The NBA Draft is quickly approaching, and as teams look to acquire the future of their franchises, let’s take a look at the first edition of an NBA Mock Draft.
With the focus of the NBA on the playoffs, it is easy to lose sight on the new crop of talent that is about to take the league by storm. This year, the hype is real surrounding the entire draft from the players available to the draft order itself. It was shocking enough that the Pelicans got the first overall pick in the draft, and the idea with pairing him with a superstar such as Anthony Davis is insane, to say the least. On that note, each team has the holes they must fill in the offseason and it begins in the draft. This mock draft will give insight on who each team in the top-10 should pick to jumpstart the future of their franchise. From the Pelicans to the Hawks, all of these lottery teams have something different that they need.
Round 1, Pick #1, New Orleans Pelicans: Forward, Zion Williamson, Duke
This pick is probably the most obvious one in the whole draft. At this point in the process, everyone is aware of who Zion Williamson is and the skill set that he can bring to New Orleans. As an elite athlete, Williamson has all the tools that can make him a potential star in the NBA. As dominant as he is, he remains unselfish and looks to get his teammates involved. Although teams double-teamed him plenty at Duke, he never panicked. In regards to his weaknesses though, Alvin Gentry will have to work with Williamson on his shot as it is both flat and has an awkward release from the side of his head. At his size, Williamson often gambles for blocks and steals which could be detrimental for the Pelicans.
This pick makes sense for all of the right reasons. Mainly because it is Zion Williamson. Having a future superstar such as Williamson would be beneficial towards both sides because he would get to learn from an established superstar in Anthony Davis, and for New Orleans, having Williamson may even persuade their star forward to stay in New Orleans for years to come.
Round 1, Pick #2, Memphis Grizzlies: Guard, Ja Morant, Murray State
Not long after the lottery, it was announced that Memphis is reportedly already set on Ja Morant as their next franchise player. The 6-foot-3 guard out of Murray State is already the size you need from a modern NBA point guard. A strong strength of him has to be his ability in the open court. His dynamic athleticism and control on the fast break are only comparable to that of a Russell Westbrook. He can score for you in the paint, in the midrange, and behind the arc. Outside of scoring, he has also proven to be an elite passer coming off of 10 assists per game for Murray State last season. In regards to his weaknesses, Morant needs to work on his decision making. He knows he has the ability to hit a shot, but sometimes wrongfully elects not to take it. Although he is in control in the open court, he must slow it down when he isn’t.
Considering the Grizzlies are listening to trade offers for Mike Conley, they must be all in on Morant and what he can do. He will not be going into a situation where there a superstar is next to him either. It will be his show and it is up to him to prove he can be a star at the next level.
Round 1, Pick #3, New York Knicks: Forward, RJ Barrett, Duke
This is not the pick that Knicks fans were looking forward to in the lottery. Nonetheless, the chips fell and not in New York’s favor. And although the pick will not be Zion, RJ Barrett would bring a large amount of talent to New York.
Barrett’s strengths lie in his physicality as a player. He is efficient when it comes to scoring through contact and his free throw numbers are an indication of that. Barrett’s size and defensive ability will allow him to guard 1-4 positions at the next level. He does not panic and takes his time with his excellent body control at the rim. And with his fakes and pivots, there is no denying his rather strong post-up game. His weaknesses are simply the fact that he is solid. When you look at other players in the draft, there is something eye-popping that sticks out about them, but that is not the case for Barrett. In addition to that, Barrett loves to take things into his own hands when things are not going well, which proved right in the NCAA Tournament last season. If Barrett wants to be elite, he needs to use his right hand more often. All season long, his right hand was basically a non-factor even when defenses showed him the right side.
This is not the superstar the Knicks want but it is going to be arguably the best player on the board.
Round 1, Pick #4, New Orleans Pelicans: Forward, De’Andre Hunter, Virginia
After trading Anthony Davis for the fourth pick in the draft, the Pelicans will need to start filling the void. With the team they have in place after the trade, it looks like they want a playoff spot next season. If they want that to come to fruition, they are going to have to draft a player that will make an impact immediately. At this position in the draft, De’Andre Hunter does just that. At Virginia, Hunter was a high-level defender and yet another player with the NBA frame that teams need.
He flourished at slashing to the basketball but for the Pelicans, his three-point shot is what will matter most. He is a fantastic catch-and-shoot player who will definitely be able to compliment Lonzo Ball’s defense and playmaking style. Hunter impacts both sides of the floor as a versatile defender who can hold his own in the paint. His versatility will be highly praised at the next level. However, he is not the most creative player in the draft. His offense is rather limited because of the fact that Hunter is a “straight-line driver” and a catch-and-shoot player. In addition to that, his ball handling is going to need much work at the next level. That goes for his slow release jump shot too.
Round 1, Pick #5, Cleveland Cavaliers: Guard, Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech
The Cavaliers need to go the route of choosing the best player available. After selecting PG Colin Sexton in last year’s draft, it is only right to pick up someone who can take a burden off his back. Selecting Culver will form a solid young backcourt that can possibly develop into something bigger in the future.
He is an elite level shooter who has the ability to knock down shots from anywhere on the court. His pure stroke proved to be highly efficient for the Red Raiders last season as he led his squad to the National Championship game. His crafty ballhandling allows him to be a high-level playmaker, especially after collapsing the defense. A less talked about strength of his has to be his movement without the ball, which is similar to that of Stephen Curry. At the next level, Culver must improve his free throw percentage. As a streaky guard, there is no excuse for him not to excel from the free throw line. His jump shot is also going to need to get quicker as he sort of has a slow windup with his release.
A Sexton-Culver backcourt does not sound bad in the slightest, and having those two to feed off of with Kevin Love can prove to be beneficial for the Cavaliers.
Round 1, Pick #6, Phoenix Suns: Guard, Darius Garland, Vanderbilt
There happens to be sudden hype surrounding Vanderbilt guard Darius Garland.
In a perfect world for the Phoenix Suns, they’d draft Morant to pair with star guard Devin Booker. However, Morant will be long gone by this pick and Garland serves as a suitable alternative.
He is a master at creating passing angles and excels at drawing in the defense. Unlike some other players, Garland can use both hands efficiently to put the ball in the basket. His floater is pure and when you need a fast break outlet, he is your guy. His offensive game is not lacking much at all. Along with his efficiency in the open court, Garland has a smooth jumper with a beautiful release. His scoring ability will be something to praise at the next level.
The only concerns with Garland have to be his frame. He is skinny, thin, and light which can see him get thrown around easily in the league. Matching up against other NBA point guards may be a challenge if he does not get his weight up. He also is not the most explosive player nor an above rim one at that.
The Suns have been on a hunt for a point guard and it is better to draft one here rather than having to use money in free agency. A Booker-Ayton-Garland trio is something the Suns should definitely consider.
Round 1, Pick #7, Chicago Bulls: Guard, Cameron Reddish, Duke
Cam Reddish is either the most underrated or most overrated prospect in the draft, or at least the top-10. At the beginning of the NCAAM season, Reddish was widely regarded to many as a top-five pick in the draft. Because of the spotlight being put on Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett at Duke, he did not get a chance to show NBA front offices what he is capable of.
Reddish is one of the most gifted players in this draft class. He is a well built and strong athlete with key coordination on the court. Although it may have been suppressed at Duke, Reddish is certainly effective in iso situations. Reddish’s quick first step is one of his biggest strengths. He has a combo guard skill set which will translate nicely at the next level with his slasher play style.
In regards to defense, he certainly can and is capable of holding his own at multiple positions. But on the flipside, he needs to tighten some mechanics on his jumper in order to be a consistent threat from behind the arc. His midrange percentages were poor and that is something he must look to improve on. Beyond all, he plays too passive. This may change as he plays away from Williamson and Barrett but he needs to show more grit and intensity on the court.
Round 1, Pick #8, Atlanta Hawks: Forward, Sekou Doumbouya, France
It is hard to determine the route that the Hawks should take with this pick. Considering they have two picks in the top-10, it would make the most sense for them to draft both a guard and a big man. However, how much does the front office really want the ball out of Trae Young’s hands? Sekou Doumbouya seems like the ideal fit to go with Young and John Collins
Back in France, Doumbouya is a dynamic athlete with the potential to be an elite defensive player. He can guard the 2-5 positions and can rely heavily on his defensive ability throughout his career. The 6-foot-11 big man with speed is basically a matchup nightmare. His leaping ability allows for clean finishes over defenders. As most big men may need, Doumbouya is also an above average shooter. Along with that, he can create his own shot. But there probably will not be much of that with Young as his teammate.
His weaknesses are the things you expect from some overseas players. He needs to learn the game completely and improve his decision making. His ball handling, playmaking, and three-point consistency are all things that must improve as well.
Playing with players like Collins and Young would alleviate some of the pressure that comes with being a rookie. Considering all three are young players, putting them together may allow them to help each other grow.
Round 1, Pick #9, Washington Wizards: Center, Jaxson Hayes, Texas
The Wizards need a big man to compliment John Wall and Bradley Beal. If Jaxson Hayes is on the board, he must be Washington’s first choice. Coming out of Texas, Hayes displays great size and athleticism. He is able to move his feet well and does a very nice job at adapting to changes on defense. His shot blocking skills are excellent to go with his ability to get his feet off the ground quickly. He averaged 2.2 blocks per game last season while only playing 23 minutes per game. His game resembles that of a Hassan Whiteside or even a JaVale McGee.
He isn’t the finest tuned player, however. Hayes is still figuring out some fundamental things on both offense and defense. As a big man, it seems suitable that he learns to be an above average shooter. He must develop his midrange and then maybe expand to beyond the arc. Having Beal and Wall on his team should make his play for the Wizards easier. Hayes will serve as a huge help for Washington if drafted.
Round 1, Pick #10, Atlanta Hawks: Forward, Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga
At this pick, the Hawks should immediately look to draft a guard to pair in the backcourt with Trae Young. But there is just too much frontcourt talent to pass up on. To me, this pick is a toss-up between both of Gonzaga’s big men in Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke. However, I believe that Hachimura as the upper hand on his former Gonzaga teammate and should be drafted by the Hawks.
Hachimura was a star for the Bulldogs. He has an NBA build with great strength, long arms and great coordination. At his 6-foot-8 height, Hachimura can outrun most of the players on the court. The paint is where he shines. He is a terrific offensive rebounder and can score well in the lane. Hachimura is a player that will be your outlet immediately after he snags the defensive rebound. On the other side of the ball, he has both the skills and potential to be a standout defender at the next level.
His weaknesses stem from his jump shot. He has limited range and allows defenders not to fear him when he is shooting the ball. The weakness that draws the most concern is his lack of consistency. He can give you one of his best games of the season one night, but then completely disappear in the next. Hopefully, that is something that changes with the amount of young talent he can bounce off of in Atlanta.
Drafting Hachimura will give the Hawks a tremendous young core that is feared. It is foolish to go out on a limb and say that they would be contenders or even make the playoffs. But with the right development of each of these young players, their core would be something to keep an eye on for years to come.