There won’t be much drama at the top of the NBA draft on June 20 because Duke’s Zion Williamson is basically a lock to go No. 1 overall.
That means all the drama is reserved for Tuesday’s draft lottery, when we find out which team will officially win the Zion sweepstakes.
With the draft being so top-heavy, we’re taking a deep dive into the lottery picks, who do offer some value and intriguing talent.
1. New York Knicks
F Zion Williamson, Duke, 6-8, 280
Williamson is a once-in-a-generation-type of talent. His athleticism, motor, dunking ability and passion for the game could translate to a transcendental career. Williamson won almost every collegiate postseason award, including the Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy and AP Player of the Year. Critics question his height and heavy frame, and how his game will translate to the NBA. But he’ll bring some much needed excitement to a suffering Knicks team, and I can’t think of anything better than a Dennis Smith Jr.-Williamson fastbreak.
College coach scouting notes: “He's really hard to scout and defend because of his elite athetitcsm. His presence in the lane is tough to get around and he’s a really good shotblocker and rebounder. Zion’s doing things in the game I've never seen a player do before. His energy and the way he plays the game of basketball will be a lot of fun to watch at the next level.” — ACC assistant coach
2. Phoenix Suns
PG Ja Morant, Murray State, 6-3, 175
Morant’s story from overlooked high school recruit to No. 2 overall draft pick would be one of the best stories of the college basketball season. Morant single-handedly annihilated a seasoned Marquette team in the NCAA tournament (17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds), showing fans and NBA scouts what a “point god” looks like. He is the best passing point guard in this draft class, and several college coaches said he’ll be an excellent NBA playmaker. The Suns are a point guard away from being a promising team, and Morant is an ideal fit alongside Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Josh Jackson and Kelly Oubre.
College coach scouting notes: “He is an elite guard that plays at a high level every time he hits the court. He’s got the makeup in his game similar to De’Aaron Fox and John Wall. It’s one thing to see his court vision and the way he plays on film, but when you see it in person, he’s on another level. He is the best passing guard I’ve seen in awhile. I think he’ll have the easiest job out of all the guards in this draft class transitioning to the NBA level since his overall game is already compatible with today’s NBA point guard.” — ACC assistant coach
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
SG RJ Barrett, Duke, 6-7, 202
Barrett had an incredible year in the shadow of teammate Zion Williamson. He broke the freshman scoring record at Duke, averaging 22.6 points per game. Barrett is a super competitive, score-first guard who defends well on the perimeter. Collin Sexton and Barrett are two very intense players on the court, and it will be interesting to see if they can co-exist in Cleveland.
College coach scouting notes: “RJ is a strong left-handed driver. He's a bully in the lane trying to get to the left hand as much as possible. He’ll need to work on his range behind the arc, but because of his competitive nature he’ll be an instant positive contribution to any NBA team.” — ACC assistant coach.
4. Chicago Bulls
F De’Andre Hunter, Virginia, 6-7, 225
Do the Bulls need a point guard? Yes. Is this a strong point guard year outside of Morant? No. That strong point guard class is coming next year with Anthony Edwards, RJ Hampton, Cole Anthony and a few others. The Bulls need to take the sure thing with Hunter. He’s an elite defensive player and can hit big shots in tight situations. Hunter had a dominant second-half performance in the national title game and finished with 27 points and nine rebounds. Hunter and Wendell Carter Jr. could be the defensive charge the Bulls need next year.
College coach scouting notes: “De’Andre is a really good player. I love his game. He has the potential to be a great defensive player at the next level. He can guard multiple positions and does a little bit of everything on the offensive end. He’s like a Swiss Army Knife-type player.” — ACC associate head coach
5. Atlanta Hawks
SG Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech, 6-6, 195
It's clear that Trae Young is the future of the franchise, and Culver could be the perfect addition to Young's fast-paced game. Culver is a seasoned wing who helped Texas Tech to the Elite Eight his freshman year and the national championship game this past year. He has a quick first step, and because of his size, he can shoot over longer defenders from behind the arc and with a one-two pull-up in the lane.
College coach scouting notes: “He’s a good player and can score from multiple spots on the floor. What I remember most about his game is he’s quick off the dribble — he can go either way — but likes the left more and is a good passer in transition. Culver’s a little bit of a streaky shooter, and he’ll have to work on that to progress his game.” — Big 12 assistant coach
6. Washington Wizards
G/F Cameron Reddish, Duke, 6-7, 215
With good size and a 7-1 wingspan, it’s hard to pass on the upside of the Duke wing. Although Reddish’s shooting was streaky during his one year in Durham, his shot mechanics are there and can easily improve at the next level. Because of his length and quickness, he can defend ones, twos and threes, and if he lives up to his potential, he could be Jayson Tatum-like alongside Bradley Beal in Washington.
College coach scouting notes: “It’s hard to be option three on the court when you’re playing alongside Zion [Williamson] and RJ [Barrett]. Cam was always a threat when scouting him. I know the type of player he can be after watching him as a high school prospect. It’s very reminiscent of Jayson Tatum’s year at Duke where everything was about Grayson Allen. In the right system, Tatum’s doing well at the next level. I think Cam can come in and be the same kind of player like Jayson is after a couple gap years in the NBA. There are a lot of similarities in their games.” — ACC assistant coach
7. New Orleans Pelicans
F Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga, 6-8, 235
Hachimura is a hybrid forward who can be molded into a great player at the next level. Being a junior and on the older side will help with the pace adjustment in the NBA. The Pelicans could part with Anthony Davis during the offseason and will have the time to be patient with the young international prospect as he learns and develops with New Orleans’ new regime under David Griffin.
College coach scouting notes: “He's one of those guys who truly is a positionless basketball player. When looking at film there’s a lot of questions about his game because he does a bunch of little things that are really good. He can guard multiple positions, he’s very versatile on offense and active in and around the basket. At 6-8, 230 pounds, he’s not a true NBA five or a stretch four. He’s just a really good basketball player.” — Pac 12 assistant coach
8. Memphis Grizzlies
G Coby White, North Carolina, 6-5, 185
Mike Conley can’t play forever — or could be on the move — and White might be the ideal young point guard to invest in. His shooting is undeniable, and he backed it up during his one year at North Carolina, hitting 82 threes on 36 percent shooting. It would be something to see White and Jaren Jackson play together, with Jackson’s pick-and-pop game and White’s shooting.
College coach scouting notes: “I really like his game. He can get to different places on the floor and is a volume shooter at the point-guard position. When he’s on, he’s on and can’t miss. Coby does a great job getting to the paint and making the right play in a halfcourt set.” — SEC assistant coach
9. Atlanta Hawks
C Jaxon Hayes, Texas, 6-11, 220
As a junior in high school, Hayes played only six minutes per game as a varsity basketball player and was focused on football as a wide receiver. Thanks to a growth spurt before his senior year, he’s grown into a raw, talented player. Hayes will most likely be a project for any NBA team, but the ceiling is high for the lengthy center.
College coach scouting notes: “Jaxon is athletic and bouncy and runs the floor really well for a center. He blocks shots and is raw offensively. He needs to get a little tougher, but there’s no mistaking that he’s a world-class talent. When we were scouting his game, we noticed he scores off lobs and always slips ball screens. He’s an excellent rim protector too. It’ll be fun to see how his game develops with time at the NBA level.” — Big 12 associate head coach
10. Minnesota Timberwolves
PG Darius Garland, Vanderbilt, 6-2, 175
Garland played only five games this past season because of a season-ending knee injury, but NBA scouts liked what they saw in those few games and his high school career. Garland is a true floor general who is an excellent passer with great vision in transition and when driving the lane. There are some questions because of his small college sample size that he will hopefully answer during predraft workouts.
College coach scouting notes: “He’s so patient on offense and is so explosive when he wants to be. Our biggest challenge was staying in front of him on defense and stopping the ball in transition. He shot the three well against us and it would have been interesting to see his game progress and develop over this year without the injury. To me, he’s a big question mark at the next level. I haven’t seen him play enough yet, but he has the tools to be a great NBA point guard.” — Pac-12 assistant coach
11. Los Angeles Lakers
PF PJ Washington, Kentucky, 6-8, 235
Washington was one of the most improved players who tested the waters last year but decided to return for a second season. He dominated the low post in the SEC and saw his draft stock start to rise late in the season. The Lakers are in need of a strong forward/center who can help on the defensive end and protect the rim, and his toughness should help.
College coach scouting notes: “PJ is so strong. He’s a beast. He knows how to score and he shot the ball better this season compared to last year. He was way more aggressive offensively and a hell of a rebounder. He likes to drive right and scores on the elbow when flashing in the zone. I know he didn't take a lot of threes but has a good touch for a big guy.” — SEC head coach
12. Charlotte Hornets
F Nassir Little, North Carolina, 6-6, 220
During the McDonald’s All-American game, Little looked like a slight combination of Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. But once the college season started, Little couldn’t quite find his rhythm in coach Roy Williams’ system. His athleticism will translate to the next level and there will be excitement for fans who get to watch him in Charlotte.
College coach scouting notes: “Nassir is an elite, raw talent. I know he got lost in the shuffle a little bit at UNC with Luke Maye and Cam Johnson. He has the skill set to see a good number of minutes four or five years down the road.” — ACC assistant coach
13. Miami Heat
SG Romeo Langford, Indiana, 6-6, 210
As an elite high school prospect, Langford was one of those players who would quietly drop 30 points by just making really good decisions on offense and being the most disciplined and fundamentally sound player on the floor. He’s not flashy and shows little emotion, but he gets the job done. With the retirement of Dwyane Wade and a hole at shooting guard, Langford is the perfect fit to come in and be productive on offense right away.
College coach scouting notes: “Romeo is a great scorer and more of a volume guy [shooting-wise] at the guard position. He has a very non-emotional approach to the game and as a coach sometimes it’s frustrating because you can’t tell if he’s in it or not. He was a much better 3-point shooter in high school and hopefully … we’ll see that part of his game thrive again in the NBA.” — Big 12 assistant coach
14. Boston Celtics
SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Virginia Tech, 6-5, 205
The way coach Buzz Williams helped develop Alexander-Walker as a playmaker this past season was phenomenal. The combo guard had to play some point this year because teammate Justin Robinson went down with an injury and missed a chunk of the season. Alexander-Walker became the go-to guy with the shot clock winding down and proved he could make tough shots. He’s a smooth shooter and would be a great perimeter addition in Boston.
College coach scouting notes: “I saw his growth in the two years he was at Virginia Tech. He was able to explore his first year and execute his second year. His confidence grew and so did his ability to make one-on-one plays off the dribble. He’s going to play both ends of the floor with his size and length and has a lot of patience to get to the paint and finish over big guys.” — ACC assistant coach
15. Detroit Pistons
G/F Kevin Porter Jr., USC, 6-5, 220
16. Orlando Magic
PG Carsen Edwards, Purdue, 6-0, 200
17. Brooklyn Nets
C Bol Bol, Oregon, 7-2, 235
18. Indiana Pacers
F Sekou Doumbouya, Limoges France, 6-9, 230
19. San Antonio Spurs
PF Grant Williams, Tennessee, 6-7, 220
20. Boston Celtics
PF Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga, 6-8, 215
21. Oklahoma City Thunder
SF Cameron Johnson, North Carolina, 6-8, 210
22. Boston Celtics
C Naz Reid, LSU, 6-10, 250
23. Utah Jazz
G/F Keldon Johnson, Kentucky, 6-6, 215
24. Philadelphia 76ers
G/F Matisse Thybulle, Washington, 6-6, 200
25. Portland Trail Blazers
C Mfiondu Kabengele, Florida State, 6-10, 250
26. Cleveland Cavaliers
G Talen Horton-Tucker, Iowa State, 6-4, 230
27. Brooklyn Nets
G/F KZ Okpala, Stanford, 6-8, 195
28. Golden State Warriors
G Tyler Herro, Kentucky, 6-5, 195
29. San Antonio Spurs
G Ty Jerome, Virginia, 6-5, 200
30. Milwaukee Bucks
PF/C Daniel Gafford, Arkansas, 6-10, 230
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