NBA Draft 2019: Mock Draft Projections for Safest Lottery Prospects

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2019

Virginia guard De'Andre Hunter walks on the court in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Maryland, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

The NBA draft is not simply a celebration of college basketball prospects entering the pros. It's also a measure of risk tolerance.

Some executives and scouts prefer the "high-risk, high-reward" type of prospect. Others are comfortable with a player who better fits a "low-ceiling, high-floor" label. Some eye a proven shooter, but others lean toward a top-tier defender.

Consequently, one scouting report could be dramatically different than the one written by the person sitting in the next chair.

For this piece, a safe prospect is one projected to secure a place in an NBA rotation for several yearseven if he never develops into a star. Three such players are highlighted after a mock draft.

                

2019 NBA Mock Draft

1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, F, Duke
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
3. New York Knicks: RJ Barrett, G, Duke
4. Los Angeles Lakers: Jarrett Culver, G, Texas Tech
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: De'Andre 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: Sekou Doumbouya, F, France
10. Atlanta Hawks (from DAL): Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
11. Minnesota Timberwolves: Bol Bol, C, Oregon
12. Charlotte Hornets: Romeo Langford, G, Indiana
13. Miami Heat: Kevin Porter Jr., G, USC
14. Boston Celtics (from SAC): Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga
15. Detroit Pistons: PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky
16. Orlando Magic: Nassir Little, SF, North Carolina
17. Brooklyn Nets: Goga Bitadze, C, Rep. of Georgia
18. Indiana Pacers: Tyler Herro, G, Kentucky
19. San Antonio Spurs: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland
20. Boston Celtics (from LAC): Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Johnson, F, North Carolina
22. Boston Celtics: Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky
23. Utah Jazz: Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga
24. Philadelphia 76ers: Ty Jerome, G, Virginia
25. Portland Trail Blazers: Grant Williams, F, Tennessee
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (from HOU): KZ Okpala, F, Stanford
27. Brooklyn Nets (from DEN): Mfiondu Kabengele, PF/C, Florida State
28. Golden State Warriors: Talen Horton-Tucker, SG/SF, Iowa State
29. San Antonio Spurs (from TOR): Chuma Okeke, F, Auburn
30. Milwaukee Bucks: Matisse Thybulle, F, Washington

                

Zion Williamson, Duke

Will his jumper be acceptable? Does he gamble too much defensively? Which position will he guard?

Although each of those questions is reasonable, the simple answer is Zion Williamson's strengths far outweigh his weaknesses. His combination of physicality, explosiveness and instincts are rare, and it's what suggests a long NBA career awaits Zion.

If you have doubts about his projected path to superstardom, that can be justified. Developing into an elite NBA player usually means having shooting range.

But even if Zion falls short of the enormous praise hovering around him, the New Orleans Pelicans know they are drafting a versatile forward. Williamson is highly effective off the dribble in both isolation and pick-and-roll sets. He's a force on the glass and will create second chances for his team.

While the consistency of his defensive effort must improve in the NBA, Zion has a long professional future ahead of him.

             

Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Jarrett Culver contributed in many ways for Texas Tech, the co-Big 12 champion and national runner-up in the 2019 NCAA men's tournament. He averaged 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.5 blocks and 0.6 blocks as the focal point of the Red Raiders.

Still, his evaluation isn't so simple.

"The concern for NBA teams is what he will do in a smaller role where everything doesn't revolve around him," said Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. "He doesn't have one standout offensive skill."

Culver shot 30.4 percent from three-point range and 70.7 percent at the free-throw line. But for those who believe in his potential, the rapid defense is a miscast role. Culver will be a complementary scorer in the NBAno longer the primary playmaker.

Plus, a smaller share of touches will allow Culver to showcase his off-ball savvy and improving spot-up efficiency. That should also help Culver progress defensively, where he's already showed high awareness to go with superb length.

The concerns are understandable and may prevent him from reaching an All-Star level, but Culver's versatility will translate.

               

De'Andre Hunter, Virginia

De'Andre Hunter keeps moving in the right direction.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett elected to redshirt Hunter in 2016-17, but the small forward made a major impact the following season. Hunter averaged 9.2 points and won ACC Sixth Man of the Year. Then in 2018-19, he secured First Team All-ACC recognition alongside conference and national defensive player of the year awards.

Oh, and last season, he connected on 43.8 percent of his threes. NBA teams love a promising 3-and-D talent.

Since he's capable of guarding four positions, Hunter is an ideal small-ball 4. Though not an elite athlete compared to his draft classmates, his lateral quickness, length and intelligence make for a steady defender who can be trusted when switching.

As long as Hunter remains an off-ball shooting threat, he will provide a diverse and coveted skill set.

               

Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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