With the college basketball season finished, the draft order announced, and the NBA Finals fully underway, it is finally time to shift focus to the draft in June. After a multitude of changes over the past few months, franchises will decide who will be a major part of their respective futures. Here are my potential lottery selections for the 2019 NBA Draft:
1. Zion Williamson (F/C – Duke) → New Orleans Pelicans
The most coveted young prospect to come into the league since Lebron James, Zion Williamson is a truly unique player with unprecedented talent. His freakish athletic ability, paired with a 6’7’’, 280-pound makes him nearly unstoppable in transition. Williamson has exhibited an incredible desire and work ethic to be the best player at the next level. Without a doubt, he will have the keys the Pelicans future, with the hope that he develops into the perennial superstar that New Orleans will need in order to turn the franchise around, especially since many expect that Anthony Davis will leave the team via trade or free agency. The Duke product lacks a consistent jump shot but should have a chance to develop that into his game in the coming years. Averaging 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per contest while shooting an astounding 67% from the field during his freshman year, the reigning College Player of the Year has an opportunity to take the NBA by storm and bring New Orleans back to relevance.
2. Ja Morant (PG – Murray State) → Memphis Grizzlies
Morant has placed himself in the conversation as one of the premier talents in this year’s upcoming draft class. With an incredible NCAA tournament and an even better regular season at Murray State where he averaged 24.5 points, 10.0 assists and 5.7 rebounds a night while shooting 50% from the field and 36% from three, Morant has shown that he can be an excellent floor general, while still being able to score in key situations. His above-the-rim style of play will bring energy to a Memphis offense that needs a spark to pair with promising young forward Jaren Jackson Jr. Morant’s lethal combination of speed, passing ability, and versatile scoring will allow him to play a significant role on a rebuilding Grizzlies team, and replace the aging Mike Conley.
3. R.J. Barrett (G/F – Duke) → New York Knicks
Barrett is an elite athlete who can make an immediate impact in the NBA. It is quite possible that the Knicks are receiving a bargain by drafting Barrett at the third spot, who was projected to go 1st overall before the season started. During his freshman year at Duke, he averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists, displaying an excellent ability to grab defensive boards and space the floor. However, struggles from three-point range (31% from distance) and at the free-throw line (67%) are a bit concerning. Being the huge market that New York is, adding the Duke freshman will only attract more big-name free agents who want to join the young Knicks core in hopes of bringing a Larry O’Brien Trophy back to the metropolitan area.
4. Deandre Hunter (F – Virginia) → Los Angeles Lakers
Being the best player on Virginia’s 2019 NCAA Championship team, Hunter has all of the makings to immediately becoming a two-way threat in the NBA. The reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year will step in and help any team on the defensive end, but his potential will depend on how he develops his offensive game. Averaging 15.2 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 44% in his last season in college, the Cavalier product has an incredibly high floor, making him a safe choice for immediate production while the Lakers try to contend during Lebron James’ final years of his prime.
5. Jarrett Culver (SG – Texas Tech) → Cleveland Cavaliers
Culver has risen tremendously on all NBA Draft boards over this past college basketball season. Leading Texas Tech to a national championship loss only improves his prospects, as the Red Raiders product gave scouts an even greater look at his all-around game throughout March Madness. Averaging 18.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest during his sophomore campaign, Culver displayed terrific offensive ability and solid skills on the defensive end. Culver will have plenty of room to grow on a rebuilding Cleveland team, with an all-around game that should translate well to the NBA. However, the Big-12 Player of the Year lacks a consistent three-point shot (30% from distance) and will need to improve from deep in order to flourish in the league.
6. Darius Garland (PG – Vanderbilt) → Phoenix Suns
One of the most intriguing prospects in this upcoming draft class, Garland only played five games before tearing his meniscus against Kent State. However, in those five games, the Vanderbilt product averaged 16.2 points while shooting 48% from three. The #1 point guard from the Class of 2018, Garland displayed incredible speed and playmaking ability before going down with an injury and will have an opportunity to prove himself in the NBA and form a lethal tandem with long-range deadeye Devin Booker in Phoenix. The Suns have continually been at the bottom of the league over the past few seasons, but with the addition of Garland, they just might be able to look upwards, with budding young talent in Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges.
7. Coby White (G – North Carolina) → Chicago Bulls
A combo-guard who can score from anywhere on the court, Coby White has the ability to electrify an offense and make everyone around him better. In his one year under Roy Williams at the University of North Carolina, White averaged 16.1 points and 4.1 assists, shooting a very solid 35% from distance. With the ability to play at the one or the two, the 19-year-old will give Bulls head coach Jim Boylen plenty of options of incorporating him into the offense. Chicago, with the addition of White, will have an excellent young core with the likes of Zach Lavine and Wendell Carter Jr.
8. Cam Reddish (SG/SF – Duke) → Atlanta Hawks
One of the more underwhelming performers in college basketball last season, Cam Reddish struggled to be a consistent contributor on a wildly successful Blue Devils team. Taking somewhat of a backseat to star teammates R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson at Duke, Reddish only showed glimpses of his potential in college. However, this may have been enough, as the Duke product’s length and raw ability leaves plenty of room for growth and development. Adding a young wing in Reddish would be a perfect fit for an Atlanta team that is building for the future and is missing a major presence on the wings. He has the size and talent to become star scorer alongside Trae Young and has decent playmaking skills, averaging 13.5 points and 3.7 rebounds, while only shooting 36% from the field. Questions remain about his effort and consistency, however, which seemed to be an issue at the end of the season.
9. Nassir Little (SF – North Carolina) → Washington Wizards
After a disappointing freshman season at the University of North Carolina in which he played less than 20 minutes a night, averaging 9.8 points and 3.6 rebounds, Little’s draft stock greatly diminished. Nevertheless, the 19-year-old has the size and quickness to play several positions but is an extremely raw talent who needs to improve shooting, after nailing only 26.9% of his threes. Although these numbers are anything but eye-popping, the freshman’s star potential is there, and Little, standing at 6’7” and 220 pounds, has extraordinary athleticism and has shown flashes of brilliance on both ends of the court. The Wizards are leaning towards a rebuild, which will allow the UNC product plenty of time to develop in the NBA and become the player that was so highly-touted coming out of high school.
10. Bol Bol (C – Oregon) → Atlanta Hawks
The son of one of the tallest players in NBA history, Bol Bol’s 7’3’’ frame, along with a 7’8’’ wingspan, makes him one of the most fascinating prospects in this year’s draft class. Before injuring his left foot that will hold him out for the remainder of the college basketball season, the freshman big man was averaging 21.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks through 9 games, also shooting 52% from 3-point range. His combination of size and skill will fit perfectly in Atlanta’s system, as three-point shooting is becoming a focal part of their offense. Adding on to a team that is already building a powerful young core in Trae Young, John Collins, and, according to this mock draft, Cam Reddish, Bol can add significant value to a team that needs an athletic player in the frontcourt that spaces the floor and create open shots.
11. Brandon Clarke (PF – Gonzaga) → Minnesota Timberwolves
One of the biggest risers as a result of the NCAA Tournament, Brandon Clarke is a versatile defender with explosive athleticism. However, his offensive game will need some work in the NBA, as he lacks a consistent outside shot. Averaging 16.9 points and 8.6 rebounds during his junior year at Gonzaga, the WCC Defensive Player of the Year has an opportunity to become a consistent contributor on a rebuilding Timberwolves team, with the chance of partnering up with Karl Anthony-Towns to improve Minnesota’s prospects in a competitive Western Conference.
12. Jaxson Hayes (PF/C – Texas) → Charlotte Hornets
In limited minutes during his one season at the University of Texas, Hayes displayed an incredible rim-protecting ability, averaging 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per contest while shooting an impressive 73% from the field. Hayes is a raw, athletic big man who has the size and agility to become a major finisher above the rim. His long wingspan and quickness will allow him the potential to become an elite presence down low at the next level and will give the Hornets organization a piece to hold onto for the future.
13. Romeo Langford (G – Indiana) → Miami Heat
After coming into the year with an expectation of being a top-10 pick, Langford let scouts down after lacking a consistent three-point shot in his freshman year at Indiana (27% from distance), putting up 16.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for an underperforming Hoosiers team. At the draft combine, the Indiana freshman will have an opportunity to showcase his offensive skills and quiet fears regarding his scoring ability. On a Heat team that has struggled to stay competitive since Lebron James’ departure, Langford will be able to zone in on his weaknesses and improve over the next few seasons, hoping to play a pivotal role in rebuilding the franchise.
14. Sekou Doumbouya (F – France) → Boston Celtics
A physically impressive but untested international talent, Doumbouya has shown tremendous upside in limited minutes in France, averaging 13.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in the Poitiers League. His potential as a shooter and defender will make him an interesting option for the Celtics, who will give the 18-year-old an opportunity to adjust the faster pace of the NBA and eventually play an important role on a championship-caliber team.