2019 NBA Mock Draft: Zion, Ja and R.J. lead the way
1. New Orleans Pelicans
Zion Williamson, PF, Duke
The Pelicans beat the Lottery odds and earned the top pick with just a 6 percent chance of doing so. They have two routes to take: Convince Anthony Davis to stay in New Orleans with a core of him, Zion Williamson and Jrue Holiday. Or they deal Davis for the best offer they receive, do the same with Holiday (a more difficult task because of his contract) and begin their rebuild with a generational talent AND a haul of young assets stemming from those two picks.
2. Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
That’s a heck of a way to enter a rebuild. The Grizzlies made the difficult decision of moving on from Marc Gasol at last year’s trade deadline, signaling a shift in competing vs. rebuilding. Now, with Morant in the fold, they can do the same with Mike Conley and receive assets for the talented point guard on an expiring deal. Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. will make for a stellar 1-2 combo to begin the next chapter of the Grizzlies franchise..
3. New York Knicks
R.J. Barrett, SG, Duke
The Knicks will have to settle for the other five-star freshman from Duke after entering the top-4 of the Lottery but coming away with just the third pick. Assuming the Pelicans and Grizzlies don’t do anything wild, the Knicks can move forward with Barrett, a supremely talented scorer who needs some work with his efficiency and decision making. The Knicks were always banking on free agency anyway, but this one stings for New York faithful.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
Many believe this year’s class is a three-player draft, but the Lakers are certainly happy to have jumped from No. 11 to No. 4. They were the third big winner of the night and actually overcame the largest Lottery odds of any team. New head coach Frank Vogel preaches defense, and that’s why they go get the best two-way player in the class. Culver is a jump shot away from becoming an All-Star at the next level.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
Cam Reddish, SF, Duke
The Cavaliers were hoping for a fourth first overall pick but couldn’t find the magic. Instead they decide that in a draft class full of similarly talented players at this spot, swinging for the fences is the way to go. Reddish had a miserable freshman season at Duke but is still a five-star talent with the body, athleticism and potential of a future star. A trio of Collin Sexton, Kevin Love and Reddish could jumpstart the rebuild.
6. Phoenix Suns
Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
Garland only played five games as a freshman because of an injured knee, but make no mistake about this kid’s talent. He’s got a lot of Kemba Walker in him and is comfortable with the ball in his hands. That’s big for the Suns, who have needed a point guard in the worst way for the longest time. This is the best remaining prospect at this point in the draft and the biggest need for Phoenix. It’s a match made in heaven for both sides.
7. Chicago Bulls
De'Andre Hunter, SG, Virginia
Look, there’s not going to be a sexy pick at No. 7. The Bulls hit on their last two picks in 2017 (Lauri Markkanen) and Wendell Carter (2018). The latter was a high-floor, lower-ceiling type of player, and Hunter projects as the same. He won’t be an All-Star but could be the perfect role player, and he automatically makes the Bulls better in two areas they desperately need to get better at: perimeter defense and 3-point shooting.
8. Atlanta Hawks
Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
Now the Hawks swing for the fences. Much like the Bulls did last year in adding Wendell Carter to put next to Lauri Markkanen, Atlanta finds their center complement to their future All-Star power forward. Hayes can be a dominant force in pick-and-roll sets with Trae Young, and his interior length gives him potential on the defensive end.
9. Washington Wizards
Sekou Doumbouya, SF, France
It’s just about rebuild time for the Wizards, so why not swing for the fences on the biggest mystery in the draft? There’s no one available at this point who will make a difference in Washington in the short-term. So instead they take a project worth considering. Doumbouya has elite defensive potential and, while he’s more athlete than basketball player, has all the physical tools to become a unique weapon once he learns the game.
10. Atlanta Hawks (via DAL)
Keldon Johnson, SG, Kentucky
You’re going to hear more about Keldon Johnson as the pre-draft process goes along. He’s got excellent measurables and athleticm, he can play multiple spots in the backcourt and he gives an Atlanta offense that’s already red-hot another perimeter scorer.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves
Coby White, PG, North Carolina
White could be a player who moves up draft boards throughout this process. But if he is available here, the Timberwolves wound pounce on him. It’s a match made in heaven, with Tyus Jones and Derrick Rose entering free agency this summer – and starter Jeff Teague having just one year left on his contract. White would get the Timberwolves moving and form an excellent trio with Karl-Anthony Towns and Robert Covington for the franchise to build around post-Jimmy Butler.
12. Charlotte Hornets
Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga
The Hornets will do their best this summer to convince Kemba Walker to stay. Adding an experienced prospect to help out on the defensive end would be an excellent place to start. Clarke, is his lone year at Gonzaga (after two at San Jose State), was the only player in the country to average 3 blocks (3.2) and 1 steal (1.2) per game. He would do wonders for a Hornets defense that has regressed from 17th to 18th to 22nd the last three seasons. If they have an inkling that Walker is leaving, they’d likely look for a younger prospect with a higher ceiling.
13. Miami Heat
Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
We’re not exactly sure this is the greatest fit for the Heat, but they simply need talent. They’re in basketball purgatory right now with a ton of bad contracts and marginal talent. So they go for upside here in Langford, whose freshman season at Indiana was more bad than good. But he’s still got talent as a former 5-star prospect.
14. Boston Celtics (via SAC)
Goga Bitadze, C, Georgia
It’s an obvious pick to mock but the Celtics have three first-round picks, might need some depth in the frontcourt in the coming years and can draft for upside. This author doesn’t know much about Bitadze, but from what we’ve read he’s a pick-and-pop center who is putting up outstanding numbers in the Euroleague at just 19 years old. He doesn’t have the hype of Doumbouya but he certainly has potential.
15. Detroit Pistons
Kevin Porter, SG, USC
Dwane Casey and the Pistons are set on playing through Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin while surrounding them with as many shooters as possible. The Pistons were sixth in the NBA this season averaging 34.8 3-point attempts per game. Porter gives them a versatile scorer on the wing who shot better than 41 percent from beyond the arc in his lone season with the Trojans.
16. Orlando Magic
Bol Bol, C, Oregon
In case you haven’t noticed, the Magic love their length. They’ve drafted Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba the last two seasons – two of the lankiest players in the draft – and they go back to that well one more time with Bol. He’s a little more versatile a big man than Bamba, and he also gives the Magic some insurance if Nikola Vucevic departs in free agency. He’s the best player available here despite some injury concerns.
17. Brooklyn Nets
This could wind up being one of the steals of the draft. The Nets could use some more help on the wing and get it in Alexander-Walker, who is a natural shooting guard but did plenty of ball handling for the Hokies. He’s also a lights-out shooter. Concerns about his athleticism and size may have him slip on draft day but this kid can really play. The Nets get richer with this one.
18. Indiana Pacers
Nassir Little, SG, North Carolina
Nassir Little’s freshman season began with top-5 aspirations. The defensive whiz had a lackluster season in Raleigh but it’s far too early to write him off. He’s got an excellent frame, uses his athleticism in the right ways and has a good basketball IQ. Essentially he’s a perfect fit for the Pacers, who will gladly add another defender in the backcourt this late in the draft. Little may never develop into a big-time scorer, but he may not need to.
19. San Antonio Spurs
Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga
Hachimura could very well go earlier than this, but his age and odd potential fit in the NBA could have him fall. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect Spurs pick? Hachimura is a talented scorer with an NBA frame, and his best bet may be as a small-ball power forward.
20. Boston Celtics (via LAC)
Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee
This is probably a little high for Williams right now, but he could see his stock rise at the Combine and individual workouts. His excellent wingspan and ability to finish around the rim will have NBA teams coveting him. How he shoots from beyond the arc in those settings could be the difference between a first and second round selection. For now, we’ll guess he performs well and provides the Celtics a solid two-way piece.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder
Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky
The Thunder have all the pieces in place to maintain their standing as one of the top defensive teams in the NBA. They need some help offensively – an improved shot selection from Russell Westbrook would do wonders – where they ranked just 16th a year ago. Herro has the potential to be a dynamic scorer on the wing and holds his own as a defender despite his less-than-ideal length. This is a solid value pick.
22. Boston Celtics
Talen Horton-Tucker, SG, Iowa State
The swiss army knife of the 2019 NBA Draft, Horton-Tucker isn’t great in any one facet of the game but it good just about everywhere. That fits in a Boston scheme where so many different parts are interchangeable. Plus, with three first-round picks, Horton-Tucker would be given some time in the G-League to hone his craft and allow the Celtics to mold him how they see fit.
23. Utah Jazz
P.J. Washington, PF, Kentucky
It’s likely that Washington goes earlier than this, but he falls right into the Jazz’s lap here. It’s a perfect fit, with Utah finding its replacement for impending free agent Derrick Favors. Washington continues to add versatility to his game and he only improved as his sophomore season went along. He’s an excellent fit next to Rudy Gobert and gives them a do-over after drafting Trey Lyles (though that netted them Donovan Mitchell).
24. Philadelphia 76ers
Mfiondu Kabengele, PF, Florida State
The nephew of NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo, Kabengele is one of the more intriguing prospects in the class. He’s impressive inside, shows good timing as a shot blocker and has extender range to the 3-point line. He’s likely going to need some fine tuning – and him being 21 doesn’t help – but this is certainly someone who could rise during the pre-draft process.
25. Portland Trail Blazers
Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky
This just seems like a match made in heaven. Bassey needs a lot of work as a big man, and he doesn’t provide all that much range on the offensive end. But that’s in line with what the Blazers have gotten from Jusuf Nurkic and that’s proved to be a winning combination. Bassey could learn from Nurkic while giving Portland some early minutes while Nurkic recovers from a broken leg. He’d need to learn on the fly but Bassey is a talented prospect. Someone will take an early shot on him.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (via HOU)
Cameron Johnson, SF, North Carolina
After nabbing Morant with the second pick, the Cavaliers turn their attention to the wing. Cedi Osman has given Cleveland some nice minutes, but the Cavs really don’t have a guy who can provide a matchup advantage at the position. Johnson could be that guy as a Day 1 scorer who could give big minutes to an improving Cavs team.
27. Brooklyn Nets
Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland
Ed Davis is a free agent and the Nets really don’t have anyone behind Jarrett Allen. Fernando would fit well in Brooklyn on a second unit that hoists a ton of 3-pointers, leaving opportunities for offensive rebounds. Fernando averaged nearly 3 offensive rebounds per game. This is a solid fit this late in the first round.
28. Golden State Warriors
Carson Edwards, PG, Purdue
The rich get richer. Shaun Livingston could hit free agency this offseason along with Quinn Cook. That’d leave a noticeable opening behind Steph Curry on the depth chart. The Warriors would do well to fill it with Edwards, a naturally gifted scorer who lit up the NCAA Tournament from beyond the arc. He’s an experienced player who will be ready to play from Day 1.
29. San Antonio Spurs
KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford
More shooting on the wing for the Spurs, who could lose Rudy Gay in free agency this offseason. Okpala has an NBA frame and is an excellent athlete at 6-foot-8. He’s not the defender that Gregg Popovich likes to roll out, but he’s got potential at a position of need and is great value this late in the first round.
30. Milwaukee Bucks
Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State
The Bucks don’t have very many needs, but they could grab some insurance at the guard position if Malcolm Brogdon prices himself out of Milwaukee in restricted free agency. Dort didn’t have the most efficient freshman season with the Sun Devils but has plenty of potential and could be brought along slowly in Milwaukee.