By Hocine Loukkaf on 3/9/2019

Now than Porzingis is gone from NY, Zion is the clear favourite to be the top pick. Yet, with most prospects having real weaknesses, it will be hard for teams to pick and make safe choices. Surprisingly, teams in the late first could find nice gems who could develop into solid players.

1. Zion Williamson, 6-6 PF, Duke, freshman, 21.6pts 8.rbds 2.2as 2.2st 1.8bl

With Porzingis gone and despite his injury against UNC, Zion will be the surefire first pick if NY was to pick first. Before the injury, Duke was on a nine wins streak and Williamson had just had 27pts 12rbds against Louisville and  32pts on 12/16 against NC State. He will be the perfect fit alongside Robinson, the rising rim protecting freshman, and bring immediate contribution offensively to the Knicks.

2. Ja Morant  6-3 PG, Murray State, sophomore, 24.1pts 10.3as 5.5rbds

The Suns need a PG badly and have not found the perfect piece before the trade deadline. Morant is far from being perfect with still low fg% games and turnovers. Yet, he’s averaging more than 10as per game and has been better from three recently, shooting 10/24 over the last five games. He’s also a nice defender with impressive hops, a no brainer for the Suns.

3RJ Barrett 6-7 SF, Duke, freshman, 23.1prs 7.4rbds 4.2as

If they keep Love and with Sexton as their last draft pick, the Cavs need a solid forward to bring cohesion bewteen the guards and the inside players. RJ Barrett has been criticized for being too selfish and inconsistent from outside, but would he be criticized that much if Zion wasn’t in the same team. A triple double against NC State, 33pts 13rbds against UNC or 26pts 7as against UVA could make him a top pick. The Cavs would be lucky to grab a potential alpha dog at 3.

4. Cam Reddish, 6-7 SF/SG, Duke, freshman,14.3pts 3.8rbds 

Before the trade deadline, the Bulls had a hole at the SF spot. Since then, they have brought a solid young vet with a heavy contract, Otto Porter. So why Reddish? Well, despite his inconsistency, he’s the best prospect at this stage. Reddish still has a lot to work on his shooting with only 33% over the year but has a perfect looking stroke and two-way player potential. The Bulls could whether bring him from the bench or use him to trade for another option at PG.

5. De’Andre Hunter, 6-7 SF, Virginia, sophomore, 15.4pts 5.3rbds 2.2as 49% 3pt

         Atlanta did a pretty good drafting job with Young, Huerter and Collins, they now have to find solid pieces at both SF and C spots and will probably have two top ten picks to do so. With their first pick, the Hawks could try to land Virginia’s do it all forward. It could a bit of a reach but Hunter is as solid offensively as he is defensively and your typical Philly tough kid. He’s also a nice shooter with almost 50% from three including 5/7 recently against Syracuse.

   6. Nassir Little, 6-6 SF, North Carolina, freshman, 9.6pts 4.6rbds

        Memphis has gone through a lot of moves before the trade deadline, with Avery Bradley now a solid starter at the SG position and Delon Wright as a nice off the bench contributor. The weakest position now is the SF. Despite his limited playing time at UNC, Nassir Little has a mix of physical tools and skills scouts can’t ignore. He’s also a young prospect and is set at the SF spot contrary to other prospects like Hachimura.

7. Rui Hachimura 6-8 SF/PF Gonzaga, junior, 20.6pts 6.7rbds

The Wizards have given up on Porter, most probably due to his fat contract and only have aging Ariza and Green at the SF spot. Hachimura still has room to improve but is incredibly consistent with at least 60% FG over his last five games, including four games with 20+pts. While he mainly plays at the PF spot with Gonzaga, he’s proved with Japan that he could be a full time SF. It could also be an opportunity for the Wizards to reach an incredible market with Hachimura the first Japanese draftee.

8. Bol Bol, 7-2 C, Oregon, freshman, 21pts 9.6rbds 2.7bl 52% 3pt

Last spot to fill for the Hawks, center. Len and Dedmon could be very good back ups but Bol, albeit injured, has too much potential to pass on. He still has to gain weight, be more focused on defense, but as a shooting five and a nice shot blocker, he’s the perfect fit alongside Collins. With this Dallas’ pick, the Doncic’ trade could be a pretty good deal for Atlanta.

9. Charles Bassey, 6-10 PF/C, Western Kentucky, freshman, 14.2pts 9.8rbds 2.4bl

Anthony Davis will be traded and New Orleans, who lacks a solid SF and a C, will receive a nice package of players. At 9, they could choose to pick a young and talented center with Nigerian Charles Bassey. A tough and athletic center with a nice touch, the Hilltopper juste needs to work on creating more for his teammates, which will probably cause less turnovers (0.6as for 2.9tos for the season)

10. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, 6-5 SG/PG, Virginia Tech, sophomore, 16.5pts 3.8as 2st 37% 3pt

Miami needs a PG. Garland was the best draft prospect at this spot but his injury makes it hard to draft him that early. NAW has struggled recently with three games under 40% FG but he’s bounced back against Miami with 21pts 10rbds 8as. His size, length and the possibility that he becomes a better shooting version of his cousin Shai makes him an interesting pick for the Heat.

11. Jarrett Culver 6-5 SG, Texas Tech, sophomore, 18.7pts 7.1rbds 3.9as

The Wolves have already drafted a SG last year. As good as he’s defensively, Okogie doesn’t have the versatility of Culver. The Texas Tech’s product is far from being perfect with only 2/11 from three over the last three games, yet his rebounding, defense and creativity could be nice additions for Minnesota.

12. Goga Bitadze, 6-11 C, Buducnost Pogdorica (Montenegro), 11.9pts 6.4rbds 2.7bl (Euroleague)

No matter how much Zeller, Hernangomez or Kaminsky give on the court, Charlotte needs a real tough big man to bang inside and create opportunities for the guards. A still underrated prospect, the Georgian has now proved on the highest European level that he could perform.

13. Keldon Johnson 6-6 SG/SF, Kentucky, freshman, 14.6pts 5.1rbds

Johnson has struggled from outside over the last five games with a combined 2/12. Even in a bad shooting day, the UK swingman can be productive as he proved it in the game against Auburn where he scored only 8pts but had 17rbds (sic) and 5as. A tough minded prospect with room to be a nice shooter alongside King James.

14. Jontay Porter, 6-11 PF/C, Missouri, sophomore

.We don’t know yet whether Boston or another team will draft with this pick and we don’t know either how healthy will Porter be during the draft process. If he’s healthy, Porter could be the second coming of Al Horford due to his rim protection and smooth outside shooting. Somebody talented enough to take a gamble on.

15.  Darius Garland, 6-1 PG, Vanderbilt, freshman, 16.2pts 48% 3pt

Like Porter, Garland got injured early and has been tested only over four games including 3pts on 1/6 against Alcorn State. Orlando needs to upgrade its PG spot and Garland could be the perfect dynamo to the Magic’s high flyers.

16. Sekou Doumbouya 6-9 SF/PF, Limoges CSP (French Jeep Elite), 2000, 5.7pts 2.9rbds

Brooklyn has done a good job of finding the good players and will have two first round picks to improve the roster. A bit depleted on the wings, French speaking coach Atkinson could decide to go international and select French super prospect Doumbouya. Since the change of coach, Doumbouya had some good games but still is inconsistent. Maybe he’ll be better suited for the US game if he can shoot more consistently from outside.

17. Romeo Langford, 6-6 SG,  Indiana, freshman, 17.2pts 5.4rbds 2.4as

 Despite his bad 3pt shooting over the year (27%) and some bad outings recently (9pts on 4/14 against  MSU), Langord still has that mix of size and talent that made him a top 5 player out of high school. He still has some good games too like his 22pts 7rbds against Wisconsin but needs to display, like most guard prospects in this draft, more consistency.

18. Jaxson Hayes, 6-10 C, Texas, freshman, 10.2pts 5.2rbds 2.7bl 75% FG  

With Gasol gone and Poeltl alone at the C spot, San Antonio could use their pick to grab Texas center Jaxson Hayes. Like former Longhorn center and Brooklyn rim protector Jarrett Allen, Hayes has tremendous size and athleticism. He has hit a wall recently with only 10pts 6rbds without any block over the last two games but the potential is there.

19. Kevin Porter Jr, 6-5 SG/SF, USC, freshman, 11.7pts 3.3rbds 1.7as

After an impressive start, Porter has slipped due to a suspension and less production. He’s been a bit better recently but sometimes, some prospects are better suited for the pro game than the college game. Porter’s mix of handles and jaw dropping athleticism could make him a steal for Boston or the team which will select with this pick.

20. Coby White, 6-5 PG, UNC, freshman, 16.2pts 4.1as 38% 3pt

With Rubio struggling offensively, White could be a nice option for the Jazz. White has not scored under 8pts since December 1 and had several impressive outings recently like his 34pts on 6/11 from three against Syracuse or 28pts 6rbds 5as on 6/11 3pt against Clemson. White is poised beyond the years and his shooting and size at 6-5 could bring an upgrade for Utah.

   21. KZ Okpala, 6-8 SF, sophomore, Stanford, 18.2pts 6.3rbds 2.2as 43% 3pt

         The Stanford product is polarizing as he sometimes displays incredible efficiency to go with nice length but can also struggle from three and possesses limited handling skills (6pts 4rbds on 2/7 and 21pts 8rbds on 1/4 from three in the last two games). His versatility and the fact that he can play both forward could be interesting for Boston…

   22. Daniel Gafford 6-11 C, Arkansas, sophomore, 16.3pts 9.4rbds 1.9bl

         Whether Love stays or not in Cleveland, the Cavaliers could make the best of this pick by drafting rim protecting Gafford. While he lacks some basketball IQ, the once top 10 projected center is an athletic freak who has vastly improved since last year. Gafford had at least 14pts and 2bl in each of his last four games and only recorded 2tos over the last three games.

23.  Chuma Okeke, 6-8 PF/SF, Auburn, sophomore, 11.5pts 6.8rbds 2as 1.6st 1.2bl

While he was far from being consistent at the beginning of the year, Okeke begins to show what he got. He’s scored at least 9pts in his last fifteen games and had multiple 10+rbds games. His versatility on defense and ability to shoot could make him a good option from the bench and a potential steal in the draft.

24. CJ Elleby, 6-7 SG/SF, Washington State, freshman, 15.2pts 6.9rbds 3as 37% 3pt

A bit under the raadar, Elleby possesses nice size to go with athleticism and ability to hit the three. Only a freshman, he has recorded at least 7rbds in each of the last five games and a combined 14/26 from three (sic) including a 20pts 10rbds 7as game against California. He’s still struggling inside the 3pt line (13/44 during the same stretch) but has special talent that late in the first round to help DeRozan and Aldridge.

25. Nicolas Claxton, 6-11 PF/C, Georgia, sophomore, 12.5pts 9.6rbds 3bl 2.1as

Another high potential pick, Claxton is absent from most mocks despite a mix of skills and physical tools. At 6-11, the Georgia PF is a top 20 shot blocker in the country, a nice rebounder with almost 9rbds per game and also displayed the ability, albeit still inconsistently, to shoot from outside. He still has to work on his stength and on being less clumsy but could be a nice player behind Embiid or when the All Star is injured.

26. Talen Horton Tucker, 6-5 SG/SF, Iowa State, freshman, 12.1pts 5.2rbds 2.6as

A hard nosed Chi Town kid, Horton Tucker has been better than expected for Iowa State. His versatility on offense and defense makes him a good fit  for the Spurs and he has potential to become a nice player down the road if he can become consistent from outside. His 18pts 5as against Oklahoma or 14pts 9rbds 5st against TCU are some nice illustrations of his upside.

27.  Naz Reid, 6-10 PF, LSU, freshman, 13.3pts 6.9rbds 1.1bl

It’s hard to know what will hapen in Frisco this summer. With Cousins probably gone, Golden State will need a versatile five. Reid has gone through up and dones but we can’t deny his potential as a small ball five. He’s been a better rebounder with three 10+ rebounds over the last five games.

28. Brandon Clarke, 6-8 PF, Gonzaga, 16.6pts 8.5rbds 3.2bl

A potential small ball five, Clarke has been the rim protector and an high percentage scorer for the Bulldogs. He can defend multiple positions and could help if Cousins was to leave next summer.

29. PJ Washington, 6-8 PF, Kentucky, 14.9pts 7.4rbds 43% 3pt

The UK forward has struggled recently with 33% FG or less against Tennessee and Arkansas and no game with more than 6ebds over the last four games. Yet, he’s improved his shooting this year and has been a consistent contributor for the 25-5 Wildcats. The Spurs need the most talented player at this stage.

30. Bruno Fernando, 6-10 C, Maryland, sophomore, 4.6pts 10.3rbds 2bl

The Bucks have a weak rebounding center with Lopez and may be lucky to find Fernando available at 30. The Maryland center has been solid but he has not scored more than 14pts in a game for more than a month. He will not be asked to score first but bring his toughness around the rim.

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