2019 NBA Mock Draft 1.0: Duke Trio Headlines First Picks
After a few weeks to assess the pool of available prospects, attend games and catch up with NBA evaluators, it’s a good time for our first mock draft of the season. Based on that timetable, this accounts for many players’ early impressions as they pertain to the bigger picture of the 2019 draft, which is still a long ways away. Beyond the quality of Duke’s star prospects atop the draft, there’s not much set in stone right now, but there are a number of fascinating players beginning to make their case as first-round caliber guys.
As always, our mock draft projects what the draft might look like if it took place on a given day. For our rankings of the top available prospects and more thorough breakdowns of their skills, check out our most recent big board. Non-conference play offers a whole lot for teams to chew on, and a lot of opportunity for players to be seen and establish their potential value. Given it’s November, guessing which teams will do what is more of a thought exercise than anything else. Without treating anything conclusively, here’s how the first-round pool is shaping up at the moment.
Cavaliers: Zion Williamson, F, Duke
Height: 6’7” | Weight: 285 | Freshman
Williamson began the season atop our Big Board for the 2019 draft, and took the big stage shortly afterward as a legit phenom in Duke’s drubbing of Kentucky. Since then, it’s become increasingly difficult for anyone to watch a Duke game and not come away thinking he’s the best player on the floor. Tailor-made for the modern NBA, Williamson boasts a potentially lethal, star-making combination of traits: powerful athleticism, the ability to finish through contact and draw fouls, efficient shot-creation as a scorer and passer, an elite feel for rebounding as a rover, and the fact he is an Escalade in the open court. Even if his jump shot doesn’t improve enough to stretch the defense, Williamson does so many things well that it might not matter, particularly in the context of this draft class. Whether it’s Cleveland or another team picking first, the chance to revive a franchise with a player as gifted, entertaining, and as potentially dominant as Williamson should be exceedingly difficult to pass up for any forward-thinking front office.
Hawks: R.J. Barrett, G/F, Duke
Height: 6’7” | Weight: 210 | Freshman
Although Barrett’s summer status as the favorite for No. 1 has been shaken somewhat by Williamson’s tour de force, he’s played very well and scored a ton of points, as he tends to do. The duo are a very reasonable bet to be selected first and second in some order. Barrett is an excellent slasher who does a good job of pressuring the paint and finishing creatively, and boasts a good set of complimentary skills as a passer, rebounder and perimeter defender. He’s been groomed to play in the NBA and for Canada, and was pretty clearly the most dominant player in his age group coming up through high school. Barrett’s intensity and desire to improve are positive indicators, and he will need to shore up his jump shot and improve his overall shot selection to become a legitimate star, but there’s quite a bit going for him. The Hawks are in the process of putting talent around Trae Young, and finding a potential top offensive option should be high on their list of priorities going forward.
Suns: Cam Reddish, G/F, Duke
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 220 | Freshman
Duke’s third presumptive one-and-done will have to continue playing well to set up a 1-2-3 start to the draft for the Blue Devils, but based on his pure talent, he won’t slip too far. Reddish has been a good fit next to Barrett and Williamson, where he’s been showcasing his ability to shoot the three, attack the defense and come up with big plays defensively. He possesses elements of just about every skill you’d want in a guy his size. In a best-case scenario, he evolves to a degree where he can play as a point-forward, and even if he doesn’t, being a versatile, big wing who can shoot and defend is a nice baseline. However, Reddish discussions with league types often come with a caveat: teams are not yet sold on his consistency and effort level, which came into question frequently in high school. His ability isn’t in question, but there’s a perceived level of risk in the event his go-switch never fully flips on a regular basis. In Phoenix, he’d fit nicely with Devin Booker and help fill their need for ball distribution and floor spacing.
Bulls: Nassir Little, G/F, North Carolina
Height: 6’6” | Weight: 215 | Freshman
Perhaps unfairly, Little is operating in the shadow of his Tobacco Road rivals at the moment. This is due in part to the Duke phenomenon, but also because he’s been coming off the bench and hasn’t played exceptionally well yet in his limited minutes. Even if he continues in a sixth-man role, it’s likely Little’s situation improves as the season goes on and Roy Williams realizes he needs to play his best guys when it matters. Little is effective getting downhill off the dribble, a strong positional rebounder and standout defender due to his length and strength. He was a late bloomer in high school and as long as his trajectory continues, he’ll likely justify a top-five selection. The Bulls are set up front and will likely continue to add to their perimeter rotation through the draft, with Little’s lockdown potential a welcome antidote to their current struggles.
Knicks: Quentin Grimes, G, Kansas
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 205 | Freshman
His shot volume in Kansas’ offense has varied a little early on, but Grimes’ breakout game against Michigan State to open the season left a strong first impression. He’s seen as a player with a comfortably high NBA floor. His ability to play on and off the ball, defend either backcourt spot and space the floor are all strong traits that create projectable baseline value. Grimes is athletic enough that there’s also some upside built in as he continues to become a more confident shooter from deep. He will have to earn this high a selection with his play, but he checks plenty of boxes as a versatile, bigger combo guard. The Knicks have some good pieces in place, and Grimes could mesh nicely.
Wizards: Keldon Johnson, G/F, Kentucky
Height: 6’6” | Weight: 210 | Freshman
Johnson projects as an ultra-competitive two-way glue guy who can do damage in the paint and spacing the floor with his feet set. His intangibles and no-frills approach to the game are big selling points, and he’s athletic enough to make an impact defensively. He should appeal to a wide variety of teams given the high demand for value on the wing. He may not have star upside, but should be able to play a useful role for a long time. Given the current state of the Wizards, mixing in a tone-setting guy like Johnson would be a boost.
Heat: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
Height: 6’6” | Weight: 200 | Freshman
With a prototypical frame for a two-guard and a developed handle and feel for scoring, Langford has gotten off to a nice start for the Hoosiers. He’s mostly lived up to his high school hype and looked like one of the best players in the Big Ten. His overall floor game is solid and appealing, and he can create off the dribble effectively, but his upside is tied to the development of his three-point shot, which has been streaky. Langford has work to do, but profiles as a lottery pick with continued improvement. The Heat could use another perimeter scorer to build around.
Nets: Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 235 | Junior
There’s a growing sense around the league that things have begun to click for Hachimura, who returned as a junior with hopeful expectations to lead a loaded Gonzaga team. He’s been superbly efficient to open the year, and his scoring ability has begun to catch up to his physical dominance. Hachimura is powerful and quick enough to be a difficult matchup for bigger forwards and in transition, and arguably possesses as much upside as any player outside the top group of wings. He is a matchup problem for most every college team, and simply needs his skill level to catch up. As he continues to learn English and establish his understanding of the game, his play could take off. He’d be a fascinating piece for the Nets to develop.
Timberwolves: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC
Height: 6’6” | Weight: 220 | Freshman
There’s still a lot to learn about Porter Jr., but the flashes he’s shown coming off the bench in his first three college games have at times been legitimately jaw-dropping. He can create space off the dribble and explode toward the rim as well as just about anyone in this draft, and his major offensive talent is no longer flying under the radar. In a lot of ways, Porter doesn’t really know what he’s doing yet—his game is often improvisational, for better or worse—but brings a whole lot to the table as a scorer. Defensively, he needs some work. Porter has shown enough to project into this mid-to-late lottery range, where a team like the Timberwolves could roll the dice.
Hawks (via Mavericks): Bol Bol, C, Oregon
Height: 7’3” | Weight: 235 | Freshman
We wrote at length yesterday about the risk that will accompany drafting Bol, but a team with multiple draft picks will be best positioned to absorb it. For all his warts, Bol’s tantalizing shot-blocking potential and basic outlines of inside-out offensive skill make it seem likely that someone decides to roll the dice. Many executives are already wary, but if the quality of Bol’s play keeps up, he’ll make a pretty decent case for himself. Dallas’ pick is top-five protected, but will otherwise convey to the Hawks as part of the Luka Doncic-Trae Young swap. Atlanta could justify adding his talent to the mix.
Jazz: Sekou Doumboya, F, Limoges (France)
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 230 | 17 years old
Doumboya has hit a bit of a rough patch to start the season with his new club, yet it’s vital to remember that he’s only 17, will likely be the youngest player in next year’s draft, and is adapting to a new role and better quality of basketball in France’s Pro A and in Eurocup competition (for context, the next-oldest guy on his team is 23). It’s not a knock on him or damning in any serious way that he’s playing a supporting role for now—what matters more is demonstrated growth over the course of the season, and that NBA teams remain intrigued with his maturation. Doumboya has a soft shooting touch, projectable frame, and makes the most sense as a strong, mobile four-man at this point in time. He’s more or less a ball of clay, and a realized version of him would make sense fitting in with the Jazz’s global-minded roster.
Spurs: De'Andre Hunter, F, Virginia
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 230 | Junior
Hunter isn’t yet a fully realized product, but he’s started the season fairly well and has appeal as a player who can effectively defend multiple positions, switch screens, and looks to be improving as a shooter. He’s a solid rebounder and ballhawk who pops up in the right place a lot, and he will get to showcase his ability as a scorer with added offensive responsibility as the season goes on. Everyone needs wings, and Hunter could become one of the better defenders available. The Spurs continue to revamp their roster with young talent, and Hunter would fit their mold as an interesting long-term piece on the wing.
Celtics (via Kings): Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 170 | Freshman
While Garland has been a little bit up-and-down to start the season, expect things to improve soon enough. He’s shown a natural knack for scoring and playmaking over the years and makes up for a lack of elite explosiveness with his skill as a finisher and ability to shoot form outside. He’s slight of build, and defense could become a concern. But in a thin point guard draft, as long as he cuts down on turnovers and settles in, Garland has a decent chance to play his way into the lottery. Due to past trades, Celtics could end up picking four times in the first round, which is somewhat ridiculous. With Terry Rozier’s time with the team potentially nearing a head, finding another guard for the rotation makes sense. They will receive whichever of the Kings’ and 76ers’ first-round pick is better, unless it ends up as the No. 1 selection.
Rockets: Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas
Height: 6’11” | Weight: 230 | Sophomore
Gafford has shown some incremental improvement at a glance as a sophomore, and his size, plus agility, and ability to finish in the paint and block shots will all play in an NBA role. His game is simple but effective, and should make plenty of sense as he continues to get stronger. While his skill set scoring the ball is rudimentary and caps his upside, his rim-running and athleticism fit the general demands placed on centers, and helps him fall somewhere in this late-lottery mix. He’d fit right behind Clint Capela to play a similar role in Houston.
Hornets: Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky
Height: 6’11” | Weight: 245 | Freshman
He’s been a bit less-heralded than some of the other bigs in this class, but Bassey has looked college-ready after reclassifying to accelerate his draft timetable. His strength and above-average physical capabilities will play in the NBA, and he should be able to have a level of impact as a rebounder, shot-blocker and finisher. Bassey has developed some jump shooting ability over the years, but has limited offensive feel overall which likely limits his ceiling a little bit. That said, if he puts in the work to master his strengths, he can be useful rolling to the basket, running the floor and imposing his physicality on the game. He would add a different dimension to Hornets’ frontcourt.
Magic: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 170 | Sophomore
Morant has begun to justify the summer hype with productive play for the Racers, and his athletic ability, court vision and scoring upside have put him in the first-round mix at this stage of the season. Granted, we won’t see him play high-level competition often during the regular season, but if he’s able to consistently take over games against mid-major opponents, Morant will continue to command attention from the NBA. He will need to show some type of growth with his jumper to maximize his draft position and long-term value, but he’s certainly put himself in promising position. Orlando’s biggest hole is at the point guard spot.
Celtics: Luka Samanic, F, Olimpija
Height: 6’10” | Weight: 210 | 18 years old
After switching teams over the summer, Samanic has struggled to get a foothold in terms of minutes. Until he bulks up and adds strength, he will be something of a project, but his size and amorphous, versatile set of skills make him extremely interesting long-term. Samanic has a good sense of the floor but needs to put together consistent contributions playing with Olympia to get the needle moving back toward the lottery. He has a long way to go, but if Samanic enters this year’s draft, he’d be a strong stash candidate. The Celtics, who will have at least two first-round picks, will have to get creative one way or another.
Lakers: Luguentz Dort, G, Arizona State
Height: 6’4” | Weight: 220 | Freshman
Dort has the type of toughness and versatile backcourt game to fit in with most teams, and will be able to turn pro if he wants to based on his advanced age, athletic profile and appeal as a role player. He isn’t a great jump shooter, which will be a critical factor in where he’s drafted, but teams really like what he brings to the table. Dort should be able to play a Marcus Smart-like role somewhere, and while his efficiency may be a challenge this season, some of it is based on his heavy workload. In a supporting role, he could be better utilized, and the Lakers are going to have to find guys with the chops to survive in the spotlight and support LeBron. Dort has a solid floor, if a somewhat limited ceiling, but he should belong physically in the NBA from the get-go.
Pistons: KZ Okpala, F, Stanford
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 195 | Sophomore
Through the first couple weeks of the season, Okpala has been a buzzy name among scouts. He’s always had big-time tools, and has visibly begun to harness his ability in year two at Stanford, slashing into the lane and moving the ball on offense while wreaking havoc defensively. He’s rangy and covers a lot of ground with loping strides. Athletes as long and bouncy as Okpala tend to make for tantalizing projects, and if his three-point shooting improvements are legit, he will be in good position to test and potentially leave for the draft. We’ll see how sustainable his play can be going forward, but in terms of upside, he’s passing the eye test at the moment. The Pistons could roll the dice and add a defensive-minded element on the wing.
Pelicans: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 190 | Sophomore
Culver has shouldered increased offensive responsibility to start the season and has fans around the league after a strong freshman year. As a big guard who can shoot threes, pass and defend, he’s shaping up as a quality prospect and is positioned for a breakout if Texas Tech can sustain last year’s strong play within the conference. Culver’s steady play has been a stabilizing factor for the Red Raiders, and he looks to be trending the right direction to open the season. The Pelicans have long been in the market for talent on the wing, and would be smart to address that need in cost-controlled fashion through the draft.
Nets (via Nuggets): Herbert Jones, SF, Alabama
Height: 6’7” | Weight: 200 | Sophomore
A late-bloomer with serious defensive versatility and length, Jones is a bit of a project, but is showing some offensive development in a more important role through the first five games of the season. There are mixed opinions as to how much his skills can expand, but he can play on the ball, has improved a bit as a shooter, and has the athleticism to impact the game as a rebounder and general matchup problem. If a team can coach him to be a passable shooter, Jones would be a nice upside play. With Denver currently in convincing shape to make the post-season, this lottery-protected selection is likely to convey to Brooklyn, who could roll the dice.
Thunder: PJ Washington, F, Kentucky
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 225 | Sophomore
Washington profiles as an interesting modern role player, able to impact games without heavy usage and a guy who will likely thrive playing alongside better guards and with improved floor spacing. He projects to be able to face up, pick-and-pop and knock down jumpers while offering some mobility and feel. He’s a solid rebounder and long and bouncy enough to compensate for his height. Like many players, the full breadth of his game might better shine through once he leaves Kentucky and moves into a more defined system. Washington’s strengths and role player potential make a lot of sense within the Thunder’s current structure.
76ers: Jaylen Hoard, F, Wake Forest
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 220 | Freshman
While Wake Forest isn’t shaping up to be an especially good team, Hoard’s physical profile as a strong, long, mobile wing player fits the first-round bill. He’s still in the process of fleshing out his offensive skill set, but will be able to defend a variety of matchups, rebound, and make contributions without requiring heavy possessions to impact the game. We’ll see how efficient he can be offensively in a leading role for the Demon Deacons, but he projects well as a supporting with his tools, particularly if his three-point shot comes along. Hoard cleanly fits some of the criteria the Sixers have looked for at forward next to their established trio of stars.
Pacers: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virgina Tech
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 200 | Sophomore
Alexander-Walker has looked much-improved to start the year and as his confidence has visibly spiked, he’s come into his own as an attractive combo-guard prospect. He can do a little bit of everything and compliment a variety of teammates, able to put it on the floor, finish and pass with either hand, and showing improved consistency shooting the three. The cousin of rising Clippers star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Alexander-Walker has the talent and feel to help an NBA team as a nice supporting player down the line. Indiana might consider adding some size to its backcourt mix around Victor Oladipo.
Warriors: Louis King, SF, Oregon
Height: 6’9” | Weight: 205 | Freshman
King has yet to make his college debut and is a divisive name with many scouts, yet it’s hard to argue with the talent he posseses and his potential to become a quality scorer on the wing. He needs to put all the facets of his game together more consistently, and there are murmurs about his work ethic and willingness to improve. King has a well-rounded, smooth game that would make for a good risk-reward option for a team that can afford it. If anyone has the established pieces and culture to roll the dice, it’s the Warriors.
Celtics (via Clippers): Jalen Smith, F/C, Maryland
Height: 6’10” | Weight 215 | Freshman
Off to a productive start despite the fact his three-ball hasn’t caught up in full just yet, Smith is an intriguing player with some role upside thanks to his comfortable shooting stroke, size, and projection as a shot-blocker and threat to score. He needs to get much stronger, but at the college level his strengths will generally play. He is a bit of a dart throw, but his game should make sense in the pros, and becoming a dangerous floor-spacer would help his team play five-out and maximize their options. If this pick doesn’t fall in the lottery, it will convey to Boston.
Celtics (via Grizzlies): Jontay Porter, F/C, Missouri
Height: 6’11” | Weight: 235 | Sophomore
Porter will miss the season recovering from injury, which may make it difficult for him to play his way into a Top-20 selection. Teams are still interested based on how good he was at times as a freshman, and analytically-inclined teams will see his production and look past his heavier build. An excellent passer, shooter and feel guy, Porter is an interesting modern-day center with a variety of strengths. The Grizzlies’ first-rounder is only protected for picks 1–8, giving it a decent chance to convey to the Celtics based on Memphis’ solid start to the season. Boston could give him plenty of time to recover based on their wealth of picks in this scenario.
Blazers: Simi Shittu, F/C, Vanderbilt
Height: 6’10” | Weight: 220 | Freshman
Low-usage, high-IQ bigs like Shittu are quality commodities with the way many teams play these days. He won’t require tons of post-up touches, has the skill to face up, potential to hit jumpers, and natural passing ability that makes sense as a supporting piece. He’s still getting back to full strength after an ACL tear, but has been productive nonetheless for Vanderbilt. Shittu’s mobility and willingness to defend and do the dirty work make him a solid, versatile prospect. His strengths would fit well in Portland.
Bucks: Eric Paschall, F, Villanova
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 255 | Senior
Paschall and Villanova are sputtering out of the gate, which has tempered a little bit of the first-round hype as a result. He remains a very strong role candidate within the correct type of system: he requires open looks to be created for him, but can shoot, pass, handle a little bit, and plays his ass off as a rebounder and defender. The Bucks need to find the right sort of winning glue guys to flank Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Paschall could make a lot of sense. If the pick falls between 4 and 16, it will go to the Suns, but the Bucks are on track to keep it.
Spurs (via Raptors): Ignas Brazdeikis, F, Michigan
Height: 6’7” | Weight: 225 | Freshman
One of the emergent stars after two weeks of college basketball, Brazdeikis plays with a fire in his belly and brandishes a versatile skill set. He allows the Wolverines to play big or small thanks to his toughness, desire to fight in the paint and the threat of his jump shot. He’s been quite good for Michigan, and has traits that bode well for an NBA role. This is the pick the Spurs acquired from the Raptors in the Kawhi Leonard trade, which is protected 1–20. He’d be a useful fit with their preferred style of play.