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Bill Simmons and Kevin O’Connor Explain Their Mock Lottery

The two explain their rationale for each pick

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The NBA draft is tonight! In preparation, Bill Simmons and Kevin O’Connor went through the lottery picks on the latest episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast. Here’s who they have for each team in the top 14:

1. Philadelphia 76ers — Markelle Fultz

O’Connor: [Fultz, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons] are going to be really good for a really long time, if Embiid stays healthy. He’s really the big part of that, I think. He is the cornerstone. He’s the generational talent, he’s the potential Hall of Famer. He’s a level above Fultz and Ben Simmons in my opinion, as a prospect.

2. Los Angeles Lakers — Lonzo Ball

Simmons: Of course they traded [D’Angelo] Russell, so —

O’Connor: We got our answer. Should it be the answer, though? Should it be Lonzo?

Simmons: Yes.

O’Connor: I agree.

Simmons: So I was driving to work yesterday, and for the first time it dawned on me that the Celtics passed on Lonzo Ball, and there’s a chance he might be this generational offensive player who’s incredibly fun to watch. And it [could be] like a Steph Curry thing, where people go "Oh my god, how did anyone pass on him?"

3. Boston Celtics — Jayson Tatum

Simmons: We think they’re keeping it at this point. I think the Jimmy Butler trade’s there in July if they want it. I don’t think they need to do it now, I wouldn’t do it now. … We both think Jayson Tatum here.

O’Connor: I’m glad you’re coming around to Tatum-ville.

Simmons: I’m not coming around in the sense that I would still rather have the no. 1 pick than the no. 3 pick. I’m having a lot of Lonzo regrets. I’ll work through it.

O’Connor: I have Tatum ranked ahead of Lonzo.

Simmons: So Tatum, best-case scenario he’s Paul Pierce 2.0?

O’Connor: Pierce, [Danny] Granger type of player. Go-to scorer, guy you can lean on, [who can] score at the end of the shot clock. I think Tatum is going to be really good.

4. Phoenix Suns — Josh Jackson

O’Connor: I’m not totally confident in that.

Simmons: Would you be shocked by De’Aaron Fox there?

O’Connor: I wouldn’t be shocked by anything. They’re working out Zach Collins in a one-on-oh workout today. Nothing would shock me. Jackson, as much as I like him, I can’t get over the concern with the jumper. I want him to go to a team that has a good shooting coach. And not a lot of teams actually have shooting coaches. He’s not going to the Spurs, but it sure would be nice if he did.

Simmons: It feels too easy, the top four. Something weird is going to happen. And if I were to bet on anything weird, I’d bet on Phoenix surprising us and taking Fox.

5. Sacramento Kings — De’Aaron Fox

Simmons: I think Fox to the Kings at no. 5, you think they should take somebody else and try to get a point guard at no. 10.

O’Connor: I have Fox there in the mock draft, but it’s not what I would do. I would want Jackson there, if he were to fall. I would be thinking about Jonathan Isaac at that spot if I’m the Kings. I would be thinking about Tatum if he falls. I would be thinking about [Malik] Monk there. But at the same time, Dennis Smith Jr. could be waiting there for you with the 10th pick. Frank Ntilikina could be waiting there at no. 10. One of those guards, even Monk, could be there at no. 10. So if you take one of the forwards at no. 5, you could get the best of both worlds. And that’s where I’m thinking for the Kings. As good as Fox is, I like a lot of those other guards as well that could be there at the no. 10 spot.

6. Orlando Magic — Jonathan Isaac

O’Connor: Again, probably not the pick I would make but I think that’s probably the direction they’re going to go. It fits their MO. Look at what Milwaukee did with all the big, long players. Versatile. Jonathan Isaac fits that bill to a T.

Simmons: He’s like a taller Andrei Kirilenko 2.0, basically.

O’Connor: That’s one of the comps we have on [the Draft Guide], courtesy from someone who tweeted us that, because it’s a really good comp. Think about Kirilenko in today’s league, he’d probably be one of the best high-end roll players in today’s league. And if Isaac reaches his peak, he’ll be like a nontraditional superstar. That’s the phrase one executive used with me, and I feel like it makes sense. If Isaac reaches his peak, the question is the other end of the floor, the offensive end.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves — Lauri Markkanen

Simmons: He keeps getting tied here. He’s my least-favorite pick of the top 10. I don’t know what he is, he’s a very good shooter, I guess. Great — he doesn’t rebound or defend.

O’Connor: I think it was maybe two months ago I was on the pod with you and I think I was supposed to make the case for him, and when I talked about him I ended up making a case against him. This guy, Lauri Markkanen, is an elite shooter at 7 feet, but the thing is [that] 7-foot is just a number. If you look at how he rebounds, he rebounds like he’s 6-foot-5. You look at the way he defends, he doesn’t defend like a 7-footer. So you can say he’s a 7-footer who shoots 3s, but he doesn’t play like a 7-footer. He plays like a wing who shoots 3s, and that’s typical.

8. New York Knicks — Malik Monk

Simmons: Him at MSG with [Kristaps] Porzingis and the possible double heat check and all the good things that can happen with that.

O’Connor: There’s some logic to getting two guys who are a little streaky. If both those guys get hot at the same time, you are going to rack up buckets. And Porzingis and Monk are two players [who do that]. I think that’s something I’d be kind of angling for. Higher variance, you might have some bad performances, but if you reach the peak, that’s when you get upsets.

Simmons: I’m going on the record: I think Malik Monk is going to be great. I feel very similar to [Curry], maybe not as high of a ceiling as I felt like Curry had in 2009, where I just couldn’t believe when teams were passing on him. This draft is better, it’s harder to get mad at teams for passing on him, I just think the guy is going to be great. And the parallels here of ’09, Curry going right before the Knicks, and the Timberwolves, if they took Monk right before the Knicks, I just can’t stop staring at it.

9. Dallas Mavericks — Frank Ntilikina

O’Connor: I have Filthy Frank Ntilikina going there right now, but at the same time I think Dennis Smith Jr. would be really intriguing for them. And to speak for [Jonathan] Tjarks here, his argument is Dennis Smith is a significantly better fit for their pick-and-roll offense. They run a lot of high pick-and-roll, Dennis Smith is a downhill pick-and-roll player. And that makes a lot of sense, Dennis Smith there. But they’ve been really attached to Ntilikina and that’s why I have him there.

10. Sacramento Kings — Zach Collins

O’Connor: Well they get Fox at no. 5, in the mock, so here, at this spot, I have Zach Collins. But at the same time, I wouldn’t do that pick. I’d still be looking for a home run swing.

Simmons: What I don’t want them to do is take another power forward. Sacramento, stop taking power forwards. Just stop. Don’t take anybody who has to play near the rim.

11. Charlotte Hornets — Luke Kennard

Simmons: Let’s all agree the funniest outcome would be Markkanen. [Frank] Kaminsky, [Cody] Zeller, Markkanen, that would be hilarious.

O’Connor: Markkanen will be doing TV in a couple years.

Simmons: Second-funniest outcome would be Luke Kennard.

O’Connor: I like Kennard!

Simmons: Kennard to Charlotte, seems like an MJ pick. He loves those proven, fundamentally sound college guys.

12. Detroit Pistons — Dennis Smith Jr.

O’Connor: There’s going to be somebody who falls.

Simmons: I don’t think he gets by Dallas, the ceiling is too high.

O’Connor: What if Frank [Ntilikina] is there, too, though?

Simmons: I think they’d take Dennis Smith. [Mark] Cuban wants a home run swing with that pick, it’s his one chance to get a lottery pick.

13. Denver Nuggets — OG Anunoby

Simmons: That’s a team that could just take OG.

O’Connor: I love OG for them, because they can afford to wait, they don’t even have playing time to give out right now, they have so many players. So OG would be good for them. A redshirt season for OG Anunoby.

14. Miami Heat — Donovan Mitchell

Simmons: Somebody’s going to fall to Miami and we’re all going to be mad about it. Because that’s how it works with Miami.

O’Connor: That’s what happened with Justise Winslow. Somebody’s going to fall.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.