooting guards.
10.) Philadelphia 76ers (from New Orleans): SF Doug McDermott, Creighton – The 76ers can work toward great improvement with two picks in the top 10. Creighton’s McDermott, the runaway Wooden Award winner, can become Philadelphia’s go-to scorer.
11.) Denver Nuggets: SG Gary Harris, Michigan State – A perfect fit in Denver, Michigan State’s Harris will go off the board at the 11 spot, crushing many NBA executives who thought he could fall down the board. Harris is a versatile shooting guard who will boost the Nuggets immediately.
12.) Orlando Magic: PG Elfrid Payton, Louisiana Lafayette – Never heard of Payton? You certainly will soon. The breakout star from Louisiana Lafayette has become a top draft prospect. The 6-foot-4 point guard averaged 19.3 points per game along with more than six boards and five assists.
13.) Minnesota Timberwolves: PF Adreian Payne – With Kevin Love likely out the door, the T’Wolves must move to add a versatile power forward. Enter Payne, the do-it-all star at Michigan State. Payne can attack the basket, shoot from beyond the arc, pull down boards in big numbers and defend at the hoop. Sounds a bit like Love.
14.) Phoenix Suns: F Dario Saric, Croatia – Finding versatility is something that can help any team. With Saric, the Suns nab a player who can step in at the three or four spot after he puts in his time in Europe. He’s been compared to Chandler Parsons, something Phoenix would gladly take.
15.) Atlanta Hawks: SF James Young, Kentucky – The Hawks need help all across the board, even despite sneaking their way into the Eastern Conference playoffs and pulling a near-upset of the top-seeded Pacers. Talented forward Young would bring athleticism to the Hawks. The best part is he doesn’t even turn 19 until August.
16.) Chicago Bulls (from Charlotte): SG Rodney Hood, Duke – It’s likely the Bulls will look to move one or both of their picks come Thursday night. If pursuing Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James is top priority, drafting an athletic perimeter player like Hood would serve as a solid security option should their big targets travel elsewhere. With his shooting and defensive skills, Hood can make an impact for the Bulls, no matter how their free agency dreams shape up.
17.) Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn): SF Kyle Anderson, UCLA – There are plenty of needs to fill for the Celtics. Anderson would be a big boost for Boston’s starting five. The talented small forward did a little bit of everything with the Bruins. Brad Stevens could develop Anderson into an important asset.
18.) Phoenix Suns (from Washington): PF Clint Capela, Switzerland – A European big man seems to be what Phoenix is looking for with one of its three first-round picks. Capela has a ton of talent, but time to develop would serve him well. The Suns would be wise to take on the Swiss native.
19.) Chicago Bulls: C Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia – See Omer Asik as proof of what the Bulls would attempt to do with Bosnia big man Jusuf Nurkic. Time to work overseas would work well for the 6-foot-11 center. However, it’s unclear whether Chicago will even keep its 19th pick.
20.) Toronto Raptors: PG Tyler Ennis, Syracuse – Toronto native Ennis will play for his hometown team, filling a void likely to be left by free agents Kyle Lowry and/or Greivis Vasquez. Ennis was a solid shooter with the Orange, and he would become an important piece of the Raptors’ continued rise.
21.) Oklahoma City Thunder (from Dallas): SG Zach LaVine, UCLA – When you’ve been as close as the Thunder, every piece is important. LaVine would be an ideal complement to Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City lineup.
22.) Memphis Grizzlies: SF T.J. Warren, NC State – An all-around threat on offense, Warren would bolster the Grizzlies’ bench and could become a key starter down the road. Warren averaged 24.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore with the Wolfpack.
23.) Utah Jazz: SG P.J. Hairston, Texas Legends – With one first-round pick in the book, Utah can be a bit creative with its pick at No. 23. Hairston has red flags around his name after being booted from North Carolina and continuing with the D-League Texas Legends. However, he’s a skilled player with great upside, so he could be worth the risk.
24.) Charlotte Hornets: F Cleanthony Early, Wichita State – With some flexibility at the 24th selection, the Hornets can go a number of directions, including a potential trade. But Early could become a key contributor at a forward spot or provide a boost off the bench at a very minimum.
25.) Houston Rockets: SF Jerami Grant, Syracuse – Kevin McHale would love the addition of Grant to his Rockets team. A backup plan to the LeBron and Carmelo sweepstakes, Grant could be useful in several different roles. Grant posted 12.1 points and 6.8 boards per game with the Orange.
26.) Miami Heat: PG Shabazz Napier, UConn – There’s a lot Miami needs to bolster its lineup for next year, regardless of whether LeBron still has his talents in South Beach. Napier is a dynamic point guard who can drive, shoot and dish. He immediately makes the Heat a better team.
27.) Phoenix Suns SG C.J. Wilcox, Washington – Should the Suns keep all three of their first-round picks, it would be wise to switch it up and take a guard. Washington’s Wilcox has long arms and great athleticism. Can’t go wrong with one of the most skilled players on the board.
28.) Los Angeles Clippers: PF Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee – At 6-foot-8, 263 pounds, Stokes will be an absolute force in the paint for the Clippers, spelling Blake Griffin when needed. He’ll help improve the talented core Doc Rivers has to work with.
29.) Oklahoma City Thunder: C Mitch McGary, Michigan – If McGary has left Michigan last year — avoiding injuries that sidelined him for the season — he would’ve been a lottery pick. The Thunder can take some chances with this pick, and McGary has a high ceiling in the NBA. Should he live up to that high potential, he’ll become Oklahoma City’s starting big man someday.
30.) San Antonio Spurs: C Walter Tavares, Spain – Believe it or not, Tim Duncan won’t play forever. San Antonio must have an option should Duncan call it quits after this next season. Tavares stands at 7-foot-3 and 265 pounds and is an absolute force as a shot blocker. He’ll be a perfect addition for the defending champs.
Chris Emma covers the college sports scene for CBS Chicago. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.