Latest NBA Mock Draft as NCAA Basketball Season Tips Off
College basketball is underway and NBA scouts are back at work.
Kansas, Michigan State, Duke and Kentucky kicked off the season in style at the Champions Classic, which featured six projected lottery picks.
As it usually is, our first-round board opens dominated by freshmen in 2019, especially after a number of surprising early-entrants (Donte DiVincenzo, Kevin Huerter, Josh Okogie, Jerome Robinson) stayed in last year's draft.
Draft order based on NBA standings as of November 6, 2018
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Zion Williamson, Duke PF Freshman
Assuming Zion Williamson's show Tuesday night was the first of many, he'll be tough for NBA teams to resist.
While all scouts came in aware of his elite-level athleticism, it looked even more persuasive and alluring against the preseason No. 2 team in the country. Williamson destroyed Kentucky, scoring 28 points on two-missed shots.
His mix of power and explosiveness creates an advantage unlike any we've seen in recent memory. But it's clear that Williamson also has developing skill, with his ability to blow by off hesitation and in-and-out dribbles or crossovers.
He even knocked down a three and pull-up jump shot in his first college game.
Teams assessing upside should determine that Williamson possesses more than any prospect in the country. Questions over his future position will matter less and less as the season goes on, particularly if he can hit enough jumpers.
2. Dallas Mavericks: RJ Barrett, Duke SG/SF Freshman
RJ Barrett could be a fine No. 1 overall talent still available at No. 2.
Williamson's athletic ability and expanding skill set are just too much together, but the Dallas Mavericks or whoever picks this high should still see a franchise player in Barrett.
Already with numerous signature performances on the resume, from the U17 World Championships to the Nike Hoop Summit, Barrett just put together another one, finishing with 33 points and six assists against Kentucky.
He flashed his relentlessness as a scorer and ability to improvise with counter footwork and unteachable finishes. He also knocked down three triples, looking comfortable on his catch-and-shoots.
Barrett could use work on his pull-up, as he prefers to head into traffic or use a floater, but that's nitpicking at this point. He's a top-three lock and strong No. 1 overall candidate.
3. Phoenix Suns: Cam Reddish, Duke, Freshman SG/SF
Based on Duke's first game, Cam Reddish will work as the third option behind Barrett and Williamson, which should mean fewer chances to create but also open spot-up looks.
He debuted with 22 points in 24 minutes, making three triples and flashing athleticism on drives to the basket.
At 6'8", Reddish handles the ball and shoots, creating versatility that allows coaches to use him all over.
4. Washington Wizards: Bol Bol, Oregon, Freshman C
Bol Bol figures to cause a divide between scouts who see mismatch potential and rim protection versus those skeptical about his awkwardness, skinny legs and unorthodox game.
All it takes is one team to buy in, however. With Bol's 7'2" size and 7'8" length, the easy baskets and blocked shots will be there, though flashes of face-up scoring moves and his shooting touch are what can propel him into the top-five conversation.
Already unique for his size, Bol separates himself even further with the ability to shoot threes and his various specialty shots off the dribble.
He just isn't physical or explosive, which will raise questions about his potential to execute against NBA defenses.
5. New York Knicks: Nassir Little, UNC, Freshman SF
A strong, athletic wing or forward, Nassir Little has risen in the draft discussion for both his physical and skill development.
He's looking exceptionally toned and muscular to start the season. And as it progresses, we should start to see more flashes of his one-on-one scoring with step-backs and drives off ball-handling moves.
The 6'6", 220-pounder will also earn praise for his defensive toughness and his ability to guard different-sized opponents inside and out.
Little should be a top-10 lock with a path toward the top three if he shoots well enough.
6. Chicago Bulls: Romeo Langford, Indiana, Freshman SG
Romeo Langford should score his way toward the top of draft boards, though his tools, athleticism and smooth delivery are what will help the production appear credible under the NBA scouting lens.
A skilled shot-creator and shot-maker, Langford generates offense from all three levels with drives, runners, pull-ups, step-backs and spot-ups.
He could stand to improve as a playmaker, which would lower the pressure for him to score in volume. Still, Langford should start with a high-usage role, which he's bound to convert into 20-point games and interest from lottery teams.
7. Atlanta Hawks: Quentin Grimes, Kansas, Freshman SG
Quentin Grimes should have earned himself more looks and mentions inside NBA scouting departments following his debut.
He caught fire to hit six of 10 threes and score 21 points against Michigan State, appearing more reliable as a shooter than he's shown in the past.
Grimes already stood out physically with his 6'5", 210-pound frame. But he's showed maturity and growth offensively with his shot-making and ball-moving (four assists, one turnover).
Limitations as a creator hint at a lower ceiling than the projected top-five picks. Solid tools and athleticism, a promising jumper and passing IQ point to a higher floor and potential high-end, NBA role player.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves: Keldon Johnson, Kentucky, Freshman SG/SF
Keldon Johnson will earn fans quickly for his explosiveness, intensity and effort.
He was a bright spot against Duke with 23 points, showing the ability get downhill and finish with hard layups and runners.
His signature strength will be putting pressure on defenses with his driving and constant attack mode, but he's also looked improved as a shooter and tough defensively.
As long as his jumper doesn't tank, Johnson figures to hang around the lottery discussion all season.
9. New Orleans Pelicans: Sekou Doumbouya, France, SF/PF (2000)
After a slow start in France, Sekou Doumbouya has started to get comfortable and flash the versatility NBA teams will be traveling to see throughout the season.
Over his last five games for CSP Limoges of the French Pro A, he's 17-of-24 from the field, including 4-of-8 from three. At 6'9", 230 pounds, Doumbouya is still mostly tools and athleticism, but he's developed into a half-court scoring threat for his ability to catch-and-shoot or use the dribble and his body control to attack a closeout and score on the move.
Once all the high-profile freshmen are taken, teams will consider a project like Doumbouya, who, by draft night, will be all potential over production and still 18 years old.
10. Utah Jazz: Naz Reid, LSU, Freshman PF/C
Naz Reid will stand out for his 6'10", 250-pound frame and his athleticism. But he'll move up draft boards with flashes of skill.
He's developed unique ball-handling for a player of his size, showing impressive agility and wiggle off the dribble. Reid will still do most of his work around the basket, but he'll earn points with scouts for his high-level passes and playmaking potential, plus his touch on free throws and mid-range shots.
He'll have to answer or eliminate questions about his conditioning and motor. Otherwise, Reid should pop like a top-10 talent.
11. Los Angeles Lakers: Simisola Shittu, Vanderbilt, Freshman PF
It may take Simisola Shittu time to catch on after recovering from a torn ACL suffered last December. Even if he starts slowly, the long-term scouting lens should detect exciting NBA potential fueled by his tools, athleticism, inside scoring ability and unique ball-handling and playmaking skills.
A physical standout at 6'10", 240 pounds, Shittu is a handful around the basket, as well as a threat to use the dribble and score or pass on the move.
From a draft-stock perspective, the biggest question concerns his health and the size of his role. He may require two years in college to build a convincing-enough case. On the other hand, Shittu could entice teams who buy the upside and are willing to reach and wait on his development.
12. Brooklyn Nets: Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky, Freshman C
At 6'11", 245 pounds with long arms and a chiseled frame, Charles Bassey will threaten for double-doubles just by tapping into his physical tools and athleticism.
He isn't the new-school stretch big that's trending in today's NBA. But teams will still see value in Bassey's potential to own his area around the basket.
A powerful finisher with good hands and quick feet for rebounding and shot-blocking, Bassey is a force inside. Given his body and bounce, it's easy to picture his success in the paint carrying over from high school to college and the pros.
13. Orlando Magic: Darius Garland, Vanderbilt, Freshman PG
Given the Orlando Magic point guard situation, they should already be monitoring Darius Garland.
His stock received a boost following the Nike Hoop Summit in April, when he put on a shot-making clinic with spot-up shooting, dribble jumpers and floaters.
Though he's not yet dominant in any one area, he checks boxes with enough size (6'2", 175 lbs), athleticism, playmaking and scoring skill. He'll share the ball with sophomore Saben Lee at Vanderbilt, but he should have a good opportunity to build a case as the draft's No. 1 lead ball-handler.
14. Houston Rockets: Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga, PF Junior
After two seasons' worth of flashes for Rui Hachimura, this should be the one he emerges as a focal point of Gonzaga's offense.
He went off during his junior debut against Idaho State, finishing with 33 points on 13 made field goals.
For a 6'8" forward, Hachimura leans mostly on quickness and athleticism inside the arc. To fly up to No. 14, he'll want to appear more polished offensively, particularly with his shot creation and shooting. Hachimura has made just nine threes through 66 career games.
15. Detroit Pistons: De'Andre Hunter, Virginia, Sophomore SF/PF
After creating NBA draft buzz and then breaking his wrist before the NCAA tournament, Hunter should be eager to return and build on last year's flashes. NBA teams will be drawn to his versatility, being a 6'7", athletic forward who can make open shots, attack through contact and defend multiple positions. It's still important he shows improvement as a shot-creator and scorer. Hunter only averaged 9.2 points last year, and he'll turn 21 years old in December.
16. Miami Heat: Jalen Smith, Maryland, Freshman PF
Long and skilled, Smith should emerge as both an immediate contributor and prospect NBA teams follow early. He's not overly strong or explosive, but Smith works inside and out, with a nose for the ball around the basket and shooting range out to the arc.
17. Charlotte Hornets: Daniel Gafford, Arkansas, Sophomore C
The eye test on Gafford detects an NBA player for 6'11", 234-pound size and explosiveness that translated to a 60.5 percent field-goal mark and 3.8 blocks per 40 minutes. But how high can he climb without any offensive skill? The same Gafford as last year should still go first round for his sure-thing finishing and rim protection. But moving into the lottery mix will mean demonstrating more post polish and shooting touch.
18. Boston Celtics (via 76ers): Jontay Porter, Missouri, Sophomore C
Porter's sophomore season ended before it started when he tore his ACL and MCL in October. It still seems likely he enters the draft after passing on the chance to go in the first round last season. NBA scouts are drawn to Porter's fit and skill set, which includes three-point shooting range, high-level passing and shot-blocking ability. As long as doctors expect a full recovery, there should be one first-round team willing to buy low in the Nos. 15-30 range.
19. Boston Celtics (via Grizzlies): Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech, Sophomore SG
The departures of Zhaire Smith and Keenan Evans should open the door for Culver, whose 6'5" size, 38.2 percent three-ball and defense earned himself a spot on scouting watch lists. His draft stock will be tied to the development of his off-the-dribble game. An effective spot-up shooter and line-drive slasher, Culver wasn't able to showcase much one-on-one or playmaking skill.
20. Oklahoma City Thunder: Ja Morant, Murray State, Sophomore PG
Along with the unique above-the-rim play for a point guard, Morant turned himself into an NBA prospect by filling up box scores with 6.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. Though an explosive leaper and triple-double threat, to convert the across-the-board production into NBA interest, he'll have to make a jump offensively, particularly as a perimeter scorer (14.9 points, 1.0 threes per 40 minutes).
21. Boston Celtics: Eric Paschall, Villanova, Senior SF/PF
Paschall is on breakout watch after last year's NCAA tournament and Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo and Jalen Brunson went pro. The explosive 255-pound combo forward shot 45.7 percent from three during conference play to strengthen his image as an NBA prospect. Already 22 years old, he just won't have the margin for error as a senior.
22. Philadelphia 76ers (via Kings): Jaylen Hoard, Wake Forest, Freshman SF/PF
Hoard's athleticism and versatility should catch scouts' attention. At 6'8", he's well-rounded, with the ability to make an impact around the basket, face and attack or shoot the three. Inconsistency wouldn't be surprising, though, until Hoard establishes a bankable skill or strength to lean on for offense.
23. Boston Celtics (via Clippers): PJ Washington, Kentucky, Sophomore PF/C
Washington should draw looks for his versatility at both ends. He's stretched out his shooting range and improved his quickness to guard further away from the basket. Washington's lack of explosion and creativity were exposed against Duke, however. He'll have ground to make up after a letdown performance to open the season.
24. Indiana Pacers: Kevin Porter Jr., USC, Freshman SG
The eye test approves Porter's 6'6" size and athleticism for an NBA shooting guard. He'll distinguish himself by creating his own shot and scoring from all three levels, though he'll have to find ways to do so without hijacking possessions. Porter's core strength could be a gift and a curse. Staying efficient will be key.
25. San Antonio Spurs: Luguentz Dort, Arizona State, Freshman SG
One of the more unsuspecting one-and-done freshmen, Dort will earn strong first impressions following his 28-point debut. At 6'5", 224 pounds, he's athletic and physical attacking the basket, but shooting has been a knock. He'll move up boards fast if the three triples he hit against Cal State Fullerton were an indication of legitimate improvement.
26. Portland Trail Blazers: Kris Wilkes, UCLA, Sophomore SF
Wilkes wasn't overly convincing last year, but he'll remain relevant for his tools, shooting (1.7 threes per game) and slashing potential. No more Aaron Holiday or Thomas Welsh should mean a significant bump in usage for the sophomore wing. Wilkes will try to look sharper creating his own shot, particularly given his lack of playmaking ability.
27. Milwaukee Bucks: Jalen Lecque, Brewster Academy, PG/SG 2000
A fifth-year high school player, Lecque could be eligible for the 2019 draft. And despite already committing to North Carolina State, he hinted to ESPN.com's Jonathan Givony about bypassing college if there were first-round interest. There likely would be, just like there was last year for Anfernee Simons, whose sales pitch similarly revolved around long-term potential. Lecque, an explosive, elite-level athlete, should be enticing enough for a team to feel the upside is worth the risk in the 20s.
28. Brooklyn Nets (via Nuggets): Jalen McDaniels, San Diego State, Sophomore PF
McDaniels didn't do enough as a freshman to earn the first-round interest he'd presumably been looking for when he tested the waters. He's on the radar to start this year for his springy athleticism and flashes of skill. After taking just 6.5 shots per game a season ago, McDaniels must become a more aggressive shot-creator and threatening shooter.
29. San Antonio Spurs (via Raptors): Dedric Lawson, Kansas, Junior PF
Lawson's suspect athleticism was exposed against Michigan State, and he still finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals. He shows skill and instincts in every facet of the game. After a season's worth of stat lines like the one he put together Tuesday night, Lawson could persuade one team in the 20s to overlook his age and heavy feet.
30. Golden State Warriors: Shamorie Ponds, St. John's, Junior PG
Ponds' decision-making and shooting consistency have been erratic, and it's cast a cloud over his production. However, he'll have the chance to carve out an NBA role for his streak-scoring potential off the bench. Ponds can carry an offense for stretches with his attacking and off-the-dribble shot-making.