It's widely expected that the Lakers will select Duke forward Brandon Ingram at #2, as it's been reported that the team would've targeted Ingram even if they had won the lottery. That makes the #3 pick the first real unknown of tomorrow night. The Celtics have reportedly been shopping the #3 pick hard, looking for an established star to help them continue to improve in the Eastern Conference. They've been unsuccessful thus far.
Without further ado, here's a quick look at my top 5 prospects:
1. Ben Simmons
2. Brandon Ingram
3. Dragan Bender, PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv
The 7'1" Croatian is only 18 years old, and didn't play a whole lot this past season in Israel despite being one of the NBA's best international prospects. Bender's lack of playing time infuriated scouts all season, but it didn't seem to hurt Bender's stock too much. He's got 3 point range and has incredibly quick feet for someone as big as he is. Bender needs to get stronger, like all 18-year-olds, but if he can continue to improve his jump shot he should be a very versatile weapon for whatever team lands him.
Factoring in that the Timberwolves biggest need is a power forward, and Bender seems like a natural fit. With Karl Anthony Towns capable of protecting the rim, Bender's lack of strength would be a bit easier to hide early in his career. Bender likely wouldn't make a huge impact in his first two seasons in the league, but if he could turn the corner in year 3 the Timberwolves young core would almost certainly be ready to win by then. I hope he falls into the Wolves lap at 5.
4. Jamal Murray, SG/PG, Kentucky
Jamal Murray had a very good freshman season, showing night after night that he can really shoot the rock. NBA teams reportedly have cooled a bit on Murray because he lacks elite athleticism, was a poor defender last season and doesn't appear likely to develop into much more than an average defender at best.
However, with shooting such a big part of the game nowadays, and the Wolves in dire need of some, Murray is a real option. A 3 guard rotation of Rubio/Lavine/Murray would be both versatile and talented. Playing Lavine and Murray together could be disastrous on the defensive end, but there's no doubting those two players could light up the scoreboard together as they both have great range on their shots.
Murray's age puts him ahead of the next player on the list, but barely.
5. Kris Dunn, PG, Providence
A rare college senior, Dunn appeared to be among the most NBA ready players in college last season. He should be able to step in and be a solid defender from day one, and I think running a bench-unit for a season or two while he adjusts to the NBA game would benefit him a lot.
Dunn would have the potential to replace Ricky Rubio down the line if he develops into the point guard most expect, but even as a backup to Rubio, Dunn would be a very good addition. While some may prefer Rubio's backup to be more of a shooter (to complement Rubio's weakness) Dunn is simply too good of a player to pass on if he's the best player remaining.
And while I am a fan of Dunn, I don't think he'll be there at 5, but we'll see. The Wolves are also reportedly considering Cal freshman Jaylen Brown at #5, who has a lot of upside but didn't show a whole lot in his first year at Cal. I wouldn't be a huge fan of that choice, but will trust Thibs and company regardless of who they draft. Is it Thursday yet?