For all the attention paid to the NBA's free-agency and trade markets, drafting and developing talent remains the simplest way to construct a contender.
Just ask the Golden State Warriors, who brought Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green up through their system. Or ask the Milwaukee Bucks, who may have uncovered an NBA ruler when they spent the 15th pick of the 2013 talent grab on Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Given the importance of this process, most rebuilders have been long focused on the 2019 draft class. We'll shift our attention there, too, by mock drafting with the latest selection order from Tankathon and examining the potential team fits of our top three projected picks.
2019 NBA Mock Draft
1. New York Knicks: Zion Williamson, PF, Duke
2. Phoenix Suns: Ja Morant, PG, Murray St.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: RJ Barrett, SG, Duke
4. Chicago Bulls: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
5. Atlanta Hawks: Cam Reddish, SF, Duke
6. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas Mavericks): Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
7. Memphis Grizzlies: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
8. Washington Wizards: De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia
9. New Orleans Pelicans: KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford
10. Charlotte Hornets: Bol Bol, C, Oregon
11. Orlando Magic: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
12. Los Angeles Lakers: Keldon Johnson, SG, Kentucky
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Brandon Clarke, PF/C, Gonzaga
14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento Kings): Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga
15. Miami Heat: Nassir Little, SF, North Carolina
16. Detroit Pistons: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC
17. Brooklyn Nets: Sekou Doumbouya, SF, France
18. Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers): Coby White, PG, North Carolina
19. Utah Jazz: PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky
20. San Antonio Spurs: Jontay Porter, C, Missouri
21. Boston Celtics: Tre Jones, PG, Duke
22. Portland Trail Blazers: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech
23. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Houston Rockets): Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas
24. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky
25. Indiana Pacers: Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State
27. Brooklyn Nets (via Denver Nuggets): Goga Bitadze, C, Georgia
28. Golden State Warriors: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland
29. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto Raptors): Ty Jerome, SG, Virginia
30. Milwaukee Bucks: Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington
Team Fits for Projected Top-Three Picks
Zion Williamson To New York Knicks
Between the New York City market and the storied history of Madison Square Garden, there's plenty about the Knicks that seems larger than life. So, what better fit for that type of franchise than a prospect whose physical abilities make you question if what you're seeing is actually real?
As The Ringer's Jonathan Tjarks wrote, Williamson could be a once-in-a-generation athlete:
"Zion, at 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds, is the answer to the question of what would have happened if LeBron, an all-state wide receiver in high school, had been moved to the defensive line. He's a different kind of mismatch problem. It's not just that he can face up slower defenders or back down smaller ones. Almost every defender in college basketball is both slower and smaller than him, and it won't be much different in the NBA."
Since the Knicks are clearly a team in transition, it's hard to tell how they'd complement Williamson's game.
If the roster lacked any other major splashes this summer—owner James Dolan thinks they're imminent—Williamson could potentially slot in as a primary shot-creator and help form one of the league's most athletic frontcourts. If he's flanked by, say, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, then Williamson could use his explosiveness and energy to serve as the ultimate glue guy.
The big question is whether the 'Bockers would keep Williamson if they land the pick. That would be the best asset anyone could put on the table in an Anthony Davis deal, and the Knicks might consider it if they saw a fast path to contention with The Brow.
Ja Morant To Phoenix Suns
Morant is the best point guard prospect in this draft class—by far.
The Suns have the NBA's worst collection of point guards—by far.
Get where this is going?
Phoenix does. It flooded the Ohio Valley Conference tournament to get a closer look at Morant:
Devin Booker sees it, too. He's been on the Morant hype train for months:
Morant is an elite athlete and elite passer, a rare combination to say the least. He's a good enough scorer to carry the offense in spurts, but in Phoenix, he'd be at his best driving and kicking out to an open Booker or floating a lob to Deandre Ayton.
Morant has his question marks, particularly those tied to his outside shooting and decision-making. But those should be easily brushed aside by a club handing out point-guard minutes to Tyler Johnson, De'Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo.
RJ Barrett To Cleveland Cavaliers
While the Cavs would love to get their hands on Williamson, Barrett would be far from a consolation prize.
In fact, the 6'7" scorer should be a pretty seamless addition to this rebuilding team.
"Barrett might be the best fit for the Cavs when it comes to the elite prospects," Tim Bielik wrote for Cleveland.com. "The Cavs need talent at the wings, particularly at the 2-guard, to try and maximize whatever potential Collin Sexton has as a point guard."
Barrett's inconsistent jumper and shaky defense could limit his ceiling, but he should be a plug-and-play option from opening night. He could fit where needed between the 2 and 4 spots, provide perimeter scoring to an offense that doesn't have nearly enough of it and help perk up the playmaking.
Maybe he hasn't set the hoops world on fire the way some expected, but no one is sneezing at 23.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists from an 18-year-old freshman. The Cavs need long-term building blocks, and Barrett might instantly become their best bet.