3. Charlotte Hornets – LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawara Hawks
LaMelo Ball is the top player on our draft board. As a 6’7 point guard, Ball has elite ball handling ability and incredible vision as a passer. Ball’s creation ability is one of the strongest individual skills in the draft, and fills a major need for Charlotte. His oversized playmaking ability should pair well with Devonte Graham’s off the dribble shooting. The Hornets still have a lot of work to do in their rebuild, but they seem to have found a nice player in the first round last year in power forward P.J. Washington. Ball, who is one of the youngest players in this draft, has as much long-term upside as any player available. He will bring some star-power to a franchise that has been sorely missing it.
4. Chicago Bulls – Patrick Williams, F, Florida State
The first real shock of the draft is Chicago picking Williams at No. 4. The youngest American born player in the draft, Williams didn’t start a game for Florida State but flashed rim protection and spot-up shooting potential at the four. Williams will get most of his offense on catch-and-shoots from the corner, attacking closeouts, and flashing a little dribble pull-up game. Defensively, he isn’t quite quick enough to have elite versatility, but he’s a force walling up at the rim. He likely won’t provide the type of volume scoring teams look for with a top-five pick, but he gives new Chicago VP Arturas Karnisovas a bunch of different avenues to continue building the team going forward.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers – Isaac Okoro, F, Auburn
The Cavs have been the worst defensive team in the NBA since LeBron James went to the Lakers, and Okoro is the best defensive prospect in the draft. The 6’6 freshman wing checks every box for a great defender: he’s outstanding at the point of attack, he can make sharp rotations, and he even provides some rim protection. Okoro’s biggest weakness is his spot-up shooting, where he’ll need to completely rework his shot. While that’s worrying, he does do some things well offensively. Okoro is really good at forcing his way to the foul line, and he’s shown flashes as a passer. While he takes time to develop as a shooter and scorer, he should be an impact defender from day one.
6. Atlanta Hawks – Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC
Okongwu is the top big man in this class because he can play any coverage style defensively, and he’ll score efficiently in his offensive opportunities. A bit undersized for a center at 6’9, Okongwu makes up for it with strength, length, intelligence, and quick leaping ability. He can shine in drop coverage as a rim protector, or he can get out on the perimeter to hard hedge or corral ball handlers. He won’t be a go-to scorer offensively, but he’s a skilled finisher on rolls and lobs to the rim and will make an impact on the offensive glass. He should fortify the Hawks’ defense around Trae Young.
7. Detroit Pistons – Killian Hayes, G, Ulm
Hayes is a great value at No. 7 for Detroit and fills the team’s biggest need. The 6’5 French point guard can make every read on the floor and showed major improvement as a spot-up shooter in his first year in the German league. While Hayes isn’t an explosive athlete going to the rim, he knows how to change speeds and keep defenses off balance. He’s also a wonderful defender who makes sharp, instinctual rotations and should have the body to eventually check three positions. His catch-and-shoot ability isn’t quite as good as his pull-up shooting, so fixing his spot-up mechanics will be key. Hayes is also very left-hand dominant at this point, so he’ll need to develop his right hand. For all the questions about his athleticism and shooting, Hayes projects to have a positive impact on both offense and defense and still has plenty of room to grow as one of the younger prospects in this draft. Detroit just found the point guard it has been looking for.