The 2019 NBA Draft is a little over two weeks away, and at this point there are generally few secrets in the process. The top three of Duke’s Zion Williamson, Murray State’s Ja Morant and Duke’s RJ Barrett has felt “locked in” for quite some time now, and that’s unlikely to change unless there are significant developments in non-basketball areas (injuries, background checks, etc.). Speaking of which, two lottery-projected prospects (Morant and Duke’s Cam Reddish) underwent surgical procedures this week and won’t be working out for teams before the draft.
This is our third mock draft, which doesn’t have many significant changes but does account for the passing of the NCAA’s draft withdrawal deadline. The next key date on the pre-draft calendar is June 11, which is the NBA’s withdrawal deadline. At that point there’s likely to be movement among the international prospects still in the draft pool.
1. New Orleans: PF Zion Williamson, Duke
Not much to see here at this point. The Pelicans will certainly do their due diligence when it comes to background research, medical reports and the like, but it’s extremely difficult to see a scenario in which they don’t draft Williamson on June 20. The biggest question for new front office leader David Griffin is how he’ll handle the Anthony Davis situation, with it being reported that the All-Star center still wants out of New Orleans. That will have a major impact on this year’s draft, as the Pelicans are going to want a king’s ransom for Davis (and rightfully so).
2. Memphis: PG Ja Morant, Murray State
Morant underwent a minor arthroscopic procedure on his right knee on Monday, and it’s been reported that he’s looking at a recovery timeframe of three to four weeks. The surgery was to remove “loose bodies” from the knee, which can cause issues such as pain, swelling and even locking of the joint. The surgery shouldn’t change anything with regards to Morant’s draft prospects, as Memphis does need to strongly consider the future of its point guard position with current starter Mike Conley wanting to avoid being part of a lengthy rebuilding process. Conley’s also entering the final season of his contract, which could make it easier for Memphis to move his contract to a contending team.
3. New York: SF RJ Barrett, Duke
Barrett is the favorite of many to be the Knicks’ pick, but the question remains whether New York will be making this selection for themselves or another team. As noted above Anthony Davis still wants to leave New Orleans, and the Knicks are one of the teams that have been mentioned as a possible destination. Wherever Barrett winds up he’ll provide instant production on the wing, and he also has the attack-minded approach that you like to see from a high-lottery prospect.
4. LA Lakers: PG Darius Garland, Vanderbilt
The Lakers have also been mentioned in connection with Davis, with this connection dating back to his in-season trade request. Los Angeles was unable to get a deal done then, and any move now would certainly have to include the rights to this pick. Should the Lakers hold onto this selection, they can either go with a player who will play primarily off the ball (Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver and Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter being top options) or take a young point guard like Garland who can give them a different look at the position. Garland shoots the ball well from the perimeter, which has been an issue for Lonzo Ball during his time as a pro, and he can play some off the ball when needed. What the Lakers do here as it relates to the franchise’s championship ambitions will be interesting to see, because LeBron James isn’t getting any younger and Father Time remains undefeated.
5. Cleveland: SF De’Andre Hunter, Virginia
Sticking with Hunter in this spot, due to his versatility as a defender and ability to score on multiple levels. While the mover-blocker motion offense he played in at Virginia is a bit different when the system that new Cavs head coach John Beilein used at Michigan, Hunter is a skilled offensive threat whose production was limited in large part by the pace at which Virginia played. While there are some veterans who appeared in Cleveland’s last trip to the NBA Finals still on the roster, there’s also a need to add solid young talent for this rebuild. Hunter, while not a highlight factory, would certainly help with this process.
6. Phoenix: SG Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech
Yes the Suns need to address the point guard position this offseason. But in a two-round draft your board trumps team need, and the prediction here is that Culver will be the best available player on the Suns’ board when its their turn to pick. Culver was used on the ball quite a bit this past season, and he earned Big 12 Player of the Year honors while leading the Red Raiders to the national title game. At the next level he’ll likely be best suited to spend more time off the ball, as was the case during his freshman year, which could positively impact his perimeter shooting as well. Phoenix can address the point guard position in free agency, and it’s been reported recently that Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie could be a trade target for the Suns.
7. Chicago: PG Coby White, North Carolina
Like Phoenix, Chicago does need to address the point guard position this summer. While they have Kris Dunn, he hasn’t been as productive as one would like and Ryan Arcidiacono will be a restricted free agent come June 30. The Bulls could address this need by selecting Coby White, a jet-quick guard with good size who has the potential to be a better three-point shooter than he was in his lone season at North Carolina (35.5% on 2.3 makes per game). White can also play off the ball some, which would be valuable given the presence of Zach LaVine at the other guard spot.
8. Atlanta: SF Cam Reddish, Duke
Reddish underwent a surgical procedure to address a core injury, and he’s expected d to miss six weeks as a result. This rules him out for any pre-draft workouts, and likely for summer league as well given the timeframe. It was reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic that this was something Reddish played through during his lone season at Duke, and the question to be asked now is how much that impacted him from a production standpoint. Of course playing alongside RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson, someone was bound to take a hit from a touches standpoint. But was that why Reddish underwhelmed at times? That’s the question lottery teams will look to answer between now and the draft, but Atlanta looks to be a good fit for the young wing.
9. Washington: PF/SF Sekou Doumbouya, Limoges (France)
No change here. While Doumbouya has some things to learn on the offensive end of the floor, he has good size for a combo forward and can also defend both the three and the four without much trouble. The Wizards will have some holes to fill at the forward spots, with Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green and Sam Dekker (restricted) all set to be free agents later this summer. And with John Wall still recovering from the Achilles tear he suffered, Washington will have some time to wait on a young player with a great amount of upside.
10. Atlanta (via Dallas): C Jaxson Hayes, Texas
Hayes is one of the youngest player in this year’s draft, and he has the potential to be an impact player on the defensive end of the floor. He’s further along in his development as a defender, and playing with a point guard who can get him into quality scoring positions would be a positive. It’s safe to say that Atlanta has such a lead guard in Trae Young, which can only help a player like Hayes in the long run.
11. Minnesota: PF Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga
With Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota has the scoring options that it will build around in the future. With that being the case one can argue that Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke would be the better fit here due to his abilities as a defender. But Rui Hachimura, Clarke’s All-American teammate, shouldn’t be overlooked either. Hachimura’s a good scorer, especially from 15 feet and in, and while the perimeter shot needs some work being a supplementary option as opposed to “the guy” could result in cleaner looks for him.
12. Charlotte: SF Nassir Little, North Carolina
Little’s role at North Carolina wasn’t what many envisioned while watching him in high school, as he was one of the most talented offensive players in his class. During the pre-draft process he’s shot the ball better than some expected, and that could very well continue in the NBA. Little has good size for a wing, and the physical tools make him a good fit for the 3-and-D role at the next level. Charlotte has some young wings on its roster right now, most notably Miles Bridges, but Little could be too enticing for the Hornets to pass up here.
13. Miami: SG Kevin Porter Jr., USC
In the right situation, Porter could wind up being one of this draft’s best players when it’s all said and done. He can get his shot at all three levels, but he had consistency issues during his lone season at USC. Injury and suspension limited Porter to 21 games last season, which is something that will surely grab the interest of NBA teams as they do their pre-draft work. But if he handles those conversations properly there’s a chance that the southpaw works his way into the back end of the draft lottery. Miami doesn’t have much financial flexibility to improve its roster, but adding Porter to the mix could give them a wing scorer that the team needs in the aftermath of Dwyane Wade’s retirement.
14. Boston (via Sacramento): SF/PF Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga
This begins a stretch in which the Celtics will have three of the next nine picks, and how the team projects free agency to play out could impact Danny Ainge’s draft strategy. In Brandon Clarke the Celtics would be adding a forward capable of defending either the three or the four at a high level, and he’s an effective finisher around the basket as well. He’ll need to be a bit more consistent with his perimeter shot, but even with those struggles (26.7% on threes last season) Clarke still averaged nearly 17 points per game.
15. Detroit: SF PJ Washington, Kentucky
Going back to school doesn’t guarantee that a player’s draft prospects will improve, but in the case of Washington he was able to make himself a surefire first round pick with a shot of sneaking into the lottery. The 6-foot-8 forward was more comfortable playing on the perimeter last season than he was as a freshman, and that improvement should serve him well at the next level. It’s conceivable that Detroit goes a bit smaller here given the team’s lack of consistency on the perimeter, but Washington isn’t a bad option either.