By Hocine Loukkaf on 12/25/2018
Once again, Zion will probably be the surefire first pick. RJ Barrett seems to be the runner up but after him, a lot will depend on teams’ needs, which could even influence the first pick.
1. Zion Williamson,6-7 PF, Duke, freshman, 19.8pts 9.4rbds 2.3as
The Suns need a four and thank God, the best player of this draft is a four. Zion would thrive in Phoenix’ offense with Ayton inside and Booker outside to keep the defenders busy, creating lanes to drive for the powerful Dookie. He has scored at least 17pts over his last seven games while averaging 1.9bl and 2.1st in 26min for the season. His 3pt shooting seems his main weakness with only 3/18 for the season.
2. RJ Barrett, 6-7 SF, Duke, freshman, 23.8pts 6.8rbds 3.8as
The Cavs need any type of player to help the team. Barrett is the second best prospect of this draft and plays and could bring his versatility and toughness to Cleveland. After struggling with multiple games under 40% FG in november, Barrett has improved with only one game under 47% FG over his last six games. Like his teammat Zion, Barrett is still an inconsistent outside shooter with 0/10 over the last two games.
3. Ja Morant, 6-3 PG, Murray State, sophomore, 23pts 9.3as 7rbds
If Porzingis comes back healthy and Knox keeps improving at the three, New York’s main hole will be that PG position. Murray State’s leader could be a reach at three but possesses that “it” thing which could help him become a star in the Big Apple. Morant is a freak athlete and the best passer in college basketball. He needs to keep working on his outside J but has the tools to be efficient right away.
4. Cam Reddish,6-7 SF/SG, Duke, freshman,13.5pts 3.2rbds 1.7as
One of the most polarizing prospects, Reddish is regarded by many experts as the player with the biggest upside. Yet, he has been awfully inconsistent with only one game with 13+pts and more than 33% over the last seven games. The fact that he plays with Zion and Barrett is not a good excuse as he will be surrended by other talents and need to be efficient, above all from outside. Chicago needs a two-way SF and Reddish could be the fit.
5. Bol Bol, 7-2 C, Oregon, freshman, 21pts 9.6rbds 2.7bl 52% 3pt
Bol Bol has not disappointed as he’s easily made the transition to college basketball while displaying his incredible versatility. Despite his block numbers, Bol could be a better on on one defender by gaining strength. Yet, for such a tall player, he has tremendous agility and keeps knocking shots from outside (12/20 over his last six games). A perfect fit alongside John Collins.
6. Charles Bassey, 6-10 PF/C, Western Kentucky, freshman, 14.4pts 10.4rbds 2.2bl
A vastly underrated freshman, Bassey has already been tested against Konate (13pts 15rbds 2bl for the Hilltopper), Tacko Fall (25pts 10rbds 2bl) and Gafford (21pts 9rbds 5bl). Bassey has not lost time proving he was one of the best bigs of this draft, displaying also his ability to hit the outside shot despite limited attempts (4/8). Bassey is two years younger than Fernando and Gafford, which is enough to explain why he could end up a top ten pick.
7. Rui Hachimura 6-8 SF/PF Gonzaga, junior, 21.7pts 6.7rbds
Orlando has needs at the PG spot but also at the SF spot where Ross or Simmons seem to be too limited. Hachimura could be that glue guy which helps Orlando be more solid on defense. He has improved a lot since his freshman year and has filled the statsheet recently (20pts 7rbds 5as 4bl vs Duke, 17pts 7rbds 4as 2st vs UNC). The team that will draft him may also count on the tremendous support from Japanese fans.
8. Kevin Porter Jr, 6-5 SG/SF, USC, freshman, 11.7pts 3.3rbds 1.7as
For years, NOP has been unable to find a consistent SF, opting too often for a small lineup with three guards. Porter may be a bit small for a wing, but his strength and athleticism could help him transition more easily to the League at the SF spot. Hopefully he will be back from injury soon to keep entertaining us with his jaw dropping leaping.
9. Romeo Langford,6-6 SG, Indiana, freshman, 17.5pts 5.7rbds 2.6as
The Wolves play with two SFs since Butler has been traded, but they may have to move Wiggins or RoCo to play with a natural SG. Romeo Langford may be the most poised freshman as he had only two games under 46% FG including a 22pts 10rbds 5as against Arkansas. He still has room to improve athletically but above all, from outside as he’s averaging only 21% from three, which doesn’t prevent him from averaging 50% from the field.
10. Sekou Doumbouya 6-9 SF/PF, Limoges CSP (French Jeep Elite), 2000, 5pts 2.8rbds
Like Reddish, Doumbouya has raised questions about his ability to transition to the League. A tweener at both forward spots, Doumbouya may benefit from the change of coach as he scored 12pts in each of his last two games with 9/9 from the field. It may better for him to start in the League as a stretch four while working on his outside J and handling. He could be efficient alongside a real defensive center like Allen.
11. Nassir Little,6-7 SF, UNC, freshman, 10.8pts 4.3rbds
Apparently, UNC really seems to be a bad idea for freshman prospects. A top 5 senior in high school last year, Little hast struggled sinced the start of the season, scoring for example only 4pts against Kentucky in his last game. Yet, the potential is still there and there’s no doubt a team in need of a tough SF with a lot of upside, like Atlanta, may gamble on Little.
12. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, 6-5 SG/PG, Virginia Tech, sophomore, 21.8pts 5.8rbds 4.5as 2st 40% 3pt
As this draft lacks numerous talented PF, Utah could focus on bringing a nice playmaker alongside Mitchell as Rubio (12.9pts 39% FG 33% 3pt) may never become the star PG he was supposed to be. After his cousin SGA became a lottery pick and is having a pretty good season with the Clippers, NAW may be the new NBA player in the family. A lot smilar to his cousin as a tall PG, Alexander-Walker is a way better outside shooter than his cousin, averaging 47% from outside with more than 4 attempts per game. He’s also a very consistent kid as he had only one game under 45% FG.
13. Jarrett Culver 6-5 SG, Texas Tech, sophomore, 19.6pts 5.7rbds 4.5as
We don’t know if Boston will keep its numerous draft picks or use them to get a more talented vet. Whatever happens, Culver may be the best SG in this draft as an outstanding shooter who can create for his teammates. His Duke game (25pts 6rbds 4as) has put him even more on the radar. He’s also a good defender and rebounder who could help any team win games like he’s doing with Texas Tech.
14. Goga Bitadze 6-11 C, Mega Leks (Serbia), 1999, 20.1pts 7.9rbds 2.5bl
Never underestimate an athletic big. Bitadze is killing it in the tough Adriatic League and has shown improvement since last year. He’s a very mobile big who can block shots and has improved offensively, knocking 42% of his 3pt attempts. He could help Aldridge move to his more natural four spot. Bitadze has just been traded to Buducnost Pogdorica where he will play the Euroleague.
15. Keldon Johnson 6-6 SG/SF, Kentucky, freshman, 16.5pts 5rbds
Detroit needs outside scoring whether it is at the two or three spot. The Kentucky freshman has been the heart and soul of the Wildcats as a strong shooter/rebounder. He may not be the most versatile player but his 10/14 from three over the last two games and 46% 3pt are strengths that could transition right away.
16. Darius Garland, 6-1 PG, Vanderbilt, freshman, 16.2pts 48% 3pt
What does the Heat need more. With the aging dragic injured once again, the Heat will have to find another option as they don’t even have a back up PG. If Garland comes back healthy before the draft process, he could be that PG.
17. Daniel Gafford 6-11 C, Arkansas, sophomore, 17.6pts 9.3rbds 2.4bl
Zeller has been playing the five for many years but the Hornets need a real rim protector. Still raw on offense, Gafford is an incredible athlete who has improved a lot since his freshman year. He must work on cutting down his turnovers but would clearly be an upgrade.
18. De’Andre Hunter, 6-7 SF, Virginia, sophomore, 16.8pts 6.3rbds 2.3as 47% 3pt
The Rockets need a sure thing at either forward spots. Hunter is a fundamentally sound who can play the SF or stretch four and has been a winner with Virginia. He’s a 44% shooter from three and a very good rebounder and a defender, exactly what Houston needs.
19. Alen Smailagic, 6-9 PF, Santa Cruz Warriors (G League), 2000, 10.2pts 3.5rbds 1.1bl
Playing without a four, the Celtics (or the team that pick instead) may be tempted to take a gamble on the PF with the biggest upside. Smailagic has gone from Serbian junior League to the G League without problem, averaging 10.3pts 5rbds 1bl in 19min, including a 25pts 12rbds 4st 3bl game against the Lakers. The Serbian PF has struggled from three with only 23% but seems to have the mechanics to become a much better shooter.
20. Bruno Fernando 6-10 C Maryland, 14.2pts 9.4rbds 2.6bl 69% fg
A strong center, Fernando could help the Celtics or any other team that pick. He has improved in most stat categories, with better shooting percentages while playing more minutes than last year.
21. Luguentz Dort, 6-4 SG, Arizona State, freshman, 19.2pts 5.4rbds 2.5as
Portland need a SF but this draft is very wek at this spot. They may use the pick to take the best player available. Dort has slowed down, averaging only 11.7pts on 22% (sic) over the last three games. Yet, he could be that strong SG the Blazers need if they decide to move Lillard or McCollum.
22. Jaxson Hayes, 6-10 C, Texas, freshman, 10.5pts 4.8rbds 2.5bl
Hayes plays a lot like former Longhorn Jarrett Allen. Like him, he could land in the late first round as a project C with athleticism. Hayes is a strong finisher with almost 75% from the field. He could learn from McGee and be a younger back up than the aging Chandler.
23. KZ Okpala, 6-9 SF, Stanford, sophomore, 16.3pts 6.3rbds 2as
A fourth pick for the Celtics who, after a guard, a PF and a center, could use the pick to choose Stanford SF Okpala. Far from being a finished product, Okpala has the size and versatility to become a good player in the League. His 22pts 8rbds 4as game with 3/5 from three against Kansas has clearly put him on the map.
24. Chuma Okeke, 10.6pts 6.4rbds 2.5as 1.8st 1.4bl 36% 3pt
Since Saric and Covington left, the Sixers have fewer options at the four spot. Because this draft lacks numerous talented PF, Philly may take a gamble on the versatile Okeke. The Auburn forward struggles to put it all together at the same time and be consistent, yet he’s a good defender with 1.4bl and 1.8 while being a capable shooter with 36% from three on almost four attempts
25. Ignas Brazdeikis, 6-7 SF, Michigan, freshman, 16.1pts 4.8rbds
Indiana needs a solid backup three. Brazdeikis perfectly fits in as a grinding player who has been efficient from the start for a tough Michigan team. He may not be the most spectacular player but he will get the job done as the end of the day and could even be used a small four. He still has to work on being consistent as he had two 30-% FG perfs over the last five games.
26. Zach Norvell, 6-5 SG, Gonzaga, sophomore, 16.8pts 4.8rbds 3.4as
The Thunder has been searching for a starting SG for years. They may find it in this draft stacked with good SGs. Playing for one of the best teams in the country, Norvell is a versatile player who can score and create for his teammates. He’s a nice outside shooter with 37% from three and has that grinding attitude from the Chi on defense.
27. Simi Shittu, 6-10 PF, Vanderbilt, freshman, 14.6pts 7.6rbds 2as
A taller, albeit less athletic, version of Jordan Bell, Shittu is having a nice freshman season despite the injury of his starting PG Garland. His versatility can be hindered by the fact that Shittu is a non factor as a shooter as he shot 0/9 from outside this season.
28. Naz Reid 6-10 PF/C, LSU, freshman, 12.1pts 5.3rbds
After picking Doumbouya, the Nets could use the Nuggets pick to select the more talented player available. Reid is a versatile inside player whose rebounding and defense has been quite disappointing. That could make him slip to the late first if he decides to enter the draft, which would be good news for the Nets who could use him as a versatile four/five.
29. Sagaba Konate, 6-7 PF/C, West Virginia, sophomore, 13.6pts 8rbds 2.8bl 39% 3pt
Konate has decided to stay for his junior year. He has improved his main weakness, outside shooting, but at the same time his overall FG % has taken a hit. Yet, he could be a good complement to Lopez as a small ball five who could play a bit at the four.
30. Tre Jones, 6-2 PG, Duke, freshman, 8.7pts 5.6as
Duke’s hype has led some experts to put Jones in the mid first. But like his brother, Jones is limited and could benefit from slipping if he falls to a good club like the Spurs. Popovitch plays DeRozan as the main ball handler, yet he would welcome a true PG with poise like Tre.
(Scroll below comment section on your mobile or tablet for complete mock draft and players’ profile)