2019 NBA Mock Draft: 1st-Round Projections 2 Weeks Before March Madness

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMarch 5, 2019

2019 NBA Mock Draft: 1st-Round Projections 2 Weeks Before March Madness

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    With two weeks remaining until March Madness, NBA prospects are running low on time to strengthen their cases for the 2019 draft. 

    And at this stage, the board is completely fluid. Strong and weak performances from here on out could impact players' stock and affect scouts' evaluations. 

    We're getting closer to a set top-three prospects, though No. 2 and No. 3 could swap depending on the draft order. 

    Otherwise, from No. 4 on down, each NBA board could look significantly different.

    Editor's note: Draft order is based on NBA team records through Monday's games.

1. Phoenix Suns: Zion Williamson (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)

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    For the Phoenix Suns, winning the lottery may be the only way out from rock bottom. Adding Deandre Ayton wasn't enough. Zion Williamson could help change the culture and team identity with his competitiveness and star power. 

    He'd also fit in at power forward, particularly with his explosiveness and ball-handling, neither of which Ayton offers a great deal of. 

    The nation's leader in player efficiency rating could be a difference-maker for one of NBA's five least-efficient offenses.

    Phoenix does need a playmaker, and it will look at Murray State's Ja Morant. Still, regardless of whether Williamson plays another game at Duke following the knee injury, it's difficult to picture any scenario in which he isn't the No. 1 pick. 

2. New York Knicks: RJ Barrett (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)

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    Once Williamson is off the board, the New York Knicks will be looking at Morant and RJ Barrett. To take Morant, however, they'd have to feel he's the clear-cut better overall prospect, since they recently traded for Dennis Smith Jr. and they'll presumably be courting Kyrie Irving in free agency.

    It's easier to see the Knicks drafting Barrett, who's averaging 23.1 points and 4.2 assists at 18 years old. He'll also be easier to build around, being an interchangeable guard/forward able to play positions 2 to 4.

    With 33 assists over his last five games, Barrett has begun flashing playmaking and passing skill that's helping to strengthen his case as the draft's No. 2 prospect. 

3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Ja Morant (Murray State, PG, Freshman)

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    At No. 3, the Cleveland Cavaliers would ignore needs and look past wings toward Ja Morant, the best prospect available. 

    It's also become fairly evident that Collin Sexton isn't a lead guard built for running the offense. Averaging 2.8 assists in 30.6 minutes in Cleveland, he only totaled 119 assists all last year at Alabama, which should have been an indicator. Morant is already up to 300 and leads the country. 

    His combination of A-plus explosiveness, passing skill and vision point to elite playmaking potential. And he's  now starting to make three-pointers (48-of-141) after he went 27-of-88 as a freshman.

4. Chicago Bulls: Darius Garland (Vanderbilt, PG, Freshman)

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    The Chicago Bulls will have a tough call at No. 4 without an obvious best player available to choose from, plus the fact that the team already has cornerstones at positions 2 to 5.

    They could look at Cam Reddish, but taking him would likely mean using a top-five pick to draft a backup behind Zach LaVine and Otto Porter Jr.

    Darius Garland could ultimately benefit from a lackluster tier of prospects once Williamson, Barrett and Morant are taken. He came out firing at Vanderbilt, having averaged 19.8 points before tearing his meniscus during his fifth game.

    Assuming he's back for predraft workouts, the Bulls would likely show interest, given his offensive upside, Kris Dunn having possibly plateaued and Chicago ranking second-to-last in the NBA in offensive efficiency.

5. Atlanta Hawks: Cam Reddish (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)

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    The Atlanta Hawks take the fourth-most threes in the league, making Cam Reddish a fitting addition to the rotation. 

    His brutal two-point inefficiency (41.4 percent) would make Cleveland and Chicago pass in this draft order. But the Hawks should see value in Reddish's 2.6 threes per game and flashes of defensive playmaking and instincts.

    He'd give Atlanta another interchangeable wing/forward to join Kevin Huerter and Taurean Prince. Based on their roster and the projected field, it would make sense to take Reddish at No. 5 and potentially target a big with the Dallas Mavericks pick, which they receive if it's not in the top five.

6. Memphis Grizzlies: Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech, SG, Freshman)

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    The Memphis Grizzlies won't favor any position heading into the draft process. They're building around Jaren Jackson Jr., who can play either frontcourt spot, anyway. 

    But the best-player-available search will likely lead to a guard or wing at No. 6, with Jarrett Culver and Virginia's De'Andre Hunter both worthy of consideration. 

    Culver could ultimately appear more attractive for his scoring and playmaking versatility. He's averaging 17.9 points, and that's while only shooting 33.0 percent from three, a number that will likely rise based on his freshman shooting (38.2 percent) and the eye test on his shot-making ability. 

    Improvement as a ball-screen facilitator (3.7 assists per game overall) could ultimately help tip the scale toward Culver, a well-rounded, two-way 2-guard.

7. Washington Wizards: De'Andre Hunter (Virginia, SF/PF, Sophomore)

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    With John Wall expected to miss most of next season, the Washington Wizards are looking at a long road back toward relevance. They should just be attempting to stockpile assets for the future without worrying about how they fit. 

    At No. 7, the Wizards could look at Indiana's Romeo Langford, Texas' Jaxson Hayes and Oregon's Bol Bol. De'Andre Hunter happens to come off as the surest bet of the bunch for his NBA tools (6'7", 225 lbs), career 42.4 percent three-point shooting and defensive impact and versatility. 

    He's also expanded his scoring repertoire, appearing more advanced as a shot-creator from the post while continuing to slash effectively past closeouts. 

8. Atlanta Hawks (via Mavericks): Jaxson Hayes (Texas, C, Freshman)

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    After grabbing Reddish at No. 5, the Atlanta Hawks could look at Jaxson Hayes to improve their rim protection.

    A mobile, bouncy center, he blocks 4.0 shots per 40 minutes, and he'd give Atlanta a needed defensive presence in the middle alongside John Collins.

    Hayes also ranks in the 94th percentile as a roll man and the 98th percentile as a finisher around the basket. He'd be another glowing target for Young to set up off ball screens and penetration. 

9. New Orleans Pelicans: Romeo Langford (Indiana, SG, Freshman)

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    By the time the New Orleans Pelicans are on the clock, their roster could look revamped depending on when and how they execute an Anthony Davis trade. 

    Regardless of how the lineup looks, they'll give Romeo Langford consideration at No. 9 for his three-level scoring potential. He's averaging 16.9 points as a freshman without a reliable three-ball (26.3 percent). 

    Distance shooting will ultimately be the swing skill that determines Langford's upside and value. There are reasons to stay optimistic, with the teenager making 51.7 percent of his mid-range jumpers. In the meantime, he ranks in the 87th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler and the 88th percentile out of isolation.

10. Miami Heat: Kevin Porter Jr. (USC, SG, Freshman)

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    With Bam Adebayo and Hassan Whiteside, it seems unlikely the Miami Heat go after a big man unless they're convinced he's the definite best prospect available. They could also look to trade down for a point guard like Duke's Tre Jones. If they stay put, however, Kevin Porter Jr. could look attractive after workouts.

    He's a candidate to rise during the predraft process, when his athleticism and shot-making will have a better chance of standing out. They tend to disappear during his USC games because Porter plays a supporting-freshman role in a lineup with veterans. 

    Drafting him top 10 would mean overlooking inconsistent impact for long-term potential fueled by his 6'6" size, bounce and diverse scoring repertoire consisting or pull-ups, step-backs and three-balls (37.9 percent).

11. Charlotte Hornets: Bol Bol (Oregon, C, Freshman)

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    With the talent starting to dry up near the back end of the lottery, the Charlotte Hornets could feel the potential reward is worth the risk with Bol Bol at No. 11.

    Medical reports on his fractured foot would need to check out, and he'd benefit from being able to work out. The one-on-none setting would ultimately seem ideal for Bol to wow teams with his unique mix of ball-handling and shooting.

    Instead of settling for a perceived safer, lower-upside option, the Hornets, who've needed another star to push them over the hump, might as well swing for the fences on a 7'2" center who was averaging 21.0 points on 13-of-25 from three before going down.

12. Minnesota Timberwolves: Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga, PF/C, Junior)

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves will look at Brandon Clarke for his defensive potential next to Karl-Anthony Towns.

    The analytics are extremely fond of Clarke, who's fourth in the country in defensive box plus-minus, third in defensive win shares and second in defensive rating. Blocking 4.5 shots per 40 minutes, he is bouncy and fearless when it comes to challenging finishers, and he's flashed enough foot speed to cover ground and switch.

    He also ranks No. 2 in the country in player efficiency rating behind Zion Williamson, averaging 16.6 points per game on 68.8 percent shooting.

    Even if his offensive skill package turns out to be useless, Clarke has the ability to optimize his athleticism and effort, which could translate to superb activity and efficiency at both ends.

13. Los Angeles Lakers: Coby White (North Carolina, PG/SG, Freshman)

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    Looking to surround LeBron James and potential star free-agent acquisitions with shooters, the Los Angeles Lakers could focus on Coby White, who ranks in the 97th percentile on spot-ups.

    He's shooting 47.8 percent on catch-and-shoot chances after burying 12 threes combined over North Carolina's last two games against Syracuse and Clemson.

    White's lack of explosion shows up inside the arc, but between his shot-making and pick-and-roll passing (98th percentile), he offers offensive versatility the Lakers should value in a 6'5" combo guard.

14. Boston Celtics (via Kings): Jontay Porter (Missouri, C, Sophomore)

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    With three first-round picks, the Boston Celtics could afford to use one Jontay Porter, who's 19 years old and recovering from a torn ACL.

    His shooting, passing and shot-blocking earned him an invite to last year's NBA combine. On paper, he checks the boxes NBA teams value in bigs during this pace-and-space era.

    Porter will presumably need time in the G League to strengthen his knee, conditioning and confidence after sitting out the season. And that should be fine for the Celtics, who could still pick at Nos. 19 (via the Los Angeles Clippers) and 21.

Nos. 15-20

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    15. Orlando Magic: Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Virginia Tech, PG/SG, Sophomore)

    The Magic could see Alexander-Walker as a fit for his shooting and secondary playmaking as a 6'5" combo guard. He's had a down month shooting and finishing, but his jump shot and passing remain easy to buy.

       

    16. Brooklyn Nets: PJ Washington (Kentucky, PF/C, Sophomore)

    Washington was a riser in February as he stepped into a go-to scoring role. Suddenly a more confident, refined post player and three-point threat, his inside-out play highlights versatility the Nets could use in their frontcourt.

       

    17. Detroit Pistons: Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga, PF, Junior)

    Could Hachimura fall outside the lottery? Concerns about his fit are worth considering, being that he isn't a plus three-point shooter, passer or defender. He is, however, averaging 20.6 points on 61.3 percent shooting, dominating inside the arc with mid-range-to-post scoring and cutting.

       

    18. San Antonio Spurs: Goga Bitadze (Georgia, C, 1999)

    A breakout season overseas should lead to first-round interest for Bitadze, a mobile big with impressive hands and footwork as well as improved shooting touch out to the arc. He could even draw looks in the lottery, particularly if his jump shot surprises during workouts, though less demand for centers suggests the mid-first round is a more realistic range.

       

    19. Boston Celtics (via Clippers): Sekou Doumbouya (France, SF/PF, 2000)

    Eighteen-year-old Doumbouya has remained relatively quiet in France's top division, but the flashes should be enough for a first-round case. They highlight an impressive physical profile (6'9", 230 lbs), defensive versatility and shooting potential, though it doesn't appear he'll be ready to contribute soon.

       

    20. Utah Jazz: KZ Okpala (Stanford, SF/PF, Sophomore)

    Okpala has drawn attention by improving as a shooter and creator, making 38.3 percent of his threes and ranking in the 78th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. He's still more raw than polished without any specialty skill or strength. His 6'9", 215-pound size and face-up scoring ability hint at mismatch potential. Okpala also comes off as risky, ranking in the 34th percentile on spot-ups, the 23rd percentile as a cutter and the 46th percentile out of isolation.

Nos. 21-30

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    21. Boston Celtics: Tyler Herro (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

    Before Kentucky's loss at Tennessee on Saturday, Herro had sunk 51.4 percent of his threes over the previous eight games. And though he's been erratic since opening night, the eye test fully approves Herro's shot-making ability off spot-ups and movement. Teams in the 20s could start to value his shooting even if it's the only aspect of his game that carries over.

       

    22. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Rockets): Keldon Johnson (Kentucky, SG/SF, Freshman)

    Johnson has hit a wall that's led to poor shooting and has exposed his lack of off-the-dribble creativity. He's still a first-round prospect because of his tools, slashing, impressive floater game and capable shot-making.

       

    23. Oklahoma City Thunder: Talen Horton-Tucker (Iowa State, SG/SF, Freshman)

    The positives outweigh the negatives with Horton-Tucker, who won't turn 19 years old until November. His shooting is erratic, and his lack of explosion hinders his finishing ability inside the arc. But the 6'4", 233-pounder's shot-creation potential, shot-making and defensive quickness have popped throughout the season. The Thunder would take Horton-Tucker for what he could look like three years from now.

       

    24. Portland Trail Blazers: Tre Jones (Duke, PG, Freshman)

    Jones could take pressure off Damian Lillard. The Blazers won't need him to score; instead, they could value his passing IQ and defense on opposing ball-handlers. It's safe to assume anyone who takes Jones outside the lottery would get a steal if he ever improves as a shooter (24.2 percent on threes).

       

    25. Philadelphia 76ers: Ty Jerome (Virginia, SG, Junior)

    Jerome's 40.9 percent three-point shooting and 5.0 assists to 1.7 turnovers per game point to role-player potential. He ranks in the 98th percentile on spot-ups. For the Sixers, he'd replace Landry Shamet, whom the team just traded and is now thriving with the Los Angeles Clippers.

       

    26. Indiana Pacers: Nassir Little (North Carolina, SF/PF, Freshman)

    Little's selling point stems from his 6'6", 220-pound size and length plus the room he has to improve skillwise. Long-term potential fueled by tools, athleticism and face-up scoring will keep Little in the first-round mix. But he's running out of time to build back his stock. His skill level and feel for the game are mediocre.

       

    27. Brooklyn Nets (via Nuggets): Isaiah Roby (Nebraska, PF/C, Junior)

    Roby is a project who needs to strengthen his upper body and skill level. The Nets could value fit over his production at Nebraska. For an athletic, 230-pound big, his 20 three-pointers and 1.7 blocks and 1.4 steals per game are appealing.

       

    28. Golden State Warriors: Bruno Fernando (Maryland, C, Sophomore)

    Fernando stands out for his finishing power around the basket, but he's also improved as a passer and defender. That should help him offer enough at both ends to stick in the league even without any scoring versatility or shooting range. Montrezl Harrell and Bam Adebayo would represent the hopeful comparisons.

       

    29. San Antonio Spurs (via Raptors): Grant Williams (Tennessee, PF, Junior)

    At No. 29, the Spurs could look past Williams' lack of height (6'7") and athleticism. He compensates with skill and feel as a post scorer, passer and high-IQ defender. Williams had an assuring 24-point performance (2-for-4 on threes) against Kentucky on Saturday that should help solidify his status as a first-round prospect.

       

    30. Milwaukee Bucks: Matisse Thybulle (Washington, SF, Senior)

    Thybulle has reached first-round levels of interest for being the only player in at least 27 years to average a three-pointer, three steals and two blocks per game. If he can shoot well enough in workouts, he should convince a team to overlook his scoring limitations.

       

    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Basketball Reference and accurate through Sunday.