NBA Mock Draft 2019: Predictions for Where Coveted 1st-Round Prospects Will Land

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 1, 2019

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 14: NBA Draft Prospect, Zion Williamson poses for a portrait at the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery on May 14, 2019 at the Chicago Hilton in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Sherman/Getty Images

In less than three weeks, reinforcements will arrive to many of the NBA teams who need them most.

The 2019 draft is coming and with it, a wave of optimism will soon wash over the 2018-19 season's cellar-dwellers. While there might not be a Zion Williamson or Ja Morant for everyone, there are prospects at each position offering upside, safety orin the best casesa little of both.

After running through our updated mock first round, we'll look at the possible team fits for our first three picks.


2019 NBA Mock Draft

1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, PF/C, Duke

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

3. New York Knicks: RJ Barrett, SG/SF, Duke

4. Los Angeles Lakers: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Cam Reddish, SG/SF, Duke

6. Phoenix Suns: Coby White, PG/SG, North Carolina

7. Chicago Bulls: De'Andre Hunter, SF/PF, Virginia

8. Atlanta Hawks: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech

9. Washington Wizards: Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas

10. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas Mavericks)Bol Bol, C, Oregon

11. Minnesota Timberwolves: Sekou Doumbouya, SF/PF, France

12. Charlotte Hornets: PJ Washington, PF/C, Kentucky

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

14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento Kings): Nassir Little, SF/PF, North Carolina

15. Detroit Pistons: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana

16. Orlando Magic: Keldon Johnson, SG/SF, Kentucky

17. Brooklyn Nets: Goga Bitadze, C, Georgia

18. Indiana Pacers: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky

19. San Antonio Spurs: Brandon Clarke, PF/C, Gonzaga

20. Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers): Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga

21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington

22. Boston Celtics: Mfiondu Kabengele, PF/C, Florida State

23. Utah Jazz: Talen Horton-Tucker, SG/SF, Iowa State

24. Philadelphia 76ers: Cameron Johnson, SF, North Carolina

25. Portland Trail Blazers: Luka Samanic, PF, Croatia

26. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Houston Rockets): Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech

27. Brooklyn Nets (via Denver Nuggets): Chuma Okeke, PF, Auburn

28. Golden State Warriors: Ty Jerome, PG/SG, Virginia

29. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto Raptors): KZ Okpala, SF/PF, Stanford

30. Milwaukee Bucks: Isaiah Roby, PF/C, Nebraska


Zion Williamson in New Orleans

As soon as Anthony Davis voiced his desire for a scenery change ahead of the trade deadline, the Pelicans' need for a new franchise face was glaring. That hasn't changed, despite New Orleans' lottery luck and a face-to-face chat with new executive vice president David Griffin.

Luckily, Williamson looks like the perfect fit.

He's as marketable as any prospect since LeBron James and maybe the most physically gifted, too. He plays such an aesthetically pleasing brand of above-the-rim basketball and has the skills to back up his towering draft stock. His 40.8 player efficiency rating was the highest among all qualified players in at least the past decade.

Williamson's game shouldn't be difficult to build around, which helps since New Orleans has plenty of post-AD building to do. His open-court theatrics should shine under head coach Alvin Gentry, and if the Pellies opt to keep Jrue Holiday, the 18-year-old should quickly become a dream pick-and-roll partner for the combo guard.


Ja Morant in Memphis

From grit-and-grind to get-up-and-go? The Grizzlies are overdue for a rebranding, and this might be the summer that delivers it.

Whereas Mike Conley and Marc Gasol would drag their opponents through the mud, Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. will either speed past them or finish over the top.

It wasn't even halfway through May when word leaked Memphis was "locked in" on Morant, per ESPN's Jonathan Givony. Given the incredible leap the 19-year-old made this past season, that shouldn't be surprising:

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

✔️1st player with 20 PPG and 10 APG in a season (since assists became a stat in 1983-84) ✔️@RacersHoops all-time assists leader ✔️Created 63% of team's points in 2019 NCAA Tournament It's been a heck of a ride for Ja Morant 👏 https://t.co/K3oLzX0U8j

Morant brings the rare combination of elite explosiveness and elite court vision. That package doesn't come around often, but when it does, it's typically attached to an All-Star, like Russell Westbrook or John Wall.

If Jackson realizes his own All-Star potential, Memphis might have the backbone of a future powerhouse.

"If you look at the way he played, with a lot of excitement, passion and toughness, this is what we need," Grizzlies director of player support Elliott Perry said of Morant, per The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears. "You pair him with J.J. [Jaren Jackson] and you got two young guys with our franchise that we can build around."


RJ Barrett in New York

This might be the first selection that doesn't seem set in stone. Multiple sources told Givony the Knicks "have been considering a number of alternative scenarios with the No. 3 pick that don't involve Barrett."

That could mean packaging the pick with other pieces in a Davis blockbuster. But it might also mean moving back for support pieces who could complement a star free agent or two, should New York strike it rich this summer. Barrett's scoring and ball skills might not be the most useful tools to put around, say, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Still, the Knicks should keep this simple. They have the third pick, and they should spend it on the third-best prospect, which Barrett is by a comfortable margin.

His decision-making and shooting must mature, but his size and scoring versatility are NBA-ready right now. That's no minor statement to make about an 18-year-old.

Looking at New York's young nucleus, it has a clear opening for Barrett to step in and seize control of the offense. If he hits his ceiling, he could be the alpha leader who eventually guides this group to the postseason.