Mock drafts are tough to compile, especially this far out from the actual event because a ton can happen between now and then. However, it’s never too early to predict which ways teams decide to go based upon their respective needs. Next June expects to see a slew of young players selected early, but which ones sneak into the top five in the 2019 NBA Draft? Without further ado, here is the January edition of my 2019 NBA mock draft. Note: This mock draft is based on if the NBA season ended today and current records; it does not reflect future results or implications. Draft position and selections will likely change each month.
- Cleveland Cavaliers: F Zion Williamson- Fr; Duke
There won’t be too much explanation behind this. The freshman phenom is continuing to take the college basketball world by storm and is showing no signs of slowing down. He’s averaging 21.7 points on 67.0 percent shooting, to go with 9.3 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game. This selection is a no-brainer, because Cleveland takes the best overall prospect and begins the new post-LeBron James era.
2. New York Knicks: PG Ja Morant- So; Murray State
Perhaps the most exciting prospect outside of Zion, Morant has exploded on to the college basketball scene this season. The versatile point guard is averaging 24.3 PPG, 10.6 APG, and 5.9 RPG. With the future of Frank Ntilikina in question and there being uncertainty regarding the Knicks’ backcourt, Morant is a solid pickup. His explosive scoring and playmaking ability make him a righteous candidate to play in the Big Apple.
3. Phoenix Suns: G/F R.J. Barrett- Fr; Duke
Phoenix could certainly use a point guard here, but with Morant off the board, the Suns go with the best available prospect. Barrett leads the stacked-Duke squad in scoring with 23.9 PPG and has shown ability to score at all three levels. He will need to improve his shooting efficiency (as he has an effective field goal rate of just 50.4 percent, per Sports Reference) but has the potential to be a future star. The Suns elect to add another playmaker to take some of the responsibilities off of Devin Booker.
4. Chicago Bulls: G Romeo Langford- Fr; Indiana
Langford had somewhat of a bumpy start to the season, but has since smoothened out his play. The Bulls need severe help in their backcourt and he can play in different roles. Whether it’s handling or playing off the ball, Langford is a 6-foot-6 hybrid that can score a lot of points in a hurry. Three-point shooting will be a question at the next level, considering he’s shooting only 21.7 percent and only has a three-point rate of 29.6, per Sports Reference, but he possesses all of the physical tools to succeed. Plus, his offensive craftiness is something that Chicago needs.
5. Atlanta Hawks: F Cam Reddish- Fr; Duke
Reddish could’ve landed in the top three, but there are concerns centered around his explosiveness (or lack there of) and ability to create his own shot. However, he is behind Zion and Barrett in terms of scoring, which may have something to do with his production. With that being said, he may be one of the best shooters in the class and would give Atlanta a prime three-and-D candidate to pair alongside Trae Young. His length and versatility could lead to the Hawks pulling the trigger.
6. Memphis Grizzlies: SG Kevin Porter Jr- Fr; USC
Despite his statistical averages and conduct concerns, the Grizzlies bank on potential to re-vitalize their franchise. Porter possesses all of the qualities of a prototypical NBA shooting guard. His ability to score in a multitude of ways and make plays with his length and uber-athleticism have scouts drooling over the possibilities. There are a couple ways Memphis could go with this pick, but considering they are now reportedly listening to trade offers for Marc Gasol and Mike Conley and are looking to build around Jaren Jackson Jr. (per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski), they are indicating their focus is on the future.
7. Orlando Magic: PG Darius Garland- Fr; Vanderbilt
The Magic need a point guard, plain and simple. Unfortunately, Garland only appeared in five games before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. However, his basketball IQ and playmaking abilities could serve as the catalyst for a Magic team that needs a ball-handler. He will be able to stretch the floor due to his perimeter shooting, but his overall scoring arsenal is questionable in terms of translating to the NBA. Regardless, Orlando is in dire need for a lead guard.
8. Detroit Pistons: SG Jarrett Culver- So; Texas Tech
After sitting backseat last season, Culver has taken his game to the next level as a sophomore. He is currently averaging 18.7 PPG and 7.1 RPG; even with Texas Tech struggling in conference play, that doesn’t take away the potential that Culver possesses. Although not the most athletic, he uses an advanced offensive toolkit to score at all three levels. His perimeter shooting (37.2 percent from deep in his two NCAA seasons) would give Detroit much-needed floor spacing and another scoring option, in an effort to maximize Blake Griffin’s prime.
9. Washington Wizards: C Bol Bol- Fr; Oregon
Foot injuries can severely damage NBA careers, especially for big men. Bol will need to add weight and get stronger, but his 7-foot-2 frame and length are worth noting. Now add his perimeter shooting, quickness, and ball-handling abilities to that size; the risk is high, but the reward could be astronomical. Not many players possess the skill set that Bol does at his size and the Wizards may pull the trigger due to their glaring frontcourt needs.
10. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas): C Jaxson Hayes- Fr; Texas
Despite not having a true identity or producing substantially at the collegiate level, I’m starting to buy the hype on Hayes. At 6-foot-11, he runs the floor and finishes above the rim exceptionally well. He is raw to say the least, but his guard-like play and quickness for his size are very appealing to NBA scouts, as our own Ben Pfeifer displayed recently. With the Hawks having selected Cam Reddish earlier in the 2019 NBA Draft, they can afford to take an athletic big man, to pair with John Collins in the future.
11. New Orleans Pelicans: SF De’Andre Hunter- So; Virginia
The Pelicans have made it known that they are reportedly in search “wing help” to bolster their roster around Anthony Davis, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Even if they acquire a short-term solution, Hunter is still a prime three-and-D candidate. Hunter’s maturity and 7-foot-2 wingspan make him a candidate to upgrade New Orleans’ perimeter defense. He has shown flashes of offensive potential, but concerns still loom around substantial production. Either way, he spaces the floor and could play right away for the Pels.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves: G/F Keldon Johnson- Fr; Kentucky
Besides Karl-Anthony Towns and (maybe) Andrew Wiggins, there’s no telling who is safe and who’s not on the Wolves’ roster. Johnson has shown the ability to score consistently in the mid-range while getting to the rim almost at will. Perimeter shooting consistency will continue to be a question, but Johnson has shown that he can knock down the deep ball. Athleticism and defense are also appealing to Minnesota, on top of everything else.
13. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento): Nassir Little- Fr; North Carolina
In my earlier edition of the 2019 mock draft, I had Little going third overall, but he has yet to live up to expectations. He’s averaging 10.6 PPG on a mere 25.0 percent from deep; I understand that Carolina is a well-balanced team in terms of scoring, but he has under-performed according to preseason hype. Nonetheless, he possesses super athleticism and length (a 7-foot-1 wingspan). Also, he flourishes going downhill and getting out and scoring in transition. The Celtics could have up to four first-rounders, so grabbing Little could be for a blockbuster trade or for wing depth.
14. Los Angeles Lakers: PF/C Jontay Porter- So; Missouri
If it wasn’t for injury, Porter may have found himself inside the top 10, but the reality is there is a small sample size of him and not playing the whole previous season makes him a risk. With Tyson Chandler, Ivica Zubac, and JaVale McGee set to become free agents, the Lakers will need big men. The reward could be huge considering Porter has good vision and can also space the floor and hit perimeter shots (he shot 36.4 percent from three last year, per Sports Reference).
15. Charlotte Hornets: PF/C Brandon Clarke- Jr; Gonzaga
Clarke is the most intriguing prospect of the draft, in my opinion. He’s listed in the 6-foot-8 range, but he possesses a wingspan of around seven-feet. The Hornets need help in the frontcourt and Clarke would be a prime candidate. One of the best defenders in the class, he contains “jump out of the gym” athleticism. Although there’s not a ton of perimeter offense, Clarke exceeds in driving to the basket and finishing above the rim.
16. Miami Heat: G Coby White- Fr; North Carolina
Point Justise Winslow has turned into a real phenomenon for the Heat, but White can play either position. There is a ton of uncertainty in the Miami backcourt, filled with unwanted contracts. White brings explosive scoring abilities, as he is capable of consistently scoring on all three levels. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra and company can continue to develop him as a primary ball-handler, but he will be able to help offensively right away.
17. Brooklyn Nets: F Sekou Doumbouya- 18 years old; France
Having Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and possibly D’Angelo Russell in the fold next season, the Nets will turn to add a frontcourt mate for Jarrett Allen and company. Doumbouya is one of the youngest in the 2019 NBA Draft, having just turned 18 in December. He is still raw offensively, but has shown flashes of post play and perimeter shooting; he will be able to contribute immediately on defense and in transition.
18. Boston Celtics (via LA Clippers): PF/C Daniel Gafford- So; Arkansas
Marcus Morris and possibly Al Horford (player option) are set to become free agents in July meaning that the Celtics could use a big man. While maybe not the best prospect remaining, Gafford fits the role needed. He is averaging 16.5 PPG and 9.4 RPG as a sophomore and has shown ability to run the floor and finish above the rim well. Despite not having an outside game, Gafford’s athleticism and shot blocking would do justice for a Boston squad that won’t have to rely on him scoring substantially.
19. Utah Jazz: PG Tre Jones- Fr; Duke
Ricky Rubio becomes a free agent in July and there is no telling what Utah’s plans are with him or Dante Exum. In my opinion, Tre Jones is the best on-ball defender in college basketball and the x-factor for the loaded Duke squad. He will have to develop further as a scorer and shooter, but his vision, high basketball IQ, and facilitating will unlock the Jazz on both ends of the floor. The pick-and-roll game with Rudy Gobert, allowing Donovan Mitchell to play off-ball, and finding open shooters are some of the benefits.
20. San Antonio Spurs: PF PJ Washington- So; Kentucky
I’m higher on Washington than most, especially with the Spurs needing some frontcourt depth. What he lacks in height, he makes up with length; possessing a 7-foot-3 wingspan makes him a versatile defender who can block shots. He is still developing an offensive identity, but he is effective in the post and continually improving his perimeter shooting.
21. Houston Rockets: SG Jordan Poole- So; Michigan
Credit to fellow NBA Draft Analysis writer, the previously mentioned Ben Pfeifer, for bringing me on to the Poole bandwagon. After hitting a game-winning three-pointer against Houston in last year’s tournament, he has exploded on to the scene in his sophomore campaign. In a balanced Michigan offense, Poole is averaging 12.9 PPG on 48.3 percent shooting. His 42.1 percent perimeter shooting clip is a match made in heaven for Houston; he can also handle the ball efficiently.
22. Portland Trailblazers: F Kezie Okpala- So; Stanford
There are not many more that have seen their 2019 NBA Draft stock rise as much as Okpala. As a sophomore, he is averaging 18.1 PPG (46.2 percent shooting from deep, per Sports Reference) and 6.5 RPG. He provides Portland with a young, long wing who can score in a variety of ways-whether it be from three or driving to the basket.
23. Oklahoma City Thunder: PF Jalen Smith- Fr; Maryland
Just like various other teams, the Thunder need frontcourt depth. Like Gafford, Smith isn’t the best remaining prospect, but he fits the role. He can move down the court very well for his size and has shown flashes of being able to score at the three different levels. He also serves as a good defender who can block shots with his length. Overall, Smith is a raw prospect, but OKC doesn’t need him to be a serious contributor right away.
24. Boston Celtics: SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker- So; Virginia Tech
At this point, the Celtics have already taken a wing and a big man, so they might as well add a guard. Alexander-Walker is averaging 18.3 PPG on 44.3 percent from deep and would help floor spacing when on the court. Although not the most gifted athletically, he has good size and high basketball IQ.
25. Philadelphia 76ers: G Luguentz Dort- Fr; Arizona State
The 76ers could use some depth, especially in the backcourt. Dort may not shoot the ball as efficiently as Philly would hope, but he contains superb athleticism and quickness and can play multiple positions. Penetrating the lane and pull-up jumpers is where Dort scores from the most, but he will need to continue to develop his outside shot. Regardless, the limited role in Philly’s offense will give him a chance to excel.
26. Indiana Pacers: Talen Horton-Tucker-Fr; Iowa State
With Tyreke Evans, Cory Joseph, and Darren Collinson all set to become free agents, the Pacers will be looking to add another guard. Horton-Tucker just turned 18 in November and has shown flashes of being able to score in many different ways. He is raw in terms of offense, but his 7-foot wingspan and playmaking ability would make him a nice addition to the Pacers.
27. Brooklyn Nets (via Denver): F Grant Williams- Jr; Tennessee
The Nets elect to bolster their frontcourt once again by selecting the reigning SEC player of the year. Williams may not be the most athletic or have the most potential, but his toughness matches that of the Nets. Williams’ leadership and high IQ make this a low-risk, medium-reward type situation.
28. Golden State Warriors: C Charles Bassey- Fr; Western Kentucky
The Warriors have no glaring needs to address (obviously); with DeMarcus Cousins, Kevon Looney, and Jordan Bell all becoming free agents, they decide to take a young center. His offensive game is lacking, but he can finish above the rim and rebound effectively, fitting the big man mold for Golden State.
29. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto): G Admiral Schofield- Sr; Tennessee
I may very well be the president of the Admiral bandwagon. Despite not possessing elite athleticism or quickness, he is fundamentally exceptional. He’s shooting 42.0 percent from behind-the-arc and will be able to immediately contribute in San Antonio. Not to mention, his strength is often overlooked and he is a quality defender.
30. Milwaukee Bucks: PG Shamorie Ponds- Jr; St. Johns
Despite having George Hill, Eric Bledsoe is a free agent in July and the future with Malcolm Brogdon is uncertain. Ponds’ offensive repertoire outweighs his small stature and his three-point shooting abilities create much needed floor space for Giannis Antetokounmpo.