2019 NBA Mock Draft: Virginia's De'Andre Hunter is best option for Pelicans at No. 4 after Anthony Davis trade to Lakers
Zion Williamson is still a clear No. 1 and one of his Blue Devil teammates could be headed to New York
Leading up to the deadline for underclassmen who declared for the NBA Draft to withdraw, a projected first-round pick or two usually surprises us and decides to postpone his professional career for at least a year and return to college. But not this year.
Literally every player folks expected to remain in the draft remained in the draft at he deadline. So there's not a lot of movement in my updated 2019 NBA Mock Draft. (Needless to say, or type, Zion Williamson remains the projected No. 1 pick.) But there are a couple of new additions — namely Cam Johnson and Goga Bitadze — based on conversations with sources around the sport. So that shook things up a bit.
What also shook things up quite a bit is the Pelicans reportedlyto the Los Angeles Lakers just days before the draft. Still, the first eight picks remain the same with the only real question now revolving around who the New York Knicks and Pelicans will select third and fourth (if they do decide to remain in those spots). As always, we'll see.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Folks have been trotting out comparisons for Williamson for a while now. They say he's built like Charles Barkley. They say he dunks like Blake Griffin. And I can see those things, I guess. But here's the truth: Williamson is built more like The Incredible Hulk than Charles Barkley — and there really isn't a great basketball comp for him. The 6-foot-7, 285-pound forward averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds in 30 minutes per game as a freshman. He had a Player Efficiency Rating of 42.55 — which was nearly five points higher than anybody else in college basketball. He was the CBS Sports National Player of the Year. And though I'm unwilling to say there's never been a prospect this good, what I will say is that there's never been a prospect this unique. Simply put, nobody on the planet Williamson's size can do the things Williamson does. He moves like a small man — even though he's a massive man. He's an overwhelming physical specimen, a well-rounded and skilled basketball player. He's a franchise-changing superstar — and a lock to go No. 1 in this draft.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Morant was an unheralded prospect coming out of high school; that's how he ended up at Murray State. But the 6-3 point guard, in a span of just two years, developed into an undeniable lottery pick and possible franchise-changer. He's built like De'Aaron Fox. He's violent like Russell Westbrook. He averaged 24.5 points, 10.0 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore — and got a triple-double against Marquette in the NCAA Tournament. Are there questions? Sure, there are questions. Morant has a small frame. So can he finish through contact? And though he's an awesome passer thanks to incredible court-vision and a big imagination, he's also a risky passer — evidence being that Morant committed 5.2 turnovers per game this season. These are obvious concerns. But, make no mistake, the Grizzlies should be, and will be, thrilled to secure Morant and move Mike Conley — who has made it clear, in the nicest way possible, that he'd prefer to not spend his final good years in the NBA going through a rebuild. So this is actually easy. Draft Morant, pair him with Jaren Jackson Jr., move Conley for young players and/or picks, and everybody gets what they want.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Basically everybody, this time last year, had Barrett projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. But he lost that label shortly after the start of the season — mostly because Williamson, his teammate at Duke, emerged as a monster. Still, Barrett was super-productive in his one season with the Blue Devils. The 6-7 wing averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 35.3 minutes per game and scored more points (860) than any freshman in ACC history. He's built like DeMar DeRozan and starting to draw comparisons to James Harden in the sense that he's a big wing who can initiate offense or drive and finish around the rim with incredible grace. He's great in transition and doesn't shy away from big moments. He looks like he'll be a go-to scorer in the NBA for many years to come and thus should not fall out of the top three of this draft under any circumstances outside of medical concerns.
Round 1 - Pick 4
It's possible, if not probable, that New Orleans will try to package this pick with another young asset it got in the Anthony Davis trade to secure a veteran who can help now — perhaps somebody like Bradley Beal. So keep an eye on that. But if the Pelicans do pick, they should simply take the best player available — and, in my opinion, that's Hunter. He's a 6-7 wing who A) measures similarly to OG Anunoby, B) can guard multiple positions, and C) shot 43.8% from 3-point range this season while leading Virginia to the national championship. It's hard, bordering on impossible, to come up with reasons why he won't be good, if not great, at the next level. In fact, I've heard former NBA players who are now television analysts describe him as the Kawhi Leonard of this draft. I can't promise that, exactly, because it's such a high bar to set. But if their point is that Hunter projects as a tremendous two-way player, yeah, that's a fair assessment and why he shouldn't slip out of the top five.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Culver was a sub-300 prospect in the Class of 2017. Totally unheralded. Completely off the radar. Which is why his story is so remarkable. In a span of just two years, the 6-7 guard went from an anonymous recruit to the Big 12 Player of the Year to a projected top-5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He averaged 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 32.5 minutes per contest this season while helping Texas Tech advance to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament. I've seen him compared to Steve Smith and Rip Hamilton — but the best comp I've heard is that Culver should become what Evan Turner was supposed to be. Either way, there are no known red flags. Culver has a great reputation, high basketball IQ and incredible work ethic. Combine all that with his natural gifts, and it's reasonable to assume he'll have a nice and long NBA career.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Last year's No. 1 overall pick, Deandre Ayton, is on record saying Phoenix needs a point guard. So selecting Garland here would make a lot of sense -- even if he is coming off of season-ending knee surgery, which is less-than-ideal. Before getting hurt, Garland appeared in five games for Vanderbilt. He averaged 16.2 points while shooting 53.7% from the field and 47.8% from 3-point range. He's great with the ball. He's a tremendous shooter. If he develops into an All-Star, it won't surprise me.
Round 1 - Pick 7
White entered North Carolina with the reputation of a combo guard, at best, which is why he wasn't considered a one-and-done prospect. Regardless, Roy Williams put the ball in his hands and White quickly showed the ability to be a reliable primary ball-handler. So now he's a 6-5 point guard — otherwise known as a point guard with size — and that's why he'll be a lottery pick in this draft. There's a lot to like here. White is a straight bucket-getter — the leading scorer in the history of North Carolina high school basketball. He averaged 16.1 points in 28.5 minutes per game this past season while helping UNC earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He shot 35.3% from the 3-point line. He made 80% of his free throws. He's just a blur with the ball — and there really is no obvious reason White can't be for some NBA franchise what Jamal Murray is for the Denver Nuggets. Bottom line, White is a lead guard who pushes pace and scores. And lead guards who push pace and score are very valuable in today's NBA.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Little entered college as the reigning MVP of the McDonald's All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic. He looked like a future top-5 pick. Tremendous upside. But the 6-6 wing just wasn't that great in his one season at North Carolina. He got stuck playing behind upperclassmen and only averaged 9.8 points in just 18.2 minutes per game. So his stock has taken a hit. Can Little still be a great pro? Perhaps. He's too young and athletic to give up on now. But, either way, he likely won't be picked anywhere close in this draft to where he expected to be picked when he enrolled at UNC — though, by having him in the top 10, it's clear I'm still something of a believer.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Doumbouya should be the first non-college player selected in this draft. He's a 6-9 forward who was born in Guinea but raised in France — and he didn't turn 18 until last December, which makes him the youngest projected first-round pick available. He's a good athlete who can run the floor, play above the rim and guard multiple positions. And though Doumbouya's high-arcing jumper has never gone in consistently enough for anybody to call him a reliable shooter (yet), there's no obvious reason he can't develop into one, as he's shown in flashes this season while playing professionally in France.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Hayes developed late and was labeled as just the third-best prospect in Texas' four-player recruiting class coming out of high school. But the 6-11 forward showed tremendous ability early in the season and established himself as a lottery talent with incredible upside. Hayes shot 72.8% from the field — mostly because he dunked everything close to the rim. His block percentage of 10.6 rated 19th nationally. And it should be noted that Hayes is the son of a former professional athlete, which sometimes means nothing but is definitely something more and more NBA franchises have come to value thanks to players like Stephen Curry and Jaren Jackson Jr.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Reddish entered Duke as a projected top-three pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He's not that anymore, though — largely because the 6-8 wing only shot 35.6% from the field, and 33.3% from 3-point range, as a freshman. So, yeah, he looks like a good shooter. But why do his shots so rarely go in? Some have compared Reddish to Rudy Gay. He's built similarly to Jayson Tatum. But, truth is, he's not that type of athlete. Beyond that, there are major questions about Reddish's motor — and he was wildly inconsistent, and sometimes invisible, at Duke. Was that simply the byproduct of being in the shadows of Williamson and Barrett? Or is it a troubling sign? That's what NBA franchises have to figure out — preferably before spending a lottery pick on him.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Langford shot poor percentages in his one year at Indiana — and the hope, if you're spending a lottery pick on him, is that it was because he had an injured hand, and not because he's simply a shooting guard who cannot shoot. Either way, the 6-6 guard still averaged 16.5 points and 5.4 rebounds in 34.1 minutes per game. So the former five-star recruit remains an intriguing prospect — especially for a Charlotte franchise that could lose Jeremy Lamb to free agency.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Not all freshmen who return to school for their sophomore seasons to improve their stock actually improve their stock. But Washington definitely helped himself this season -- mostly because he went from a 23.8% 3-point shooter (on limited opportunities) as a freshman to somebody who made 42.3% of the 78 3-pointers he attempted as a sophomore while taking Kentucky to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. The 6-8 forward led UK in both points (15.2) and rebounds (7.5). He projects as a stretch-the-floor forward who can also work around the rim.
From Sacramento Kings
Round 1 - Pick 14
Williamson, as noted above, had the highest Player Efficiency Rating in college basketball this season. But Clarke's PER ranked second nationally; it was more than three points better than everybody else's. And the 6-8 forward was a big reason why Gonzaga finished a perfect 16-0 in the West Coast Conference while earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Clarke averaged 16.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in 28.1 minutes per game. The San Jose State transfer is a high-energy big who is a plus-player on both ends of the court. Any franchise obsessed with advanced stats, which is most, will seriously consider him anywhere outside of the top 10.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Herro did a nice job this season proving he's way more than "just a shooter" -- which is what many labeled him coming out of high school, perhaps because of little more than stereotypes. At Kentucky, the 6-6 guard averaged 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 32.6 minutes per game while shooting 46.2% from the field, 35.5% from 3-point range and 93.5% from the free-throw line. So he's a guard with size who can put the ball on the floor and consistently knock down shots. And that's what makes Herro a real candidate to be selected either late in the lottery or just outside of it.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Alexander-Walker made a significant jump from his freshman season to his sophomore season and averaged 16.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists for a Virginia Tech team that made the Sweet 16 for just the second time in school history. More importantly, for his NBA future at least, Alexander-Walker showed he's a 6-5 guard capable of playing on or off the ball and guarding at least three positions — all of which is why NBA scouts have been buzzing about him since November.
From Brooklyn Nets
Round 1 - Pick 17
Bol is one of the most unique prospects in this draft. He's not quite as tall as his father — the iconic Manute Bol. But he is 7-2. So he's still very tall and someone who projects as a pick-and-pop/space-the-floor center because not only does he shoot 3-pointers, he shoots them well — evidence being how he made 52.0% of his 3-point attempts as a freshman at Oregon, which suggests he could be the rare man over 7-foot to be a real weapon from the 3-point line. That's the good news. The bad news is that Bol suffered a foot injury that required season-ending surgery just nine games into his freshman year — and that's obviously an issue, at least to some degree. And, even if he's healthy, can Bol effectively guard in space the way bigs are required to do in the modern-NBA? And should we be concerned that he only weighed 208 pounds at the combine? That's a little on the frail side, isn't it? Bottom line, these issues are among the reasons I'd be surprised if Bol goes in the top 10. But somewhere in the top 20 does seem like a safe bet.
Round 1 - Pick 18
The power forward position in the NBA isn't what it used to be. The days of bruising back-to-the-basket scorers are over. Stretch-4s who can guard in space and consistently make 3-pointers are more preferable now — all of which is good news for Hachimura, a 6-8 forward from Gonzaga who averaged 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game this season while shooting 41.7% from beyond the arc. Hachimura can punish smaller opponents around the rim, and exploit bigger opponents on the perimeter, similar to the way Thaddeus Young has been doing it in the NBA for more than a decade. Put another way, Hachimura is a matchup problem. And as long as he continues to improve like he did each year in the West Coast Conference, he should have a productive professional career.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Kentucky should have three players selected in the top 20 of this NBA Draft — and they really could go in any order. For what it's worth, I have Johnson the last to come off the board. But if he's actiually the first, it won't be surprising considering the 6-6 wing is a nice athlete who shot 38.1% from 3-point range on three attempts per game this season. He was a big reason why Kentucky was just a shot away from making the Final Four for the fifth time in a 10-year span under John Calipari.
From Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 - Pick 20
Show me a smart player with good size for his position who can play either backcourt spot, dribble, pass, shoot and be tough on the defensive end of the court, and I'll show you somebody who will have a long career playing professional basketball. Jerome is such a player. The 6-5 combo guard averaged 13.6 points, 5.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 33.9 minutes per game for a Virginia team that won the national title. The success other recent Virginia alums have had in the NBA, combined with the fact that Jerome made 39.2% of the 424 3-pointers he attempted in college, will help him with front offices looking to avoid a mistake.
Round 1 - Pick 21
It's become increasingly clear that Oklahoma City needs shooters to play with Russell Westbrook — and Johnson is one of the best shooters, if not the best shooter, in this draft. The 6-9 forward made 45.7% of the 5.8 3-pointers he attempted per game in his final season at North Carolina. The Thunder would be able to plug-and-play him from the jump.
Round 1 - Pick 22
From a purely basketball perspective, Porter is a lottery talent who would be a steal for the Celtics, or anybody else, this low in this draft. But he's done very little, and possibly nothing, to eliminate some of the red flags that figure to make selecting him in the lottery a non-starter for some -- not all, but definitely some -- franchises. The 6-6 wing spent part of his freshman season injured, part of it suspended and was something less than the model student-athlete while averaging just 9.5 points in 22.1 minutes per game for a USC team that finished with a losing record. None of that alone means Porter won't emerge as one of the 10 best players from this draft. But some of that is why he's unlikely to be one of the top 10 players selected in this draft.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Schofield was just a 3-star prospect coming out of high school -- a 6-5 forward from Illinois who wasn't even considered a top-250 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to 247Sports. Now he's 6-6 with a sculpted body and reputation for being a tireless worker who is loved by his coaches, all of which helped him average 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds this season for a Tennessee team that spent four weeks ranked No. 1. The fact that Schofield made more than 40% of 393 3-point attempts in the past three seasons suggests he'll be a real threat from the perimeter when he gets to the NBA.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Dort became just the third consensus top-50 high school prospect to enroll at Arizona State -- joining a list that includes James Harden and Jahii Carson -- and he was a big reason why the Sun Devils made the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year under Bobby Hurley. The 6-4 freshman from Montreal averaged 16.1 points and got to the free-throw line 6.1 times per game. He has a 6-9 wingspan and real desire to guard both quicker and bigger players. His 222-pound frame is rock-solid. And although Dort is not a natural point guard, he did spend part of this season proving he can play on or off the ball, which helped him with scouts.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Williams is a two-time SEC Player of the Year who averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 rebounds in 31.9 minutes per game this season. The CBS Sports First Team All-American was so consistently productive that NBA scouts who previously questioned whether what he does will translate to the next level are starting to wonder why it won't. It's true that the 6-7 forward is neither a great athlete nor a serious threat from the perimeter. But Williams really knows how to play. And, more and more often, players who are described that way are carving out roles for themselves in the NBA. Perhaps Williams can be the next.
From Houston Rockets
Round 1 - Pick 26
Bitadze is the type of skilled big franchises now prefer. He's a 6-11 center who can comfortably step away from the basket and serve as a floor-spacer. What he lacks in athleticism he makes up for with a motor that runs well. And considering Cleveland remains in a total rebuild, drafting a young frontcourt player who can possibly be a building block isn't the worst idea.
From Denver Nuggets
Round 1 - Pick 27
Okpala's production was significantly up this season. The 6-9 forward averaged 16.8 points and made 36.8% of his 3-point attempts while transforming from a borderline top-45 prospect in the Class of 2017 into a likely first-round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. One of the keys to that, it should be noted, is that Okpala has gone from a 6-6 forward to a 6-9 forward in a span of two years. So now he looks like a nice combo forward for the way the NBA is currently being played.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Edwards' incredible performances in the NCAA Tournament — especially his 42-point game against the Virginia team that went on to win the national championship — helped the Purdue junior with NBA front offices, and now he's a likely first-round pick. The 6-0 guard averaged 24.3 points in 35.4 minutes per game this season while shooting 35.5% from 3-point range. At worst, I think, Edwards projects as an instant-offense contributer perfectly suited to come off of the bench for a team filled with shooters like Golden State.
From Toronto Raptors
Round 1 - Pick 29
Windler entered Belmont as a mostly unheralded prospect but is leaving as one of the nation's most productive players. The 6-8 senior averaged 21.3 points and 10.8 rebounds in 33.2 minutes per game this season while registering the nation's 10th-best Player Efficiency Rating and leading the Bruins to their first win in NCAA Tournament history. Beyond that, Windler shot above 42% from 3-point range in each of the past two seasons, which suggests he'll be a reliable shooter in the NBA and a space-the-floor forward.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Villanova needed Paschall to elevate his play this season to stay relevant and win a fifth Big East title in a six-year span. He did. So the Wildcats did. And, in the process, the 6-7, 254-pound senior helped himself with NBA scouts by proving he's more than just a role player on a team with four future NBA players, which is kind of what he was previously. Paschall averaged 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds in 36.1 minutes per game this season. The biggest thing working against him, at this point, is that he's already 22 years old and will turn 23 in November.
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