With the NBA Finals winding down here in the next week or so, the NBA offseason is right around the corner. This is looking to be one of the more exciting offseasons in recent memory (although I feel like we say that every year about every offseason). But this definitely feels different, and that’s even with LeBron James not being a part of the free agent frenzy.
There are so many star-caliber players testing the free agency waters this summer, including Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, and many more. There’s also the uncertain future of Anthony Davis, where it appears he will be traded either this offseason or before the deadline next season, which could alter the whole offseason entirely.
And then there’s the NBA Draft. Though this class doesn’t look to be as deep as previous years, there is some strong talent at the top of the draft, including one of the most coveted players in years in Zion Williamson. The Draft Lottery was a wild one, with the new rule making it tougher for the worst teams to get the top pick really taking effect this year. The Pelicans, Grizzlies, and Lakers all jumped up the draft order quite a bit, pushing those weaker teams back in the draft. So in my first installment of mock drafts, I’m going to predict who each lottery team will select in the upcoming draft.
New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, Duke
There was a big ripple effect when the Pelicans won the draft lottery. There were ideas of whoever won the lottery would use that number one pick as a trade sweetener to land AD, but now that the Pelicans have the number one pick, a likely trade package would have to be centered around something or someone else. But the Pelicans will take Zion here. As mentioned before, Zion is one of the most coveted prospects since AD. The only question here is will AD want to stay and play with Zion, or will he still want out?
Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant, Murray State
Here’s where the draft really starts. The number one pick looks like a lock, and though things aren’t quite as definite here, it looks like the likely pick is Ja Morant. Morant wowed fans and scouts with his incredible scoring and athletic ability, as well as his ability to distribute the ball. The only worry here is fit, which revolves entirely around the future of Mike Conley. He’s been involved in trade talks for the last few seasons, so if they do end up deciding to trade Conley, then Morant would be a perfect fit. Playing both of them together would be interesting, but both players really need the ball in their hand to be effective.
New York Knicks: R.J. Barrett, Duke
The Knicks had the highest chance to win the lottery, but ended up with the third overall pick. Obviously they would have liked to select Zion, but R.J. Barrett is a solid selection as well. There are already talks of the Knicks potentially trading this pick to go back in the draft and stockpile more picks. The likely trade candidate here would be the Atlanta Hawks, who own the 8th and 10th picks. If the Knicks do stay here, then Barrett is the likely selection. Since the Knicks didn’t win the Zion sweepstakes, their eyes are now more focused on free agency with their large cap-space and numerous stars in the free agency mix.
Los Angeles Lakers: De’Andre Hunter, Virginia
The Lakers season was a huge disappointment, but that was largely because LeBron was injured for a large portion of the season. However, their plan has always been focused on free agency and getting a star or two to team up with Bron (or trade for AD). The Lakers moved up quite a few spots in the lottery, so that’s a win for them. If they keep this pick, I can see them grabbing Hunter, who is an ideal three-and-D type player who would fit well with LeBron. However, I can see the Lakers trading this pick to the Pelicans in a package for AD.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Cam Reddish, Duke
The third Duke player selected in five picks, the Cavs need some help on the wing, and Reddish would be a solid fit. He didn’t impress a lot while at Duke, but that may have been a system issue, where he was the third option playing behind players like Barrett and Williamson. Reddish has great potential, with a great shooting touch, and the length to be a contributor on the defensive end as well. Reddish and Collin Sexton would be a nice duo to jump start their rebuild.
Phoenix Suns: Darius Garland, Vanderbilt
The Suns need a point guard desperately. Garland would be an ideal selection here for the Suns. The only issue with Garland is his injury history, where he was sidelined for essentially the entire season, but was stellar before the injury. The Suns would have liked to stay up in the lottery to potentially land Morant, but Garland would not be a bad consolation prize.
Chicago Bulls: Coby White, North Carolina
The Bulls, much like the Suns, really could use a point guard. Morant and Garland are the two best point guards in the draft, but White doesn’t seem to be too far behind the two. He has good range, and does a good job distributing the ball as well. The Bulls have some nice young pieces already on the roster in Zach Lavine, Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr., but are a point guard away from taking that next step forward in their rebuild.
Atlanta Hawks: Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech
In the first of their two selections in the lottery, the Hawks will add to their need at the wing in Culver. Culver is another quality three-and-D player, but can also create on his own. He would fit nicely alongside Trae Young and John Collins in what seems to be a promising Hawks team. Add in a solid free agent as well as their other selections in the draft, and this could be a team on the rise.
Washington Wizards: Bol Bol, Oregon
The Wizards had a lot of promise heading into this past season, but things just didn’t pan out for them. To make matters worse, John Wall will be out all of next year with a season-ending injury, all while his huge contract comes into effect next year. So the Wizards have some choices to make: whether or not to trade Wall (if they can with his injury and large contract), to trade away Bradley Beal, or to keep them both and try to make things work. Either way, they need to get this selection right, and Bol Bol would be quite the interesting pick. He’s one of the most unique players in this draft for his size and skill set, but his injury history is cautioning, especially for a player of his size. If healthy, Bol could be an absolute force, and has a lot of potential, and could easily be the steal of the lottery.
Atlanta Hawks: Jaxson Hayes, Texas Tech
With their second selection in the lottery, the Hawks could select Hayes here. Hayes is another ideal fit for this young Hawks squad. He’s is a great shot-blocker, with the capability of being a rim-running big that would be perfect if they want to play fast. As mentioned before, the Hawks have quite a few picks in this year’s draft, so they could potentially package a few of them to move up in the draft.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Sekou Doumbouya, France
Minnesota has one of the best young players in the league in Karl-Anthony Towns, but haven’t been able to produce any playoff success. They desperately need to find a player to pair him with, because so far Andrew Wiggins hasn’t been that guy (though he is still quite young). Sekou Doumbouya could be that guy. He’s 6’9″ with a unique skillset on the offensive end and can be a terror on the defensive end as well. He is still pretty raw, and European prospects are always tough to gauge, but with some time he could be that second piece of the duo with Towns.
Charlotte Hornets: Kevin Porter Jr., USC
Charlotte has a lot of uncertainty heading into next season. Their biggest priority will be to re-sign Kemba Walker. I don’t think there is a point guard at this point in the draft worth taking if they don’t think they’ll retain Walker, so I think they’ll go best player available, since they have a lot of needs on the team. Porter Jr. could be a top 10 talent, but after being suspended for a portion of his college season, he may have character issues that will make him a risky pick.
Miami Heat: Romeo Langford, Indiana
Miami could use a shooting guard, and would probably have liked Porter Jr. to have fallen here. Nonetheless, Langford would be a solid backup plan here. Langford was a highly touted recruit out of high school, but didn’t quite produce at the level he was expected to. His shooting numbers were low, and some question his drive, but the talent is clearly there, and with some time, he could be the shooting guard Miami looks to have replace Dwyane Wade.
Boston Celtics (via Sacramento and Philadelphia): Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga
With the last pick of the lottery, the Celtics will select their first of three picks in the first round. I’m assuming they will find a way to move at least one of their first three picks, but let’s just say they keep this pick. They have a lot of talent at the wing position, so I think they’ll add depth down low. Insert Brandon Clarke. Clarke is also pretty raw, but is a freak athletically. There’s no real rush for him to produce right away, so he would be an ideal selection. The Celtics are in the mix for trading for AD, so if they package some picks and their wings like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, they could add a wing player with this pick, in which case a guy like Rui Hachimura would make a lot of sense here.