Perfect NBA Teams for Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Ja Morant and MoreFebruary 2, 2019
Perfect NBA Teams for Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Ja Morant and More
Fit can play a significant role in an NBA player's development coming out of the draft.
A number of top prospects would benefit from landing with specific teams. Ideally, they can avoid a positional logjam. For incoming rookies, it's important to have minutes, but they also benefit from having enough surrounding talent to prevent a heavy workload early.
These players will want both opportunity and roles that provide them a platform to play to their strengths.
Duke PF/C Zion Williamson: Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns projected draft pick: No. 2
Zion Williamson's latest mock draft spot: No. 1
Uncertainty around the New York Knicks following their Kristaps Porzingis trade should make Phoenix Zion Williamson's preferred destination.
He would have been a textbook fit next to Porzingis. Instead, the hole between Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker will look more attractive than New York's blank roster.
The Suns already have two blossoming stars, plus a need at power forward that Williamson can fill with explosiveness and defensive versatility.
He and Ayton would form a destructive partnership inside, though Williamson's ability to handle the ball from the perimeter will help make the pairing work.
Murray State PG Ja Morant: Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis Grizzlies projected draft pick: No. 6
Ja Morant's latest mock draft spot: No. 3
The Phoenix Suns will look attractive to Ja Morant given their hole at point guard. But by June 2019 or 2020, the Memphis Grizzlies will also need a ball-handler to replace Mike Conley. Their blank-canvas roster built around Jaren Jackson Jr. will be better suited for Morant than a Suns lineup that's already strung with negative defenders.
His team will need to support and mask his struggles defensively, which are tied to a skinny frame that's easy to screen and fluctuating effort.
His offensive upside will lead to top-five interest in Morant, who's on pace to become the only NCAA player in over 25 years to average at least 20 points and 10 assists per game, per Basketball Reference.
Memphis could soon move Conley to jump-start a rebuild, and if a trade happened before the draft, Morant would have Trae Young-like rookie freedom next season. Even if the Grizzlies held Conley, he'd be an ideal mentor, also capable of taking pressure away early and helping to ease Morant in.
Memphis may wind up needing the No. 2 pick to grab him, however. An elite athlete and passing playmaker, Morant has gradually risen up prospect rankings. His draft case becomes more convincing as he consistently puts up historic, volume numbers for 16-4 Murray State.
Duke G/F RJ Barrett: New York Knicks
New York Knicks projected draft pick: No. 1
RJ Barrett's latest mock draft spot: No. 2
Whether RJ Barrett is right for New York is up for debate. But he should be interested in joining the Knicks, who at the moment need a new No. 1 scorer.
Barrett has always embraced the alpha role, which the Knicks are now looking to fill after trading Kristaps Porzingis. Duke's top option has scored at least 20 points in 16 of 20 games as a freshman.
He'd enjoy the freedom in New York if the Knicks strike out in free agency. If they don't, however, and New York is able to bring in multiple veteran stars, it would benefit Barrett's development even more.
With a green light, his questionable shot-selection and decision-making have been exposed at different points this season. He'd be less likely to form bad habits as a No. 3 option alongside established All-Stars.
Either way, landing in New York should be considered a win-win for Barrett, who'll either step in as an immediate go-to scorer or become part of a potentially rebuilt roster of prized free agents.
Vanderbilt PG Darius Garland: Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic projected draft pick: No. 7
Darius Garland's latest mock draft spot: No. 7
Expected back from a meniscus tear by draft workouts, Darius Garland will have interested suitors with top-10 picks. His camp should be extra willing to visit Orlando.
The Magic have needed a guard to elevate them. Garland could receive 25-plus minutes working on the ball right away. It would give him the opportunity and freedom to build up his floor game. A skilled scorer, Garland has the ability to catch fire, but to max out his potential, he'll need to develop his passing and decision-making running a team.
It's unclear what Orlando's roster will look like next season, particularly up front, as All-Star Nikola Vucevic will enter free agency. Garland would still have weapons and support in Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba, a group who could also help mask his defensive question marks.
With the league's 15th-ranked defense, per ESPN.com, the Magic need more offense (24th). Garland's scoring, particularly with his shooting and pull-up game, should be coveted by Orlando.
Texas Tech SG Jarrett Culver: Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta Hawks projected draft pick: No. 5
Jarrett Culver's latest mock draft spot: No. 8
The Hawks have built a strong nucleus through the last two drafts with John Collins, Trae Young and Kevin Huerter. Jarrett Culver would add a fitting element of two-way play from the wing.
With Huerter and Taurean Prince able to play forward, Culver, who's averaging 18.5 points and 3.9 assists, could slide right into the starting 2 spot. In Atlanta, he'd receive enough early playing time and touches without too heavy of a workload, given Young's shot-creation and Collins' potential evolution from role player to star.
A versatile guard who splits time working on and off the ball, Culver is well-rounded offensively, ranking in the 86th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler while shooting 40.0 percent as a catch-and-shooter, per Synergy Sports.
He also ranks in the 97th percentile defending out of spot-ups for the No. 3 defensive team in the country, per KenPom.com, another selling point as a strong backcourt fit next to Young.
Duke SG/SF Cam Reddish: Detroit Pistons
Detroit Pistons projected draft pick: No. 9
Cam Reddish's latest mock draft spot: No. 4
Shooting 34.7 percent, Cam Reddish still has support from NBA scouts who are looking past freshman inefficiency toward his positional tools/athleticism and projectable jumper long-term.
He'd slide right in next to Blake Griffin in Detroit, where the Pistons need a wing, and Reddish would start his career surrounded by veterans. The latter could be key for his development, as most of the scouts' concern stems from questions about his mental toughness, as opposed to talent or fit.
At 6'8", the 19-year-old is drilling 2.4 threes per game or 3.7 per 40 minutes. Detroit takes the seventh-most threes in the league but ranks last in the NBA in three-point percentage.
A promising defender for his height with length and lateral quickness (2.1 steals per game), Reddish could thrive as a three-and-D building block, particularly if Reggie Bullock commands surprise money elsewhere this summer in free agency.
Gonzaga PF Rui Hachimura: Boston Celtics (via Kings)
Boston Celtics projected draft pick (via Sacramento Kings): No. 13
Rui Hachimura's latest mock draft spot: No. 10
A role player through two years at Gonzaga, Rui Hachimura has transformed into a potential lottery pick, averaging 19.9 points on 59.9 percent shooting. It's still going to be important for him to find the right NBA fit based on his particular strengths and limitations.
He'd benefit from being surrounded by Boston's shooters and defenders given his lack of range and defensive upside.
Hachimura projects as a power forward, athletic around the rim and quick away from it, able to face up, blow by or rise and fire for mid-range jumpers.
There isn't great certainty long-term regarding the Celtics frontcourt. Gordon Hayward is still recovering from a serious injury, Marcus Morris will enter free agency and Al Horford is 32 years old. Hachimura would give the Celtics extra pop, while Boston would give Gonzaga's star a suitable and stable place to develop.
UNC F Nassir Little: Washington Wizards
Washington Wizards projected draft pick: No. 8
Nassir Little's latest mock draft spot: No. 13
Scouts sound split on Nassir Little. He'll still draw looks from lottery teams, and one jumps out as a fit more than others.
His strengths could be maximized (and weaknesses masked) in Washington, where his path would point toward the starting 4 spot. Little should be best suited for the power forward position, as opposed to the wing. Since arriving at North Carolina, he's been more effective using his quickness against bigger players.
Markieff Morris and Jeff Green will both enter free agency. The Wizards need new frontcourt talent to develop, and Little could use a veteran team while he improves his shot-creating and shooting.