With conference play in full swing and upsets taking over NCAA basketball, we take another look at the 2019 NBA Draft class.
As always, projected standings are based upon FiveThirtyEight’s CARM-Elo rankings. This version of the mock uses projections as of Jan. 6, with the four worst teams in the league jockeying for position to get the best lottery odds.
The way things stand now, Duke freshman Zion Williamson is on a clear tier of his own at the top of the 2019 draft, with teammate and fellow freshman standout R.J. Barrett on his own tier just below that. Picks No. 3 through No. 8 fall in line after that in what appears to be a far weaker class than the standout 2018 group.
Away we go:
It’s bizarre not to see an athletic project big man come in under Shaka Smart at Texas and not shoot 3s. Yet Hayes plays in control and has the length and foot speed to affect just about every play on the interior defensively.
G, Iowa State
Watch the Iowa State freshman and be dazzled. The Cyclones are rounding into form to begin conference play, starting with a massive win over No. 5 Kansas. Haliburton set the tone in transition for the Cyclones, grabbing four steals and igniting easy offense. He’s a rough outline of a Shaun Livingston type but his jumper already shows promise.
Washington isn’t a good enough shooter to quite play the four or a dominant enough interior defender to be a center, but he chips in everywhere. The Bucks continue to stockpile young depth and Washington would fit right in if his 3-point shot continues to develop.
PG, North Carolina
White needs to find a home on a team that turns defense into offense, where his transition instincts and slashing can fit in. Oklahoma City needs to eventually bring in youth at the guard spot to replace Raymond Felton, who is somehow still in the NBA. Check out our full scouting report on Coby White.
Samanic just doesn’t impact games consistently, but that hasn’t held back skilled, floor-spacing Euro big men like Dragan Bender or Ansejs Pasecniks in the past.
It would be surprising for Jones to fall this far on draft night, given the spotlight under which Duke plays and the likelihood they play deep into March. He’s piling up assists nearly six times as frequently as he turns the ball over and running Duke’s high-octane offense but point guard is increasingly deep in the NBA — as his brother Tyus is finding out, peering into restricted free agency. Check out our full scouting report on Tre Jones.
Schofield could be what Mikal Bridges ought to have been for the 76ers this season — a young 3-and-D wing with size to grow with the rest of Philadelphia’s core.
F, Iowa State
One of the youngest guys in the draft, Horton-Tucker is a big playmaker with solid defensive instincts and a smooth jumper. He plays a lot like Tennessee’s Grant Williams, another nontraditional athlete mixing it up in the first round on a lot of draft boards. But Horton-Tucker’s age gives him the upper hand here.
G, Virginia Tech
Say it with me: PERFECT fit. Alexander-Walker has burst out of the gates after an inconsistent freshman season, taking control of the Hokies’ egalitarian offense and shooting at an elite level.
Some are already buying into Clarke’s potential as a Swiss Army knife on both ends and he could rise into the lottery with a strong showing throughout the rest of the year and at the NBA Draft combine in May. Utah needs more modern players and Clarke is an exciting fit alongside Rudy Gobert in the frontcourt.
The pick Portland needed badly in last year’s draft could fall into the team’s lap in 2019 should Tillie finally leave school. He’s a mobile, intelligent floor-spacer who could pair well with fellow bulldog Zach Collins — whom Tillie backed up as a freshman — to finally fix the Trail Blazers’ broken big man rotation.
This feels low for Gafford, who picked up where he left off from a production standpoint after returning to Arkansas for his sophomore season. But at some point, NBA teams will become lower on traditional bigs. Gafford’s stock could suffer if that trend materializes in 2019.
G/F, Arizona State
Sun Devils coach adjusted quickly this year after Arizona State’s conference play failures last year, benching Dort and Remy Martin in ASU’s 22-point win over Colorado on Saturday. Dort played 26 minutes and finished with 14 points, but at just 6-foot-5, he needs to be more impactful on offense for this team to reach its potential in March and to show NBA teams he can playmake given his size.
Porter is recovering from MCL and ACL tears he suffered during an October scrimmage. His decision to return to Missouri looks like a real mistake, but it’s unlikely he falls too far given his prolific passing and shooting ability and age (he will still be just 20 as a rookie should he enter the 2019 draft). Check out our full scouting report on Jontay Porter.
This is probably the highest you’ll see Brazdeikis, but hear us out. The strong, ambidextrous freshman who turned 20 on Tuesday is one of the last wings with size and length left on the board after Rui Hachimura, and competitive teams need these players desperately. Don’t be surprised if someone like Brazdeikis — a consistent performer on one of the nation’s top teams — goes higher than expected as the NBA tries to account for its relative dearth of wing talent.
The 6-foot-8 playmaker has just about stopped taking 3s for the Bulldogs, who are now at full health and coming off a 43-point victory over Santa Clara to open their WCC schedule. If he keeps taking these inefficient shots and rarely passes, his development becomes far more tenuous and his draft stock could fall.