The NBA Playoffs have arrived and for the 14th time in the last 15 postseasons the Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t among the Western Conference participants. Another season in which the night of the NBA Draft Lottery is a night that could swing the fate of the franchise.
The lottery is set for May 14, but there’s no sense in waiting for the actual draft order to be set for us to dream about the possibilities of what could happen both on that day and in June when the NBA Draft comes around.
For this exercise, tankathon.com will be used to simulate the draft lottery, then we’ll be making the selections for each of the 14 picks in the lottery. For each mock draft there will be a single simulation – whatever happens on the first click is what will be used. All four of the picks that are selected in the lottery will be explained with a little bit more detail than the rest, and obviously whichever pick the Wolves make will have the most insight.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Zion Williamson, Duke
Williamson is the selection at No. 1 overall – barring an unforeseen circumstance – no matter which team is making the selection. It’s fitting that the Cavs are the winners for our very first mock draft of the season because there’s no better franchise at winning draft lotteries.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves – Ja Morant, Murray State
It’s definitely more fun that in the first mock draft the Wolves jumped all the way up from their No. 10 spot in the lottery order to the No. 2 overall selection. Maybe all that losing towards the end of the season did pay off. Anyways, Morant is an explosive guard that would be an absolutely terrific pairing with Karl-Anthony Towns. He can score and pass at a high level and should help right the ship in Minnesota.
3. Atlanta Hawks – R.J. Barrett, Duke
The Hawks are already building a nice young group of players with Trae Young, John Collins, and others. Barrett would be another terrific piece in Atlanta and the Hawks would be a couple of years away from potentially being must-see TV.
4. Washington Wizards – Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech
Culver didn’t have the best of showings in the NCAA Tournament, but the potential for Culvers on both ends of the floor is still there. Culver would absolutely have the opportunity to step in right away and help a Wizards team that will likely be without John Wall for much of the 2019-20 season.
5. New York Knicks – Cam Reddish, Duke
Reddish didn’t have a great freshman season at Duke, but he’s got the raw potential.
6. Phoenix Suns – De’Andre Hunter, Virginia
Hunter just won a championship with Virginia, and he can be a solid two-way player at the next level.
7. Chicago Bulls – Coby White, North Carolina
This might be a bit of a stretch, but the Bulls need backcourt help.
8. New Orleans Pelicans – Sekou Doumbouya, France
Doumbouya is a wing with length (6-foot-11 wingspan) and the Pelicans are likely looking at are building situation if Anthony Davis gets dealt. This is a risk worth taking.
9. Boston Celtics (from Memphis) – Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga
Clarke is a little bit older and will be 23 before he plays his first NBA game, but he can do almost everything well and should be an instant contributor.
10. Atlanta Hawks (from Dallas) – Jaxson Hayes, Texas
Hayes is probably the best true center in this draft and would add to an already terrific young core in Atlanta.
11. Los Angeles Lakers – Romeo Langford, Indiana
The Lakers need a lot of help in a lot of different places. Maybe Langford could provide some of that, or maybe this pick gets traded for a bigger star.
12. Charlotte Hornets – Nassir Little, North Carolina
Like the Lakers, the Hornets also need a ton of help in a lot of places. If Kemba Walker stays, maybe Little can be a piece to help him out. Should Walker leave, this is a solid start to a rebuild.
13. Miami Heat – Darius Garland, Vanderbilt
Miami has to replace Dwyane Wade and Garland probably won’t turn into the legend that Wade was, but he’s worth the pick here.
14. Boston Celtics (from Sacramento via Philadelphia) – Kevin Porter, Jr., USC
There’s a chance that this pick ends up getting traded by the Celtics should they seriously enter the Anthony Davis sweepstakes this summer as everyone expects.
How else the Wolves could have gone
If the Wolves are lucky enough to be selecting second overall, the decision will be between Morant and Barrett. Both players are thought of as potential stars in the NBA as of now. Morant’s college game put much more pressure on him at Murray State. He was the team’s leading scorer and passer, setting the school record in assists and becoming the first player in NCAA history to average 20 points and 10 assists per game.
As for Barrett, he was the second option — for the most part — at Duke behind Williamson. Many think that his playmaking skills will be able to translate better to the NBA than they did at Duke, but his outside shot needs improvement as he shot just a smidge over 30% from behind the arc. His free throw percentage has plenty of room to improve, too, as he was below 70% for his freshman season.
The bright side for Barrett is that he’s already been the No. 2 guy on a team and would presumably have less of an adjustment period in the NBA from not having to transition away from being “the guy” at that level.