JUST like that, we are into the final week of the NBA season. For half the league, the next seven days and 3-4 games will be the last action they see until next October and as the NBA continues to evolve into a 12 month a year sport, a large majority of fans will be looking ahead to the free agency frenzy and another action-packed NBA Draft. With so much fluctuation still ahead before draft night on the 20th of June, I’m only currently projecting the NBA lottery picks, but nonetheless, it’s time to get the mock draft machine churning!
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Pick #1 New York Knicks – Zion Williamson, PF, Duke
MULTIPLE NBA scouts/coaches/fans/pundits/players think that Zion Williamson is the greatest collegiate prospect of all time and if he doesn’t end up a Cav then I’d happily let Zion run amok in NYC. Taking him first overall is a must. End of discussion.
Pick #2 Phoenix Suns – Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
JA Morant’s skill set would translate well to Phoenix’s current core. They’ve got their go-to scorer in Devin Booker, their big man, who improves defensively with every month in DeAndre Ayton, and their athletic wings who can defend and shoot (kind of) in Josh Jackson and Kelly Oubre Jr. Morant showed how he can excel without taking a lot of shots in the tournament and could be the final piece of the puzzle.
Pick #3 Cleveland Cavaliers – RJ Barrett, SF, Duke
SHOULD Williamson and Morant go in the first two picks as expected, then whoever picks third will almost certainly take RJ Barrett. Personally, I’m a big fan of Barrett, who undoubtedly has kinks in his game, however, they aren’t enough concerns for him to fall out of the top-5, worst case scenario. If he is able to develop his jumper at the next level Barrett has true superstar potential.
Pick #4 Chicago Bulls – Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
YOU could argue that Culver has improved his stock more than any other player this season. The Red Raiders sophomore is averaging a shade under 19 points a game for his Final Four bound squad and a few more eye-catching performances could see him enter serious consideration for the Bulls at No. 4.
Image from sportsday.dallasnews.com
Pick #5 Atlanta Hawks – De’Andre Hunter, SG, Virginia
HUNTER doesn’t need to be a home run selection for the Hawks, with a potential second selection inside the top-10 thanks to a draft day trade a year ago. The Virginia wing brings his elite defensive talents to the table, which could be a great asset for the Hawks’ future.
Pick #6 Memphis Grizzlies – Cam Reddish, SF, Duke
ONE of the biggest enigma’s in this draft continues to be Cam Reddish. He didn’t exactly thrive as the third member of Duke’s freshman trio, but history suggests that someone always misses out in a ‘Big-3’ grouping. There’s still every chance Reddish can be an All-Star in the NBA, but there’s also every chance he’s the next Ben McLemore. Memphis can afford to take a chance on him becoming Paul George.
Pick #7 Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas Mavericks) – Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
MUCH like Mo Bamba the year before him, Jaxson Hayes’ play has him in top-10 contention. It might be a bit early for the raw product to be taken off the board, but the Hawks will eventually need an answer in the middle and Hayes could develop into that player. He boasts tremendous size and length and given Atlanta’s timeline, they can afford to spend an early pick in case Hayes lives up to the hype.
Pick #8 New Orleans Pelicans – Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga
I’LL be honest I hadn’t heard a lot about Brandon Clarke before the last few weeks. However, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t balling out under the radar and after a stellar tourney showing his stock is definitely on the rise. Clarke has as many missed field goals as blocked shots this season and he could be an elite small-ball center if his jumper can evolve at the next level. Given the fact that NOLA could have a gaping hole at center soon, Clarke would be a nice addition.
Pick #9 Washington Wizards – Sekou Doumbouya, PF, Limoges CSP (France)
VERSATILE forward Sekou Doumbouya isn’t a name a lot of fans would have heard before. The Guinean-born youngster playing in France has shown flashes of promise and will get minutes early in his career for his defensive talents. There are some concerns over his effort level, so he’ll fit in perfectly in Washington.
Pick #10 Los Angeles Lakers – Coby White, PG, North Carolina
RAJON Rondo isn’t getting any younger and Lonzo Ball’s health is questionable at best. LA might opt to address a different position, but Coby White enhanced his draft status over his final days as a Tar Heel with his ability to score the rock. You would think a ball-dominant scorer won’t work on a LeBron-led team, but the 2016 Cavs might disagree.
Pick #11 Minnesota Timberwolves – Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga
RUI was in the mix for a top-5 selection earlier in the season and there are still questions over if he’ll declare or not. Having just played his junior season, you’d think going back to college won’t translate to much more of a rise up draft boards though. Hachimura does possess a lot of skills that should translate to the pros and selecting him would add some solid depth to the T-Wolves frontcourt.
Pick #12 Charlotte Hornets – Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
IF Kemba Walker is really considering leaving, then Darius Garland could be a perfect pick for the Hornets. Walker’s departure would leave them very bare in the talent department and with Garland coming off a long-term injury, giving him time to work back to health as Charlotte tanks for 2020 could work for both parties.
Image from tennessean.com
Pick #13 Miami Heat – Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
THINGS didn’t go to plan for Indiana or Romeo Langford this season, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have an impact in the NBA. He has all the tools and build to be a decent wing at the next level, but needs to work on his consistency, especially in his sketchy jump shot if he is going to pan out in Miami.
Pick #14 Boston Celtics (via Sacramento Kings) – Bol Bol, C, Oregon
I get it, there are clear warning signs against drafting someone like Bol Bol. After playing in just nine games for the Ducks due to a foot injury, Bol continues to slide down mock drafts based on his perceived fragile frame. Given the fact that Danny Ainge and Boston could hold up to four first-round selections this year, I think they can afford to take a punt on Bol Bol panning out as a rim protector with good shooting range.