The NBA Draft is less than 24 hours away, and the New Orleans Pelicans will be on the clock at around 1am on Friday morning. Though this is one of the weaker draft classes in recent years, there are still some players worth tracking as we hit the end of DRAFT SZN. Below is my first and only mock draft for the 2019 NBA Draft. This Mock Draft is what I think will happen, as opposed to what I would actually do myself. The first three picks are almost set in stone at this point, but beyond that there is a fair amount of guesswork.
- New Orleans Pelicans – Zion Williamson (F/C, Duke)
The most obvious number one pick since Anthony Davis, Williamson will be a positive NBA player from day one. He enters as the second heaviest player in the league behind Boban Marjanovic, and when you watch his tape you don’t come away too surprised at how heavy he is.
Williamson is a powerhouse who excels in every area offensively apart from shooting. Even then, he could theoretically be a passable shooter, just don’t expect Stephen Curry out there.
He is a two-way player whose finishing inside was so good. Nothing illustrates this more than the fact that if you take away his 55 dunk attempts, he still shot 76% at the rim. Early on, Williamson will be a mismatch punisher for New Orleans. If David Griffin can pair him with a skilled center who can ease the spacing concerns, New Orleans size will make them a contender. You only have to see how Pascal Siakam destroyed the Golden State Warriors to understand that the ‘size revolution’ is upon us in the NBA.
- Memphis Grizzlies – Ja Morant (PG, Murray State)
Bursting onto the scene as a March Madness darling, Morant appears slated to be selected by the Grizzlies. Mike Conley was traded to the Utah Jazz for a comically bad return, which just further emphasises that Memphis see Morant as their guy moving forward.
Morant is a great passer, but the jump shot and defense are legitimate concerns. The jump shot looks like a chest pass, and he had almost no off-ball engagement defensively. He will see drop coverage for the entirety of his rookie year, and I worry about whether his mechanics are good enough to punish teams for playing this conservative coverage. Still, he will produce some fun highlights.
- New York Knicks – RJ Barrett (F, Duke)
One of the most infuriating evaluations in recent years, Barrett’s tape was an adventure. He is a powerful driver who got a lot of his shots at the rim despite Duke’s nationwide-worst spacing. The problem is, he would quite literally drive into five-man walls often, and ignore shooters a lot. This is made even more frustrating when you realise he is actually a very good passer, he just chooses not to be.
The Knicks seem to be locked in on him. He is going to put up great box score stats, but his efficiency potential really concerns me. He will get inside often, but you have to wonder whether teams will play a strong-side style throwback defense to punish the fact that he doesn’t pass. His engagement is the worst from any lottery level prospect in this class too. Off-ball he just stood there. You can imagine David Fizdale might have a few things to say about that.
- New Orleans Pelicans – Darius Garland (G, Vanderbilt)
Garland is a divisive prospect. He is a tiny guard, but one who is blessed with scoring prowess out of the pick and roll. His passing is what needs work but as Max Carlin of Celtics Blog noted, Garland showed some promise in passing when the set plays broke down, which is a good sign.
There are legitimate concerns about his defense, but there is enough on the offensive side of the ball to believe in. He has a nice looking jump shot, which should translate well to the next level. New Orleans need shooting as they will not only draft Zion, but they acquired a few players known more for their playmaking than off-ball ability.
- Cleveland Cavaliers – De’Andre Hunter (F, Virginia)
Due to Tony Bennett’s Virginia scheme being highly regimented, De’Andre Hunter is a hard prospect to project. If you play for Virginia you’re automatically capable defensively, so Hunter should be a day-one starter.
Offensively, he might be a bit of a ball stopper, as his value really looks as if it will come via spot-up shooting and potentially posting up smaller guards on switches. He has a very high floor due to the fact he can do a lot of things well. My worry with him in Cleveland is whether they will ask too much of him due to the fact they have very little offensive prowess on the roster. ‘3 and D’ is thrown around way too often, but Hunter definitely fits this bill. He doesn’t make sense for Cleveland because they need long-term pieces with high ceilings, but they seem to like him.
- Phoenix Suns – Jarrett Culver (G/F, Texas Tech)
In what would be the steal of the draft, Jarrett Culver could slide all the way to the sixth overall pick. Phoenix is reportedly interested in Darius Garland, but someone might trade up to get him.
Culver is potentially the second best player in this class, but he might slide because New Orleans doesn’t really need another playmaker, and anyone who trades up to the fifth pick will be doing so for a guard. Culver is the ideal piece to go alongside Devin Booker. Along with Mikal Bridges he could change the defensive culture in Phoenix, and his ability as a secondary playmaker and tough shot maker should help ease some of the load on Devin Booker.
- Chicago Bulls – Coby White (PG, UNC)
The Chicago Bulls are closer to being a good team than people think. In positions 2-5, they have an ideal mix of size, creation and perimeter spacing. What they lack is a true point guard, as Kris Dunn offers nothing other than perimeter defense. They may look to fill this position in free agency, but Coby White is a tempting option for them.
His tape was spectacular. He has a variety of moves to create space for his mid-range jumpers, and he was capable of hitting shots from everywhere. Early on, he will have to do a lot to earn the trust of coaches, because he sometimes gets too caught up in being spectacular. He had some wild misses off the dribble, and not enough of his shots came at the wing. Drafting for need is unpopular, but the Bulls look set in the short and long term at their other positions.
- Atlanta Hawks – Brandon Clarke (PF, Gonzaga)
Clarke is my favourite player in this class. His weak-side blocking ability will make him a long-term starter in this league almost single-handedly. The differing evaluations around Clarke come down to his offensive game – which, personally, I love.
He has a variety of moves inside that allowed him to knock down over 50 percent of his two-point shots. He has markedly improved his free-throw shooting in each of his college years. Clarke won’t be a knockdown stretch-four on offense, but he is a great fit with the double-drag actions that the Atlanta Hawks almost exclusively run in the half-court.
On defense, he should be a terrific pick-and-roll defender as he has the style of a 5, even though he has the body of a 4.
- Washington Wizards – Jaxson Hayes (C, Texas)
The Wizards are an absolute mess right now. They didn’t host their first pre-draft workouts until just last week, and they have not had a General Manager for months as Ernie Grunfeld was finally ousted from power. That makes this selection a hard one, but I believe they will go for a best-player available strategy as an imminent teardown could be likely.
Jaxson Hayes moves like a two-guard despite being one of the tallest players in this class. His defensive range is insane, and there are few human beings that size who can glide in transition like he does. In the short-term he will be pretty bad as he needs to add weight and needs to learn how to play defense in a sport he has only been playing for a few years. But the potential is there for Hayes to be one of the most impactful players in the league. His ceiling is hinging on the fact some believe he might be able to add a jump shot one day. I don’t see this happening, but a lot of other smart people believe it could come one day.
- Atlanta Hawks – Cam Reddish (F, Duke)
It’s difficult to get behind a guy with this supposed ‘talent’ who produced at an embarrassing rate. His shooting from everywhere was absolutely horrible despite the nice looking form, and the defensive effort wasn’t consistent enough. Despite this, the league appears to be high on taking a chance on a guy with this apparent natural talent.
The Hawks have three first-round picks and he is potentially worth a look with one of them. He might play better off the ball more, but I question whether he is good enough finishing inside to attack closeouts.
- Minnesota Timberwolves – Sekou Doumbouya (PF, Limoges)
The Timberwolves are looking to move up in the draft as the incoming Gersson Rosas wants the team to start being aggressive as opposed to being a gang of wet wipes. Assuming no trade happens and the Pelicans are just waiting for a king’s ransom that the Wolves can’t provide, they will take the best player available down low. Gersson Rosas has constantly talked about maximising Karl Anthony-Towns’ window. Many have taken this as a translation that the Wolves are in win-now mode, but KAT is still so young and so committed to this team that I don’t think Rosas will reach for ready-made prospects.
Doumbouya’s tape was relatively awful, but in such a weak draft class taking a chance on some of the good things he did is not a bad thing. He flashed spot-up ability and I think this new coaching staff is committed to being patient with some of these players.
- Charlotte Hornets – Kevin Porter Jr. (SG, USC)
I watched more Kevin Porter tape than I did of any other prospect. His step-back jumper is his bread and butter and from day one, I’d say fewer than 10 players will have a better step-back than him. He needs to get to the rim more often, but USC’s scheme wasn’t too good at creating downhill opportunities for him. He could potentially benefit from NBA-level spacing, but a lot of it comes down to assertiveness and wanting to attack these spaces.
Defensively he has the size, but there were too many problems when he was tasked with doing something other than standing in a zone on the strong-side to create a numbers advantage. Still, his perimeter-creation is something you don’t see much from prospects pegged for the late lottery, he might be worth a punt.
- Miami Heat – Romeo Langford (G/F, Indiana)
The Miami Heat’s roster might be the most depressing in the NBA. They have the highest payroll but outside of Josh Richardson, next year’s group really lacks any excitement or realistic ceiling. Romeo Langford has caught their eye according to reports, and he could be the type of exciting selection that changes this franchise. He lacks shooting at this point, but he is a powerful individual offensive player who should be able to get to the rim with a mix of power and finesse.
The Heat roster is good defensively and he would fit that, but what they need is someone who can create for themselves and get to the rim. Their offensive sets are somewhat loose and reliant on interior penetration to open things up. When Goran Dragić went down the team lost this, and his pending free agency leaves the need for a lead-ball handler. Langford won’t be this from day one, but he has the potential to be very effective.
- Boston Celtics – Goga Bitadze (C, KK Budocnost)
With Al Horford’s likely departure rocking the boat in Boston, they will look to rebuild their front-court. Given the fact that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown like moving inside, a stretch center is almost a need for the Celtics. Though playbooks can be adapted and changed, the Celtics were reliant on Al Horford attracting the defense out and they created most of their perimeter looks from this defensive commitment to the top of the key.
The Bucks beat the Celtics by basically not biting on Horford being open at the top, and it made the Celtics’ offense unwatchable. Goga is a very fluid player who should excel as a rim protector at the next level, but his perimeter shooting and mobility in the half-court is what makes him a top five player in this class in my book. Everything he does impresses me, and he would be a steal here.
- Detroit Pistons – Nickell Alexander Walker (G/F, Virginia Tech)
The Pistons were good in stretches last year, and their core four of Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond had a net rating of over plus-30 together. What they need to find is the three-guard to go with this trio.
Alexander-Walker is very well-rounded on both ends and has enough spot-up ability to be a legitimate weapon for Detroit as a starter if they choose to go down that road early on. He’s a potent on-ball defender who shows enough awareness to fit nicely with Luke Kennard for the next few seasons.
- Orlando Magic – Tyler Herro (G, Kentucky)
The Magic ran some of the best offensive sets in the NBA last year. They were so good that DJ Augustin was top 10 in the NBA in true-shooting percentage. Despite this they did still have a bottom-10 offensive rating, so they will need to add more shooting.
Herro projects to be a potent off-ball weapon and although I’m low on other areas of his game, the Magic do not need any more big men. Adding another shooter to the mix allows Clifford to add another element to his offensive sets.
- Atlanta Hawks – Matisse Thybulle (G/F, Washington)
Thybulle is the best defensive player in this draft by a distance. His block and steal rates for his size are just immense. You cannot lapse when he is anywhere near you, because he is on you like a flash. He’s a powerful player who understands offensive sets and should be good at ruining off-ball actions such as flare and zipper screens that dominate NBA playbooks today.
As of now, Thybulle isn’t a threat on the offensive side, but he can become a passable three-point shooter. If he becomes anything more than passable, you’re looking at a top 50 player in impact. The Hawks could potentially run him in three-guard line-ups and their commitment to playing two centers to maximise Trae Young’s pick and roll prowess could work in Thybulle’s favour in Atlanta.
- Indiana Pacers – Chuma Okeke (F, Auburn)
I differ from consensus a lot on Chuma Okeke. He looks to me like the modern NBA wing who will be able to play in a variety of defensive coverages. He has the ability to fight through screens but switch ability is also possible. He’s a nice enough jump shooter, and he’d be a nice floor spacer for the Indiana Pacers.
Nate McMillan’s outfit attack teams with their big trio of Thaddeus Young, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Okeke potentially offers a different option as a small-ball four. When they realise TJ Leaf is bad at basketball, Okeke could thrive in their defensive culture.
- San Antonio Spurs – PJ Washington (F, Kentucky)
A player who is in my top 10, it would be highly surprising to see Washington slide this far. The Spurs are committed to playing ‘big ball’, and Washington fits nicely as a well-rounded four in the NBA.
He was the guy down the stretch for Kentucky, and flashes ability as a floor spacer and also as a post player. He has some nice moves inside to be able to generate space for hooks and baseline floaters. This would be a steal, and a victory for the San Antonio Spurs.
- Boston Celtics – Carsen Edwards (PG/SG, Purdue)
Edwards is a sharpshooting guard whose size might be a problem at the next level. At Boston, this wouldn’t be the biggest issue in the world because they have some bigger players such as Marcus Smart who could take on the more physical guards and leave Edwards to work as an off-ball defender.
Edwards is being underdrafted in most mock drafts. His shooting ability is unique and his release is extremely impressive. He might not be a lead ball handler, but him becoming an elite sixth man is not out of the question.
- Oklahoma City Thunder – Jontay Porter (C, Missouri)
Porter would be a top five player on my board healthy, but he’s not far off that even with his ACL injury. He looks to be a rim protector who can be an initiator as a big man on the offensive end. The Thunder are supposedly looking to move Steven Adams. Porter is an extremely different type of center, but this might not be a bad thing for a Thunder team who have gone horribly stagnant offensively.
Adams is a hard-nosed screener, Porter looks like more of an elbow-dwelling big who has some potential to initiate offense via dribble hand-offs and pick and pop opportunities. Sam Presti likes to try and hit home runs, this could be a monster of a home run if it pays off.
- Boston Celtics – Yovel Zoosman (SG, Maccabi Tel Aviv)
The Celtics often like to have some stashes available, and Zoosman provides intrigue at this spot. The Israeli is a great passer out of the pick-and-roll, he has flashed some pull-up ability that he often showcases when playing for his country. I’m not sure he will ever be a lead creator, but he’s a nice off-ball guy that provides more than spot-up shooting.
- Memphis Grizzlies – Cameron Johnson (SF, UNC)
The Grizzlies look to be ushering themselves into a new era as every member of the grit‘n’grind era is now gone. Jaren Jackson is a core piece and Ja Morant is their guy, so surrounding this duo with a great shooter looks to be a nice strategy.
Johnson’s main problem is many don’t know exactly who he will guard in the NBA, but he excels as a shooter on almost every play-type and he gives Taylor Jenkins a legitimate off-ball threat to design some sets around.
- Philadelphia 76ers – Ty Jerome (PG/SG, Virginia)
The Philadelphia 76ers are firmly in win-now mode. They look poised to re-sign Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris to near-max deals, so they need to add perimeter shooting and a back-up big to complete their roster. I don’t see many pro-ready bigs at this level, so Jerome is possibly the best option.
He brings a nice mix of passing, IQ, shooting and defensive intensity. His athleticism is his major limitation, but hopefully his intelligence lands him a role on an NBA bench.
- Portland Trail Blazers – Bol Bol (C, Oregon)
This was a weird pick for me to make. Bol’s awareness is the worst of any player I’ve typed in this mock draft. He was painfully bad on closeouts and he played like he’d just sunk 12 pints at the student union. He lacks awareness on both ends and his gangly frame makes him a bad screener.
Despite this, he is elite at gliding into the paint and he is one of the best shooters in the class. At minimum, he spaces the floor and scares the hell out of the opposing big man. Portland is a good roll-weapon away from taking the next step. I mentioned his lack of screening, but if he can attract attention just for his shooting, he should have impossibly easy dump-off passes available to him. He’s the most unique prospect in NBA history – that’s surely worth a punt for Portland?
- Cleveland Cavaliers – Nic Claxton (C, Georgia)
At this point I have no idea what the Cavaliers overall philosophy is. They look set for a few years of all out tanking. It is for this reason that I’m quite in on them taking a chance on Claxton.
His switchability is really impressive for a guy his size. He has some ball handling ability that you wouldn’t expect from a guy his size. Cleveland aren’t winning any time soon and taking a late flier on a guy who is so unique is a good thing to do. Claxton could be a devastating roll weapon as he develops, but the potential addition of a jump shot is what intrigues me so much.
- Brooklyn Nets – Grant Williams (F, Texas)
Williams is a top-eight player on my board, but the NBA constantly overlooking players like him. His main skill is his intelligence as opposed to anything that screams of physical dominance. He is always in the right place and he did a lot of good work from the posts. He projects to be a good short-roll weapon, which makes him a terrific fit in a Brooklyn that spams pick-and-rolls more than I do on NBA 2K. Williams has a lot of potential to be a very good team defender – this makes him a nice fit on a Nets team that likes to throw out the odd 2-3 zone concept to throw teams off.
- Golden State Warriors – Deividas Sirvydis (SG, Rytas Vilinius)
The Warriors are hard to draft for because even though they are a contender every year, they still take on project guys such as Jacob Evans and Jordan Bell. Sirvydis is only 19 and might not come over straight away, but I really like him as a potential flier. He moves well off the ball and though the efficiency isn’t there yet, I think he becomes a very good shooter in the future. The Warriors don’t really do stashes, but I’d like to see that change.
- San Antonio Spurs – Talen Horton-Tucker (G, Iowa State)
In what has been the oddest draft class I’ve covered, I don’t think anyone other than Bol Bol is a weirder prospect than Horton-Tucker. On some of his tape, despite the fact he stands at 6’4, he was defending players close to 6’10. This is because he has a huge wingspan. His offensive game is almost as bizarre as his measurables and body type. He is more of an inside player as opposed to an off-ball mover, but he can get to the rim without necessarily relying on being bigger than everyone else. The Spurs have often taken a chance on players whose size doesn’t necessarily match their on-court role. Like their first pick, Horton-Tucker could be a steal.
- Milwaukee Bucks – Rui Hachimura (PF, Gonzaga)
So, many are probably surprised to see Rui go this late. It’s extremely interesting to see how the league and NBA Twitter differ on him. I personally think there are too many skills that need developing for him to be a reliable NBA contributor. The shooting isn’t there yet and the defensive lapses are poor. Reputation unfortunately does matter way too much in the NBA Draft though, and I think he gets selected in the first-round despite barely being top 45 on my personal board.
Feature photo – Getty Images / NBAE / Double Clutch illustration – Matthew Wellington