2019 NBA Mock Draft: Predicting 1st-Round Results Post-NCAA Tournament
The end of the NCAA tournament signifies the start of the NBA pre-draft process.
Scouts should be able to take plenty away from a national title game that had two top-10 prospects match up. It's possible the results of the battle between Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver and Virginia's De'Andre Hunter led to movement on draft boards following the Cavaliers' overtime win to secure the championship.
Prospects now begin training and gathering information. Some have already announced their intent to declare or go back to school. Duke's Tre Jones made the first surprising decision by choosing to return.
The next big opportunity for players to improve their stock will be at the NBA combine in May. The draft lottery will take place around the same time on May 14.
1. New York Knicks: Zion Williamson (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)
The New York Knicks clinched the NBA's worst record, so they'll have a 14.0 percent chance of winning the lottery just like the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers. The worst record just means they can't fall below No. 5 overall.
If New York does land the No. 1 pick, the biggest question for president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry won't be who to take. It will instead be whether to offer the selection in a deal for Anthony Davis. The New Orleans Pelicans might be more inclined to accept a proposal that includes Zion Williamson, who officially declared for the draft Monday, than one from the Los Angeles Lakers featuring a handful of young players.
The Knicks may instead be wise to keep the pick, draft 18-year-old Williamson and maintain the cap room for multiple star free agents.
2. Phoenix Suns: Ja Morant (Murray State, PG, Sophomore)
Unless the Phoenix Suns can trade the No. 2 pick for a star-caliber point guard or forward, Ja Morant is the most likely target given the hole he plugs and the upside tied to his explosiveness, playmaking and scoring potential.
They'll look hard at RJ Barrett, as well. But it would be difficult to pass on the nation's assist leader when the Suns are starting Elie Okobo and already have wings Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson, TJ Warren and possibly impending free agent Kelly Oubre Jr.
Morant could take pressure off Booker and help create easier shots for an offense that hasn't clicked despite the presence of talented pieces in the lineup.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: RJ Barrett (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)
With Williamson and Morant off the board, the Cleveland Cavaliers could be quick to make their selection.
After he averaged 22.6 points during his freshman season, Barrett, who's still 18, remains ahead of Jarret Culver on most scouts' boards.
He'd give the Cavaliers a wing scorer to build around between Collin Sexton and Kevin Love. And despite receiving early criticism for some tunnel vision, he made adjustments over the final six weeks and dished out 5.4 assists per game from Feb. 16 through the end of Duke's season.
However, Barrett will need to make further adjustments, as he leans heavily on instincts and improvisation over skill when creating his own shot and finishing.
4. Chicago Bulls: Darius Garland (Vanderbilt, PG, Freshman)
Looking to upgrade from Kris Dunn, the Chicago Bulls could point their search toward Darius Garland. He'll use workouts to restore his credibility and draft stock after he tore his meniscus during the fifth game of the season.
Not including the contest against Kent State in which he suffered the year-ending injury, he averaged 19.8 points on 11-of-23 shooting from three, teasing scouts with shifty ball-handling and advanced shot-making off the catch and dribble.
His ability to run an offense will be tougher to assess. But given his size (6'2"), quickness and obviously high skill level, Chicago may want to take its chances. Drafting any non-point guards would likely mean using a top-five pick on a bench player since Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. are presumably locked in as starters.
5. Atlanta Hawks: De'Andre Hunter (Virginia, SF/PF, Sophomore)
De'Andre Hunter made his case as the draft's top wing defender by helping hold Jarrett Culver to 5-of-22 shooting in the national title game. Texas Tech's top scorer struggled to create any separation against the 6'7", 225-pound hybrid forward.
Hunter came alive offensively in the second half and overtime with four three-pointers and a few tough buckets around the basket. It turned into his best offensive performance since arriving at Virginia, and he finished with a career-high 27 points.
Not much about Hunter's game or creativity is flashy. But the Atlanta Hawks could value his high floor and fit as a three-and-D combo forward. He could play the 4 with John Collins at the 5, or Atlanta could use Hunter as a perimeter stopper at the 3.
6. Washington Wizards: Cam Reddish (Duke, SF, Freshman)
Cam Reddish lost supporters during the season, but he's bound to win some back in workouts that allow his ball-handling and shooting to shine while hiding his inconsistent impact and poor finishing in traffic.
From a draft-stock perspective, he benefits from a lack of standout alternative options for a team like the Washington Wizards that selects outside the top five.
Almost all outfits could use additional talent on the wing, and Reddish's shot-making and defensive potential suggest his floor is high even after an inefficient season at Duke.
7. Memphis Grizzlies: Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech, SG, Sophomore)
Jarrett Culver might have dropped a few spots on NBA draft boards after he shot a combined 8-of-34 against Michigan State and Virginia. Most notably, he struggled to create separation against Hunter—an NBA-caliber defender in terms of size, length and quickness.
Culver still took a significant step forward as an NBA prospect this season, improving his off-the-dribble scoring and playmaking. He evolved from a one-dimensional spot-up player into a star through whom Texas Tech ran its offense.
NBA coaches may need to work on Culver's shooting form to improve his release time and fluidity. But between his physical tools, driving, passing, versatile shot-making and defense, he has enough potential strengths to justify top-10 interest.
8. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas Mavericks): Jaxson Hayes (Texas, C, Freshman)
After looking at wings and forwards with their own pick at No. 5, the Atlanta Hawks could use the Dallas Mavericks' selection on a big.
Jaxson Hayes would add rim protection behind Trae Young and John Collins, as well as another easy-basket target for Young to find off pick-and-rolls and penetration.
Still 18 years old, Hayes shot 72.8 percent from the field while averaging 3.8 blocks per 40 minutes. Though limited offensively, he should continue to excel by playing to his strengths as a rim-runner, finisher and defensive presence.
9. New Orleans Pelicans: Coby White (North Carolina, PG/SG, Freshman)
The New Orleans Pelicans' roster could look a whole lot different once management completes an Anthony Davis trade. Until then, the team will only focus on the best player available at No. 9, which could be combo guard Coby White after he averaged 16.1 points and 4.1 assists.
His backcourt versatility also creates flexibility when re-building.
In the meantime, the 6'5" freshman could play on or off ball next to Jrue Holiday, given his size, ball-handling and spot-up shooting ability (47.8 percent, per Synergy Sports).
White, who's already an effective pick-and-roll passer, would ideally develop into a scoring point guard who could initiate New Orleans' offense and give it some extra speed. The Pelicans coaching staff may just have to hide or improve his defense.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves: PJ Washington (Kentucky, PF/C, Sophomore)
Despite the disappointing loss to Auburn, PJ Washington helped himself with 28 points and 13 rebounds.
That performance capped off a breakout season that saw the sophomore develop into a decisive post scorer, threatening shooter (33 threes) and tougher presence under the boards. Washington's inside-out versatility, physical tools and improved mobility should help him fit with most frontcourts, including Minnesota's alongside Karl-Anthony Towns.
He comes off as more of a low-risk option than one with All-Star potential. But at No. 10 overall in this particular draft, the Wolves could value certainty over upside.
11. Los Angeles Lakers: Bol Bol (Oregon, C, Freshman)
Given the possibility of the Los Angels Lakers roster changing dramatically via trade or free agency, the front office won't take fit or need into account. Bol Bol could have too much upside for general manager Rob Pelinka to pass here, especially considering who's left on the board at No. 11.
His fractured foot will have to check out in both the medical reports and workouts. But Bol has the chance to wow in one-on-none settings with ball skills, effortless shooting range and unique fluidity for a 7'2" freshman.
The Lakers could see this as a chance to buy low on a player likely to slip based on durability and physicality concerns. The potential reward could be worth the risk of drafting Bol, who was averaging 21.0 points and shooting 13-of-25 from three before the injury.
12. Charlotte Hornets: Kevin Porter Jr. (USC, SG, Freshman)
After coming off the bench and playing a secondary role to USC's veterans, Kevin Porter Jr. must be salivating at the chance to make an impression during workouts. They're designed for players like him who weren't great fits for the college game or on their specific rosters.
He's a candidate to rise in May and June with athleticism, handles and versatile shot-making ability that can shine in the workout setting.
Drafting Porter this high just means overlooking his limited impact, questionable shot selection and effort, chalking that up to being young and in a tough spot at USC.
13. Miami Heat: Romeo Langford (Indiana, SG, Freshman)
Romeo Langford has the chance to ease concerns during workouts in which teams will be eager to study his shooting form and performance from beyond the arc (27.2 percent). He'd apparently been playing with a torn ligament in his thumb since November, which he's getting surgically repaired this week, per ESPN's Jonathan Givony.
All things considered, teams could take a lot away from Langford's pre-draft workouts.
The 6'6" 2-guard impressed during the year with his ability to create shots in the mid-range and finish around the basket with a solid runner and deep layup package. He flashed three-level scoring potential while averaging 16.5 points.
Indiana only won eight regular-season conference games, however, so much of his production was empty. Certain teams could also be turned off by his laid-back approach.
14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento Kings): Goga Bitadze (Georgia, C, 1999)
Between the newfound consistency and expanded shooting range, Goga Bitadze's breakout year could carry him into the 2019 lottery.
The 19-year-old center finished Euroleague with averages of 12.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 24.2 minutes. Including games in the Adriatic League, where he's been dominant, he's made a combined 21 of his 55 three-pointers, demonstrating fluidity and touch that looks highly convincing at his age.
Teams will be most concerned about his defensive transition, as Bitadze lacks the lateral quickness that's useful to switch and guard in space. But for a mobile, 6'11" teenager, his offensive development and impact overseas have become too compelling to overlook.
15. Detroit Pistons: Sekou Doumbouya (France, SF/PF, 2000)
The Pistons could value potential over production with Doumbouya—an 18-year-old prospect who already has the NBA foundation (6'9", 230 lbs) and athleticism to defend multiple spots and finish. He only plays 16 minutes per game in France's top division, but he's flashed enough shooting touch, driving and cutting ability. He'll still be 21 after three full NBA seasons.
16. Brooklyn Nets: Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga, PF, Junior)
Clarke averaged 20.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.8 blocks through four NCAA tournament games, further strengthening his case as a potential lottery pick. He won't win over every front office as a 22-year-old with a limited offensive game. But the Nets, now a playoff team, could value his motor and athleticism in an energy role right away.
17. Orlando Magic: Keldon Johnson (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
Johnson's appeal began fading over the final months of the season when he was making fewer threes—and plays in general—within the half court. However, with 6'6" size, strength and athleticism, he still provides plenty to like with his driving and slashing, advanced runner game, defensive potential and shot-making accuracy (38.1 percent from three).
18. Boston Celtics (via Clippers): Cameron Johnson (North Carolina, SF, Senior)
The Celtics aren't likely to make all their first-round picks (they could have four). Keeping No. 18 could lead them to Johnson—one of the draft's top shooters based on both the numbers (45.7 three-point percentage) and eye test. A win-now team such as Boston shouldn't be overly concerned about drafting a 23-year-old.
19. Indiana Pacers: Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga, PF, Junior)
With averages of 0.4 threes, 6.5 rebounds 1.5 assists and 0.7 blocks, Hachimura lacks a role-player skill set. On the other hand, the athletic 6'8" forward averaged 19.7 points on 60.6 percent shooting from two-point range, and his scoring ability inside the arc should still hold value. He'd give the Pacers a back-to-the-basket option and face-up threat to drive or make the mid-range jumper.
20. San Antonio: Grant Williams (Tennessee, PF, Junior)
A 6'7", 236-pound "big man" without any explosion, Williams doesn't scream upside. But he shouldn't need to at No. 20 overall, where the Spurs can feel good about adding a tough, high-IQ role player. He has shown the ability to create significant separation as a scorer around the key, while his passing, rebounding and defense jump out as translatable, ancillary strengths.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Talen Horton-Tucker (Iowa State, SG/SF, Freshman)
The youngest NCAA prospect expected to be eligible, Horton-Tucker receives a semi-pass for his inconsistent shooting and inefficiency. Instead, the Thunder could be drawn to the flashes of shot-creation, tough shot-making, coordinated finishes and defensive activity for a 238-pound guard with a 7'1" wingspan. NBA coaches will put an emphasis on his improve his body and decision-making early.
22. Boston Celtics: Nassir Little (North Carolina, SF/PF, Freshman)
Little will look better in workouts than he did at North Carolina, assuming he's able to showcase more shooting touch/range. His stock has taken a hit regardless, after he showed limited offensive skill and feel. If he falls to the 20s, it becomes worth valuing his tremendous physical profile and betting on his ball-handling moves and jump shot to improve.
23. Utah Jazz: Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Virginia Tech, PG/SG, Sophomore)
Alexander-Walker's stock took a hit over the final two months as he struggled to finish against quality opponents. He still made notable strides this season, particularly as a playmaker averaging 4.0 assists. After a second season shooting at least 37.0 percent from three, the 6'5" combo guard should have a strong-enough first-round case.
24. Philadelphia 76ers: Tyler Herro (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
Herro cooled off during the NCAA tournament, but the eye test still loves his textbook shooting mechanics and shot-making off movement. He won't offer much as an initiator or creator, but the Sixers can run him off screens and release him early for quick-trigger transition threes.
25. Portland Trail Blazers: Ty Jerome (Virginia, PG/SG, Junior)
After he went for 21 points, nine rebounds and six assists against Auburn, Jerome followed with 16 points, six rebounds and eight assists in the national title game. His athletic and creation limitations are evident, but his combination of 6'5" size, shooting, passing, IQ and toughness spells NBA role player.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Rockets): Mfiondu Kabengele (Florida State, PF/C, Sophomore)
Kabengele caught the attention of scouts during the postseason, and now he'll have an interesting decision to make about declaring for the draft. He's still on the raw side, but 6'10", 250-pound size, improved shooting range and speciality shot-making from the post could be enough to draw first-round interest this upcoming June.
27. Brooklyn Nets (via Nuggets): KZ Okpala (Stanford, SF/PF, Sophomore)
Okpala stands out for his 6'9" positional size and athleticism that create mismatches and defensive versatility. He's a face-up scorer with an improving jumper, though he'll need to fine-tune his shot-creation and off-the-dribble skills until he becomes more consistent shooter.
28. Golden State Warriors: Chuma Okeke (Auburn, PF, Sophomore)
Before tearing his ACL against North Carolina in the Sweet 16, Okeke's draft-stock arrow was pointing up. Unlikely to find a difference-making rookie, the Warriors could look years down the road, past Okeke's recovery, and see a multi-position defender who can stretch the floor and score around the rim.
29. San Antonio Spurs (via Raptors): Matisse Thybulle (Washington, SG/SF, Senior)
Thybulle's 3.5 steals and 2.2 blocks per game pop off the scouting report, and the film shows instincts and anticipation that back up the stats. He's one of the draft's most intriguing defensive prospects who's shooting (career 35.8 percent 3PT) could make or break his NBA potential. The gamble is worth it for San Antonio this late.
30. Milwaukee Bucks: Bruno Fernando (Maryland, C, Sophomore)
Fernando, 6'10", 240 pounds, could give the Bucks an enforcer and finisher around the basket, regardless of how his offensive game improves. But he did make a promising jump in 2018-19, showing better instincts as a passer and defender while flasher sharper counter footwork out of the post.