One of the most wonderful times of the year is finally back: March Madness. It's the time where college basketball players can cement their legacies in their schools and potentially gain their stock prior to the NBA Draft. This is also a time where players are finally seen at the biggest stage, and some tend to underwhelm under lots of pressure. NBA scouts will be watching every little move, and the tournament is likely to shake up mock drafts around the globe (including mine). Without further adieu, let's jump into our first edition of this year's mock draft.
1. New York Knicks select Zion Williamson, PF, Duke
This pick doesn't really need an explanation. Zion is one of the craziest and freakish athletes we've ever seen and can get to the paint at will. He's only going to develop his game even more at the professional level. Zion is going to make Knicks Basketball relevant again.
2. Phoenix Suns select Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
Morant has came out of nowhere this year to surprise fans, and in turn led Murray State to a tournament berth this year. The Suns have a major need for a true point guard (Tyler Johnson has played very well for them but isn't a PG) and Morant can come in and fill that need. There's been many NBA comparisons for him, including Russell Westbrook, and that's the type of player the Suns need to get them back into playoff contention.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers select R.J. Barrett, SG, Duke
The Cavaliers are going to be looking for the best available player to rejuvenate their franchise, and selecting Barrett at 3 would be the easy and smart choice. Barrett has shown that he has low-bust potential so far at Duke, showing off his athleticism and jump shot while he's been there. He would be the perfect centerpiece for Cleveland to build their future around.
4. Chicago Bulls select Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
This projection could go multiple ways for Chicago, but I have them selecting Garland here. The core of Zach LaVine, Otto Porter, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. has played very well while they have been healthy this year, which only leaves the point guard position as a need. Kris Dunn has had some injuries this year which may be the cause of a poor performance, but Garland may be the better point guard moving forward anyways. Before he withdrew from Vanderbilt (he is 100% healthy now), he was showcasing his speed and quickness as well as a deadly three-point shot. His size is small at 6'3, 175 lbs., but other guards with his speed have proved that they could be successful in the league, and Garland can further prove that as well.
5. Atlanta Hawks select De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia
Hunter is another player who has shot up the draft boards this year with an incredible year at Virginia. He has the 3-and-D mentality that many NBA coaches desire, as well as a knack for getting to the basket with ease. he has low-bust potential written all over him, and with the Hawks in a desperate need of wings, Hunter would be a great fit in Atlanta.
6. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas) select Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
This pick is based off of Hayes passing all medical tests after suffering an injury this year, as Hayes showed some serious potential at Texas. He is still very raw offensively but he is a great finisher down low and can catch almost anything that is thrown to him. On defense, he's a great shot-blocker and his size (6-11 with a 7'3 wingspan) matches up with many other centers in the NBA. The Hawks do have a need at center with Alex Len and Dewayne Dedmon manning the position as of now, so Hayes could the the low post presence the Hawks need along with John Collins to balance out the rest of the shooters on the team.
7. Memphis Grizzlies select Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
The Grizzlies are in a dire need for wing players, and luckily for them this draft is loaded with wing players, including Culver who is a natural scorer. He is a lights-out shooter that Memphis could definitely use, as well as a crafty ball-handler that can likely take over the point guard role if Mike Conley is not on the court. Pairing Culver with Jaren Jackson Jr. would give Memphis a duo that could be really successful down the line and bring Memphis back to the playoffs within a couple years.
8. Washington Wizards select Cameron Reddish, SF, Duke
Reddish has underwhelmed a lot of people this year, but some of the slack is due to playing on a team with Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. Consistency issues aside, Reddish is a adept shot creator who uses a plethora of dribble moves to create open looks, and his size and wingspan give him a chance to be really good on the defensive end as well. The Wizards traded away both of their small forwards of the future in Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre Jr., and Trevor Ariza won't be in the Wizards' future, so Reddish could be the wing that is placed next to Bradley Beal for the foreseeable future.
9. New Orleans Pelicans select KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford
The Pelicans may be looking to draft the player with the highest potential rather than immediate help with the Anthony Davis situation in full swing this summer, and Okpala has one of the highest ceilings in the draft. He's still developing as a shooter but improved a lot over the past year with his shot. With a insane 7-2 wingspan, Okpala can be a pest on the defensive end as well as get to the rim with an array of dribble moves.
10. Los Angeles Lakers select Rui Hachimura, SF/PF, Gonzaga
With all of the drama surrounding the Lakers right now, they need players who can step up and perform right away. Hachimura can be their guy. He has all of the physical tools needed as well as surprising speed for his size, as well as a dominating presence inside the paint. He is great on the fast break which bodes well for the Lakers, and adding Hachimura gives LeBron another tool to work with while he is in LA.
11. Charlotte Hornets select Bol Bol, C, Oregon
The direction of the Hornets is confusing. If they are aiming to re-sign Kemba Walker in the off-season and build around him, then this pick could look a lot different. If they take the direction that I think will occur and let Kemba join a winning team, then choosing Bol Bol would be a great way to start Charlotte's rebuild. The injury concerns and lack of strength are there, but Bol is one of the most intriguing prospects of the draft as a 7'2 center who can handle the ball, dominate the paint, swat countless shots away, and knock down threes at an impressive clip. The Hornets can afford to take a risk with their pick, and Bol Bol could the risk that rewards them down the road.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves select Coby White, PG, North Carolina
White has impressed many this season at North Carolina as an offensive juggernaut, lighting up the scoreboard and doing it in a variety of ways. He's one of the better shooters in the nation, and his impressive ball control and footwork allows him to get to the basket and finish through contact. His size (6'5) is also big for a point guard, which should create some mismatches down the road. He isn't the greatest defender, but with Derrick Rose and Tyus Jones likely leaving this offseason and Jeff Teague soon as well, White could be the Wolves' point guard of the future.
13. Orlando Magic select Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
This is another weird selection, as Orlando is fighting for a playoff push with a lot of young talent on their team like Aaron Gordon and Mohamed Bamba, as well as soon-to-be free agent Nikola Vucevic. They don't necessarily have to take the best player available and can afford to take a risk at #13. Romeo Langford is seen as a prospect with a lot of potential, especially as a shooter, but has slipped this year due to consistency, lack of strength and character issues. The Magic have had a history of failed draft picks, but Langford's ability to light up the scoreboard and commitment on the defensive end could make it hard for Orlando to pass up on him.
14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento) select Brandon Clarke, PF/C, Gonzaga
Clarke has flourished this year at Gonzaga and will see more coverage on the bigger stage during the tournament. At 6'8 and 225 lbs., he excels at both ends of the floor inside the paint, especially as a rebounder and a shot-blocker. Celtics fans were hoping for this pick to be a little lower this year, but the C's could use a big off the bench to immediately be a presence down low and snatch rebounds, something the Celtics often struggle with. Clarke can be the spark plug big man off the bench that the Celtics could desperately use.