With Duke’s group of superstar freshman dominating the college basketball headlines, our 2019 NBA Mock Draft always circles back to their play.
As always, projected standings are based upon FiveThirtyEight’s CARM-Elo rankings. This version of the mock uses projections as of Jan. 20, with four teams battling to be the very worst at basketball.
Duke freshman Zion Williamson continues to blow up college basketball, but the teams he plays and the freshman around him have interesting stories as well from within Williamson’s orbit.
F, Princeton High School
If you trust any team to swoop in and develop a questionable prospect like Bazley, who is sitting out the season to prepare for the draft, it’s the Spurs, who receive this pick as a byproduct of the Kawhi Leonard trade with Toronto.
The junior Jerome is on pace to take and make a career-high in 3s this year, sitting at 40 percent on the season. He could smoothly transition into Quin Cook’s role and bring a higher defensive floor as well as more ingenuity moving off the ball in the half court.
Look at what Milwaukee has done with D.J. Wilson and you’ll quickly understand the value of grabbing modern two-way players in the draft as the Bucks’ roster gets more expensive. Both Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton are free agents this summer so Milwaukee will need as many cheap depth pieces like the senior Paschall as they can find. Paschall is shooting 37 percent on 5.9 3-point attempts per 40 minutes and brings from Villanova a comfort in switching on defense and playing quickly.
F, San Diego State
After breakouts from all three of their backcourt trio of Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and D’Angelo Russell this season, the Nets can use this pick, which they get from Denver as a result of the Kenneth Faried trade, to focus on the wing.
G, North Carolina
Could White be a B-minus version of the player Markelle Fultz was supposed to be?
G/F, Iowa State
Horton-Tucker is flying up draft boards as a result of the Cyclones’ strong play in their Big 12 schedule, his basketball IQ and his high ranking in advanced defensive statistics.
It feels like if Jones and Coby White are both here, the Thunder will use the opportunity to replace Raymond Felton with a guard who has more potential to develop behind Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schroder. It’s Jones’ defensive upside that gives him the leg up here.
Within the weakened SEC, it wouldn’t be tough to imagine Tennessee finishing the year as the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Duke now has two losses (Michigan one) while Tennessee may not lose. The man behind that dynamic play and resurgence in Knoxville is Williams, who does everything for this squad and has the size to play multiple positions in the NBA.
Williams is probably more important for Tennessee but Schofield feels like the kind of guy who will impress in workouts and at the NBA Draft combine in May due to this ripped frame and prolific shooting. As the Rockets play hardball with Danuel House Jr., the starter for much of their return to form in December and January, Schofield fits their system nicely on both ends and could act as a cheap depth piece moving forward.
With the success of players like Jarrett Allen, Domantas Sabonis and Ivica Zubac (and even rookie Robert Williams III in Boston!) for playoff teams this season, one wonders whether we are already reversing course and valuing more highly big men who can rebound, protect the rim and finish. Gafford checks all three boxes.
G, Arizona State
Dort arrived in Tempe one year too late. It would have been fantastic to watch the Canadian prospect on last year’s Arizona State team alongside the “Guard U” tandem of Shannon Evans and Tra Holder.
If there’s any team who can coax good habits out of Hachimura, it’s the Spurs. Oh, and they won’t mind his mid-range happy offensive game.
As phenom Zion Williamson threatens to absolutely break the Box Plus-Minus statistic, Clarke lingers just behind him with a versatile skill set that provides defensive playmaking, rebounding and elite finishing ability for a great Gonzaga team. Clarke is the best player on a squad that could give the NBA three first-rounders.
This pick, originally from the Clippers, could allow Boston to fill in their center depth behind Al Horford and Aron Baynes, both of whom are likely to depart eventually as Boston tries to build a perpetual contender.
New Orleans would breathe a sigh of relief if Okpala fell to them. He’s the type of wing with size and playmaking ability they’ve been desperate for the entirety of Anthony Davis’ career.
Kevin Porter Jr.
Porter falls to Brooklyn, who has a backlog of playmakers but loves to stockpile talent, due to injury and attitude concerns in his ongoing problems at USC.