With the beginning of March, the NBA playoffs on the horizon and the trading deadline long gone, the project season is fast approaching and the only thing we can do is get in there to prepare. The photo is far from complete, but we have Zion Williamson on top, Ja Morant, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish behind him, and a pretty big mess after that. One thing it is fair to say today: It is not a good year to be a copywriter in the middle of the lottery, and analyzing this group of players will be a permanent challenge for everyone. In a month, the situation should be much clearer, but here's how things are moving at the moment.
As always, our mock-up project simulates what the project might look like if it happened on a given day. For our own evaluation of available players, take a look at our latest big chart, which contains a fluid list of this year's top 80 prospects. As the project gets closer, the two lists could diverge a bit more, this one focusing on creating a clear picture of how teams might behave during the writing party.
The team sequence in this version of the mock-up project is based on the Basketball Reference playoffs projections on February 26, available here.
1. Suns: Zion Williamson, F, Duc
Height: 6 "7" | Weight: 285 | Freshman
The hiccups caused by a minor injury at Williamson did not affect his status at the top of the draft, and at this point, it would be stunning if someone else was selected first. Watching Duke play without him should help quantify his direct impact on their success. Not only is it a prolific offensive engine that facilitates the transition game, but it has provided a ton of protection to the defense, and the overall breadth of its capabilities should make strict position concerns irrelevant. He will be one of the best athletes in the NBA from day one. And when you look at the pieces that the Suns have already in place: a potentially elite scorer (Devin Booker), a physically dominant center (Deandre Ayton) and a multitude of young wings, it's easy to see Williamson sneaking in and helping to trigger an important turn around. Adding him to his team could make Phoenix one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
2 R.J. Barrett, G / F, Duke
Height: 6 "7" | Weight: 200 | Freshman
Gives Barrett real credit for the tangible adaptation of his game during the season: he took a big step forward with his willingness to play for his teammates and made Duke even more dangerous. Although at the base, he remains the first player to shoot at goal, it is at least easier to imagine Barrett as an effective part-time playmaker at the NBA. This multidimensionality reinforces its already strong case as a selection among the first three. His lack of creative talent and his inconsequential shot are reasons for concern, but the Cavaliers can give him the freedom to develop and make mistakes. It would become the most important component of this alignment as their reconstruction continues.
3 Knicks: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
Height: 6'3 "| Weight: 175 | sophomore
Although Dennis Smith Jr. seems to be taking advantage of his change of scenery, the Knicks will have to make the most of this position in the repechage. This highlights the fact that the gap between Morant and the rest of the lottery is rather wide. As New York prepares to sue renowned independent players and potentially reorganize their list, the value of assets should be paramount. Morant therefore becomes an obvious choice no matter what they end up doing with him. His historic season is not just a case of mid-major domination: watch him play for 10 minutes, and it's obvious that Morant wins games with his brain as much as with his athleticism. Noting his vision of the field and his strong handle that facilitates rapid changes in speed and direction, Morant has a chance to be a special player. Expect his shot to get better as he gets stronger, and expect him to do the work to maximize his abilities.
4 Bulls: Reddish Cam, SF, Duke
Height: 6 "8" | Weight: 220 | Freshman
While Reddish's performances continue to oscillate aggressively between promising and dull, his skills create a relatively clean path to a useful role in the NBA, even though the overall perception of his cap has slightly faded. His size of position, his potential to become a more effective sniper, his leeway to become a playmaker and his chances of defensive versatility are still attractive. The main concern expressed by NBA reviewers about Reddish is consistency and the fact that it is wired for high-level contributions every night. Based on his talent and what he could bring to the table, he will at least have ample opportunity to understand it. For the moment, Reddish still seems to be the solution at No. 4, and the Bulls have enough young talent to be allowed to grow without a ton of immediate pressure.
5 Hawks: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
Height: 6 "5" | Weight: 195 | Sophomore
Choosing the fifth is probably the most difficult part of this project, because of the flattening of the talent curve and the fact that there is no correct answer or consensus at the moment. Take advantage of the state of Atlanta to make its decision – armed with two choices (probably) among the top 10, a potential franchise guardian (Trae Young), a young High level shooter (Kevin Huerter) and a dynamic athlete on the front (John Collins) – It's good for the Hawks to focus on a double or triple with this first selection. In a deeper project, it would be difficult to justify this high level, but with the understanding that he could become a valuable role player and be able to play against good passers-by, his comprehensive skills make sense for Atlanta. He is neither an elite athlete nor a jumper, ostensibly limiting his potential, but what he did for Texas Tech did not go unnoticed by the teams. In a situation like this where he will have a less offensive responsibility, he could flourish.
6 Grizzlies: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
Height: 6 "3" | Weight: 170 | Freshman
The fact that Garland, who has been out since November with a torn meniscus, is likely to climb so high is partly due to the need – the Grizzlies will eventually pass from Mike Conley – but also to the extent of the versatility of this draft range. Garland's deep shot and his potential to play and initiate a ball-centric attack make it an intriguing object here. He is counting on the change of pace to compensate for the lack of explosion, and his lack of physics could hinder his potential, but he has the assets to become a worthy guard of the NBA. The fit may be steep, but the Grizzlies would probably do well to try their luck here. If Memphis manages to make his way among the top eight, this choice will go to the Celtics, but it seems likely that they will have to keep it.
7. Magicians: De'Are Hunter, F, Virginia
Height: 6'7 "| Weight: 225 | sophomore
While Washington deals with John Wall's long-term (and long-term) contract, it seems unlikely that wizards will spoil everything. All things considered depending on the situation, using this choice to add a character ready to use in Hunter is a safe move. Although he is unlikely to be a star and needs to be able to play with his guards, Hunter would give the Wizards much needed immediate defensive flexibility. Provided that his jumper develops and that he becomes a little more dynamic to score the ball, he has a chance to stay in the league for a long time. He also has a chance to play outside of Virginia's stiffer offensive system. The general fit here is logical, and Washington can play safety while getting immediate value when trying to return to the playoffs.
8 Heat: Nassir Little, F, North Carolina
Height: 6'6 "| Weight: 220 | First-year student
Little has become one of the most polarizing actors of the project and, even if he still has a good chance of being ranked in the top 10, it is less clear how hard it is to bet to restore this. type of value. He has excellent physical tools, enough touch to think that his typing is improving, and as a late-blooming prospect with a good work ethic, he's the kind of person the players get on with. will feel good. Critics have rightly insisted on its demonstrable lack of sensations and its difficulty in acclimating to the academic game. A team like The Heat with a positive player development record would suit it perfectly in the long run: put it in shape and hope that it will become a dynamic transition player and that it will eventually add something to defense. But for the moment, his lack of quantifiable skills ready for the NBA is causing real concern. It should be seen more as a project.
9 Hawks (via Mavericks): Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
Height: 6'11 "| Weight: 220 | First-year student
After using their first lottery pick in a responsible manner, the Hawks would be able to take a bigger swing here, Hayes becoming logical as a great developer able to finish and protect the basket. It's still a little rough, but compares favorably in some respects to Jarrett Allen, who also came out of Texas with questions and who has exceeded expectations with the Nets since the start. Although Hayes is not a dynamic striker and still has a long way to go in this regard, his natural capacity as a defender and his overall profile are quite attractive as a development project. The Hawks would not ask him too soon and should be able to create the right kind of perimeter spacing to maximize Hayes up front.
ten. Hornets: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
Height: 6 "6" | Weight: 215 | Freshman
Langford fell into a similar boat with Nassir Little compared to pre-season expectations, and although his account statistics are passable at face value, his impact (or lack thereof) must be considered in the context of the struggles in course of Indiana. He brings to the table solid sports tools and a pedigree that will probably keep him in the lottery lottery, but it is right to ask for the moment if this has been fully deserved. If Langford manages to make his way into a practicable position, engages himself in the defense and shake the grip, he has a chance to become a beginner-level kite, but there is good reason to doubt it can score effectively enough to reduce it in the long run. Anyway, it's not surprising to see a team make the jump, and the Hornets could bet on its potential here.
11 Pelicans: Sekou Doumbouya, PF, Limoges
Height: 6'9 "| Weight: 230 | Age: 18 years old
In this last part of the lottery, Doumbouya remains an intriguing game in the long run, especially since so many excited university players have had difficulties. It is hoped that he begins to go round with his adaptation playing Pro A in France and, from the point of view of talent, he certainly deserves a look here. He is always learning to make a steady effort, but his potential is legitimate as a player who can take space, bounce back and defend several positions. Doumbouya will not necessarily be a star, but it is not difficult to see him become a useful player. New Orleans will be in a position to choose a potential lottery player as she prepares for life without Anthony Davis.
12 Lakers: Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga
Height: 6 "8" | Weight: 230 | Junior
It's no shock if Hachimura and Gonzaga continue to organize the conference competition, and for the moment, it's no secret. He will be physically ready for the NBA, his role will likely be a face-to-face, and his potential is related to constantly stretching the ground up to a three-point range (which he has not done yet with any volume). Although he may end up looking like another professional player, Hachimura's ability to bounce and finish, coupled with his potential to become a better shooter and defender, makes him a lottery enthusiast. Its rate of improvement should be taken into account here. The Lakers may not make that choice, but if they do, it makes sense to find someone with a chance to contribute at the start of their rookie contract.
13 Timberwolves: Kevin Porter, SG, USC
Height: 6 "5" | Weight: 220 | Freshman
Porter is another player with a wide variety of preliminary results – he is arguably one of the five most talented players in the project in terms of athleticism and skill, but his lack of finesse and his level of concern off the field may make him stand out. top 10. It's early to call and the teams will have different levels of comfort taking the risk, but its intuitive ability to play dribbling and put the ball in the basket is tempting. Porter's season has caused injuries, suspensions and nervousness, but at some point it will be worth it. Will he ever care about the defense or integrate himself perfectly into the flow of an offense? Maybe not. But is there a chance that everything breaks properly and that it brings value in this part of the project? Absolutely. The Timberwolves could try to make him a point guard as a starting point.
14 Celtics (via Kings): Keldon Johnson, G / F, Kentucky
Height: 6 "6" | Weight: 210 | Freshman
Even though Johnson's cap is not expressly high, he's been a jack-of-all-trades on the wing, he's always played with energy and he's shown that he could shoot effectively this season . Teams will fall in love with its intangibles, and its overall makeup should help it make its way to the NBA. Its impact on the defense and its points total have declined in recent weeks, but Johnson will have a good platform in March and will have the opportunity to continue to win teams. He feels more likely to land in the middle of the first round right now, but he should end up making someone happy. The Celtics could have three first round selections and add them to their mix on the wing.
15 Magic: Coby White, G, North Carolina
Height: 6'5 "| Weight: 185 | First-year student
This is not this crazy to defend White as North Carolina's best potential prospect, and although it's certainly not a consensus, it places him as a person who could go to the back of the lottery with a strong end of the season. For a player who is still learning a lot to run the point, White did a very good job shooting at goal. He may be best placed to handle the ball with two guards, as he is more of a natural striker. His deep range, size and defensive potential are all intriguing. A team requiring guards like Orlando could grant it as Markelle Fultz's partner.
16 Pistons: KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford
Height: 6'9 "| Weight: 215 | sophomore
Okpala is a positive game that succeeds very well the test of sight, with a construction in addition to basketball, the qualities of a game based on a solid perimeter and a theoretical capacity in 3-D. It is long and radiant, has a certain sensation of scoring and has the type of complete profile that will be attractive in this range of the first round. The Pistons still need help in flight, and Okpala would be well suited here.
17 Nets: Goga Bitadze, C, KK Buducnost
Size: 6 "11" | Weight: 245 | Age: 19
Bitadze has many fans around the league and has had a very good season in Europe, consolidating more or less as a first round player. He has the merit of being the first international player selected, with a size and a ton of skills that he began to exploit effectively from an early age. While some teams will be reluctant to invest in a slower, more traditional center, Bitadze's potential to space the ground at least adds to the utility of its offensive role, and depending on its stage of development, it seems likely that it will become useful in the NBA sooner than later. The Nets have not hesitated to recruit the best European talent and could do the same here.
18 Spurs: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland
Height: 6'10 "| Weight: 235 | sophomore
The San Antonio frontline could certainly use a youth and athletic injection, and Fernando, who has become one of the most dynamic rim riders in college basketball, might be suitable. He took a big step forward as a sophomore and went from project to someone who could perhaps contribute quickly a few minutes depending on his level of constant effort and his tools. top of the line. Fernando's feeling and skill level are still developing, but the Spurs could provide him with a solid situation and cultivate him as a potential substitute for Pau Gasol. They might be able to draw more as a shooter and ball screen choice.
19 Celtics (via Clippers): PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky
Height: 6 "7" | Weight: 230 | Sophomore
Washington has really progressed in the second half of the season and looks ready for the repechage and a first round ticket. The Celtics tend to favor the big ones with his level of versatility, and he might well slip to replace Marcus Morris when he was leaving this summer. Washington's rebound ability, coupled with improved energy and hitting, makes it a good candidate in this category as a big ball that fits into the back of a spin. Its size creates certain limits, but with the way it's played recently, it's hard not to like what it brings to the table.
20 Riders (via Rockets): Bowl, C, Oregon
Height: 7 "2" | Weight: 235 | Freshman
It is unclear to what extent the foot injury will affect its position in the repechage, but from the outside, this is not promising. This, coupled with the considerable risk already associated with his NBA adjustment, positions him more as a first-round target, although it is not inconceivable that he will end up in the late lottery. A team made up of several first-round players would be in the best position to find out what Bol can do at the NBA level, and after the acquisition of that choice in Houston, Cleveland would be well advised to take the plunge. If Bol can stay on the ground, his shot and size could make him a weapon, but there is a lot more to it.
21 Jazz: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech
Height: 6 "5" | Weight: 205 | Sophomore
Choosing Alexander-Walker in the lottery is a difficult task, but it will appeal to teams who can associate it with a more dynamic shooting creator and allow him to sink to three and move the balloon into the stream. an offense. His struggles with Justin Robinson have put aside the fact that he is best suited for two guards: his calm on the ball and his entry into the painting leave something to be desired. But with the way his body has improved, his regularity in shots on goal and his ability to make clever passes make him a player that teams will appreciate in the 20's. He would be well placed next to Donovan Mitchell in Utah.
22 Blazers: Talen Horton-Tucker, G / F, State of Iowa
Height: 6'4 "| Weight: 240 | First-year student
Horton-Tucker remains an intriguing prospect with her ability to play dribbling, to finish creatively and to shoot from the outside. Although his body still has some way to go and the scouts have wondered about his athleticism, it's hard to discuss his talent and at this stage of the repechage he should be worthy of a flyer. The Trail Blazers could prepare him for the long-term role of Evan Turner as someone who can help install their other guards and lead the second unit. Horton-Tucker will probably not be ready right away, but it makes sense in this range to be someone you can try to turn into a playmaker.
23 Celtics: Luguentz Dort, G, State of Arizona
Height: 6 "4" | Weight: 215 | Freshman
Although Dort has remarkable shortcomings in his skills, his athleticism, energy and ability to paint make him an intriguing game in the first round. He moves exceptionally well for a guy with his heavy build, which results in a downhill attack. He still has problems staying with smaller guards defensively. His contact with the basket could be better and his jump shot fell to the average. Nevertheless, Dort's physical assets make him an interesting role player who should be able to make positive contributions when he is asked less. The Celtics have favored sports guards like him in the past.
24 Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky
Height: 6'5 "| Weight: 190 | First-year student
Herro proved herself in the second half of the season, playing with more confidence, throwing the ball more consistently and showing a good level of tenacity and effort on the defensive side. He stands out as a shooting specialist and, for a team like the Thunder who could always use more spacing, he makes a lot of sense. Herro will probably not need to spend a second year in Kentucky at this stage, and it looks like a late-round first-round pick considering how he currently plays.
25 76ers: Jordan Nwora, F, Louisville
Height: 6'7 "| Weight: 225 | sophomore
Quietly, Nwora was a major opponent in the eyes of some scouts during the conference. Louisville had an unexpected success and long-range shooting proved profitable. There are good reasons to believe that he will be able to play all three in the NBA, and in a team like the Sixers, he will not have to create as many of his own throws. Nwora's soft punch, improved ball skills and ability to bounce back to his waist give him a good upside. Although he does not have a lock for the first round this year, a strong close season could lead him to victory.
26. Pacers: Jontay Porter, C, Missouri
Height: 6 "11" | Weight: 235 | Sophomore
The teams were somewhat divided against Porter last year. His athletic profile and disappointing body type make him difficult to project defensively and undermine his level of attractive skill. After an injury early in the season, it may slip closer to the back of the first lap. Anyway, he is still the same age as some freshmen and remains an intriguing system, with a nice feeling, a nice sweater and a good pass ability. The Pacers can roll the dice on his head here.
27 Nets (via nuggets): Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga
Height: 6'8 "| Weight: 210 | Junior
Clarke has been one of the best college basketball players throughout the season, but NBA guys are more skeptical about translating his game. For him, the key will be to shoot enough outside shots to space the game. ground, because he is probably too small to play in the city center in the long run and is better suited as a traveling nomadic man who can change the shots and play games in defense. Clarke has problems finishing in the inside against the length and is already 22 years old, so it could be that it's basically what it is, but in the right team, it certainly could be an influential actor. His energy and toughness will prompt someone to roll the dice. The Nets will choose twice in the first round and will be able to be creative.
28 Warriors: Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas
Height: 6 "11" | Weight: 235 | Sophomore
While Gafford's stock has fallen this season, it's easy to see him succeed in a limited offensive role where he can focus on hard play, basket protection and finishing. His lack of skill has been unearthed and he is smoother than he is really explosive, but he is long and brings enough scale to the table so he has the chance to be a center of useful backup. Gafford could fall in the last round of the first round, where he could be a powerful addition to a team ready for the playoffs, like the Warriors, which could make him take a small role right away.
29 Spurs (via Raptors): Tre Jones, PG, Duke
Height: 6'2 "| Weight: 185 | First-year student
It is now clear that most of Jones' value will come in defense, where he has been great. If you think you can help fix it, it's worth it in this range. The Spurs could be a good landing point here, with their focus on player development and their experience in helping players improve their shots. Jones would give them a different, defense-oriented dimension on the bench, and if his shot came he should be able to stick. But there is a risk here if it makes an offensive zero.
30 Bucks: Admiral Schofield, F, Tennessee
Height: 6'5 "| Weight: 240 | Senior
Schofield's toughness and his best game should allow him to reach the teams by the end of the first round at the earliest, and he offers a sharper NBA fit than his teammate Grant Williams through a set of more legitimate skills. Schofield looms in the mold P.J. Tucker, as a person who can slide down and defend wider positions while providing comfortable spacing from the corners. The Bucks are ready to be creative around Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Schofield may well match what they are looking for as a player.