As the 16 teams that qualified for the playoffs fight to advance in the NBA postseason, the front offices of all 30 teams prepare for the annual draft in June.
This is a draft with four potential superstars at the top, including Duke's Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett along with Murray State's Ja Morant and Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver.
However, it's not just the superstars who are going to have an impact in the NBA. Scouts and general managers know that if they do their job well, some of the lower-profile players in the second half of the first round and beyond can also help.
In this piece, we present our mock draft, using the draft order of Tankathon.com, to make our pick selections. We also look at two players in the bottom half of the first round who have the skills and ability to make a contribution at the NBA level.
NBA Mock Draft
1. New York Knicks: PF Zion Williamson, Duke
2. Cleveland Cavaliers: SF R.J. Barrett, Duke
3. Phoenix Suns: PG Ja Morant, Murray State
4. Chicago Bulls: SG Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech
5. Atlanta Hawks, SF Cam Reddish, Duke
6. Washington Wizards, C Jaxson Hayes, Texas
7. New Orleans Pelicans, SG Romeo Langford, Indiana
8. Memphis Grizzlies, PG Darius Garland, Vanderbilt
9. Atlanta Hawks (from Dallas Mavericks), PF P.J. Washington, Kentucky
10. Minnesota Timberwolves, PG-SG Coby White, North Carolina
11. Los Angeles Lakers, SG Kevin Porter Jr., USC
12. Charlotte Hornets, SF De'Andre Hunter, Virginia
13. Miami Heat, PF/SF Sekou Doumbouya, Limoges CSP
14. Boston Celtics (from Sacramento Kings), C Bol Bol, Oregon
15. Detroit Pistons, SF Nassir Little, North Carolina
16. Orlando Magic, SG Tyler Herro, Kentucky
17. Brooklyn Kings, C Bruno Fernando, Maryland
18. Indiana Pacers, SF Nassir Little, North Carolina
19. San Antonio Spurs, C Goga Bitadze, Buducnost
20. Boston Celtics (L.A. Clippers), PG-SG Ty Jerome, Virginia
21. Oklahoma City Thunder, PF Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga
22. Boston Celtics, PF Grant Williams, Tennessee
23. Utah Jazz, SG-SF Talen Horton-Tucker, Iowa State
24. Philadelphia 76ers, SF Keldon Johnson, Kentucky
25. Portland Trail Blazers, C Daniel Gafford, Arkansas
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Houston Rockets), SF KZ Okpala, Stanford
27. Brooklyn Nets (from Denver Nuggets), PG Carsen Edwards, Purdue
28. Golden State Warriors, SF Matisse Thybulle, Washington
29. San Antonio Spurs (from Toronto Raptors), SF-PF Isaiah Roby, Nebraska
30. Milwaukee Bucks, C Jontay Porter, Missouri
SG-SF Talen Horton-Tucker, Iowa State
There is little doubt every NBA team is looking for a player with the kind of skills that can break a game open at any time. The elite players who possess those talents are likely to go at the top of the draft every year.
The question for scouts, coaches and general managers is what makes one player worthy of being drafted in the first round.
Iowa State's Talen Horton-Tucker may have the characteristic that makes him worthy of a draft pick in the back half of the first round: toughness.
The 18-year-old is a 6'4" shooting guard-small forward who checks in at 238 pounds, and his most impressive physical asset is his 7'1" wingspan. That bulk gives him the strength and thickness to play bully ball when he takes his man down low.
Horton-Tucker finished his freshman season with the Cyclones averaging 11.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. He may not be an NBA starter, but he could be the kind of player who makes a difference coming off the bench.
Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman noted that when Horton-Tucker gets to the NBA, coaches will emphasize improvements in his decision-making and conditioning.
Once that happens, Horton-Tucker is going to become a prime player in his team's eight- or nine-man rotation. Because of his thick body and his determination to be a difference-maker, per NBADraft.net, he will assert himself quickly in the league. Look for Horton-Tucker to play nearly 20 minutes per game, score eight points per game and get at least two rebounds per night.
His time on the floor will be significantly higher in the second half of the season because he will make a contribution every night.
SF KZ Okpala, Stanford
KZ Okpala demonstrated he could be a productive player with the Cardinal, and he has the kind of length that should make him valuable at the next level.
He is 6'9" and 215 pounds, and he has a 7'2" wingspan that allows him to cause disruption in the passing lanes.
Okpala averaged 16.9 points and 5.7 rebounds for Stanford, and the sophomore added 1.0 steal per game while shooting 46.5 percent from the field. NBADraft.net compared him to Rodney Hood of the Portland Trail Blazers, who averaged 11.2 points for the 2018-19 regular season while playing for both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Blazers.
The 19-year-old is a face-up scorer, and that's an option that is always appreciated in end-of-game situations, when points are hard to come by. He can cut through the paint, receive the ball and get his shot off quickly.
Look for him to get drafted with the 26th pick, and if he goes in Round 1, he will be the first Stanford player to do so since Robin and Brook Lopez in 2008.
Wasserman sees Okpala as the kind of player who can create mismatches, but he feels he needs to work on his shot creation and off-the-dribble skills.
Okpala will open eyes in the NBA because he can heat up at any point and create instant offense. He has shown significant improvement during his college career, and he is dangerous in the open court. Possessing the kind of length that will make him difficult to defend, his minutes will increase significantly as the season progresses and he gets a chance to show off his versatility.
The key for Okpala will be to continue to improve and to put on more weight and strength. He is going to come off the bench and do an excellent job shooting, driving to the hole or kicking out to an open teammate. He will average better than seven points and five rebounds per game while playing 15-20 minutes per night.