NCAA Men’s Basketball season is right around the corner. ‘Tis the season where new stars emerge and draft analysts trash their preseason big boards. The NBA season also has begun and some sort of a league dynamic is taking shape. We know the Golden State Warriors are going to be great and the Atlanta Hawks are going to suck but we have question marks such as the Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets. This mock only consists of the lottery due to the uncertainty around the draft order, which is the current order of standings. For full player rankings, check out my preseason NBA Draft big board here.
(Note: Jontay Porter is not included in this mock draft.)
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Zion Williamson, F, Duke (Fr.)
Last season, the Cavs lost LeBron James in free agency. Given the firing of Tyronn Lue and Kevin Love‘s injury, I feel confident in saying the Cavaliers will be the worst team in the NBA. Luckily for Cleveland, they will be in a good spot to potentially land LeBron v2. Many turn a blind eye to Williamson because they believe he is just an athlete.
Even if he was just an athlete, the level to which Williamson’s athleticism is so far ahead of his peers, making him a top-five prospect. Along with his Herculean physique, Williamson displays a deft handle, good passing vision, and soft touch. If he can become at least average from three, Williamson will be unstoppable on offense. Insert him into a talent-deficient Cavs roster and watch him take the NBA by storm.
2. Washington Wizards: R.J. Barrett, G/F, Duke (Fr.)
The Wizards are in free fall, with chemistry issues galore and a core that can’t get past the second round of the playoffs. Washington probably won’t finish this high in the draft but tanking and getting a high draft pick or two would be the best course of action. There is some chance that one of John Wall or Bradley Beal is no longer on the Wizards by their pick in the 2019 NBA draft.
R.J. Barrett’s best role is as a second option on a high-level team. His unique body control, balance, and strong lower body allow him to penetrate and finish at an elite level. He’s a great athlete with immense defensive potential. A fresh start and some new faces are what Washington needs and Barrett would provide just that.
3. Phoenix Suns: Nassir Little, F, North Carolina (Fr.)
Despite having four recent former top 10 picks on their roster, the Phoenix Suns still aren’t near contention. Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton both look to be quickly approaching offensive stardom but both are complete liabilities on the defensive end. Insert Nassir Litte, a feisty and physical defensive specimen. Not only can he lock down the opposing team’s best player but his defensive instincts are better than almost all of his peers.
Combine that with his great shot-making ability and you have a serious prospect; a souped-up 3-D wing, if you will. The trio of Little, Josh Jackson, and Mikal Bridges project to be a nightmare defensively. Those three alone should be able to cover for Booker and Ayton on that end of the floor.
4. Houston Rockets: Cameron Reddish, F/G, Duke (Fr.)
Despite their inauspicious start to the season, I am reasonably certain that a team as talented as this Rocket team would not finish in the top four, let alone the lottery in the NBA Draft. But for the fun of this exercise, let’s assume Houston falls apart and lands this high. Landing a player as talented as Cameron Reddish to this already stacked Houston team would be a fortuitous sign for future success.
The window for James Harden and Chris Paul to win a title is slowly closing and Reddish would provide insurance for the future and a talented player right now. The concerns about Reddish’s effort level and IQ are legitimate, but his talent as an offensive player could help Houston compete for a title, depending on how quickly Reddish develops.
5. Dallas Mavericks: Keldon Johnson, G/F, Kentucky (Fr.)
Acquiring a physical, tough, defensive-minded wing should be a top priority of the Dallas Mavericks. They have the foundation to be great on the offensive end. Luka Doncic already looks like a star and Dennis Smith has immense scoring potential if he can clean up his decision-making woes. Neither of those guys are great on defense and the Mavericks don’t have many, if any, defenders on the roster (it’s uncertain if they will bring back DeAndre Jordan anyhow).
Keldon Johnson’s strength, length, quickness, and effort points toward him developing into an excellent defender at the NBA level. Measuring 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, Johnson could legitimately develop into a 1-4 defender at the NBA level. He isn’t a commanding offensive prospect but his force attacking the rim and IQ should be enough for him to find an offensive role on an NBA team.
6. Atlanta Hawks: Bol Bol, C, Oregon (Fr.)
Of all of the picks in this NBA mock draft, there isn’t a better team-player fit than Bol Bol to the Hawks. We all know about Bol’s uncanny natural touch and overall offensive ability. There isn’t a seven-footer on the planet, besides maybe Kevin Durant, who is more offensively gifted as Bol. The Atlanta Hawks are entering a new of basketball; Lloyd Pierce is morphing them into the Warriors lite, a team predicated on pace, ball movement, and shooting. Trae Young is the perfect ringleader for their show and Bol Bol has all of the tools to be the Barnum to Young’s Bailey. He and John Collins‘ skill sets compliment each other well; Collins’ rebounding chops and bruising nature will help offset some of the deficiencies Bol’s frame brings.
7. New York Knicks: De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia (So.)
The Knicks have a lot going for them. A giraffe mixed with a unicorn with limitless potential, a lanky, tough defensive-minded combo guard, a long, talented wing, and a prolific scoring guard. One thing that the Knicks lack is a defensive stopper. De’Andre Hunter is one of the three best defenders in this draft; his strength and quickness allow him to defend anyone one-on-one. Against the better teams in the NBA, the Knicks could put Hunter on the opposing team’s best scorer and forget about it.
8. Chicago Bulls: Jarrett Culver: F, Texas Tech (So.)
The Bulls, early in this season, have made a few things clear. They have the potential to be an offensive juggernaut. Zach LaVine is a scoring machine and the Bulls have a plethora of scoring options, from Jabari Parker to Wendell Carter to Antonio Blakeney. Unfortunately, they aren’t too great on the other end of the floor. Jarrett Culver’s length and IQ would let him plug right into any Chicago lineup and make an immediate positive impact. He has enough offensive ability to be a competent role player next to Chicago’s offensive stars.
9. Orlando Magic: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State (So.)
The Orlando Magic have the talent foundation for a competitive roster in the future, led by Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, and Mohamed Bamba. However, they are in desperate need of a lead guard, especially given the weight put on guards in today’s NBA. In this weak draft class, point guard talent isn’t copious. In any other class, Morant likely isn’t worth a top 10 pick, but he is talented. Playing at Murray State, Morant is well above his peers athletically and has a good feel for the game. Plug him into Orlando’s young core and you could see a contender growing in the East.
10. Los Angeles Lakers: Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas (So.)
Early in the NBA season, this fledgling Los Angeles Lakers roster has been poor on the defensive end. Their 20th-ranked defensive rating plays a big part in their 3-5 record. They aren’t loaded with defensive talent by any means and their poor technique and communication haven’t helped either.
They could use an athletic, defensive-minded center like Daniel Gafford on the roster. JaVale McGee has outperformed all expectations early in this season but he will regress back to earth. Gafford is a long, fluid athlete with a penchant for shot blocking. His offensive toolbox limits him to being a roll man and play finisher at the moment, but playing with LeBron James should allow him to maximize his skill set on that end of the floor.
11. Brooklyn Nets: Isaiah Roby, F, Nebraska (Jr.)
The Nets have rebuilt their roster as well as they could following the aftermath of Billy King’s destructive trade. Finally owning their first-round pick in the NBA Draft, Brooklyn should be able to add a contributor. Isaiah Roby does everything you want in a modern NBA wing. A 6-foot-8 wing, Roby is a cerebral defender and an aggressive shot blocker with a versatile offensive game. His skill set compliments Brooklyn’s young budding stars like Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Coby White, G, North Carolina (Fr.)
Coby White is as complete a scorer as you will find in this draft class. His shot release is quick and compact. White’s quickness, coordination, and ball-handling allow him to effectively score on all three levels. He is an underrated passer and has the size to defend both guard positions. The Thunder have a solid foundation but need another productive scorer. Outside of Russell Westbrook and Paul George, they don’t have another player who can score at a high level. White would remedy this, adding a prolific scorer to Oklahoma City.
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Simisola Shittu, F/C, Vanderbilt (Fr.)
Shittu is an interesting case. He doesn’t have the size to play traditional center, isn’t a consistent shooter, and has an injury history. However, his basketball IQ, coordination, handle, and defensive instinct makes him an intriguing prospect. The Clippers have a slew of talented players on the roster but lack big men talent. Shittu has modern NBA five written all over him if his development goes as planned and he would be a major asset for the Clippers moving forward.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves: Romeo Langford, G, Indiana (Fr.)
Despite all of the turmoil surrounding the Minnesota Timberwolves, their roster is talented. Jimmy Butler almost certainly won’t be on the roster next season, leaving a major gap in the scoring department. Enter Romeo Langford, a smooth scoring wing. He can score from all over the floor, shoot well, and create his own shot. Langford could mesh well with Karl-Anthony Towns, playing off of his gravity to create open looks.
Keep an eye out for our updated NBA Draft coverage here at NBA Analysis Network.