The 2019 NBA Draft Lottery is in the books and, while there could be a massive curve ball between now and June 20, the New Orleans Pelicans are in pole position to select Duke forward Zion Williamson. That is the headline takeaway from the bouncing of ping-pong balls but, of course, there are 29 other first-round selections to examine and that is the backdrop for our first DIME mock draft in a post-lottery world.
Let’s get weird.
1. New Orleans Pelicans – Zion Williamson (F, Duke)
There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said, and that is amusing with five weeks until draft night. Zion is the clear No. 1 prospect in this class and the most interesting evaluation of the selection stems from what happens with Anthony Davis. Williamson is a no-brainer and, quite honestly, the Pelicans could go ahead and call it in right now.
2. Memphis Grizzlies – Ja Morant (G, Murray State)
This isn’t a perfect fit right now, as the Grizzlies continue to employ a high-end point guard in Mike Conley. However, buzz was already out there that Memphis will be looking to move on from Conley in pursuit of a continued rebuild, and that would open the door for Morant. For me, Morant is the No. 2 overall player in the class and, in addition to being the best prospect available, his potential fit with Jaren Jackson Jr. is enticing from a long-term viewpoint.
3. New York Knicks – R.J. Barrett (F/G, Duke)
Knicks fans had to be levitating during ESPN’s commercial break, with the best chance to land Zion Williamson. That didn’t happen, though, and New York is in an interesting position. From a consensus standpoint, Barrett is the best player available and that would seemingly make the decision easy. With that said, he isn’t a perfect fit if New York’s dream pairing of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving arrives. Intel will be key and who they pick could indicate exactly how confident they are in what will happen in free agency.
4. Los Angeles Lakers – Jarrett Culver (G/F, Texas Tech)
The Lakers might trade this pick because, well, LeBron James probably doesn’t have much interest in adding another (very) young player to the fold. Still, it’s a coup for Los Angeles to add another intriguing asset to their war chest and, if they do make the pick, Culver would be an interesting choice. He has two-way appeal and presents the combination of safety and intriguing upside.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers – DeAndre Hunter (F, Virginia)
Hunter isn’t a sexy pick but he happens to be the best player available and a strong fit in Cleveland. The Final Four star doesn’t need the ball to be successful offensively and Hunter brings a combination of shooting acumen and the ability to fill in the gaps offensively. On the other end, Hunter may not be a game-changing defender but, at the very least, he projects to be above-average and his defense against Culver in the National Championship game was a memorable example of his ability.