In a major shock, none of the teams that entered Tuesday night’s NBA Draft lottery with the best odds to land the No. 1 overall pick won out. The ping pong balls bounced in the favor of the New Orleans Pelicans, who went in with a six percent chance to get the top pick and fully intend to take Zion Williamson with the first selection on June 20.
Memphis wound up with the second overall pick and the Grizzlies will have a decision on their hands. The Knicks, disappointed they didn’t win the Zion lottery, should have an easy choice at No. 3.
The draft starts to get interesting at No. 4, where the Lakers will have multiple routes to go. Cleveland and Phoenix, who each had a 14 percent chance for the No. 1 pick, wound up with the fifth and sixth selections and the Hawks get to add to their young core with the No. 8 and 10 picks.
This draft isn’t overly strong, but there’s certainly value beyond the top three of Zion, Ja and R.J.
1. New Orleans Pelicans – Zion Williamson, 6-7, 285, F, Fr., Duke
This one is obviously a no-brainer with David Griffin and the Pelicans set to pick Zion with the top overall pick. The question becomes what Griffin can put around Zion in an Anthony Davis deal. But this franchise will be all about Zion going forward. Williamson will need to improve his perimeter shot, but he’ll be a difference-maker both on and off the floor for a franchise that will need a star to fill the void of AD.
2. Memphis Grizzlies – Ja Morant, 6-3, 170, PG, Soph., Murray State
The Grizzlies have a decision to make, but it’s not really one whether to choose Morant or R.J. Barrett. It’s more about whether to keep Mike Conley around for a little while to teach Morant or trade the veteran point guard immediately. Morant is an ultra-athletic point guard who also has terrific court vision. He’ll have a chance to be one of the top players at his position in the league in time.
3. New York Knicks – RJ Barrett, 6-7, 205, SG-SF, Fr., Duke
The Knicks didn’t win the lottery, but it could have been worse. New York will likely get Barrett, the long and versatile wing who put up gaudy numbers this past season playing alongside Zion at Duke. New York can also try and move this pick, along with its young players (Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson) and future picks (the Knicks have Dallas’ first-round pick in 2021) for a star like Anthony Davis, or they can keep the selection, take Barrett and start to build around him.
4. Los Angeles Lakers – De’Andre Hunter, 6-8, 225, F, RS Soph., Virginia
This is where the draft starts to get interesting. There’s no clear-cut guy here, but the Lakers are likely to go with one of Hunter, Jarrett Culver or maybe Darius Garland. The other option in play here is obviously dealing this pick as part of a package to get Davis to Los Angeles. But Hunter would give the Lakers a high-IQ forward who’s versatile and would immediately help on the defensive end, and also a guy who can score in a variety of ways on the offensive end.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers – Jarrett Culver, 6-5, 190, SG, Soph., Texas Tech
The Cavs were certainly one of the biggest losers on lottery night, falling to the No. 5 overall pick. This is a franchise that has to build through the draft (sure, they have $100-plus million of expiring contracts, but they aren’t going to attract a big-time free agent), and GM Koby Altman will have to nail this pick. Culver is a versatile forward who has a high upside due to his ability to put it on the floor, shoot it from deep and a willingness to defend.
6. Phoenix Suns – Darius Garland, 6-2, 175, PG, Fr., Vanderbilt
The Suns need a point guard desperately, and it would be tough to pass on Garland, who missed most of the season with a knee injury. Garland is a high-IQ guy who has some of the same attributes as Chris Paul: He can run a team, make shots and get into the lane and make plays for himself and his teammates. Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton would benefit greatly from a pass-first guy like Garland.
7. Chicago Bulls – Coby White, 6-4, 185, G, Fr., North Carolina
The Bulls are another team that needs a high-level point guard. The Kris Dunn experiment hasn’t worked, and there’s enough talent with guys like Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter, Zach LaVine and Wendell Carter. But White would bring a big-time scoring point guard to the table. He thrives in transition, but is a potent scorer who can finish around the hoop and also shoot it from deep.
8. Atlanta Hawks – Jaxson Hayes, 6-11, 220, C, Fr., Texas
Trae Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter give the Hawks hope and promise. But Hayes would be ideal for this team; he’s a guy who barely played high school basketball as a junior, but has moved up the draft boards this past season as much as anyone. He’s a big, strong, athletic, hard-playing — but raw — big man who could wind up being a better Clint Capela.
9. Washington Wizards – Cam Reddish, 6-8, 210, SG-SF, Fr., Duke
The Wizards just need to draft the top player available, and Reddish is extremely talented, but it was difficult to evaluate him on a Duke team with Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. Reddish is a long, skilled wing who many compare to Rudy Gay because of his frame, skill set and also concern that he’s not an alpha dog.
10. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas) – Rui Hachimura, 6-8 1/2, 230, F, Jr., Gonzaga
Hachimura is a big, strong and athletic forward who turned into an alpha dog this past season at Gonzaga. He can score at all three levels, and is still a work in progress in terms of his upside. But Hachimura’s versatility would fit well in Atlanta.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves – Nickeil Alexander-Walker, 6-5 ½, 200, SG, Soph., Virginia Tech
Alexander-Walker is a multi-faceted guard with size who can shoot it, has the ability to make people around him better and also brings some toughness to the court. The T-Wolves have KAT and Andrew Wiggins, but could certainly use another wing who can make shots from deep.
12. Charlotte Hornets – Sekou Doumbouya, 6-9, 215, F, France
Sekou is a skilled, versatile and talented forward worth the roll of the dice for a Charlotte team that needs to build through the draft. He moved to France from Guinea when he was young, and didn’t start playing basketball until he was 12.
13. Miami Heat – Romeo Langford, 6-6, 200, SG, Fr., Indiana
The Heat just need talent — and Langford is a talented scorer who just knows how to put points on the board. The question is with his perimeter shot, but that should improve with work and repetition.
14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento) – Mfiondu Kabengele, 6-9, 235, C, Soph., Florida State
Kabengele is a skilled 6-foot-10 forward who can step out and make shots, plays hard and can also be a factor on the defensive end. He would give the Celtics something a little different and a high-upside guy.
15. Detroit Pistons – Brandon Clarke, 6-8, 220, PF, RS Jr., Gonzaga
Clarke began his college career at San Jose State, then sat out a season at Gonzaga before making a huge impact this past season in Spokane. He is a high-level athlete and an elite defender who still needs to work on his perimeter shot.
16. Orlando Magic – PJ Washington, 6-8, 230, PF, Soph., Kentucky
Washington is a skilled forward who has expanded his game this past season in Lexington. He’s got long arms, makes good decisions and can be a nice piece for the Magic.
17. Brooklyn Nets – Keldon Johnson, 6-6, 210, SF, Fr., Kentucky
The Nets have been built on toughness, and Johnson will bring that to the table. He plays with energy on both ends, and has improved his shot — although he’ll likely be someone who just fills up the stat sheet with a little bit of everything.
18. Indiana Pacers – Kevin Porter Jr., 6-5, 220, SG, Fr., USC
Tough, athletic and strong wing who has lottery pick talent — but no shortage of red flags. He’s a risk, but may be worth taking for the Pacers because he could watch and learn from a guy like Victor Oladipo.
19. San Antonio Spurs – Nassir Little, 6-6, 210, SF, Fr., North Carolina
Little had an underwhelming season as a freshman at North Carolina after being in the equation as a high-lottery pick a year ago. He has size and athleticism but needs to learn where to get his shot on the offensive end.
20. Boston Celtics (via LA Clippers) – Tyler Herro, 6-5, 193, SG, Fr., Kentucky
The Celtics, with a trio of first-rounders, go for the Kentucky freshman here. Herro has the size, toughness and ability to shoot it from deep. But he’s more than just a one-dimensional shooter; he can put it on the floor.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Bol Bol, 7-3, 235, C, Fr., Oregon
The ultimate enigma in this draft. Manute Bol’s son is 7-foot-2, skilled enough to shoot and make 3s, and also able to impact the game on the defensive end. But there are plenty of questions about his strength and desire to play the game.
22. Boston Celtics – Goga Bitadze, 6-11, 251, C, Georgia
The 6-foot-11 Georgian big man is still only 19 years old, but he’s strong and deceptive athletically. He averaged 12 points and six boards in the Euroleague this season and could certainly be a nice piece.
23. Utah Jazz – Grant Williams, 6-7, 241, PF, Jr., Tennessee
The former Tennessee star is the ideal Utah player. He doesn’t look the part, but he’s tough, has a high IQ and has improved his conditioning. Williams could be a nice piece for a playoff team and also brings all the intangibles to the table.
24. Philadelphia 76ers – Louis King, 6-9, 205, SF, Fr., Oregon
The Sixers could use shooting, and King has the size and ability to make shots from deep. He’s a work-in-progress, but worth the risk in the mid-20s for Philly.
25. Portland Trail Blazers – Luguentz Dort, 6-4, 220, SG, Fr., Arizona State
Would fit well with Lillard and McCollum. Dort is a freshman combo guard who will be an elite defender and has some Marcus Smart to his game. He’s not really a point, and not a true shooting guard in that he needs to improve his perimeter shot — but he plays with toughness and intensity.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Houston) – KZ Okpala, 6-9, 210, SF, Soph., Stanford
Okpala is long and looks the part and can defend multiple positions. He still needs to be more consistent with his perimeter shot, but he’s a guy with tremendous upside who could develop into an NBA starter.
27. Brooklyn Nets (via Denver) – Cameron Johnson, 6-9, 210, PF, Sr., North Carolina
The Nets get a veteran with length who can really score the ball. He’s a good locker room guy who was arguably North Carolina’s best player this past season and should be a nice role guy in the NBA for a long, long time.
28. Golden State Warriors – Talen Horton-Tucker, 6-4, 238, G, Fr., Iowa State
He will need to continue to work on his body, but Horton-Tucker has the skills and toughness and has some of Draymond Green to his game. He’s a good passer for his size, is strong and is a tough matchup due to his size and skills.
29. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto) – Chuma Okeke, 6-8, 230, F, Soph., Auburn
Okeke went down with the knee injury in the NCAA tourney, but had already shown NBA guys enough. He’s a versatile defender with an offensive game that has come a long way. Okeke would be an ideal fit for a Spurs team that values character, IQ and toughness.
30. Milwaukee Bucks – Bruno Fernando, 6-10, 240, F, Soph., Maryland
Fernando is a big, strong frontcourt guy whose offensive game has developed over the past year. He plays with intensity and can really rebound and run the court. He’ll ultimately be a rim-runner type of big man.