In this week’s 2019 NBA Mock Draft, we look at how the Boston Celtics could control the draft and dive deeper into a few prospects from top-five teams.
As always, projected standings are based upon FiveThirtyEight’s CARM-Elo rankings. This version of the mock uses projections as of Feb. 17, with the four worst teams in the league jockeying for position to get the best lottery odds, clearly separated from the rest of the NBA and with no improvement in sight.
The Saturday night battle between Kentucky and Tennessee as well as Gonzaga’s close call against San Diego provide the backdrop for deeper scouting on several first-round prospects.
Away we go:
Gafford is probably wishing he hadn’t stayed in school. Unfortunately for the talented big man, he is struggling through much the same issues that hampered Robert Williams’ growth at Texas A&M last year — improving, but not expanding his skill set in any special way. In addition, traditional big men aren’t as valuable as they once were, more like relief pitchers in baseball than high-octane starters. After trading John Henson this season, Milwaukee finds a solid rim-prowling big man here.
Herro has been incredible the past few weeks for Kentucky, who after a blowout over No. 1 Tennessee sit fourth in the nation. Herro is a smooth shooter with legitimate size who moves well off the ball and is growing in his ability to attack closeouts as well. He needs to work on his finishing ability around the rim (he missed two fast-break layups in the second half against the Vols on Saturday) but you can easily see this guy slotting into a shooting specialist role right away in the NBA, with room to grow from there.
This pick comes the Spurs’ way as a result of the Kawhi Leonard trade, and Schofield fits perfectly with the core of young guards (Derrick White, Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV) San Antonio has brought in. Schofield’s neverending effort was noticeable even in a loss Saturday at Kentucky, as the versatile wing defended everyone from Keldon Johnson to P.J. Washington to Reid Travis over the course of the game. He had multiple deflections on interior passes to the Wildcats’ bigs and flashed a broader skill set than when I saw him in person in December, coming off pin-downs inside the arc as well as playmaking in a two-man game with teammate Grant Williams that worked nicely several times.
For the courtesy of clearing Kenneth Faried off the Nuggets’ books, Brooklyn has a chance to add to its backcourt talent with Dosunmu, a smooth, efficient playmaker who has led Illinois to four straight wins.
G, Arizona State
As Philadelphia looks to replenish its depth after two win-now trades this season, Dort could provide defensive versatility with the upside to take on more of a playmaking role down the line. He’s very skilled for his size but he will need to learn how to use his frame to make more of an impact driving and finishing in the NBA.
Jones possesses the second-best transition assist to turnover ratio in the nation this year and already has become the best point of attack defender in the NCAA. He is slight but his value is already apparent on both ends as a likely backup point guard in the NBA, someone Boston could flip as a developmental opportunity for another team or use to fill in their depth after a big trade this summer.
F, San Diego State
The 20-45 range of this year’s draft is full of exciting forwards (McDaniels, P.J. Washington, Nazreon Reid and more) who project nicely defending multiple positions in the NBA. McDaniels, with nice steal and block numbers as well as boosted playmaking efficiency during his sophomore season, is one of the best.
Houston forfeited this pick to clear luxury tax money this season and upgrade its roster with Iman Shumpert, giving Cleveland the opportunity to swoop in and nab a big man who has the tools to one day protect the rim and space the floor.
ESPN currently has Washington at No. 17, which feels high when you consider the questions about where he will fit in the modern NBA. However, if he keeps scoring and rebounding as he has in conference play for Kentucky, fit can be figured out. Against Tennessee on Saturday night at home, Washington was magnificent, scoring in isolation, off cuts, diving in the pick-and-roll — he was everywhere. Washington told analyst Jay Bilas in “94 Feet” that the biggest difference this year for him is the confidence to take and make big shots. It showed in the Wildcats’ biggest win of the year.
G/F, Iowa State
What is a strength of Utah’s right now could quickly dissolve into a weakness in coming summers. Jae Crowder, Royce O’Neale, Thabo Sefolosha and Kyle Korver (all of Utah’s wings outside Joe Ingles) will be free agents the next two summers, meaning the Jazz should be proactive filling those holes before they spring open.
Williams is one of the smartest players in the entire draft. Now that he, as ESPN reported during the Saturday night telecast of Tennesee’s loss to Kentucky, is down below 10 percent body fat, his finesse game is catching up to his acumen. Against the Wildcats, Williams was incredible drawing attention driving to the basket or from the post and finding open shooters. He also, like his teammate Schofield, never relented with energy despite the deficit blowing to 20 early in the second half. Williams could be a fantastic role player for Portland, filling some of what Moe Harkless and Evan Turner do for this team as two-way playmaking wings.
On Saturday night against San Diego, Clarke flashed the effort and intelligence that makes him so special. On one fast break in the first half, Clarke, an incredible athlete in his own right, caught a pass near the free throw line and immediately tipped it open to a teammate cutting baseline for an easy dunk. It was a small play that encapsulated Clarke’s willingness to play the right way and why he would fit so nicely with the Spurs.
This pick comes by way of the Clippers and allows Boston (or whomever they trade the pick to) an opportunity for a high-ceiling offensive big man who was considered a potential lottery pick in the better 2018 draft class. If the Celtics could walk away with Jones and Porter with their non-lottery picks it would be a massive victory in their quest to create an enticing trade package.
In next week’s mock draft, we will break down Okpala after a live look as he and the Cardinal head to Tempe to take on Dort and the Sun Devils. But he fits marvelously within Brooklyn’s system thanks to his improved 3-point and free-throw shooting. Consider him an eventual piece on the wing in the mold of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
G, North Carolina
We know Orlando traded for Fultz but let’s not pretend that solves their problems at point guard. White is an exciting modern guard with size who could compete with and play alongside Fultz.
G, Virginia Tech
A perfect complement to Blake Griffin who could start at the off guard spot but pick up playmaking duties in bench units, Alexander-Walker has a developed, modern game that would allow him to compete right away in the NBA. The sophomore is making 42 percent of his 3s and has more than doubled his assist rate this season.