2019 NBA Mock Draft 3.0: Zion Williamson Remains on Top, Ja Morant Continues to Skyrocket
If after three months of college basketball it feels like this draft is just Zion Williamson and everyone else… that’s not entirely off-base. The good news is, things are about to get much more interesting, the next five months are going to move by quickly, and the big picture will continue to crystalize. Seeing a guy like Ja Morant skyrocket into the projected top three is evidence enough of how oddly and quickly this draft cycle can turn.
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. We’re about halfway through conference play, and while teams have a feel for what’s out there, there’s still plenty of time for things to change (they always do). After the trade deadline, we’ll have a better sense of each team’s individual direction and personnel setup going into the off-season, but here’s how the first round is shaping up at the moment.
The sequence of teams in this version of the mock draft factors in traded draft picks, and is based off of Basketball Reference’s playoff projections, which can be found here.
Cavaliers: Zion Williamson, F, Duke
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 285 | Freshman
Williamson is approaching permanent-ink status atop this draft class, his dominant play continuing to widen the gap in perception. Duke has needed every ounce of his prolific production, and his wide-ranging impact on winning games outweighs any long-term positional questions. Williamson is the type of talent you bring in to build around, and all the platitudes in the world can’t appropriately describe his rare combination of skill, strength and explosiveness. For a franchise like Cleveland in need of a jolt, his immediate star power is an added bonus. As we have maintained dating back before the season, Williamson is an ideal fit for the modern NBA, and a runaway choice at No. 1.
Bulls: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 175 | Sophomore
If there is justice in the world, Morant should be the first guard drafted in June. There’s not much of an argument for him to go ahead of Williamson, but he has a legitimate chance to be the next guy off the board. His ascent has been remarkable to witness, and for a team like Chicago with need for a playmaker and scorers already on the roster, opting for Morant over R.J. Barrett is entirely justifiable. The primary misconception about Morant is that he’s overpowering bad competition with his athleticism. When you watch closely (see the Alabama and Auburn games), it’s apparent that Morant has been able to take over games with his passing vision and tight handle. He sees things a step ahead, can get to any spot on the floor, and can use just about any angle to distribute the ball. Morant shoots with touch and should be able to improve his percentages from outside. If he ends up somewhere along the lines of a more athletic, better-shooting Rajon Rondo… that’s a pretty valuable player.
Suns: Cam Reddish, G/F, Duke
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 220 | Freshman
Odds are there will be teams trying to decide between Reddish and Barrett on draft night, and while Reddish has been wildly inconsistent, his skill set is going to hold more situational weight depending on who is picking where. For a team like the Suns with two ball-needy young stars in Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton, his skill set might be preferable to that of Barrett, who also commands a ton of touches. Dating back to high school, Reddish has been difficult for teams to get a handle on—there is a level of frustration with his poor play at Duke. It’s a risky move to take him here, but size and potential as a shooter and passer are still going to work in his favor. If a team can figure out a way to get him going every night, Reddish could be a positive-impact part of a lineup; the fear is that he’s simply not wired that way and will continue to frustrate. But if Phoenix is in this tricky position, trying to develop him into a versatile supporting piece around established talent might be better than bringing in Barrett to fight for touches.
Knicks: R.J. Barrett, G/F, Duke
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 200 | Freshman
It’s unlikely Barrett will slip any further than this, but it is within the realm of possibility that he falls a spot or two from No. 2. His ball-dominant tendencies and recurring tunnel vision have taken a bit of his sheen off as a prospect, but there is a level of floor given Barrett’s work ethic, athletic tools and scoring talent. His efficiency and shot selection will need to improve in order for him to anchor a winning offense, but if things click, Barrett should become a starting caliber wing. In his defense, he might be getting overly nitpicked relative to preseason expectations and also by playing alongside Williamson. The Knicks would be happy to see him fall and try to develop him as part of their rebuild.
Hawks: Nassir Little, F, North Carolina
Height: 6’6” | Weight: 220 | Freshman
This is the juncture in the draft where assessing value starts to get tricky, as most of the guys on the board come with serious question marks and teams fit comes into play more heavily when it comes to determining who the best prospect available might be. Little’s strength, shooting potential and ability to score going downhill are all attractive traits, but there are some evaluators with real concerns about his overall feel for the game, although the fit at UNC has been subpar. Little needs to improve his off-dribble game and learn to impact games within the flow of the offense much more consistently. He might project best as more of a switchable combo forward than as a pure wing player. Little makes sense for the rebuilding Hawks, who could try and maximize his effectiveness next to two quality backcourt passers in Trae Young and Kevin Huerter.
Magic: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 215 | Freshman
The Magic have begun tumbling down the standings and will likely end up in position to address their long-term backcourt issues through the draft. Langford has struggled shooting the ball from outside and begun to slump in recent weeks as Indiana has lost games. Still, his skill package, strong build and ability to score around the basket will still be appealing to teams in this range of the draft. Most pivotal is the development of his jump shot, which has been highly inconsistent all season and needs some mechanical adjustment. Langford does shoot it with touch, and some of his struggles are typical freshman issues that shouldn’t be over-weighted negatively. Orlando can let him play with the ball in his hands, where he is at his best, and try to develop him into the scorer their young core sorely needs.
Grizzlies: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 195 | Sophomore
Based on Memphis’ current trajectory and considering the possibility one or both of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are traded, their Top-8 protected first may not end up conveying to Boston this season. The Grizzlies could use help on the wing, Culver has been outstanding running the show for Texas Tech, and is generally seen as a prospect with a higher floor, if not a star ceiling. Though he’s not an elite athlete or pull-up shooter, Culver’s feel for decision-making and scoring ability have progressed, and he’s handled a great deal of responsibility this season for a winning team. With Jaren Jackson in the fold, Memphis doesn’t need to take a huge risk here, and will get a player who should be able to contribute useful minutes as a rookie.
Wizards: Kevin Porter, SG, USC
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 220 | Freshman
Porter has proven one of the more difficult prospects to peg this season, with a thigh injury sidelining him for more than a month, then a two-game suspension further limiting his availability, and he has had little opportunity to get into any type of rhythm. While the arc of his season will make it more difficult to justify a top-five selection, scouts who have gotten in-person looks at him still rave about his individual talent. There will be a point in the draft where you take the good with the bad, as Porter remains capable of a lot of things with the ball in his hands that other guys can’t do, and his sheer talent as a scorer will convince teams to take the plunge. Teams will do thorough background on his situation at USC, and make a value judgment. For the Wizards, taking a chance on his upside here might be enticing.
Pistons: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
Height: 6'3" | Weight: 170 | Freshman
Though he’s out for the season, Garland is expected to be able to partake in predraft workouts, and teams have a decent sense of what he can do dating back to high school. At his core, he is more of a scorer than a true pass-first point guard, but he’s flashed the ability to make reads and run a team, and some feel comfortable projecting those skills. However, Garland will not have a huge advantage athletically or strength-wise and has ground to make up defensively, so the continued evolution of his decision-making feel is key. His extremely limited sample against quality college competition will likely spawn some difference of opinion, but Garland is a lottery-type talent and has some level of security in this range—he could go higher if teams prioritize his position. The Pistons need to transition from Reggie Jackson eventually, and could turn to him here.
Hawks (via Mavericks): Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
Height: 6’11” | Weight: 220 | Freshman
Ja Morant will stand as the biggest riser of this draft cycle, and Hayes comes in behind him as another lottery-type prospect who emerged from semi-obscurity. He is inarguably raw, but has a chance to be the first center drafted based on his defensive impact, rim-running potential, and plus physical profile. This year’s group of first-round caliber big men is not particularly eye-popping, and when weighing upside and need, Hayes stands out among that pack. He’s a longer-term project, particularly on the offensive end but if you can afford to wait—and the Hawks certainly can—he might evolve into the sort of interior backbone a winning team can build around. Hayes would be a strong fit next to John Collins, and a fit with Atlanta’s preferred style.
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Timberwolves: Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 230 | Junior
Although the draft discussion has shifted in other directions since the start of the season, Hachimura continues to hold scouts’ intrigue as a physical scorer with upside as his game continues to expand. He’s not necessarily a sexy pick, but just looking at his rate of improvement over the course of the past year, there’s reason to think he can help a team as a rebounder and supporting frontcourt scorer. Hachimura’s jump shooting has progressed to the point where he could thrive without needing heavy offensive usage, and he will be able to keep up athletically and strength-wise with no issue. He’s been productive and highly efficient, and if he can improve on the defensive end, you’re looking at a rotation guy with upside. Hachimura should able to mix and match with Minnesota’s established frontcourt pieces.
Pelicans: Sekou Doumbouya, PF, Limoges
Height: 6’9” | Weight: 230 | Age: 18
Regardless of when the Pelicans deal Anthony Davis, their lens will be shifting toward a long-term rebuild, and bringing in a young forward to develop for the future is a good investment in this range of the lottery. Doumbouya is going to require patience, and has had an up-and-down season, but teams still like his body and tools. It could be wise to keep him overseas another season and get him to a good situation. He’s a gifted athlete and has potential as a shooter, and could also defend multiple positions down the line. Right now, he’s still an idea, but for New Orleans (who could end up with multiple first-rounders after dealing Davis), that’s not the worst thing.
Celtics (via Kings): De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia
Height: 6’7” | Weight: 225 | Sophomore
Hunter’s defensive prowess, floor-spacing capability and solid all-around game makes him the type of immediate-impact prospect the Celtics could use from a depth standpoint. He lacks a star ceiling, with a relatively limited off-the-dribble game, but does have have a clear pathway to role-player value at worst. His lanky, strong frame gives him matchup versatility on defense, and he’s cut from the cloth Boston has favored when it comes to forwards in recent years. Hunter should be able fit in at either forward spot and hold his own. Toward this part of the lottery, he should provide solid value, particularly for teams with the positional need.
Lakers: Keldon Johnson, G/F, Kentucky
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 210 | Freshman
Unsurprisingly, Johnson has been Kentucky’s most efficient scorer and more often than not a steadying force while the Wildcats have come into their own as a unit. He is not a flashy player, but he’s an intelligent, effective one, and his three-point shooting has exceeded expectations. Productive wings who play hard on both ends and come with the sort of competitive intangibles Johnson has are hard to come by, and when you find a guy like that, well, you tend to want to hang onto him. He may not have the upside of some of the other lottery-type prospects, but should still be well worth a pick in the middle of the first round. The Lakers might look a lot different next season, but would benefit from having Johnson around to develop into a rotation piece.
Heat: KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford
Height: 6’9” | Weight: 215 | Sophomore
Although Stanford hasn’t taken a leap as a team, Okpala has come into his own as their best player and likely first-rounder. It’s not out of the question that he might work his way up into the lottery. He’s big, rangy and has developed into a consistent shooting threat, and his length and agility should let him defend three positions. Okpala is a solid rebounder and passer at his size, as well, and as he continues to polish his game scoring the ball, offering substantial long-term potential. He’d fit in nicely with the Heat, who favor athletic wings in his mold.
Hornets: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 205 | Sophomore
This range of the draft is approximately where the talent curve begins to level off again, and while Alexander-Walker’s overall consistency still leaves something to be desired, he has taken a step forward this season and been much more productive. He profiles as a secondary playmaker and floor-spacing guard, preferably paired with a more athletic, quicker teammate who can create off the dribble. There’s reason to feel confident in his jumper, but Alexander-Walker is not as great off the bounce nor consistently aggressive getting downhill. His turnover issues probably preclude him from playing the point. Charlotte could pair him with Malik Monk (and more importantly, Kemba Walker if he re-signs) and get a positive fit here.
Nets: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland
Height: 6’10” | Weight: 235 | Sophomore
Brooklyn could use another big behind Jarrett Allen, and Fernando offers some immediate utility and a bit of upside as a physical, rim-running center. After piquing interest among teams picking at the end of the first round last year, he has taken a huge step forward and should end up warranting a first-round selection. His ability to run the floor, finish and rebound should translate nicely to the league in a vertical spacing role. Fernando brings strong intangibles to the table, has a bit of potential as a faceup shooter, and seems like a good bet to be useful sooner than later.
Celtics (via Clippers) Lottery protected: Bol Bol, C, Oregon
Height: 7'2" | Weight: 235 | Freshman
Bol’s season-ending foot injury exacerbated existing concerns about his ability to stay healthy, and the slivers of promising skill for his size have to be couched against his body type, inconsistent effort and the holes in his game. He seems likely to be pushed around by NBA opposition, and his value is predicated on his jump shot translating and becoming a unique weapon (and doing so efficiently enough to want him taking the shots he likes). If you think he will be able to hold up physically, then he’s worth a dice roll, and for a team like Boston with multiple picks, buying in on Bol’s upside as a floor-spacing center will end up on the table. His medical will be one of the more sought-after ones in the spring. Right now, it feels like he slips out of the lottery due to the range of concerns many have long held.
Rockets: Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 235 | Sophomore
As the Rockets fish for a backup center on a budget, taking a shot on Gafford—whose strengths mirror those of Clint Capela on a lesser scale—could give them a strong system fit. He has slipped out of the lottery conversation on most accounts as his skill level has been somewhat exposed this season, and while Gafford moves fluidly, his hands and feet are not as coordinated as you might like them to be for a guy expected to run the floor, catch lobs and rebound. That said, he has a good deal of natural talent, and his length and build should enable him to have a degree of success with playmakers around him.
Spurs (via Raptors): PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 230 | Sophomore
While this might be a little high for Washington, he would be a strong system fit in San Antonio, where the Spurs like to play with two bigs. Washington could help replace Dante Cunningham’s minutes as a rebounding presence and finisher up front right away. He’s come on strong in recent weeks and has a solid case as a long-term role guy in the right system, and while he has some limitations in terms of height, his jump shooting continues to come along. If Washington begins shooting the three consistently, he’ll bring a nice all-around set of strengths to the table.
Blazers: Louis King, SF, Oregon
Height: 6’9” | Weight: 205 | Freshman
Oregon has been a bit of a mess, but King has begun to make big contributions in conference play and is back on track following a long-term knee injury that sidelined him for the first month of the season. He’s smooth, can play off the dribble and has been shooting it well from outside, and in a league where bigger wings with size are hot commodities, he’s doing just enough to warrant someone’s investment in the first round. This range of the draft is still very much in flux, but King’s upside should be enough to get him looks here, particularly if his production keeps up.
Jazz: Goga Bitadze, C, KK Buducnost
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 245 | Age: 19
Bitadze is a first-round type talent enjoying a strong year overseas, and has been solid since moving to a EuroLeague club and facing new challenges. He’s got soft hands, a strong body and has been extremely effective on the glass and blocking shots. He’s also demonstrated some jump shooting ability. While slower-footed bigs like him have been marginalized somewhat in recent years, his strong production as a teenager playing real minutes in the Adriatic League is hard to ignore, and bodes well for his eventual transition to the NBA game. Bitadze had interest at the end of the first round last year and decided to stay in Europe. He could climb a bit from there this time around.
Thunder: Luguentz Dort, G, Arizona State
Height: 6'4" | Weight: 215 | Freshman
Though Dort has some noticeable holes in his skill set, his athleticism, energy and ability to get into the paint make him an intriguing first-round play. He moves exceptionally well for a guy with his heavy build, which translates when attacking downhill, but still has issues staying with smaller guards defensively. His touch around the basket could be better, as could his jumper, which needs work. Still, Dort is the type of physical, aggressive guard the Thunder tend to favor and could work his way into a role off the bench with positive contributions.
76ers: Jontay Porter, C, Missouri
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 235 | Sophomore
Philly still hankers for a backup center behind Joel Embiid, and Porter’s overall feel for the game, shooting ability and ability to function from outside the arc would make him a decent fit with Ben Simmons. Teams were somewhat split on Porter last year—his underwhelming athletic profile and body type make him hard to project defensively and detract from his appealing skill level. After sitting out the season with injury, it’s possible he slips closer to the back of the first round. Regardless, he’s still the same age as some freshmen, and remains an intriguing system fit.
Pacers: Coby White, G, North Carolina
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 185 | Freshman
With Darren Collison and Cory Joseph set to hit free agency, the Pacers are going to have to patch up their backcourt, particularly as Victor Oladipo recovers from injury going into next season. White has a good deal of upside on both sides of the ball, and is viewed as a strong late first-round type talent who could potentially play his way higher. He will always be more scorer than setup man and does struggle with turnovers, but he has strong size for a combo guard and is a solid three-point shooter, which helps him figure in as a feasible, productive guy long-term. He’ll only turn 19 in February.
Celtics (via Grizzlies): Luka Samanic, F, Union Olimpija
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 210 | Age: 18
Samanic’s upside remains intriguing as he navigates the season in Slovenia, as a big with the potential to face up, shoot and pass at a high level. He’s mobile and athletic, if not explosive, and would be an ideal stash candidate in this year’s draft, provided he comes out. There just aren’t a lot of 18-year-olds as skilled as he is at his size, and he has plenty of time to grow and get stronger. If Boston ends up picking three times in the first round, which they might, he‘d be an excellent flier.
Nets (via Nuggets): Tre Jones, PG, Duke
Height: 6’2” | Weight: 185 | Freshman
Jones might be getting a little too much credit from the general public right now, but he’s been a real part of Duke’s success as a guy who excels defensively in ball-pressure situations and at making decisions on offense. His shooting from outside has been iffy, but he has a chance to be a useful player at the next level, with the maturity to accept a role, distribute the ball and do a job. For the Nets, that’s solid value and a ready-made backup guard in this scenario.
Spurs (via Raptors): Talen Horton-Tucker, G/F, Iowa State
Height: 6’4” | Weight: 240 | Freshman
The Spurs, with two first-rounders, would have a strong opportunity to utilize Horton-Tucker’s unique skill set here. His play has been much better over the course of the past week, and if it persists, he should have a case to test and potentially come out. Horton-Tucker is gifted at playing on the move, and is a better three-point shooter than he’s shown at times—the issue is consistency. There are some questions about what position he’ll guard and what role he might play, but at this stage of the draft, if we’re taking a shot on talent, he makes sense for a creative team.
Warriors: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 190 | Freshman
Herro’s play has been much more as advertised over the past month or so, and to his credit he’s become more of an all-around contributor for the Wildcats than expected. He needs to add muscle in order to have a chance to survive defensively at the next level, but his creativity off the dribble, ability to hit deep threes and off-balance jumpers, and overall feel for scoring has started to pop a lot more. The Warriors can never have too many extra shooters, and Herro’s multi-faceted contributions should help his case to sneak into the first round.
Bucks: Carsen Edwards, G, Purdue
Height: 6’0” | Weight: 190 | Junior
At some point, people are going to have to stop nitpicking Edwards‘ weaknesses and focus closely on his clearly-defined strengths. He might be the best shot-making guard in the country in terms of degree of difficulty and volume, he’s strong, functionally athletic and brings positive intangibles to the table, and with the way NBA refs officiate games, Edwards should have plenty of space to get his jumper off. He has been solid defensively despite his lack of size and dragged a somewhat uninspiring Purdue roster to a 7–2 start in conference play, mostly by himself. On a team like the Bucks, where it matters less if he’s a point guard or playing off the ball, he could be a serious offensive weapon.