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NBA mock draft: Zion Williamson and Ja Morant know where they’re going. Then it gets interesting

This is our NBA final mock draft for 2019.

The 2019 NBA Draft has never had much mystery at the top.

Zion Williamson blew away his peers and every reasonable projection of his talent during his freshman season at Duke, making him the clear choice for whatever lucky franchise landed the No. 1 pick. With the New Orleans Pelicans securing his rights, the foundation was laid for the Memphis Grizzlies to take Murray State point guard Ja Morant at No. 2 and for the New York Knicks to select Williamson’s college teammate R.J. Barrett at No. 3.

The fourth pick always felt like the true starting point of this draft, and it’s changed hands as the Pelicans acquired it in the Anthony Davis trade with the Lakers. Two days before the draft, it feels like the rest of the top 10 will be determined by whatever New Orleans does with its second pick. There is no consensus choice for that pick, but rather an entire tier of interesting young players who could grow with Williamson and help maximize his talent. It could also be used as part of a trade.

After a months of scouting and weeks of rumors, the draft is finally here. This is our final projection for how it will shake out. Be sure to check out our NBA draft player finder to determine the perfect pick for your favorite team.

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

Williamson has a case to be the best NBA prospect of the decade. He’s at a historical intersection of power, speed, and agility while also offering nearly unprecedented versatility. This is a player who can initiate the offense with the ball in his hands and then play center on defense.

Williamson is going to be dominant as a scorer at the rim. It’s likely he develops into a skilled pick-and-roll handler. He’s going to turn into one of the league’s great help defenders by racking up steals and blocks. He’s also going to be a good teammate who makes everyone around him better and has a tangible impact on winning at a high level. There is no one else in this draft class who is in Williamson’s zip code in terms of talent.

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

Morant’s star potential rests on his combination of athleticism and playmaking. He’s a fast and explosive point guard who puts pressure on the defense as a downhill attacker both in transition and out of the pick-and-roll. Collapse on Morant and he’s blessed with special vision and gifted passing ability to find open teammates. His ultimate ceiling might depend on how efficiently he can finish at the rim.

Morant will have to prove his shot from the NBA line, but his 81 percent mark on foul shots and his 36.6 percent three-point stroke on nearly five attempts per game indicates he may be a better shooter than he’s given credit for. His defense is also a question mark, but it’s worth noting he put up quality block and steal rates as a sophomore this past season for Murray State. With Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis is set up for a promising future.

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

The Knicks’ dream offseason is over before it ever started. A fall in the lottery coupled with Kevin Durant’s torn achilles means there is no quick fix on the way for New York. Duke’s R.J. Barrett is still a nice consolation with the third pick. A year ago, Barrett was widely presumed to be the No. 1 prospect in this class before his college teammate Williamson flew past him and everyone else. His season at Duke was still undeniably productive, averaging 22.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game in the toughest conference in America. As he did it, he earned a reputation for having tunnel vision as a scorer and drew criticism for his shot selection.

The key for Barrett is to stop forcing his own offense and tap into his once promising potential as a playmaker. For all his faults, Barrett is still one of the youngest players in this draft, has tremendous size for a wing, and has proven to be a high-motor player. There are plenty of avenues here for a long and bright career.

4. New Orleans Pelicans - Jarrett Culver, G, Texas Tech

The Pelicans are loaded with future assets after bleeding the Lakers dry in the Anthony Davis trade. This No. 4 overall pick represents their first big chance to build around Williamson. New Orleans could be enticed to trade back for the more picks, but Jarrett Culver is the best player available if they keep the selection.

Culver is most versatile prospect in the draft next to Williamson, a gifted shot creator and finisher who also projects as an impact defender. While he’s not the type of knockdown shooter New Orleans would ideally like next to Williamson, he is a do-it-all wing with a strong feel for the game on both ends. New Orleans would be well on their way to building a great defense with Culver joining Williamson, Lonzo Ball, and Jrue Holiday.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers - Cam Reddish, G, Duke

Cleveland has a ton of options at No. 5. It can pair last year’s lottery pick Collin Sexton with another point guard in Darius Garland who would offer superior shooting and ball handling ability. It can take a 3-and-D wing with a high floor in De’Andre Hunter. It can also swing for the fences with Cam Reddish, a player who would fill a positional need while also offering higher theoretical upside than any other wing on the board.

Reddish struggled to live up to to his recruiting hype as a freshman at Duke, ending the season with the lowest effective field goal percentage of any projected first round pick. His lack of athletic explosiveness and under-developed feel for the game was particularly evident when he put the ball on the floor and drove to the rim. Even still, Reddish has a promising shooting stroke and the potential to provide versatility on defense, with a 7’1 wingspan helping him post a nearly three percent steal rate. It’s a gamble to take Reddish this high, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a team tempted by his natural talent level.

6. Phoenix Suns - Coby White, PG, North Carolina

White soared up draft boards as a freshman at North Carolina with his combination of speed and shot-making ability. More of a scorer than a facilitator, the 6’5 guard would be an intriguing fit next to Devin Booker in a multiple ball handler system. Phoenix reportedly prefers him to Garland.

White can play on- or off-the-ball because of his size and knockdown catch-and-shoot ability. While he prefers to beat you down the court with his speed, White also has an advanced array of moves in his scoring arsenal, including a step-back he used to devastating effect at UNC. This is a pick that would give Phoenix even more offensive firepower, but likely wouldn’t help improve an already spotty defense.

7. Chicago Bulls - Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

Garland did enough to position himself as a possible top five pick in this draft despite only playing five games at Vanderbilt because of a torn meniscus. His biggest selling point is his advanced pull-up shooting ability, which helped him hit 47 percent of his threes as a freshman and will continue to make him a dangerous outside threat in the NBA’s pick-and-roll heavy offenses.

It remains to be seen exactly how good Garland is as a facilitator after finishing with more turnovers than assists during his small college sample. His lack of size at 6’2 will also lead to questions about his defense and his ability to finish at the rim on offense. While not a perfect prospect, Garland’s upside is worth the risk if he lasts until the No. 7 pick for a Bulls team with a big hole at point guard.

8. Atlanta Hawks - De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia

Hunter would be a nice fit in Atlanta’s rebuild if he slides down to No. 8. A strong-and-long combo forward, Hunter offers NBA-ready defense at the point of attack and refined catch-and-shoot ability that would match well with Trae Young on the perimeter. He’s seen as a high floor prospect who projects as one of the safest bets in this draft to at least be a reliable rotation piece.

Hunter’s ceiling will ultimately be determined by if he can improve as a shot creator off the dribble. His 44 percent three-point stroke is a big part of his appeal, but he’ll have to quicken the release on his jumper against faster NBA defenses. With three picks in the first round, the Hawks would do well to get a dependable contributor like Hunter at eight.

9. Washington Wizards - Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas

It’s rare to find a 6’11 center who can run like Hayes. The Texas freshman burst onto NBA draft radars this season with his incredibly impressive movement skills, running the floor with the speed and agility of a wing whenever the Longhorns got out in the open floor. While his offensive skill set remains unrefined, Hayes should have value early in his career as a rim protector thanks to his length and shot blocking instincts. He’ll have to add muscle to his thin frame if he wants to improve as a rebounder.

10. Atlanta Hawks - Sekou Doumbouya, F, France

Doumbouya is blessed with the physicality required to eventually grow into an NBA combo forward. The 18-year-old has already gotten valuable minutes in France’s top pro league, showing off impressive ability to run the floor and the strength to rebound and finish inside at 6’9. His ceiling will ultimately depend on how his jumper and handle improves. With three picks in the top 17, the Hawks are in a position to roll the dice on a talented but unpolished prospect like Doumbouya.

11. Minnesota Timberwolves - Brandon Clarke, F, Gonzaga

Clarke was the second most effective player in college basketball behind Zion Williamson in his debut season at Gonzaga. After sitting out a year ago as a transfer from San Jose State, Clarke emerged as the best defender in the country and also one of its most skilled finishers. This is an elite athlete with an advanced feel for the game who could be deployed to devastating effect if he finds a good fit in the draft.

The Timberwolves would be a perfect match. Clarke’s lack of shooting ability and true center size would be mitigated by the presence of Karl-Anthony Towns in the Minnesota front court. As Towns spaced the floor and continues to dominate offensively, Clarke could be counted on to provide defensive value and also score efficiency when he gets the ball near the rim. In the right situation, Clarke could be the steal of the draft.

12. Charlotte Hornets - Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga

Hachimura is one of the most polarizing prospects in this draft. He looks the part of an NBA lottery pick at first glance as a 6’8, 220-pound combo forward who put up big scoring numbers at Gonzaga. While Hachimura has soft touch on his jumper from mid-range and the strength to finish inside, he also has poor defensive instincts and rarely creates for his teammates. It only takes one team to take a chance on Hachimura in the lottery — but he could just as easily slide out of the top 20. It feels like he has more variance to his draft stock than any other prospect.

13. Miami Heat - P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky

Washington took a major leap as a sophomore at Kentucky this past season off the strength of his improved three-point shot. After making only five threes as a freshman, Washington canned 33 triples on 42 percent shooting from deep. The threat of his deep ball made the things Washington was already good at even more effective. He’s now an inside-out threat who can score in the paint, attack the defense from the face-up position, and provide rebounding and defensive versatility thanks to his long arms and strong core. Washington might not be the flashiest prospect available, but he does project as one of the most versatile in the right situation.

14. Boston Celtics - Goga Bitadze, C, Georgia

Don’t be fooled into thinking Bitadze is the type of traditional big man who struggles to thrive in today’s NBA. The 19-year-old from Georgia makes up for a lack of elite athleticism with a well-rounded skill set and impressive feel for the game. He’s already won the prestigious Rising Star Award for the best young player in Euroleague as a 6’11 big man who can pass, rebound, and stretch the floor to three-point range. He’s worth taking a chance on for a Celtics team that needs a replacement for Al Horford eventually.

15. Detroit Pistons - Romeo Langford, G, Indiana

Langford would go at least 10 spots higher if his perimeter jump shot didn’t abandon him during his freshman season at Indiana. After a legendary high school career where he rewrote scoring records in the state of Indiana, Langford had a productive year for the hometown Hoosiers but only shot 27 percent from three-point range. Langford otherwise showcased tremendous scoring instincts and soft-touch on floaters and pull-up jumpers inside the arc. With a 6’11 wingspan and a strong frame, he could be the prototype for an NBA two guard if he can fix his shot.

16. Orlando Magic - Nassir Little, F, North Carolina

Little legitimately entered the season with more NBA hype than Zion Williamson before a one-and-done season at North Carolina that provided more questions than answers. Little came off the bench all year behind a veteran Tar Heels front court and failed to carve out a consistent role until the end of the season. He looked lost on offense for most of the year, showing a serious inability to make plays for anyone else and disappointing evaluators with his struggles shooting from three-point range. Even still, Little was once so highly touted because he plays hard and has a perfect frame for a modern combo forward. He feels like one of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in this draft.

17. Atlanta Hawks - Bol Bol, C, Oregon

Bol Bol is one of the most unique prospects to ever hit the NBA draft. He’ll be among the longest players in league history from the moment he gets selected, measuring at 7’2 with a 7’7 wingspan and 9’7 standing reach at the combine. He’s also one of the best pure shooters in this draft regardless of position, backing up the reputation he forged as a recruit by hitting 52 percent of his three-pointers at Oregon. At the same time, Bol is also one of the slowest and least fluid athletes expected to go in round one. Durability is a cause for concern after a broken bone in his foot limited him to nine games this season. He badly needs to add muscle to his thin 208-pound frame.

A team like Atlanta with three picks in the first round is in perfect position to take Bol. His raw talent is worth taking a chance on in a draft considered low on star power.

18. Indiana Pacers - Tyler Herro, G, Kentucky

Need a knockdown shooter in the backcourt? Kentucky freshman Tyler Herro is one of the best options available in this draft class. The 6’4 guard is a dependable catch-and-shoot threat who can also run off screens and attack a closeout. There will be doubts about his ball handling and his defense, but the ideal version of Herro’s pro career mirrors J.J. Redick’s. That’s a player worth taking a chance on.

19. San Antonio Spurs - Keldon Johnson, G, Kentucky

Johnson is a jack of all trades and a master of none. Kentucky’s freshman wing has good size at 6’6, shot 38 percent from three, and has enough athleticism to hold his own as a defender and half-court scorer. He’d give the Spurs a young wing to develop with their first of two first round picks.

20. Boston Celtics - Kevin Porter Jr., G, USC

Porter was projected as a possible top-five pick early in the college season after he got off to a blistering start as a freshman at USC. He ended the year only seventh on his own team in minutes per game. It was all part of a bizarre season for Porter, who looked brilliant as a one-on-one scorer when he was locked in and then disappeared when he wasn’t. Porter has good size and athleticism at 6’6, 220 pounds and also has some untapped upside as a defender. The Celtics are in position to bet on Porter’s tools and upside with three first round picks.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder - Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech

Alexander-Walker is a 6’5 guard who can play either backcourt spot because of his ability to shoot, pass, and dribble. He moved from shooting guard to point guard midway through the season for Virginia Tech as a sophomore and showed an ability to run pick-and-rolls and find open shooters. Alexander-Walker is limited by his lack of athleticism. Scouts will wonder if his ability to create off the dribble will translate in the NBA. For a Thunder team that needs guards who can shoot, this would be a nice fit at No. 21.

22. Boston Celtics - Talen Horton-Tucker, G, Iowa State

Horton-Tucker is a development prospect at this point but his tools could pay off down the road for a patient franchise. The freshman from Iowa State has a strong 6’4 frame with a 7’1 wingspan and an evolving skill set on both ends. Offensively, Horton-Tucker likes to handle and pass the ball in the open floor when he’s not firing up threes, which he does with tremendous volume but only 31 percent accuracy. His length and low center of gravity allows him to defend a variety of positions while also darting in to make plays as a help defender. He’s also one of the youngest prospects in this draft, not turning 19 years old until November.

23. Utah Jazz - Nicolas Claxton, C, Georgia

Claxton is a sophomore center from Georgia whose slow rise up NBA draft boards can be directly traced to his potential as a switch defender and rim protector. A 6’11 big man with a 7’3 wingspan, Claxton is light on his feet and does well to get in a stance defensively against guards. He needs to add strength to his 220-pound frame but he’s agile enough on both ends and impressed as a shot blocker this season under Tom Crean. He also might still have some untapped potential as a shooter.

24. Philadelphia 76ers - Cameron Johnson, F, North Carolina

Johnson has a case to be the best three-point shooter in the draft. The 6’8 forward hit 45 percent of his threes during a breakout senior year playing in North Carolina’s fast and efficient offense. He’s limited as an offensive creator and will have to prove he can stay on the floor defensively, but a knockdown shooter with this type of size is worth taking in the 20s.

25. Portland Trail Blazers - Grant Williams, F, Tennessee

Williams will try to make the transition from a college superstar to NBA role player as a super strong 6’7 forward with great defensive awareness, quality passing ability, and a developing jump shot. Williams won’t be able to live in the post like he did at Tennessee, but most of the other skills that helped him become a two-time SEC Player of the Year will translate to the next level. He’d be a huge steal at No. 25.

26. Cleveland Cavaliers - Mfiondu Kabengele, C, Florida State

Kabengele is the nephew of Dikembe Mutombo who became Florida State’s leading scorer as its sixth man during his sophomore season. The strong 6’10, 250-pound big man is an explosive vertical athlete who also emerged as a 37 percent three-point shooter this season. Team will wonder if he can survive defensively as the only traditional big man on the floor and wonder why he only had 21 assists over two seasons combined at FSU.

27. Brooklyn Nets - Matisse Thybulle, G, Washington

Thybulle has a case to be considered the best perimeter defender in this draft class. He put up monstrous block and steal rates as a senior in the middle of Washington’s zone defense, positioning himself as a hyper-athletic 6’5 wing with the mindset to both force turnovers and lock his man down. His offensive ability is rudimentary at this point, but he did finish well at the rim. If he eventually improves as a shooter, Thybulle could have major value as a late round pick.

28. Golden State Warriors - Chuma Okeke, F, Auburn

The sophomore forward suffered a torn ACL as he was having the game of his life for Auburn against North Carolina in the Sweet 16. Those who go back and look at his tape will find a versatile 6’8 prospect who was an engaged defender and hit nearly 40 percent of his threes. Okeke lacks great athletic burst, but he’s a high-IQ player on both ends who has enough size and skill to potentially emerge as a draft day steal for a patient franchise.

29. San Antonio Spurs - Darius Bazley, F

Bazley was a McDonald’s All-American out of high school who chose to sit out the season and train for the draft rather than honor his commitment to Syracuse. The lack of information available makes him one of the hardest players to evaluate in this draft. He has great size for a combo forward at 6’9 with a 7-foot wingspan and a reputation for being able to shoot the ball. The need for big wings who can potentially defend a variety of positions and stretch the floor on offense might be enough to push Bazley into round one.

30. Milwaukee Bucks - Carsen Edwards, G, Purdue

Edwards was expected to be one of the best players in the country this season as a junior point guard for Purdue. It felt like he wasn’t getting enough help from his teammates for most of the season, as he put up big scoring numbers (24 points per game) on poor efficiency (39 percent shooting from the field). The whole country got to see what Edwards was all about in the NCAA tournament, when he popped off for 42 points two different times during Purdue’s run to the Elite Eight. Edwards measured at just 6-foot in shoes at the combine, but he has long arms (6’6 wingspan) and he’s one of the best shooters in this draft.