20. PACERS: JAKOB POELTL, UTAH
Poeltl doesn’t jump off the page at me. It’s not like he jumps out the gym, or is cheddar from 3. He’s just another big guy that can solidly play. A lot of the mocks have him 7th or 8th for some reason. He’ll fall like a tank, to the Pacers who are looking for a true center next to Myles Turner.
19. NUGGETS: TAUREAN PRINCE, BAYLOR
6’7″, 215 pounds of absolute muscle. On the high end, he’s a solid role player for years to come. On the low end, he’s in Europe by next season. Very hard to get a read on, and in the wrong situation, he’s screwed. Denver’s not necessarily a steady team right now, but if they can figure things out, Prince will make a living there.
18. PISTONS: TYLER ULIS, KENTUCKY
I’m aware this is three in a row that I’ve said are question marks, but Ulis really will be a question mark for whatever team springs for him. Tyler was the clear cut best player at Kentucky last season, and was the best player in the country for a stretch. You can’t deny he’s got the grit, tenacity, courage, and every other intangible they use to describe him. But he weighed in at 145 pounds at the combine. Isaiah Thomas weighs 185 pounds. I would never disrespect the effort and work ethic of the guy. The question remains if he can amp up that effort by about 1000 to compete physically in the league.
At the high end, Ulis can be the best back up point guard in the league. Passing, playing defense, and hitting open threes are his best attributes, and everything you want from a backup point guard. Detroit wants something steady in their back court, and Tyler would offer that.
17. GRIZZLIES: MALCOLM BROGDON, VIRGINIA
Grizzlies had the right idea to try and get gritty last season. Only issue’s that they got toooo gritty with Matt Barnes and Lance Stephenson. Doubtful that they’ll both be back. And so with Gasol returning, ZBO returning, and hopefully Mike Conley, Memphis tries to find more defense. They find it with Brogdon.
16. CELTICS: THON MAKER, HEAVEN ONLY KNOWS WHERE
Here we go with the wackiest story of the draft: a guy who didn’t go to college, or play overseas, but now we’re gonna let him enter the draft. The potential’s through the roof. And the Celtics love a good project. If he can fine tune everything, we could be asking how in the hell 15 teams passed on him in the draft.
15. NUGGETS: SKAL LABISSERIE, KENTUCKY
Skal’s got way too much potential to drop further than this. I’m the first to say this, so if you see it anywhere else let them know they stole it from me: Skal’s only 16 or 17 years old. It’s not just that he’s a skinny kid, but the way he plays seems like an elite high school player on the verge, not a guy going pro. Would you really put changing Skal’s birth certificate past the guy that took him out of Haiti, and has been continuously accused of trying to profit off of Skal? I’ll wait.
14. BULLS: MALIK BEASLEY, FLORIDA STATE
This pick will let people know what the Bulls actually have in plan for the future. Because they have absolutely no direction at the moment. When you used to think Bulls basketball, you’d think lockdown defense, and a team that’s going to beat the hell out of you. Now, they’re just adding random pieces and hoping they play well. He’s actually a 2, but they’ll have to find somewhere else to fit in. 3 and D guy that can run, if that’s the Bulls plan. Everything they thought they could get out of Tony Snell comes in Malik Beasley.
13. SUNS: HENRY ELLENSON, MARQUETTE
Shifty young fella. That’s the only way to say it. He played very well with Marquette in my opinion, but still has strides to make. Phoenix has some things going for them with Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe. Adding another scoring threat in Ellenson will open up the floor for both of them.
12. HAWKS: WADE BALDWIN IV, VANDERBILT
Have to think that the Hawks traded up to this 12th pick in order to either parlay it with another pick to keep jumping up, or pick a point guard here. If it’s the latter, then it’ll be Wade Baldwin. Teams behind them, including the Bulls, have made it almost too clear that they want Baldwin, evidencing how far he’s reason since the college season. Strong and solid point guard that’ll start day 1 in Atlanta.
11. MAGIC: BRICE JOHNSON, NORTH CAROLINA
Brice Johnson’s harder to figure out than almost anybody in this draft. He took over games in college against elite opponents, and was the best rebounder in the country. No question there. But I’ve got a really hard time seeing it translate to the NBA. He’s not as strong as Tristan Thompson, and isn’t as good offensively as most 4s in the league. He’s a talent you’ve got to add if you’re Orlando, but not somebody you want to count on to be a cornerstone.