Predicting the Top Four NBA Draft Picks

Brendan Conniff

After the May 7th NBA Draft Lottery, many people across the United States were shocked by this year’s outcome. Three out of the four teams who had the best odds of having a top-four pick shockingly did not end up with one. In fact, this draft lottery hurt the New York Knicks the most in particular as they were looking forward to obtaining the number one prospect in this year’s draft, Zion Williamson. They ended up with the third pick, however, it could have been worse. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns ended up with the fifth and sixth picks, respectively, even though they each had the same odds as the Knicks at 14%. Miraculously the New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers, and the Memphis Grizzlies all managed to secure spots in the top four, with the Pelicans getting number one. The Grizzlies and Pelicans each had a 6% chance of getting the first pick, and the Lakers only had a 2% chance. The fact that these three teams managed to get into the top four is astonishing and disappointing to Knicks fans. The NBA Draft, on June 20th, certainly will be an interesting one.  These are my predictions for the top four picks.


1st Pick- New Orleans Pelicans select Zion Williamson- Duke PF/SF

No matter what team gets the 1st pick, Zion Williamson will be who they select. A freak among men, Zion is easily one of the best prospects we have seen come out of college in the past 10 years. While the Pelicans are ecstatic with the 1st pick, Zion did not appear pleased, making an early exit out of the auditorium on lottery night. Nonetheless, Zion will become a Pelican, and will play there for the five years of his rookie contract and then he can go wherever in free agency. With the acquisition of Zion, the Pelicans will probably let their former starting power forward, Julius Randle, walk in free agency. The big question is what the Pelicans do with Anthony Davis. Davis is a 6 time NBA all-star and has expressed numerous times that he wants out of New Orleans. I think that first, the Pelicans will try to persuade Davis to stay using Zion. If that fails, they will look to trade him. I think the top destinations for him are the Knicks and Lakers. Each team has a top four pick and a great young core to offer. And if that fails, then Anthony Davis will get his chance to leave next year in free agency.


2nd Pick- Memphis Grizzlies select Ja Morant- Murray St PG

Ja Morant is the perfect consolation prize for the Grizzlies with the 2nd pick. Ja is a speedy, powerful basketball player with excellent basketball IQ and he is not afraid to drive hard to the hoop against bigger defenders. With Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas, Ja is the ideal step towards a successful rebuild. While they still have Mike Conley as their point guard, he will most likely be moved soon since he is getting older and not worth his $30.6 million dollar contract.  Analysts are saying that the Morant/Jackson Jr. duo have the potential to be the next Stockton/Malone. Both are very young players with excellent potential. Just like Zion, I only see Morant going to the Grizzlies at 2.


3rd Pick- New York Knicks select RJ Barrett- Duke- SG/SF

After an absolutely disappointing lottery, the Knicks are forced to settle with the 3rd pick. Not only would Zion have been a perfect fit on the Knicks, he would have attracted all-star free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to come to New York even more — although I’m happy to say that they still are projected to become Knicks. Zion also would have been the perfect trade piece for Anthony Davis. However, even without Zion, the Knicks will still try to offer something to the Pelicans. RJ Barrett would most likely be a part of that. RJ and Zion were college teammates at Duke and played very well alongside one another. While RJ will most likely emerge into an excellent wing scorer, his time on the Knicks will not last. Assuming the Knicks acquire their projected free agents in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, RJ would not be able to evolve into his full potential. This is why the Knicks will draft RJ because he is the foolproof trade piece to offer the Pelicans.


4th Pick- Los Angeles Lakers select Deandre Hunter- Virginia SF

Just like the Knicks, the Lakers will be looking to offer whoever they draft in a trade with the Pelicans. After the first three picks, it is really difficult to predict who will be taken where. While Zion, Ja, and RJ have emerged as the best players in this draft class, everyone else is really close together talent wise. If they cannot trade him, I think the Lakers will draft Deandre Hunter because he fits perfectly with Lebron James. He is the best shooter available, has excellent IQ, and spaces the floor really well.


Only time will tell if the disappointing 3rd draft pick will benefit the Knicks.  What is certain is that there is great talent coming into the NBA.