While two teams worked their way to the finish line in the NBA Finals, the rest of the league has been getting ready for the draft June 20.
After talking to scouts and executives from around the league to try to gauge where things stand with the top prospects for the first round, here’s how the draft could unfold.
The easiest prediction in the history of prediction. There’s a better chance the sun doesn’t rise tomorrow than there is of New Orleans looking at the most hyped prospect since LeBron James and saying, “Nah.”
The Grizzlies officially are moving on from the “Grit and Grind” era, and Mike Conley should be on the move. Morant is the perfect replacement. He’s comfortable in smaller markets (see Murray State) and is unselfish enough to guide the team in the right direction.
No. 3 New York Knicks: RJ Barrett, Duke, F, 6-7, 202
He still has a lot of room to grow, particularly as a shooter. The Knicks could move this pick in a trade for a star player, perhaps one with a single eyebrow. There was also some chatter that they could be looking to move down, though that doesn’t make much sense.
No. 4 LAKERS: Darius Garland, Vanderbilt, G, 6-2, 175
The Lakers will probably do the clutch thing here and take Garland, a scoring guard who they’ll hope pairs well with Lonzo Ball. A more polished player, say DeAndre Hunter, might help more right away, but Garland’s ceiling is higher.
Culver has great size for a shooting guard with a chance to be an impact player on both ends of the court. One of the stars of the NCAA tournament, Culver is a good ballhandler that would pair well with Collin Sexton in the Cavaliers’ backcourt of the future.
Scouts love Hunter’s size and defensive instincts. He’s the kind of player that will add to a team that needs culture, and the Suns certainly could use some of that. Phoenix is desperate for a point guard, but if Hunter’s here, they’ll take him.
There are some questions as to White’s natural point-guard abilities, but the Bulls will have to take those risks. Chicago’s future in the frontcourt is set, but it needs someone who can run the offense, and White is the best option available.
The Hawks have three of the first 17 picks and could certainly be a team that could move up in the draft if the right opportunity is there. If they don’t make a deal, they can afford to gamble on a talent like Reddish.
No. 9 Washington Wizards: Jaxson Hayes, Texas, C, 6-11, 220
Scouts and evaluators love Hayes, who can affect the game on both ends with his length (7-4 wingspan) and athleticism. He’s rising on a lot of draft boards and could very easily be gone before the Wizards pick.
No. 10 Atlanta Hawks: Bol Bol, Oregon, C, 7-2, 222
One of the biggest boom/bust prospects in the draft, there has never been a player quite like Bol. He has amazing length and the skill to knock down three-point shots in transition. But he’s also very slight and coming off a foot injury.
No. 11 Minnesota Timberwolves: PJ Washington, Kentucky, F, 6-8, 228
The Timberwolves could go in a lot of directions and Washington would be a good fit for coach Ryan Saunders. He’s a good post scorer. Defensively, Washington has a chance to be an impact player because of his strength and size.
No. 12 Charlotte Hornets: Goga Bitadze, Georgia, C, 6-11, 250
Some scouts have Bitadze as the top international prospect in the draft. He reminds some evaluators of a Marc Gasol-type center who can play facing the basket because of his shooting touch. Will he defend like Gasol? Probably not.
The Heat needs to add talent through the draft because of a horrible salary-cap situation. Little was a top prospect but he didn’t impact games as you’d expect as a freshman. He has a higher ceiling than any other prospects available.
The Celtics have three picks and could certainly use them in a trade, whether to move up or to acquire a player. If they keep the pick, a player like Hachimura, a forward who could help right away because of his smarts and effort, could be the pick.
No. 15 Detroit Pistons:Tyler Herro, Kentucky, G, 6-5, 195
The Pistons need shooting, even if it means drafting another off-ball guard.
No. 16 Orlando Magic: Romeo Langford, Indiana, F, 6-6, 215
He’ll need to improve as a shooter, but Langford’s other skills have scouts intrigued.
No. 17 Atlanta Hawks: Sekou Doumbouya, France, F, 6-9, 210
A very high-upside prospect with the chance to be a versatile defender.
Might be better suited as a small-ball power forward, but he plays with force.
No. 19 San Antonio Spurs: Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga, F, 6-8, 215
A really good athlete, albeit a little undersized as a frontcourt piece.
No. 20 Boston Celtics: Kevin Porter, USC, G, 6-6, 218
A top-eight talent that is all over draft boards because of an uneven season with the Trojans.
No. 21 Oklahoma City Thunder: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Virginia Tech, G, 6-5, 205
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s cousin is a do-it-all guard who is rising on some boards.
No. 22 Boston Celtics: Ty Jerome, Virginia, G, 6-5, 195
A favorite of college scouts, Jerome’s ballhandling and shot making should keep him in NBA rotations.
A floor-spacing big that would benefit by having strong defenders around him.
No. 24 Philadelphia 76ers: Carsen Edwards, Purdue, G, 6-1, 200
Had a great run in the NCAA tournament and can space the court with deep range.
No. 25 Portland Trail Blazers: KZ Okpala, Stanford, F, 6-9, 215
Could be a nice 3-and-D prospect if he develops consistency.
No. 26 Cleveland Cavaliers: Mfiondu Kabengele, Florida State, F, 6-10, 250
Lots to like here — size, length and skill. He’s still quite raw.
No. 27 Brooklyn Nets: Darius Bazley, F, 6-9, 210
The Syracuse and Ohio State commit didn’t play in college so more of a long-term prospect.
No. 28 Golden State Warriors: Nicolas Claxton, Georgia, F, 6-11, 220
Really unique size-skill combination for a big.
No. 29 San Antonio Spurs: Luka Samanic, Croatia, F, 6-11, 230
A star of the predraft workout process, he could be picked sooner.
No. 30 Milwaukee Bucks: Bruno Fernando, Maryland, C, 6-10, 240
Great measurable assets but still a lot to learn on the court.