1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, SF, Duke, Freshman
Zion Williamson the most dominant college basketball player that I’ve seen since I started watching. He’s the most hyped prospect since Lebron James. The crazy athleticism of Zion Williamson combined with his 6’7″ 285 lbs. frame is one-of-a-kind. Add in his efficiency (40.8 PER, 68.0 FG%), his ability to finish around the rim, and his defensive stardom, and you have a player who can be an all-star in the league right away. The Pelicans will likely trade top-ten player Anthony Davis in the offseason, but even when they do, their franchise is in great hands with Zion Williamson as the face of it. If they do somehow find a way to retain Anthony Davis, then good luck to the other 29 teams that have to play against that front court.
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State, Sophomore
No matter what happened in the draft lottery, there was a good chance that the Grizzlies were going to part with longtime franchise point guard Mike Conley. Now, with the second pick, it’ll make this even easier. Ja Morant is going to be a franchise point guard, and there’s no a doubt in my mind about it. He’s the best passer in the draft (10.0 APG last season – NCAA leader), and his athleticism and speed at the point guard makes me think he could be De’Aaron Fox 2.0. There’s a bright future in Memphis with Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. as the cornerstones of their rebuild.
3. New York Knicks: R.J. Barrett, SG, Duke, Freshman
All signs are pointing to the Knicks selecting Duke freshman R.J. Barrett as long as they retain the pick. Barrett, the number one recruit in the country going into the season, averaged 22.6 points per game to go along with 4.3 assists per game. His natural scoring ability combined with this passing ability makes me confident that he’ll play some point guard at the next level, as well as shooting guard. It may take some time for Barrett to become more efficient, as that will come as his shot selection develops and basketball IQ rises with experience, but when that happens, he’ll be a 20 PPG scorer in the league.
4. Los Angeles Lakers: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt, Freshman
Darius Garland is one of the more intriguing prospects in this year’s draft for me, and the reasoning for that is that we’ve seen some really good things from him in his limited time on the court this past season. After tearing his meniscus, Garland’s season at Vanderbilt was cut to only five games. His impact in those five games wasn’t unnoticed though as he averaged 16.2 points per game with a true shooting percentage of 65.7%. Garland has tremendous speed and a great shot off the dribble. He’s signed with Klutch Sports, and there are already rumors that the Lakers like Garland and Hunter the best with the fourth pick. This makes me think that there’s a good chance Darius Garland ends up in Los Angeles with Lebron James.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech, Sophomore
If Jarrett Culver falls to the fifth pick, Cavs fans should be ecstatic. In my opinion there’s a massive gap between Culver and the fifth-best prospect in this draft. He’s a big guard at 6’6,” who’s defensive skills and ability to manufacture points, whether it’s scoring himself or assisting, should fit in nicely next to Collin Sexton in that backcourt. The Cavaliers may have gotten screwed in the lottery, but drafting Culver is a nice consolation prize to add to their rebuild.
6. Phoenix Suns: Coby White, PG, North Carolina, Freshman
The Phoenix Suns have needed a point guard since Steve Nash left after the 2011-12 season. Finally, they have the opportunity to fill that need with Coby White of North Carolina. Don’t let his hair trick you into thinking he’s Elfrid Payton 2.0… he’s not. White’s off-the-charts speed combined with his handle makes him an extremely difficult cover. He can also pull-up from three-point range at any time, as he shot over 35% from beyond the arc in his freshman year at North Carolina. There’s no need to trade the pick for a veteran point guard or sign a point guard in the offseason. Coby White is the guy for the Suns, and their future will look a light brighter after this selection.
7. Chicago Bulls: DeAndre Hunter, SF, Virginia, Sophomore
The Bulls could have used a point guard in this draft, but with Garland and White off the board, they turn to the best player available, DeAndre Hunter. Hunter, a key part to Virginia’s National Championship run, is what I’d call a safe pick with a lot of upside. I think his floor is particularly high, as you know you’re getting a 6’7″ SG/SF who’s going to defend extremely well. Any development you get from Hunter on offense is just an added bonus. We saw the potential of what he could do offensively in the National Championship game as he scored 27 points, guarded mostly by Jarrett Culver, a guy who’s a lockdown defender himself. Even if Hunter’s offensive game doesn’t develop well, he shot the three at 43.8% this past season, so I don’t doubt he can be a very nice 3 & D role player in the league at worst.
8. Atlanta Hawks: Cam Reddish, SG, Duke, Freshman
Cam Reddish is a guy that several seem to be low on due to his horrific shooting numbers in his freshman season at Duke. However, when you come in as a top-five recruit in the country, are touted as an elite shooter and shoot 35.6% from the field, 33.3% from three and 20.6% on contested jumpers, you can understand why. Despite Reddish’s poor numbers, I was still encouraged by some of the flashes he showed in certain games this year (1st Florida State game, Louisville comeback game). Cam Reddish is like when you expect a season of your favorite TV show to be amazing and it’s just not good, but you keep watching anyway. Then there’s one amazing episode and you’re going to keep watching because you still have hope that every episode will be that amazing. There is going to be a team in the top-10, in this case the Hawks, that will want to keep watching with that hope that every episode will be that good. If it is, the trio of Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, and Cam Reddish will be lethal from distance.
9. Washington Wizards: Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga, Redshirt Junior
I think that it’ll probably be seven-ish years until we see another competitive Washington Wizards team. They need more than just help… they need prayers. Brandon Clarke is a phenomenal start to what will likely turn into a full-blown rebuild sooner rather than later. If there was no Zion Williamson in this draft, Brandon Clarke’s abnormal athleticism would be discussed so much more. He may fall down in this draft a little bit further than he should due to his 6’8″ height and 6’8″ wingspan. However, this is a guy who blocked 3.2 shots per game last season. His block rate was 11.3%! There’s no doubt in my mind that Brandon Clarke will have an immediate impact on defense once he’s drafted, but it’ll be his continued offensive development that’ll determine how good of a player he’ll become in the NBA.
10. Atlanta Hawks: Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas, Freshman
Every year, Texas produces the same type of center into the NBA. It’s a guy who’s talent is raw, but he’s athletic, lengthy and can block shots. Two years ago it was Jarrett Allen, who this season blocked Lebron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Anthony Davis at the rim. Last year it was Mo Bamba, and this year it’s Jaxson Hayes. The Hawks need a defensive anchor like this to put next to John Collins in the front court. Jaxson Hayes is that guy, as he averaged 2.2 blocks per game in just 23.3 minutes per game last season. His block percentage was 10.6%. With this Hayes pick, the Hawks now have three young shooters, a young power forward who can create instant offense and a defensive anchor down low. Not bad for a team that started rebuilding in 2017.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves: Sekou Doumbouya, SF/PF, France
We saw the Minnesota Timberwolves take a long, athletic player with a high ceiling in Josh Okogie last year. Would I be surprised if they do it again? Nope. Sekou Doumbouya is a top-two international player in this draft class with a height of 6’9″ and wingspan near seven feet. He’s an extremely raw talent and a guy who’s at least two years away from being a decent NBA player. However, the long athletic ability of Doumbouya is what has the NBA intrigued. Doumbouya is also capable of hitting the three, as he shot it at 33.3% in 29 games of the French Jeep Elite this year. There’s no doubt that Doumbouya is a project, but he may just be worth it if developed properly.
12. Charlotte Hornets: Nassir Little, SF, North Carolina, Freshman
It came as a bit of a shock when top-five recruit Nassir Little was brought off the bench in his freshman season at North Carolina. Little, like Cam Reddish, showed flashes of what he could turn into during some games this season. This includes his 19-point game in 17 minutes played vs. Iona in the NCAA Tournament, and his 20-point game where he shot 8/11 in 21 minutes played vs. Washington. Little still will take some time to develop, but he’s strong and athletic which allows him to thrive when getting to the rim. He’s also a solid defensive player. The range for Little in this draft is one of the largest out of any first round prospect, as I think he can be drafted anywhere from pick 9 to pick 20, but I think he’ll go at the back end of the lottery. In this case, Little stays in North Carolina after being drafted to Charlotte.
13. Miami Heat: Rui Hachimura, SF, Gonzaga, Junior
There’s a rumor that a reason for Rui Hachimura not participating in the NBA Combine was because he received a promise from a lottery team. My belief is that the promise could be from the Miami Heat. Hachimura certainly has some work to do defensively and basketball IQ-wise, but he does possess that natural scoring ability to go along with his 6’8″ frame. He’s taken a lot of heat from NBA Twitter lately for his flaws, but if he does develop further, I think Hachimura can turn into a nice player in the league.
14. Boston Celtics: Goga Bitadze, C, Republic of Georgia
Goga Bitadze is my pick (and many other’s pick) to be the top international player from this draft class. Why? He projects as a modern-day NBA center. He has the size at 6’11,” but is also a threat to shoot from mid-range and from deep. Bitadze is a terror defending the rim, as he averaged 2.3 blocks in only 23.6 minutes per game for Buducnost VOLI this season. With Al Horford getting up there in age, it’s not a bad move for Danny Ainge to grab a center in the hopes that he’ll be ready to play significant minutes in two or three years
15. Detroit Pistons: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana, Freshman
The Detroit Pistons are desperate for guards. They have a solid front court duo in Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, but their guard play is the reason they were an 8-seed and not better. Romeo Langford was a top-ten recruit in the country going into this season, but once the college basketball season went on, the hype on him cooled down. It didn’t help that Indiana wasn’t a good team, but Langford also struggled at times with his efficiency. He did shot under 45% from the field and under 30% from beyond the arc. However, where he did succeed was finishing at the rim. Langford finished in the 87th percentile in finishing at the rim (according to Jackson Frank of The Athletic). If he can get his jump shots to fall, which I’m not worried about, Langford could be a value pick for the Pistons, and a guy who can be a volume scorer in the NBA.
16. Orlando Magic: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech, Sophomore
The Magic are another team who’s front court seems to be set for the future and backcourt is an absolute disaster. The past two seasons, the Magic have drafted lengthy players for their position in Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is no different with his 6’9″ wingspan. Alexander-Walker is an intriguing prospect with his silky smooth jumper. He led Virginia Tech in scoring this past season with 16.2 points per game and also averaged 4 assists per game. His long wingspan is a positive for him defensively, as he averaged nearly 2 steals per game with a steal rate of 3.4%. I’m high on Alexander-Walker and think he’ll be a nice 3&D player in the league.
17. Brooklyn Nets: PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky, Sophomore
The Nets need bigs in the worst way possible. They have a million players who can play the 1, the 2, or the 3, and not many that can play the 4 or 5. In comes P.J Washington, a player that was crucial to the success of Kentucky this season. Washington is only 6’8,” but plays a lot bigger than that. He’s very good in the paint as he shoots at a high percentage, but he can also hit outside shots. Washington shot over 40% from beyond the arc in his sophomore season, and also contributed on the defensive end with his 1.2 blocks per game. He’s a guy that’s definitely NBA ready, and can contribute right away for Brooklyn due to his high basketball IQ.
18. Indiana Pacers: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC, Freshman
Kevin Porter Jr. was a forgotten talent in this draft class due to missing a large part of the season and also playing on a bad team. However, Porter’s crazy athleticism at 6’6″ and shooting ability makes me believe his potential as a pro is high. He has reportedly wowed at draft workouts and could be a guy who climbs up the board a bit by the time June 20th comes around. You don’t want to jump with Kevin Porter Jr. when he’s going to the rim. He will dunk on you. With Victor Oladipo likely out until 2020-21 with his leg injury, the Pacers need to find someone who can fill some minutes and contribute right away at the shooting guard position. Kevin Porter Jr. is that guy.
19. San Antonio Spurs: Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee, Junior
In the NFL, you can look at prospects and say, “he’s such a Patriot.” In the NBA, you can look at prospects and say, “he’s such a Spur.” Grant Williams is a Spur. He’s a guy that you know will succeed if put in the right position, and the Spurs are certainly a great place to be drafted to. When I watch Williams, some of his tendencies remind me of Draymond Green. He’ll be the heart and soul of a team, a great defender despite his 6’8″ size, and a creator on offense with his court vision and pick and roll ability. Williams may fall even further down draft board than this due to size and athleticism concerns, but I still think it would be a steal for any team that gets him as low as 19.
20. Boston Celtics: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky, Freshman
Tyler Herro worked out for the Celtics on Tuesday and reportedly made 80 of his 100 three-point shots. That’s who Herro is… a sharp shooter. Herro shot 35.5% from downtown in his freshman year at Kentucky, but this is a guy that I think will shoot over 40% from three in the league. There are a few guys in the NBA who’s shooting strokes are just beautiful to watch. Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, Joe Harris, Danny Green, and Devin Booker are among them. Herro will be in that category of absolutely beautiful shots. It’s also worth noting that he shot 93.5% from the charity stripe.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Johnson, SG, North Carolina, Senior
After another first round exit this season, the Thunder better do something to change things up. The first step to that is surrounding Russell Westbrook with three-point shooters, which I’ve expected them to do the last few offseasons, and they haven’t done it. I personally wouldn’t be surprised if they trade for Bradley Beal, but if they keep the pick, then Cam Johnson would be a perfect fit. I’m a huge fan of Johnson, as he was a lights out shooter for North Carolina this year with a three-point percentage of 45.7%. Add his 6’9″ size in and this is a guy who can contribute right away to a contending team.
22. Boston Celtics: Mfiondu Kabengele, PF, Florida State, Sophomore
More draft capital for the Celtics, this time in the form for Mfiondu Kabengele. Kabengele is an energy guy who came off the bench for Florida State and made the most of his minutes. Kabengele’s 28.9 player efficiency rating was second in the ACC, only behind Zion Williamson. He averaged 13.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 1.5 BPG in only 21.6 minutes per game (24.5 PPG, 11.0 RPG, and 2 BPG per 40 minutes). I think Kabengele will be a nice bench piece in the league, and will make a living crashing the offensive glass and playing good defense. However, his 6’10,” 250 lbs. physique raises his ceiling a bit.
23. Utah Jazz: Matisse Thybulle, SG, Washington, Senior
According to sportsrefernce.com, Matisse Thybulle is one of three college basketball players since the 1992-93 season to average over 3.0 steals per game and over 2.0 blocks per game. That’s an impressive stat. The Jazz are one of the most defensive-minded teams in the NBA, so it would be very on-brand for them to select Thybulle. In addition to his defensive instincts, Thybulle shot above 36% from three-point range in his first three years at Washington. He shot only 30.5% from three in his senior season, but if his shot holds up, he could be an elite bench player in the league.
24. Philadelphia 76ers: Ty Jerome, PG, Virginia, Junior
If you’re the Philadelphia 76ers, you’re looking to grab a guy who can contribute right away and come off the bench and shoot the three. With T.J. McConnell likely departing in free agency, they can draft Ty Jerome, and hand him the keys to the backup point guard role. I’m a lot higher on Jerome than most. Why? While his ceiling may not be as high as some other guards due to his low athletic abilities, Jerome is so fundamentally good. He’s a top-five passer in the draft, and has an extremely high basketball IQ. Jerome’s assist to turnover-ratio was 12th in the nation at 3.3 as well.
25. Portland Trail Blazers: Chuma Okeke, SF, Auburn, Sophomore
Chuma Okeke was arguably the most important player on Auburn this season before he went down with a torn ACL in the Sweet Sixteen vs. North Carolina. He’s a defensive talent that’ll definitely translate to the next level due to his 6’8″ stature with a 7’0″ wingspan. Okeke averaged 1.8 steals per game and 1.2 blocks per game, while also shooting the ball well from three-point range at 38.7%. The Trail Blazers could lose two wings, Al-Farouq Aminu and Rodney Hood, to free agency this offseason, so Okeke can be a nice replacement down the road.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers: Bol Bol, C, Oregon, Freshman
If Bol Bol didn’t go down with a season-ending foot injury after nine games, we probably would have been talking about him as a potential top-seven pick. Now, with a guy who’s 7’2″ with a foot injury, there are certainly durability concerns. Bigger players who play similarly to Bol, like Kristaps Porzingis, have struggled with injuries. However, at pick 26, Bol is a risk that’s worth taking, In the nine games he played at Oregon, Bol averaged 21 points per game, 9.6 rebounds per game, and shot a ridiculous 52% from downtown on 2.8 attempts per game. He also posted a staggering 12.4 block percentage. A team who will be rebuilding for the near future like the Cavaliers will have a lot more patience for a high risk, high reward player like Bol.
27. Brooklyn Nets: Nic Claxton, PF, Georgia, Sophomore
Nic Claxton has been a late-riser throughout the draft process after not getting a ton of attention while playing for the 11-21 Georgia Bulldogs. He’s a project, and there’s no doubt about that. However, when you’re a team like the Brooklyn Nets with multiple first round picks, it’s worth it to take a flier on a guy like Claxton at the end of the first round. He’s a freaky, unique player who has an awkward combination of length, but not tremendous speed or athleticism. Claxton will have the plays where you say, “How did he do that?” and he’ll also have the plays that make you say “What in the world is he doing?” He’ll either be good in the league or really, really bad, but I trust the Nets to develop him, as they’ve had a ton of success developing talent under Kenny Atkinson.
28. Golden State Warriors: Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue, Junior
Every single year there are those two or three picks that you want to see happen so badly. For me, this is one of them. Carsen Edwards is a streaky player, but he can score the basketball and everyone knows that. His 42-point explosion against the best defensive team in college basketball, Virginia, was one of the best individual college performances I’ve ever seen. In his sophomore season, Edwards averaged 18.5 points per game in 29.5 minutes per game, shooting 45.8% from the field and 40.6% from beyond the arc. In his junior season, his minutes increased to 35.4 per game leading to his points per game increasing to 24.3. However, his efficiency took a big hit, as he only shot 39.4% from the field and 35.5% from three. This, plus Edwards lack of size leads me to believe that Edwards’ ceiling in the league is probably a sixth man. However, the Warriors can use scoring help off the bench, as their bench is easily the weakest it’s been since their dynasty began.
29. San Antonio Spurs: KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford, Sophomore
KZ Okpala is a guy with tremendous potential, as he’s a 6’9″ small forward with that natural scoring ability. I think he’ll go in the first round because of the upside, but probably to a team that has a gift for developing talent, which is why I think the Spurs would be a good fit. Despite averaging 16.8 points per game at Stanford this past season, Okpala needs to work on cutting down his turnovers and also needs to improve his shot selection. He’ll likely spend time in the G-League for a bit, but further down the road, Okpala can turn into a nice scorer off the bench for a team.
30. Milwaukee Bucks: Keldon Johnson, SG, Kentucky, Freshman
Keldon Johnson came into the season as a highly-touted recruit and potential top-ten pick. However, he didn’t blow anyone away in his freshman year at Kentucky. Yes, he had a decent season and still averaged 13.5 points per game on 46.1% from the field and 38.1% from three-point range, but there isn’t an aspect of Keldon’s game that gets me that excited. I just think he’s an average player with not a ton of upside. For the Bucks offense though, they need to surround Giannis with shooters, and Keldon Johnson can provide that. It helps that he is a guard, as Milwaukee is at risk of losing Malcolm Brogdon in free agency this summer.
Talen Horton Tucker
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