The Toronto Raptors defied common team-building convention by winning the NBA Finals without a single lottery selection. While this development offers encouragement for playoff squads and the 29 teams missing out on Duke's Zion Williamson, it's ultimately a difficult blueprint to replicate.
Framed as a three-man draft, the 2019 class does not feature players with franchise-altering potential beyond Williamson, Ja Morant, and RJ Barrett. Barring any trades or injuries, those prospects should get called in that order to start Thursday's selection process at the Barclays Center.
After that, the opening round quickly gets interesting. The pick that could alter the entire evening also changed hands Saturday. As first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Los Angeles Lakers will trade their No. 4 selection to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of a monumental package (Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and two additional future first-rounders) for Anthony Davis.
This draft isn't lauded for its depth, but someone will likely wind up making a significant impact beyond the main attractions. Let's examine some of those candidates after breaking down the latest Round 1 mock draft.
2019 NBA 1st-Round Mock Draft
1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, PF, Duke
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
3. New York Knicks: RJ Barrett, SF, Duke
4. New Orleans Pelicans (via Los Angeles Lakers): De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
6. Phoenix Suns: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
7. Chicago Bulls: Coby White, PG, North Carolina
8. Atlanta Hawks: Cam Reddish, SG, Duke
9. Washington Wizards: Nassir Little, SF, North Carolina
10. Atlanta Hawks (from Dallas): Jaxson Hayes, PF/C, Texas
11. Minnesota Timberwolves: Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga
12. Charlotte Hornets: Sekou Doumbouya, SF, France
13. Miami Heat: Rui Hachimura, SF/PF, Gonzaga
14. Boston Celtics (from Sacramento): Keldon Johnson, SG, Kentucky
15. Detroit Pistons: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
16. Orlando Magic: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech
17. Atlanta Hawks (from Brooklyn): PJ Washington, SF, Kentucky
18. Indiana Pacers: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC
19. San Antonio Spurs: Goga Bitadze, C, Republic of Georgia
20. Boston Celtics (from Los Angeles Clippers): Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky
22. Boston Celtics: Bol Bol, C, Oregon
23. Utah Jazz: Cameron Johnson, SF, North Carolina
24. Philadelphia 76ers: Ty Jerome, PG, Virginia
25. Portland Trail Blazers: Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Houston): Nic Claxton, C, Georgia
27. Brooklyn Nets (from Denver): Luka Samanic, PF, Croatia
28. Golden State Warriors: Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue
29. San Antonio Spurs (from Toronto): KZ Okpala, PF, Stanford
30. Milwaukee Bucks: Mfiondu Kabengele, C, Florida State
De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia
In most years, a team would love to snag a polished talent like De'Andre Hunter in the latter half of the lottery. The 6'7" wing player brings tremendous defensive savvy to the table, and he bolstered his stock by producing 27 points—his highest tally in two years at Virginia—during the national championship game.
His profile, however, may feel a bit underwhelming coming from a top-five pick.
Set to turn 22 this December, he's older than most top-flight prospects. Despite making strides in his deep shooting as a sophomore, he won't necessarily make a demonstrative shooting impact at the next level.
The upside is limited, but the two-way standout is also more refined than his contemporaries. Hunter possesses what Cavs.com's Joe Gabriele described as a "mature game." There are few true holes to poke in his arsenal, which bodes well for his future as a dependable NBA starter.
Had the Lakers held on to the pick, Hunter would have represented an immediate fit to help the inspiring contender. While the Pelicans won't have 2019-20 title aspirations in mind, they should also love how he balances their depth chart alongside Williamson and Jrue Holiday.
Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
Perhaps Jarrett Culver goes fourth if Hunter hadn't outshined him in the NCAA title bout. The aggressive guard offers more scoring potential after posting 18.5 points per game for Texas Tech last season.
The 20-year-old might also still possess somewhat of an unheralded skill set. Sports Illustrated's Jeremy Woo broke down the encouraging aspects of his game.
"There's an intuitive yet unflashy quality to his game on both sides of the ball that's extremely appealing, and his size and developing handle profile nicely as an off-guard and secondary playmaker," Woo wrote. "He's an instinctive finisher, plays an unselfish style, and should be able to fit in with a variety of lineups and systems."
He also, however, noted Culver's shooting struggles, particularly off the dribble. Culver made just 30.4 percent of his three-point attempts for the Red Raiders as a sophomore, a dismal rate that simply won't do for an NBA guard. His set jumper is at least smooth enough to project progress:
Given his strong rebounding, defense and mid-range scoring, the 6'5" prospect could be a deep shot away from reaching All-Star heights. According to SNY's Ian Begley, he also has some supporters in the New York Knicks front office who are "enamored" with Culver. That makes him the biggest threat to leapfrog Barett, but it's more likely he goes in the Nos. 4-6 range.
The retooling Cleveland Cavaliers need everything, so they might as well pick the best available player who can do it all.
Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
The Cavaliers drafted point guard Collin Sexton with the No. 8 pick last year, and the Pelicans have an established starter in Holiday as well as the 21-year-old Ball. The Phoenix Suns, meanwhile, could use a floor general to run the court alongside Devin Booker.
Morant would have made a perfect addition, but the lottery did not cooperate. They at least may have an opportunity to welcome Darius Garland to the roster.
The odds of him lasting to Phoenix increased once the Lakers shipped the pick to New Orleans. Like James, the Vanderbilt prospect is represented by Klutch Sports. Last week, he posted a video of a workout with the Lakers superstar on Instagram.
The Suns no longer need to worry about that connection swaying the Lakers' draft room.
Taking the 19-year-old over Hunter or Culver is an aggressive choice, especially since a meniscus injury limited him to just five games with the Commodores. His ball-handling and scoring potential are tantalizing, but there's an even thicker layer of mystery after he skipped the NBA combine.
This uncertainty is enough for the Pelicans and Cavs to pass in this mock. The Suns, on the other hand, are better positioned to swing for the fences. If Garland harnesses his skills in the pros, he could form a lethal, well-rounded trio with Booker and big man Deandre Ayton.