Being a top-five pick in the NBA is high praise. The NBA is the best basketball league in the world and the talent is immense. Most teams that draft players in the top five are planning to make them instant starters and, in some cases, build their teams around them. However, no pick is the same. Every player chosen with one of the first five picks have helped their teams in some way, and some have even become the leaders of their teams and propelled them to playoff contention.
Pick No. 1: Zion Williamson, F, Pelicans
Williamson was always a consensus No. 1 pick. At 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, he is a freak of nature and he uses his strength to his advantage. Although he has only played 13 games while recovering from a torn meniscus, Williamson has certainly impressed so far. His 23.4 PPG is first among rookies, and he recently became the first teenager to record 10 straight 20-point games after scoring 24 in a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Additionally, the 23.4 PPG has been very efficient, as he has been shooting 58 percent from the field and 41 percent from the three-point line, although that has been a low sample size. As long as Williamson can stay healthy, both for the rest of this season and in the future, his stats should allow for him to be one of the league’s young superstars and one of the best at the forward positions.
Pick No. 2: Ja Morant, G, Grizzlies
If Williamson was the unquestionable No. 1 pick, then Ja Morant was by far the overwhelming majority for pick No. 2. So, far, this majority has been proven correct. Morant is averaging 17.5 points per game, which is second among rookies behind Williamson. Additionally, Morant is averaging 6.9 assists per game, which is first among rookies. Morant is part of a young Memphis roster which also includes Brandon Clarke, Grayson Allen, and Jaren Jackson, Jr. Although Memphis is generally considered to be a rebuilding team, their current 29-31 record is good for eighth in the West. The youth movement is in full swing for this Grizzlies team, and Morant is spearheading it. If their upward mobility continues, expect them to be a contender in the West a few years down the line.
Pick No. 3: RJ Barrett, G, Knicks
Although he is no Williamson or Morant, Barrett has certainly put up respectable numbers as the third overall pick in last year’s draft. Due to the Knicks’ lack of depth at the shooting guard position, Barrett was thrust into the starting position and so far has been a decent contributor on an otherwise poor New York team. Barrett has been averaging 13.8 PPG, which ranks fifth among rookies, and his 5.1 RPG and 2.4 APG rank sixth. Additionally, Barrett has also managed to mostly stay out of injury trouble, with the exception being a 10-game absence due to an ankle ailment. The Knicks are undergoing front office changes, having just hired Leon Rose as the new team president, and things are finally looking up for a franchise that has endured years of suffering. RJ Barrett is certainly a cornerstone of the new chapter of Knicks’ history and he should be a key part of this organization coming forward.
Pick No. 4: De’Andre Hunter, F, Lakers (Traded to Hawks)
While his stats aren’t extremely impressive, Hunter has certainly been a nice complementary piece on a Hawks team that has struggled to find much success. His 31.8 minutes per game rank first among all rookies and his 12.6 PPG ranks eighth. Additionally, Hunter seems to be improving throughout the season as he averaged 13.8 PPG and 6.8 RPG, which is a definite improvement over both the month of January and his career averages in total. Overall, Hunter is so far a very beneficial asset to this Hawks team. He has been subtly improving throughout the season, and if he puts work in over the offseason, he should be a very important player moving forward for Atlanta.
Pick No. 5: Darius Garland, G, Cavaliers
Garland was projected to be one of the top point guards in the 2019 draft and that prediction has proven to be accurate. Garland has silently been one of the best rookie point guards from last year’s draft. His 12.4 PPG ranks second among rookie point guards behind the aforementioned Ja Morant and his 87 percent free throw percentage ranks first among all rookies who have played more than 40 games. While these stats are nothing to be ashamed of, Garland needs to step up. This is a young, inexperienced Cavaliers team; at 17-43 and 15th in the East, they need a player who can consistently score on a nightly basis and lead the team. Garland is an obvious candidate. As a point guard, he brings the ball up the court and he needs to bring his team up, as well. If all goes well, Cleveland will get him some help over the next couple of years, whether that be through the draft or free agency. Garland should improve as he enters the next stage of his career and if that is the case, expect him to propel the Cavaliers to contenders in the East.