NBA Mock Draft 2019: Bold Predictions for 1st-Round Prospects

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 18, 2019

Murray State's Ja Morant (12) during the second half of a second round men's college basketball game in the NCAA tournament, Saturday, March 23, 2019, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Jessica Hill/Associated Press

The 2019 NBA draft is close enough that league commissioner Adam Silver has probably started his vocal exercises and pored over his pronunciation guide.

Come Thursday night, 60 hooping hopefuls will have their dreams come true. While their paths will diverge in different directions, they'll all share the same elation for one night.

Of course, basketball junkies are less concerned with that night and more anxious to learn about the (hopefully) many that follow. So, after running through our most recent mock first round, we'll lay out a bold prediction for three of this draft's top prospects.


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


Bold Predictions

Ja Morant Will Be 4th Rookie to Average 9-Plus Assists

Morant's ability to spark viral wildfires is mostly tied to his physical tools. With athleticism likened to guys in the Russell Westbrook/De'Aaron Fox mold, Morant's aerial antics are a sight to behold.

But his future as a floor general is what really solidifies his elite draft stock.

"The electric explosiveness only hints at extra NBA upside," Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman wrote. "But it's his ball skills and passing that help separate Morant, whose identity will be built around his playmaking."

Only three NBA freshmen have ever averaged at least nine assists: Oscar Robertson, Mark Jackson and Damon Stoudamire. Conditions are almost perfect for Morant to be the fourth. He's a brilliant passer (10.0 assists a night last season), he could have the keys to the Grizzlies offense if they move Mike Conley, and Morant's aggressiveness will ensure maximum opportunity to flood the counting categories.


Darius Garland Is Involved in a Trade

Moving past Morant, Garland looks like the next-best point guard in this class.

That probably isn't a consensus opinion, since the latter has such little film on him. Garland tore his meniscus early in his fifth college game and never returned. As impressive as his production looked through four full games (19.8 points, 2.8 triples per game), his only Power Five opponent in that stretch were the sub-.500 USC Trojans.

That said, he's flashed advanced potential as a perimeter shot-creator and, more importantly, perimeter shot-maker. The pull-up three might be the best weapon in today's game, and Garland seems to have it. If he makes it a consistent part of his NBA arsenal, he could transform his team's entire attack.

Teams with a point-guard vacancy can't afford to overlook the chance that he pops. He's reportedly "in serious consideration" for the third overall pick, sources told ESPN.com's Jonathan Givony, while the Timberwolves, Celtics and Bulls are all considering moving up to No. 4 to get him.


Kevin Porter Jr. Is a Top-3 Scorer

Porter's college stat sheet is laughing at this prediction.

Between injuries and a team suspension, the former 5-star recruit never got his one-and-done season going. As mentioned above, the Trojans weren't a good team, and Porter struggled carving his niche. He made just four starts in 21 appearances, averaging 9.5 points in 22.1 minutes per night.

But his skill level suggests he's a star still waiting to shine. He's explosive and shifty, and his scoring moves are advanced for a 19-year-old.

"Porter is capable of things most people simply cannot do with the ball in his hands," SI.com's Jeremy Woo wrote.

Opportunity and stability might be all Porter needs to take flight. If he lands in the right spot⁠—he'd be catching a team on the rise in Atlanta here⁠—he might hit the ground sprinting and emerge as a top-three scorer in a class that looks light on potential primary options.