Article by: Harrison Weaver
Raptors Championship Parade:
The NBA Finals have come and gone, crowning our new champion the Toronto Raptors. The parade was a sight to behold. There was a Kawhi Leonard imposter who was taking pictures and signing autographs for “diehard Raptors fans” who could not tell the difference between a 6 foot man with dreads and the 6’7” Kawhi Leonard. Marc Gasol chugged a bottle of wine, and Drake chugged a beer that a fan tossed to him. Kawhi did an impersonation of his own famous laugh that send the crowd into a big frenzy. Fans started chanting “One more year! One more year!” to Kawhi, while Kyle Lowry corrected them by changing it to “Five more years!” in reference to Kawhi Leonard’s free agency. All the while, Kawhi was sitting there, awkwardly laughing, as everyone knows he is split between Toronto and the LA Clippers. Anyways, #WeTheNorth showed up in a major way and put on a celebration that was truly worthy of a first-time NBA Champion, so once again, congratulations Toronto.
Preview to the Draft Preview:
As you guys probably know, the NBA Draft is taking place tomorrow night at 7PM ET. You can tune in to that on ESPN if you want to catch the action or witness who your team picks. For this article, I will be going pick-by-pick through the NBA Draft lottery picks breaking down each one and explaining who I believe would be the best fit for each team, while also pretending as if no trades will occur. In reality, trades will most likely occur. However, for the sake of trying to maintain as much accuracy as possible and focusing on the best team/player fits, I am going to act like no trades will occur. Is that a good enough deal? Okay, cool.
In this draft, the top storyline will be that coveted number one pick, and what the Pelicans will then do with the #4 pick they acquired in their blockbuster trade with the Lakers. This year’s draft is filled with a mix of different prospects. We have the potential future superstars in Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, riskier raw talents with high ceilings, guys you can plug into your rotation that are ready to help immediately, and excellent potential role players. Each team will have the opportunity to find the right player to add to their equation, and we will be looking forward to seeing which teams opt to make a splash as the draft progresses. To kick it off, why not provide some fun NBA Draft facts?
who was traded to Golden State on draft night, in return for the #3 pick which ended up
being Penny Hardaway and a couple other future draft picks.
#1, New Orleans Pelicans:
“With the #1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, the New Orleans Pelicans select....Zion Williamson, Forward out of Duke University.”
There you go, I tried to make it as surprising as possible, but it is not a surprise at all. Despite only having a 6% chance to land the #1 overall pick, the ball bounced in New Orleans favor, and Zion Williamson fell right into their lap. This pick will be the perfect fit to their new team. The Pelicans just traded away their long-time superstar and centerpiece Anthony Davis in return for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and 3 first-round picks, including this year’s #4 overall pick. What this trade did was allow the opportunity for Zion Williamson to become the face of a franchise that is in the perfect situation, given their young talent and future assets. Zion is quite possibly the most freakish athlete we have seen enter the draft since a young LeBron James 16 years ago. He is 6’7”, 285 pounds of muscle and pure athleticism who averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game during his lone season at Duke. His size, body control, vertical, and playmaking ability give him an opportunity to be a top player from the minute he steps onto an NBA court. I could go on and on with praise for Zion, but we will get a little bit more into the big picture for New Orleans when I get to pick #4.
#2, Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant. PG from Murray State.
Being the second best player in this year’s draft class, Morant will be the perfect addition to go along with forward Jaren Jackson Jr. as the two key building blocks to the future of the Memphis Grizzlies. He will immediately become one of the most athletic players in the league with elite speed and amazing hops. I would like to compare him to Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose, but with a better perimeter shooting potential than either of them had coming into the league and better distribution/court vision than Russell Westbrook, who still tends to settle for bad shots and likes to drive into traffic. Ja Morant will need a year or two to adjust to NBA speed just as many other young prospects do. However, with hard work on his perimeter shot and game minutes to get use to the flow of NBA basketball, he will be a nightmare for opposing defenses to try to stop. During his second season at Murray State, Morant averaged 24.5 points and 10 assists per game. Yes folks, he averaged a double-double while being the NCAA leader in assists and 8th in scoring. Get ready for Ja to put on a show for years to come.
#3, New York Knicks: RJ Barrett. Guard/Forward, Duke
While I have some mild concerns about RJ Barrett, he has the tools to become an elite player in the league. He does not shoot a great percentage from beyond the arc and he is extremely reliant on attacking to the left, displaying that he is uncomfortable driving right and having to use his right hand. I can see how teams can scheme against that and make him very uncomfortable until he develops a more balanced left and right offensive skillset. To look at it from another perspective, I am also saying that he is a consistent three-point shot and right-handed confidence away from being a future star. Everything else is there. He shot 45.4% from the field and 30.8% from deep in his lone year at Duke, as well as only shooting 66.5% from the free throw line. However, he still scored 22.6 points per game and carried the burden while Zion was out. It is all about rounding his game better and working hard on his shot. Outside of that, Barrett has an opportunity to usher in a new, successful era in New York Knicks basketball.
#4, New Orleans Pelicans: De’Andre Hunter. Forward, Virginia (Trade Alert)
A handful of analysts are saying that this pick could be a part of a trade package for a veteran player to potentially make this team more capable of winning now. The names that have been thrown around are Bradley Beal, Aaron Gordon, Myles Turner, and Lauri Markkanan. I think any of these trades could be a good move. Each of these players are young, show tremendous upside, and would add guaranteed value to the Pelicans roster where-as drafting a player always involves at least a bit of a risk. Another possibility that has been thrown around is trading up or down. Up to secure RJ Barrett, or down to acquire an asset and maybe draft somebody a bit lower that they have their eyes on.
However, if the Pelicans were to hang on to the pick, I would select De’Andre Hunter. He has size at 6’7”; he can guard any position with his big build and athleticism, and has a really nice shot from beyond the arc. In my opinion, he is the best player left in the draft at this point. By making this pick, the Pelicans starting five would most likely look like this: Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, De’Andre Hunter, Brandon Ingram, and Zion Williamson. What I see here is a young starting five with time to develop, full of potential elite players. An organization with lots of future assets they can use to acquire even more talent. If they play their cards right, the Pelicans may be looking at a dangerous playoff team a couple years from now.
#5, Cleveland Cavaliers: Jarrett Culver. SG, Texas Tech
Jarrett Culver would be a really nice pick here because of his defensive skillset and his ability to score the ball really well from inside the arc. Culver possesses a nice floater and nice midrange shot, as well as being able to facilitate out of screens. On defense, he is lengthy, and despite lacking a strong frame, he is active, hustles, and is a great disruptor with his long wingspan for his position. He also rebounds very well for a perimeter player. Paired with Collin Sexton, the Cavaliers could have a really talented backcourt moving into the future as both player mature and learn to play together, especially as strong guard combos are becoming more and more dominant in the NBA.
#6, Phoenix Suns: Darius Garland. PG, Vanderbilt
Darius Garland may be a guy that flew under your radar as a draft prospect due to him only playing five games in this past college basketball season before needing season-ending knee surgery. During those five games, he averaged 16.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 53.7% from the field and 47.8% from three. He is an incredible playmaker who can run an offense, score, pass, run the pick and roll effectively. Garland can also score in the midrange and around the hoop. He is the perfect offensive weapon to pair with Devin Booker, who is a shooting guard who has spent too much time having to dribble the ball and play isolation. By bringing in a playmaker and skilled distributor like Garland, it will make Booker even more deadly than he already is. Add DeAndre Ayton to the mix, and we are looking at a potential Big 3 growing in Phoenix.
#7, Chicago Bulls: Coby White. PG, UNC
As a Tar Heels fan myself, I got to watch closely as Coby White bloomed throughout the season. He came in a little unseasoned and lacking a consistent jump shot. However, by the middle to end of the regular season, he became UNC’s go-to player when they needed a big bucket or offensive spark. The Bulls would be getting a player who can create, push the ball on offense, and provide a spark. He is a good height at 6’5”, which also gives White the potential to become a solid defender. Paired with young players such as Lauri Markkanan, Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter Jr., and Otto Porter, the Bulls have a promising future if they can keep this young core together.
#8, Atlanta Hawks: Sekou Doumbouya. SF/PF, Limoges CSP/France
For anyone who has watched Sekou Doumbouya’s highlights, or watched any of his international games, he plays very much like Pascal Siakam prior to his leap this past season, and has similar potential. He stands at 6’10” with a 7’1” wingspan, and weighs in at 230 lbs. He has all of the raw talents, as well as being a good defender and good around the post. The sky is the limit for Doumbouya, whose size and length can make him a menace on defense and could make him a solid option when it comes to attacking the post and grabbing rebounds. Offensively, he is a bit raw. He lacks a consistent jumper and is a relatively poor ball handler. However, these are two areas that we have seen Pascal Siakam improve vastly in over the past 2 years. If this pick pays off, which I believe it very well could, the Hawks may have the perfect SF/PF to pair with John Collins and Trae Young as the Hawks look to build through the next few years.
#9, Washington Wizards: Nassir Little. SF, UNC
The Wizards are a team that currently has a pretty talented backcourt, as well as a few post presences that can hold their own in Bobby Portis and breakout center Thomas Bryant. Drama and injuries have really done a number on this team, and Trevor Ariza is aging, as he will be turning 34 at the end of this month. That means the Wizards are in need of a future small forward. I am not high on Cam Reddish at all, and Nasir Little flies under the radar a bit, due to getting less playing time than expected while he was at North Carolina. He lacked a lot of the skills necessary to make an impact as a freshman; however he has all the physical makeup to be a stud in the NBA. He is 6’6”, which is not huge for a small forward, but he has a 7’1” wingspan as well as a 38.5” vertical. He can immediately be a useful defender due to his ability to guard all positions, but the rest of his game will need work. He shot an abysmal 26.9% on threes in his lone season as a Tar Heel; he did not have much of an edge to break down defenders, and does not have a good enough feel for the game yet. With good coaching and progress, I believe Nasir Little has a high ceiling in the league. However, he is a big risk, and does show some bust potential.
#10, Atlanta Hawks: Jaxson Hayes. Center, Texas
Jaxson Hayes could be the perfect partner in the frontcourt with John Collins, who is coming off an excellent sophomore campaign with the Hawks. Hayes is another raw, late blooming player. He stands at 6’11” with a 7’3.5” wingspan. He is a really talented rim protector, he is athletic, quick on his feet, and displayed an ability to be a great rim-runner. The flaws that come with Hayes are that he does not possess a very good offensive post game. He does not have good post moves and does not finish that well when contested around the rim. Also, for his size, he only averaged 5 RPG at Texas. None-the-less, he has a high ceiling as a paint-protector and could be like the Hawks version of Clint Capela.
#11, Minnesota Timberwolves: Rui Hachimura. PF, Gonzaga
Rui Hachimura has the potential to be a bit of a Swiss Army Knife in the NBA. He was excellent size at 6’8” at 230 lbs. and a 7’2” wingspan. The Gonzaga product, born in Japan, had a really great junior year at Gonzaga as he averaged 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game on 59.1% shooting from the field and 41.7% from three. He is a hard worker that can play pretty much any position on the floor as well as defend them all. He is a good elbow/midrange scorer and shot a good percentage from three point range his junior year, the only concern is that his shot does not have great arc to it. However, his strength, agility, work ethic, and impressive basketball skillset give him a high ceiling and quite frankly make him a pretty safe pick at #11 for the Timberwolves.
#12, Charlotte Hornets: Cam Reddish. SF, Duke
As I stated during the #9 pick for the Wizards, I am not too optimistic about Cam Reddish. While watching him at Duke, I saw a player who faded under the spotlight and failed to capitalize on what was supposed to be his strength. Do not get me wrong, he had a handful of big scoring games, and has the potential to be dangerous if he proves to have a high motor and can rely on the three point shot that everyone knows he possesses. I think back to Duke’s Sweet 16 game against Virginia Tech, which Duke almost lost and Cam Reddish did not play in. The thing that sticks with me is that the highly respected, very trustworthy Coach K was surprised to hear that Cam could not play. In one of their biggest games of the season, Reddish opted to sit out due to a mysterious knee injury that was not announced until right before the game. It signals that Reddish may lack the motor necessary to be successful in the NBA. On top of that, he was supposed to be a three point marksman, but only shot 33.3% from downtown last season. If he can turn it around, lean on that three points shot and become a solid playmaker, Reddish could become a stellar weapon for the Hornets who desperately need playmaking. However, I think he has massive bust potential.
#13, Miami Heat: PJ Washington. F, Kentucky
PJ Washington is a power forward with good size at 6’8” 228 lbs. and a really great wingspan at 7’3”. He shows a really well rounded game, and improved a lot from his first and second years at Kentucky. By the end of last season, Washington averaged 15.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 52.2% from the field and has a nice touch from beyond the arc, shooting 42.3%. The Heat has a couple of areas where they need to improve before they are a legit playoff team again. Although I think the power forward position could be a good start, given James Johnson is the current starter there. He is 32 now, and averaged a very forgettable 7.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. By drafting PJ Washington, the Heat gives themselves a guy with a lot of upside who can score the basketball in a number of ways.
#14 Boston Celtics: Brandon Clarke. F, Gonzaga
The news as of Tuesday is that Al Horford is out the door. He announced his free-agency the day prior, and then announced on Tuesday that he will not be returning to the Celtics. Now, the Celtics are really lacking a big man outside of Marcus Morris as they would not want to have to lean on Daniel Theis or Aron Baynes to have to start. Obviously, there is the possibility of a trade or free-agency, but there is no news around that yet. Either way, I think Brandon Clarke can be a part of the long term solution. He is 6’8”, 215 pounds, so the Celtics would have to plug him in at power forward or small-ball center. He is a really great paint presence as he averaged 12.2 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per 40 minutes last season at Gonzaga. His limitations are that his wingspan is only 6’8” and that he cannot shoot the ball very well, especially from three or the free-throw line. However, he should be able to go a long way with being able to rebuild Boston’s tough-nosed, gritty style of defense that they lost a bit this past season with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward coming back from injury. Look for Clarke to be a big difference maker if Boston opts to take him.
Just because I appreciate anyone who follows along with my articles, and I have personal stake in this pick as well, I am going to do one bonus pick. This is my take on it, who I want to see this team take. And although you probably know who it is going to be, I am going to make you guess for a quick 10 seconds. So obviously, they are not a lottery team. Not even close. This is a team that formerly was known as the Syracuse Nationals. They were the first team in the NBA to sign a jersey sponsorship deal. They are the oldest team in the NBA. They even have their own theme song. Surprise! It is your 3-time NBA Champion Philadelphia 76ers! I want to hear your opinions about this. Hop in the comment section below, let me know if you agree or disagree, or what you would do if you were making the pick for Philly! I want to hear what you guys have to say. So now, let us get into it.
#24, Philadelphia 76ers: Carsen Edwards. PG, Purdue
If you could pick one style of player to add to the bench in Philly to help out the team, what would it be? Unless you do not know the game of basketball, you picked a scorer. With the bench, as it is, Philly can only afford to really play Mike Scott, James Ennis, Greg Monroe, and maybe Boba or TJ McConnell if they are desperate. While I like the progress from Zhaire Smith and the potential of Shake Milton, the Sixers need a true stud that can come off the bench, run some offense, and make an impact. Carsen Edwards is that guy.
He is quick, he is aggressive, he can score, and he can definitely knock down the three ball. He averaged 24.3 points per game last season at Purdue, and while he only shot 39.4% from the field and averaged only 2.9 assists and 3.1 turnovers per game, it was because he was the primary offensive threat for the Boilermakers, and did not have a ton of help. I think with a more balanced team to play for, Edwards can really blossom and become a really nice punch off the bench for the Sixers star- studded starting rotation. In the Elite 8 of last year’s March Madness, Edwards scored 42 points on 56% shooting, single-handedly keeping them in the game. I have no doubt he should be able to give the Sixers some valuable points in whatever role he ends up fitting into.
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