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Draft Preview

Jonas Nader's NBA Mock Draft

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. 


11) Wolves: PF Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga

If fantasy basketball is your thing, you’re going to want to familiarize yourself with this name. Clarke is an undersized four with “T-Rex” arms, but is still one of the best defenders in recent years for his incredible athleticism combined with elite timing. He blocked 4.5 shots with 1.7 steals per 36 minutes, finishing first in the entire NCAA in defensive rating. His offense is nothing to sneeze at either, as he also finished 1st in offensive rating with incredible efficiency (68.7% from the field.) The Wolves taking Clarke here would lighten the load defensively for Karl-Anthony Towns and would give them someone who could contribute from day one with Taj Gibson hitting free agency. 


12) Hornets: PF Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga

Knowing Michael Jordan and looking at Charlotte’s draft history of taking high-profile NCAA players, this seems like a good bet. As of right now, it sounds like Kemba Walker is leaning towards staying in Charlotte for an offer just short of the super max, and that would delay an inevitable rebuild. Rui is someone who can contribute right away as a prolific scorer who put up 19.7 points on 59.7% from the field. He’s a bit undersized at the four with a 6-8 frame, but makes up for it with a 7-2 wingspan and solid mobility. There are a lot more questions about his defense though, and there are certainly a few prospects to follow that offer a higher long-term ceiling (I’d prefer they take a gamble on Bol Bol). With Marvin Williams opting in for another year, Rui would project to be the first big off the bench in this scenario. 


13) Heat: PF P.J. Washington, Kentucky

The Heat are rumored to be high on the Kentucky forward and it’s easy to see why with such an all-around game. As a sophomore he put up 15.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.8 dimes, 1.2 blocks, 0.8 steals and 1.3 triples, hitting 52.2% from the field and 42.3% from beyond the arc. With Brandon Clarke already off the board, Washington is the best power forward remaining and would complement Bam Adebayo nicely for his versatility and toughness on both ends of the floor. 


14) Celtics: SF Nassir Little, North Carolina

He was one of the most hyped prospects coming into the season and was the MVP at the McDonald’s All-American game, but underwhelmed at UNC where he played just 18.2 minutes per game and shot 26.9% from deep. Still, teams are enamored by his size at 6-6 with a 7-1 wingspan, and he’s built like a tank with explosive athleticism. He projects to be a lockdown defender in the NBA, and he’s been shooting the ball well in workouts. Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report is hearing that Little’s range on draft night is 8-14, so Boston could be his floor. If this is where he ends up, Little won’t have much pressure to contribute right away with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown around. 


15) Pistons: SG Romeo Langford, Indiana

Romeo is a natural scorer and would be an interesting fit on a Detroit team that lacks firepower with 19.4 points per 40 minutes. Langford did not shoot the ball well at 27.2% from deep, but also played with a torn right ligament in his thumb. He has tremendous size for a combo guard at 6-6 with a 6-11 wingspan, he has potential to become a decent pick-and-roll player and rebounds well for his position. If he improves his playmaking and develops a consistent outside shot, he could become a dangerous weapon for Detroit. 


16) Magic: SG Kevin Porter Jr., USC

Porter is a polarizing prospect who has one of the biggest ranges on draft night. He has all the tools to become a crafty scorer at the NBA level, even if the low release on his jumper needs a lot of work. There aren’t many wings in this draft that can match his ceiling on the offensive end, and he could become a handful on defense too with his strong frame and long arms which helped him record 1.3 steals and 0.9 blocks per 36 minutes. We all know the Magic love players with length, and their bench could certainly use an offensive spark with Terrence Ross hitting free agency.


17) Hawks: C Bol Bol, Oregon

This pick was originally Brooklyn’s, but was traded to Atlanta in order to dump Allen Crabbe’s salary. The Hawks are not expected to keep all three first-rounders and would like to move up in the draft, so this pick could be readily available. I imagine there will be a few teams excited to take a gamble on the most polarizing prospect in the draft, as Bol Bol could easily end up being a top-5 player.

There are obvious red flags here with Bol Bol playing just nine games at Oregon when a stress fracture to the navicular bone in his foot shut him down, and his thin frame means he could get bullied early on. But at this point in the draft, teams would be crazy not to take a flier. This is a 7-2.5 shooter with a 7-7 wingspan that was super productive in limited action with per-36 minute stats of 25.4 points, 11.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 3.2 blocks and 1.7 triples on 56.1% from the field and 52%(!) from deep. He’s one of the few unicorns in this draft and I’m excited to see which team has the guts to take a chance on him. 


18) Pacers: SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Virginia Tech

The Pacers have a lot of holes on their roster with Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young hitting free agency, while Tyreke Evans was suspended for two years. The Pacers are hoping to retain at least three of these guys, but adding some backcourt help with Victor Oladipo coming off a serious quad injury makes too much sense. Alexander-Walker projects to be a secondary ball-handler at the NBA level, he’s a terrific spot-up shooter and nailed 37.4% from deep, and he’s also going to defend at a high level. This seems like a safe pick for a team who could be in the top-5 of the East once again. 


19) Spurs: SF Grant Williams, Tennessee

This just feels like such a Spurs pick. Grant is one of the best pure basketball players in this class, can play multiple positions and has a high IQ. What he lacks in size he makes up for in strength, timing and smarts. His production was absolutely terrific, as he averaged 18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.2 dimes, 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks. This is a terrific landing spot and gives the Spurs another playmaker on the wings in the mold of someone like Kyle Anderson but with more range on his shot. 


20) Celtics: C Jaxson Hayes, Texas

This is the second of three first-round picks for Boston, and based off several reports, there’s a good chance this pick is part of a package to either move up or to include in a potential Anthony Davis offer. Hayes is way lower here than he is on other mocks, but the NBA combine hurt him in my eyes as he finished near the bottom of every athletic test. When you’re labeled as an “athletic rim-runner,” that’s a concern for me. At the very least, Hayes should be effective catching lobs and blocking shots (3.4 per 36 minutes) and teams will be hoping he can develop into a poor man’s Clint Capela


21) Thunder: SG Tyler Herro, Kentucky

Unfortunately for Thunder fans, this pick is a decent bet to be moved as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the team is in “win-now mode” and would like to shed some salary such as Andre Roberson or Dennis Schroder. In order to do that, they’ll likely need to attach this pick. Regardless of where this pick ends up, teams are always looking to add more shooting and Herro is one of the best left on the board. He reportedly “blew away” the Celtics in a workout when he knocked down 80-of-100 triples, so Boston could be an option at No. 20 or 22. 


22) Celtics: Luka Samanic, PF, Petrol Olimpija

Samanic is a good upside pick here at No. 22, and if the Celtics don’t want to bring in another rookie, they could always stash him overseas. Samanic has good size and mobility at 6-11, but needs to add strength and teams could target him on defense early on. He’s been rising up boards with a strong pre-draft showing, as he’s been shooting the ball extremely well in workouts after struggling overseas. He’s under contract for four years in Europe, so NBA teams can be patient if they don’t think he’s ready. 


23) Jazz: SF Cameron Johnson, North Carolina

If you watched the Jazz during the playoffs it was clear that a lack of perimeter shooting was their downfall. That’s where Johnson comes in, as the 6-8 forward knocked down 2.7 triples per game on a blistering 45.7%. With Kyle Korver contemplating retirement, Johnson could step in and give the Jazz 20 minutes right out of the gate. 


24) 76ers: C Nicolas Claxton, Georgia

Philly’s backup centers were exposed in the playoffs, and Joel Embiid will probably need to follow Kawhi Leonard’s “load management” plan after another injury-plagued season. This is where Claxton comes in, as he’s one of the most versatile centers in the draft and a clear lottery talent in my eyes. He didn’t get much attention playing for Georgia, but a strong pre-draft process has helped him big time and he has already shut down all workouts as he’s rumored to have a promise right after the lottery. 

Claxton can defend at a high level with 2.9 blocks per 36 minutes, but what I love most is how versatile he is offensively. In fact, Georgia even ran some offense through him as as they lacked a point guard. He can handle the ball a bit and has tremendous size at 6-11.75 with a 7-2.5 wingspan and 9-2 standing reach. If I had to predict an All-Star outside of the lottery not named Bol Bol, Claxton would be my answer. 


25) Blazers: SF Talen Horton-Tucker, Iowa State

Rodney Hood, Seth Curry and Al-Farouq Aminu are all hitting free agency, and Jake Layman is a restricted free agent. Portland’s bench could look completely different next season, and adding a defensive-minded 3 in Horton-Tucker would be a really nice complement to Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. What he lacks in height (6-4) he makes up for with wingspan (7-1) and a strong frame, and he’s only 18.5 years old and can do a little bit of everything on the floor. This is a great value for Portland at No. 25. 


26) Cavaliers: SF Keldon Johnson, Kentucky 

If I’m right, the Cavs walk away from this draft with Jarrett Culver and Keldon Johnson. That’s a solid haul for a depleted roster and I could see both players starting right away next to Collin Sexton. He projects to be a solid defensive player with an improving 3-point shot, he’s a plus rebounder for his position and has the tools to become a team’s 3rd option on offense. 


27) Nets: SF Matisse Thybulle, Washington

One of the top perimeter defenders in this draft, Thybulle put up some gaudy defensive stats with 4.1(!) steals and 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes. With the Nets going star chasing this summer with Kyrie Irving likely joining the team, who better to cover for his defensive mistakes than Thybulle? He could be Tony Allen 2.0. 


28) Warriors: C Jontay Porter, Missouri

This is a tremendous value for Golden State. DeMarcus Cousins is “open” to returning to the Warriors, but that seems unlikely unless Kevin Durant bolts. Damian Jones is unproven and coach Steve Kerr treats Jordan Bell like he keyed his car. Porter has a huge red flag because he tore his ACL twice in 6 months, but there’s no doubt he’s a lottery talent when healthy. Porter is loaded with skill, can handle the ball and pass and can also step out and hit the triple. He’s drawn comparisons to a poor man’s Nikola Jokic and there is just too much upside to pass on here at No. 28. 


29). Spurs: SG Luguentz Dort, Arizona State

The Pac-12 Rookie of the Year is built like an NFL player with a muscular 6-4, 222 pound frame. He showed an elite ability to get to the rim, but finishing the play was often a problem (51.8% at the rim). He’s a crafty ball-handler that can create his own shot with speed and shiftiness, but his jumper isn’t there just yet. Still, at No. 29 there’s a lot to be excited about here and the Spurs can bring him along slowly behind DeMar DeRozan


30) Bucks: PG Ty Jerome, Virginia

The Bucks enter the offseason with zero depth behind Eric Bledsoe, so Ty Jerome makes a lot of sense. He’s mostly known for his playmaking ability with 6.4 dimes per 40 minutes, but his shooting is terrific as well — he hit 39.9% from deep at UVA and reportedly hit 84-of-100 attempts in the same drill that Tyler Herro “blew away” the Celtics with 80-of-100. He's capable of stepping into the role vacated by George Hill

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