Every year, you can find around four busts and four booms among the 14 lottery picks in the NBA Draft. Who will it be this year? Read on for The VideoScope’s predictions!
Last year was tough for this annual column, as bust predictions Marvin Bagley III and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander turned out to be pretty amazing prospects, while one of my draft crushes Mo Bamba struggled in his rookie year. Not only that, but successful boom predictions from the year before in Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell took a step back as well.
I’m not giving up that easily though and nobody’s perfect. I’m just glad my trend of picking busts that end up busting in Sacramento has stopped with DeAaron Fox and Marvin Bagley now. They are not even in the lottery this time.
The rules are simple. I try to figure out four busts and four booms out of the projected top 14 picks. NBA.com has a pretty handy list of a consensus Mock Draft that I used for the selection of 14 eligible players. The first one is easy and will 100% not fail me, let’s go:
Zion Williamson, PF, Duke (Boom)
Duh… Zion Williamson is a baaaaaaad man.
He is about as sure of a thing as Luka Dončić was last season, only this time the best prospect will actually get picked first. More than enough has been said about Zion. With his 3.3 million Instagram followers I don’t think I even need to explain why Zion will boom, you already know why. Let’s just watch his best highlights instead:
Rui Hachimura, SF/PF, Gonzaga (Bust)
The first Japanese lottery pick of all time and I have him as a bust. NANI??
It pains me to say this as a fan of pretty much anything Japanese, but I feel like Rui Hachimura will be a bust. Like Zion Williamson, he can do a little bit of everything, but he can do everything pretty much worse.
I just don’t see the one skill that will keep Rui in a rotation for long enough to continue the great development he has had with Gonzaga, one of the top basketball programs in the country. I mean.. he can put the ball on the floor, he can shoot 3’s, he can post up a bit, he can go coast to coast after a rebound and he might have good enough tools to defend multiple positions. He just hasn’t excelled at either of them so far in his 21 years on earth.
Those type of guys tend to bust in the NBA. People who theoretically can do everything, but haven’t really proven they can do anything yet. Think guys like Noah Vonleh, Marquese Chriss, Trey Lyles and possibly, sadly Mo Bamba, a boom in last year’s article.
Being picked in the late lottery to a relatively poor team with playoff aspirations won’t do much good for Rui. He needs time to develop and a coach that believes in him enough to play him through his faults while he still is coming to grips with the game he has only been playing since he was 13.
I really hope I’m wrong and Rui kills it in the NBA, but I’ll keep my expectations low.
Ja Morant, PG, Murray State (Boom)
Back to our second boom and yes.. it’s the likely second pick Ja Morant. How original. Projecting the top 2 picks as players that will boom.
But I can’t help it. Just like the second best player in the NBA, Kevin Durant, I love Ja Morant’s game and potential. Besides, having the top 2 players in a draft boom, is strangely way too uncommon. The only fellow top 2 picks who became All-Stars so far in this millennium were future Timberwolves teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell in the 2016 draft.
Either way, back to Morant’s game, it’s not so hard to see why the Grizzlies are enamored with him and likely picks him at #2. His skills and attributes jumps off the screen, kinda like he does in his highlights. Ja is a next level athlete who can go coast to coast and dunk on the opposing big man with ease. That athleticism is coupled with great passing instincts and great ball-handling skills. This helped him become the first NCAA player to average over 20 points and 10 assists over a season.
He showed off his improving jump shot in the March Madness tournament too, draining 7 of his 8 attempted 3 point shots. His upside is tremendous and I think he has a great chance to reach his ceiling. Pairing him up with Jaren Jackson Jr, another player I love and had as a boom a year ago, sets up the Grizzlies for fast-paced and energetic success following their successful grit and grind years. A worthy successor after Mike Conley got traded away as the last remaining grit and grinder. Be excited!
Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas (Bust)
Unlike Rui Hachimura, Jaxson Hayes has an elite skill, two in fact. Diving to the rim and dunking it. Hard. The other is blocking shots, racking up 3.8 blocks per 40 minutes. On the other hand, he does not share the versatile upside Rui has, as Hayes has a pretty defined role as rim runner and shot blocker.
What they do share though, is a limited understanding of the game. Hayes is a former wide receiver prospect, which explains his great mobility and pass catching hands, but his focus elsewhere also means he doesn’t have the best basketball IQ. He commits a lot of silly fouls, has no idea how to defend a pick & roll and struggles to read the game at a fast pace. He doesn’t have great rebounding instincts either, despite his great tools, making him a liability on defensive boards.
Hayes has been favorably been compared to Clint Capela in certain mocks. While Capela is a good NBA player you just saw in the playoffs that a player that limited can easily be gameplanned out of important games in a 7 game series. Besides, Capela has/had a better understanding of the game than Hayes and was picked 25th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. Hayes will get picked higher because of his upside and being a known quantity from Texas University however.
The one true advantage Hayes has over Capela, is his shooting touch. Hayes shot a respectable 74% from the free throw line in college, a big plus in my book. He hasn’t shown much signs of that translating to shooting ability on the open floor yet, but if he can extend his range and find other ways to score than dunks and layups he might be worth the lottery pick and then some. I just don’t see that happening.
Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt (Boom)
Yup, this is not a three player draft, this is a four player draft, and I think Darius Garland will end up even better than RJ Barrett when it’s all said and done.
I was eager to see what Garland had to offer to start the NCAA season and was not disappointed from his first few outings. His feel for the game is terrific, with top notch ball-handling and shot making ability. Garland is a threat to pull up from anywhere and he uses this threat to expertly maneuver through pick & roll situations with changes in tempo and direction. Although he is a score first point guard in the mould of Damian Lillard, he can pass the ball too, using both hands.
Sure, he doesn’t have the tools to be a plus defender, but he’ll give every fan base hope on the offensive end. It’s rare to get players with this level of ball handling and shooting and when we do the players are named Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving. Quite good company.
I made the mistake of doubting the Point Guards in last year’s draft and this year I feel much better about the PGs anyway. I pondered putting Coby White as a boom player too, but he’s not quite the natural PG Morant and Garland projects to be. We’ll have to wait a year to get PG depth in the draft, but the top PGs in 2019 are very likely to boom.
Cameron Reddish, SG/SF, Duke / Jarrett Culver, SG/SF, Texas Tech (Busts)
As I said, it’s a four player draft at the top, meaning the next guys on the list won’t be all that special in my eyes, starting with the wings picked right after the top 4.
DeAndre Hunter just has too high of a floor to be a bust, even though I think he’s gonna be a pretty pedestrian player at the next level. That’s still preferable to the other two highly coveted wings in Jarrett Culver and Cam Reddish. I must admit though, that at some points in the season I’ve flirted with pegging each of them as boom candidates.
There is a lot of potential to like with both guys to be honest. The talent in Reddish was always apparent, while Culver’s potential looked enticing during Texas State’s NCAA Championship Final run. Reddish is very long and is a smooth athlete with a promising shot, while Culver is also quite long and has improved as a ball handler and shooter while maintaining his reputation as a good defender.
Reddish despite his naturally given gifts, struggles with mentality and toughness, similarly to Andrew Wiggins. In addition, he’s pretty uncoordinated and rarely showed any signs of using his talents correctly throughout the NCAA season. As a third option for a stacked Duke team, he shied away from responsibilities, proving too unstable, physically and mentally. It’s tough for a 5 star recruit to not be the best player on the team anymore, which will be certain wherever he goes.
Culver on the other hand has risen up the draft boards from role player to star for a great Texas Tech team. Mostly a 3&D prospect in his freshman year, Culver showed some play-making chops in his sophomore season, averaging 3.7 assist per game as the main facilitator for Tech’s cutting offense to go along with his solid 18.5 points per game. Sadly, his shooting dropped from 38% to 30% from outside the arc. With an average first step as well, it’s difficult to see how he’s gonna create enough offensively. Texas Tech’s great defensive schemes hid some of his flaws on the defensive end too.
Both Culver and Reddish have excelled by overpowering their smaller 2/3 opponents in high school and college. Those kinds of players tend to bust at the biggest stage however. Not everyone can become the best in the NBA like Kawhi Leonard. In the right situation, they might turn out pretty good, but more likely than not, I think Culver and Reddish will bust.
Sekou Doumbouya, SF/PF, Limouges (Boom)
I’ve spent most of this article picking on inexperienced prospects and potential two-way forwards. So please allow me to use my final boom prediction on a player who shares both of those traits. The youngest player and one of the brightest prospects in the draft, Sekou Doumbouya.
Doumbouya has an NBA body, but still moves like a gazelle. He is long and strong with an explosive first step and a 3PT stroke that has looked more and more confident as the draft draws closer. While he excels in transition, often after getting a rebound using his good instincts, he can cut in half-court too.
He still has a lot of work to do, but it’s mostly down to polish and conditioning. With a good NBA staff around him, he can expand his game and become even more dangerous. His passing leaves a lot to be desired, but as a complementary hustle player, he’ll find a role early on. There is a foundation to build on in terms of post-ups, ball-handling and shooting too. His age will work in his favor as he continues to learn the game and what’s possible with his tools.
Sure, he’s super raw and his passing vision leaves a lot to be desired, but in the late lottery you’ll struggle to find higher upside. Give Doumbouya time and coach him correctly and he will flourish, I guarantee it.