2019 NBA Mock Draft: Zion Williamson still an easy pick to take at No. 1 even after knee injury
Williamson doesn't slip in the latest mock draft and goes to the Suns at No. 1
In the same way that draft prospects are separating themselves in the lottery discussion, so too are teams in the NBA as they barrel towards the finish line post-All-Star Game. Even with as much ball as there is left to play, it's becoming increasingly more clear which franchises are going to enter the offseason with the best odds to win the draft lottery -- and, more specifically, the highest likelihood to have the opportunity to draft Duke star Zion Williamson.
Whether Williamson's knee sprain, which he suffered Wednesday whilst, allows him to return to the court this season is inconsequential (he's listed officially as " " by Duke). Just 26 games into his collegiate career, he stands in an echelon of his own among other prospects in this class.
So as the college hoops season fast approaches its regular season end, there's no better time than the present to check in on which franchises are expected to have the best odds to have the privilege of selecting at No. 1, which players are expected to be selected, and where. Below is our latest mock draft with the order set by SportsLine's projected final records. (Note: Basketball fit and present roster situations are taken into account, and may differ from the CBS Sports top-75 prospect rankings.)
Zion Williamson | Duke | Fr | PF | 6-7
The Suns are at a point in their rebuild where they just need to acquire the best talent. Grabbing Deandre Ayton at No. 1 overall last season to put alongside rising star Devin Booker was a step in the right direction, no question, and drafting Zion Williamson here is a no-brainer. He's the best talent in the draft, with the highest upside. Whether he's more equipped to play the small forward or the power forward in the NBA is a question for another day; he can be an instant contributor in Phoenix and has star potential to boot.
Ja Morant | Murray St. | Soph | PG | 6-3Is Dennis Smith Jr. the fix New York needed at point guard? Maybe, maybe not. But with Ja Morant on the board at No. 2, you simply can't pass. He's the best passer in this year's class by a mile -- he leads the NCAA in assists per game and assist rate -- and has athleticism rivaling that of Zion's, a rare trait for a point guard that will elicit comparisons to Russell Westbrook. Even with a good-not-great shot (which has improved a tick from last season at Murray State), he's worth taking for the Knicks regardless of where the franchise feels on Smith Jr. If Morant can improve his accuracy shooting the ball on the perimeter, which should come with time, he'll validate this top-two selection.
RJ Barrett | Duke | Fr | SG | 6-7Considering that six months ago RJ Barrett was widely considered to be the favorite to go No. 1 overall, Cleveland is getting excellent value here; the Cavs are essentially getting a No. 1 talent at third overall. Barrett's supremely polished as an offensive weapon at this stage in his development, and the concerns about his inefficient, ball-dominant tendencies are overblown. He's making incremental improvements already in his game at Duke. Barrett's playmaking abilities will complement, and maybe take some pressure off, 2018 lottery pick point guard Collin Sexton.
Darius Garland | Vanderbilt | Fr | PG | 6-2The Bulls need help. A point guard is a good starting point. Darius Garland, whose season ended early at Vanderbilt due to injury, is a seamless fit. Chicago may be wise to trade back and take him -- he's likely to be available a few picks after this -- but for a franchise that's been rudderless in part because it has lacked a true point guard to build around, Garland may be worth the slight reach. His offensive package is advanced beyond his years, and he's an A-plus ball handler. His decision-making/passing will need to improve overall, and he'll need to work on packing on muscle to his frame But with time, Garland has a chance to develop into the best all-around point guard in this draft.
Cam Reddish | Duke | Fr | SF | 6-8
The Hawks have a core to build around with John Collins, Trae Young and Taurean Prince, and adding Cam Reddish would be yet another promising prospect to the process. Reddish has shown flashes of being a great playmaker -- he rates in the top 4 percent according to Synergy as a pick-and-roll ball handler, scoring 61 percent of the time -- and his shot mechanics are tremendous. Though he's been streaky as both a player and shooter at times this season for Duke, which hasn't been the case of late with three 22+ point outings in his last five games, his upside as a secondary playmaker would be too enticing for Atlanta to pass on here at No. 5 -- if he's still on the board.
Romeo Langford | Indiana | Fr | SG | 6-6
Nassir Little | North Carolina | Fr | SF | 6-6
Jaxson Hayes | Texas | Fr | C | 6-11It doesn't appear that New Orleans is planning to have Anthony Davis in its long-term plans given the star's latest trade demand. Without him, the team needs to address its center position. At No. 8, the Pelicans can find good value in a raw-but-talented big man with Texas frosh Jaxson Hayes. Hayes has separated himself as the top big prospect in this year's crop of players. His offensive polish will need some spit-shine, sure, and it will take time and investment from the staff to bring that out of him. But what Hayes does well -- protecting the rim, blocking shots and finishing lobs with supreme bounce -- should translate immediately. When he builds out his frame and develops more feel for the game, he can be a star. Hayes grew up a point guard -- but mostly focused on football -- before growing like a weed late in his high school career left him looking for his Division I opportunities in hoops. There's plenty of room to grow.
Jarrett Culver | Texas Tech | Soph | SG | 6-6
Pick via Dallas: Is there such thing as too many capable off-ball guards? (Answer: No.) Even with selecting Cam Reddish early, Jarrett Culver's a player Atlanta would be hard-pressed to pass on because he does things that Reddish can't. At 6-6, Culver is capable of playing either at shooting guard or at the wing, and his defensive versatility stretches through several positions. In the NBA, where versatility and switchability is at a premium, Culver brings excellent value at No. 9 if he's still on the board.
De'Andre Hunter | Virginia | Soph | SF | 6-7
In terms of a ready-made skill set, De'Andre Hunter is near the tops in this draft class. His defensive capabilities are plug-and-play, and his 3-point stroke, which was already respectable as a freshman at 38.2 percent, is up to 45.5 percent as a sophomore for Virginia. Miami will love his versatility as a defender both on the perimeter on the post, and love even more his accuracy as a spot-up shooter. He doesn't have to have the ball in his hands to be effective.
Coby White | North Carolina | Fr | PG | 6-5
Even with a buy-low flyer taken on 2017 No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz, Orlando should be looking point guard here to upgrade the position. Taking UNC frosh Coby White here is a huge swing. He's going to be a mid-to-late first-rounder on some boards, but White's imaginative offensive playmaking and scoring threat from anywhere on the court may earn him some late buzz as a climber after he shows out at the NBA combine. What he does well would be a huge addition to the Magic's rebuild. They already have some intriguing pieces, but White could be the pawn that helps meld it together.
Keldon Johnson | Kentucky | Fr | SG | 6-6
The Timberwolves took a bouncy wing in last year's draft, Josh Okogie, that's looking more-and-more like a steal. Still yet, despite some duplicative talent crossover between he and UK product Keldon Johnson, they shouldn't pass on him here at No. 12 if he falls this far. He's a top 10 player in this class. Johnson's an excellent spot-up shooter, hitting 40.4 percent of 3-pointers this season, and he has two-way capability with a long 6-6 frame. His energy and bounce could earn him a shot at making an instant impact with down-the-line glue guy potential.
Bol Bol | Oregon | Fr | C | 7-2
Pick via Sacramento: Bol Bol's season was cut short due to injury -- a huge concern for a 7-2 prospect. But at some point, the risk of Bol flaming out is worth the reward that he develops into a star. His unique combination of skills as a 3-point shooting (52 percent on 25 attempts) rim protector (his block rate in 12 games was 12.5 percent, which rates in the top 10 nationally) is too tantalizing to pass on. And for Boston, which is taking Sacramento's pick at No. 13 and already loaded at virtually every position, the chance Bol becomes a star would be like stealing.
Rui Hachimura | Gonzaga | Jr | PF | 6-8
Gonzaga's leading scorer, Rui Hachimura, has improved every season he's been in Spokane, Washington. With his improvements this season, it's looking to likely be his last given the leap he's made. He's improved from 19.2 percent as a 3-point shooter last season to 42.3 this season, and his assists and shot-making in non-3-pointers have improved, too. He won't be asked to be the same playmaker in the NBA that he is with the Zags, but he should slot comfortably into a lesser role given his improvement as a shooter. With the Lakers, he could develop into a off-bench backup for LeBron James or Kyle Kuzma, or potentially a Kuzma replacement if he gets dealt in the offseason. His floor-stretching would give L.A. the 3-point threat it desires at the forward spot.
Sekou Doumbouya | France | SF | 6-9
While Doumbouya won't get the same attention as other college standouts, he's already been playing at the professional level for more than two years. An 18-year-old forward, hisis his versatility -- he can guard shooting guards and big men, and is expected to be around 6-10 this summer -- as well as his threat to make outside shots. He can knock down open looks and creates plays with the ball in his hands. When he adds more weight to his still-growing frame, he'll be capable of defending the post with confidence given his sheer length.
Kevin Porter Jr. | USC | SG | 6-6
Talent isn't lacking for USC product Kevin Porter Jr.; he's a well-polished offensive product who has shown Harden-esque flashes as a shot-creator. But consistent production and effort haven't been there this season. Some nights he's the best player on the floor, some nights he's just another guy. At No. 16, though, the Nets can bet on seeing more of the former than the latter in the NBA. His off-the-dribble jumpers are a thing of beauty, and he's not afraid to mimic Harden down to the stepback-shooting ways of the Houston star; according to Synergy, 65 percent of his shots in the half court come from long distance, and he rates in the 17th percentile in that category.
Jontay Porter | Missouri | Soph | C | 6-11
Even a preseason knee injury won't keep Missouri's second-year star Jontay Porter from pushing lottery selection. He's too gifted. His size, skill, shot-making and rim-protection make him an ideal stretch-four/five at the next level. Porter could add another dimension to Detroit's offense with Blake Griffin that Andre Drummond cannot.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker | Virginia Tech | Soph | SG | 6-6
Pick via Los Angeles Clippers: Nickeil Alexander-Walker has improved in virtually every facet of his game in his second season in Blacksburg, all while taking on a significantly more prominent role in the Hokies' system. He won't be the same high-usage player in the NBA, though, which is why a fit with the Celtics makes sense. His 3-point shooting (39.5 percent) and off-ball IQ on offense as a cutter should fit perfectly as a second or third fiddle in Boston's system. Whether it's knocking down open shots as a 3-and-D player, or initiating offense as a second shot creator, he should thrive.
KZ Okpala | Stanford | Soph | SF | 6-9
Long, young and athletic, KZ Okpala's an intriguing wing prospect whose shot-making has improved drastically with the Cardinal in his second season. He's not quite ready to make a massive impact in the NBA -- he's only one season removed from struggling a bit overall at the college level as a scorer/decision-maker -- but at 19 the Spurs are as qualified as any to turn his prospects into peak potential.
Brandon Clarke | Gonzaga | Jr | PF | 6-8
You know what would make Utah's defense, already a nightmare with Rudy Gobert protecting the rim, more lethal? Adding another lethal shot-blocker to the mix like Gonzaga's Brandon Clarke. Clarke's 3.04 blocks per game ranks third in the NCAA this season. What's more: His efficiency numbers are dazzling. He's averaging 16.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting 68.7 percent, the highest percentage at the Division I level this season and the 11th highest since at least 1992-1993. He's a fluid athlete who moves really well for his size, and won't be the victim often of pick-and-roll targeting in the NBA. The Jazz could play him alongside Gobert and not have to worry about Clarke's mobility in the same way as Derrick Favors.
Luguentz Dort | Arizona State | Fr | SG | 6-4
Pick via Houston: Luguentz Dort's trending downward in the New Year -- as is Arizona State -- but he's already shown himself worthy of first-round inclusion. One knock/observation is that he doesn't do one particular thing at an elite level, but his straight line drives are nightmareish to defend, his hustle reminds of Marcus Smart, and his physical profile and build is idyllic. Unfortunately, his 3-point shot resembles that of Smart, too, and his ball-handling skills are a work-in-progress; he will need to improve significantly in both areas to validate a first-round selection. But the offense he's capable of generating as a pick-and-roll ball-handler rate inside the top-third of Division I, according to Synergy, and his off-cut scoring numbers, albeit small (accounting for less than 6 percent of his total offense) suggests he can operate in the NBA as an off-ball shooting guard despite his below average 3-point numbers. Cleveland could draft him with the hope that he can develop into another promising defender alongside Collin Sexton, who has shown flashes in his first season with the Cavs.
PJ Washington | Kentucky | Soph | PF | 6-8
Portland's offensive system centers around Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum generating the majority of its offense. But for as good as both are, the Trail Blazers are still middle of the pack in the NBA in 3-point shots, both in number taken and in shots made. PJ Washington would add another dimension to that to help them embrace the 3-point revolution, as he's shooting 43.9 percent from distance this season. He's not just a stretch-four, either -- though Portland could certainly use him in that way. His physicality as a rebounder and lateral agility as a defender could provide endless value on both ends of the floor.
Tyler Herro | Kentucky | Freshman | SG | 6-5
The Thunder are 17th in the NBA in 3-point shots taken per game, and 19th in 3-point shots made. It's one of their biggest flaws; Paul George making 41 percent this season is the only thing keeping them afloat. Drafting Tyler Herro would be an immediate booster to that end. He's hitting 35.2 percent from deep this season, but his numbers are up quite a bit around 45 percent over the last month. Herro is a very good spot-up shooter, and with Russell Westbrook sinking defenses using his penetrating drives, he'd have plenty of open looks in OKC to knock down. Just ask Terrance Ferguson, whose shooting is up to 38.3 percent from deep this season.
Grant Williams | Tennessee | Junior | PF | 6-7
The best player in the SEC doesn't hail from Kentucky. No, the best player in the SEC (for the past two seasons) is Tennessee's very own Grant Williams. Williams has taken a huge leap in his junior season to expand his perimeter game -- shooting 34.4 from 3-point range compared to 12 percent last season -- which might be the final step in his development. He's still not taking a lot of outside shots, which in part could be because of the Vols' offensive system, but his skills are enough to be worth a late-first flyer for Boston. What he lacks in athleticism he makes up for in IQ and pure talent.
Tre Jones | Duke | Fr | PG | 6-2
The worst-kept secret in the NBA is no secret at all, really: Philly needs a backup point guard like a cheesesteak needs mushroom caps. Beyond Ben Simmons, the 76ers just don't have a capable-enough player who can play both ends of the floor. Duke's Tre Jones is more than capable; he's second in the NCAA in assist-to-turnover ratio, and a tenacious on-ball defender who won't get his minutes swallowed up because of his defensive liabilities. He isn't the exciting scorer Philly thought it was getting last season with Fultz, but he's as sure-handed as they come.
Talen Horton-Tucker | Iowa State | Fr | SF | 6-4
On a team that includes several fascinating NBA prospects, among them Lindell Wigginton and Tyrese Haliburton, Talen Horton-Tucker stands above because of his sturdy frame and size. For a guard to stand at 6-4 is one thing, but for a guard to weigh around 240 pounds is another. He's huge. That size allows him to play the shooting guard, small forward or power forward at Iowa State, mostly more of the latter. And while a 6-4 power forward in the NBA is unlikely, his build should allow him to guard at least two positions in the NBA. On a Pacers team featuring Darren Collison, Tyreke Evans and Bojan Bogdanovic (and soon to be featuring Victor Oladipo when he gets healthy next season), Horton-Tucker could fit as a secondary ball-handler.
Eric Paschall | Villanova | Sr | 6-8
Pick via Denver: The Nets are one of the most fascinating young teams in the NBA. Led by All-Star D'Angelo Russell, they have a cupboard of rising stars in Jarrett Allen, Caris Lavert, Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie. If there's a position to upgrade, though, it's probably at power forward; DeMarre Carroll is in the final year of his deal, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson probably isn't a long-term fix. Villanova's Eric Paschall fits the bill as someone Brooklyn could utilize. He's developed a trustworthy shot at Villanova, shooting 37.4 percent from 3-point range this season, and he's a big body who wields it well to carve out space for rebounds. He and Jarrett Allen could make for a nice tandem in the Nets' frontcourt.
Daniel Gafford | Arkansas | Soph | C | 6-11
Pick via Toronto: Davis Bertans' coupling with LaMarcus Aldridge has been really good for the Spurs' frontcourt this season, but they draft a reliable backup for both at 28 by nabbing Arkansas big Daniel Gafford. Gafford isn't the scoring center Aldridge is -- at least not yet -- but he brings some unreal athleticism and energy to the table that San Antonio could put to use. The Spurs could view him as a developmental piece with tremendous upside; he just turned 20, and is already one of the top big men prospects in the SEC.
Ayo Dosunmu | Illinois | Fr | PG | 6-5
What does a team that has it all *really* need? If Kevin Durant bolts for New York, the forward spot could be a priority. If Demarcus Cousins leaves after this season, as expected, the center position could be more important to address. But as things stand now, the point guard position could use an interjection of talent. With Shaun Livingston's numbers slowly trailing off, the Warriors look to the future with Illinois star Ayo Dosunmu at 29th overall. Dosunmu is a score-first point guard who is quick, and he uses that to his advantage. He runs transition hard, and gets to the basket in a flash. His perimeter game and decision-making will take some time to develop into starting point guard caliber in the NBA, but with a Hall of Famer in Stephen Curry to learn from, he could have time to develop as a second unit facilitator.
Ty Jerome | Virginia | Jr | PG | 6-5
Eric Bledsoe is playing at really, really high level for the Bucks -- but he's also in a contract year. Can he sustain it? Do the Bucks want him back? Can they afford to bring him back? All questions the front office will have to answer that we don't know right now. But whether or not he returns or not, it seems the position could use depth, especially with George Hill approaching the wrong side of his 30s. In Virginia's Ty Jerome, they get an excellent shooter, great decision-maker, and solid distributor to run the second unit. According to Synergy, he scores 1.4 points per possession in spot-up situations (top 1 percent of Division I), and 1.11 points per possession peeling off screens to score (which rates inside the top 21 percent). Jerome has a chance to make a similar impact that Landry Shamet has made in his first season in the league.
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