The NBA draft is the most important time of year for many rebuilding teams. With the future of their franchises in doubt, they need to do their homework on all the top prospects so they don't end up with a bust.
Some squads in this year's lottery are in especially tough spots. If they don't draft well June 22, they could be doomed to several years of futility. We'll identify those teams below and highlight some picks that might work out well for them.
But first, let's put together a mock draft for this year's first round that assumes no trades.
Round 1 Mock Draft (Author's Projections)
1. Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz (Washington, G, Freshman)
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball (UCLA, G, Freshman)
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Josh Jackson (Kansas, F, Freshman)
4. Phoenix Suns: Jayson Tatum (Duke, F, Freshman)
5. Sacramento Kings: De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, G, Freshman)
6. Orlando Magic: Malik Monk (Kentucky, G, Freshman)
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, F, Freshman)
8. New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina (SIG Strasbourg, G, 1998)
9. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr. (NC State, G, Freshman)
10. Sacramento Kings: OG Anunoby (Indiana, F, Sophomore)
11. Charlotte Hornets: Zach Collins (Gonzaga, F/C, Freshman)
12. Detroit Pistons: Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, F, Freshman)
13. Denver Nuggets: Justin Jackson (North Carolina, F, Junior)
14. Miami Heat: Donovan Mitchell (Louisville, G, Sophomore)
15. Portland Trail Blazers: Terrance Ferguson (Adelaide 36ers, G, 1998)
16. Chicago Bulls: Ivan Rabb (California, F, Sophomore)
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Luke Kennard (Duke, G, Sophomore)
18. Indiana Pacers: Rodions Kurucs (FC Barcelona, F, 1998)
19. Atlanta Hawks: Ike Anigbogu (UCLA, C, Freshman)
20. Portland Trail Blazers: Jarrett Allen (Texas, C, Freshman)
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: TJ Leaf (UCLA, F, Freshman)
22. Brooklyn Nets: Harry Giles (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)
23. Toronto Raptors: John Collins (Wake Forest, PF, Sophomore)
24. Utah Jazz: Justin Patton (Creighton, C, Freshman)
25. Orlando Magic: Bam Adebayo (Kentucky, F/C, Freshman)
26. Portland Trail Blazers: Dwayne Bacon (Florida State, F, Sophomore)
27. Brooklyn Nets: Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky, G, Freshman)
28. Los Angeles Lakers: Jordan Bell (Oregon, F, Junior)
29. San Antonio Spurs: Isaiah Hartenstein (Zalgiris, PF/C, 1998)
30. Utah Jazz: PJ Dozier (South Carolina, G, Sophomore)
Teams With the Most to Lose on Draft Night
The Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans in February, getting back a package that most pundits deemed insufficient for a player of Cousins' magnitude. One of those pieces was the Pelicans' first-round pick, which turned out to be the No. 10 overall selection after Tuesday's lottery.
After Sacramento's swapping of picks with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Kings now will be picking both fifth and 10th in a deep draft. This is a very good position to be in, but they have to take advantage. As the Kings know better than any other team, there are no guarantees that mid-lottery picks turn out to be stars or even capable rotation players.
The list of recent draft failures for Sacramento is long. Names such as Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Fredette, Thomas Robinson, Nik Stauskas and Ben McLemore continue to haunt Kings fans.
This year, Sacramento is in search of a couple of franchise building blocks, seeing as none of its current players look like surefire future stars. The above mock has the Kings selecting Kentucky point guard De'Aaron Fox and Indiana small forward OG Anunoby. Both Fox and Anunoby are athletic marvels and should help lead a strong transition attack while providing plenty of defensive strength at their positions.
One thing is for sure, though—the Kings' future looks bleak if neither one of their lottery picks this year turns into a star player.
New York Knicks
The Knicks organization is not exactly the paragon of professionalism. It has proved to be quite the opposite, in fact. New York's front office situation got so chaotic this season that 21-year-old franchise cornerstone Kristaps Porzingis skipped his end-of-season exit interview with the team out of frustration, according to ESPN.com's Ian Begley.
New York should be desperately aiming to regain the affection of Porzingis. The team can start by making a smart selection in next month's draft.
Picking at No. 8, the Knicks' top priority should be to find their floor general of the future. It's quite obvious that Derrick Rose, an unrestricted free agent, is not that guy anymore. He underwent yet another knee surgery in April after tearing the meniscus in his left knee, and his health cannot be trusted moving forward. His poor defense is damning, and his lack of a three-point shot makes him a poor fit for the triangle offense.
Frank Ntilikina, an 18-year-old French point guard with great size and athleticism, would be a good pick. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman ranked Ntilikina the top perimeter defender in the draft class, and the 6'5" youngster's excellence on that side of the floor could help fix the Knicks' weak defense. Ntilikina is also a solid spot-up shooter who can operate well off the ball.
Really, any pick that exceeds or surpasses expectations and meshes well with Porzingis is what the Knicks need here. A point guard is probably best, though.
The Mavericks are in a state of transition right now. Dirk Nowitzki is almost done with his long, successful career in Dallas, and the 38-year-old power forward is not nearly the player he was 10 years ago.
Dallas desperately needs to find a new franchise cornerstone to replace Dirk, since none of its other players look like they'll ever reach an All-Star level of play. Harrison Barnes may be the closest, but he's still just a solid scorer with mediocre efficiency who doesn't make others better on offense.
The Mavericks can go a variety of directions positionwise, so it makes sense for them just to draft the best player available at No. 9. If the actual draft shakes out similarly to how it does in the above mock, that player will be Dennis Smith Jr.
Smith is a point guard with a quick first step and Russell Westbrook-like explosiveness around the rim. He's shown plenty of potential as a ball-handler, shooter, passer and defender, and his decision-making is the main knock on him. However, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is one of the best coaches in the business and could do wonders to help Smith with his mental processes.
Dallas would do itself no favors by selecting a safer player with low upside in this year's lottery. The squad needs someone who can excite the Mavs fanbase, take the brunt of the team's offensive load and make everyone around him settle into the roles they're best at. That's Smith, if he falls to the Mavericks.