The NBA Draft is on Thursday (5 p.m. MT). Although the draft is fairly weak after the top pick, there are a litany of standout role players to be had throughout the first and second rounds. Due to there being a shortage of star-level talent, and that this offseason is going to be crazy, we should expect tons of trades to happen during the draft. I dare not predict any trades; just keep in mind that nothing is set in stone and this mock draft is worthless.
1. New Orleans Pelicans — Zion Williamson, PF, Duke
Player comparison: Charles Barkley + Bo Jackson
My God.... Zion playing that NBA 2k19 computer defense pic.twitter.com/HmQzqiTAbm— Full Court Prez (@fullcourtprez) January 29, 2019
2. Memphis Grizzlies — Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
Player comparison: diet John Wall
The Grizzlies have all but promised Morant will be the second pick. The hyper-athletic playmaker appears to be a low-level star at the very least. His combination of passing, natural scoring and athleticism are afforded to only a few. There are questions about his defense, but Memphis would be ecstatic to build around him and Jaren Jackson, Jr.
3. New York Knicks — R.J. Barrett, SF, Duke
Player comparison: Harrison Barnes with Mamba mentality
This is a two- or three-player draft, depending on your opinion. Barrett is that third player, a polarizing prospect whose work ethic and shot creating ability are undeniable. Skeptics will argue, however, that he’s too alpha (although he’s a good passer) and that his shot selection is a bit too mid-2000s. To me, he seems like his ceiling is a solid passer and defender who will hero-ball into an inefficient 23 points per game — that’s great if you have a max free agent playing alongside him, but you’re not going anywhere if he’s your one and only star.
4. New Orleans Pelicans (via Lakers) — Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
Player comparison: Khris Middleton
Here’s where the trades could start to happen. The Pelicans received this pick in the Anthony Davis trade, but due to salary cap issues, it might not be theirs until after the draft. The Pellies will most likely start Lonzo-Jrue-Ingram-Zion alongside a center (they might trade Jrue). That’s a solid starting five — especially if they sign someone like Brook Lopez — and it means they don’t have an obvious hole. They could trade this pick (Zach LaVine?) or take a wing, since you can never have too many wings. Culver would be the best decision, because he’s versatile, immediately playable, and may have untapped potential left.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers — Cameron Reddish, SF, Duke
Player comparison: Ben McLemore in Paul George’s body
Reddish was trash in his one year at Duke, but that’s not going to stop him from going top 10. He’s an empty gym all-star who looks so much like an NBA player — he’s 6’8, well-built, pure jumper, smooth movement, handsome, etc. — that people ignore his game tape. Reddish has the makeup of a 3-and-D forward who offers playmaking upside, but he’s a project pick who may be destined to disappoint.
6. Phoenix Suns — Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
Player comparison: Jeff Teague (Hawks version)
Garland was injured barely two weeks into his college career, so there’s not much on tape or in the box scores. Each scouting report will say he’s a pure shooter who will use pick-and-roll to create open looks for everyone on the floor. There are question marks surrounding the rest of his game — size, defense, knee issues — but the Suns desperately need a point guard. The Suns will be targeting point guards in free agency or in trades, but this seems like the safe bet if nothing happens.
7. Chicago Bulls — Coby White, PG, North Carolina
Player comparison: Cuttino Mobley
The Bulls have a surprisingly good roster for being such a sad sack team. Blame Jim Boylen, the worst NBA coach in recent memory, for doing nothing with a LaVine-Otto-Markkanen-Wendell core. Besides depth (and a better coach and front office) they most need an upgrade at point guard. Kris Dunn isn’t doing anything positive. Coby White is perfect in that he’s a big guard who offers versatility and scoring upside. His game should make for an elite-level role player.
8. Atlanta Hawks — De’Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia
Player comparison: Luol Deng lite
Hunter should be a top-five pick, considering he’s a day-one starter as an archetypal 3-and-D wing. The teams ahead of the Hawks are either rebuilding and can wait on a developmental prospect, or have too many wings as is. Hunter would be a perfect wing in Trae Young’s spread pick-and-roll offense. He also may have some untapped playmaking ability that could provide value as he develops.
9. Washington Wizards — Sekou Doumbouya, SF, France
Player comparison: Al-Farouq Aminu
Doumbouya is the top international prospect as a large, athletic wing who could develop into a terrific 3-and-D role player. He’s strong, long and quick. He should be able to guard at least four positions in a switch-heavy defense. He hasn’t shown much offensive production thus far, but if he can be consistent in his shot, he’s going to be valuable. He still has a lot of promise on the offensive end.
10. Atlanta Hawks (via Mavericks) — Jaxson Haynes, C, Texas
Player comparison: Clint Capela with a shooter’s touch
Haynes, like Hunter, would be perfect for the lovable Hawks. He’s a gifted athlete with tremendous upside as a roll man and rim protector. There’s also the fun fact that he played wide receiver until he outgrew the sport, which is why his hands are so soft and his feet are so balletic. He has clear-cut NBA skills, as well as the developmental promise of having some shooting range. The main issues with Haynes is that he’s quite raw, has injury issues and may be overhyped because his ceiling is so tantalizing.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves — Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga
Player comparison: Defensive-minded Kenyon Martin
Often overshadowed by his more famous, charismatic and handsome teammate Rui Hachimura, it was actually Clarke who was the most valuable player on the best team in the nation. Clarke is undersized at 6’8, 215-lbs., but he’s a very smart player who thinks a step ahead and works his ass off (and can also dunk on or block anyone). He’s going to be a plus defensively from the get-go, and in addition to terrific inside scoring, he projects as a stretch forward who can make some plays off the dribble. In short, he’s a perfect fit next to Karl-Anthony Towns, the Wolves’ franchise piece who needs a versatile defender to cover for him.
12. Charlotte Hornets — Goga Bitadze, C, Rep. of Georgia
Player comparison: Jusuf Nurkic
Bitadze is a strong finisher inside and can make difficult plays on the move. He’s great at setting screens and projects quite easily as a valuable roll man. He also has a surprising amount of fluidity and skill as a ball handler, which could make him an even more dangerous screener. If he can add some range to a promising shot, that’s suddenly a very good center.
13. Miami Heat — Nassir Little, SF, North Carolina
Player comparison: Stanley Johnson
The NBA has always struggled overvaluing big, athletic 19-year-olds who could be a plus defender; meanwhile, they undervalue big, slightly less athletic 22-year-olds who are proven to be good defenders. Nassir Little is the former as he follows the mold of the Stanley Johnsons of the draft season as a hypothetical stopper who will inevitably disappoint. Little is a hard worker and would be coached by Erick Spoelstra, so hopefully he will actually realize his potential.
14. Boston Celtics (via Kings) — Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga
Player comparison: Marcus Morris with more potential
Hachimura has been hyped as a versatile 3-and-D forward touted for his physical tools (lenthy, quick and fluid) and exponential growth (he went from a bit player to All-American in two years). But however versatile he is, he struggles to read the floor and doesn’t appear to have a great feel for the game. He’s still learning and loves the game — it’s just worrying he won’t live up to his potential on the defensive end.
15. Detroit Pistons — Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech
Player comparison: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander lite
Alexander-Walker is similar to his cousin, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, in that he lacks standout athleticism, but he’s crafty and intelligent enough to get wherever he wants on the floor. He’s also long as hell, has a nice touch (although a funky shot) and has a superb feel for the game. He doesn’t have the All-Star potential of Shai, but he could become a lead facilitator who is also a knock-down shooter and versatile defender.
16. Orlando Magic — Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
Player comparison: MarShon Brooks
Langford had an up-and-down season at Indiana that did nothing but ask more questions of an already polarizing prospect. He’s a smooth ball handler who can facilitate the offense, but his lack of consistent jump shot could limit him severely. He’s also not a great athlete who will need help defensively. If there’s anything beneficial about Orlando, it’s that they lack playmaking (unless Markelle Fultz is born again) and have all the defensive length and athleticism to cover him. I’m not really confident he will find success, but we’ll see.
17. Atlanta Hawks (via Nets) — Nicolas Claxton, PF, Georgia
Player comparison: Bootleg Marvin Bagley
The Hawks acquired this pick (and Allen Crabbe’s salary) by trading away Taurean Prince. If they pick a wing (Hunter) and a center (Haynes) earlier, they are afforded either another trade or a luxury pick. Claxton would be the latter as a pure developmental pick. Hypothetically, he offers value as a rim protector, three-point shooter and short-roll playmaker; the trouble is, he’s extremely raw and hasn’t proven any of those skills. His development may be dependent on bulking up and extending his range. He’s such a fascinating prospect.
18. Indiana Pacers — Keldon Johnson, SG, Kentucky
Player comparison: Bodgan Bogdanovic
Keldon Johnson gets buckets and works hard on defense. It’s to be seen if he can generate his own looks without exceptional ball handling, or if he can be an above average defender with below average lateral quickness. I suppose players like him are undervalued in the draft. He has a limited ceiling, but he’s a sure bet to provide value on both ends at the wing position. That’s just fine for a team like the Pacers looking for instant contribution from a mid-round pick.
19. San Antonio Spurs — Cameron Johnson, SF, North Carolina
Player comparison: Justin Jackson +
Johnson is a 23-year-old shooter whose ceiling is a floor-spacing forward who knows his role. There’s a lot of value in that, despite him having little room to develop. Johnson would be a good fit on just about any team in the late first round. I have him going to the Spurs mostly because they seem to be lacking players of his mold. Their main prospects — Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV — are all athletic guards who need large floor spacers.
20. Boston Celtics (via Clippers) — Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky
Player comparison: E’Twuan Moore
Herro may suffer from what Devin Booker dealt with at Kentucky, which is that his team was so stacked that he had to spot up instead of demonstrating his full skill set. Kentucky wasn’t as stacked with Herro as they were when they had Booker (they went 38-1), nor is Herro as good as Booker. It’s just interesting to see if Herro has some ball handling and playmaking ability that we haven’t seen. Nonetheless, Herro’s floor is a versatile shooter, although with serious question marks about his defense and ability to create his own shots.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder — Bol Bol, C, Oregon
Player comparison: 7’2 Thon Maker
Bol Bol is an enigma who could be anything. On the one hand, there’s only one player with Bol’s length and three-point shooting, and that’s Kristaps Porzingis. On the other hand, he’s rail thin, has a checkered injury history and can’t handle physicality. He could be the skeleton key for a contender (a la Brook Lopez) or he could wash out of a league that’s too physical for his body to withstand. Bol may be the most boom-or-bust player in this class.
22. Boston Celtics — PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky
Player comparison: David West (non-All-Star version)
However the Celtics roster shakes out to be, they could be in use for a versatile two-way forward (as are all teams, always). Washington is more effort, defense and finishing right now, but he could be a starter-caliber role player if he extends his shot to the three point line.
23. Utah Jazz — Matisse Thybulle, SG, Washington
Player comparison: Danny Green + Charles Woodson
Colorado fans know Thybulle’s value: he’s an elite defender who forces chaos at will, a world destroyer whose length, athleticism and vision make him a nightmare, an all-seeing oracle whose feel and IQ mean he can roam around ruining different people’s day. He’s going to be even better in the NBA, where his open space defense is even more valuable. All he needs to do is improve his jump shot and he’s going to be a 10-year starter.
24. Philadelphia 76ers — Ty Jerome, SG, Virginia
Player comparison: Malcolm Brogdon without the length
Ty Jerome just gets it done. He’s a team-first player who thinks ahead of the game; someone whose brain is faster than his body. The 76ers need some of that. It’s uncertain who they’re bringing back from last season, but it’s clear that any team with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons is going to need guards who know their role and hit shots, players who do the little things on both sides of the floor and add to a winning culture.
25. Portland Trail Blazers — Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee
Player comparison: Paul Millsap lite
Speaking of winning culture, Grant Williams is going to be a steal. He’s short, an average athlete (lol, the NBA is ridiciulous; imagine looking at Grant Williams and thinking, he’s short and an average athlete) and isn’t guaranteed to have NBA shooting range. But still, the man knows how to play basketball. He’s a force defensively, knocks down tough shots and moves the ball smartly. It’s okay he won’t be a star, because he’s going to be a superb role player who facilitates winning.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Rockets) — Kevin Porter, Jr., SG, USC
Player comparison: Rodney Stuckey
Kevin Porter certainly has the talent to be a lottery pick, but he comes with serious questions about his work ethic and maturity. I don’t know the guy (obviously) but I do know he’s a nasty ball handler with a sweet lefty jumper, and he certainly has NBA athleticism. Hopefully he figures out the rest of it because he would be so much fun to see saucing people in the league.
27. Brooklyn Nets (via Nuggets) — Mfiondu Kabengele, PF, Florida State
Player comparison: Serge Ibaka lite
It’s always fun to find a power forward who can shoot and protect the rim. Kabengele thrived in a 6th man role for Florida State, but he can handle much more than that. The fit on the Nets feels natural next to Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen and Kyrie Irving. They need that versatile forward who can slide into a secondary role or lead the bench units as a scorer.
28. Golden State Warriors — Dylan Windler, SF, Belmont
Player comparison: Bojan Bogdanovic lite
After Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson went down with injuries and the Warriors fell to Toronto, it ironically feels more likely the Hamptons Five stay together. Maybe Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green are moved and this becomes a rebuilding year. Or maybe they just bide time until KD and Klay return for the playoffs. Either way, Windler would fit in nicely as a 3-and-D wing with a good feel for the game.
29. San Antonio Spurs (via Raptors) — KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford
Player comparison: young Trevor Ariza
My favorite thing to do in these mocks is to give a project player I really like to a team that will get the most out of him. That’s why I had Boston pick Rui, Haynes went to the Hawks and why Okpala goes here. The Stanford wing is fluid and crafty. He should develop into a fun three-level scorer whose length and athleticism make him a switchy defender. He just needs time and direction to improve, as well as a shooting coach to get the most out of his jumper. Enter the Spurs, naturally.
30. Milwaukee Bucks — Isaiah Roby, SF, Nebraska
Player comparison: Rodions Kurucs
Like most of the NBA, the Bucks are shrouded in uncertainty this offseason. Of their major contributors, only Eric Bledsoe and Giannis Antetokoumpo are locked in. Otherwise, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Malcolm Brogdon will all ask for a ton of money, and Nikola Mirotic is most likely gone. So they could pick virtually anyone or trade the pick for help, meaning I have no idea who they would select here. I’m guessing Roby, because he fits the Bucks’ model of a long forward who can be developed into an athletic 3-and-D contributor.
31. Nets — Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland
32. Suns — Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State
33. 76ers — Chuma Okeke, SF, Auburn
34. 76ers — Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas
35. Hawks — Admiral Schofield, SF, Tennessee
36. Hornets — Luka Samanic, PF, Croatia
37. Mavericks — Darius Bazley, SF, Princeton H.S.
38. Bulls — Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue
39. Pelicans — Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State
40. Kings — Jaylen Hoard, PF, Wake Forest
41. Hawks — Deividas Sirvydis, SF, Lithuania
42. 76ers — Naz Reid, PF, LSU
43. Wolves — Louis King, SF, Oregon
44. Hawks — Joshua Obiesie, PG, Germany
45. Pistons — Eric Paschall, PF, Villanova
46. Magic — Terence Davis, SG, Mississippi
47. Kings — Terance Mann, SG, Florida State
48. Clippers — Kris Wilkes, SF, UCLA
49. Spurs — Jalen McDaniels, PF, San Diego State
50. Pacers — DaQuan Jefferies, SG, Tulsa
51. Celtics — Zach Norvell, Jr., SG, Gonzaga
52. Hornets — Jontay Porter, PF, Missouri
53. Jazz — Jalen Lecque, SG, Brewster Academy
54. 76ers — Zylan Cheatham, SF, Arizona State
55. Knicks — Shamorie Ponds, PG, St. John’s
56. Clippers — Miye Oni, SG, Yale
57. Pelicans — Tremont Waters, PG, LSU
58. Warriors — Ignas Brazdeikis, SF, Michigan
59. Raptors — Tacko Fall, C, UCF
60. Kings — Kyle Guy, SF, Virginia