NBA mock draft: First-round pick projections for Thursday night
1. Pelicans: Zion Williamson, PF, Duke
Williamson won’t get a shot to play alongside Anthony Davis in New Orleans, but he’ll join an impressive young core that now includes Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and the No. 4 pick in the draft.
Give this team two or three seasons and they may have something, especially if Williamson is as advertised.
2. Grizzlies: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
Lost somewhere between a complete rebuild and clinging to the past, Memphis’ jump into the top 2 opened the door for a total reboot. Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. are the future.
What does this mean for Mike Conley Jr.? That’s a very good question.
3. Knicks: RJ Barrett, SG, Duke
New York was a huge loser on lottery night, but they can still grab a quality player at the No. 3 overall pick. They would love the Grizz to pass on Morant, but that appears to be a pipe dream at this point.
Barrett is the next best player on the board and the likely selection at this spot in the draft. The Knicks have a long road in front of them.
4. Pelicans (via Lakers): Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
This is the hot spot in the 2019 NBA Draft. Teams like the Bulls and Suns should be clamoring to move up to this spot to select Garland and the Pelicans are clearly listening to offers for this pick after acquiring it in the Anthony Davis trade.
Garland is a riser in the top 10 and considered the second-best point guard prospect behind Ja Morant.
5. Cavaliers: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
Cleveland needs a talent infusion and quick. Unfortunately, they have the fifth pick in what is widely considered a three-man draft.
There is still value at No. 5. Both Culver and De’Andre Hunter are talents that they can throw in the mix.
6. Suns: De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia
This isn’t an ideal situation for the Suns. Hunter is a nice multi-positional player that adds talent, but he’s also a duplicate piece. Phoenix would be better served moving up to No. 4 and selecting Darius Garland, or moving out of the lottery in exchange for a real point guard.
7. Bulls: Coby White, SG/PG, UNC
White is a pure scorer who might fit in a backcourt with Zach LaVine. Cam Reddish would be a solid selection here as well, but with the addition of Otto Porter at the deadline, the backcourt should be the emphasis.
Finding a way to trade up to No. 4 to grab Garland would really propel this team forward.
8. Hawks: Cam Reddish, SF, Duke
Reddish really shouldn’t slide this far, but he likely will. Atlanta has two picks here at the back end of the top 10. They have talented young pieces in Trae Young and John Collins, but they need plenty more.
Dealing away Taurean Prince was an interesting decision, but opens a spot for a player like Reddish.
9. Wizards: Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga
The Wizards are all over the board. John Wall’s Achilles injury puts the 2019-20 season in limbo. They gave away their depth at the forward position and they still have long term financial issues.
This might be a couple of picks high for Clarke, but he is a super athlete and a potential defensive game changer.
10. Hawks: Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
With Dewayne Dedmon a free agent, the Hawks need a rim runner. Long and athletic, Hayes has the look of the modern center. He’s green and will take time to develop, but the Hawks are building something and he fits their style and needs.
11. Timberwolves: Rui Hachimura, SF, Gonzaga
Hachimura is versatile with a high basketball IQ player and a big motor. He’d fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and give Minny another weapon up front. There might be higher ceiling players, but T-Wolves need a winner and a player that can step in quickly and help out.
12. Hornets: PJ Washington, F, Kentucky
Washington is a high-IQ player that improved his 3-point stroke dramatically in year two and is moving up most draft boards. He would be an interesting fit on the front line with Miles Bridges, giving the Hornets a nice forward combo to build around for the future.
13. Heat: Nassir Little, SG, North Carolina
Little is an explosive athlete with potential to develop into a quality two-way player. He disappointed in his lone season in the ACC, but there is a ton to like from this Tar Heel.
Miami does a nice job of mining for talent, and the Heat's track record for development isn’t bad. This is a good gamble for the folks in South Beach.
14. Boston: Sekou Doumbouya, F, Limoges CSP (France)
Doumbouya is long, athletic and has defensive potential at both forward positions. Boston has a ton of picks and will likely be active on draft night. If they stay here, this is a project player for the future.
Tyler Herro will likely get a look here as well after a strong workout in Boston.
15. Pistons: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky
Detroit has all kinds of needs after another disappointing end to the season. Herro is a hustle player and a playmaker that’s turned heads during the draft process.
He’s a climber and might fit nicely with the Pistons.
16. Magic: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
Coach Steve Clifford got the most out of his Magic team this season and could use a few more pieces to build on the success. Langford has good size and length.
He’ll need to improve as a shooter, but he can stuff the stat sheet and has plenty of upside for the future.
17. Nets: Keldon Johnson, SG, Kentucky
A big, strong guard with a quick first step and a solid jumper, Johnson looks the part. He’s a multi-positional player with good two-way potential that plays hard, although he’s out of control at times.
Despite their surprising finish this season, the Nets still have plenty of needs. Johnson’s versatility might be too much to pass on here.
18. Pacers: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech
Half of the Pacers roster enters the summer as a free agent. They may have plenty of holes to fill. A skilled combo-guard, Alexander-Walker is a big upside player that might fit nicely alongside Victor Oladipo down the road in Indiana’s backcourt.
19. Spurs: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC
Porter Jr. has talent, although it comes with some baggage. In the right situation, he may blossom and the Spurs have the right culture to get the most out of him.
If he can handle the strict coaching of Gregg Popovich, this might be a perfect spot. If he can’t get his head on straight, this could be a disaster.
20. Boston (from Clippers): Goga Bitadze, C, Buducnost (Montenegro)
Okpala is a project wing who showed major improvement from one year to the next at Stanford. He has the size and length to develop into a 3-and-D player.
Boston searches out talent, and Okpala has the potential to contribute in a year or two.
21. Thunder: Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee
Mature and accomplished, Williams is ready to play minutes in year one. He’s a tremendous competitor with a developed body.
The Thunder needs help after flaming out early in the postseason again. Whether Williams can be a difference-maker is unknown, but OKC needs whatever boost it can get.
22. Celtics: KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford
A project wing that showed major improvement from one year to the next at Stanford. He has the size and length to develop into a 3-and-D player. Boston searches out talent and Okpala has the potential to contribute in a year or two.
23. Grizzlies: Talen Horton-Tucker, SG, Iowa State
Horton-Tucker is one of the youngest players in the draft, but at 6-foot-4 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, he is intriguing to say the least.
The Grizzlies are all in on Ja Morant at No. 2, they might be wise to add a backcourt mate for the future with tremendous upside.
24. 76ers: Bol Bol, C, Oregon
A project, but one with a huge upside. Bol put up numbers for the Ducks before going down with a foot injury. He’s a gamble, but for a team with plenty of talent and depth, he might be a nice player to stash on the bench and develop over time.
25. Blazers: Nic Claxton, PF/C, Georgia
Long and switchable, the 6-foot-11, 220-pound big out of Georgia put up nice numbers in his sophomore campaign. He needs to get stronger, but he’s a versatile big with rim protecting skills.
Portland is going to need some help in the post with Nurkic out for an extended period and Kanter entering free agency.
26. Cleveland (from Houston): Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington
Thybulle is a seasoned 6-foot-6 brawler who has a 7-foot wingspan. He has an NBA body, but he’ll need to improve as a shooter if he wants to stick at the next level. The Cavs are in post-LeBron rebuild mode and can use talent regardless of position.
27. Brooklyn (from Denver): Cameron Johnson, SF, North Carolina
Johnson is a fifth-year college player with range. He knows his role and might make it in the NBA as a 3-and-D wing.
The Nets made a huge leap forward this season, but they are still building a squad. Adding a player who can step in right away is a decent idea.
28. Warriors: Ty Jerome, SG/PG, Virginia
So many questions, so few answers. For the first time in a while, the Warriors are in a very precarious situation. Both Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant are free agents and both are expected to miss most or all of next season due to injury.
Bob Meyers likes to keep his picks, but he needs to find an NBA ready contributor. Jerome is a good sized combo-guard that can stuff the statsheet and fill it up from the outside. He’s also a seasoned college player with big game experience that might be able to step in and help in year one.
29. Spurs (from Raptors): Eric Paschall, SF, Villanova
Paschall measured in at 6-foot-7.25 and 254 pounds with nearly a 7-foot wingspan. He’s a big, physical athlete that improved in all three seasons at Villanova and projects as a nice energy big off the bench at the next level.
San Antonio has multiple picks in the first round, but they need an infusion of talent into an aging roster.
30. Bucks: Mfiondu Kabengele, PF/C, Florida State
Milwaukee has plenty of key free agents this offseason, but it’s difficult to fill holes with the 30th pick in the draft. Listed at 6-foot-10, 250 pounds, Kabengele has an NBA body.
He came off the bench for the Seminoles this season, but still managed to post 13.2 points and 5.9 rebounds in 21.6 minutes per game.