The Pelicans are the shocking winners of the NBA draft lottery. New Orleans is getting Zion Williamson.
The New Orleans Pelicans are the surprise winners of the NBA draft lottery — and with it, the right to select 18-year-old phenom Zion Williamson.
Williamson captivated the country during his freshman season at Duke, showcasing not just incredible athleticism but also impressive defensive ability and a non-stop motor. He will immediately become the face of the Pelicans and should be one of the NBA’s top draws from the moment he plays his first game.
The Memphis Grizzlies will have the second pick, and the Knicks will choose third overall. The Lakers moved way up to come away with the fourth pick. Murray State point guard Ja Morant and Duke’s R.J. Barrett are expected to be the first players chosen after Williamson.
Now that the lottery results are final, here is an instant mock draft.
1. New Orleans Pelicans – Zion Williamson, F, Duke
It’s hard to remember a draft with a bigger gap between the No. 1 prospect and the rest of the class than this one. Zion Williamson is the best offensive player and one of the best defensive players in the draft, a positionless superstar for an increasingly positionless league. How will Zion adjust to the NBA? The better question is how the NBA will adjust to him. The Pelicans just landed a franchise-changing stud.
2. Memphis Grizzlies – Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
Morant is a 6’3 point guard who combines world class speed and leaping ability with a special talent for finding open teammates as a passer. His rise from a mid-major recruit to consensus top-three NBA draft prospect in just two years at Murray State is a testament to his remarkable production. Morant led DI in assist rate this season while also finishing as a top-10 scorer in the country at 24.5 points per game. He feels like a point guard custom built to wreck havoc in the pick-and-roll on a spread NBA floor. Morant’s defense remains a major question mark and his jumper is a work in progress, but players this athletic and this dynamic creating shot opportunities are impossible to pass on in a draft that feels devoid of star power after Williamson.
3. New York Knicks – R.J. Barrett, G, Duke
Barrett was the strong front-runner to go No. 1 overall in this draft at the start of the season before a year at Duke exposed some holes in his game as his more talented teammate turned into a national phenomenon. Barrett showed tunnel vision as a scorer and poor shot selection at times with the Blue Devils, but it’s also hard to discount just how productive he was at such a young age. For a player who still hasn’t turned 19 years old, Barrett averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game in the toughest conference in America. If he can reprogram himself from an alpha dog scorer to a willing passer who picks his spots to attack more prudently, there’s still going to be a long and successful NBA career in front of him.
4. Los Angles Lakers – Jarrett Culver, G, Texas Tech
Culver blossomed into a two-way stud during a breakout sophomore season at Texas Tech, establishing himself as a possible top-five pick while also leading his program to the Final Four for the first time ever. This is a long and strong wing who can run a pick-and-roll, finish at the rim as a driver or cutter, and defend multiple positions. What Culver lacks in takeover scoring ability he makes up for with versatility. His jump shot will ultimately determine just how high his ceiling is.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers – De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia
Hunter is another long and strong wing who brings tremendous point-of-attack defensive ability with a track record of being a quality shooter from three-point range. He hit 43.8 percent of his three-point attempts this season while also proving his worth as a defender on a biggest stages in college basketball by leading Virginia to its first ever national championship. Teams will wonder if Hunter has enough potential as a shot creator, and if he can quicken the release of his jump shot. If you’re looking for a 3-and-D prospect with a high floor, Hunter is a safe bet in this draft.
6. Phoenix Suns – Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
Garland is the mystery man of this draft, a highly touted point guard recruit whose skill set seems like a perfect fit in the modern NBA but with little tape to prove it. A torn meniscus ended his freshman season at Vanderbilt after only five games, a brief campaign but one that also showed his immense skill as a pull-up shooter. Deep range off the dribble will be Garland’s calling card, but he’ll also have to answer questions about his size (6’2), defensive ability, and how he’ll score in the paint. He also has to prove his chops as a facilitator after finishing with more turnovers than assists during his truncated college career.
7. Chicago Bulls – Coby White, G, North Carolina
White inherited starting point guard duties from four-year starter Joel Berry as a freshman at North Carolina and helped lead one of college basketball’s fastest and most potent offenses. More of a scorer than a true facilitator, White was elite on catch-and-shoot opportunities while also showing an ability to make plays for himself and others in transition. He’ll need to prove himself as a pull-up shooter off the dribble.
8. Atlanta Hawks – Sekou Doumbouya, F, France
Doumbouya offers a rare package of size, mobility, and defensive versatility. The youngest projected first rounder (he doesn’t turn 19 until December), Doumbouya has spent the last year developing his jump shot in France’s top pro league. He should make his living rebounding, scoring in transition, and defending multiple positions until his skill catches up with his physicality.
9. Washington Wizards – Cam Reddish, G, Duke
Reddish was a top high school recruit who often got lost at Duke playing alongside Williamson and Barrett. With great length and a smooth three-point stroke, he should project as a versatile NBA wing, but his inefficient season at Duke provided more questions than answers. Can he score inside in the arc at all? Was he always overrated athletically? Despite his struggles in college, Reddish’s raw talent is likely still going to be too much for a team to pass up in the lottery.
10. Atlanta Hawks – Brandon Clarke, C, Gonzaga
Clarke helped himself more than any player in the country this season at Gonzaga. A year ago, he was a transfer from San Jose State just hoping to crack the Zags’ loaded front court rotation after sitting out a year. When he took the court, he proved to be the most dominant player in the country this side of Williamson. Clarke is an elite defensive prospect with ridiculous athletic ability and tremendous instincts. He’s also a hyper-efficient offensive player who rarely pushes himself outside his comfort zone. Clarke is essentially a non-shooter who lacks the size of a traditional center, but if he’s paired with a stretch five in the right system, he could be the biggest steal of this draft.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves – Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
Hayes is a late blooming center with a 7’4 wingspan and impressive agility and coordination. He was a hyper-efficient finisher who ended the season with a 74 percent true shooting percentage while also finishing top-10 in the country in block rate. Hayes has gotten so good so quickly that there’s no telling how high his ceiling can be after a few years of dedicated development in the NBA.
12. Charlotte Hornets – Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
Langford was considered a prodigious high school scorer who was supposed to save his hometown program when he chose Indiana. Things didn’t exactly go as planned: the Hoosiers missed the NCAA tournament and Langford put up solid scoring numbers with one fatal flaw. Langford struggled badly as a perimeter shooter, hitting only 27 percent of his threes. His scoring instincts and soft touch around the basket remain intriguing, but he’ll need to find a way to improve as a shooter.
Porter did little to warrant being a lottery pick during his one season at USC, but his raw talent is undeniable. At 6’7 wing with an advanced scoring package, Porter is a skilled isolation scorer who can get buckets on step-backs, up-and-unders, and daring drives to the rim. If he can channel his skill set into consistent production, the Heat could find the type of big wing scorer that holds so much value in today’s NBA.
14. Boston Celtics – Goga Bitadze, C, Georgia
Bitadze won Euroleague’s Rising Star award in limited action this season, showcasing his advanced skill level for a 6’11, 250-pound center. Bitadze won’t beat anyone with athleticism, but he’s a smart player with soft touch and keen awareness on both ends. He could be one of the biggest sleepers in this draft.
15. Detroit Pistons – Nassir Little, F, North Carolina
Little was projected to be a top-five pick in the preseason, but he struggled to find a role within a veteran North Carolina front court as a freshman. Little still has all the raw attributes to be a productive two-way NBA wing, blessed with long arms, broad shoulders, and a relentless motor. He needs to improve his feel for the game and prove he can hit catch-and-shoot threes and attack closeouts with consistency.
Alexander-Walker, the cousin of Clippers guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, established himself as one of the most complete sophomores in the country this season at Virginia Tech. The 6’5 guard can play either backcourt spot thanks to his ability to run a pick-and-roll and hit a catch-and-shoot jumper. He’s not an elite athlete, but this is a player who checks a lot of boxes without taking much off the table.
17. Brooklyn Nets – Bol Bol, C, Oregon
Bol is the longest player and arguably the best shooter in this draft, yet he also feels like the biggest boom-or-bust prospect available. The 7’3 center was an elite high school recruit who showcased rare touch from three-point range both on the grassroots circuit and during his nine games at Oregon before a fractured foot prematurely ended his season. Still, NBA teams will have concerns over his build, with skinny legs and narrow hips leading to long-term durability questions. If the Nets (or any other team) wants to swing for the fences, Bol Bol is the pick.
18. Indiana Pacers – P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky
Washington made major strides as a three-point shooter during his sophomore season, and it subsequently unlocked the rest of his game. After making only five threes at a 23 percent clip as a freshman, Washington canned 33 triples at a 43 percent clip this past season. Already blessed with strength, length (7’3 wingspan) and a scorer’s touch in the paint, Washington now projects as the type of modern forward who can be slid all over the front court.
19. San Antonio Spurs – Grant Williams, F, Tennessee
Williams won SEC Player of the Year as a sophomore, and somehow raised his game to new levels this past season as a junior. Williams spearheaded Tennessee’s basketball rival as a 6’7 bully who outmuscled opponents in the paint and on the glass but could also hit a face-up jump shot. Williams’ best attribute might be his feel for the game, which helps him contribute to winning basketball even without a signature skill. He’s going to have a good NBA career.
20. Boston Celtics – Chuma Okeke, F, Auburn
Okeke suffered a heartbreaking torn ACL during the game of his life in Auburn’s upset of North Carolina in the Sweet 16. He’s keeping his name in the draft anyway, projecting as a versatile defensive forward who can hit threes and attack a closeout. That’s everything today’s NBA wants, right?
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Tyler Herro, G, Kentucky
The Thunder desperately need shooting and Herro is one of the best shooters in this draft. The Kentucky freshman can run off screens and hit catch-and-shoot jumpers, and also showed a surprising ability to competently attack the defense off the dribble.
22. Boston Celtics – Matisse Thybulle, G, Washington
Thybulle is arguably the best defensive prospect in this draft. The 6’5 senior put up ridiculous block and steal rates this season at Washington. His offensive game is limited and he needs to improve as a shooter, but Thybulle offers the potential to be a lockdown defender early in his career.
23. Utah Jazz – Keldon Johnson, G, Kentucky
Johnson showed a well-rounded game as a freshman at Kentucky with no signature skill but few apparent weaknesses. He’s a good athlete and competent shooter at 6’6 who could carry the Wildcats’ offense on any given night. He needs to improve as a playmaker and decision maker after finishing with as many turnovers (60) as assists.
24. Philadelphia 76ers – Cameron Johnson, F, North Carolina
Johnson blossomed into one of the great shooters in college basketball during his senior year at North Carolina, knocking down 46 percent of his threes on six attempts per game. Teams will question his ability to attack off the dribble on offense and wonder if he can stay on the floor defensively. Still, the Sixers need shooters and Johnson is one of the best available at 6’9.
25. Portland Trail Blazers – Talen Horton-Tucker, G, Iowa State
Talen Horton-Tucker is one of the most unique prospects in this draft. At 6’4, 240 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan, Horton-Tucker is built like a linebacker with the mentality of a gunner. His ability to get up threes with volume was impressive, but he needs to improve his accuracy. He’s also one of the youngest players in this draft, not turning 19 years old until November.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers – Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga
Hachimura turned into one of the most productive players in college basketball in his junior season at Gonzaga, averaging 20 points and six rebounds per game. He’s a strong and athletic forward with soft touch from mid-range, but questions about his defensive awareness and feel for the game likely pushes him outside the lottery.
27. Brooklyn Nets – KZ Okpala, F, Stanford
Okpala is a 6’9 forward who NBA teams will hope can turn into a 3-and-D wing. He improved to a 36 percent three-point shooter as a sophomore, but posted curiously low block and steal rates. Perhaps the most concerning thing about his statistical profile is that he posted 83 turnovers to only 56 assists. Still, it’s hard to find a big forward who can move and shoot like Okpala and that makes him a viable option at the end of the first round.
28. Golden State Warriors – Carsen Edwards, G, Purdue
Edwards was supposed to be one of the best players in the country as a junior at Purdue before struggling with his scoring efficiency all year. Things changed in the NCAA tournament, when Edwards put up 42 points in a win over Villanova and then scored 42 again against Tennessee in an overtime loss. The Warriors desperately need some bench shooters and Edwards fits the mold.
29. San Antonio Spurs – Deividas Sirvydis, F, Lithuania
A 6’8 shooter, Sirvydis performed well in EuroCup and projects as one of the best international prospects in this draft.
30. Milwaukee Bucks – Ty Jerome, G, Virginia
Anyone who watched Virginia’s run to the national championship knows how skilled Jerome is. The 6’5 guard can play either backcourt spot thanks to his elite catch-and-shoot ability and strong feel for the game. He’s limited athletically but has the size, skill, and smarts to play in the league.