We’re minutes away from the NBA Draft. Here’s a final look at what we’re hearing after talking to several NBA executives.
1. New Orleans – Zion Williamson, 6-7, 285, F, Fr., Duke
A year ago at this time, most pegged R.J. Barrett as the leader in the clubhouse for the No. 1 overall pick, but it didn’t take long for Williamson to change everyone’s mind. Zion is a blend of size, athleticism and even skill that we haven’t seen before. He’ll be the No. 1 overall pick and the face of the Pelicans from Day One. The big question is whether he will become a bonafide star in the league, and how he’ll fit with newcomers Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram and holdover Jrue Holiday.
2. Memphis Grizzlies – Ja Morant, 6-3, 170, PG, Soph., Murray State
Morant’s stock blew up last season and now, barring something crazy happening, he’ll be the No. 2 overall pick and the reason why the Grizzlies will move veteran point guard Mike Conley. Morant has the rare blend of athleticism, quickness and explosiveness to go along with the court vision and passing ability. Think of a combo of Conley and De’Aaron Fox. Don’t be shocked if he’s the best player to come out of this draft.
3. New York Knicks – RJ Barrett, 6-7, 205, SG-SF, Fr., Duke
Barrett was ultra-productive during his freshman campaign at Duke, but was overshadowed by his teammate Zion Williamson. Sliding a couple spots from his projection a year ago could have been the best thing to happen to him: Barrett is likely to go No. 3 to New York, where he could be the focal point of the team if the Knicks can’t land big-time free agents. Barrett needs to improve his perimeter shot, but he’s a big wing who can get to the basket and finish, can handle the ball and make his teammates better, and also has the mentality to be able to handle New York.
4. Atlanta Hawks (via LA Lakers from New Orleans) – De’Andre Hunter, 6-8, 225, F, RS Soph., Virginia
The Hawks moved up and will take a big wing in De’Andre Hunter who can really defend and also shoot it. Perfect for Atlanta.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers – Jarrett Culver, 6-5, 190, SG, Soph., Texas Tech
The Cavs were certainly one of the biggest losers on lottery night, falling to the No. 5 overall pick. This is a franchise that has to build through the draft (sure, they have $100-plus million of expiring contracts, but they aren’t going to attract a big-time free agent), and GM Koby Altman will have to nail this pick. Culver is a versatile forward who has a high upside due to his ability to put it on the floor, shoot it from deep and a willingness to defend.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Phoenix) – Darius Garland, 6-2, 175, PG, Fr., Vanderbilt
The T-Wolves want to upgrade at the point guard spot and moved up to grab Garland, who is a big-time shooter who can also run a team. He only played a few games at Vandy due to a knee injury.
7. Chicago Bulls – Coby White, 6-4, 185, G, Fr., North Carolina
Here’s another team that could use a point guard. Kris Dunn hasn’t worked out in Chicago, and White would give the Bulls a scoring point guard who can do it in a variety of ways. He can shoot it from deep, and is also terrific in transition. He’s not a set-up guy, but would help give Jim Boylen another offensive option to go with Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter, Zach LaVine and Wendell Carter.
8. New Orleans Pelicans (via Atlanta) – Nickeil Alexander-Walker, 6-5 ½, 200, SG, Soph., Virginia Tech
The Pelicans need a guy who can shoot it desperately, and Alexander-Walker can do that… and more.
9. Washington Wizards – Cam Reddish, 6-8, 210, SG-SF, Fr., Duke
Reddish is an enigma. He looks the part and often plays the part, but that didn’t happen often at Duke — whether it was due to the system, the presence of Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett or a lack of an alpha dog personality. Reddish has some Rudy Gay to him: He’s long, can make shots and is also versatile. The Wizards need to hit a home run, and Reddish could be a feast-or-famine guy.
10. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas) – Sekou Doumbouya, 6-9, 215, F, France
The Hawks can afford to roll the dice on the versatile combo forward who moved to France when he was young.
11. Phoenix Suns (via Minnesota) – Rui Hachimura, 6-8 1/2, 230, F, Jr., Gonzaga
The Suns go with the native of Japan — who has really made strides in his three seasons in Spokane. Hachimura is a combo forward who should be able to help immediately.
12. Charlotte Hornets – Jaxson Hayes, 6-11, 220, C, Fr., Texas
Hayes is raw, but is a big-time athlete who will help a Hornets team that has been lacking a presence down low.
13. Miami Heat – Mfiondu Kabengele, 6-9, 235, C, Soph., Florida State
The Heat have a lot of pieces, but lack a star. I’m not sure they will get it with the No. 13 pick, but Miami could use a young frontcourt. Kabengele is multi-dimensional, plays hard and can score both in the paint and also on the perimeter.
14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento) – Tyler Herro, 6-5, 193, SG, Fr., Kentucky
The Celtics could use a guy who can run off screens and make shots, and Herro can do that and more. He’s got good size and can really shoot it from deep, which is what the Celtics could use – especially in Brad Stevens’ 3-point-happy offense.
15. Detroit Pistons – Romeo Langford, 6-6, 200, SG, Fr., Indiana
The Pistons have Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, but they need a wing who can score. Langford was seemingly born to score, and his perimeter shot will improve with work. Langford was also playing much of last season injured. He’s a high-character guy who gives Detroit something it sorely needs: another scorer.
16. Orlando Magic – PJ Washington, 6-8, 230, PF, Soph., Kentucky
Washington is a skilled forward who improved his stock significantly this past season by showing his ability to score, rebound and also his decision-making with the ball in his hands. Washington is long, plays with a high motor and would be a nice complement to Aaron Gordon.
17. New Orleans Pelicans (via Atlanta from Brooklyn) – Nassir Little, 6-6, 210, SF, Fr., North Carolina
Little struggled this past season at North Carolina, but was regarded as a high-lottery pick going into the season.
18. Indiana Pacers – Brandon Clarke, 6-8, 220, PF, RS Jr., Gonzaga
The Pacers’ two fixtures are Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner. Kevin Pritchard had success trading for former Gonzaga standout Domantas Sabonis; why not go for another Zags frontcourt player in Clarke? He’s a tremendous athlete with an improving offensive game who can also become an elite defender.
19. San Antonio Spurs – Goga Bitadze, 6-11, 251, C, Georgia
Bitadze is a skilled big man who can help the Spurs up front — which is important considering they don’t have much beyond LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl. Bitadze averaged 12.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in the Euroleague and has shown the ability to knock down mid-range jumpers with ease.
20. Boston Celtics (via LA Clippers from Memphis) – Kevin Porter Jr., 6-5, 220, SG, Fr., USC
There are red flags — suspensions, injuries and other issues — but Porter is a talented wing who is worth the risk, especially for a team that has a trio of first-round picks. The Celtics can afford to roll the dice on the big, strong and athletic wing who didn’t do much in his lone season at USC.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Cameron Johnson, 6-9, 210, PF, Sr., North Carolina
This one just makes too much sense. Sam Presti needs to give Billy Donovan a shooter, and Johnson can make shots from all over the court. He’s also got the size and maturity to be able to come in and help immediately. Johnson shot 46 percent from 3 last season at North Carolina.
22. Boston Celtics – Darius Bazley, 6-9, 210, F, Did Not Play
Bazley sat out last season after deciding not to go to Syracuse, but the NBA folks have been impressed in workouts. He’s put on weight and has displayed a nice package of skill and athleticism.
23. Memphis Grizzlies (via Utah) – Keldon Johnson, 6-6, 210, SF, Fr., Kentucky
Johnson’s biggest asset is his toughness. He’s a hard-playing wing who is an average perimeter shooter, but the Grizzlies could certainly add another quality rotation guy at No. 23 if Johnson falls this far.
24. Philadelphia 76ers – Bol Bol, 7-3, 235, C, Fr., Oregon
Bol is the ultimate enigma. Manute’s son is skilled and is capable of changing the game on the defensive end, but there are plenty of questions regarding his desire to play, his effectiveness on the court due to his slender frame, and also injury concerns.
25. Portland Trail Blazers – Nicolas Claxton, 6-11, 220, F, Soph., Georgia
It’ll take some time for Claxton, but he’s got tons of promise and potential. Claxton is long, skilled and can impact (in time) on both ends of the court.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Houston) – KZ Okpala, 6-9, 210, SF, Soph., Stanford
The Stanford product is raw, but he has a ton of upside due to his length, skill and athleticism. It’ll probably take time for Okpala to realize his potential, but the Cavs are in no rush. They want young guys with talent that will grow into NBA-caliber starters.
27. Brooklyn Nets (via Denver) – Grant Williams, 6-7, 241, PF, Jr., Tennessee
He’s not the biggest guy around, but Williams is the type of player that fits in Brooklyn. He just finds a way despite being undersized. Williams will be a great second-unit player for a Nets team that overachieves due largely to chemistry and effort.
28. Golden State Warriors – Matisse Thybulle – 6-5, 195, G, Sr., Washington
He withdrew from the combine, which likely means he’s secure and has a first-round promise somewhere. Thybulle is an elite defender who has a chance to become an above-average shooter in time.
29. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto) – Ty Jerome, 6-5, 195, G, Jr., Virginia
The Spurs could use some help at the point, and Jerome is a guy who can run a team, make shots from all over the court and also bring toughness to the table. Jerome may never be a star, but will be consistent in his production and effort.
30. Detroit Pistons (via Milwaukee) – Naz Reid, 6-10, 240, F, Fr., LSU
The Pistons could use another big man who can step out and shoot it from long range. Reid is incredibly skilled for someone his size. He needs to work on his decision-making.