NBA Mock Draft 2019: 1st-Round Predictions and Top Prospects on the Rise

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 19, 2019

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 14: Darius Garland poses for a portrait at the 2019 NBA Draft Combine 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)
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The 2019 NBA draft takes place Thursday night, and there's still so much to sort out.

Zion Williamson is a lock at No. 1, while Ja Morant is probably dialed in at No. 2. There are no sure things beyond that, just a group of still-fluid draft prospects and a host of possible trade candidates.

We'll focus on the former and spotlight three rising prospects after laying out our latest mock first round.


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: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

6. Phoenix Suns: De'Andre Hunter, SF/PF, Virginia

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


Top Prospects on the Rise

Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

It says something about Garland—and maybe more about this class as a whole—that he's perhaps the fourth-highest regarded prospect despite playing just four full college contests before a meniscus tear derailed his run.

The 19-year-old is an effortless shot-creator who understands how to change speeds and manipulate opposing defenses. He's also a lethal pull-up shooter, which might be the best weapon a modern scoring guard can have.

His scouting report isn't super-encouraging beyond that. He had more turnovers than assists in college, and his playmaking is as undeveloped as that stat suggests. His physical limitations could cause problems at either end.

But in this draft, Garland's pros not only outweigh his cons, they'll get him consideration for the third or fourth pick, per ESPN's Jonathan Givony:

Jonathan Givony @DraftExpress

Darius Garland will conduct a last-minute workout in Tarrytown with the New York Knicks tomorrow, a source told ESPN. Garland is in serious consideration for the No. 3 pick. Minnesota, Boston, Chicago are teams looking at potentially trading up to No. 4 with Garland in mind.

The only reason our mock has Garland getting beyond No. 4 is because we're taking a trade-free approach. The Pelicans have little need for him with Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball set to be on the roster, but most teams trying to deal with them are likely doing so with Garland in mind.


Nassir Little, SF/PF, North Carolina

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

It seems strange labeling Little a rising prospect when he entered the season with top-five consideration and exited it with nothing close to that.

His tenure with the Tar Heels never got off the ground. He came off the bench for all 36 of his appearances and averaged a meager 18.2 minutes—not exactly what fans and analysts expected for the MVP of the 2018 McDonald's All-American Game.

Part of the problem was a poor roster fit, as the 19-year-old struggled finding his niche on a deep, talented team. But the raw nature of his skill set didn't help. His three-point stroke isn't where he needs it to be, and spotty defensive awareness saw him lose track of his assignment too often.

Getting away from Chapel Hill and onto the workout circuit has seemed to help re-establish Little's value, which at some points had dipped to the late first round. With drool-worthy physical tools and elite potential on defense, it's hard to see him slipping past the lottery.

"He has appeared to have worked his way back into the lottery with a strong pre-draft process, particularly by showing better outside shooting potential," Givony wrote.


Nicolas Claxton, PF/C, Georgia

The closer the draft gets, the more evaluators are learning there's plenty to like about Claxton.

That wasn't always easy to see during the regular season. His Bulldogs were brutal (11-21, 2-16 in conference), especially at point guard. Claxton, a non-natural shooter, didn't have an adequate table-setter, and his abysmal 28.1 three-point percentage showed it.

But the talent deficit forced new head coach Tom Crean to get creative, which led to the 20-year-old getting exposure at all five positions. Considering we're talking about a near-7-footer, that shows what kind of versatility he might offer.

He's quick moving side to side and getting off his feet, all of which points to massive defensive potential as both a rim protector and a perimeter stopper. His handles are strong enough he can clear the glass and head up court by himself, and his passing arsenal could make him a multitalented screen-setter.

It's hard to say what Claxton's future holds in terms of shooting, but checking that box potentially makes him a do-it-all contributor with a center's size and a swingman's mobility. That probably puts him in the first-round discussion and might even get him some looks inside the top 20.