With the NBA draft approaching on June 20, there isn’t much movement inside the top 10. The main question is whether the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers are actually going to keep their high picks or try to package them in a trade for big-name players.
The top three spots have been locked in since March with Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett, but Nos. 4-24 are where things get interesting.
Following the combine, workouts and meetings with teams, the biggest movement in the draft is occurring at the bottom half of the first round. Here’s a look at the players who are ascending and descending leading up to the big night.
1. New Orleans Pelicans
F Zion Williamson, Duke, 6-8, 280
With reports of the Pelicans entertaining trade pitches for Anthony Davis, it appears the franchise is all in on Williamson being the face of the future. There is a chance a player such as RJ Barrett or De’Andre Hunter could be playing alongside Williamson next season if the Davis deal goes down. Either way, the Pelicans will be must-see TV with Williamson.
2. Memphis Grizzlies
PG Ja Morant, Murray State, 6-3, 175
Morant has had a busy couple of months. He recently signed a shoe deal with Nike and earlier this month underwent a minor arthroscopic procedure on his right knee and is expected to fully recover in three-to-four weeks. Although Morant is still likely a lock at No. 2, the Grizzlies have invited Barrett for a private workout but he has declined the offer.
3. New York Knicks
SG R.J. Barrett, Duke, 6-7, 203
Talks are heating up about the Knicks’ plan at No. 3 and whether they’ll draft Barrett, trade down, or package him in a deal for some star power. Regardless, Barrett’s future is as bright with his size, competitive edge and playmaking ability in the lane. Don’t forget that he reclassified to play at Duke a year early, so in reality he should be a graduating senior in high school.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
F De’Andre Hunter, Virginia, 6-7, 225
Hunter is the best option for the Lakers, even if they choose to package him in a trade. He shot 52 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from 3-point range in a competitive ACC conference and led his team to a national title.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
SG Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech, 6-6, 195
Jarrett Culver is a streaky shooter from behind the arc but his shot mechanics are there. With his size and length, Culver eventually could be a solid player alongside Collin Sexton. New head coach John Beilein is familiar with Culver’s game after facing Texas Tech in the NCAA tournament. Culver had 22 points in the 63-44 win against Michigan.
6. Phoenix Suns
PG Darius Garland, Vanderbilt, 6-2, 175
The Suns need a point guard, and Garland should be a good fit for Phoenix’s young talented group. Garland only played five collegiate basketball games before suffering a season-ending knee injury, but his draft stock hasn’t wavered. Garland is a true floor general who is a good passer, super quick in the lane and a solid defender. He might just be the missing piece alongside Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.
7. Chicago Bulls
G Coby White, North Carolina, 6-5, 185
White is the best shooting point guard in the draft, and the Bulls desperately need a point guard. White made 82 threes this past season at North Carolina while averaging 16 points per game. White can fit any system with his patience in a halfcourt set and his shooter’s mentality.
8. Atlanta Hawks
SF Cameron Reddish, Duke, 6-7, 215
If Reddish finds his 3-point stroke again, he and Trae Young could form a dangerous duo in Atlanta. Both players are familiar with one another after playing together at multiple USA Basketball training camps in high school, so they’re already comfortable with each other’s games. Reddish struggled from behind the arc at Duke, but his workouts have been solid and teams seem to be coming around on the lengthy wing.
9. Washington Wizards
SF Nassir Little, North Carolina, 6-6, 220
Little’s minutes were limited at North Carolina, but he is a very talented prospect. Little was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game (that featured Barrett and Zion) and is a pure athlete. His motor and strength are undeniable, making Little tough to pass up.
10. Atlanta Hawks
C Jaxon Hayes, Texas, 6-11, 220
Hayes is a raw, talented player who will be a project. His ceiling is high, and with added experience and the chance to learn under coach Lloyd Pierce, he could be an impactful center two or three years down the road.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves
F Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga, 6-8, 235
Hachimura embodies the term “positionless basketball.” He’s a hybrid small forward/power forward who defends the perimeter well. Hachimura is a student of the game and will grow tremendously playing alongside Karl-Anthony Towns.
12. Charlotte Hornets
PF PJ Washington, Kentucky, 6-8, 235
Washington could have been a late second-round pick last year but elected to return to Kentucky to work on his game, and that paid off. Washington is a bully in the lane, good on defense and has a nice touch from 3-point range for a big. He’ll need to get stronger to face the East’s best big men.
13. Miami Heat
PF Sekou Doumbouya, Limoges France, 6-9, 230
At only 18 years old, Doumbouya should have a long, promising career in front of him. He’s recovering from a recent torn ligament in his thumb, but his potential is immense. He can defend multiple positions with his length and should be a nice frontcourt addition alongside Bam Adebayo.
14. Boston Celtics
SG Tyler Herro, Kentucky, 6-5, 194
This could be the spot for the sharpshooter out of Kentucky after reports of Herro impressing the Celtics. Although Herro struggled in his one year at Kentucky, shooting 35.5 percent from the three, he reportedly made 80 out of 100 threes to end his workout with Boston.
15. Detroit Pistons
SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Virginia Tech, 6-5, 205
A versatile guard who had to play the point and the two at Virginia Tech, Alexander-Walker has the potential to be a solid contributor. He can shoot the three, and with his speed he can flourish in Dwane Casey’s offense. There are reports that Alexander-Walker will work out for the Pistons before the draft.
16. Orlando Magic
C Bruno Fernando, Maryland, 6-10, 240
Fernando has an NBA body and has been impressing multiple teams in his predraft workouts. The center from Angola could be an instant impact player and a solid contributor with Mo Bamba and Aaron Gordon.
17. Atlanta Hawks (trade from Brooklyn Nets)
SF Keldon Johnson, Kentucky, 6-6, 215
The Hawks could get a handful of players in this draft class who could be solid complementary pieces to Trae Young. Johnson is a standard wing who can slide down and play the two. He can knock down the three and is explosive in transition.
18. Indiana Pacers
SG Romeo Langford, Indiana, 6-6, 210
Langford grew up in New Albany, Indiana, attended Indiana University for one year and would be a true home-grown story for the Pacers. Langford met with the Pacers at the combine, but because of a cast on his hand (torn ligament in his right thumb), he hasn’t been able to work out for any teams. Langford could drop out of the lottery because of his quiet demeanor, which sometimes comes across as passive or uninterested in games.
19. San Antonio Spurs
SF Kevin Porter Jr., USC, 6-5, 220
Kevin Porter didn’t exactly shine in his one year at USC, averaging 9.5 points per game. There were also a few red flags he had to address during the predraft process (injuries and a brief team suspension), but it’s hard to imagine him slipping out of the first round. He can get his shot from anywhere on the court and has hints of James Harden in his game.
20. Boston Celtics
C Bol Bol, Oregon, 7-2, 235
The son of Manute Bol has extreme upside with his size and natural talent, but will be a project for any team. There are a few questions causing him to fall in the draft because of chronic foot injuries and a lack of passion for the game at times. The Celtics will have time to be patient with Bol as he develops. He’s already an elite rim protector and can knock it down from deep.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder
SF Cameron Johnson, North Carolina, 6-8, 210
Johnson is one of the best (if not the best) shooters in the draft. At 23 years old, he’s experienced and knows how to switch his game to get the most out of his time on the court. Johnson could get some solid minutes right away on a Thunder team that needs some consistent outside shooting.
22. Boston Celtics
SF Talen Horton-Tucker, Iowa State, 6-4, 230
Horton-Tucker is a hybrid guard/forward with size and shiftiness. His shot-making ability off the dribble makes him a true threat in the lane. There are reports that Horton-Tucker has worked out with the Celtics, Thunder and Pacers, but it’s hard to see him slipping past the Celtics at 22.
23. Utah Jazz
PF Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga, 6-8, 215
From an unranked high school prospect to San Jose State to Gonzaga to the draft, Clarke’s transformation to an NBA prospect has been impressive. A solid forward in the pick-and-roll, he could complement Donovan Mitchell in Utah.
24. Philadelphia 76ers
SF Matisse Thybulle, Washington, 6-6, 200
Thybulle was the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year two years in a row and was first-team All-Pac-12. He could be one of the most complete players in the draft. The only reason he’ll fall this far is because Washington only played zone defense, and there are questions about whether Thybulle can play man-to-man (he can). Thybulle should be a great defensive asset coming off the bench alongside Zhaire Smith.
25. Portland Trail Blazers
C Goga Bitadze, Buducnost VOLI (EuroLeague), 6-11, 245
The Trail Blazers drafted two guards last year in Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. With Damian Lillard, Seth Curry and C.J. McCollum in the backcourt, there’s a need in the frontcourt behind Enes Kanter and Zach Collins. Bitadze can be that addition with his size and ability to spread the floor, which would be ideal for an uptempo Trail Blazers team.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers
PG Ty Jerome, Virginia, 6-5, 200
Jeromehas worked out for a ton of teams leading up to the draft, all but solidifying his spot as a first-round pick. Jerome has a high basketball IQ, is a solid perimeter shooter and has the makings of a role player who does all the small things well.
27. Brooklyn Nets
SF KZ Okpala, Stanford, 6-8, 195
The sophomore is the first Stanford player to leave for the NBA draft before his junior year since Brook and Robin Lopez in 2010. He was a Pac-12 first-teamer after averaging 16.8 points per game. Okpala is a perimeter threat with a great first step who can finish at the rim. He also has an improved shot from 3-point range.
28. Golden State Warriors
SG Luguentz Dort, Arizona State, 6-4, 215
ASU fans were upset to see Dort declare for the draft after playing just one year for the Sun Devils. Dort has worked out for numerous teams, yet the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year would be a nice addition to the Warriors’ depth.
29. San Antonio Spurs
PF Grant Williams, Tennessee, 6-7, 220
An undersized power forward, Williams is a beast on the block with a solid midrange game. He’ll need to work on taking defenders off the dribble and defending the perimeter, but who better to learn from than coach Gregg Popovich?
30. Milwaukee Bucks
PG Carsen Edwards, Purdue, 6-0, 200
Edwards hit his stride in the tournament and showed what kind of shooter he could be by dropping 42 points against both Tennessee and Virginia, two tough, defensive-minded teams. With his speed and sharpshooting, he could be a great backup addition to the Bucks.
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