2019 NBA Re-Draft: Who Follows Zion Williamson?

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2021

2019 NBA Re-Draft: Who Follows Zion Williamson?

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    In the instant-analysis culture of today's sports media, many expect to know who won the NBA draft the moment it's over. NBA teams are immediately graded on every pick they made. 

    It's the nature of the business, but you can't know how wise a selection was until some time passes. You have to see how the player develops his game. You have to see how the team utilizes him within its schemes. In some cases, players still have plenty of physical changes on the way.

    For the 2019 draft class, we've now had two years to analyze those factors. And that analysis would certainly alter the order if that first round were held today.

    To determine an order for this re-draft, we considered more than a dozen numbers, including rate (think points per game) and cumulative (think total points) catch-all metrics, shooting percentages and per-possession averages for basic indicators like points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. Since there's still some looking forward here, FiveThirtyEight's individual player projections and subjectivity also factored in.

    One thing you won't see weighted is team need. We aren't going back in time as much as guessing where players would be selected if they were re-drafted now. So, each pick will driven by a best-player-available approach.

    With all that in mind, let's take a look at how a 2019 NBA re-draft might shake out.


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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    30. Cleveland Cavaliers (via MIL): Bol Bol (originally picked 44th)

    Bol Bol hasn't really had a chance to show off his unique skills in the NBA. Being a center on Nikola Jokic's team instantly caps your minutes, and the Denver Nuggets have opted to go with more experienced backups.

    Bol was a top-10 recruit coming out of high school, though. And he isn't too far removed from that hype. He slid to the second round of the draft largely because of health concerns, but that hasn't been a big issue for him in the NBA.

    He mostly rises to 30th here because of intrigue alone, although he should have more of a chance to show what he can do in 2021-22. The Nuggets are deep at power forward, but Bol and Jokic are their only true centers.


    29. San Antonio Spurs: Cody Martin (originally picked 36th)

    At 25, Cody Martin is a bit older than most other players in his draft class. His career 25.2 three-point percentage leaves much to be desired, too. But he has solid, well-rounded abilities that should help him stick around the NBA for a while.

    He averaged 9.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals per 75 possessions over his first two seasons with the Charlotte Hornets.


    28. Golden State Warriors: Goga Bitadze (originally picked 18th)

    Goga Bitadze's minutes have been limited by the presence of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But even when he's on the floor, he's struggled with efficiency. A big man having a below-average effective field-goal percentage in each of his first two seasons is not a good sign.

    There are still some encouraging signs, though. Last season, he averaged 3.8 offensive rebounds and 3.8 blocks per 75 possessions, which ranked 27th and second, respectively.

    Rim protection is generally in demand, so that should help keep Bitadze in the NBA. If he can continue to develop his ability to generate extra possessions on the other end, he could become a valuable backup.


    27. Los Angeles Clippers (via BKN): John Konchar (originally undrafted)

    If this re-draft was based solely on advanced metrics, John Konchar would be much higher. Zion Williamson and Brandon Clarke are the only players drafted in 2019 who have a higher career box plus/minus than Konchar's 1.8.

    That number is a result of contributions up and down the stat sheet. Over his two seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, Konchar has averaged 11.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.2 threes per 75 possessions while shooting 39.4 percent from deep.

    The problem is that Konchar has played fewer than 1,000 career minutes, and most of those came against second- or third-stringers. It's difficult to know how heavily to weigh them.


    26. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jordan Poole (originally picked 28th)

    Jordan Poole's placement outside the top 25 may be overly reliant on his disastrous rookie season. He shot a horrific 27.9 percent from three, and among the 388 rookie seasons in which a player attempted at least 100 three-pointers, his BPM ranked 387th.

    This wasn't some small-sample outlier, as Poole played nearly 1,300 minutes as a rookie. He changed his career outlook with making dramatic improvements as a sophomore, though.

    His true shooting percentage skyrocketed from 45.4 to 58.1. His offensive BPM was above average, making him the only rookie from the group above to go from a minus-4.0 or worse offensive BPM to above-average in his second season.

    Poole's rookie numbers are still a mild concern, but he looks like he can be a legitimate heat-check-off-the-bench guy.


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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    25. Portland Trail Blazers: Kevin Porter Jr. (originally picked 30th)

    Kevin Porter Jr. showed off his high ceiling in 2020-21 when he went off for 50 points and 11 assists in a late-season game against the Milwaukee Bucks. That one outing was solid evidence that KPJ can be a dominant scorer and creator at his best.

    Emphasis on the word can comes courtesy of three years (going back to his time at USC) of inconsistency and off-court troubles, though.

    The talent is there, but there's a reason Porter has a well-below-replacement-level BPM and only 76 NBA appearances in two seasons.


    24. Phoenix Suns (via PHI): Keldon Johnson (originally picked 29th)

    Keldon Johnson had the honor of being the resident youngster on this year's gold medal-winning USA basketball team, an experience that will hopefully spur the 21-year old to greater heights in the NBA.

    Over his two seasons in San Antonio, he's averaged 12.0 points in 26.4 minutes while shooting 36.0 percent from three. And his physical profile should allow him to defend both guards and wings.


    23. Oklahoma City Thunder (via UTA): Terence Davis (originally undrafted)

    Like Porter, Terence Davis has had off-court trouble that any team would consider before selecting him in a re-draft. From a pure basketball standpoint, though, Davis has shown some potential as a floor-spacing wing.

    Over his two NBA seasons, the 6'4" undrafted free agent has averaged 8.1 points and 1.4 threes in 17.2 minutes while shooting 37.7 percent from deep.


    22. Boston Celtics: Naz Reid (originally undrafted)

    Another undrafted free agent, Naz Reid had a breakout you might have missed in 2020-21. As Karl-Anthony Towns' backup for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Reid averaged 11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 0.9 threes in only 19.2 minutes.

    Reid's career mark of 34.3 percent from three suggests he could become a floor-spacing big for years to come.


    21. Memphis Grizzlies (via OKC): Chuma Okeke (originally picked 16th)

    Chuma Okeke missed all of the 2019-20 season while recovering from a torn ACL, but he showed off some potential last year as a combo forward who can shoot. He hit 34.8 percent of his three-point attempts and displayed some mid-range prowess as well.

    With a little more consistency on that end as well as continued development as a multipositional defender, Okeke has very real three-and-D potential.


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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    20. Philadelphia 76ers (via BOS): Coby White (originally picked seventh)

    So far, Coby White looks like a high-volume, low-efficiency bench scorer. Over two seasons, he's averaged 14.2 points with a well-below-average effective field-goal percentage and a low free-throw rate.

    That doesn't mean White will always be this player, though. He's only 21 years old. Moderate improvement as a three-point shooter might be about all it takes to change his outlook offensively.

    He probably needs even more work on the other end, but defense isn't always the top priority for a heat-check guy.


    19. San Antonio Spurs: Nicolas Claxton (originally picked 31st)

    Nicolas Claxton has played only 781 regular-season minutes, so we're analyzing a very small sample here. What he's shown in those limited opportunities is encouraging, though.

    Claxton has the height and athleticism to be a dedicated rim-runner and rim-protector, but he's also nimble enough to switch onto guards and wings outside.


    18. Indiana Pacers: Jaxson Hayes (originally picked eighth)

    The combination of size and athleticism that got Jaxson Hayes drafted in the top 10 has already shown up in plenty of highlights. There aren't many 6'11"-plus players who are as vertically explosive as him.

    What causes him to slide a bit here is the lack of skill development to supplement those physical traits.

    If you're a generational defender with impeccable timing and awareness like Rudy Gobert, you can get away with being fairly one-dimensional on offense. For Hayes, a little more touch outside the paint and some passing here and there would be nice.


    17. New Orleans Pelicans (via BKN): Daniel Gafford (originally picked 38th)

    The biggest differentiator between Daniel Gafford and the two centers behind him is rim protection.

    During his two NBA seasons, Gafford has blocked 3.4 shots per 75 possessions. And while blocks aren't the only indicator of good defense from a big man, a mark that high from a 22-year old is encouraging.

    In 23 games following a trade to the Washington Wizards last season, he also averaged 10.1 points and shot 68.1 percent from the field. Like Hayes, he'd benefit from additional skill development, but his defensive foundation appears sturdier.


    16. Orlando Magic: Terance Mann (originally picked 48th)

    Terance Mann looks like a potentially dynamic three-and-D wing for the Los Angeles Clippers. In his sophomore campaign, he averaged 7.0 points in 18.9 minutes and shot 41.8 percent from three.

    His real breakout came in the playoffs, though. Following Kawhi Leonard's departure from the rotation with a torn ACL, Mann averaged 12.8 points and shot 44.8 percent from three against the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns. In the Clippers' closeout victory over the Jazz in Game 6, he went off for a team-high 39.


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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    15. Detroit Pistons: Cam Reddish (originally picked 10th)

    Cam Reddish's two-year career has already been somewhat of a roller coaster. After an ice-cold start to his rookie campaign, he closed strong with an average of 15.9 points and a 40.3 three-point percentage in his last 12 games.

    His efficiency then tumbled in an injury-plagued second season in which he shot 36.5 percent from the field and 26.2 percent from three. But in four playoff appearances with the Atlanta Hawks, he averaged 12.8 points and went 9-of-14 from deep.

    Inconsistency aside, Reddish does look like a potential game-changer on defense. He has the size and athleticism to guard multiple positions. And the release on his jumper looks fine. He just needs to become more consistent on that end of the floor.


    14. Boston Celtics: Luguentz Dort (originally undrafted)

    Well-below-average effective field-goal percentages in each of his first two seasons have stunted Luguentz Dort's impact a bit, but he looks like a potential All-Defensive team candidate who's unafraid to guard anyone.

    If his three-point percentage keeps trending in the right direction (he went from 29.7 percent as a rookie to 34.3 percent last year), he could become one of the game's premier three-and-D guys.


    13. Miami Heat: Rui Hachimura (originally picked ninth)

    Advanced numbers suggest Rui Hachimura still has plenty of work to do, but he could become a distinctly modern power forward who can create shots, hit threes and potentially guard both wings and bigs.

    Right now, the biggest areas for improvement are three-point consistency (he hit 32.8 percent of his attempts last season) and passing. But Hachimura has already shown the kind of fluid athleticism that suggests those skills can be unearthed.


    12. Charlotte Hornets: P.J. Washington (originally picked 12th)

    At 6'7", P.J. Washington may be a tad undersized for a big, even in today's positionless NBA. But his versatility makes up for that.

    Over his two seasons with the Charlotte Hornets, Washington has averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.0 threes, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per 75 possessions. No player in NBA history has matched or exceeded all of those marks.


    11. Phoenix Suns (via MIN): Brandon Clarke (originally picked 21st)

    Brandon Clarke's attempt to overhaul his jumper was one of the strangest stories of last season.

    As a rookie, he led his class in BPM and shot a solid 35.9 percent from three. Somehow, that led to a transformation that took his shot from this to this. As a result, Clarke's three-point efficiency dropped 9.9 percentage points, and his true shooting percentage plummeted from 66.3 to 56.0.

    Fortunately, much of what made Clarke so effective in 2019-20 remained. He's an explosive athlete who can do a little bit of everything on both ends. If the experiment with his shot ends, he has a chance to be one of this group's top combo bigs.

10. Atlanta Hawks: Cameron Johnson (Originally Picked 11th)

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $50.6 million

    "No one expected [Cameron Johnson] to be this high," CBS Sports' Gary Parrish and Kyle Boone wrote after the 2019 draft. "Johnson was not even one of the 24 players invited to the official draft green room. This is wild to me."

    Parrish and Boone were far from the only analysts to express confusion over the Phoenix Suns' selection of Johnson at No. 11. And the sentiment was warranted at the time.

    Johnson had played five years in college and didn't average double figures until the third season. His career 40.5 three-point percentage was encouraging, but struggling for positive contributions until you're a 20-year old playing against teenagers is concerning.

    Some players do bust that old adage, though, and we can now add Johnson to that list. In his two seasons with the Phoenix Suns, he has averaged 9.2 points and 1.9 threes in 23.0 minutes while posting an above-average three-point percentage.

    Johnson may not be a future superstar, but steady contributions as a reserve, a reliable three-point shot and the size necessary to guard multiple positions have made him an important piece on a team that just made it to the NBA Finals.

9. Washington Wizards: Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Originally Picked 17th)

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $64.9 million

    Nickeil Alexander-Walker had a tough time finding a consistent role in former New Orleans Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy's rotation. But as he got more minutes later in the season, he started to show some offensive potential.

    In 19 games from March 1 to the end of the 2020-21 campaign, NAW averaged 15.3 points, 2.7 assists and 2.6 threes in 28.2 minutes while shooting 38.3 percent from deep. But even before he started getting more minutes, the combination of his size and athleticism offered intrigue.

    At 6'6", Alexander-Walker is capable of defending guards and wings. And that length helps him shoot over outstretched arms, too.

    If the young wing can figure out how to draw more fouls and finish inside over the next few years—his career field-goal percentage within three feet of the rim is an abysmal 49.7he has a chance to be one of this class' better players.

8. New Orleans Pelicans (via ATL): Talen Horton-Tucker (Originally Picked 46th)

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $76.1 million

    To non-Los Angeles Lakers fans, this placement for Talen Horton-Tucker might feel aggressive. After all, THT has played only 1,385 NBA minutes and has a below-average career BPM. His career 28.5 three-point percentage is concerning, too.

    But in today's increasingly positionless NBA, the 20-year-old's slashing and passing give him star potential.

    For his career, Horton-Tucker has averaged 16.3 points, 4.9 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.1 threes per 75 possessions. LaMelo Ball is the only player in league history to match or exceed all those marks through an age-20 season.

    If THT backed up those wide-ranging contributions with an average three-point percentage, he would be even higher up this list.

    The 6'4" Horton-Tucker may be undersized in matchups against certain forwards or wings, but high-end athleticism, his 234-pound frame and his 7'1" wingspan generally make up for that. In fact, given his physical tools and strong steal rate, his defensive profile might be even higher than that of his offense.

7. Chicago Bulls: De'Andre Hunter (Originally Picked 4th)

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $59.3 million

    De'Andre Hunter is the kind of combo forward who fits well alongside a ball-dominant playmaker like Trae Young. He doesn't demand a ton of usage, can defend small and power forwards, spaces the floor a bit and can score from the other levels of the court.

    Not all of that happened in the same season, however.

    His 35.5 three-point percentage as a rookie was encouraging, but that fell to 32.6 in last year. There were still plenty of good indicators in 2020-21, though. He shot 85.9 percent from the line and an astronomical 53.4 percent on two-point attempts from five feet and out (a mark that ranked ninth in the league).

    If he can combine his outside shooting of 2019-20 with his mid-range prowess of 2020-21, Hunter will be a dangerous third or fourth option. That and his defensive versatility make him a safe top-10 pick.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves (via PHX): Darius Garland (Originally Picked 5th)

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $56.1 million

    Like several other players on this list, advanced numbers haven't loved Darius Garland's first two seasons. But marks like BPM should be analyzed with several grains of salt for young players.

    It takes a while to learn the intricacies of the NBA, and it's fine to emphasize the good signs. For Garland, those started to come along far more frequently toward the end of his second season.

    After the 2020-21 All-Star break, Garland averaged 18.8 points, 6.3 assists and 2.2 threes while shooting 40.4 percent from deep. His minus-0.7 BPM over that stretch was still a bit below average, but it was a significant improvement over the below-replacement-level minus-2.5 he posted before the All-Star break.

    Garland is looking more and more comfortable as a lead ball-handler. He has a smooth pull-up jumper and a wide variety of runners, floaters and fadeaways inside the three-point line. And as defenders are forced to honor his scoring a bit more, he's starting to find lob threats and other open targets with better timing.

    Due to his size (6'1" and 192 pounds), he may always struggle on defense, but he's shown more than enough on the other end to expect a long career.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Tyler Herro (Originally Picked 13th)

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $66.8 million

    Tyler Herro's ridiculous 2020 postseason run, during which he averaged 16.0 points and a 2.3 threes for the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat, might have hurt the perception of him in the long run.

    After a 37-point game in the Eastern Conference Finals and several other big playoff moments, Herro seemed bound for a major sophomore leap. Instead, he sort of plateaued.

    When you separate his numbers from the expectations, though, it's still easy to to be encouraged about his longterm potential.

    Over his two NBA seasons, Herro has averaged 14.3 points, 2.8 assists and 2.0 threes while shooting 37.5 percent from deep. His entire statistical profile is eerily similar to Devin Booker's first two seasons.

    Their games kind of look alike, too. And when you hear Herro talk about his influences, it gets easier to understand why.

    "When Devin Booker went to Kentucky, that's when I really started to watch him," Herro told JJ Redick on the Old Man and the Three podcast. "And I love his game. The way he gets to his spots. He can score with the best of them. I just think he's so fluid and skilled."

    Herro has a similarly fluid offensive game. He can hit pull-ups from just about any range, generally doesn't get sped up by the defense and plays with a confidence that belies his age.

    He may not develop into a bona fide No. 1 scorer like Booker, but he could very well have an All-Star ceiling.

4. Atlanta Hawks (via LAL): Matisse Thybulle (Originally Picked 20th)

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    Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $102.5 million

    Matisse Thybulle's flight up to No. 4 is based almost entirely on defense. He averaged only 4.3 points and shot 33.0 percent from three over his first two seasons, but he's already one of the game's best defenders.

    In 2020-21, he earned one vote for Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the All-Defensive second team. He also led the league in defensive BPM and averaged 2.9 steals and 2.0 blocks per 75 possessions.

    No one in NBA history has ever had a season with averages at least that high in both marks. And if you drop the steals qualifier to 2.0, the list only includes 16 others.

    Defense is about more than numbers, though. In fact, it's far more difficult to measure than offense.

    "Box Plus/Minus is good at measuring offense and solid overall, but the defensive numbers in particular should not be considered definitive," Daniel Myers wrote for Basketball Reference. "Look at the defensive values as a guide, but don't hesitate to discount them when a player is well known as a good or bad defender."

    In Thybulle's case, the numbers back up the eye test. He's a menace all over the floor, and against anyone from point guards to power forwards. His lateral movement is top-tier, and his 7'0" wingspan helps him recover on the rare occasions that he gets beat off the dribble.

    Only two seasons into his career, Thybulle is already one of the few players in the NBA who can truly change a game with his defense. He could be a perennial DPOY candidate.

    If he ever becomes even average as a three-point shooter, he'll be among the game's most impactful players.

3. New York Knicks: RJ Barrett (Originally Picked 3rd)

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $118.9 million

    The trend for this draft class may very well be dramatic statistical improvements from their rookie to sophomore seasons. De'Andre Hunter and Darius Garland fit that description, as does RJ Barrett.

    After posting a woeful minus-4.3 BPM as a rookie, Barrett's per-game averages for points, rebounds, assists and threes all went up. His three-point percentage skyrocketed from 32.0 to 40.1, and his defense under New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau made significant strides in the right direction as well.

    All of that contributed to a jump to a minus-1.5 BPM in 2020-21. That's still below average, but Barrett is clearly moving in the right direction. After the All-Star break last season, he averaged 18.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists while shooting 43.5 percent from three.

    With Julius Randle and Derrick Rose on the roster, Barrett didn't get a ton of opportunities to show off his playmaking, but there were flashes of that ability, too.

    Long term, he looks like he has a good chance to be worth the No. 3 pick as a point forward who can stretch the floor and defend multiple positions.

2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant (Originally Picked 2nd)

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $89.1 million

    Like Tyler Herro, Ja Morant didn't quite take the sophomore leap that many expected. Despite slight increases in points and assists per game, his advanced numbers actually trended down.

    In the playoffs, though, Morant reminded everyone of his superstar upside. Against the top-seeded Utah Jazz, a team that finished the regular season with the best defense in the NBA, Morant averaged 30.2 points, 8.2 assists and 6.2 made free throws.

    He went haymaker-for-haymaker with Donovan Mitchell, and though the Memphis Grizzlies came up short, there were plenty of minutes in which Morant looked like the most dynamic player on the floor.

    Despite his slight frame, Morant plays with a fearlessness that few in the NBA possess. He'll attack anyone with reckless abandon, including three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. And his ability to pull defenses into the paint with quick-as-a-hiccup drives creates openings outside that he can hit with a pass.

    If he can improve his scoring efficiency a bit and become passable as a defender, Morant has a chance to be one of the game's best point guards.

1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson (Originally Picked 1st)

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $193.5 million

    We've never seen anything like Zion Williamson in the NBA. The comparisons to the likes of Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal and Larry Johnson are understandable, but none of them quite capture how Zion plays.

    At his size (6'7" and 284 pounds), it doesn't seem possible for him to move the way he does. With how quickly he gets above the rim, it almost seems like there should be a little tremor on the ground when he takes off.

    And while Zion's brute strength and athleticism would likely be enough to make him a dominant player, his production is about more than that.

    He's way ahead of where his age suggests he should be as a cutter. He seems to know the exact right moment to fill an open lane. And on the rare occasions he can't catch the ball and dunk over someone, his ability to adjust midair and score with soft touch may be unrivaled.

    All of that has contributed to a career average of 28.9 points per 75 possessions, a mark that trails only Michael Jordan (30.3) and Joel Embiid (29.3).

    This past season, Williamson showed some chops as a creator for others, too. When "Point Zion" dished out at least five assists, the New Orleans Pelicans went 16-8. They were 15-33 in all other games.

    New Orleans figures to entrust him with even more playmaking responsibility in 2021-22. And as defenses are forced to worry about him passing, new scoring opportunities may present themselves.

    If you wanted to nitpick, you could focus on Zion's defense or jumper, but he's already a worthy All-Star and impactful player without any consistency in either of those areas. During his two seasons in New Orleans, the Pelicans are plus-2.5 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and minus-3.6 with him off.

    Keeping him at No. 1 here is about as obvious as it gets.