NBA mock draft: What to expect from Hornets and Trail Blazers

NBA mock draft: What to expect from Hornets and Trail Blazers

They’re in the gym, at the games, studying film and speaking to league insiders. The writers who cover these NBA teams, the ones picking in the first round, know what teams need. They know who could be available. They know what types of players these executives like best.

Yet similar to everyone else talking about the draft, what you know and what actually happens can shift in a blink, one team going off script changing every pick that follows.

For this exercise, our second mock draft, we went to the experts around the NBA to see what they think will happen Thursday night.

We think the first pick is a safe bet. After that? Buckle up.

1. San Antonio Spurs: Victor Wembanyama, C, France

The Spurs’ research for this no-brainer pick ended the second they won the draft lottery in May. Pairing Wembanyama with coach Gregg Popovich in San Antonio provides the ballyhooed Frenchman with a stable launching pad from which to lift off his NBA career.

—Jeff McDonald, San Antonio Express-News

2. Charlotte Hornets: Scoot Henderson, PG, G League Ignite

Unless it’s all smokescreens, there must be a reason teams are trying to leapfrog into the top 3 picks reportedly to grab the 19-year-old. You go with the best available player and figure it out along the way.

—Rod Boone, Charlotte Observer

3. Portland Trail Blazers: Brandon Miller, SF, Alabama

Scoot being gone would be a blessing because the Blazers have had their share of good small guards. What they’ve lacked is a long, athletic small forward who can score at every level. Miller is that guy and will fit nicely next to Shaedon Sharpe and Damian Lillard, now and into the future.

—Aaron Fentress, The Oregonian

4. Houston Rockets: Amen Thompson, PG, Overtime Elite

The Rockets with their previous top-five picks have sought the greatest upside available. Thompson’s phenomenal athleticism, with elite defensive potential and playmaking, fits their draft-night style and would make selecting him the next step in the rebuild.

—Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle

5. Detroit Pistons: Cam Whitmore, SF, Villanova

The Pistons have great wing options at No. 5, but Whitmore’s athleticism, shotmaking and defensive tools make him a great fit both short and long term.

—Omari Sankofa II, Detroit Free Press

6. Orlando Magic: Ausar Thompson, SG, Overtime Elite

The Magic are expecting to make a sizable leap this season, so this feels like one last bite at the apple near the top of the draft. It helps that Thompson fits their desire for length and positional versatility. His shot needs a lot of work but his defense, cutting and passing will make up for it on a young team.

—Phillip Rossman-Rich, Magic Daily

7. Indiana Pacers: Jarace Walker, PF, Houston

The Pacers have been without a true power forward since Thaddeus Young in 2019. They ranked 26th in defense and 24th in rebounding last season so not only is Walker the best available, he’s also a versatile defender who immediately helps in two problem areas.

—Scott Agness, Fieldhouse Files

8. Washington Wizards: Anthony Black, PG, Arkansas

The Wizards’ new top decision-maker, Michael Winger, has the all-clear to rebuild Washington’s roster next season, and Black would be a great building block. He’s a sharp, shifty mover and a clever passer with rare height for a floor general. Plus, it would be all too perfect for the first draft pick of the new Wizards’ era to be a point guard.

—Ava Wallace, Washington Post

9. Utah Jazz: Taylor Hendricks, PF, Central Florida

Danny Ainge noted that the team’s priority is to improve shooting and defense, and Hendricks accomplishes both. Though he doesn’t yet provide much off the bounce yet, he has room to grow, and his ability to switch and catch-and-shoot acumen will be Day 1 skills.

—Eric Walden, Salt-Lake Tribune

10. Dallas Mavericks: Cason Wallace, PG, Kentucky

The Mavericks need a major boost on defense and offensive-scoring creation — and that’s exactly Wallace’s skill set. He has drawn potential comparisons to the Bucks’ ace defender Jrue Holiday, and Wallace’s vision should help replace the third-ball-handler void that has loomed over Dallas since Jalen Brunson’s departure.

—Callie Caplan, Dallas Morning News

11. Orlando Magic: Gradey Dick, SG, Kansas

The Orlando Magic’s biggest need is shooting. They were bottom 10 in the league in three-point field goal percentage and three-point attempts. The math in this league just does not work if you are not able to hit threes. So using this second pick to target a shooter and get one as strong as Dick feels like a must.

—Phillip Rossman-Rich, Magic Daily

12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kobe Bufkin, PG, Michigan

Bufkin made a huge leap from his freshman to sophomore year at Michigan, and he’s still just 19. Bufkin doesn’t have an elite standout skill, but his all-around game is well-suited for the Thunder.

—Joe Mussatto, The Oklahoman

13. Toronto Raptors: Jalen Hood-Schifino, PG, Indiana

The Raptors might be looking for some big draft-night deal with a roster that didn’t work particularly well last season. And with questions about the futures of free agent Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr., who can opt out, there is a need for backcourt help.

—Doug Smith, Toronto Star

14. New Orleans Pelicans: Jordan Hawkins, SG, UConn

The Pelicans finished 23rd in three-pointers made last season. Hawkins gives them movement and shooting around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

—Christian Clark, New Orleans Times-Picayune

15. Atlanta Hawks: Nick Smith Jr., G, Arkansas

The Hawks look to fill out their roster with guys who boast plenty of upside. Smith would give the Hawks a shooter whom they can develop for the future.

—Lauren L. Williams, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

16. Utah Jazz: Bilal Coulibaly, SF, France

Wemby’s teammate really impressed during their team’s playoff run in the French league, showing great off-ball movement and secondary playmaking. For now, he can make an instant impact defensively with his 7-3 wingspan.

—Eric Walden, Salt Lake Tribune

17. LAKERS: Dereck Lively II, C, Duke

Best player available should be the strategy if the Lakers don’t use this pick in a deal (and they might). Lively’s shot-blocking and rim-running are musts for a modern center.

—Dan Woike, Los Angeles Times

18. Miami Heat: Jett Howard, SG, Michigan

The Heat won’t do it solely because he’s the son of former Miami player and assistant coach Juwan Howard — it’s too important a pick for nostalgia — but there is a lot to like about Howard’s game. He can score, but his love of defense will resonate with the Heat if he’s still available.

—Tim Reynolds, Associated Press

19. Golden State Warriors: Kris Murray, F, Iowa

There won’t be a Murray brother reunion in Sacramento, but Keegan won’t have to travel too far to see his sibling doppelganger. Kris Murray is the type of all-around talent the Warriors covet. He can be more of a win-now selection compared to a few of Golden State’s past picks.

—CJ Holmes, San Francisco Chronicle

20. Houston Rockets: Dariq Whitehead, SG-SF, Duke

The Rockets could be among the teams looking to make a draft-night deal, as they have each year under Rafael Stone. If not, Whitehead has a chance to show more once he is past the injury issues and has the shooting touch they have tried to land with their later picks in the previous drafts.

—Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle

21. Brooklyn Nets: Leonard Miller, SF, G League Ignite

22. Brooklyn Nets: Rayan Rupert, SG-SF, New Zealand

The Nets have the ability to package these picks and land the type of veteran who could help them compete quicker behind Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson. If they stick with these two picks, Miller provides some versatility. Same with Rupert, who played for the New Zealand Breakers. Both have the potential to grow into larger roles in Jacque Vaughn’s rotation.

—Nick Friedell, ESPN

23. Portland Trail Blazers: Brice Sensabaugh, SF, Ohio State

The Blazers aren’t done adding wings after landing Miller. They go for a well-put-together 6-6 shooter in Sensabaugh.

—Aaron Fentress, The Oregonian

24. Sacramento Kings: Olivier-Maxence Prosper, PF, Marquette

The Kings might want a defensive-minded wing with size and versatility unless they can trade for someone like OG Anunoby. Prosper, a 6-8 forward with a 7-1 wingspan, fits the bill as a tenacious and highly switchable perimeter defender with outstanding fundamentals, length and lateral agility.

—Jason Anderson, Sacramento Bee

25. Memphis Grizzlies: Colby Jones, SG, Xavier

With Dillon Brooks headed out, the Grizzlies need a wing defender who can scale down to cover point guards. With Ja Morant suspended for the first 25 games, they need more players who can handle and create. They always need more shooting. Jones offers a rare chance to help on all three fronts.

—Chris Herrington, Daily Memphian

26. Indiana Pacers: Andre Jackson Jr., SG-SF, UConn

The Pacers zeroed in on traits they covet and Jackson is uber-competitive and a winner, coming off a national championship. After an embarrassing season defensively for the Pacers, Jackson would help with his athleticism, instincts and ability to quickly read opponents.

—Scott Agness, Fieldhouse Files

27. Charlotte Hornets: Noah Clowney, PF, Alabama

At 18 years old, he still has to learn some of the game’s details. But with a reported 7-3 wingspan and an ability to become a 3-and-D player, he could be too good to pass up.

—Rod Boone, Charlotte Observer

28. Utah Jazz: Keyonte George, G, Baylor

With uncertainty pending in the team’s backcourt, the Jazz happily capitalize on the Baylor guard’s slide. He’s not a true point, and he definitely has efficiency and decision-making issues to sort out, but he’s got the kind of scoring ability and creativity that you absolutely gamble on at this stage of the draft.

—Eric Walden, Salt-Lake Tribune

29. Indiana Pacers: Sidy Cissoko, SF, G League Ignite

It’s highly unlikely the Pacers use all three first-round picks. With Cissoko, they are getting a younger player (just 19) they can develop. His physical tools are off the charts, he’s a quality playmaker and strong finisher.

—Scott Agness, Fieldhouse Files

30. CLIPPERS: Jaime Jaquez Jr., SF, UCLA

The Clippers love to talk about adding tough-nosed players who share the team’s “DNA” and that is this local star. For a team in win-now mode, his maturity and history of winning could make him a player capable of stepping into rotation responsibilities immediately.

—Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times