It is amazing how fast the NBA landscape can change, as we are only a couple days finished with crowning the Toronto Raptors as NBA champions and already gearing up for the NBA Draft on Thursday. With the news of Anthony Davis finally teaming up with LeBron in L.A., they are now my odds on favorite to win the title next season assuming they pick up another key free agent to form yet another Big 3.
I will use this platform to predict what will happen in what could go down as one of the most historic free agency summers in recent memory. Coming off a championship that ended the Warriors dynasty, Kawhi will resign with the Raptors as no star player has ever left a championship team the following year. KD will pick up his player option with the Warriors and rehab alongside Klay Thompson, who will sign his max deal with the team to the surprise of no one.
Boogie Cousins will team up with LeBron and AD and form a formidable front court in Hollywood. Joining them to run the point will be Kemba Walker, who will not get offered the super max he is eligible for in Charlotte. Kyrie will run the show solo for the Brooklyn Nets, who will then get rid of D Lo who could then sign with the Clippers. Jimmy Butler will sign a max deal to stay in Philly, a talented young team that was a Kawhi buzzer beater away from potentially going to the Finals in the East.
Which brings us to the New Orleans Pelicans who hold the number one pick…
1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, Duke, 6-7, F/C
Something tells me that Bourbon Street is going to be a little crazier this year with Zion coming down to the Bayou. Not only does New Orleans get a once in a generation player in Zion, they are now in the perfect position to have all 3 Ball Brothers on the team as LaVar Ball wished into existence.
All kidding aside, the Pelicans might just have the brightest future in the entire NBA, and with savvy new GM David Griffin now calling the shots, the Pelicans are poised to take flight sooner rather than you think.
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant, Murray St., 6-3, PG
With the recent success of mid-major stars like Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard in the NBA, they have paved the way for an electrifying guard from Murray St. to vault all the way to the top of this draft. Morant is a blur on the court and has the type of sneaky bounce that makes for posterizing dunks on unsuspecting big men.
With Morant likely to be given the keys to the Grizzlies offense on day 1, I would imagine a team like the Jazz would be smart to go after veteran point guard Mike Conley to bolster their backcourt with the departure of Ricky Rubio.
3. New York Knicks: RJ Barrett, Duke, 6-7, SF
Barrett is a walking bucket who did not shy away from the spotlight next to Zion in Cameron, often taking the last shot in crucial moments. Whether that sometimes had negative consequences is up for debate, but what isn’t up for debate is Barrett’s cutthroat mentality as a scorer.
This is widely seen by talent evaluators as a 3 player draft, and Barrett is up for the challenge of being the face of the Knicks now that KD is likely not suiting up for them in the near future. As talented as his former roommate Zion is, it wouldn’t surprise me if Barrett ends up with the ROY hardware at the end of the season.
4. New Orleans Pelicans: DeAndre Hunter, Virginia, 6-7, SF
This is where things potentially go off the tracks. With so many options to choose from, the Pelicans can go any number of ways including trading the pick for a veteran. But I will go ahead and assume that they are going to keep the pick and make a selection here.
With Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday penciled in as starters in the backcourt, it would be surprising if the Pelicans didn’t use this pick to compliment Zion in the front court with an athletic running mate. Hunter fits the bill as a Kawhi-clone who can guard all 5 positions with his 7-3 wingspan and can hit the mid range and NBA three. Zion and Hunter on the wings will be a scary sight for years to come.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech, 6-7, SG
Culver is a physical and aggressive scoring guard who can play on or off the ball efficiently. His frame is long and looks like he will be able to add more weight which will allow him to play like James Harden. He will be able to take smaller guards off the dribble with ease and finish through contact. Teaming him with another young physical guard like last season’s lottery pick Colin Sexton will make this backcourt a force to be reckoned with.
6. Phoenix Suns: Darius Garland, Vanderbilt, 6-2, PG
A supremely skilled point guard, Garland’s game has been widely compared to Kyrie Irving’s and his freshman season in college was cut short just like the former Duke star’s. In just 5 games as a starter, Garland showed enough elite ball handling and mid to long range shooting ability to be a top pick in this draft without much college experience.
What stands out most to me on tape is his poise for a freshman who was rarely ever sped up by the defense guarding him. I predict a very bright future in the Arizona desert for Garland who alongside Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton, will form a talented young nucleus that could finally turn things around for this woeful franchise and their fan base.
7. Chicago Bulls: Coby White, North Carolina, 6-5, PG
Coach Roy Williams gave the young freshman point guard the reins to his offense early on and White did not disappoint, leading the Tarheels to a number one seed in the tournament. At 6-5, White has the size to be a lockdown defender and tough matchup for opposing guards. He is a blur on the fast break with the potential to be an All-Star if he can lead the Bulls back to the postseason in the wide open East.
8. Atlanta Hawks: Jaxson Hayes, Texas, 6-11, C
The Hawks could definitely package their first round picks and move up in the draft. Assuming they use this selection, Hayes is a modern day big man adept at running the floor in transition and catching lobs in the pick and roll.
He reminds me of a mix between former Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein with his fluid athleticism and DeAndre Jordan’s ability to finish above the rim. Hayes will make the perfect pick and roll partner for Trae Young who is always looking to throw the showtime lob in transition.
9. Washington Wizards: Cam Reddish, Duke, 6-9, SG/SF
The knock on Reddish all season was that he shrunk in big moments and rarely set himself apart as the third option to Zion and RJ respectively. I chalk his struggles at Duke up to the fact that Reddish went from being the main guy on every team he was on to having to adjust to 3rd wheel in the pecking order.
Reddish is the prototypical 3 and D wing that is widely coveted in today’s game and will likely have a much more impactful career as a pro. His smooth shooting stroke is similar to Wizards star Bradley Beal, who will hopefully still be around to mentor this young star in D.C.
10. Atlanta Hawks: Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga, 6-9, F
Gonzaga was number one in the country for most of the season and much of that was due to the all around game of Hachimura. The Japanese born point forward is a 6-9 freight train in the open court, with the size and vision that will garner some Ben Simmons comparisons. His winning pedigree will serve him well as a foundational piece in Atlanta assuming they decide to keep their second of two lottery picks.
11. Minnesota T-Wolves: Sekou Doumboya, France, 6-9, F
With the recent success of Pascal Siakam in mind, Doumboya is the most talented international prospect in the draft. The raw forward also holds the distinction of being the youngest player in this draft, but has a very high ceiling with his two way play and ability to play off the ball. He already has the frame of a vet and when he puts on more strength to his frame, watch out.
12. Charlotte Hornets: Nassir Little, North Carolina, 6-6, SF/SF
Little played big in important games for the young Tar Heels, flashing his explosive athleticism while shooting an impressive 47.8% from the field as a freshman. There once was a 6-6 freshman with jaw-dropping athleticism and a sweet shooting stroke who also happens to be the current owner of the Hornets. This pick is a match made in Chapel Hill heaven.
13. Miami Heat: Brandon Clarke, Gozaga, 6-8, PF
Clarke and his running mate Hachimura were a formidable frontcourt duo for the Bulldogs and some could argue that Clarke is the more talented of the two. I am in the camp that believe Clarke will have the better pro career despite Hachimura having the higher ceiling and upside. Clarke is an explosive athlete and a defensive bulldog who can block shots and get into the passing lanes for easy steals which lead to breakaway dunks. His motor alone is enough to justify his pick as a lottery steal.
14. Boston Celtics: Tyler Herro, Kentucky, 6-6, SG/SF
Herro was another self-described bucket in his lone season in Lexington. He was a microwave scorer for John Calipari with the size and shooting stroke that will remind you of former Kentucky great Devin Booker. Herro has the look of an old school Celtic and will be a fan favorite in The Garden. With Kyrie out of the picture, Herro could step in right away and be an impactful scorer for this new look Celtics team.
15. Detroit Pistons: PJ Washington, Kentucky, 6-8, PF
16. Orlando Magic: Keldon Johnson, Kentucky, 6-6, SG/SF
17. Atlanta Hawks: Nicolas Claxton, Georgia, 7-0, SF/PF
18. Indiana Pacers: Romeo Langford, Indiana, 6-6, SG/SF
19. San Antonio Spurs: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Virginia Tech, 6-5, SG
20. Boston Celtics: Cam Johnson, North Carolina, 6-9, SG/SF
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Bol Bol, Oregon, 7-2, F/C
22. Boston Celtics: Mfiondu Kabengele, Florida State, 6-10, PF
23. Utah Jazz: KZ Okpala, Stanford, 6-9, SF
24. Philadelphia 76ers: Kevin Porter Jr., USC, 6-6, SG
25. Portland Blazers: Grant Williams, Tennessee, 6-7, PF
26. Cleveland Cavaliers: Matisse Thybulle, Washington, 6-5, SF
27. Brooklyn Nets: Admiral Schofield, Tennessee, 6-5, SF
28. Golden State Warriors: Ty Jerome, Virginia, 6-5, SG
29. San Antonio Spurs: Goga Bitadze, Georgia, 6-11, C
30. Milwaukee Bucks: Luka Samanic, Croatia, 6-11, PF
Header image credit: ClutchPoints