The 2019 offseason, then, is very much on, with Thursday's draft set to kick it into high gear.
This should be a fascinating talent grab. It's top-heavy in the sense that Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett have seemingly solidified themselves as the top three prospects in the class. But it's also deep in that teams might not see much difference between late-lottery prospects and those on (or even just outside) the first-round bubble.
After laying out our latest mock first round, we'll spotlight three potential prospect/team pairings the lottery could produce.
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. New Orleans Pelicans (via Los Angeles Lakers): Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: De'Andre Hunter, SF/PF, Virginia
6. Phoenix Suns: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
7. Chicago Bulls: Coby White, PG/SG, North Carolina
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. Atlanta Hawks (via 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
Knicks Nab Barrett for Featured (or Support) Scoring
This summer is off to a seemingly ominous start for the New York Knicks. The bridge to Zion crumbled at the draft lottery. A ruptured Achilles struck down top free-agent target Kevin Durant during the Finals. An Anthony Davis deal went down without them. The nearby Brooklyn Nets may have leapfrogged them in the Kyrie Irving sweepstakes.
An offseason full of potential is now shrouded in uncertainty, which won't make it easy to nail down specific draft needs. Luckily, RJ Barrett has enough talent to either handle a starring role for a youthful team or fill a supporting one alongside imported stars.
The 6'7" swingman looks about as close to the total package as a 19-year-old can. He was the go-to scoring option on a stacked Duke team and sometimes its top playmaker, too. He cleared the 20-point mark in 26 of his 38 outings and only twice finished with fewer than 13 points.
He must improve his shot selection and decision-making, but that's true of basically every pro prospect his age. His scoring arsenal is deep enough he could take the lead in a lengthy rebuilding project, but if the Knicks' summer luck turns around, he'd still make an impact as a sniper, slasher and secondary table-setter.
Suns Snag Point Guard of Present and Future
Back in 2015, scouts questioned Devin Booker's ability to create shots for himself and his teammates. This past season, he tossed over 200 more assists than anyone else on the Phoenix Suns. His 6.8 per game ranked 14th in the league.
That says something about Booker's offensive growth. It says a lot more about Phoenix's dire need at the point guard position, where it watched rookies Elie Okobo and De'Anthony Melton make double-digit starts despite posting single-digit player efficiency ratings (league average is 15.0).
If the top five picks break down as we've projected above, the Suns should pounce on Darius Garland. He might be unproven since a torn meniscus ended his freshman season during his fifth collegiate outing, but his off-the-dribble scoring ability might give him the highest ceiling outside of the top three.
He has tight enough handles to ditch defenders, and he's a threat to fire from almost anywhere. Even if he's limited as a passer, the Suns could have quite the three-headed scoring monster on their hands with Garland, Booker and Deandre Ayton.
Hawks Bet on Porter's Upside
One year after guessing (correctly) Trae Young's reward would outweigh his risk, the Atlanta Hawks might consider doing the same with Kevin Porter Jr.
To be clear, Young and Porter couldn't be much different as prospects. The former had incredible statistics, but his physical limitations threatened his upside; the latter looks the part of a budding star with NBA size and explosiveness, but he barely made a dent on a bad USC team. Hampered by quad and ankle injuries, plus an in-season suspension, the 6'6", 213-pounder averaged just 9.5 points in 22.1 minutes across 21 contests.
Yet, Porter's ceiling is high enough to interest teams inside the top 10.
"He has the gifts to be a top-five pick—easily," an executive told Stadium and The Athletic's Shams Charania.
Porter has star potential, although opinions will differ widely on his chances of ever realizing it. The Hawks have enough draft capital to throw the dart and hope to hit the bull's-eye.
Guess right again, and they could have another perimeter shot-creator with shifty handles, promising vision and loads of versatility on defense.