2019 NBA Mock Draft: Duke's Zion Williamson takes over the top spot and Kentucky has two projected first-rounders
Duke stars go 1-2-3, but not in the order you may think
The opening month of college basketball has been impactful in shaping how the 2019 NBA Draft may shake out. We've seen stellar freshmen like Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Bol Bol turn their talents into magnificent production, and we've also seen upperclassmen sneak their way up draft boards either because of new destinations, their own natural development or departures that put them in new roles to succeed.
There are still more than six months remaining in the scouting process -- of which will include the NCAA Tournament, the NBA Draft Combine and other events -- before the 2019 NBA Draft. But even still, there is a fairly clear picture of the top prospects being painted ahead of next year's selections. So with that it's time for an update from on how I think the first round might settle.
Because the NBA has changed up its lottery process to flatten out the percentage chances that teams with the worst records get the first picks, a move to try and coax teams away from tanking, the first-round order is still very much subject to change. One thing we know: no matter who lands the top pick, Zion Williamson is looking like the clear-cut No. 1 pick.
Here's my latest NBA Mock Draft with the order set by SportsLine's projected final records.
Zion Williamson | Duke | Fr | PF | 6-7
Zion Williamson has powered his way -- quite literally -- to the top of most boards after starting the season just behind his star teammate RJ Barrett. It's possible he might be considered the consensus No. 1 pick by the time the draft comes (if we aren't already there). His combination of size, athleticism, power and uniqueness as a prospect will make whoever is picking here impossible to pass. He still hasn't hit his head on the sky-high ceiling of his potential, and at No. 1 overall, the Bulls would be wise to bet on the power and athleticism and hope his other skills develop over time. Even if he doesn't have an immediate impact as a floor-spacing big, he projects as a future All-Star. Imagine if the skills get developed.
RJ Barrett | Duke | Fr | SG | 6-7
RJ Barrett was the No. 1 player on my board entering the season, and his one spot drop says more about Zion's rise than Barrett's fall. He's a versatile wing prospect who is competitive, physical, and unafraid of the moment. He tends to have tunnel vision from time to time and puts his head down to make a play for himself instead of sometimes making the correct basketball play, as we saw in the final moments of Duke's loss to Gonzaga, but his toughness and pure will as a player is something I like about him as a prospect. He's a skilled hooper who can get his own shot and make plays off the wing; the Cavaliers need his versatile skillset.
Cameron Reddish | Duke | Fr | 6-8
Cameron Reddish was the No. 2 overall prospect in the 247Sports 2018 recruiting class rankings, making him perhaps the most overqualified floor-spacer in college basketball history. Because of Zion Williamson's and RJ Barrett's role in Duke's offense, his edict, more or less, has been to knock down open shots from the perimeter and be aggressive when his number is called. He's done well for himself in that role, leading the starting five in 3-point shooting and, right now, third in scoring per game. His role makes him a difficult scout and projection to the NBA, but he's still in the top tier of prospects in this class.
Nassir Little | North Carolina | Fr | 6-6
Nassir Little looked like the best prospect -- and was the most productive player -- in the McDonald's All-American Game prior to his freshman season. Yet his role with North Carolina, to this point, has been an off-the-bench player as the Tar Heels work him into a deep rotation at his position. Whether or not he eventually gets more of a role in UNC's offensive attack or not, there's no denying Little's skillset as a long, versatile wing player with a dynamic offensive game. He's a smooth scorer who attacks the hole and can create for himself, which is an asset the Hawks could absolutely put to use alongside Trae Young in Atlanta. He's not shooting it great from long distance this season but his mechanics are there and his 75 percent free-throw shooting suggests his 3-point shot may improve over time.
Romeo Langford | Indiana | Fr | SF | 6-8
Romeo Langford struggled mightily in Indiana's most recent game against a ranked opponent (Duke), making only three of his 15 shots. He was clearly at least the third-best prospect on the floor behind Williamson and Barrett by a good margin. Still yet, he's a talented freshman and still making his way through his first (and likely only) college season. Langord's skills on offense are dynamic and his slashing/scoring should translate at the next level, but his 3-point shot (23.3 percent) needs to improve as does his defense.
Bol Bol | Oregon | Fr | C | 7-2
There is almost certainly a place in the NBA for a 7-foot-2 center with as dynamic as an offensive arsenal as Bol Bol's. He's both a great rim protector and great 3-point shooter, a unique combination for any player -- much less a player of his stature. His defense to this point is lacking significantly, but even still, what he can bring to the table on offense is so good some team in the lottery will take a chance on the upside -- even if he gets head-hunted on defense at the next level.
Keldon Johnson | Kentucky | Fr | SF | 6-6
Pick from Mavericks: Keldon Johnson is a physical and competitive wing who can play both sides of the ball at the next level and fit a multitude of systems at the next level. Athletically, he's a gifted talent, and he plays a with a competitive streak that gives him a reliably high floor -- even if his ceiling may not project to be at an All-Star level. His motor always runs hot and he plays hard.
Sekou Doymboya | France | SF | 6-9
Pick from Kings: After exerting his dominance in France's LNB Pro B division, Sekou Doumbouya, a 6-9 forward, is on to the Pro A division where he is making his presence felt there, too. Doumbouya is a great shooter and scorer overall who can attack the basket off the dribble, slash to the rim off the ball and play the role of a complementary piece on offense. In Boston, he may be an ideal fit with a franchise that needs someone of his size, skill and projectability.
Quentin Grimes | Kansas | Fr | SG | 6-5
Quentin Grimes started his season fast with a six 3-pointer night against Michigan State in KU's opener, but he's struggled to find his game and adapt on offense since. Nonetheless, he's still got plenty of talent as a 6-5 combo guard just scratching the surface of his potential. He can find open teammates with his court awareness when he has the ball in his hands, and makes plays for others. He needs to cut down his turnovers and be a better distributor overall, but there's a lot to like about Grimes and how he fits at the NBA level.
Ja Morant | Murray St. | Soph | PG | 6-5
Ja Morant's stock is red-hot right now. He's averaging 27.2 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game and 8.4 assists per game despite playing virtually the exact same minutes as he did as a freshman last season (where he averaged 12.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game). Additionally, he has the No. 1 assist rate in the country. Against Alabama on Nov. 26 -- one of Murray State's two games this season against high major competition -- Morant went off for 38 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists and nearly led Murray State to an upset win. He's done enough this season to be considered the top prospect at point guard in 2019 at this stage.
De'Andre Hunter | Virginia | Soph | SF | 6-7
Pick from Grizzlies: Missing the NCAA Tournament last season was a missed opportunity for him to showcase his talents on the biggest stage. But back for his sophomore season, De'Andre Hunter is even better than he was last year. His shot is more consistent even with an increased workload, his defense is more magnificent -- an area he didn't necessarily need improvement in -- and he's become more of a playmaker, too. He's a perfect 3-and-D prospect with a diverse defensive skill set.
Rui Hachimura | Gonzaga | Jr | PF | 6-8
Rui Hachimura's potential is finally merging with production, as the standout junior is averaging 21.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game for the Gonzaga Bulldogs. He's physically ready for the NBA and appears ready defensively, too, holding his own defending Duke star Zion Williamson in the Maui Invitational. He's shooting a more consistent rate from the 3-point line this season but will need to prove that in a larger sample to move up draft boards because of his woeful accuracy from long distance in his previous two seasons.
Kevin Porter Jr. | USC | Fr | SG | 6-6
Kevin Porter Jr. is a player with the type of game and frame the NBA loves now. At 6-6, he's a shot-creator who can handle the ball adequately and make plays for others around him. His stock is soaring, despite playing the seventh-most minutes on his team through eight games. Here's why: His 21.8 minutes per game translated to a per-40 average, he's averaging 21.4 points, 3.1 assists, 35 percent shooting from beyond the arc and 6.1 rebounds per game.
Darius Garland | Vanderbilt | Fr | PG | 6-2
I considered Darius Garland the top point guard prospect in my first mock draft, but he's out -- potentially for the season -- with a meniscus injury. Nonetheless, he didn't slip far. He's an impressive scorer with an elite pull-up package whose offensive game appears to be translatable -- even despite his 6-2 frame.
Jarrett Culver | Texas Tech | Soph | SG | 6-5
Jarrett Culver is thriving as Texas Tech's leading scorer, as expected, shooting an improved clip from the field (51.7 percent) and from 3-point range (45.8 percent), all while rebounding more, assisting more and scoring more. He's shown everything scouts love about him, most notably his long frame which is attributed to his defensive prowess on the perimeter. If he can continue his early season hot start, he may work his way into the back half of the lottery.
Daniel Gafford | Arkansas | Soph | C | 6-11
In today's NBA 6-11 center prospects who can dive to the basket, finish lobs and protect the rim have more value than ever. That's why Arkansas product Daniel Gafford, who may have been a first-rounder last year had he chosen to come out, is destined for the first-round if he chooses to come out in 2019. He's averaging 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game for the Razorbacks and shown he can potentially thrive in a niche role given his specific skills.
PJ Washington | Kentucky | Soph | PF | 6-8
Coming back for a sophomore season has paid off thus far for PJ Washington. He's improved his shot, rebounding at a higher clip and scoring more despite playing fewer minutes in his second season at UK. His 58.3 percent accuracy from 3-point range may not hold throughout the season, but it's evidence enough he has the potential be a viable long-term option as a stretch-four in the NBA with the right fit.
Jontay Porter | Missouri | Soph | C | 6-11
Zaza Pachulia is only signed with Detroit through the end of the 2018-19 season, so Detroit would be wise to invest in a backup for Andre Drummond. Missouri big man Jontay Porter could be that -- and potentially more in the long-term -- for the Pistons. He's a 6-11 big who can stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting and rim-running. He tore his ACL and MCL before his second season at Mizzou, but he's still a first-round talent.
Luguentz Dort | Arizona State | Fr | SG | 6-5
There is perhaps no other freshman in college basketball who has boosted their stock more than Arizona State's Luguentz Dort. He leads the Sun Devils in scoring this season with 21.7 points per game. Dort is a smooth athlete who can finish around the rim with relative ease, and does a good job creating his own shot on straight-line drives using his physically developed frame. A guard his size with his ball-handling and defensive capabilities are in popular demand in the NBA.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker | Virginia Tech | Soph | SG | 6-6
The Lakers rank in the bottom third of the NBA in 3-point shooting, which is a key piece to what LeBron James needs surrounding him in Los Angeles: shooters. Nickeil Alexander-Walker fits the mold of a potential ideal running man with the Lakers because of his ability to do exactly that. He shot 39.2 percent from deep last season as a freshman and is up to 42.4 percent from 3-point range this season, averaging 17.9 points per game. He's an excellent spot-up shooter and runs the transition nicely. The Lakers would be a perfect fit for him.
Eric Paschall | Villanova | Sr | PF | 6-8
Eric Paschall's got everything you want from a small-ball four-man in the NBA. He can shoot it from outside and stretch the floor, he can defend on the wing and switch on ball screens if necessary, and he can use his built out frame to lower his head and attack the bucket. He's averaging more turnovers this season than blocks and assists per game combined, but he's undeniably got enough talent to be a mid- to late-first-rounder.
Jalen McDaniels | San Diego State | Soph | PF | 6-10
Pick from Clippers: A year after drafting a big man in Robert Williams, would Boston really go down that same path in 2019? Given its numerous draft assets ahead of this selection, it's entirely possible. Al Horford's contract currently runs through the 2019-2020 season, and Daniel Theis' is up after this season. Jalen McDaniels could supplement the Celtics' depth at the power forward/center spot while potentially developing into their long-term solution at the spot. He's an athletic freak, similar to Williams, who rebounds at a good rate and has shown a willingness to take 3-pointers. Even better: he's making them at a respectable 31.3 percent clip in his sophomore season. His developing offensive skill set would be tough to pass on if he's available here at 22 for Boston.
Jalen Smith | Maryland | Fr | PF | 6-10
Pick from Nuggets: Jalen Smith isn't the most productive player on his team -- or even the most productive big, for that matter -- but he's developing into Maryland's best draft prospect. He runs the floor, plays his guts out, and affects shots even when he's not necessarily swatting them. He's also 31st nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, according to data from KenPom, and he's putting up a humble 12.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in only 25.3 minutes a night thus far.
Jaylen Hoard | Wake Forest | Fr | PF | 6-8
The Thunder appear to have found something that works with Jerami Grant at the power forward as a floor-spacing four-man. Behind him, however, they're not getting much production. Patrick Patterson is playing fewer than 20 minutes per game and he has a player option for next year, leaving OKC potentially looking to plan for its future. A pick like Jaylen Hoard may help them whether Patterson stays or goes. At 6-8, 215, he's a dominant post presence who snags rebounds with force and has the capability -- though not fully developed -- to stretch the floor as a 3-point shooter. He may be a long-term investment, but with Grant entrenched as the starter he could be worth the risk based on upside.
Brandon Clarke | Gonzaga | Jr | PF | 6-8
Brandon Clarke has been a revelation for Gonzaga. Without projected NBA player Killian Tillie, who hasn't played for the Zags as he returns from injury, Clarke has admirably filled in at the center spot and thrived. Gonzaga has begun the season unblemished with wins over Duke, Creighton and Arizona, among others. Clarke is a rim-protecting machine for the Bulldogs, ranking 11th in the country in block percentage at 13.9, according to KenPom. Other metrics that favor him: 143.6 offensive rating (ranks 10th nationally) and eFG percentage of 78.7 (fourth nationally). Despite playing fewer minutes than he did at SJSU and taking fewer shots, Clarke is basically putting up the same stellar production. He's averaging 17.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game.
Naz Reid | LSU | Fr | PF | 6-10
Naz Reid does a lot of things well as a 6-10 big. He has very good handles, moves fluidly, and can knock down 3-pointers at a reasonably good rate. He can also create shots for himself. At his size, however, he's not an elite rebounder nor a consistent rim-protector. If he becomes more active on the defensive end of the court and takes better care of the ball on offense, he could move up boards into perhaps the top-20.
Charles Bassey | Western Kentucky | Fr | C | 6-11
Charles Bassey is somewhat of a throwback big man with his 6-11, 245-pound frame that aptly accompanies his bruising style of play. He's a dominant big already putting his stamp on the season, averaging close to a double-double on the season with 13.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Bassey has a 9.6 block rate that ranks inside the top-50 nationally, and though he's not what you would typically consider to be a stretch big, he has shown he can at least make shots from distance -- albeit in a small sample size. He's made three of the four 3-pointers he has attempted on the season.
Shamorie Ponds | St. John's | Jr | PG | 6-1
Shamorie Ponds' hit-or-miss streak from the 3-point line may have hurt his NBA Draft stock a tad last year, but he's improved that in his junior season while also cutting down on his turnovers. It helps to have a better team around him and better talent to distribute to, too. While his shot overall has improved, his streakiness on the whole is a bit concerning. He's logged three games scoring 32-or-more points this season for the Red Storm; he's logged two games in which he scored fewer than eight points. Neither of his low production nights were in particularly close games, but you'd like to see him consistently producing ahead of league play. Fortunately the sample size is small, and overall, the same size is really impressive. He's averaging 22.4 points, 4.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game while making 35.9 percent of his 3-pointers.
Talen Horton-Tucker | Iowa State | Fr | SF | 6-4
Lindell Wigginton's prolonged absence has paved the way for Iowa State's ancillary pieces to star this season. And star, they have. Among those who have stepped up in his place is small forward prospect Talen Horton-Tucker, who is averaging 14.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and shooting 30.4 percent from 3-point range. When Wigginton returns his role could change, but for now Horton-Tucker has been unleashed to do … a little bit of everything. His best showing of the season came in Maui, where he made 26 points, pulled down 14 rebounds, logged six assists and blocked three shots. He plays bigger than his frame and has a greater impact than even the stat sheet suggests. On a team like Golden State that is loaded with star talent, he could be freed up to do a lot of the dirty work while making an impact with hustle and intangibles.
Jalen Lecque | Brewster Academy | PG | 6-4
Pick from Raptors: Jalen Lecque is a highly-touted NC State pledge who is considering entering the NBA Draft for 2019, but has not made it official. If he does, we may see a third Jalen take in the first round of the 2019 draft -- which unquestionably has to be a record-high drafted Jalens. Lecque is a combo guard with bounce who can attack off the dribble, and he also has a really impressive pull-up game. His frame and weight overall may be a question mark, especially if he goes from preps to pros without a one-and-done season in college, but his talent is worth a gamble in the late first-round.
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