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Guessing game has Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke going in middle of first round at NBA draft

UPDATED: Tue., June 18, 2019, 8:32 p.m.

The guessing game is in overtime. It should reach full fervor Thursday in the hours leading up to the NBA draft.

There are dozens of NBA mock drafts, top 100 rankings and best players available lists. Newspapers and television outlets are conducting live mock drafts.

What’s it all mean for Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke? Not much essentially since the only opinions that matter belong to NBA executives, and those become public knowledge Thursday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Still, it’s hard to resist scanning websites to gauge where draftniks suggest the Zags forwards will begin their careers.

The two Zags should be in the middle of it all, hanging out with family and friends in the green room near the stage. They’ll probably end up going somewhere in the middle of the first round with numerous mocks listing both forwards in the 10-to-18 range. Guard Zach Norvell Jr. seems to be gaining traction as a second-round pick in mocks that offer two-round projections.

The middle of the first round matches up with a number of teams in need of frontcourt reinforcements. Las Vegas agrees, pegging Hachimura’s draft position over/under at 12.5 and Clarke at 13.5, according to SportsBetting.ag. A few mocks even have the two Zags going back-to-back in the first round.

Washington, Atlanta, Minnesota, Charlotte, Miami, Boston, Detroit, Indianapolis and San Antonio are among the teams choosing in the Nos. 9-20 spots that could use a forward to provide depth or immediate help, though probably not as a starter.

Of those teams, Minnesota at No. 11 appears to be one of the better fits for Hachimura or Clarke. The Timberwolves have center Karl-Anthony Towns, but could use Hachimura’s strength and open-court and mid-range game, or Clarke’s athleticism, defensive versatility and rim protection.

Atlanta could be another landing spot with picks at Nos. 10 and 17. Stadium has Hachimura going to the Hawks at 10, noting the team “could use another athletic wing,” and Clarke selected 18th by Indiana, home of former Zags forward Domantas Sabonis.

SI.com projects Clarke going No. 17 to Atlanta, calling the 6-foot-8 forward a fit as a defender, transition-oriented player and lob target for Trae Young. Hachimura is bound for Minnesota, filling a positional need, according to SI.com.

Boston, which is expected to lose veteran big man Al Horford in free agency, could be interested in Hachimura or Clarke with its picks at 14 and 20. NBA.com’s consensus of 10 mock drafts forecasts Hachimura at 11 to Minnesota and Clarke at 14 to Boston.

NBAdraft.net lists Clarke going to the Celtics at 20 with Hachimura taken by Charlotte at No. 12.

CBSsports.com predicts Clarke will hear his named called at No. 11 by the Timberwolves “regardless of whether Minnesota brings (forward) Taj Gibson back or not, the front office should strongly consider bringing in a more green, athletic player at the spot.” Hachimura slips to No. 19 to the Spurs, who “lack depth at power forward” behind LaMarcus Aldridge.

In the Los Angeles Times’ annual beat writers mock draft, the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner projects Clarke to the Wizards at No. 9 because “they just need talent and one of the most proven players available is Clarke.” Six picks later, Detroit takes Hachimura because the Pistons “can’t afford to pass up on someone with his skill set and potential star power,” according to The Athletic’s James Edwards III.

Norvell has been projected at a second-round pick to Philadelphia, Sacramento, New Orleans and his hometown Chicago Bulls. The 6-foot-5 guard can be a streaky shooter, but he led the West Coast Conference in 3-pointers last season and could provide instant offense off the bench for an NBA team.

Follow along with the Zags

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