Best and Worst Landing Spots for Top Projected 2019 NBA Draft Picks

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMay 14, 2019

Best and Worst Landing Spots for Top Projected 2019 NBA Draft Picks

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Team fits play a significant role in NBA prospects' development after the draft. The right one could jump-start their careers; a bad one could set them back years and hurt their second contract.

    Certain players need to be eased in. Others need reps right way. Many benefit from being surrounded by shooters.

    We highlighted the best and worst landing spots for the consensus top prospects based on each of their particular strengths and weaknesses.

Zion Williamson (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Atlanta Hawks

    The Hawks' arrow is pointing up after Trae Young's and John Collins' 2018-19 seasons. Zion Williamson fits the roster and would further elevate a team that played faster than any other in the league, per

    Young would give Williamson a point guard who'll generate open-floor opportunities as well as one of the game's top setup passers on drives and ball screens. Collins, who's developing into a great inside-out scorer, could take pressure off Williamson early by working as Atlanta's go-to option.

    Between Young, Kevin Huerter and Taurean Prince, Williamson would also have dangerous shooters to open the floor and create driving lanes and extra space to operate in the post.


    Worst landing spot: New Orleans Pelicans

    Assuming Anthony Davis remains intent on leaving New Orleans, the Pelicans may have to endure a painful rebuild.

    Going to a franchise that's starting from scratch, and one that hasn't traditionally been a hot free-agent destination, isn't ideal for any rookie.

    Williamson could put up stats in New Orleans, but too much uncertainty regarding the roster and the organization's ability to improve it remains unappealing.

Ja Morant (Murray State, PG, Sophomore)

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    Jessica Hill/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Memphis Grizzlies

    Ja Morant should be the first point guard drafted, but his transition to the NBA won't be seamless. While he led the country last season in assists, he also led it in turnovers and remains shaky with his perimeter game.

    He'd benefit from having a mentor like Mike Conley, who could take pressure off the rookie early before giving him the keys once the veteran is inevitably traded during the final year on his deal (he has an early-termination option in 2020-21). Morant would have the best of both worlds in Memphis: A clear path to the starting lineup by next year without the monster workload to start, though a Conley trade on draft night is possible.

    Either way, the 6'3", 175-pound Morant could start developing an exciting partnership with Jaren Jackson Jr., one of the league's top young bigs.


    Worst landing spot: Atlanta Hawks

    Assuming the Hawks use sensible judgement when projecting fit, Morant shouldn't have to worry about landing in Atlanta, even though it's a franchise on the rise. The ball there belongs to Young. He's similarly ball-dominant. Both he and Morant finished college as the nation's leaders in points produced, per Sports Reference.

    Playing either off the ball would defeat the purpose of having them in the lineup. And neither has the size (Young is 6'2", 180 lbs) or defensive chops to play shooting guard for long stretches.

    Morant will want to land with a team that he can eventually run. The Hawks are one of the few who can't give him that position and freedom.

RJ Barrett (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Atlanta Hawks

    Williamson shouldn't be the only prospect hoping to land in Atlanta. RJ Barrett would enjoy Young's playmaking and the attention Collins draws. But Duke's leading scorer would still get fed enough with the Hawks in need of a scoring wing.

    Ranking No. 1 in pace, Atlanta would also play to Barrett's strengths—he finished tied for seventh in the country with 6.1 transition points per game.

    The Hawks could hurt defenses from each level with a core of Young, Collins and Barrett, though it would be important to fill the other rotation spots with plus defenders.


    Worst landing spot: Cleveland Cavaliers

    It would be tough for Barrett to maintain efficiency in Cleveland, where the Cavaliers lack passers and talent. He'd have a chance to score in volume early, but it would also mean having to generate most of his own scoring chances with Collin Sexton (3.0 assists per game) running the point.

    Barrett ranked in the 59th percentile out of isolation and the 49th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. He finds ways to score, but he isn't the sharpest shot-creator, particularly in the half court. And the Cavaliers just finished 29th in the NBA in pace.

Darius Garland (Vanderbilt, PG, Freshman)

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    Cassy Athena/Getty Images

    Best landing spot: Minnesota Timberwolves

    Darius Garland played four full games before tearing his meniscus, so throwing him right into a starting point guard job could have consequences. In Minnesota, he'd be able to spend the year developing behind Jeff Teague and giving the Wolves shot-making off the bench.

    He's more of a scorer than distributor, so a reserve role early could better suit his strengths.

    One of the draft's top shooters, both off the dribble and catch, Garland could eventually help elevate this particular group, which finished in the bottom third in the league in threes made per game.

    In Minnesota, Garland could take it slow before emerging as a starter in Year 2 for a talented roster that features Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Robert Covington.


    Worst landing spot: Cleveland Cavaliers

    The Cavaliers already have a scoring point guard who struggles to facilitate in Sexton. Adding another in Garland wouldn't help anyone.

    The fit (at both ends) seems disastrous enough that neither Garland nor Wolves fans should have to worry. But it's worth pointing out that Cleveland would be a poor landing spot for most rookies, particularly ball-handlers.

De'Andre Hunter (Virginia, SF/PF, Sophomore)

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Best landing spot: Phoenix Suns

    For a team that finished with 19 wins, the Suns have legitimate talent—it just hasn't been optimized. De'Andre Hunter could help with his defensive versatility and shot-making from either forward spot.

    After the Suns ranked 30th in three-point shooting (32.9 percent) and 29th in defensive efficiency, per, Hunter—the ACC Defensive Player of the Year who shot 43.8 percent from behind the arc—could plug a hole at both ends.

    In Phoenix, he could start immediately and play to his strengths between Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.


    Worst landing spot: Chicago Bulls

    The Bulls have talent but not enough room for another forward in the lineup. They just traded for Otto Porter Jr. after dealing for Lauri Markkanen and drafting Wendell Carter Jr., making it difficult to picture Hunter finding the minutes he'd presumably want.

    He could be used in a three-and-D role off the bench, but if the goal is to build on his scoring ability and shot creativity, Chicago won't be that place.

Cam Reddish (Duke, SF, Freshman)

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    Best landing spot: Washington Wizards

    Cam Reddish struggled this season in a lower-usage role behind Williamson and Barrett while Tre Jones ran the offense. The 6'8" swingman requires more touches and looks to build rhythm, and he'd have that in Washington.

    With limited team expectations following John Wall's injury and the Porter trade, Reddish would have the freedom to possibly start and play through mistakes. Assuming Bradley Beal isn't dealt on draft night, the offense will still run through him. But Reddish would get plenty of opportunities to create and hunt for shots.

    He flashed glimpses on the ball last season, generating 73 points on a combined 72 pick-and-roll ball-handling and isolation possessions. With Wall out, Reddish could receive more reps as an initiator.

    In Washington, he'd use his rookie season to gain back confidence before taking a step forward in Year 2, potentially with a tougher roster once Wall returns.


    Worst landing spot: Los Angeles Lakers

    There are a lot of mouths to feed in L.A., and most are those of hungry young players. Reddish could get lost in the shuffle alongside Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and LeBron James.

    And after he was on the receiving end of criticism all season with Duke, maybe Reddish would benefit from going to a lower-profile team with less attention and pressure.

Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech, SG, Sophomore)

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    Best landing spot: Memphis Grizzlies

    Memphis would offer Jarrett Culver a place to play immediately and develop while the team builds from the ground up.

    He'd have the chance to expand on his budding scoring ability and shot creation, even with Conley still in the picture.

    Culver would give the Grizzlies the type of 2-guard they've been missing. And he'd benefit if Conley stuck around longer. The two could also form a tough defensive backcourt to secure the perimeter in front of Jackson, the team's centerpiece.

    Once Conley leaves, however, Culver can take over as Memphis' primary initiator, just as he did as a sophomore while leading Texas Tech to the national title game.


    Worst landing spot: Washington Wizards

    Culver is best suited to shooting guard, lacking strength to defend and create against longer forwards, which was apparent against Virginia's Hunter. He'd likely be forced to the 3 in Washington with Beal locked in at the 2.

    If Beal gets traded, Culver could play his natural position, but then he'd be left without support and with uncertainty surrounding the injured Wall, who is eating up over $170 million until 2023.

Jaxson Hayes (Texas, C, Freshman)

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    Chris Covatta/Getty Images

    Best landing spot: Los Angeles Lakers

    Jaxson Hayes could plug right into the Lakers lineup at center, where the team could use a defensive presence.

    But Hayes would also benefit from being surrounded by skill players and passers like James and Lonzo Ball. The 6'11" rim runner would give them an efficient finishing target in transition and via cuts, rolls and low post ups after he ranked in the 90th percentile or better in each of those areas at Texas.

    The future could still be bright in L.A., which has substantial young talent and an MVP candidate in LeBron and possible cap room coming. Hayes could quickly carve out a starting role, playing to his strengths on a playoff team.


    Worst landing spot: Chicago Bulls

    For Hayes' sake, he better hope the Bulls don't view him as the best player available when they're on the clock.

    With Markkanen and Carter locked in up front, Hayes would be limited to backup duties with no path to the starting lineup.

    It would resemble the situation Mo Bamba found himself in this season before his leg injury: stuck playing fewer than 20 minutes per game for the Orlando Magic in a rotation with weak point guard play.

Coby White (North Carolina, PG/SG, Freshman)

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Chicago Bulls

    The Bulls offense hasn't taken off behind Kris Dunn. Coby White could give it some extra pop with his speed, shot-making and ball-screen playmaking.

    He wouldn't have to force things early with Porter, Markkanen, Carter and Zach LaVine. Instead, he could play to his strengths as a pick-and-roll passer while picking his spots to pull up or attack.

    Though LaVine tends to steal dribbles in the backcourt, White has the size (6'5") and spot-up shooting (47.7 percent) ability to work off the ball for stretches of a game.


    Worst landing spot: Charlotte Hornets

    White will want to avoid Charlotte regardless of where Kemba Walker ends up.

    If the Hornets draft White and Walker signs elsewhere, the rookie will be stuck running one of the league's weakest rosters. If Walker stays, it would mean fewer on-ball reps for White, who'd also have to defend shooting guards full time, a scary proposition for the 185-pound combo guard.

    Charlotte is a tough spot for any prospect with the Hornets stuck in no-man's land, having to rebuild or fight for the eighth seed.

Romeo Langford (Indiana, SG, Freshman)

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    Doug McSchooler/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Miami Heat

    Romeo Langford may want to go in the top 10, but it wouldn't hurt to fall a few spots if it meant landing in Miami.

    Dwyane Wade is done, and Dion Waiters isn't an exciting answer at shooting guard. Langford could compete for the starting spot with Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow. He'd have enough opportunities to create and score without being overloaded early.

    Depending on how he adjusts to NBA defenses, Langford could wind up being a focal point to build around by his sophomore season, especially if Dragic and Hassan Whiteside (player options for 2019-20) don't return.


    Worst landing spot: Washington Wizards

    There aren't any positives to landing in Washington, where Langford would play behind Beal or replace him after a trade.

    Neither is an appealing scenario. The latter could be for the right player, but Langford would be without any supporting talent on a losing team. And he didn't always assert himself at Indiana even though he was the team's top weapon.


    Advanced stats courtesy of Synergy Sports unless otherwise noted. Contract information via Basketball Insiders.