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Zion Williamson
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Jonas Nader's NBA Mock Draft

by Jonas Nader
Updated On: June 15, 2019, 2:32 pm ET

Despite the NBA season ending on Thursday night with the Raptors bringing home their first championship, the drama never ends and we have a lot to look forward to with the draft on June 20, free agency on July 1 and Summer League to follow. While this draft doesn't hold a candle to the one in 2018, there are still some exciting prospects and a generational talent in Zion Williamson to look forward to. I hope you enjoy this mock and please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter if you have thoughts or questions. 

1) Pelicans: PF Zion Williamson, Duke

There’s not much left to say about one of the most exciting prospects over the last 10 years. Zion has the intangibles, athleticism, motor and two-way skills that will put him on a fast track to becoming an NBA superstar. He has the college production to back it up too, posting a record-breaking PER (player efficiency rating) of 40.8. To put that into context, Anthony Davis’ PER was 35.13.  Zion averaged an absurd 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks, hitting 68% from the field, 64% from the line and 33.8% from beyond the arc. As incredible as those numbers are, keep in mind that he was second on the team in usage rate (28.6) behind R.J. Barrett (32.2).

The big question now is who the Pelicans choose to surround him and Jrue Holiday with, as the franchise is taking calls on Anthony Davis from the Knicks, Lakers, Clippers and Celtics. Whatever direction the team goes, Zion will be an early-round fantasy player from day one.

 

2) Grizzlies: PG Ja Morant, Murray State

Yes there’s been some talk that the Grizzlies want to bring RJ Barrett in for a workout (he has resisted so far), but Morant is still the presumed No. 2 pick here. He took the NCAA by storm in his sophomore season, averaging 24.5 points, 10.0 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 1.7 triples and 5.2 turnovers. A pick-and-roll maestro, his assist percentage of 51.8 was better than Trae Young’s mark of 48.6% as a freshman and we all saw how that translated in the NBA.

While Morant has similar concerns to Trae on the defensive end, his athleticism is on another planet and there’s good evidence to believe that he’ll be an effective shooter after hitting 36.3% on 5.2 attempts per game. Morant is an ideal Mike Conley replacement and gives the Grizzlies their second building block to develop around Jaren Jackson Jr. There is clear top-50 upside in fantasy leagues during his rookie season for non-turnover formats. 

 

3) Knicks: SF RJ Barrett, Duke

He was No. 1 on a lot of draft boards entering the 2018-19 season until about 10 seconds of Zion footage. That doesn’t mean RJ isn’t an elite prospect, as he broke ACC freshman scoring records with 22.6 points on 45.4% from the field with 7.6 rebounds, 4.3 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.9 triples. So why have some scouts cooled on RJ? Well, he didn’t have a great motor on the defensive end with sub-par awareness, he forced too many things offensively and his jumper was all over the place — he hit just 30.8% from beyond the arc with a shooting form that lacked consistency. However, RJ just turned 19 years old today (June 14), so most of his flaws are going to be ironed out over time. I think the Knicks are going to get an outstanding player who can get to the rim and score at will, but whether or not he becomes an All-Star hinges on the development of his jumper and his mindset on defense. 

 

4) Lakers: PG Darius Garland, Vanderbilt

There’s a very real chance this pick is moved, as the Lakers have been in talks to acquire Anthony Davis from the Pelicans in exchange for the No. 4 pick, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. Talks have stalled a bit, with the deal reportedly hinging on Los Angeles making Kyle Kuzma available as well. Whether this pick stays in Los Angeles or ends up elsewhere, Garland is considered the frontrunner to come off the board here.

A left meniscus injury limited Garland to just five games at Vanderbilt, but he has intriguing skills as a score-first combo guard and shot the ball well from deep (11-of-23 for 47.8%) in a limited sample size. I do think he has some upside as a playmaker as well, but often he tried to be too flashy and that resulted in him averaging 2.6 assists compared to 3.0 turnovers. One of the reasons he’s been so heavily linked to the Lakers is because he’s been working out with LeBron James and shares the same agent, but my money is on this selection being moved. 

5) Cavaliers: SG Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech

He’s currently my favorite non-Zion prospect and I can see him ending up as the second best player in this class. Just like Ja Morant, Culver’s stock skyrocketed during his sophomore season as he led Texas Tech to the national championship game in an offense that was run almost exclusively through him. His usage rate of 32.2 matched that of RJ Barrett, and he delivered with 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 triples. He has elite footwork and an underrated handle to create shots for himself and others, and teams will be enamored by his ability to be a secondary ball-handler in the mold of someone like Jimmy Butler.

What makes him the No. 2 prospect for me though is his defense. He averaged 1.8 steals and 0.7 blocks per 40 minutes and finished first in the entire NCAA in defensive win shares (3.5). He’s a legit stud and the Cavs will be thrilled to grab him at No. 5 on a team that has more championships than young building blocks. Keep an eye on the Suns, Bulls and Hawks though, as all three teams are reported to be high on the wing and could look to move up.

 

6) Suns: PG Coby White, North Carolina

The Suns have a solid core of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Kelly Oubre if he re-signs, and as much as I like De’Anthony Melton on the defensive end, he’s not a starting-caliber player yet. That leads me to believe that a point guard is coming off the board at No. 6, and most of Phoenix’s beat reporters seem to think that Coby White will be the pick. 

He made a name for himself for his size, blazing speed and ability to score on the perimeter, finishing in the 92nd percentile on spot-up opportunities (h/t Ricky Donnell of SB Nation). Playing alongside Booker would be great for White too, as he wouldn’t have to worry about generating the bulk of Phoenix’s offense — Donnell noted that White finished in the 27th percentile in spot-up shooting and his playmaking still has a long way to go with 4.1 assists compared to 2.7 turnovers. If this ends up being the choice for the Suns, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said they will still be in the market for a veteran PG such as Patrick Beverley or Ricky Rubio

 

7) Bulls: SF Cam Reddish, Duke

With a physical profile that resembles Paul George in terms of height, weight and wingspan, it’s no wonder why so many are still enamored by Reddish despite an underwhelming freshman season. He’s a better shooter than what he showed at Duke, and he struggled to find his place in the offense behind usage rate monsters RJ and Zion.

There were still flashes when Reddish showcased some All-Star potential like in Duke’s famous come-back win over Louisville, and there were other times where Reddish looked lost. He did undergo core muscle surgery in May and it was revealed that he played through the injury, so that could explain some of his struggles. In terms of pure upside as a playmaking forward who can do a little bit of everything, this is a solid gamble for the Bulls as they could slowly develop him behind Otto Porter and Lauri Markkanen at the 3 and 4. 

 

8) Hawks: SF DeAndre Hunter, Virginia

This is lower than where most mocks have Hunter going, but it makes the most sense to me. While Hunter may lack star power and projects to be a 3-and-D role player, he’s a safe pick and will bring a winning mentality to an Atlanta team that has a hole at SF after dealing Taurean Prince for picks. With an NBA frame, brute strength and a whopping 7-2 wingspan, he’s going to be a handful on the defensive end and could be a starter on opening night in this spot. 

 

9) Wizards: PF, Sekou Doumbouya, Limoges (France)

If you haven’t watched him yet, do yourself a favor and check this guy out because he’s a ton of fun. He measured well at his pro day at 6-10, and he has tremendous athleticism with the mobility of a smaller wing. He also turned heads when he knocked down 15 straight triples at his pro day, easing some concerns about his shot after hitting just 31.9% with Limoges. It may take a while for his offense to come around, but at the very least he should be an impact player on defense as evidenced by his 1.1 blocks and 1.7 steals per 40 minutes. It’s impossible to predict what the Wizards will do here as they don’t even have a permanent GM yet, but Sekou is only 18.5 years old and gives them an exciting two-way prospect to develop.  

 

10) Hawks: C Goga Bitadze

He’s been one of the biggest risers during the pre-draft process and is coming off some really nice performances over in the Euroleague in which he posted 12.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. He has a strong 6-11 frame and 7-2 wingspan and has a really high ceiling because he swats shots at an elite level (3.5 blocks per 36 minutes) and can also step out and hit the 3-point shot. The Hawks are hoping to re-sign free agent center Dewayne Dedmon for another year, but Goga would be a nice long-term fit next to Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, John Collins and whoever they take at No. 8.