2019 NBA Mock Draft: Suns and Wolves Both Find Point Guards, Celtics Get a Defensive Stalwart

Liam McKeone
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The 2019 NBA Draft is on Thursday, and everything is starting to heat up, from mock drafts to big boards to trade rumors of all shapes and sizes. While the Anthony Davis trade has finally been completed, eyes remain on the Pelicans, who may get creative with what they do with their newest draft pick in the top five.

The top three, as has been the case for months, is set in stone, but everything else is a big question mark. Here’s the last NBA mock draft before the main event in Brooklyn come Thursday.

1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, F, Duke

There’s just no chance they don’t go with Williamson. Ready to play and already a gigantic draw for fans, Williamson will revitalize the basketball scene in New Orleans after fans grew understandably disillusioned by the Anthony Davis debacle.

Now that it’s over, Williamson gets to work with several other players on a similar timeline in Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart. His defensive versatility will help make for a stingy team in that regard, and the Lonzo-to-Williamson lobs will be constant and awesome. He’s the new big thing in the Big Easy.

2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State

The Grizzlies have been quite open about their desire to take Morant, and they don’t deviate from the script here. Morant is the perfect complement to pair with Jaren Jackson Jr., and Memphis has quite the future with those two at the helm.

There will be ugly moments aplenty with the rookie running the show, but they’ll be outweighed by the flashes of greatness and highlight plays Morant has a penchant for. An excellent fit that the Grizzlies won’t ponder for long over.

3. New York Knicks: R.J. Barrett, G, Duke

The Knicks’ grand plans were presumably laid to waste by Kevin Durant’s ruptured Achilles. This step, however, remains unchanged. Barrett has said all the right things leading up to the draft about wanting to come to New York, and hasn’t even worked out for anyone else. Barrett can score, no doubt about that. It’ll just be a few years before he can score efficiently, and his first year may be filled with a lot of lowlights if he’s given the keys to the offense from day one.

He may even be better suited as a sidekick to a marquee free agent, only relied upon to score without taking much of the heat if team success doesn’t come. But he has the style and skills to succeed in New York, and Knicks fans will come to love him.

4. New Orleans Pelicans: Jarrett Culver, F, Texas Tech

With their first of their haul of draft picks received in the Davis trade, the Pelicans nab Culver to create a brand-new starting five. The big man from Texas Tech has great length and size, paired with a shot that has only grown more dangerous each year and a tight handle for a player of his stature.

He offers upside defensively, and the length he can provide on that end will make for a frustrating defense to play against when paired with Ingram, Hart, Ball, and Williamson. Culver could allow them to play some kind of small-ball lineup with Williamson at center, and really can fill just about any role in the lineup; versatility will be his calling card. He presents the kind of upside that the Pelicans are looking for to kick off the new era.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers: De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia

The Cavs don’t need a primary ballhandler to take time away from Collin Sexton, so Cleveland goes with Hunter instead as the first of what should be many complementary pieces to put around their young point guard.

Hunter’s offensive game may never evolve past solid to elite shooting, but he’ll enter the league as a plus player on the defensive end of the court, a rare happenstance in this NBA. The Cavs might think about taking a swing on another player with higher potential, but they can’t go wrong with Hunter, who presents the best combination of fit and talent for Cleveland.

6. Phoenix Suns: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderstrongilt

Phoenix has needed a point guard for years now, and they finally get one with Garland. The electric guard comes with caveats- calling him a poor defender is an understatement, and he underwent season-ending meniscus surgery last year. But he’s as good attacking off the dribble as any other guard in this class and could become an elite offensive force in short order.

He’s not a good fit with Devin Booker in that regard, but he would become a dangerous pick and roll partner with DeAndre Ayton, showing a feel for that part of the game beyond his years. Phoenix may very well trade this pick, but Garland possesses a ton of upside and fits a position of need. They can figure out the fit later.

7. Chicago Bulls: Nassir Little, F, UNC

The first big surprise of this draft comes from one of the more unpredictable front offices in the NBA. Little was quite underwhelming at UNC, but his abilities as a combo forward on the defensive end, and the entire league watched as the Raptors were powered to a title by one of the best combo forwards in the game. Of course, Little is no Kawhi Leonard, but he possesses the physical tools to become the type of two-way wing that every great team has in spades.

His seven-foot wingspan and athleticism indicates he can stick with anyone on the defensive side of things, but he can’t really shoot yet and generally has a long way to go on offense. Little isn’t the most talented player available, but does have tantalizing upside and is a good fit to offset the weakness of Zach LaVine defensively.

8. Atlanta Hawks: Cam Reddish, F, Duke

The Hawks capitalize on Reddish falling and make a bet that his talent outweighs the negatives he showed at Duke. He has the athleticism to become both an elite defender and a legit No. 2 option with his shooting opening up the floor for everyone. His time there showed what can happen when he’s relied upon to be a centerpiece of the offense and his attention wanders on defense, which is to say, nothing good. 

In an NBA offense where there’s a whole lot more shooting and lowered expectations, Reddish should thrive and become another good young piece on the wing in Atlanta to help compensate for Trae Young’s defensive flaws.

9. Washington Wizards: Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas

Hayes has rocketed up draft boards in recent months with an attractive combination of ready-made athleticism and potential. The lanky center showed a lot of promise as an offensive threat capable of slamming home any lob and making the right pass at the right time. Defensively, he’s still figuring it out, but appears to have a future as a rim protector thanks to his big wingspan and instincts.

The Wizards are in a weird middle ground, but Hayes fits in the future of their team, whether they try and trade everyone to kick-start a rebuild or attempt to compete this season with Bradley Beal leading the charge.

10. Atlanta Hawks: Nicolas Claxton, C, Georgia

Claxton is chock-full of potential on both sides of the ball, making him a good fit in Atlanta, who are on a long-term timeline with their collection of youth. He could become one of the better defenders in the league at center, averaging a steal and two blocks a game at Georgia while exhibiting the lateral quickness to handle guards when switched onto them. Offensively, he’s all potential at the moment, with a good-looking jumper that has no statistics to back up its legitimacy.

But he showed good decision-making with the ball in his hands, and he’ll only ever need to be a third or fourth wheel with Young at the wheel. He has to fill out his frame to be truly dangerous in the paint on both ends of the floor, but he’s already pretty good as a rim-runner and rim-protector, and you can’t ask for much more out of a rookie big man.

11. Minnesota Timstrongerwolves: Costrongy White, PG, UNC

The Wolves pounce on a falling and high-ceiling prospect in White in this version of the draft. Minnesota needs a point guard, and White is potentially the best in his class, utilizing his blazing speed and an unnaturally quick first step to get by just about anyone on the court.

He can grow with franchise cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns and develop his game off the ball (one of the more exciting parts about his game) when Towns works as the primarily ball-handler. It won’t help solve any aspect of Minnesota’s defensive issues, but White is a dangerous offensive option who would prove to be a great complement to the face of the franchise.

12. Charlotte Hornets: Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga

While Hachimura isn’t the best fit for the Hornets, they have a track record of pouncing on guys who put up big numbers at the college level, and Hachimura fits that bill. He’s a midrange artist and enough of an athlete that he could become a dangerous player when driving to the rim. He’s a bit of a tweener, however, and will need to work on his defensive fundamentals to be able to provide an impact on that end of the floor, and can’t shoot threes.

Hachimura isn’t a player they’d build around if Kemba Walker leaves, but he’s a good piece for the future who could eventually become a solid third option/leader of the second team who can take the load off Walker.

13. Miami Heat: Sekou Doumstrongouya, F, France

Doumbouya is an athletic freak of nature who would benefit immensely from the coaching of Erik Spoelstra down in Miami. He’s a bundle full of potential right now who can jump through the roof and slam down anything in his general vicinity.

His shot needs a complete overhaul, though, and for all of his defensive highlights, his fundamentals are as poor as they come, and he’ll get torched regularly early on. Still, Miami is in a tough spot with their cap, and Doumbouya offers upside few others can at this point in the lottery.

14. Boston Celtics: Brandon Clarke, F, Gonzaga

The Celtics whiffed on Anthony Davis and seemed primed to lose Kyrie Irving, so their timeline has officially shifted to the long-term. In that vein, they’re siked to see Clarke fall to the bottom of the lottery. Clarke won’t be anything more than a fourth option on offense, but could be Al Horford’s heir apparent on the defensive side of things, blocking more shots than he missed at Gonzaga and overall was a terror on that end of the court.

He’d fit well as the Celtics turn the future of the franchise over to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and would quickly become a fan favorite in Boston. It’s not a splashy pick with a high ceiling, but those are hard to find in this draft, and not what the C’s really need at this point in time.

15. Detroit Pistons: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, PG, Virginia Tech

Reggie Jackson played well at points last year with Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, but their styles clearly clash and Jackson’s salary is nothing less than obscene for a player of his production and availability. It’s hard to see them retaining Jackson after next season, so they grab his replacement in Alexander-Walker, who is a much better fit in terms of skillset.

The long PG from VT plays the game at a steady pace and knows how to utilize his size in the pick-and-roll and should be able to harness that same size defensively. Most importantly, he can shoot, sinking threes at a 37% clip on 4.5 attempts per game in his last season in college. His slim stature will always give him problems at the rim, and his ball-handling must improve if he’s to run an NBA offense, but he could be half of a longtime future backcourt in Detroit with Luke Kennard.

16. Orlando Magic: Kevin Porter, G, USC

The Magic surprised everyone by not only squeaking into the playoffs as a seven seed, but stealing the first game against the eventual champion Raptors in Toronto. They then came crashing back down to Earth, and now find themselves in the middle ground NBA teams try so hard to avoid. Still, they have enough unrealized talent in the frontcourt that they could make their way out of that middle class sometime soon, and Porter would help in that regard. For all the lottery picks they’ve had in past years, they’re left without a future in the backcourt once D.J. Augustin and Evan Fournier eventually depart, and Porter could represent that future.

Steve Clifford will have to coach him with a firm hand to steady out a player who reportedly has maturity issues, but his scoring prowess can’t be denied. He needs a lot of work to become an all-around threat in the NBA,  it was clear at USC that he knows how to get buckets with the best of them. Orlando is a good, low-pressure landing spot with a no-nonsense coach for a player like Porter.

17. Atlanta Hawks: Keldon Johnson, G, Kentucky

It seems unlikely ahead of the draft that the Hawks will keep all of their picks. If they do, though, Johnson fills a role they don’t really have anyone for right now. His game consists of hustle plays and energetic defense, the makeup of a great teammate and a fan favorite, if not yet a game-changer in any regard. Johnson’s offensive ceiling remains in question; his loose dribble gives him trouble beating defenders off the bounce, and has a rather bizarre shooting form that will likely need to be overhauled.

The Hawks, though, have their offensive output covered. They need the type of glue guy Johnson can be, and add to their stable of wings that Lloyd Pierce will find all sorts of interesting ways to deploy.

18. Indiana Pacers: Tyler Herro, G, Kentucky

Two Wildcats off the board consecutively here as the Pacers pick up some much-needed shooting from Herro, perhaps the best pure shooter in the class. They’ll need some kind of offensive output from the rest of their team as Victor Oladipo gets up to speed after missing much of last season thanks to a ruptured quad.

The Pacers don’t have a knockdown shooter right now (Doug McDermott doesn’t count, as much as we all like to think he does) and he’d do wonders for their spacing. Herro will have issues defensively, but the Pacers play on a string at that end of the floor, and have enough good defenders to make up for his weaknesses as he gets up to speed.

19. San Antonio Spurs: Goga Bitadze, C, KK Mega Bemax (Georgia) 

This year’s mystery foreign big man goes to, you guessed it, the Spurs. Bitadze is a talented offensive big man with a soft touch, with a variety of ways to score down low. He’s also the best screener of all big men in this class, exhibiting a talent for positioning and dribble hand-off moves that younger players at his position tend to struggle with.

He has a long way to go on defense, and likely won’t ever be an elite rim protector or quick enough to switch onto guards. One need to look no further than Denver or Portland, though, to find examples of teams successful with a talented offensive big man doing just enough to stay in the game on defense. The Spurs will need a long-term option in the front court to match their exciting core in the backcourt, and Bitadze should be a great PnR option in San Antonio in short order.

20. Boston Celtics: Bol Bol, C, Oregon

The Celtics continue to look towards the future and swing big with Bol Bol. His foot injury may hamper his entire career, but his upside is worth burning a pick in an overall weak draft. If he pans out, he’ll be a stretch five made in a lab, with the length to defend the rim while being a 40% three-point shooter on the offensive end of the floor.

Bol Bol will always have trouble defending on the perimeter, limiting his defensive upside, but the idea of a seven-footer with an absurd wingspan who you can’t leave open behind the line is enticing enough to take a risk here.

22. Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Johnson, F, UNC

The Thunder need shooting, and they need it bad. Johnson will help them with that. The former Tar Heel shot 45% on nearly six attempts from beyond last season, and has good enough size to hang with most wing players on the defensive end. He’ll never be elite on that end of the floor, though, and at 23, he’s ancient in draft years.

Still, the Thunder don’t need any more elite defenders. They need guys who can provide shooting and will show up ready to contribute, and Johnson has the makings of a prospect who can do just that.

22. Boston Celtics: Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue

One way or the other, the Celtics will need a backup point guard heading into 2019. This is a bit high for Edwards, but with all these first-round picks, the Celtics are drafting for need and fit, not best player available. He’s an excellent scorer from outside with a reliable three-point shot, and showed in college that size wasn’t quite the issue it is for other players.

That size also means he’ll have trouble on defense, but Brad Stevens has had success with a certain undersized guard who was surprisingly electric on offense in the past. Edwards comes off four years at Purdue and could eventually develop into a leader for a young Celtics team that showed the outside noise can affect their day-to-day game.

23. Utah Jazz: Romeo Langford, G, Indiana

What the Jazz do here is a bit dependent on how far along they feel they are on a Mike Conley trade. Assuming they’re confident they get the deal done, they grab a falling prospect in Langford, pegged as a high lottery pick before the season began. He’s a great athlete who can get to and finish at the rim with relative ease, and showed flashes of a good defender at points. He also struggled mightily shooting the rock, which may have been affected by a finger injury early on in his one season as a Hoosier.

He has a ways to go to become the all-around player he was believed to be, but showed enough as a scorer that the Jazz could use him soDonovan Mitchell doesn’t have to be Utah’s entire offense.

24. Philadelphia 76ers: Matisse Thystrongulle, G, Washington

The Sixers have a lot of big decisions to make that will affect the makeup of their team, but one thing remains clear: they need a defensive-minded wing. Ben Simmons is great on that end of the floor, but simply cannot chase around smaller guards while continuing to impact the game offensively. That could change, but the Sixers decide to help him out anyway with Thybulle, an elite defensive prospect who put up ridiculous numbers at Washington (3.5 steals, 2.2 blocks per game).

He doesn’t have the makeup to be a true threat on offense, but he exhibited a high basketball IQ and played well within the flow of the offense, which is all the Sixers need at that end of the floor.

25. Portland Trail Blazers: P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky

Washington was a high-energy defender while at Kentucky who showed an intruiging enough offensive skillset that the Blazers take a chance on him. They need a playmaking big man, a big hole in their offense even when Jusuf Nurkic was healthy; as good as the Serbian big man is, he couldn’t really create for others.

Washington thinks a step ahead on offense, and at times made pro-level reads off the pick and role that not many players of his size can make. He fills a need and can continue to help shore up their defensive capabilities.

26. Cleveland Cavaliers: Grant Williams, F, Tennessee

The Cavs decide to double down on defense and end up with Williams, a player who does all of the little things and possesses unusual strength even for an NBA player. He’s a great screener who will free up space for Collin Sexton regularly while being able to finish inside consistently and crash the boards with reckless abandon. 

He may not ever become a great player if his shot doesn’t develop, but he’s an important cog that allows the machine to run smoothly, an important player for all teams to have. He’ll be a fan favorite quickly, and his teammates will love him.

27. Brooklyn Nets: Talen Horton-Tucker, G, Iowa State

Horton-Tucker is raw on both ends of the floor, but flashed enough potential during his one year as a Cylcone that he’s worth taking a chance on late in the draft. He has the size and athleticism to become a multi-positional defender, and on occasion showed some elite skills in creating space and driving to the basket, along with excellent vision.

These flashes were squeezed in between tear-your-hair-out level of frustration when he attempts a wild move and fails, then falls asleep on the other end of the floor. Still, he should fit in a Kenny Atkinson-style offense that emphasizes ball movement, and can be coached up to a solid rotation player, if not fringe All-Star.

28. Golden State Warriors: Ty Jerome, PG, Virginia

The Warriors’ future has somehow never looked more uncertain than it is right now. Even if Thompson and Durant both come back and end up playing sometime in the next year, the Dubs need a creator off the bench to take the load off of their stars, the consequences of which manifested themselves in this year’s NBA Finals.

Jerome can do just that, effectively running the offense and shooting at a good clip while competing at the defensive end. He’ll only become more valuable to the team as time goes on and days where Steph Curry needs days off and the team can’t completely collapse will become more common. Jerome will help the Warriors out on the margins, which is where champion contenders need contributors the most.

29. San Antonio Spurs: Dylan Windler, F, Belmont

The Spurs double down on their front court influx of youth, nabbing a potentially elite shooter in Windler with the second-to-last pick of the draft. Windler shot 42% from deep on seven attempts per game at Belmont, and his knockdown shooting should translate at the next level.

He’ll never be an elite offensive threat, but he showed flashes of solid attacking off the dribble and passing. Windler will need to put a lock of work in on defense to stay in Coach Pop’s rotation, but he could be a great frontcourt partner and much-needed spacer for LaMarcus Aldridge.

30. Milwaukee Bucks: Mfiondu Kastrongengele, C, Florida State

It wouldn’t be a shock if you haven’t heard of this guy, but he played for two years at Florida State and showed potential. He’s made his way up draft boards recently with impressive workouts and lives up to his billing as Dikembe Mutombo’s nephew with a natural feel for protecting the paint, and flashed potential as a decent spot-up shooter.

The Bucks may lose Brook Lopez in free agency, and it will take Kabengele years to get to where Lopez is now, but he’ll be able to make an impact immediately on the defensive side of things with his instincts and athleticism.

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