The 2019 NBA draft may seem far away, but it is on the radar of NBA teams. The McDonald’s All-American Game week marks the first time NBA executives can watch high school prospects as the all-star showcase season begins. Having spent the week in Atlanta taking in the scrimmages with NBA decision makers, this is a good occasion to explore the 2019 NBA draft as things stand now.
Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett headline the draft class presenting a unique story line heading into next college basketball season. There is a good chance the future Duke teammates will be competing to be the No. 1 draft pick in 2019. Cam Reddish, who is also headed to Duke, expects to be in the mix to be a high draft pick as well. Williamson spoke after practice about how he landed at Duke, and why he chose the Blue Devils over the other top programs on his list.
“He [Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski] told me he’d use me as an all-around player, like how he used LeBron James on Team USA,” Williamson explained. “I’m going to give a big shout out to Tre Jones for this. After he and Cam committed, those two made a group text with me and R.J.. Coach K told us these are the four we are going after…It was just getting to know each other, and how we can help each other. Then, R.J. committed then all three of them started talking to me about what we could do at the next level. I trust them, and I decided to join off their word and Coach K’s word.”
Duke is going to be must-see TV for college basketball fans along with those who follow the NCAA to look at NBA draft prospects. As for the week in Atlanta, the practices were typical for a high school all-star game, making it hard for NBA teams to get a great feel for each player. A lot of the practices were spent on drills that were less than helpful from a talent evaluation standpoint, with very little scrimmage time throughout the week. NBA teams are hoping to get a better look at Nike Hoops Summit and the Jordan Brand Classic.
There is still plenty of time to go before the 2019 draft, and new players will emerge during the college basketball season. The draft order is based on a randomized lottery generator along with the current NBA playoff standings. With the 2018 draft, upcoming free agent signings and trades to come over the off-season, team needs were not given much consideration in this mock.
Here’s a look at my initial 2019 NBA mock draft.
NBA Mock Draft 2019: Top 10 Picks
No. 1 Orlando Magic: SG R.J. Barrett, Duke
The biggest challenge for Barrett is knocking down his jumper more consistently, something he has been working on for the last year. During drills, Barrett shows the ability to knock down jump shots, but has been inconsistent during scrimmages. As of now, Barrett is a slasher, getting buckets off his ability to penetrate defenses.
Like many of the top high school prospects, Barrett will need to get stronger, but has the frame to do so. Barrett is already aggressive inside the paint, and not afraid to mix it up for second chance points. Barrett’s ability to secure the No. 1 pick will depend, in large part, on how much his jump shot progresses at Duke.
Be sure to check out Heavy’s in-depth feature on Barrett.
No. 2 Phoenix Suns: F Zion Williamson, Duke
Williamson was the story of the week in Atlanta thanks to his thunderous dunks and wowing the crowd at Moorehouse College during Jam Fest. All these factors make Williamson plenty marketable, but are not the boxes that NBA front office personnel are looking to check. During practices, Williamson displayed the ability to hit both the mid-range jumper and college three. During actual scrimmages, Williamson relied mostly on his post game and athleticism to score. The jump shooting occurred during warm ups and drills rather than in-game action.
Williamson came into the showcase season in better shape losing 20 pounds since Hoops Hall, per 247 Sports’ Evan Daniels. Williamson plays strong, and a lot like a post player. According to SB Nation, he is 6’6″ with a 6’10” wingspan, not great numbers for a big man. He’s at his best in the paint making it a bit unclear if small forward would be a fit for him.
Something tells me Coach K will figure it out at Duke. Williamson has the raw talent and athleticism to be the No. 1 pick if he can show where he fits positionally in the NBA. Penny Hardaway once compared him to Charles Barkley, which is the best comparison I have heard based on his size, build and athleticism.
No. 3 Memphis Grizzlies: SF Nassir Little, North Carolina
It seemed like everywhere you looked during McDonald’s All-American practices, Little was throwing down a ferocious dunk. Little was one of the most athletic players in Atlanta. While his jumper is still a work in progress, Little has what it takes to become the complete package. Little’s presence combined with the top Duke players will cause next year’s Duke-North Carolina games to be highly attended by NBA scouts.
No. 4 Atlanta Hawks: SF Cameron Reddish, Duke
By no doing of his own, Reddish has been lost in the spotlight of Williamson and Barrett. Reddish is in the conversation with his future Duke teammates to be a top pick, and was one of the few players that enters college with a jump shot intact. Winning a three-point contest does not count for much when it comes to the NBA, but it does show he is capable of hitting the outside shot. His jump shot was inconsistent in actual scrimmages, something he can hopefully improve upon in the other upcoming all-star games. In addition to his playing ability, Reddish comes across as genuine and down-to-earth during interviews. This can only help him whenever he decides to go pro during the pre-draft process with teams.
No. 5 Dallas Mavericks: PF De’Andre Hunter, Virginia
Many believe Hunter is the best player who has played at Virginia under Tony Bennett. Hunter was forced to miss the NCAA tournament with a wrist injury, and Virginia’s title hopes went down with Hunter as the Cavaliers became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed. Hunter won the ACC Sixth Man of the Year award, doing most of his damage off the bench. Hunter averaged just 19.9 minutes a game last season, and it will be interesting to see what he can do with a bigger opportunity.
Here’s how ESPN’s Jonathan Givony describes Hunter’s game.
You can’t have enough versatility, basketball IQ and length at the combo forward position in today’s NBA, and Hunter stands out in both those categories as a strong candidate to play positionless basketball. Being a key cog on the No. 1 defensive team in college basketball while learning how to play a role under highly respected coach Tony Bennett helps his cause a great deal, as well.
No. 6 Brooklyn Nets: SF Keldon Johnson, Kentucky
It is hard to imagine a Kentucky player coming into the showcase season under the radar, but it’s a fair description of Johnson. I felt Johnson had one of the best weeks of any player. During practice on Day 1, Johnson attacked the basket at will, scoring on multiple offensive possessions. Johnson was one of the few vocal leaders during this week’s practices. He’ll have an opportunity to enter the NBA with a Kentucky pedigree which has been looked at favorably in recent years.
No. 7 Philadelphia Sixers (via Kings): C Daniel Gafford, Arkansas
Gafford opted to return to Arkansas for another season despite being a likely top 15 pick in 2018. The Arkansas big man stands a better chance to be a high pick in 2019 given the plethora of bigs in the 2018 draft. Gafford put up modest numbers this season at 11.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. NBA teams will want to see more consistent production, but Gafford has an opportunity to be one of the first big men selected in the 2019 draft.
No. 8 Chicago Bulls: C Bol Bol, Oregon
I was looking forward to seeing Bol play in person after hearing buzz about Manute Bol’s son. Bol was sidelined all week from practices, but will get an opportunity (health permitting) to perform in front of NBA executives during other showcase events such as the Jordan Classic. Bol should inject life into an Oregon program that had a down year. Like his father, Bol is a massive human being coming in at 7’2″.
No. 9 New York Knicks: F Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga
Hachimura flashed in a big way towards the end of the season. The Gonzaga forward is still a bit raw, and seems to be learning the game. It is not uncommon for Hachimura to look lost on a play, then come up with an amazing play on the next possession. Hachimura had a later start than most of the players he is competing against, and an NBA team could snatch him up seeing his potential with a few years of NBA coaching. The Japanese forward may have had the best performance of the season in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament where he dropped 25 points on Ohio State.
No. 10 Los Angeles Lakers: F Simi Shittu, Vanderbilt
Shittu suffered a torn ACL, and was not able to participate in the basketball portion of things during McDonald’s week. I did have an opportunity to speak with Shittu who expects to be back by the time the college basketball season starts. Shittu was a top 10 ranked recruit prior to his surgery. While it is hard to get a great feel for his game based on high school footage, Shittu looks to be an extremely athletic forward who also has shooting range. Noting his versatility, Shittu explained in our interview that he expected to play positions “1-4” at Vanderbilt, despite being listed as a power forward.
NBA Mock Draft 2019: Picks 11-30
|No. 11 Charlotte Hornets||SG Romeo Langford, Undeclared|
|No. 12 Detroit Pistons||G D’Marcus Simonds, Georgia State|
|No. 13 Milwaukee Bucks||PG Devon Dotson, Kansas|
|No. 14 Denver Nuggets||PF Luka Samanic, Barcelona|
|No. 15 Boston Celtics (via Clippers)||SG Quentin Grimes, Kansas|
|No. 16 Miami Heat||PF Sekou Doumbouya, France|
|No. 17 Washington Wizards||PF Jarred Vanderbilt, Kentucky|
|No. 18 Minnesota Timberwolves||PF Jalen Smith, Maryland|
|No. 19 Utah Jazz||SF Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Virginia Tech|
|No. 20 New Orleans Pelicans||SG Terence Davis, Ole Miss|
|No. 21 San Antonio Spurs||SF Herb Jones, Alabama|
|No. 22 OKC Thunder||SG Gary Trent Jr., Duke|
|No. 23 Indiana Pacers||SF Jontay Porter, Missouri|
|No. 24 Philadelphia Sixers||PG Darius Garland, Vanderbilt|
|No. 25 Atlanta Hawks (via Cavs)||C Marko Simonovic, Siena|
|No. 26 Portland Trail Blazers||G Donte Divincenzo, Villanova|
|No. 27 Boston Celtics||C Aric Holman, Mississippi State|
|No. 28 Golden State Warriors||SF Louis King, Oregon|
|No. 29 Toronto Raptors||SG John Petty, Alabama|
|No. 30 Houston Rockets||C Udoka Azubuike, Kansas|