The NBA Draft is a few weeks away. As the NBA Finals comes to what will hopefully be an exciting conclusion, every other team in the league is looking towards the draft and who can help them win. Let’s do the same. Here’s my 2019 NBA mock draft.
1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, F, Duke
Duh. There’s nothing I can say that you haven’t already heard about Williamson. He’ll either lead this franchise into a new age of Pelicans basketball, or he’ll be the catalyst for Anthony Davis to change his mind and become the most explosive one-two punch in the league. New Orleans would be pretty damn happy with either outcome. The Pelicans have their pick, and the most exciting player to enter the draft in half a decade will have a new home.
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant, G, Murray State
The rumor mill indicates the Grizzlies are very interested in Morant, and it’s one of the few rumors that makes complete sense. Jaren Jackson Jr. looks like a prototypical stretch five and a perfect fit for this era of basketball, but he needs a star guard to flourish. A guard like Morant, the best passer in this year’s draft and an athletic whirlwind of a prospect who showcased all the tools needed to succeed in today’s game.
He increased his three-point percentage up to 36 percent on three more attempts per game in his sophomore season. Morant did generally play against lesser competition and — like most young point guards — will probably have an ugly assist to turnover ratio as he adjusts to NBA speed. But it’s hard to find a more tantalizing young duo than JJJ and Morant going into next season.
3. New York Knicks: R.J. Barrett, G, Duke
Whether or not the Knicks keep this pick will probably be up in the air until they make the selection. If they do keep it, Barrett has the highest star potential out of the remaining prospects. His poor shooting from outside and from the charity stripe will raise questions, but he’s a gifted scorer with a feel for the floor and the athleticism and size to get to his spots whenever he’d like.
If things pan out for Barrett, he’ll be the focal point of the offense from the James Harden school of scoring, capable of taking on any defender for a bucket or a kick-out. That alone is worth a high pick. Barrett has a lot to work on — namely, his defensive effort, tunnel vision, and turnovers. But the ceiling is absolutely there for a star-caliber player. The question lies more with the Knicks than Barrett.
4. Los Angeles Lakers: Darius Garland, G, Vanderbilt
Similar to the Knicks, the Lakers may or may not be on the clock when the time comes. If they do end up using the pick, I don’t think anyone can even pretend to have a clue about what they’re going to do. While LeBron James needs more 3-and-D guys around him, the wings available either have a low ceiling or will need an adjustment period, and the Lakers seem dedicated to taking the less-beaten path.
That would make Garland as likely a pick as any. His injury questions loom, but if he’s healthy, he’s an electric offensive force who would provide a great complement to Lonzo Ball in the backcourt, and eventually take the load off LeBron on offense with his skills in running the pick-and-roll. Garland may not be the best pick, but he’s the flashiest for a franchise that’s always valued the aesthetic aspect of a player’s game. He’s also a Klutch client. Take that as you will.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jarrett Culver, F, Texas Tech
The Cavs are turning towards the far future, and continue to do so by picking Culver, a prospect with loads of long-term potential. Culver can do a little bit of everything, and at times showed he could do everything very well. He appears to be still be growing and already possesses the requisite size and length to make for a solid and versatile defender. Offensively, he can do it all as a passer, shooter, and scorer within the paint.
He needs to work on his decision-making, both in regards to passing and shot selection, and his array of dribble-moves must be diversified to effectively drive to the bucket in the NBA. But all the tools are there for a well-rounded wing, the glue that brings the whole team together, even if the system doesn’t revolve around him. Paired with another exciting young gun in Collin Sexton, and the Cavs have the making of an exciting future.