The NBA Draft Lottery is over and the Pelicans have won the right to choose No. 1 overall.
Of course, the draft is as much about player potential as it is team fit.
Should teams draft the best player available or should they opt for the best fit? There is no right or wrong answer and it changes depending on any number of factors:
- Does the drafting team already have a foundational piece at that position?
- How will a prospect's skills mesh with those of the roster already in place?
- How many years away is a team from realistically contending?
- Does a team drafting high have its sights set on a particular free agent?
Now that the draft order is set, here is a preliminary mock draft.
1. Pelicans - Zion Williamson, F, Duke
How's that for a curve ball?
Williamson is the most hyped prospect to enter the NBA Draft since Anthony Davis in 2012. That, of course, just so happens to be who the Pelicans picked the only other time they landed the No. 1 overall pick.
For months, the chatter has been if the Pelicans might ultimately trade Davis for the right to select Williamson. Now they have the option of pairing them together to form what could be the most dynamic frontcourt... dare I say ever?
Regardless of what happens with Davis, the Pelicans can rest easy knowing they have at least one foundational building block with MVP-type potential.
2. Grizzlies - Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
Memphis entered the lottery with the eighth-best odds and jumped all the way up to second. While it's a tough decision between Morant and Barrett, the opportunity to pick the eventual heir-apparent to franchise icon Mike Conley might simply be too great to pass up. Conley has two years left on his deal, the second of which is a player option, so the Grizzlies could ultimately decide to keep him. Should they move Conley, the pairing of Morant with Jaren Jackson Jr. should give Grizzlies fans significant hope for the future.
3. Knicks - RJ Barrett, SG, Duke
While Lakers fans were surely dreaming about Zion Williamson lighting up Madison Square Garden, Barrett knows a thing or two about lighting up the box score and is a big game player that is not afraid of the pressure or spotlight. 12 months ago it was Barrett, not Williamson, that was widely regarded as the crown jewel of this draft class. He's got star potential and could develop into one of the game's better scorers.
4. Lakers - Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
When the Lakers moved up from 11th, there seemed like an outside shot that maybe they'd strike gold and get to pair Williamson with LeBron James. Settling in at fourth is still a massive win for a franchise that can either use the pick to add another blue chip prospect or build an even more enticing trade offer for another veteran star. Should they keep the pick, watch out for Darius Garland, the high scoring guard out of Vanderbilt. Though he only played five games in college due to a knee injury, Garland has the skill and shooting ability to play next to Lonzo Ball and give the Lakers another sorely needed scorer.
5. Cavaliers - De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia
The Cavaliers could go in a number of ways here. The long-armed Hunter might be too good of a prospect to pass up however as he shot over 40% from beyond the arc during his college career and would fit in nicely with the young pieces already in place. The most optimistic outcome for Hunter is a version of Kawhi Leonard, the type of game-changing two-way talent that could eventually blossom into the next great Cleveland small forward.
6. Suns - Coby White, PG/SG, North Carolina
The Suns desperately need a point guard and while they may have had their sights set on Morant, Phoenix can still pick up an amazing lead guard prospect in Coby White who showed some serious scoring chops in his one season at UNC. He's also a much better shooter than Morant so he may actually be a better fit playing alongside star guard Devin Booker who will no doubt still have the ball in his hands a great deal.
7. Bulls - Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
Upon first glance, the Bulls are one of the biggest losers as they slid from fourth to seventh. Yet under this scenario, they could still land Culver who we had the Bulls taking fourth overall in our initial pre-lottery mock draft. The Bulls have had success drafting versatile two-way wings and turning them into All-Stars as they did with both Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler. Culver could follow in their footsteps and would surely help a Bulls team that ranked 25th in defensive rating last season.
8. Hawks - Cam Reddish, SF, Duke
One year ago, the Hawks took arguably the two best shooters in the draft in Trae Young and Kevin Huerter. Could the Hawks take a third in Reddish who might be the best shooter in this year's draft? Although he certainly struggled with consistency at Duke playing next Williamson and Barrett, Reddish showed flashes of a wing player that can fill it up quickly from NBA range. At this point in the draft, he might have the most upside of any player still on the board.
9. Wizards - PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky
The new leadership in Washington will have some major decisions to make regarding the future of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Should they ultimately decide it's best to move on, the Wizards could target one of the remaining guards that could play either spot, such as Indiana's Romeo Langford or Virginia Tech's Nickeil Alexander-Walker. But if they decide to hold onto their All-Star backcourt, PJ Washington is a good option as a stretch-4 that could thrive playing off of Wall and Beal. He played very well in Kentucky's final game of the season, a second round loss to Auburn in the NCAA tournament in which he finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds. He shot over 42% from the 3-point line, a massive improvement from his freshmen season in which he canned just 24% of his attempts from 3.
10. Hawks - Bol Bol, C, Oregon
The Hawks kept the pick that would have stayed with Dallas if it landed in the top-5 and now with a pair of lottery picks, the Hawks have the opportunity to assume some risk. If they opt for a wing with their first selection, don't be surprised if the Hawks go for a center to pair with John Collins with the second selection. Bol Bol would certainly be a risk and long-term project, but had a block rate at Oregon on par with the likes of Greg Oden and Anthony Davis, two former No. 1 overall picks and has even shown some ability to knock down outside shots (he hit 13-25 in his lone season). Jaxson Hayes out of Texas could be another option if Atlanta goes big.
11. Timberwolves - Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech
With Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Dario Saric and Robert Covington in place, the next young missing piece in Minnesota is at the point guard spot. Enter Alexander-Walker, the cousin of 2018 lottery pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who had a standout rookie season with the LA Clippers. At 6'5", he has elite size at the position and could be a tremendous pick-and-roll partner with Towns. Jeff Teague has one more year left on his current contract and is likely not the long-term solution at the point guard spot in Minnesota.
12. Hornets - Jackson Hayes, C, Texas
The biggest question mark in Charlotte is the status of franchise star Kemba Walker who is an unrestricted free agent and could leave in July. The Hornets could easily be making this pick without knowing whether their star point guard is staying or going. If they're confident about keeping Walker, the Hornets could look to go with Jaxson Hayes who showed tremendous potential as a rim protector in his one season at Texas. Though he may be a project and not exactly the type of player who would step in right away, Hayes offers intriguing upside that may be too difficult to pass up this late in the lottery.
Another player to watch here is Langford as shooting guard Jeremy Lamb is an unrestricted free agent.
13. Heat - Nassir Little, F, UNC
Little has all the physical tools to develop into a physically imposing two-way player. Though he never really put it all together in his one year with the Tar Heels, there were certainly moments when Little looked the part. He needs to be coached up and certainly improve as a ball handler and shooter, but if there's anyone who can mold that type of talent, it's Erik Spoelstra. Little could form quite an intriguing defensive trio with Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow.
Miami could also opt for a centre as Hassan Whiteside is entering the final year of his contract. Whiteside could opt out and become an unrestricted free agent though he's likely to opt in as his player option is for $27.1M.
14. Celtics (via Kings) - Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga
It's impossible to peg just what Boston will need as the roster is in a state of flux entering what's sure to be a wild offseason. Given the uncertainty of Marcus Morris (unrestricted free agent) and Al Horford (player option for next season), the Celtics could be in the market for a big with some stretch-4 potential. Hachimura was a late-bloomer, but averaged nearly 20 points per game last season as Gonzaga and could be a good fit from Day 1.
15. Pistons - Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
Though he may have disappointed somewhat as a shooter in his lone season in college, Indiana's Romeo Langford has great size for a guard and could follow in the footsteps of former Hoosier guards Victor Oladipo and Eric Gordon who both turned into very good NBA players. Detroit is a team that desperately needs more punch from its backcourt and Langford can play either backcourt spot which gives the Pistons additional flexibility moving forward.
16. Magic - KZ Okpala, G, Stanford
DJ Augustin held his own this past season but he'll be turning 32 this offseason and the Magic don't have much guard depth behind him. They sit on Markelle Fultz who could still pan out, but Okpala would be a great selection at this pick to give them even more insurance.
Okpala is an explosive, ball-dominant guard who can score for himself or work as a playmaker to get his teammates involved. His pace will work well alongside Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba, the young core of Orlando.
17. Nets - Sekou Doumbouya, F, International
The Nets have a solid core in place but could use some extra depth at forward. Doumbouya represents the new wave of forwards as someone who is 6'9 but can run the floor, step outside and knock down the 3 and slash to the rim.
It's also worth noting that the Nets have a ton of cap space and could look to trade this pick for potential assets to play around the players they are targeting in free agency.
18. Pacers - Keldon Johnson, F, Kentucky
Johnson is an athletic forward who can score from all three levels of the court. Without Victor Oladipo, it was clear to see the Pacers could use another score-first attitude on their roster and Johnson would fit that bill.
He can play shooting guard or small forward, giving the Pacers some flexibility in finding a spot for him in the lineup around their core group of Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.
19. Spurs - Brandon Clarke, F, Gonzaga
Over the past few years, the Spurs have targeted guards in the first round in preparation of filling the voids left behind from future Hall of Famers Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Now that they have their guard situation figured out, Clarke makes the most sense to fill out their front court. He's a fantastic defender and can guard multiple positions. His skillset is that of a more traditional big man with great shot blocking ability, touch around the rim and a good eye for passing lanes.
20. Celtics (via Clippers) - Kevin Porter Jr., G, USC
The Celtics have three picks in the first round and it's more likely that they make a trade than keep all three, but Porter Jr. makes the most sense at this pick.
With the uncertainty of their backcourt, Porter Jr. would provide the Celtics with another scorer from the guard position off the bench. He's great in transition, gets going downhill fast and uses his strength and athleticism to finish at the rim.
He's great at creating his own shot, can score from all over the floor and has the potential to be a great defender with his 6'6, 220-pound frame when he chooses to lock in on the defensive end.
21. Thunder - Tyler Herro, G, Kentucky
If Herro could fall to the Thunder, this could end up being the steal of the draft.
Herro has the size to play shooting guard in the league at 6'5 and would give the Thunder something they've been missing for years now - a pure shooter.
He only shot 35.5% from beyond the arc in his one season at Kentucky, but his shooting stroke is a thing of beauty and his role would allow him to mainly focus on his perimeter shooting. He's accustomed to running off multiple screens to shake defenders and has a quick release to get his shot off in a timely manner.
Herro also shot 93.5% from the free throw line this past season and has sneaky athleticism.
22. Celtics - Bruno Fernando, F, Maryland
Again, the Celtics will probably trade one of their three first round picks but if they do use this selection, Fernando would be a great pick to boost the Celtics' defensive front court.
Fernando was a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten, but had to settle for First Team All-Defence. He's a freak athlete with good touch around the rim and is a great passer out of the post.
23. Jazz - Cameron Johnson, F, North Carolina
Johnson would be a great addition for any playoff team in need of immediate assistance off the bench, making the Jazz a great spot for him.
He's already 23 years old as a graduate student at UNC, which plays a big part in how he could fall in the draft. He can shoot, has a high basketball IQ and would add a wing scorer to Utah's second unit.
24. 76ers - Mfiondu Kabengele, C, Florida State
The 76ers will need some backup for All-Star Centre Joel Embiid and Kabengele seems like their guy.
At 6'10 with a 7'3 wingspan, Kabengele has the length to be a good defender in the NBA. He hustles on the glass, blocks shots on the defensive end and led Florida State in scoring last season. His performance at the NCAA Tournament, averaging 21.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks through the first two games, caught the eye of many NBA scouts.
25. Trail Blazers - Grant Williams, F, Tennessee
Williams' body and dimensions don't scream 'NBA prospect' but the kid has a motor and is an extremely hard worker. The back-to-back SEC Player of the Year is a good defender, terrific rebounder and made strides in his game this past season to adapt to the next level.
He shot more from the perimeter, taking more 3's and mid-range pull-ups, and uses his strength to battle inside for easy buckets. The Trail Blazers have made players just like Williams work in their rotation before.
26. Cavaliers (via Rockets) - Jordan Nwora, F, Louisville
Nwora took a huge jump from his freshman year this past season, going from 5.7 points per game to 17.0 points per game.
Nwora is a true scorer and he's smooth in doing so. He has a number of different ways to get a bucket with a variety of pull-ups, floaters and different ways to attack the rim.
27. Nets (via Nuggets) - Matisse Thybulle, F, Washington
Thybulle would add wing depth to a Nets' squad that could benefit from his defensive presence.
Thybulle was the 2018-19 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, an honour given to the NCAA's best defender. He was also the back-to-back Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year and is the conference's all-time leader in steals.
He finished atop the conference in steals the past two seasons and led the entire NCAA in total steals this past season. His 7'1 wingspan and defensive prowess makes him a legitimate 1-through-4 defender in the league.
28. Warriors - Ty Jerome, G, Virginia
Jerome is a leader and a winner and would be a great back-up floor general to Stephen Curry.
He controls the tempo of the game and is a great decision maker. He can shoot it from beyond the arc but is also good off the dribble, attacking the rim and kicking out to open teammates. At 6'5 he'll be a big point guard in the NBA.
29. Spurs (via Raptors) - Goga Bitadze, C, International
Bitadze can space the floor as a centre who can shoot from 3. He's not said to be a great defender but is crafty on the offensive end and seems like the type of project that head coach Gregg Popovich could flourish with.
30. Bucks - Lugentz Dort, G, Arizona State
Dort is a pitbull just like the Bucks' starting point guard Eric Bledsoe. He's extremely athletic, has a quick first step and attacks the rim with aggression. His perimeter shot could use some work but Dort would make sense here, giving the young guard a chance to learn under a veteran that plays just like him.
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