1. New York Knicks: Zion Williamson, PF, Duke: We don’t need to spend too much time on this one. He’s a generational talent and the best prospect since LeBron James. It’s a no-brainer pick for a Knicks team that needs help everywhere and gets it in Williamson.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers: R.J. Barrett, SF, Duke: There wasn’t a more talented player who took as much heat this past season as Barrett, who despite the warts in his game led the ACC in scoring and posted the fourth triple-double in Duke history. The Cavs hope he bas the impact of another Duke freshman they drafted (Kyrie Irving) and not the impact of the last Canadian they drafted (Anthony Bennett). Ja Morant is an option here - or trading out of the pick - but Collin Sexton looks like the point guard of the future in Cleveland.
3. Phoenix Suns: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State: It’s the rare combination of a team filling its biggest need with the best player available. The Suns’ point guard carousel since Goran Dragic was dealt in 2015 has been laughable. Morant is an athletic freak with superb passing ability. He’s a jumper away from becoming an All-Star.
4. Chicago Bulls: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt: After drafting Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. in successive seasons, the Bulls are at a point where they can draft for need and upside – so long as it isn’t a massive reach. Point guard remains a glaring weakness, and Garland brings the kind of offensive spark contenders need at the position. Garland is a top-5 talent who tore his meniscus in November, costing him almost all of his freshman season. His medicals and pre-draft workouts should only improve his stock.
5. Atlanta Hawks: De’Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia: Atlanta has built an incredible core of talented offensive players in Trae Young, John Collins, Kevin Heurter and Taurean Prince. They’d find an excellent complement to those scorers in Hunter, the best perimeter defender in the class and a lights-out 3-point shooter. Hunter will be 22 in December but his skill set is exactly what NBA teams are looking for.
6. Washington Wizards: Cam Reddish, SF, Duke: He was a disappointment in Durham, and his struggles were only magnified because of what his two freshman teammates were doing. But Reddish is still oozing with potential as a wing scorer and could give the Wizards a do-over after they dealt Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre at least year’s trade deadline. Bradley Beal needs all the help he can get on the wing.
7. New Orleans Pelicans: Sekou Doumbouya, SF, France: It’s likely that Anthony Davis is gone next season, meaning the Pelicans will enter a rebuild with Jrue Holiday leading the way. So why not swing for the fences on an International pick in Doumbouya, a lengthy combo forward who runs the floor well and projects as an elite defender. In a weak draft class, picking for upside isn’t the worst idea.
8. Memphis Grizzlies: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech: His Final Four performances did nothing to help his stock but Culver is certainly worthy of a top-10 pick. He’s got the size and fluidity to excel at the next level and performs well on both ends of the floor. His jump shot needs improvement but the base is there for an excellent wing prospect. The Grizzlies hit on Jaren Jackson Jr. last season and could have a steal here again.
9. Atlanta Hawks (via DAL): Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas: John Collins is the power forward of the future but the Hawks have rotated Dewayne Dedmon and Alex Len at center and neither have staying power. While he might not be a great defender at this stage in his career, he’s a rim runner and someone who will work perfectly with Trae Young.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves: Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga: This feels like a perfect fit. In Clarke, the Timberwolves can plug in a power forward with elite defensive ability next to Karl-Anthony Towns and also find a replacement for impending free agent Taj Gibson – and insurance if Dario Saric bolts in free agency after next season.
11. Los Angeles Lakers: Nassir Little, SG, North Carolina: LeBron James wants as many shooters around him as possible, which isn’t exactly where Little excels, but the potential is too great to pass here. At the very worst, Little adds to a Lakers defense that was surprisingly good this past season. They can and will find shooters in free agency.
12. Charlotte Hornets: Bol Bol, C, Oregon: The Hornets have addressed the wing in each of the last two drafts – Malik Monk and Miles Bridges. But with Kemba Walker’s free agency looming, the Hornets swing for the fences on a boom-or-bust pick in Bol. He has the potential to be the NBA’s next unicorn or bust out because of his rail-thin frame. The middling Hornets should take a chance on him.
13. Miami Heat: Coby White, PG, North Carolina: The Heat are in a mess of mediocrity. Their only real core pieces are Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow. Winslow performed well in a de-facto point guard role but the Heat need something more sustainable. They get it in White, whose arrow is pointing way up. He’ll learn behind Goran Dragic before eventually taking over.
14. Boston Celtics (via SAC): Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga: Hachimura is a physical interior presence who seems incredibly comfortable inside. Maybe he never develops into an All-Star but he’s got a high floor thanks to his effort level, size and quickness. The Celtics are flush on talent so they go best player available.
15. Detroit Pistons: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana: Langford was one of the more disappointing freshmen this season and he really struggled from beyond the arc. The Pistons covet outside shooting but this late into the first round, grabbing a potential star in Langford is excellent value. Plus, the Pistons will likely be looking to replace Wayne Ellington on the wing. Let’s call this a Stanley Johnson do-over.
16. Orlando Magic: P.J. Washington, PF, Kentucky: Nikola Vucevic is an impending free agent and the Magic continue to bolster their frontcourt for a third consecutive draft. Washington is strong around the rim and improved his touch from 10 to 15 feet and extended his range to the 3-point line after coming back to Kentucky for his sophomore season. He’s still got plenty of upside and would improve Orlando’s depth inside.
17. Brooklyn Nets: Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky: Had he shot a better percentage from beyond the arc, Johnson would be a lock for the Lottery. He still might get there, as he does just about everything else well. He’s a tough slasher and has an excellent wingspan and defensive instincts that could make him quite the versatile defender at the next level. The Nets can use help on the wings – especially defensively.
18. Indiana Pacers: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC: Porter certainly could go higher than this – and if his medicals check out he likely will – but for now a turbulent freshman season at USC pegs him here. The Pacers love their wings and Porter gives them a Day 1 contributor as a talented slasher with shot-making ability.
19. San Antonio Spurs: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky: The Spurs will bring back the majority of their roster but can add another shooter and willing passer in Herro, who really came on strong in Kentucky’s final few months. He’s also somewhat of an insurance policy should Rudy Gay, an unrestricted free agent, opt to go elsewhere.
20. Boston Celtics: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech: There’s a real chance the Celtics deal for Anthony Davis at some point this offseason, so they may not even be picking here in June. But if Jayson Tatum and/or Jaylen Brown are part of a package to New Orleans, they’ll need some help on the wing. Alexander-Walker is oozing with potential as a scorer with a nice handle and a good frame.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Ty Jerome, PG, Virginia: Yes, this is probably high for Jerome right now and has some recency bias attached to it. But it wouldn’t be a shock to see Jerome shoot up draft boards during the pre-draft process. He’s got the defense that Oklahoma City loves, could provide depth at either guard position and is a stellar 3-point shooter. Jerome is going to go high on draft day.
22. Boston Celtics: Jontay Porter, C, Missouri: This feels like an obvious pick. The Celtics have a deep roster as is and they’ve got three first-round selections. So taking a flier on a supremely talented big who is rehabbing from ACL and MCL surgery makes sense. Porter will get his entire rookie season to rehab and be ready for 2020, when reserve center Aron Baynes is set to hit free agency.
23. Utah Jazz: Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas: Rudy Gobert is cemented in the middle of the Jazz lineup but they’ve never really had a true backup – apologies to Jeff Withey and Epke Udoh. They have the chance to find that potential reserve in Gafford, a rim-running big with excellent pick-and-roll potential. This is a great combination of fit and need.
24. Philadelphia 76ers: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland: Boban Marjanovic and Amir Johnson will both be free agents next season, leaving a void behind Joel Embiid. Fernando brings an attitude the Sixers are looking for. He might never be a plus offensive player but he’ll do enough on the defensive end to warrant this selection.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers (via HOU): Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State: When it comes down to it, the Cavaliers simply need good basketball players. Forgot need, fit, potential and whatever other buzz words you want to use. Horton-Tucker does a little bit of everything on the wing and would be a nice project for the Cavs to build up over the next few years.
26. Portland Trail Blazers: Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky: While it’s expected that Jusuf Nurkic will make a full recovery from the gruesome broken leg he suffered in March, the Blazers could use some insurance.
27. Brooklyn Nets: Cameron Johnson, SF, North Carolina: The Nets’ arrow is pointing up behind the play of D’Angelo Russell, Jarrett Allen and Spencer Dinwiddie. They’ll continue to compete but may need help on the wing, with DeMarre Carroll, Jared Dudley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson all hitting free agency. Johnson, a senior, gives Kenny Atkinson someone to plug in right away as a scorer on that wing. His game needs some polish but he’d fit in perfectly in Brooklyn.
28. Golden State Warriors: K.Z. Okpala, SF, Stanford: Long, athletic, lethal from beyond the arc? Yep, sounds like someone who could seriously flourish in Golden State. Okpala made 38 percent of his 3-pointers as a sophomore at Stanford and has the frame to pack on a few pounds to his 6-foot-8 body and become the Warriors’ next project. They might also have a spot on the wing open up this summer if Kevin Durant departs.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee: This just feels like a Spurs pick. Williams doesn’t have all that high a ceiling and he’ll be an NBA-ancient 21 years old in November. But what he lacks for in size – he’s a 6-foot-7 power forward – he makes up for in strength, finishing around the basket and the kind of passing out of the low post that Gregg Popovich loves. He could go back to Tennessee but if he hears first-round chatter he’ll stay in and probably be a value pick for the Spurs, because that’s what the Spurs do every year.
30. Milwaukee Bucks: Carson Edwards, PG, Purdue: The Bucks don’t need much help. Such is life for a 60-win team that has drafted incredibly well and brought in frontline talent. If George Hill isn’t back next season – and if for some reason Malcolm Brogdon signs elsewhere as a restricted free agent – the Bucks could look at Edwards, who put together an incredible NCAA Tournament in which he averaged 34.8 points and 7.0 made 3-pointers in four games. He’s undersized but the Bucks defense could hide him, and Mike Budenholzer wants all the 3-point shooting he can find.