2019 NBA Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions for Most Intriguing Prospects

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMay 19, 2019

Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver (23) shoots past Buffalo's Nick Perkins (33) during the second half of a second round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament Sunday, March 24, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla. Texas Tech won 78-58. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

The majority of the buzz generated by the 2019 NBA draft has come from the players at the top of the draft class. 

Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett are likely going to be the top three selections in that order based on the majority of mock drafts that are out there. 

While those players deserve all the praise they get, there are a few other intriguing prospects who could land in the top 10 picks. 

A national champion and a player who stole the spotlight during the NCAA men's basketball tournament are just two of the intriguing prospects who will land in the tier beneath the top three but could still make an immediate impact in the NBA. 

                          

2019 NBA 1st-Round Mock Draft

1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, F, Duke

2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant, G, Murray State

3. New York Knicks: RJ Barrett, F, Duke

4. Los Angeles Lakers: Jarrett Culver, G, Texas Tech 

5. Cleveland Cavaliers: DeAndre Hunter, F, Virginia

6. Phoenix Suns: Darius Garland, G, Vanderbilt

7. Chicago Bulls: Coby White, G, North Carolina

8. Atlanta Hawks: Cam Reddish, F, Duke

9. Washington Wizards: Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas

10. Atlanta Hawks (from Dallas): Brandon Clarke, F, Gonzaga

11. Minnesota Timberwolves: Sekou Doumbouya, F, France

12. Charlotte Hornets: Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga

13. Miami Heat: Kevin Porter Jr., G, USC 

14. Boston Celtics (from Sacramento): PJ Washington, F, Kentucky

15. Detroit Pistons: Nassir Little, F, North Carolina

16. Orlando Magic: Romeo Langford, G, Indiana

17. Brooklyn Nets: Bol Bol, C, Oregon

18. Indiana Pacers: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech 

19. San Antonio Spurs: Goga Bitadze, C, Republic of Georgia

20. Boston Celtics (from Los Angeles Clippers): Tyler Herro, G, Kentucky

21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Grant Williams, F, Tennessee

22. Boston Celtics: Chuma Okeke, F, Auburn

23. Utah Jazz: Keldon Johnson, G, Kentucky

24. Philadelphia 76ers: Matisse Thybulle, G, Washington

25. Portland Trail Blazers: Cameron Johnson, F, North Carolina

26. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Houston): Ty Jerome, G, Virginia

27. Brooklyn Nets (from Denver): Talen Horton-Tucker, F, Iowa State

28. Golden State Warriors: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland

29. San Antonio Spurs (from Toronto): Luguentz Dort, G, Arizona State

30. Milwaukee Bucks: KZ Okpala, F, Stanford 

                   

Most Intriguing Prospects

Zion Williamson

The list of most intriguing NBA draft prospects could start and finish with Williamson. 

Richard Shiro/Associated Press

The Duke freshman is the talk of the draft because of the incredible athleticism he displayed on both sides of the floor in his one collegiate season. 

Williamson will be a game-changer on and off the court for the New Orleans Pelicans. 

The projected No. 1 pick will immediately upgrade the Pelicans roster, even if Anthony Davis has been traded by the start of the regular season. 

Williamson's presence should also put more people in the seats at Smoothie King Center. The South Carolina native is dynamic with the ball and getting to the hoop, while his athleticism makes him a blocking threat on most shots.

Although he is the best prospect in the draft, Williamson still needs to polish his game so he can become an all-around superstar in the NBA. 

He needs to work on his three-point shot (33.8 percent in college) to fit in with the style of the league, and he needs to manage his body.

Williamson was listed on Duke's roster at 285 pounds. In order to preserve his knees for the long term, it would be wise for him to slim down a bit so he can be a 30-plus-minute player right away. 

                 

De'Andre Hunter

An argument can be made that De'Andre Hunter's defensive prowess makes him the most valuable player outside of the top three. 

Sean Rayford/Associated Press

Hunter would have been a lottery selection a year ago, but he suffered an injury right before Virginia's NCAA tournament loss to UMBC.

He polished his game throughout his sophomore season at Virginia, increasing his scoring total by six points per game

Once the top three picks are off the board, the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers should seriously consider Hunter. 

Adding a strong defender with an improving offensive game would be a boost to the Lakers' depth, while the Cavs would welcome a stout defensive player as the latest piece of their rebuild. 

According to NBA.com's Eric Fawcett, there is not a bad fit in the NBA for Hunter because of his athleticism and ability to fill most roles on the floor. 

While anyone would love to play alongside LeBron James, Hunter's best fit could be in Cleveland, where he would be almost guaranteed of a spot in the starting lineup to develop his game on the floor every night. 

In Los Angeles, Hunter could get stuck in the rotation behind Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram as he tries to refine his game at the professional level. 

                     

Jarrett Culver

Jarrett Culver's six double-digit performances during Texas Tech's run to the national championship game reinforced his status as a lottery pick. 

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

The sophomore guard is one of the best shooters in the class, and there is a decent chance he will land with the Lakers or Cavs. 

But Culver could fall to the Phoenix Suns at No. 6, which is where ESPN.com's Jonathan Givony had him landing in a post-lottery mock draft.

Givony noted Culver's versatility in the backcourt and activity on the boards and on defense as standout qualities. 

The thing Culver needs to improve on the most is his shot selection. Although he made 46.1 percent from the field in the 2018-19 season, he shot below 30 percent in his final three NCAA tournament games. 

Culver's draft fate will be linked with what the Lakers decide to do with the fourth overall pick. 

If the Lakers want to add depth at point guard with Vanderbilt's Darius Garland, Culver could be passed up by the Cavs as they try to improve their defense with Hunter. However, Los Angeles could select Culver at No. 4 to reinforce its backcourt depth.

                        

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

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