CHICAGO — The NBA draft lottery completely jumped the shark on Tuesday night, gifting the Pelicans the No. 1 pick as one of three teams leaping into the top four, against the likely odds. This, of course, means New Orleans has first crack at Zion Williamson, the prize of this draft and a potentially franchise-changing talent. The Anthony Davis situation still looms. This is where things start to get fascinating.
A number of franchises had their fortunes altered by these particular ping pong balls: the Grizzlies are now picking second, the Knicks ended up picking third, and the Lakers converted on a 2.8% chance of moving up to No. 4. The Cavs and Suns watched their 14% odds at winning turn into essentially a worst-case scenario, falling to fifth and sixth, respectively. There’s a whole lot to unpack.
As always, our mock draft paints a picture of what the draft might look like if it took place on a given day. For evaluations and rankings of the available prospects, check out our most recent big board, a fluid, comprehensive list of the Top 100 players.
Pelicans: Zion Williamson, PF, Duke
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 285 | Freshman
Wow. The Pelicans converted on a 6% chance of winning the lottery, and now hold the rights to draft Williamson, a singular force at the college level and potentially a star talent. It’s a twist with massive implications, as the Pelicans now hold two massive cards between the top selection and a want-away Anthony Davis (or last we heard). Will the Pelicans flip Davis and restart their rebuild with Williamson and a massive collection of assets? Will they hold onto Davis and sell him on teaming with Williamson and the returning Jrue Holiday? It’s a lot to reckon with for new boss David Griffin, whose lottery magic has continued from his time in Cleveland. Surely, the Pelicans will have an opportunity to move down and sell this pick to the highest bidder if they choose, but it’s a fascinating position to operate from. Griffin has a lot of cards to play as he orients the franchise toward a new future.
Grizzlies: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 175 | Sophomore
The lottery completely ran wild, with Memphis converting on a 6.3% chance at the second pick and ending up in an enviable position. The Grizzlies have been intent on trading Mike Conley, and will be able to select a natural successor here in Morant, while continuing to explore options. He has the chance to be a franchise-changing player and inject energy into this team, forming a long-term pairing with Jaren Jackson Jr. that could be potent. Memphis will likely consider R.J. Barrett as well, but Morant is a terrific option at No. 2. Many around the NBA consider him the best choice here, regardless of position. There’s enough serious interest in him for the Grizzlies to consider trading down, if they choose.
Knicks: RJ Barrett, G/F, Duke
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 200 | Freshman
Knicks fans hoping for Zion will certainly be disappointed with this outcome, but Barrett would be a solid fit with what New York has in place, and give them a high-caliber scorer to build around. While he does come with some warts, Barrett is a consensus top-three choice in the minds of most teams, and seems bound to post big point totals in the NBA. Scouts continue to wonder whether Barrett’s impressive individual production will be accompanied by team success when the level of play increases, and it’s the essential question when projecting him long-term. But certainly, he won’t be afraid of the New York spotlight. Whichever of Morant or Barrett falls to this spot would give the Knicks a solid cornerstone to build around.
Lakers: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
Height: 6’6” | Weight: 195 | Sophomore
It will be curious to see what the Lakers do with this selection, knowing that winning big is imperative with LeBron James on board, and with the recent instability within the organization. Although leaping up from No. 11 to No. 4 (and with a 2.8% chance of doing so) is a huge win, it’s safe to say that the trade value of this pick, at a glance, may not be great. The consensus among NBA executives is that this spot is where the talent level starts to flatten out. While Culver lacks the projectable star power of the players listed ahead of him, he has the makings of a strong supporting option at the next level. He’ll have to continue improving his jumper to maximize his potential, but his trajectory over the past couple of seasons has been impressive. The Lakers will have their choice of whoever’s left, but nailing this pick may be a challenge, and it’s where the draft starts to get interesting.
Cavaliers: Cam Reddish, SF, Duke
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 220 | Freshman
This was not ideal for the Cavaliers, who would have been happy with any of the options in the top three, and are now essentially positioned to deal with whatever’s left. After drafting Collin Sexton in last year’s lottery, it’s unclear how much interest Cleveland will have in drafting a guard at this spot, with at least of Darius Garland and Coby White set to be available to them. The Cavs would have been justified taking Ja Morant in spite of the positional issues, but it’s a more difficult decision here. Despite a disappointing year at Duke, Reddish’s tools and the upside in his skill set have him somewhat entrenched as an early selection in a down draft. The Cavs will need to make an upside play, and on paper, this might be their logical bet.
Suns: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
Height: 6'3" | Weight: 170 | Freshman
Although Phoenix will miss out on Zion and what would have been a home run in Morant, they should still be able to address their long-standing point guard hole picking sixth. A talented, scoring-oriented ball-handler who is still refining himself into a lead guard, Garland is an interesting risk-reward option in this range. He has been out since injuring himself in the fourth game of the season, and we’re told that as of the start of this month, he had not yet progressed to contact drills. It will be curious to see how much he’s able to show teams over the next several weeks, but surely, Garland would be a long-term upgrade here.
Bulls: Coby White, G, North Carolina
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 185 | Freshman
Chicago is set with Wendell Carter and Lauri Markkanen up front, and with Kris Dunn currently their only long-term option at point guard and coming up on restricted free agency next summer, this pick should offer them a chance to address the backcourt. White possesses a good deal of upside, tied to his size, perimeter shooting and developing lead guard skills. His trajectory has been encouraging, and while the Bulls are also tied to a shot-happy guard in Zach LaVine, White is the most intriguing long-term fit at this spot.
Hawks: De'Andre Hunter, F, Virginia
Height: 6’7” | Weight: 225 | Sophomore
While Hunter is one of the more NBA-ready players likely to be selected in the lottery, the question of where his ceiling lies makes it more difficult to see a rebuilding team investing in him too early on in the draft. Still, Atlanta would be an ostensibly promising fit for him, granting him a chance to play off of gifted shot-creator Trae Young. Hunter is a big, physical defender who has expanded his game offensively, although he has limitations playing off the dribble. The Hawks are set in the backcourt for now, and net a potentially valuable role player with this pick.
Wizards: Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
Height: 6’11” | Weight: 220 | Freshman
Falling to ninth was nearly a worst-case scenario for Washington, but netting an intriguing project like Hayes here would be solid consolation. Although he’s early in his development curve, Hayes is considered a strong long-term option as a defensive-minded center who can run the floor and finish plays. He comes with a good deal of untapped upside. Although the Wizards remain in organizational flux for now, investing in a guy like Hayes is a sensible choice.
Hawks: Goga Bitadze, C, KK Buducnost
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 245 | Age: 19
The Hawks will collect on this pick from Dallas after the Mavericks failed to move into the top four. Bitadze would be a solid option here, helping address a hole at center long-term and fitting nicely with their rebuild. The Georgian big man comes off the heels of an impressively productive season with Mega Leks and on loan at Buducnost in the Euroleague. His high-level experience, size and natural scoring ability put him on good footing as he begins his NBA career, and it feels increasingly likely he lands somewhere in the late lottery.
Timberwolves: Nassir Little, F, North Carolina
Height: 6’6” | Weight: 220 | Freshman
It’ll be curious to see which direction the Timberwolves go in their first draft with Gersson Rosas at the helm, and as they try to fit the right pieces around Karl-Anthony Towns. Little is an upside play who comes off a somewhat disappointing freshman season, but brings solid athletic tools to the table. There’s a degree of optimism shared by some teams about Little’s personality and work ethic, one which makes him a more appealing long-term project. He has a ways to go before getting up to speed, but athletic wings with his body type and physical ability aren’t easy to find.
Hornets: Sekou Doumbouya, F, Limoges
Height: 6’9” | Weight: 230 | Age: 18
Doumbouya would be an intriguing fit in Charlotte, where the roster could use an infusion of talent and the presence of fellow Frenchmen Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum would help ease his transition. While Doumbouya has maturing to do and has not played a ton of high level competition at this stage, his athletic tools and jump shooting potential at combo forward create real long-term upside. Although it’s possible Bitadze moves ahead of him as the first international player off the board, expect Doumbouya to land somewhere in this range of the draft.
Heat: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 220 | Freshman
Most every team is well aware of Porter’s impressive gifts as a ball-handler and athlete, and there’s only so far he can really be allowed to slip on draft night. But he’s going to require some significant nurturing to reach his potential, as teams continue to hold concerns about how seriously Porter approaches the game and whether he’s ready to handle being a professional. He would be a fit with an organization like Miami that trusts its internal culture and has been unafraid to take risks. Noting the possibility Porter could begin to tap into his full potential as a scorer and playmaker, there’s a chance he’s selected much earlier than this..
Celtics (via Kings): PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 230 | Sophomore
Whether or not the Celtics get Kyrie Irving back long-term, the thing they certainly don’t lack for is scorers, and a potential glue guy like Washington might make sense in this slot, He wouldn’t be a sexy pick, but has an appealing, translatable skill set that should fit into an NBA frontline sooner than later. If Washington can continue to improve his outside shooting (although his free throws remain subpar), it will go a long way.
Pistons: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 215 | Freshman
It’s been hard to find teams particularly enamored with Langford after the season he just had, and though his body and athletic tools look the part, there are valid concerns about the holes in his skill set, particularly his ongoing jump shooting struggles. While Langford was mostly productive and played through a thumb injury, he struggles to create good shots off the dribble and lacks a degree of creativity to his game that will create problems against better defenders. The Pistons need help on the wing, and at this point in the draft, it’s easier to justify taking the plunge.
Magic: Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 230 | Junior
Hachimura raised some eyebrows after deciding not to participate in the draft combine, and while his agency angles to control his predraft process and limit teams’ access, there is split opinion among scouts on where his upside actually sits. Some are intrigued by the long-term upside and his NBA body type, and he’s difficult to stop when he gets downhill. There’s also an argument to be made with regard to his somewhat-limited feel and the fact he can at times be something of a black hole who sucks up touches offensively. Hachimura will have to expand his skill set and improve his jumper to warrant anything close to the same type of touches he got in college. Orlando loves to take chances on upside, and he’d be a good one if he were to slip this far.
Nets: Bol Bol, C, Oregon
Height: 7'2" | Weight: 235 | Freshman
As the Nets continue to try and add depth up front, Bol offers tangible upside but also comes with a good deal of risk here. Where he eventually lands will have a lot to do as teams obtain access to his medicals and get a better sense of his long-term health picture. There aren’t many players like Bol, a jump shooting 7-footer with a natural stroke, and even with the clear holes in his game and questions about his work ethic, at some point it will become tenable to roll the dice. A team with multiple first-rounders would be best positioned to select him.
Pacers: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 190 | Freshman
Indiana can go a variety of directions with this pick, with a good chunk of their roster set to hit free agency. Trying to find help on the wing makes the most sense, and Herro’s ability to shoot from distance and surprisingly well-rounded skill set will make him an appealing fit to a lot of teams. While there are still some physical limitations he’ll face at the next level, he’s proven he’s more than just a specialist and added value in other ways for Kentucky. If he can refine his on-the-move shooting into an elite skill, Herro should be able to hang around the NBA for a long while.
Spurs: KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 215 | Sophomore
The Spurs are not afraid of taking on long-term development projects, and Okpala possesses the type of size and athleticism on the wing their roster currently lacks. While he had an inconsistent year at Stanford and will likely require seasoning in the G League, Okpala’s best flashes are tantalizing, and the hope is he can add some value as a big, slashing wing who plays both ends of the floor. He’s still figuring out how good he can be, but as he starts to tap into more of his ability, he could return a lot of value in this part of the draft.
Celtics (via Clippers: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 205 | Sophomore
Alexander-Walker would fit neatly with the Celtics, in a situation where he wouldn’t be asked to do a ton of scoring and would be a strong complement to the perimeter talent already in place. Whether Boston actually uses all three of their first-rounders remains to be seen, but if they’re hunting for role players, they should have several strong options at this point in the draft. What Alexander-Walker lacks in athletic upside and innate ability attacking the basket, he should be able to compensate for with feel and skill.
Thunder: Matisse Thybulle, SG, Washington
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 200 | Senior
Ever since Thybulle’s notable decision to decline a combine invitation, there’s been a wave of leaguewide speculation as to whether he received a promise in exchange for shutting things down. It’s not clear yet if he’ll work out for teams in private, which will be telling. For a development-focused organization like the Thunder, Thybulle’s athleticism, length and elite defensive instincts make for an appealing toolkit, and if he can knock down open threes at a good clip, he could become an extremely valuable role player.
Celtics: Luguentz Dort, G, Arizona State
Height: 6'4" | Weight: 215 | Freshman
Dort’s physical, workmanlike style has earned him fans around the league, and his athleticism and strong body type create a degree of floor. It‘s easy to see him being able to keep up with his tools. His shooting and skill level do create some concern, but the fact Dort plays as hard as he does leaves hope for him turning into a solid defender. He’ll need to rein it in a bit offensively, and his jump shot is a big question, but he could be another solid potential role player for Boston at this spot.
Jazz: Keldon Johnson, G/F, Kentucky
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 210 | Freshman
The Jazz can get younger and add depth on the wing with this pick. Johnson’s stock has dropped a bit as his limitations became evident at Kentucky, but he does enough offensively and brings strong enough intangibles to appeal to a playoff team as a future contributor. His competitive approach is easy to appreciate, and he should be able to shoot and defend enough to find a niche. Johnson has always been wired as a scorer, and may have to rein in some old habits to make it work.
Sixers: Cameron Johnson, SF, North Carolina
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 210 | Senior
At this point, Johnson looks one of the more NBA-ready wings available, with a potentially elite catch and shoot profile that makes him a good first-round bet despite his advanced age and history of leg injuries. He’ll only be average defensively, but his touch and mechanics are for real, and Johnson will have to be accounted for on the floor at all times. A playoff team like the Sixers might be able to use him immediately as a plug-and-play floor spacer.
Blazers: Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 210 | Junior
The Blazers can add depth at power forward here with Clarke, whose athleticism, energy and defensive capabilities might bolster their rotation right away. Clarke is a divisive player from scout to scout, as some teams view him as more of a second-round type given the limitations posed by his height and skill set. He’ll have to continue improving his outside shooting to maximize his chances. But for a competitive team that can plug him in as a role player early on, Clarke will be an interesting option. He had a prolific year at Gonzaga, but teams are still trying to assess which parts of his game will translate.
Cavs (via Rockets): Nic Claxton, F/C, Georgia
Height: 6’11” | Weight: 200 | Sophomore
Cleveland stands to add to its frontline long-term, and Claxton’s size, skill level and potentially versatile game hold a degree of intrigue. He’s not a finished product, but if he stays in the draft, it’s easy to see him ending up in this range just based on his upside. He has surprising ball skills and defensive mobility, and will make for an interesting project if he comes out now.
Nets (via Nuggets): Carsen Edwards, G, Purdue
Height: 6’1” | Weight: 200 | Junior
Edwards is one of the draft‘s most dynamic scorers, and the Nets could do well adding him to their backcourt for long-term depth. He’s going to be able to generate offense in spurts off the bench, and his toughness and deep shooting ability continue to set him apart. If he can keep up defensively, Edwards should add value in this range of the draft.
Warriors: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland
Height: 6’10” | Weight: 235 | Sophomore
Fernando will be a solid depth piece for someone’s frontcourt, and his motor and physicality are clear strengths at this stage of his development. He’ll need to become a more consistent shooter and shot-blocker to maximize his ability, but of the centers in this range, his body and athletic readiness stands out. The Warriors are always on the hunt for role players with their late first-round selections.
Spurs (via Raptors): Neemias Queta, C, Utah State
Height: 6’11” | Weight: 240 | Freshman
Queta continues to receive first-round interest from teams, with immense length and defensive potential making him an appealing long-term option up front. San Antonio’s roster has become guard-heavy over the past couple years, and this pick should provide a strong opportunity for them to add to their frontcourt. The Spurs have a strong history with international talent, and the Portuguese big man would be a good option here.
Bucks: Mfiondu Kabengele, PF, Florida State
Height: 6’9” | Weight: 240 | Sophomore
While Kabengele may need a strong week at the combine to solidify himself in this range of the draft, he’s generated some buzz with his length, rim protection and three-point shooting all plus factors up front. His heavier body type belies surprising mobility, and there’s some upside if he can continue working into better shape. The Bucks need their bigs to space the floor around Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kabengele should be among the prospects in the mix at this spot.