Teams across the NBA will be looking to follow the Milwaukee Bucks’ lead by adding a player capable of bringing a championship to their city in Thursday’s draft. Here’s a shot at predicting the first round, including the Denver Nuggets’ pick at No. 26.
1. Detroit Pistons
Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma State
The hardest part of owning the first pick for the Pistons’ front office might be not overthinking the decision. Cunningham’s been the presumptive No. 1 pick for some time and backed that up in his lone season in Stillwater. At 6-foot-8, Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals. Cunningham only planned to work out for Detroit during the pre-draft process, according to reports, and should feel comfortable with his status as the top pick, despite some late rumblings Detroit is entertaining trade offers.
2. Houston Rockets
Jalen Green, G, G League Ignite
Green’s pre-draft workouts reportedly feature just one more trip than Cunningham. With the Rockets facing a thorough rebuild, Green’s athleticism and natural scoring ability figure to be too much to pass up. Green got an early taste of the pro game in his first year out of high school and posted a team-high 17.9 points plus 4.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals in 32 minutes per game. This early in the draft, teams are looking for a franchise player and part of that is being an end-of-game creator. Green gives the Rockets more of that than any available prospect.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
Evan Mobley, C, USC
Cleveland’s front office has spent valuable draft capital on guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland in recent seasons, so a player with Mobley’s size and upside should be appealing. The 7-footer with a 7-4 wingspan showcased the ability to protect the rim, guard on the perimeter, knock down jumpers and finish around the rim in his lone college season. He averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 2.4 assists while shooting 57.8% from the field. Cleveland’s hope will be that Mobley develops into the rare big who can stay on the court and continue to make an impact when opponents go small.
4. Toronto Raptors
Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga
The draft figures to get more unpredictable after the No. 4 pick. Given the uncertainty surrounding free agent Kyle Lowry’s future in Toronto, picking Suggs would provide a smooth transition into the franchise’s future. The 6-4 guard posted 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals and demonstrated a high basketball IQ while leading the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament finale. He would make for a nice addition next to guard Fred VanVleet and wings OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam. Toronto had more talent than it showed last season, and Suggs is the best bet to help the Raptors back to the postseason.
5. Orlando Magic
Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State
Should either of the aforementioned selections drop out of the first four picks, the Magic have an easy decision, taking the best player available. If things go as expected, Orlando’s decision likely comes down to a couple of potential-packed prospects who come with some question marks. Barnes is not a shooter, yet, but he’s a 6-9 wing with underrated playmaking abilities and elite defensive potential. That gives him a high-enough floor, especially if he can improve upon his 27.5% mark from 3, to give Orlando enough reason to keep another Seminole one-and-done prospect in Florida.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder
James Bouknight, G, Connecticut
One of the biggest winners from pre-draft workouts, Bouknight has reportedly eased teams' concerns about his 3-point shooting. He hit just 29.3% from deep in his second season with the Huskies, a drop from 34.7% as a freshman. While the shooting stroke remains in question, Bouknight’s ability to get buckets off the dribble and finish drives was evident in Storrs. He increased his scoring average from 13 as a freshman to 18.7 as a sophomore. He’s also an underrated rebounder at 6-5. The Thunder will have the ability to move up in the draft given their armory of first-round picks in coming years, but Bouknight paired with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander gives Oklahoma City a young and dynamic backcourt to build around.
7. Golden State Warriors (From Minnesota Timberwolves)
Jonathan Kuminga, F, G League Ignite
While he might not be the best option to help the Warriors win next season, Kuminga’s potential is too much to pass up at seven. Kuminga, with a strong, long and athletic 6-8 frame, possesses all the physical tools and scoring ability of the elite prospects but lacks as a shooter and defender. After a strong start in the G League last season, he was considered a potential top pick. He ended the year averaging 15.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1 steal but shot just 38.7% from the field and 24.6% from 3 with 2.6 turnovers per game. Golden State will hope a more developed player is available later in the lottery.
8. Orlando Magic (From Chicago Bulls)
Moses Moody, G, Arkansas
Orlando adds some much-needed shooting to the rotation with last year’s SEC Freshman of the Year. The type of three-and-D wing that teams around the league covet, Moody scored 16.8 points per game last season, while making 35.8% of his 3-point attempts. On the other end, his long 6-5 frame figures to give him the ability to guard multiple positions at the next level. The Magic have a couple of intriguing second-year guards in Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton, but neither did enough to warrant passing on Moody’s potential scoring ability. The Little Rock native’s ability to stretch the floor and score is more valuable given Orlando’s selection of Scottie Barnes earlier in the draft.
9. Sacramento Kings
Franz Wagner, F, Michigan
There, ideally, would be a modern center there for the Kings to pair with their promising backcourt, but ideal outcomes and Sacramento have been strangers in recent seasons. Trying to find a replacement for free-agent center Richaun Holmes seems like a reach here given who’s available, but a capable shooter, rebounder and defender with two years of big-time college basketball experience before his 20th birthday could fill a secondary void on the wing. Wagner averaged 12.5 points for the Wolverines last season and did so in an efficient manner while adding 6.5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1 block per game as a sophomore.
10. Memphis Grizzlies (From New Orleans Pelicans)
Josh Giddey, G/F, Adelaide 36ers
There are questions about what position ends up best suiting the 18-year-old Aussie, and his jumper also looks to need some development. What’s more certain is Giddey’s status as arguably the best passer in the draft class with great court vision and understanding of the game. He averaged 10.9 points, 7.5 assists, 7.4 rebounds in the top Australian league last season. Memphis, with Ja Morant locked into the starting point guard role, could use Giddey on the wing as a secondary playmaker.
11. Charlotte Hornets
Kai Jones, F/C, Texas
It comes with a gamble, but Charlotte goes with a big built to run with LaMelo Ball, last season’s Rookie of the Year. With Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo entering free agency after unremarkable seasons, the Hornets need a center, and Jones comes with extreme upside. He grew up in the Bahamas and trained as a long jumper before committing to basketball as a teenager. He developed quickly and spent two seasons as a Longhorn. As a sophomore, he scored 8.8 points and grabbed 4.8 per game, while shooting 38.2% from 3. If the shooting is real and Jones continues to develop a better feel for the game, Charlotte’s risk could come with a huge reward.
12. San Antonio Spurs
Usman Garuba, F, Real Madrid
Coach Gregg Popovich might be double dipping during his time with Team USA in Tokyo. Garuba, born to Nigerian parents in Madrid, has showcased NBA-ready defensive ability with Spain during the run up to the Olympics, including a game against the U.S. At 6-8, Garuba lacks the ideal height for a big, but he does have a longer wingspan and a strong, 230-pound frame. He could become more than a defensive force with some of San Antonio’s prolific player development.
13. Indiana Pacers
Davion Mitchell, G, Baylor
Rick Carlisle will want to win right away, and the Pacers have enough pieces to be better than last season. Adding last year’s NCAA Defensive Player of the Year nicknamed “Off Night” for his ability to make things tough on opposing stars figures to help. Mitchell’s shot-making (44.7% from 3 last year), playmaking (5.5 assists) and big-game experience (15 points, six rebounds, five assists one steal and one block in the national title win over Gonzaga) are welcome bonuses as the Pacers try to get back to the playoffs.
14. Golden State Warriors
Chris Duarte, G, Oregon
At 24, Duarte’s age wasn’t attractive to teams looking at longer rebuilds, but it shouldn’t be an issue for the Warriors. With Klay Thompson’s expected return, Golden State will look to jump right back to contender status. Duarte’s 3-point shooting and perimeter defense fit Golden State’s championship mold and figure to be some insurance if Thompson doesn’t return from his injuries as the same defender he was previously. After taking a gamble earlier in the draft, Golden State gets more of a sure thing with the last pick of the lottery.
15. Washington Wizards
Corey Kispert, G/F, Gonzaga
While his upside will be determined on what else he can do at the NBA level, Kispert’s lethal shooting will help provide space for Russell Westbrook and Brad Beal to operate.
16. Oklahoma City Thunder (From Boston Celtics)
Alperen Sengun, C, Besiktas
The Turkish center’s polished offensive game can be an immediate help for an Oklahoma City squad short on bigs.
17. New Orleans Pelicans (From Memphis Grizzlies)
Trey Murphy III, G/F, Virginia
Murphy provides serious shooting — 43.3% from 3 on nearly five attempts per game as a junior last season — in a 6-9 frame, allowing New Orleans to prioritize adding a point guard in free agency.
18. Oklahoma City Thunder (From Miami Heat)
Ziaire Williams, G/F, Stanford
A tough freshman year hurt Williams’ draft stock, but the 6-9 wing has all the tools that had him in the top 10 of his high school class. It’s a risky pick, but Oklahoma City has little to lose.
19. New York Knicks
Jaden Springer, G, Tennessee
The 6-4 guard provides a perimeter scoring boost and strong defense, a requisite for Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau.
20. Atlanta Hawks
Jalen Johnson, F, Duke
Solid depth allows Atlanta to take a shot on a player who opted out of college basketball midseason, which raised some questions. There’s a good deal of skill and athleticism in his 6-9 frame to make the risk worthwhile.
21. New York Knicks (From Dallas)
Keon Johnson, G/F, Florida
The explosive athleticism provides a solid baseline for a player the Knicks can be patient developing.
22. Los Angeles Lakers
Jared Butler, G, Baylor
A medical condition that required approval from the NBA before the draft might have hurt Butler’s stock for some teams, but the playmaking, big-game experience and tough defense make for a good fit alongside the Lakers’ stars.
23. Houston Rockets (From Portland Trail Blazers)
Sharife Cooper, G, Auburn
Regarded as one of the best passers, the explosive Cooper serves as a nice successor to John Wall and pairs well next to Jalen Green going forward.
24. Houston Rockets (From Milwaukee Bucks)
Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky
Houston gets some much-needed rim protection in the 6-10 big who was one of the bright spots of an otherwise disappointing Kentucky team.
25. Los Angeles Clippers
Miles McBride, G, West Virginia
Adept on both ends, McBride gives the Clippers a younger option at point guard behind Rajon Rondo and Patrick Beverley.
26. Denver Nuggets
Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois
Picking Dosunmu would be a step away from the Nuggets’ recent draft strategy when the front office has gone after younger players with more upside, but it will fill a couple of potential voids in Denver’s rotation. At 6-5 with a 6-10 wingspan, the 21-year-old has the size and experience handling the pick-and-roll to play both guard positions. That could help the Nuggets next season should Will Barton III leave in free agency or Jamal Murray’s return from injury get delayed. Dosunmu may not be elite in any one area, but he’s good enough on both sides of the ball to be a contributor from Day 1.
27. Brooklyn Nets
Nah’Shon Hyland, G, VCU
A dynamic scorer, especially from deep, would bring some backcourt depth and scoring off the bench to Brooklyn.
28. Philadelphia 76ers
Cam Thomas, G, LSU
Given his affinity for shooting, Thomas might be the anti-Ben Simmons. He’s a gifted scorer, as evidenced by 23 points per game last season, which led all freshmen but has work to do as a defender and distributor.
29. Phoenix Suns
Tre Mann, PG, Florida
Mann's shooting benefitted from a second collegiate season and could fill the sixth-man role if Cameron Payne leaves in free agency.
30. Utah Jazz
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, F, Villanova
After two seasons at Villanova, Robinson-Earl has enough skill and feel for the game to help the Jazz off the bench next season.