Zion Williamson is a virtual lock to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and all signs point to Ja Morant landing in the No. 2 spot with a ticket to Memphis. Beyond that, the consensus in the industry indicates that R.J. Barrett will be the No. 3 overall pick (even if the Knicks were to deal that choice elsewhere), which puts the Los Angeles Lakers, at the No. 4 spot, in an exceptionally interesting position.
For starters, the Lakers are in a bizarre place outside of the draft, with LeBron James turning 35 in December and a real sense of urgency to win now. Los Angeles absolutely needs another established star to pair with James and, while some of those discussions could operate independent of draft considerations, it is tough to ignore the reality that the No. 4 pick could be used as a trade chip rather than a piece to add to the Lakers’ young core.
Simply put, James hasn’t always shown a proclivity toward young players and most rookies aren’t going to help teams with championship aspirations immediately. To that end, it will surprise no one if the Lakers deal the No. 4 pick in a swap targeting an established talent, which could throw the draft into chaos. Even if Los Angeles actually stays put and makes a choice at No. 4, there isn’t an overly obvious fit, with Jarrett Culver perhaps acting as the best player available and Darius Garland operating as an intriguing on-ball option.
Regardless, there is a great deal of uncertainty outside of the top three and, when considering that the Lakers are capable of just about anything, things get very weird after that point. How do we see everything going in this DIME mock draft? Let’s find out.
1. New Orleans Pelicans – Zion Williamson (F, Duke)
At this point, the only split in evaluation is whether scouts believe Williamson is an unquestioned superstar or simply the best player in this class. That doesn’t bring any drama at the top of the draft, though, and Williamson is heading to New Orleans barring something unforeseen.
2. Memphis Grizzlies – Ja Morant (G, Murray State)
The Grizzlies have work to do this summer, with Mike Conley and his gigantic salary still on the roster. That reportedly won’t stop them from taking Morant in the draft, however, and that’s the right move in tabbing the best player available. Morant doesn’t bring the same level of safety that Williamson does, but he has high-end upside as an on-ball player with immense talent. He’s a worthy choice here.
3. New York Knicks – R.J. Barrett (F/G, Duke)
Virtually everyone expects Barrett to be the No. 3 pick but there is a growing divide in terms of how he is evaluated. No one questions Barrett’s competitive spirit or intriguing upside as a primary creator, but there is some weariness about his ability to translate to the NBA game. Barrett isn’t an all-world athlete, he hasn’t shot the ball particularly well and, against professional athletes on a nightly basis, the physical dominance may not translate. Is he No. 3 on most boards? Absolutely, but there is some skepticism.
4. Los Angeles Lakers – Darius Garland (G, Vanderbilt)
As noted above, this pick could be anything. Garland is a bit of an enigma in that his freshman season was cut short by injury, but he brings intrigue as a shooter off the dribble with primary upside. In an ideal world, Garland and Lonzo Ball would work well together, filling in the gaps created by individual weaknesses, and Garland might be the best player available. That isn’t a crazy evaluation, anyway.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers – Cam Reddish (F, Duke)
In my own evaluation, taking Reddish ahead of Culver would be a mistake. I have to lead with that. Still, there is at least some buzz that the Cavs might do just that if presented with the opportunity and, well, Reddish is the prototypical player that might be over-drafted based on a team falling in love with his traits. He’s long, fluid, and projects to knock down shots. In addition, Reddish’s high school evaluation was sterling and if, for some reason, you ignored his college career, this might even feel low.
6. Phoenix Suns – Jarrett Culver (G/F, Texas Tech)
Culver’s combine measurements assuaged any doubt about his size and, in my own evaluation, he would be in a nip-and-tuck battle with Barrett for the No. 3 spot in this class. With that in mind, Phoenix would be pulling off a heist here. Culver has two-way potential, can already defend at a high level, and brings serious creativity to the table on the offensive end. Yes, the Suns need a point guard, but the value of Culver is too much to pass on at No. 6 overall.
7. Chicago Bulls – Coby White (G, North Carolina)
Like Phoenix, Chicago needs a point guard and they get their guy in White. He brings good size (6’5) and quickness to the table, with the projection as a strong shooter off the dribble. That is perhaps the most intriguing tool for any lead guard in today’s NBA and, even with lesser perceived ability as a passer and playmaker, White’s ascent to top-10 status was well-deserved.
8. Atlanta Hawks – De’Andre Hunter (F, Virginia)
This would be a no-brainer choice for the Hawks. Atlanta is in a bit of a weird spot with the way the lottery broke but, with Hunter, they would pick up a two-way forward that is worthy of a top-eight investment in this draft. The Hawks, more than other teams, could also the infusion of defense that Hunter should bring immediately.
9. Washington Wizards – Sekou Doumbouya (F, France)
It’s really hard to figure out what the Wizards might do with this pick, particularly if you view this as a new tier in the draft. With that out of the way, Washington takes a big swing with Doumbouya, who remains raw but is extremely talented and intriguing from a physical standpoint. The Wizards should be rebuilding and this pick would be viewed through that prism.
10. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas) – Jaxson Hayes (C, Texas)
There is some noise about Hayes to Atlanta, with all kinds of mock drafts making the connection … if the Hawks actually keep this pick. From a fit perspective, things could be dicey between Hayes and John Collins, particularly if Hayes doesn’t develop a working three-point jump shot, but there is upside and Atlanta doesn’t necessarily have a long-term starting center under contract. Candidly, this isn’t what I would do for the Hawks, but that’s not what mock drafts are.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves – Brandon Clarke (F, Gonzaga)
Clarke is older than you’d want and not as long as anyone thought he might be. What he is, though, is a highly productive player (second only to Williamson in terms of college performance) who fits snugly in Minnesota. Clarke can fly around on defense, wreak havoc, and finish at an absurd level around the rim. That sounds like the kind of player who would be a strong match with Karl-Anthony Towns and, if you think Clarke will shoot at all, he should be a lottery pick in this draft.
12. Charlotte Hornets – Nassir Little (F, North Carolina)
Little is a bit of an enigma. There has been widespread focus on his college “struggles” but, in actuality, Little wasn’t all that bad at North Carolina. Was he stuck behind quality upperclassmen? Yes. Was North Carolina’s system ideal for his NBA development? Absolutely not. Little is still very talented, however, and the Hornets can afford to take a bit of a risk in banking on his talent.
13. Miami Heat – P.J. Washington (F, Kentucky)
One could make the argument that Miami should dream bigger with this pick. After all, the Heat are kind of stuck from a salary cap perspective and searching for star power might be a good idea. Still, Washington fits Miami’s mold almost perfectly and some believe he actually does bring some significant upside to the table. Regardless, the former Kentucky forward profiles as a long-time NBA rotation player with the potential for more. That’s a solid investment.
14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento) – Goga Bitadze (C, Georgia)
With three picks in the top-22 to combine with their current roster, the Celtics are a team to watch with regard to trades. In this mock, though, we’ll hold off on projecting deals, and that means Boston has to make three picks. Bitadze combines best player available upside with the fact that the Celtics could use another big, skilled player for the future.
15. Detroit Pistons – Romeo Langford (G/F, Indiana)
In recent days, the Pistons-Langford marriage has been a popular one to project and it makes sense. Detroit needs wing help, for starters, and Langford slipping on draft boards would allow that pairing to take place. The big question is whether he can effectively stretch defenses as a shooter but there is a lot to like with his all-court profile.
16. Orlando Magic – Kevin Porter (G, USC)
Porter’s college career was, at best, uneven, and that leads to full-fledged uncertainty about his draft stock. The Magic need shot creation in the worst way, though, and he checks that box with vigor. It remains to be seen if Porter can round out the rest of his game, but the upside comes in his on-ball ability.
17. Atlanta Hawks (via Brooklyn) – Keldon Johnson (G/F, Kentucky)
It would be a surprise if Atlanta actually made all three of their first-round picks, with this one being acquiring from Brooklyn on Thursday in a deal involving Taurean Prince. If the Hawks stay put, adding another wing makes sense, and Johnson would be reasonable value here. He isn’t sexy in any way, shape, or form, but that isn’t always bad at a position of great need around the league.
18. Indiana Pacers – Tyler Herro (G, Kentucky)
The Pacers are kind of tough to nail down in terms of need but, with Victor Oladipo able to function as a primary initiator, some of Herro’s size and athleticism issues would be mitigated. He is a knock-down shooter and that generally helps, particularly if you think he can create for others at the NBA level.
19. San Antonio Spurs – Rui Hachimura (F, Gonzaga)
Hachimura is probably overrated as a modern-day forward, simply because of his lack of floor-spacing and his uneven defensive profile. Still, he brings encouraging athletic tools and strong college production to the table. San Antonio could maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses.
20. Boston Celtics (via L.A. Clippers) – Nickeil Alexander-Walker (G, Virginia Tech)
This is a fantastic value pick. Alexander-Walker brings length and skill to the backcourt and, with a growing belief that Terry Rozier won’t return, the Celtics could use another quality guard option. This is kind of a no-brainer with the way the draft played out to this point.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Bol Bol (C, Oregon)
It’s really hard to find the best place for Bol. Oklahoma City likes to take swings, though, and he is definitely that. Offensively, there is a ton of upside with his combination of length and shooting. Defensively, it’s kind of a mess, but some slow development (without a ton of pressure behind Steven Adams) could be helpful and OKC has a reputation for helping players develop on that end. Your guess is as good as mine.
22. Boston Celtics – Talen Horton-Tucker (F, Iowa State)
Anyone that tells you they know how it’s going to go with Horton-Tucker is lying. He’s a physically intriguing prospect, boasting a 7’1 wingspan and real creativity. However, he wasn’t a particularly effective college defender and, if you’re buying Horton-Tucker at the NBA level, he’s going to need to improve vastly on that end of the floor. Scouts are highly divided on what he’ll be but an NBA team is likely to grab him in the 20’s. Boston, with three picks, can afford the home run swing.
23. Utah Jazz – Cam Johnson (F, North Carolina)
Utah could use a scoring/shooting punch, which is what Johnson brings. He is a low-ceiling prospect that profiles as something of a specialist but, with the Jazz, Johnson’s elite-level shooting would be magnified and they can hide his defensive limitations to some degree.
24. Philadelphia 76ers – Ty Jerome (G, Virginia)
The Sixers could use someone with Jerome’s skill set. The athleticism questions are real, especially on defense, but Jerome is a big-time shooter with high-end passing acumen and decent size. Philly’s long, athletic defenders could hide him and he’d keep the ball moving without taking much off the table.
25. Portland Trail Blazers – Grant Williams (F, Tennessee)
The value is too good with Williams and, if this was my personal board, he’d be gone by now. The league seems to be a bit lower on Williams than the internet, though, and Portland benefits as a result. He’d be a highly intriguing short-roll player with the Blazers, with length to project as an effective defender and a notable basketball IQ. It’s pretty much perfect.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Houston) – Nic Claxton (C, Georgia)
With the way things appear to be going, Claxton might be gone by the time the Cavs could take him. He profiles as a modern big, particularly on the defensive end, and Claxton being able to survive at the highest levels could net him a soft landing spot in the first round.
27. Brooklyn Nets (via Denver) – KZ Okpala (F, Stanford)
Brooklyn continues their upside theme with a long, talented forward in Okpala. It is fair to point out that he simply wasn’t that good at the college level but, if you squint, you can see the upside with the Stanford product and the Nets have a strong player development culture to place around him.
28. Golden State Warriors – Matisse Thybulle (G/F, Washington)
It’s almost unfair to think about what Thybulle might look like with the Warriors. Yes, there are all kinds of offensive questions but he brings real upside on the defensive end and Golden State’s free-flowing system might just unlock his potential.
29. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto) – Bruno Fernando (C, Maryland)
This is a value pick for an organization that still values size. Fernando is a player that would’ve been a sure-fire top-20 pick a few years ago but he has two-way appeal and an NBA-ready body.
30. Milwaukee Bucks – Dylan Windler (F, Belmont)
The Bucks really like players that can space the floor to 28 feet. Windler can certainly do that. For good measure, he brings size and is one of the best pure shooters in the entire class. That sounds like a Mike Budenholzer player.