LaMelo Ball will be the No. 1 pick
Ball is the most polarising prospect in the draft.
Some teams reportedly consider him the best player available, while others are put off by his ugly shooting form and lack of defensive effort.
The Minnesota Timberwolves – who own the No. 1 pick – appear to fall into the first category. They brought Ball into their facility to work out earlier this week, and were the first team to convince the 19-year-old to do so.
It’s no secret that the Timberwolves are looking for a point guard, with 2019 first-rounder Jarrett Culver reportedly being shopped in trade talks, and Ball appears an ideal fit.
Standing at 6ft 7in and possessing incredible ball handling and playmaking skills, he’s the kind of player teams can fall in love with, and the Timberwolves will surely receive numerous offers from teams trying to trade up to take Ball.
This draft class lacks star quality and, as the player with the highest ceiling and the ability to put people in seats when arenas finally reopen, Ball is a tantalising selection.
Ball is the favourite to be drafted with the No. 1 pick, and the Timberwolves will very likely take him there or accept a sizeable offer from another team willing to take the risk.
Killian Hayes will go in the top four
Like Ball, Hayes is a 19-year-old point guard with impressive size for his position at 6ft 5in and excellent court vision.
But while Ball flashed his skills by dominating the Australian National Basketball League last year, Hayes was going up against much stiffer competition in the German Basketball Bundesliga.
The Frenchman is battle-tested against strong professional opposition, and his offensive repertoire has already drawn comparisons to that of former NBA MVP James Harden.
Buzz around Hayes has been growing in the lead up to the draft, and with the premium placed on playmakers who can create their own shot in the modern NBA, it’s hard to see him falling beyond the Chicago Bulls at No. 4. He’s to go first, but won’t drop very far.
Hayes’ ceiling is arguably just as high as Ball’s, and the two players will probably be compared closely for the first few years of their careers.
The success of players like Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis in recent years means teams are more willing than ever to draft players who have gone up against professional opposition in Europe, so Hayes will likely be taken very early on Sunday night, possibly even as high as second overall.
The Pistons will trade up for a point guard
Detroit look the team most likely to make a move on draft night, and are reportedly keen on trading up from No. 7 to get an elite point guard.
In Ball, Hayes and Iowa State standout Tyrese Haliburton, this draft possesses three players who could immediately step into the starting line-up and run the offense for Detroit.
The problem for Pistons GM Troy Weaver is that all three are likely to be gone by the time it’s their turn to draft.
Trading up is the obvious solution, then, and one that Weaver has admitted is an option on draft night.
Lavar Ball – LaMelo’s outspoken father – has said he wants the Pistons to draft his son, and the No. 7 pick in this year’s draft plus the Piston’s first-rounder for next year could be enough to convince the Timberwolves to give up No. 1.
Should Detroit deem that too expensive, though, a smaller deal to move up for Hayes or Haliburton also looks very possible.
A huge name will be traded
Heading into draft night, two superstars who were involved in a blockbuster trade last summer look to be available once again.
Chris Paul has been the subject of rampant speculation ever since he was traded from the Houston Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder a year ago, and he will now almost certainly be on the move.
Paul’s excellent season leading a young Thunder team has seen him draw plenty of interest, and the Phoenix Suns have held talks to acquire the 10-time All-Star.
With the Thunder looking to rebuild and surely seeking draft picks in any trade, it looks very likely that a deal will be done on draft night.
Russell Westbrook, who moved in the other direction in that 2019 trade, could also be on the way out of Houston.
The former MVP struggled during the Rockets recent playoff run and wants a trade, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, and Houston won’t stand in his way given the less-than-ideal fit with franchise cornerstone James Harden.
The Hawks, Hornets, Suns and Knicks are among the teams rumoured to be interested.
With the Pistons also reportedly fielding offers for former MVP Derrick Rose, the stage looks set for a big-name point guard to swap teams on draft night.
Knicks fans will be disappointed
It simply wouldn’t be an NBA Draft without the New York Knicks having their dreams crushed.
Last year they had high hopes of drafting Zion Williamson, having entered the lottery with the joint-best odds of securing the No. 1 pick. They fell to third in the lottery, settling for Williamson’s Duke team-mate, RJ Barrett.
Unsurprisingly, a team that has failed to make the playoffs since 2013 has not drafted well in recent years, and the Knicks’ habit of finding themselves inside the lottery places but just out of range of the elite prospects has driven most of their fans to despair.
Even their best pick of the last decade – taking Porzingis in 2015 – was greeted by a chorus of boos from the locals inside the Barclays Center.
This year the Knicks own the No. 8 pick, and although buzz has been growing on social media around the possibility of them drafting Hayes, Israeli forward Dani Avdija or Dayton forward Obi Toppin, most rankings suggest all three may be just out of reach.
So grab your popcorn, and prepare for another meltdown.
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