With the draft lottery set and the Pelicans winning the night by jumping up to the top overall pick, let’s look ahead with predictions on how the first round will play out.
1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson (Forward, Duke)
What a huge win for the Pelicans after the Davis bombshell this season. Now either Williamson and Davis will be able to form a formidable duo or Williamson becomes the key building block post Davis. Zion is the most polarizing draft prospect in this years class. Williamson’s combination of size, athleticism and production make him an easy choice for the Pelicans. Williamson gives the Pelicans a single name star to build around no matter what happens with Anthony Davis.
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant (Guard, Murray State)
The Grizzlies jumped up and couldn’t be more thrilled to get one of the top prospects in Memphis. With the uncertain future of Mike Conley in Memphis the Grizzlies now can take Ja Morant to be the floor general to lead Memphis for years to come.
3. New York Knicks: RJ Barrett (Forward, Duke)
Coming in the Knicks were tied for the best odds to win the lottery but the ping pong balls didn’t fall their way. RJ Barrett is a superb consolation prize for losing out on the Williamson sweepstakes. The ACC and Duke freshman record holder for scoring will provide instant impact for a team that currently has holes across the roster.
4. Los Angeles Lakers: Darius Garland (Guard, Vanderbilt)
Garlands season ended early in Vanderbilt so there is still a lot of mystery on what exactly can be expected. Still Garland has a good jump shot and ball handling skills and the Lakers could use him as a good fit between Ball and James. The Lakers could also use the good fortunes of jumping up to the fourth spot to facilitate a trade.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: De’Andre Hunter (Forward, Virginia)
Hunter was already one of the better defensive players in the NCAA before his huge performance in the national championship game showcased what he could do offensively. He gives the Cavaliers another building block for the post James era.
6. Phoenix Suns: Coby White (Guard, North Carolina)
White had a great season under Roy Williams and was able to elevate his stock up to the lottery. Phoenix needs to find a floor general to lead their young core and will look for White to grow into that player.
7.Chicago Bulls: Jarrett Culver (Guard, Texas Tech)
Culver was a big reason that Texas Tech was able to make it all the way to a national championship game. Culver had some issues in the tournament but was an active defender, shot creator and was the Big 12 player of the year. The Bulls will look to pair the guard with their young big men as a foundation of the future.
8. Atlanta Hawks: Cam Reddish (Forward, Duke)
Reddish is one of the bigger mysteries in the draft after his freshman season at Duke. Reddish didn’t make the impact everyone thought disappearing at times during games. Still with his shooting ability and size Reddish has the tools to be an elite level player. Atlanta will let him grow without having to put immense pressure on him right away thanks to the presence of Young.
9. Washington Wizards: Bol Bol (Center, Oregon)
With Washington dropping down they may take a risk on a player with more upside. The Oregon center had his season cut short due to a foot injury which is worrisome for a big man. The risk here will be well worth it if he lives up to his talent as a top 5 prospect in the class.
10. Atlanta Hawks: Jaxson Hayes (Center, Texas)
Hayes is still growing as a player but he already has tools to grow into a high end prospect. In Atlanta he can be paired with John Collins to form a formidable combination of big men.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves: Sekou Doumbouya (Forward, Limoges)
Doumbouya had a good end of the season in France after a hand injury slowed his start. He is a versatile forward that should fit nicely between Towns and Wiggins. With a good defensive skill set he should help contribute soon.
12. Charlotte Hornets: Romeo Langford (Forward, Indiana)
The Hornets are in a really tough spot before factoring Walkers free agency. With bloated contracts all over the roster the Hornets don’t have the flexibility to make significant roster changes. The Hornets need wing help and Romeo Langford should be able to provide that. With his shot creating ability he has a nice skill set for the Hornets regardless of what happens with Walker.
13. Miami Heat: Kevin Porter Jr (Guard, USC)
With the retirement of Dwayne Wade the Heat have a big hole to fill without having the cap flexibility to add an immediate star. Porter has his issues but can shoulder a scoring load and is worth the risk as a guard who can help contribute in the post Wade era.
14. Boston Celtics: P.J. Washington (Forward, Kentucky)
The Celtics love players with versatility and have to be happy that Washington is still available here. Washington can defend multiple positions and has the ability to knock down shots. He should be a nice fit in Brad Stevens’ system.
15. Detroit Pistons: Nassir Little (Forward, North Carolina)
Little had an inconsistent season at North Carolina after coming in as a top five recruit. Still a player with that much potential won’t slide to far and the Pistons could use help on the wing.
16. Orlando Magic: Tyler Herro (Guard, Kentucky)
Orlando needs a shooter especially with the free agency of Terrance Ross. Herro is a great fit here with his scoring ability.
17. Brooklyn Nets: Brandon Clarke (Forward, Gonzaga)
This is a bit of a slide for Clarke but there are some concerns about how his size will translate to the NBA game. Here Brooklyn gets great value and someone at age 23 that can contribute right away.
18. Indiana Pacers: Rui Hachimura (Forward, Gonzaga)
With the amount of players entering free agency for the Pacers they can go in a multitude of directions. In Hachimura the Pacers get a combo forward that can bring versatility to be used in different lineup combinations.
19. San Antonio Spurs: Cameron Johnson (Forward, North Carolina)
The Spurs have become a team low on 3 point shooting with DeRozan, Gay, and Aldridge. Getting Johnson here will help that weakness as he was one of the best shooters in college basketball. At 23 he should be ready to contribute for a playoff team.
20. Boston Celtics: Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Guard, Virginia Tech)
With two guards entering free agency the Celtics will look to replenish some depth if they end up losing one. Alexander-Walker has that versatility and the ability to shoot from the perimeter.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Keldon Johnson (Forward, Kentucky)
The Thunder need shooting in the worst way after the postseason exit against Portland. The knock on Johnson is that he struggles to create his own shot but that won’t be needed with Westbrook feeding him the ball. Johnson will work in a more catch and shoot roll which should play to his strength.
22. Boston Celtics: Talen Horton-Tucker (Forward, Iowa State)
I’m not sure Boston ends up keeping all three first rounders so this could be a potential trade spot. If they end up keeping this pick Horton-Tucker is a versatile player who can play guard and forward to give Stevens a unique prospect.
23. Utah Jazz: Grant Williams (Forward, Tennessee)
Williams is a great fit for the Utah Jazz. If the Jazz and Favors part ways the Jazz will have a player in a similar mold who can help contribute early on.
24. Philadelphia 76ers: Matisse Thybulle (Forward, Washington)
Philadelphia has a lot of starting talent but depth has been an issue. Thybulle is a great fit since he won’t command the ball and is a willing passer. At 22 he is in a better position to contribute to a playoff team since he has more experience.
25. Portland Trail Blazers: KZ Okpala (Forward, Stanford)
Okpala is a developmental player but all the tools are there. Okpala has great size and has shown flashes as a shooter and perimeter defender that if he can grow could pay dividends next to Lillard and McCollum.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers: Goga Bitadze (Center, Buducnost)
The Cavaliers need to address their center position long term. Bitadze has great size and ability on the offensive end that should make the Cavaliers feel like they could have found their center.
27. Brooklyn Nets: Dylan Windler (Forward, Belmont)
Windler is skilled offensively and a great spot up shooter. The Nets could add another spot up shooter to help their guards attack the basket more.
28. Golden State Warriors: Eric Paschall (Forward, Villanova)
Paschall is NBA ready with good size and experience being a key piece for the Villanova national championship team. He will bring high energy and is a better shooter then he is given credit for. He could be an ideal rotational piece on a stacked Warriors roster.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Mfiondu Kabengele (Center, FSU)
The Spurs could look to add some depth to their center position and Kabengle is an intriguing fit. Kabengele continues to improve his game and could learn and grow under one of the greatest coaching minds in Popovich.
30. Milwaukee Bucks: Bruno Fernando (Center, Maryland)
The Bucks are known to take some draft risks. Some work out like Giannis while others have not like Thon Maker. The Bucks could take a risk on another extremely high upside center in Fernando. Fernando has ideal size and has athletic ability that is up there with the top of the draft class. Fernando needs a lot of work on the defensive side of the ball in almost every aspect of his game. The Bucks will have to work closely with Fernando to see if they can develop him into a NBA starter
Featured Photo Credit: nba.com
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