Way-Too-Soon 2019 NBA Mock Draft: R.J. Barrett Early Favorite to Go No. 1
The projected 2019 NBA draft field should include a handful of interesting new prospects and other familiar ones who've returned to college to strengthen their stock.
A lot can happen and change from now until June. And just as happened last year with Trae Young, unexpected names are bound to emerge into the first-round discussion.
The purpose of a way-too-early mock is to get the conversation started. Identifying the tiers is more important than nailing down each prospect's draft slot or how he fits with the team he's projected to land with.
Duke freshman R.J. Barrett will begin the year No. 1 on our board and most others. But he isn't guaranteed to keep the spot.
The draft order was based on projected win totals, per via Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook manager Jeff Sherman.
1. Atlanta Hawks: R.J. Barrett (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)
After adding Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and Omari Spellman in the 2018 first round, the Atlanta Hawks should already be thinking about R.J. Barrett and how he'll fit.
The most decorated, polished incoming freshman, Barrett jumps out as the early favorite to go No. 1. From winning MVP of the U19 World Cup and a national championship with Montverde (Fla.) Academy to April's Nike Hoop Summit, where he led the World Team over the United States in front of dozens of NBA evaluators, Barrett's resume is already highly impressive.
And with NBA wing size (6'7", 202 lbs) and athleticism, plus an improving, expanding scoring repertoire and sharp competitive edge, it's easy to picture his success carrying over from high school to Duke and the pros.
2. Boston Celtics (via Kings): Nassir Little (North Carolina, SF, Freshman)
Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge strikes again, this time by acquiring the Sacramento Kings' pick (protected at No. 1 overall), which the Philadelphia 76ers had until they traded it to move up and grab Markelle Fultz in 2017.
If Ainge keeps the pick, he won't be worrying about position or having too many wings. Nassir Little has been trending upward, particularly after his standout showings at the McDonald's All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic, where he combined for 52 points.
A versatile three-level scorer and tough, multipositional defender, he looks poised to be one of the nation's most productive freshmen at North Carolina, and with solid size (6'7", 215 lbs), strength, length and athleticism, he passes the NBA eye test.
3. Chicago Bulls: Cam Reddish (Duke, SF/PF, Freshman)
Based on talent alone, it wouldn't surprise if some teams had Cam Reddish No. 1 on their boards entering the season.
He'll frustrate others with poor shot selection and wavering concentration. But the questions won't negate star potential fueled by size, length, athleticism, scoring and playmaking versatility.
At 6'8", 218 pounds, Reddish handles the ball and creates offense. And though he has the tendency to resort to hero ball, he's also a high-level shot-maker capable of taking over for stretches.
From a draft-stock perspective, Reddish should overcome the inevitable lapses with enough production and flashes of upside.
4. Phoenix Suns: Zion Williamson (Duke, PF, Freshman)
Without any obvious high-level point guards to choose from, the Phoenix Suns could be enticed by a Deandre Ayton-Zion Williamson pairing.
Listed at 6'7", 285 pounds, Williamson will be one of the most unique athletes to enter the draft because of his combination of power and explosive leaping.
But Williamson also possesses ball skills, including a handle and passing ability.
He still does most of his damage around the basket, using his overwhelming strength, athleticism and a quick second jump. The key will be for Williamson to show his jumper can eventually become an every-night threat and that he's able to defend in space around the perimeter.
5. New York Knicks: Romeo Langford (Indiana, SG, Freshman)
Next year will mark another key draft for the New York Knicks, who'll have to capitalize on their next top-10 pick.
After adding Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson to join Kristaps Porzingis and Frank Ntilikina, the Knicks may want to take a good look at Romeo Langford, a smooth athlete and effortless scorer.
He's a quintessential shooting guard capable of creating and making shots from each level.
Langford can come off as overly casual, and he'll want to demonstrate both playmaking and consistent three-point shooting to maximize his stock. He'll have a big role and plenty of freedom to fully showcase his exciting offensive arsenal.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers: Sekou Doumbouya (France, SF/PF, 2000)
The intrigue surrounding Sekou Doumbouya has been slowly building. It started in 2016 at the U18 European Championships. He's spent the last two seasons in France's second division, but he'll get his shot in Pro A this year as a 17-year-old.
Doumbouya has made noise with flashes of scoring versatility as an athletic, 6'9", 230-pound forward. We've seen glimpses of face-up shot-creating potential and shot-making ability, as he hit 24 threes in 28 games in 2017-18.
His role will be limited this year, and therefore he won't produce the way the top NCAA prospects will. But Doumbouya should still generate enough interest as a high-upside project.
7. Orlando Magic: Quentin Grimes (Kansas, SG, Freshman)
The arrow is already pointing up for Quentin Grimes, who just averaged 14.7 points on 49.4 percent shooting during the U18 Americas Championship.
He did a little of everything for the United States, from scoring and playmaking to defending. A versatile two-way guard, Grimes' game covers ground, though at this stage, he's missing one elite skill.
Getting teams to buy in to his shooting potential will be key for his stock, but he'll also play his entire freshman season as an 18-year-old.
8. Brooklyn Nets: Keldon Johnson (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
Keldon Johnson should step right in for Hamidou Diallo at Kentucky. Another great athlete with an obvious NBA physical profile (6'6", 211 lbs), he's going to turn heads with bouncy plays above the rim. Johnson's game revolves around attacking and putting pressure on defenses with his driving and slashing.
His draft stock will be tied to how much progress he makes with his scoring skills, particularly around the perimeter. Johnson leans on his tools and explosiveness. He'll have a chance to draw lottery looks if he can flash enough promise as a shot-creator and shooter.
Johnson's first shot to start building a draft case will come this week in the Bahamas against international competition.
9. Boston Celtics (via Grizzlies): Jaylen Hoard (Wake Forest, PF, Freshman)
If the Memphis Grizzlies' pick lands outside the top eight, the Boston Celtics will add another lottery selection.
Jaylen Hoard won't score like some of the other likely one-and-done freshmen, but he'll intrigue with flashes of versatility at both ends. He was a key contributor (11 points, 15 rebounds) for the World Team in their win over the United States at the Nike Hoop Summit.
A threat to face up and attack or shoot the three, Hoard also rebounds and guards inside and out.
10. Atlanta Hawks (via Mavericks): De'Andre Hunter (Virginia, SF/PF, Sophomore)
The Atlanta Hawks should select twice in next year's lottery after dealing Luka Doncic for Trae Young and the Dallas Mavericks' 2019 first-round pick.
De'Andre Hunter is returning to a bigger role at Virginia, where he'll have a good shot to build a lottery case with his two-way versatility.
In just 19.9 minutes per game, the NBA scouting lens easily detected his 6'7", 222-pound frame, athleticism, face-up scoring potential and ability to guard multiple positions.
Another step forward should lead to more substantial interest in Hunter, a promising three-point shooter and tough slasher who's flashed glimpses of one-on-one shot-creating.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Jontay Porter (Missouri, C, Sophomore)
Back at Missouri after earning an invite to May's NBA combine, Porter will look to strengthen his draft case with a bigger role in 2018-19. A promising shooter, passer and shot-blocker who's flashed the ability to attack a closeout, he checks the right boxes for a big in today's league.
12. Los Angeles Clippers: Bol Bol (Oregon, C, Freshman)
One of the draft's most polarizing prospects, Bol intrigues with 7'2" size, perimeter skills and shot-blocking potential. He'll have to answer questions about his awkward mobility, strength around the basket and ability to execute his face-up moves.
13. Portland Trail Blazers: Daniel Gafford (Arkansas, C, Sophomore)
Despite generating first-round buzz as a freshman, Gafford was quick to announce he'd return. There was interest around his size (6'11", 233 lbs) and athleticism, which translated to a 60.5 percent field-goal mark and 3.8 blocks per 40 minutes. This season, he'll look to showcase more offensive skill with his post moves and jump shot.
14. San Antonio Spurs: Darius Garland (Vanderbilt, PG, Freshman)
Garland's shot-making clinic (6-of-13, including 4-of-7 from three) at the Nike Hoop Summit moved the needle. A shifty playmaker and dangerous shooter, both off the catch and dribble, Garland will start the season as the nation's No. 1 point guard prospect.
15. Detroit Pistons: Luka Samanic (Croatia, PF, 2000)
A versatile stretch 4, Samanic just averaged 17.0 points per game for Croatia in the U18 European Championships. He'll need to improve his body, but for a 6'10", 210-pound forward, his shooting and ability to face up and attack are valued strengths in today's NBA.
16. Miami Heat: Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga, SF/PF, Junior)
Hachimura took mini steps as a sophomore, but he finished strong with a pair of breakout performances in the NCAA tournament. He'll be a trendy pick to fly up boards in 2018-19. Hachimura has terrific tools and high-flying athleticism, though it's his face-up scoring potential that could take his stock and game to exciting heights.
17. Washington Wizards: Naz Reid (LSU, C, Freshman)
A strong, athletic center, Reid is a presence around the basket. Occasionally, he'll flash some ball-handing ability and mid-range touch. His motor and skill level will be the key areas for scouts to monitor.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves: Ashton Hagans (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)
Hagans will earn fans by applying pressure at both ends with his attacking and defense. He may need a second year at Kentucky to improve his shooting and decision-making, but his NBA potential should appear obvious right away.
19. New Orleans Pelicans: Louis King (Oregon, SF, Freshman)
A scoring wing with NBA size (6'9", 205 lbs) and athleticism, King looks the part on days he's on, showing the ability to create shots and knock down tough jumpers. It's the off days that raise questions. His shot selection and decision-making could be turnoffs.
20. Milwaukee Bucks: Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky, C, Freshman)
Bassey is mostly power, length and athleticism, but he's capable of dominating in the paint as a finisher and rebounder. And he's flashed some post scoring touch with various one-handers. Bassey has NBA tools, though he'll need his skills to catch up.
21. Brooklyn Nets (via Denver Nuggets): Jalen Smith (Maryland, PF/C, Freshman)
Smith should bring both energy and defensive versatility to the Maryland frontcourt, and he'll have the chance to show off some improving shooting touch with Bruno Fernando likely to play more inside. Smith is on the skinny side (6'10", 195 lbs), but he usually compensates with his mobility and nose for the ball.
22. Indiana Pacers: Jalen McDaniels (San Diego State, PF, Sophomore)
McDaniels waited until the deadline to announce he'd return to school. His mix of size (6'10", 195 lbs) and athleticism led to a 62.2 two-point percentage and 12.2 rebounds per 40 minutes. More flashes of skill with his face-up game and jumper should result in first-round buzz.
23. Los Angeles Lakers: Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech, SG, Sophomore)
Culver stood out last season with his 6'5", 195-pound size and scoring efficiency for a freshman, shooting 45.5 percent overall and 38.2 percent from three. With Zhaire Smith now a pro, Culver will take on a bigger role and look to expand his playmaking ability.
24. Utah Jazz: Jaylen Hands (UCLA, PG, Sophomore)
With Aaron Holiday moving on, Hands should have more freedom to showcase his scoring and playmaking, which stood out at the NBA combine. He should be able to make a big jump as a playmaker and build on his 2.6 assists per game.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Ja Morant (Murray State, PG/SG, Sophomore)
One of the most athletic guards in the country, Morant also filled up box scores, finishing his freshman season as one of two players to average at least 10.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game, according to Sports Reference. He should gain more national recognition this year if he can improve his scoring skills and three-point shooting.
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Lindell Wigginton (Iowa State, PG/SG, Sophomore)
Wigginton tested the draft waters but wisely chose to return. He's a microwave scorer and impressive athlete who'll need to improve on last season's 88 assists to 92 turnovers, particularly because he's a 6'2", 188-pound guard.
27. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto Raptors): Darius Bazley (G League, PF, 2000)
Bazley will enter the G League draft after decommitting from Syracuse, an unprecedented move that will surely draw attention. A 6'9", 195-pound combo forward, Bazley is interesting for his size, three-ball and ability to face up and handle. He'll want to prove he's physically able to compete against older players and fringe pros.
28. Houston Rockets: Killian Tillie (Gonzaga, PF, Junior)
Tillie disappeared in the NCAA tournament after entering it as one of the hottest shooters in the country. There are questions about his athleticism and scoring potential, but he also possesses intriguing versatility with his three-ball (45 of 94) and ability to switch for a 6'10", 220-pound big.
29. Boston Celtics: PJ Washington (Kentucky, PF, Sophomore)
Washington couldn't move the needle at the NBA combine, but he should return to a bigger role with more confidence and skill. He's strong and long with sound footwork and shooting touch he'll look to showcase more as a sophomore.
30. Golden State Warriors: Shamorie Ponds (St. John's, PG, Junior)
After averaging 21.6 points per game as a sophomore, Ponds figures to be one of the top scorers in the nation. Enough improvement as a playmaking decision-maker and shooter should lead to more serious NBA interest.