NBA Draft 2019: Mock Predictions for Top Players Still Alive in Sweet 16

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 28, 2019

Duke forward Zion Williamson (1) dribbles the ball against Central Florida during the first half of a second-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 24, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)
Sean Rayford/Associated Press

For the first time since 2015, the projected No. 1 pick in the NBA draft will participate in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. 

Duke's Zion Williamson has exceeded the lofty expectations set for his freshman season, and now he's looking to complete the 2018-19 campaign with a national championship.

If Williamson ends the NCAA tournament with a title, he'd be the first No. 1 pick to come into the NBA off a title-winning season in college since Anthony Davis in 2012. 

While the Duke forward is the main attraction at the NCAA tournament in the eyes of NBA followers, there are plenty of other potential lottery picks still alive in the competition. 


2019 NBA 1st-Round Mock Draft

1. New York Knicks: Zion Williamson, PF, Duke

2. Phoenix Suns: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State

3. Cleveland Cavaliers: RJ Barrett, SF, Duke

4. Chicago Bulls: Cam Reddish, SF, Duke

5. Atlanta Hawks: De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia 

6. Atlanta Hawks (from Dallas): Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech 

7. Memphis Grizzlies: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

8. Washington Wizards: Coby White, PG/SG, North Carolina

9. New Orleans Pelicans: Nassir Little, SF, North Carolina

10. Los Angeles Lakers: Jontay Porter, C, Missouri 

11. Minnesota Timberwolves: Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga

12. Charlotte Hornets: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland

13. Miami Heat: Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga

14. Boston Celtics (from Sacramento): Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana

15. Orlando Magic: Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky

16. Detroit Pistons: KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford

17. Brooklyn Nets: Bol Bol, C, Oregon

18. San Antonio Spurs: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech 

19. Oklahoma City Thunder: Daniel Gafford, PF/C, Arkansas

20. Boston Celtics: Naz Reid, C, LSU 

21. Utah Jazz: Sekou Doumbouya, SF/PF,  Limoges CSP (France) 

22. Boston Celtics (from Los Angeles Clippers): Jaxson Hayes, PF/C, Texas

23. Indiana Pacers: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC

24. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Houston): Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky

25. Philadelphia 76ers: Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee

26. Portland Trailblazers: Tre Jones, PG, Duke

27. Brooklyn Nets (from Denver): Goga Bitadze, C, Buducnost (Montenegro) 

28. Golden State Warriors: P.J. Washington, PF, Kentucky

29. San Antonio Spurs (from Toronto): Talen Horton-Tucker, PF, Iowa State

30. Milwaukee Bucks: Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington 

Draft order based off records after Wednesday's NBA games.


Top Players Still Alive In Sweet 16

Zion Williamson, Duke

Barring an unexpected decision by the NBA team with the No. 1 pick, Williamson will become the fourth Duke player selected first overall, and he'd be the first since Kyrie Irving went to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011.

The Cavaliers have a decent chance of landing another Duke star, as they are one of the three worst teams in the NBA. 

However, the most intriguing landing spot for Williamson is the New York Knicks, who possess the worst record in the NBA. 

Richard Shiro/Associated Press

A generational star like Williamson landing in New York and playing at Madison Square Garden is the dream scenario for the Knicks, and for the NBA as a whole. 

But the Knicks are far from a lock to land the power forward since the chances to land the No. 1 pick for the three worst teams are now level at 14 percent. 

Since his return from injury at the start of the ACC tournament, Williamson's put up five 20-plus point performances and recorded a trio of double-doubles. 

In addition to making an impact on the glass, he tied his season high for three-pointers Sunday, as he hit three shots from beyond the arc in the second-round win over UCF.

If he continues to score in double digits, Williamson would end his college career with 10 or more points in every game he played in, except for the February 20 contest against North Carolina in which he exited in the opening minute with an injury. 


R.J. Barrett, Duke

Williamson is more than deserving of the spotlight, but Duke's leading scorer is another one of its highly-touted freshmen. 

R.J. Barrett is averaging 22.8 points per game, and he also holds an edge in assists per game with the second-best team mark of 4.1.

COLUMBIA, SC - MARCH 24: RJ Barrett #5 of the Duke Blue Devils moves the ball against Aubrey Dawkins #15 of the Central Florida Knights late in their game during the second round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Colonial Life Arena on March
Lance King/Getty Images

The Canadian has hit the double-digit mark in every game he's played in.

Barrett started the NCAA tournament with 26 points and 14 rebounds against North Dakota State, and he followed that up 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists versus UCF. 

While it will be upsetting for the teams selecting second and third to miss out on Williamson, they'll still end up with a solid consolation prize in Barrett, who should be considered alongside Murray State's Ja Morant for the No. 2 overall pick. 

Barrett was the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft class in preseason polls, but he is expected to take a back seat to his college teammate on draft night. 


Coby White, North Carolina

A few players can make the case for being the best non-Duke player left in the tournament, and while North Carolina's Coby White might not be the first name entered in the discussion, he has the potential to go the furthest in the tournament of the players in that category. 

The freshman guard used his 21-point performance against Duke in the ACC regular-season finale as a springboard for a strong postseason. 

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

White's delivered significant contributions in most of the major stat categories in the ACC and NCAA tournaments, and he comes into the Sweet 16 with 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in the Big Dance. 

If the Tar Heels continue to benefit from their rampant offensive pace, we'll get at least two more opportunities to watch White on the collegiate stage. 

The most important matchup for White this weekend could come in the Elite Eight against a Kentucky team with a few potential first-round picks on its roster. 

If White is able to shine against other elite prospects, his stock should continue to rise as he looks to become a top-10 pick in June. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.