Predicting who will be drafted in the NBA Lottery

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Predicting who will be drafted in the NBA Lottery

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Titus Perez, Courier Staff

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The NCAA tournament has entered its second weekend with only 16 teams remaining. A lot of players around the nation have turned their attention to the next season. Most of them are preparing for their next collegiate season and are hoping to get further in the NCAA tournament next year. The top players from this year have their eyes set on the next level. The NBA Draft is just two months away; there is not much time to be wasted for prospects hoping to increase their draft stock. Players like Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett know they will be within the top-five picks in this year’s draft, regardless of how well they work out for teams in the pre-draft process. Others looking to crack that top-five or jump into the lottery portion of the draft should be doing everything they can to get different teams’ attention and improve their draft stock. Here are the players I think will rise up the draft boards over the next two months and join Williamson, Morant and Barrett in the lottery.

Williamson, for me and every other sports writer around the nation, is locked in the number one spot. Despite who ends up with this pick, they will take him because he is a superstar talent that can instantly elevate a team. I’m not sure if I have ever seen a college prospect this well with the transferable skills that will allow him to do the same at the NBA level. Whoever gets him will be lucky and might make the playoffs as a low seed next year. Staying healthy and in shape is my biggest concern for Williamson.

I think the second pick will come down to team need. Barrett and Morant are great talents, but neither is better than the other regardless of their needs. In addition to their individual talents, it also comes down to the team, and how the drafting procedure will work. Based on teams projected to pick in the lottery, a point guard here is the most likely needed. Therefore, Morant will go two and Barrett will follow at three.

After the top-three are chosen, the draft will continue to remain exciting since there are at least five players vying for this spot. Team need could come into play here, but the players worthy of going this high are all wings, and because of that I believe Jarrett Culver from Texas Tech University might be the selection here. He saw his former teammate, Zhaire Smith, rise into the lottery last year. He should rise into the top-five this year. He’s a deadly scorer who can guard three positions. Don’t be entirely surprised if he goes higher then Morant and Barrett. While they have the hype, Culver has the advance skills so if a team is sitting at two looking for a wing they could take Culver or Barrett.

Rounding out the top-five, many would think that Cam Reddish from the University of Duke has the potential to be in that top spot. However, I’m not high on him or his production this season. I understand he has been playing with two other superstars, but that should’ve made his job easier. He always matched up one-and-one, and yet has shot the ball poorly from every level this season. I would advise him to go back to school, but when a player is considered a top-10 pick that is almost always ruled out. With that, I see a team taking a flyer on the very talented Darius Garland from the University of Vanderbilt. He’s been hurt all season, but has already proved his skills in high school and the first four games of the year in college. He’s a floor leader and a new age point guard who is looking to score first and pass later. Team need, like always, can play a part in the pick but with only one point guard taking thus far, Garland would likely be the need of that team picking at five.

Outside of the top-five, the rest of the event will still be exciting to watch to say the least. I think it is during this section of the draft where we will see many trades and rumors, including the Anthony Davis trade. This draft has the potential to be the most fun in years because of the lack of depth and drama surrounding superstars coming into the draft.

Among the top players that will be drafted outside the top-five, Reddish might be one of them. Though I am not high on him, his tools and potential will not allow him to slip lower. Keep an eye on De’Andre Hunter from the University of Virginia. He’s likely to be in the discussion as well. Malcolm Brogdon, a former second round pick and now with the Milwaukee Bucks played at UVA and had some of the same skills as Hunter. He somehow slipped to the second round, but is now a starter for the Bucks, averaging over 15 points per game. NBA teams won’t make that mistake again, so expect Hunter to go into the top-10. Brandon Clarke, who transferred to the University of Gonzaga, was an afterthought to start the year; many were focused on his teammate Rui Hachimura, but now it is Clarke who’s the projected top-10 pick. His Draymond Green-type playing style has caught the attention of NBA scouts, which will land him in the top-10 as well.

Sleeper players that might rise during the draft process are: Coby White, Markus Howard, Nassir Little and Kevin Porter Jr.

Howard is a small 5’10″ college point guard but plays like a shooting guard. If he decides to enter the draft, I think teams will love his scoring ability and end up taking him early second round. He is not on draft boards right now because of his size, but working out for NBA teams may change that.

Little was the second overall rated recruit coming into this college season. He played the six-man role for the University of North Carolina this year and because of that, he never really got to showcase all that he has. He’s built like an NBA player and I think NBA teams will fall in love with his tools during workouts. He’s projected late first round, but I think with good pre-draft workouts, he can rise into the lottery.

His teammate, White, was not as coveted coming into the season but he has proven he is one of the best point guards in the nation. If he enters this year’s draft, he will be my third ranked point guard, going top-10 is not out of the question for White. He shouldn’t go any lower than the lottery.

Porter Jr. has had an up and down year. He’s been unproductive but has great flashes of next-level scoring ability. I think he picked the wrong school going to University of Southern California. They never let him display his total skill package and even demoted him to the bench after he was suspended for a few games. In workouts, teams will see his scoring ability as very James Harden-like and fall in love with him. The lottery is a likely landing spot if he can prove he is disciplined and shows he is focused on basketball. The skill will show itself. Don’t rule out Porter Jr. going to the top-10.

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