NBA Mock Draft 2019: 1st-Round Predictions and Top Fringe Prospects to Know

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 15, 2019

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 29: Chuma Okeke #5 of the Auburn Tigers drives to the basket against Luke Maye #32 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

While the entire NBA draft is a glorified guessing game, the back end of the first round might best magnify its unpredictability.

Foundational pieces are found in this range more often than you'd think. In just the past three drafts, the final five selections of the opening round have included Pascal Siakam, Kyle Kuzma, Dejounte Murray, Landry Shamet and Derrick White.

But whiffing in this range can mean a first-round pick doesn't even net a rotation player. Tony Bradley, Caleb Swanigan, Furkan Korkmaz, Dzanan Musa and Jacob Evans were all chosen in the same aforementioned range.

While it's never easy to tell which choices will connect and which ones won't, we'll spotlight three fringe-first rounders to know ahead of next Thursday's talent grab.


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: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech

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

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

8. Atlanta Hawks: Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas

9. Washington Wizards: Cam Reddish, SG/SF, Duke

10. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas Mavericks)Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC

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

12. Charlotte Hornets: Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga

13. Miami Heat: Nassir Little, SF/PF, North Carolina

14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento Kings): Brandon Clarke, PF/C, Gonzaga

15. Detroit Pistons: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana

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

17. Brooklyn Nets: Bol Bol, C, Oregon

18. Indiana Pacers: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky

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

20. Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers): Talen Horton-Tucker, SG/SF, Iowa State

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

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

23. Utah Jazz: PJ Washington, PF/C, Kentucky

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: Nicolas Claxton, PF/C, Georgia


Top Fringe First-Round Prospects

Chuma Okeke, PF, Auburn

The impact of Okeke's March ACL tear is open for interpretation.

Given the length and scope of his rehab ahead, some clubs will be cautious to the point of effectively removing him from consideration. They may not take him off their board entirely, but they'll slot him so low that there's little to no chance he'd still be around.

Other clubs could approach this as a buy-low opportunity. Assuming he's expected to make a full recovery, they feel this only briefly pauses what could be a long NBA career. Prior to the setback, he was coming into his own as a possible three-and-D ace with high marks for instincts and hustle.

"Okeke (6'8", 230 lbs) has a smooth three-ball, expanding scoring versatility and impressive defensive range in terms of one-on-one coverage, switching and making reads," Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman wrote.


Ty Jerome, PG/SG, Virginia

Upside-shoppers won't give Jerome a long look. He lacks the burst and off-the-bounce scoring punch to consistently create his own looks, and his athletic limitations could hurt him in certain defensive matchups.

But for those coveting a plug-and-play support piece, he's an NBA-ready shooter and table-setter right now.

Interior finishing could always be an issue, and it played a big part in his underwhelming career 43.5 field-goal percentage. His three-ball is smooth (career 39.2 percent), and he keeps defenders off balance by constantly relocating around the arc. He has the vision and precision to find spot-up shooters and off-ball cutters, and his sharp decision-making yielded nearly three times as many assists (career 3.7) as turnovers (1.4).

The soon-to-be 22-year-old isn't for everyone. Long-term rebuilders' lack of interest could be a contender's gain, though. The Ringer says Jerome has shades of another UVA alumnus, Malcolm Brogdon, who went 36th in the 2016 draft and wound up capturing that season's Rookie of the Year award.


Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue

Not everyone will look at Edwards and see a first-rounder. We didn't.

While he has some really interesting traits (which we'll get to in a second), there are one too many concerns for him to crack our top 30. Any 6'0" guard carries inherent defensive question marks, and he's no different.

Where he does stand apart from most players his height, though, is a glaring lack of playmaking. He averaged an anemic 3.4 assists per 40 minutes for his career, barely more than his 3.0 assists.

There isn't much of a market for 6'0" scoring guards, but the one that exists will be all over Edwards. He's an elite scorer (24.3 points per game as a junior) and a fiery outside shooter (281 triples in 108 collegiate contests).

His Human Torch showing at the NCAA Tournament—139 points, 28 triples in four games—showed how electric he can be with the ball in his hands. Any team in need of a microwave scorer surely took note.

"It's been no secret what he's capable of," SI.com's Jeremy Woo wrote, "and after two seasons as the catalyst for overachieving Purdue teams, it's pretty clear that the attention he draws and the points he can put up quickly add real value."