The NBA.com mock draft after the order for the top of the first round was set with the lottery Tuesday, based on conversations with executives and scouts:
1. Philadelphia 76ers
Brandon Ingram | Duke | SF | 6-9 | 200
Philadelphia’s need for scoring gives Ingram the edge over Ben Simmons in what many teams consider a close call. Ingram was smooth as a freshman, with enough ball-handling skills to create his own shot on the perimeter or play above the rim
when he moves inside. Even with rough patches in his transition to college, the NBA finds it easy to envision a small forward with great size who will need to get stronger as he gets older. Ingram does not turn 19 until September, just before training camp. “You can’t expect anything out of him next year,” a GM said. “He’s so weak it’s crazy.”
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Ben Simmons | LSU | PF | 6-10 | 245
While Julius Randle just averaged 10.2 rebounds in his first full season, Simmons’ versatile offensive game allows him to fit almost anywhere. And if the 76ers pick Simmons, Ingram is a great fit for Los Angeles. The increased public visibility once Simmons reached college, as opposed to simply being tracked by the NBA from his native Australia to high school in Florida, was followed by the inevitable backlash. But Simmons was the consensus No. 1 at the start of the season and held the spot as his LSU one-and-done ended with the Tigers missing the NCAA tournament and saying they would not accept an invitation to one of the smaller post-season events. There are concerns about an attitude that comes across as, in the words of one GM, prima donna.
3. Boston Celtics
Dragan Bender | Israel | PF | 7-1 | 220
For all the talk about the possibility of the 76ers and/or Lakers making deals, the Celtics are probably the best candidate of all as a team pushing to get in position for a long playoff run now. The obvious need of adding outside shooting, especially behind the arc, puts Buddy Hield in the mix for the top three. But some teams think Bender has a chance to be great and one GM said he could easily see the Croatian becoming the best player in the draft in time. Bender is not Kristaps Porzingis no matter how many people want to make the comparison — Bender is a better distributor, Porzingis has better range — but the offense is very intriguing.
4. Phoenix Suns
Jaylen Brown | California | SF | 6-7 | 220
It’s easy to see the Suns considering several different directions here. Brown has the kind of elite athleticism that translates into a great open-court player, a good rebounder for a wing and the potential to be a high-level defender, all with good size for a small forward. That package came through even as he shared time with Ivan Rabb, a possible lottery pick before deciding to return to school, and Tyrone Wallace, who should get drafted. Brown was the Pacific 12 Conference Freshman of the Year.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
Buddy Hield | Oklahoma | SG | 6-4 | 215
The first pick by new head of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau could be a potential defensive standout like Kris Dunn to fit the style of new coach Tom Thibodeau. But upgrading the three-point game is a Minnesota priority, and that’s Hield. Think he’d get some open looks playing with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins? One of the stars of the college game in 2015-16, Hield is a versatile and explosive threat who can score in transition or as a catch-and-shoot guy in half-court sets. He gets to the rim and creates on the perimeter, with the added benefit of four seasons in a major program and being 22 years old. In short, Hield will be one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft.