The 2019 NBA Draft is rapidly approaching, and it looks tremendously promising. Some say it has the potential to be the best draft class since 2003, which is entirely possible given the amount of talent that will be available from the first to the 60th pick.
In such a rich pool of young prospects, front offices have their work cut out for them determining which ones can help their franchise move forward.
Today we’re going to take a look at the lottery order, and the best pick each team could make according to their needs and situation.
14. Boston Celtics: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech
With plenty of uncertainty regarding the futures of Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier in Boston, the Celtics will want to bring in a guard to help fill in the void. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is a 6’5 combo guard with great scoring talent. He’s an outright bucket-getter, and what’s more, his sturdy mark of 37.4% on threes last season indicates he can be an elite shooter at the next level as well.
There are questions about his strength and physicality, which he will need to bolster if he’s going to compete against NBA players, but the potential is definitely there for him as one of the better combo guards in the league.
13. Miami Heat: Nassir Little, G/F, North Carolina
The Heat’s salary cap situation is not enviable, which is why the organization plans to acquire as much young talent as possible in order to attract free agents when their cap space allows it. At no. 13, Nassir Little would be the best available and a needed wing addition to the roster.
He’s athletic and plays well on both sides of the ball, although he lacks consistency with his jump shot. At any rate, Little would fit in the Heat’s defensive-minded system while allowing room for the versatility Miami values so much.
12. Charlotte Hornets: Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga
Hachimura is one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft. Hailing from Japan, the 6’8 forward boasts a 7’2 wingspan and considerable athletic ability, He’s agile, energetic, and plays the game the smart way. Three seasons of college basketball have given him more than enough conditioning to be ready for the NBA.
He has a good shooting stroke but ultimately struggles to create his own shot, lacks physicality for a forward, and sometimes has problems getting in the flow of a system. His best traits, however, are his hard work and commitment to improving, which should help perfect his flaws in time.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves: Romeo Langford, G/F, Indiana
The Timberwolves are still recovering from their failed attempt at building a contender with Jimmy Butler on board. Now, as they look to move forward, they should look at Romeo Langford with the 11th pick.
A thumb injury seriously hindered his shooting stroke in college, he’s a natural scorer and a willing defender who could fill the hole Minnesota has in the wing. Assuming his thumb injury is behind him, he should come into the league a much-improved shooter.
10. Atlanta Hawks: Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
The Hawks are in search of a center, and Hayes is the best in the draft. His old school style of banging down low would be an interesting addition to Atlanta’s formula, and his 73% mark from the field along with his ability to run the pick and roll would make him an ideal partner for Trae Young offensively.
On the other side of the ball, he averaged 2.2 BPG for Texas and can evolve into an elite post defender and rim protector at the next level.
9. Washington Wizards: Sekou Doumbouya, F, Guinea
Probably the most ‘’high-risk, high-reward’’ pick in this draft, Doumbouya would make sense for a Wizards team in a tough spot. Their financial situation while John Wall’s contract is on the books will be shaky at best, which is why they could turn to Doumbouya at no. 9 and try to develop him long-term while they wait out their salary woes.
At 6’9 with a long frame at only the age of 18, the Guinean shows mouth-watering potential as a two-way player who can excel in transition and at shooting. It’s a gamble, but if Washington carries out this experiment correctly, it could yield great results down the road.
8. Atlanta Hawks: Jarret Culver, G, Texas Tech
The Hawks already have a young, promising tandem in Trae Young and John Collins, and adding Culver to the mix seems like the best choice here. He’s quite possibly the best two-way player in the draft as of now and would serve well as a secondary shot creator in Atlanta’s backcourt.
He’s proved he’s able to guard one through three and while his shooting stroke could stand to improve, sharing the court with a great playmaker in Young should help him get into rhythm sooner or later.
7. Chicago Bulls: Coby White, G, North Carolina
Chicago’s backcourt has been in need of bolstering for a while, and 6’5 combo guard Coby White could be just what they need, especially since they aren’t sold on Kris Dunn as their point guard of the future. White showcased his tremendous scoring ability throughout his sole season at North Carolina.
As a matter of fact, he broke Michael Jordan’s record for most points in a freshman season in program history. He probably won’t be the next coming of His Airness, but Bulls fans should welcome him with open arms all the same as a dynamic player with exceptional talent to put the ball in the basket.
6. Phoenix Suns: Darius Garland, G, Vanderbilt
The Suns have been in need of a point guard for some time now, and Garland will be the best available at no. 6. His freshman season at Vanderbilt was limited to five games due to a meniscus tear, but the injury isn’t too much of a concern now and it doesn’t take away from the great offensive value Garland brings to the table.
His leadership, playmaking, and shooting abilities will do wonders for Phoenix once he shares the backcourt with Devin Booker. Though not the most athletic prospect, his skill set will prove a valuable addition to the Suns’ young core.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Cam Reddish, G/F, Duke
Luck was not with the Cavaliers on lottery night. Despite being tied for the best odds at no. 1, they fell down to no. 5, and what’s more; they’ll be picking after the team they lost LeBron James to. Their situation may not be ideal, but Duke’s Cam Reddish is not a bad option for them as they round out the top 5. He may not be as ready for the pros as some of the other draftees that might be available with this pick, but we’re betting on Cleveland betting on his high upside.
At 6’8 and 205 pounds, Reddish is built like a prototypical small forward, but he can also slide down to the two-guard spot. Cleveland is in need of a wing, and the pairing of Reddish with Collin Sexton as franchise cornerstones in the backcourt should be intriguing enough for them to place their hopes in the former’s potential.
4. Los Angeles Lakers: DeAndre Hunter, F, Virginia
LeBron James’s first season with the Lakers was a catastrophe, and it’s safe to say that wasting another year of his contract is not in the organization’s best interests. This is why Los Angeles will seek a prospect that is more NBA-ready than his peers and can contribute as much as possible quickly. That prospect would be DeAndre Hunter. As the reigning NABC Defensive Player of the Year, Hunter can come in and make an immediate impact on that side of the floor for the Lakers.
His ability to play either forward spot and guard one through four with his long, sturdy frame will add versatility and depth to the Lakers. Having averaged 15.2 PPG on 52% shooting from the field and 44% from beyond the arc during his sophomore season at Virginia, Hunter also shows offensive potential and can help stretch the floor straight off the bat.
3. New York Knicks: R.J. Barrett, G/F, Duke
Knicks fans may have been hoping for a different Duke standout, but this year, missing out on the first overall pick won’t come without a consolation prize for New York. Any other year, R.J. Barrett would’ve gone no. 1, and not without reason. The 6’7 crafty scorer averaged 22.6 PPG during his freshman season with the Blue Devils due to his phenomenal ability to create shots for himself as well as his teammates. He’s prolific at running fastbreaks and finishing at the rim through contact.
The biggest downside to his game is his shooting stroke, particularly at the charity stripe, where his 66% rate proved a liability for a player that thrives at drawing fouls when attacking the paint. On the other hand, he did show streaks of being a consistent three-point shooter, especially off the catch. Defensively, he has the size and quickness to be good at the NBA level and even proves a matchup nightmare for smaller guards down the road.
The Knicks have high expectations for the future, and at the mere age of 18, the incredibly talented Barrett has plenty of room to grown and fulfill those expectations.
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant, G, Murray State
Picking in the top 4 for the second year in a row, the Grizzlies will take Ja Morant at no. 2 if the organization and point guard Mike Conley are still intent on mutually parting ways. Trading the latter would open up the opportunity for Morant to come in and take the reins as Memphis prepares to completely phase out of their ‘’grit-n-grind’’ era.
Despite playing for a smaller program, he did not fail to stand out with an NCAA-leading 10.0 APG last season. He was not behind on scoring either with an outstanding 24.5 PPG. His superior playmaking combined with his explosive athleticism and high IQ make him a threat on fastbreaks, and since the Grizzlies are shifting towards a younger roster, his high-paced play will work well with their youth and energy.
Standing at 6’3, Morant is average-sized for a point guard, but his quick feet and relentlessness will make him an asset defensively as well nonetheless. He’s undoubtedly one of the most complete prospects in recent years.
1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, F, Duke
There probably hasn’t been a more surefire choice at no. 1 since LeBron James. One of the most hyped college athletes of all time, Williamson’s unique build is simply too enticing to pass up on. He would already be the second heaviest player in the NBA while having unnatural speed and agility for his size.
He dominated the NCAA stage, and once he gets to work, he can do it at the next level as well. This stroke of luck for the Pelicans comes early in David Griffin’s tenure with the team. The championship-winning executive has made his commitment to keeping Anthony Davis in the Crescent City well-known, and the possibility of pairing up with another no. 1 pick might just be enough to convince him to stay. If not, he can be dealt for valuable assets to put around Williamson.
Whatever the case, the Pelicans will have plenty to work with for the next few years.