Team execs: Draft will be ‘wildly’ unpredictable after top three

It seems the only thing certain about the upcoming NBA draft is Duke's Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett will be selected in the top three.

One Western Conference general manager and an Eastern Conference basketball executive agree that Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett will be the top-three picks in this month’s NBA draft.

But beyond that, who goes where is really anyone’s guess, both men suggested to Amico Hoops in separate conversations.

“Most mock drafts that I’ve seen after the top three are way off,” the West GM said. “Wildly wrong, in fact. Most look nothing like our draft board, and I bet nothing like the draft boards of most teams.”

The East executive added that’s especially the case after the top 10 or 12 selections.

“From the mocks I’ve seen, there is obviously very little intel out there about who will be selected after the lottery,” the exec said. “I’ve seen mock drafts where a guy we have listed at No. 15 (overall) isn’t in either round. And that’s from the (mocks) that are usually pretty accurate and trusted.”

The New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks own the first three selections, respectively. So the surprises are likely to start with teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers (fourth overall), Cleveland Cavaliers (fifth) and Phoenix Suns (sixth).

“I think the Lakers want to trade out of that spot,” the East exec said. “They want a veteran team that will win right away. They could package the pick with some young players and get someone immediate help. I believe that’s what they will try to do and eventually end up doing. I’m sure they will float it when they start talking (to the Pelicans) about Anthony Davis again.”

It has also been reported the Suns may be looking to trade the sixth pick for a veteran point guard.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty once you get beyond that top three,” the West GM said. “I think any of those teams — the Lakers, the Cavs, the Suns — would be willing to trade for a veteran or trade down. We’re even now hearing talk about the Knicks moving out of the third spot.”

Neither the GM nor the exec would reveal players not listed in the first round of the mock draft who are on their draft boards.

“I think there will be some busts early and some real steals late,” the GM said, laughing. “Know why? Because that’s the way it goes every year. But it wouldn’t be fair for me to tell you a player by name who we think is going to be a bust.

“Mostly because I want other teams the draft him.”