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

They are in the gym, at the games, studying film and talking to league insiders. The writers who cover these NBA teams, the first round picks, know what teams need. They know who might be available. They know what types of players these managers like best.

But like everyone else talking about the draft, what you know and what actually happens can change in an instant with one team going off script and 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 on Thursday night.

We think the first choice is a safe bet. After the? Fasten your seatbelts.

1. San Antonio Spurs: Victor Wemb-onemeat, C, France

The Spurs’ investigations into this no-brainer pick ended the second they won the draft lottery in May. Pairing Wembanyama with coach Gregg Popovich in San Antonio gives the troubled Frenchman a stable launch pad from which to elevate his NBA career.

—Jeff McDonald, San Antonio Express-News

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

Unless it’s all a smokescreen, there has to be a reason why teams are trying to jump into the top 3 picks 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 been missing is a long, athletic small forward who can score at all levels. Miller is that guy and will fit nicely with Shaedon Sharpe and Damian Lillard, now and in the future.

—Aaron Fentress, The Oregonian

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

With their previous top-five picks, the Rockets have been looking for the biggest advantage there is. 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 good wing options at No. 5, but Whitmore’s athleticism, shot-making and defensive tools make him a good fit in both the short and long term.

—Omari Sankofa II, Detroit Free Press

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

The Magic expect to make a significant jump this season, so it feels like one last bite of the apple near the top of the draft. It helps that Thompson fits their desire for length and positional versatility. His shooting 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, is all set to rebuild Washington’s roster next season, and Black would be a great building block. He is a sharp, shifty mover and a clever fit with rare height for a floor general. Plus, it would be way too perfect for the first draft 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 is accomplishing both. While he doesn’t offer much off the bounce yet, he has room to grow, and his ability to switch and catch-and-shoot smarts will be Day 1 skills.

—Eric Walden, Salt Lake Tribune

10. Dallas Mavericks: Cason Wallace, PG, Kentucky

The Mavericks need a big boost in defense and offensive scoring — and that’s exactly Wallace’s skill set. He has drawn potential comparisons to Bucks ace defenseman 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 doesn’t work if you can’t hit threes. So using this second pick to target a marksman and getting 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 big jump from his freshman to sophomore year at Michigan, and he’s still only 19. Bufkin doesn’t have an elite skill set, but his all-around game is a good fit for the Thunder.

—Joe Mussatto, The Oklahoman

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

The Raptors might be looking for a big draft-night deal with a roster that didn’t perform very well last season. And with questions about the future of free agent Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr., who may opt out, backcourt help is needed.

-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 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 side’s playoff run in the French league, showing great off-ball movement and secondary playmaking. So far, he can push through defensively with his 7-3 wingspan.

—Eric Walden, Salt Lake Tribune

17. LAKERS: You guysck Lively II, C, Duke

The best player available should be the strategy if the Lakers don’t use this pick in a deal (and they might). Lively shot blocking and rim running are a must 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 — that’s too important a pick for nostalgia — but there’s 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 may be more of a win-now pick compared to a couple of Golden State’s previous 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 done every year under Rafael Stone. If not, Whitehead has a chance to show more once he’s past his injury woes and has the shooting touch they’ve tried to land with their later picks in past 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 that could help them compete sooner behind Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson. If they stick with those two picks, Miller provides some versatility. Same with Rupert who played for the New Zealand Breakers. Both have the potential to grow into bigger roles in Jacque Vaughn’s rotation.

—Nick Friedell, ESPN

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

Blazers aren’t done adding wings after landing Miller. They are going after a well-rounded 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. A 6-8 forward with a 7-1 wingspan, Prosper fits the bill as a tenacious and highly shifty perimeter defender with excellent fundamentals, length and lateral agility.

—Jason Anderson, Sacramento Bee

25. Memphis Grizzlies: Colby Jones, SG, Xavier

With Dillon Brooks at the helm, 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 focused 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, he still needs to learn some of the details of the game. But with a reported 7-3 wingspan and an ability to become a 3-and-D player, he might be too good to pass up.

—Rod Boone, Charlotte Observer

28. Utah Jazz: Keyonte George, G, Baylor

With uncertainty awaiting the team’s backcourt, the Jazz happily take advantage of the Baylor guard’s slide. He’s not a true point guard, and he certainly has efficiency and decision-making issues to work out, but he has the kind of scoring ability and creativity that you absolutely play on at this stage of the draft.

—Eric Walden, Salt Lake Tribune

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

The Pacers are highly unlikely to use all three picks in the first round. With Cissoko, they get a younger player (only 19) they can develop. His physical tools are off the charts, he is a quality playmaker and a strong finisher.

—Scott Agness, Fieldhouse Files

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

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

—Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times

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