The 2018-19 NBA season has offered many surprises in the early-going; some teams are primed for their usual playoff runs, some are exceeding expectations, others are caught in a state of uncertainty, and the rest will turn their attention to next June’s draft soon. The 2019 draft class offers a couple of eye-opening prospects along with a others who possess large amounts of potential that could result in solid professional careers. With that being said, here is the December edition of the early 2019 NBA mock draft.
Reminder: This mock draft takes into account current NBA records and does not implement future projected team results. Stats used were at the time of this writing, not exactly the date of publication.
1. Phoenix Suns: F Zion Williamson- Duke; Fr.
Is anyone truly surprised? The Suns’ franchise centerpiece Devin Booker has expressed his interest in bringing a superteam to Phoenix and there may not be a better way to start trying to sell the vision to stars than by bringing in one of the most intriguing prospects. The 6-foot-7, 285 lb freshman has taken the college basketball world by storm; Williamson is averaging 21.3 PPG on 66.7% shooting to go along with 9.0 RPG and 2.6 BPG. He joins Booker and center DeAndre Ayton to form one of the league’s most promising young trios.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers: G/F RJ Barrett- Duke; Fr.
Perhaps the best prospect in college basketball, Barrett’s offensive arsenal, athleticism, and ability to create makes this a no-brainer for the Cavs. Cleveland is in full rebuild mode and taking Barrett here allows the organization to build their own brand in the post-Lebron James era. The freshman leads Duke in scoring (22.7) and grabs just over six rebounds per contest. Despite not necessarily possessing a true offensive identity just yet, Barrett can score in a variety of ways; his ability to attack and finish around the rim and create his own shot on the perimeter will bolster a NBA team’s offense tremendously right away.
3. Chicago Bulls: F Nassir Little- North Carolina; Fr.
The Bulls seem to have found their frontcourt of the future in Lauri Markannen and Wendell Carter Jr; Zach LaVine’s drastically improved play this season relieves Chicago of their need for a lead guard, for now. Little is one of the most athletic wing prospects in the class and his 7-foot-2 wingspan creates mismatch problems for opposing defenses. Despite only averaging 11.8 PPG thus far at North Carolina, he has the talent to affect the stat sheet in many ways. Little excels in transition and attacking the rim, but his outside shot will need to continue to improve, Nonetheless, his defensive ability mixed in with his supreme athleticism will see him go early in the draft.
4. Atlanta Hawks: C Bol Bol- Oregon; Fr.
Coming into college, Bol was regarded as one of the most physically intimidating recruits; through five games at Oregon, it is not hard to tell why. The 7-foot-2 big man is averaging 21.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, and 2.8 BPG. The most impressive statistic sheds light on something even scarier-his perimeter shooting. Bol is shooting 53.8% from behind-the-arc and has shown the ability to hit the midrange as well. The Hawks elect to take an elite rim-protector that also has a very high offensive ceiling. His capability to run the floor effectively and alter the game in many ways will be a good compliment to Trae Young, John Collins, and company.
5. New York Knicks: G/F Cam Reddish- Duke; Fr.
At the this point, it is hard to tell which way the Knicks are planning on going in terms of their future. The roster holds a ton of uncertainty especially around Kristaps Porzingis; Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, and Allonzo Trier are the players that New York would consider building around. Even then, there is not much dynamic offensive appeal, notably in the backcourt. Although overshadowed at Duke by Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, Reddish possesses all the tools to take the Knicks to the next level. Shooting 43.1% from deep, he serves as a good candidate to run alongside Ntilikina. Reddish’s athleticism and versatility allows New York to use him in many ways, from point, to shooting guard, to wing. Reddish’s offensive repertoire is somewhat raw, but he can create his own shot and attack the basket with ease.
Additional Reading: Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina get ‘soft’ label from early evaluations
6. Miami Heat: G Romeo Langford- Indiana; Fr.
Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson have player options that could make them free agents this summer while Miami has been open to trading Dion Waiter and/or Josh Richardson. Langford’s ball-handling ability and 6-foot-6 frame would allow the Heat to play him either at the point or as the off-guard. Despite struggling to shoot from outside so far at Indiana, he is able to use his athleticism and versatility to score in a variety of ways; his 17.7 points per game leads the Hoosiers. Langford can run an offense and score in bunches, but the sky-high potential makes this an easy choice for a Miami team that is focusing on their backcourt of the future.
7. Brooklyn Nets: G Quentin Grimes- Kansas; Fr.
Grimes has struggled early on at Kansas to score effectively and get into rhythm. He is only averaging 9.0 PPG, but shoots the outside shot at a 47.4% clip. Whether it may be transitional issues or attempting to find a fit in the balanced Kansas rotation, Grimes holds all of the physical abilities and athleticism to turn it around. Along with his perimeter shooting prowess, the 6-foot-5 freshman can play either of the guard positions. D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie are set to hit the free agent market in July, making Grimes an appropriate option to pair with Caris LeVert. Early season woes have dominated Grimes’ college career thus far, but it is still extremely early in the season and his size and potential give him the benefit of the doubt in the mock draft for this month.
8. Washington Wizards: F Sekou Doumbouya- France
Nobody is safe on the Wizards at the moment, but no trades have been completed at this team. As of now, Ian Mahinmi and possibly Dwight Howard are the only big men set to return for Washington next season. Doumbouya is only 6-foot-9, but he possesses great strength and athleticism. He may be the best defensive prospect in the draft class along with being the top international player. At 17-years-old, the French international has shown flashes of offensive potential by being able to hit the outside shot and create/finish above the rim. There is no telling what his role would be, but the possibilities along with superb defense make him a prime candidate to land in the lottery.
9. Houston Rockets: G/F De’Andre Hunter- Virginia; So.
Hunter may not be the most offensively gifted in the class, but he is known for his ability to play effective defense-something that Houston desperately needs. The departure of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute have led to the Rockets frantically looking for wings. James Ennis III seems to be a short-term solution while rookie Gary Clark has found his way into the rotation.
Either way, Hunter has shown substantial improvement offensively, making him a perfect candidate for the Rockets. Averaging 16.6 PPG on 58.7% shooting (44.4% from deep), Hunter possesses the ability to space the floor and knock down shots, a perfect role for a wing that plays alongside James Harden and Chris Paul. Not only an effective defender, but he is an active rebounder. While he may not be a star in the NBA, Hunter has a very balanced game and can contribute in many different ways.
10. Utah Jazz: PG Ja Morant- Murray State; So.
Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland is out for the season with a meniscus injury and that may affect his draft stock come June. However, Morant remains the best fit in Utah. The Jazz have stumbled out to a rough start and it is clear that Donovan Mitchell needs a long-term running mate in the Jazz backcourt as Ricky Rubio, Dante Exum, Kyle Korver, and others are not prime candidates.
Despite being turnover-prone, Morant is a true point guard who would allow Mitchell to play off the ball. He averages 27.8 PPG on 57.5% shooting (34.8% from three), 9.0 APG, and 7.5 RPG; his ability to run offenses and set up teammates would add a new dimesion to the Jazz roster and relieve Mitchell of some scoring responsibilities. Size concerns and lack of focus on the defensive end cause concern to arise, but overall, he is a polished prospect who could help right away for a Utah organization who needs it.
11. San Antonio Spurs: F Kevin Porter Jr- USC; Fr.
A month ago, Porter would not have even been considered in the first round, but now he is in most lottery projections-and for good reason. He only averages 14 points per game at USC, but the freshman has one of the highest ceilings out of all the prospects. He has the talent to be an effective scorer in the NBA and possesses the upside and IQ that not many other college players do. The Spurs have Lonnie Walker, who is missing his rookie year due to injury, and DeMar DeRozan, but with two first-round picks, San Antonio decides to take a chance on a star-caliber player. Besides, what better coach to develop young, under-the-radar talent than Gregg Popovich?
12. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento): PF Rui Hachimura- Gonzaga; Jr.
Due to past trades, the Celtics are faced with four first round selections in 2019. Al Horford has a player option at the end of this season and Marcus Morris will be a free agent; on top of that, Boston does not have any glaring needs. Hachimura has improved drastically with each season while at Gonzaga. As a junior he is averaging 21.9 PPG on 60% shooting and 5.4 RPG, but a lot of his contributions don’t come from the stat sheet. His ability to handle the ball at 6-foot-8 makes him an intriguing prospect and his ability to pass efficiently, along with his fastly-improving offensive game is more than enough for Danny Ainge.
13. New Orleans Pelicans: SG Jarrett Culver- Texas Tech; So.
The Pelicans’ need for a backcourt scorer makes Culver a perfect option in NOLA. Quickly becoming of the most offensively efficient players at his position, the 6-foot-5 sophomore has broken out onto the scene for Texas Tech this season. While averaging 18.8 PPG on 54.1% shooting, he is also shooting the deep ball at 50% in 2018. Able to score in a plethora of ways, Culver can also defend respectively, making him a viable 3-and-D shooting guard candidate. He can also attack the rim and create his own shot inside the arc. Taking Culver allows New Orleans to add another crafty, consistent scoring option alongside Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves: G/F Keldon Johnson- Kentucky; Fr.
His 27.8% three-point shooting have caused him to slide, but Johnson’s athleticism and ability to create near the basket still makes him a top wing prospect. Jimmy Butler is gone and Andrew Wiggins is severely underperforming, making the wing position Minnesota’s top priority. Despite his shooting woes, Johnson is still contributing 16.3 PPG and 5.4 RPG. His feel for the game and scoring tools, especially in the midrange, allow him to be a potential lottery-pick. Nonetheless, Minnesota is ecstatic for a promising wing with impressive scoring abilities to fall to them at #14.
15. Orlando Magic: PG Darius Garland- Vanderbilt; Fr.
If it hadn’t been for his meniscus injury, Garland would have gone sooner, but the Magic are taking a point guard regardless. Having spent the past few seasons drafting Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba, while securing Aaron Gordon through his prime, Orlando has a frontcourt for the years to come. However, DJ Augustin is not the long-term solution and although injury concerns are arising, Garland is still an intriguing prospect.
He will need to add some weight to his 175-lb frame, but his quickness, basketball IQ, and passing ability may be what Orlando needs to unlock the roster’s potential. Not only that, but he offers a true scoring option. In his short freshman season, Garland averaged 16.2 PPG and shot 53.7% from the field. His 47.8% three-point shooting gives Orlando much needed floor spacing and perimeter shooting.
16. Boston Celtics: F/C Daniel Gafford- Arkansas; So.
After taking Hachimura, Boston elects to continue to bolster their frontcourt; this time, they take a big man with one of the highest ceilings in the class. The 6-foot-11 center is averaging 19.2 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 2.0 BPG. He has yet to attempt a three-pointer this season for Arkansas, which may limit how high he goes in the draft with concerns of his perimeter shooting looming.
However, he is still shooting the ball 72.5% from the field. Defensively, Gafford’s length and athleticism make him a candidate for a successful shot blocker in the NBA. Although improving, his offensive game will need to evolve and he will need to expand his range, but his ability to run the floor and finish above and around the rim is something that can help the Celtics immediately.
17. Charlotte Hornets: C Charles Bassey- Western Kentucky; Fr.
As of now, it is unlikely for the Hornets to consider Bismack Biyombo and/or Frank Kaminsky as Charlotte’s big men of the future. This leaves Willy Hernangomez, but they will still need an upgrade. Bassey automatically gives them frontcourt defense; the 6-foot-11 Nigerian has averaged 2.5 blocks per contest at Western Kentucky. The mobile big man also can get out and move in transition and finish around the rim. His athleticism and strength cause mismatches down low, but he needs to improve his offensive repertoire and expand his range. Bassey may not contribute notably at first, but his physical abilities and talent reveal great upside.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas): SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker- Virginia Tech; So.
Atlanta has been shopping Kent Bazemore for the past couple seasons, meaning that he more than likely isn’t apart of their plans going forward. Alexander-Walker may not be the flashiest prospect, but he is quietly having a solid season. After electing to come back to Virginia Tech for his second season, he has drastically increased his scoring to 18.5 PPG and has done so by shooting 52.4% from the field.
For him to be seriously considered in the lottery, he must improve his scoring consistency as Tech’s top option. He has improved in all aspects; his rebound and assist averaged have both increased while he has become one of the peskiest defenders in college basketball, averaging 2.5 steals per game. Physically, he needs to get stronger to become a consistent scoring threat in the lane in the NBA, but pairing him along side Trae Young and Bol Bol will open up the court tremendously.
19. Los Angeles Lakers: PF Jalen McDaniels- San Diego State; So.
It is unclear what position McDaniels will play in the NBA in terms of either wing or power forward, but his athleticism and length present huge upside. After coming back for his sophomore season he has improved almost every aspect of his game, especially three-point shooting. Consistency and strength will be an issue, but his role will be limited early on behind LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, etc. Likely a project type of player, McDaniels can score in many different ways, but must develop an offensive identity. What better way to learn than under the guidance of LeBron?
20. Boston Celtics (via Memphis): G Lugentz Dort- Arizona State; Fr.
After addressing frontcourt depth, the Celtics turn to adding to their backcourt with this possibility of Kyrie Irving and/or Terry Rozier leaving in free agency. Resigning Marcus Smart allows Boston to focus on shooting or combo guards. Dort fits the combo guard profile with his 6-foot-4 frame and playmaking ability. Needless to say, the Montreal native has exceeded expectations so far in his freshman season; Dort is scoring 22.3 points per game and doing so by sporting his athleticism and finish ability. His rebounding (7.3 per game) and defense (2.3 steals per game) contribute to the hype. Despite his jumper needing improvement, Dort is oozing with upside and Danny Ainge is all about the future.
21. Detroit Pistons: PG Tre Jones- Duke; Fr.
While the frontcourt is (seemingly) locked up for the next couple of seasons in Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, the backcourt future could not be any more unclear. Reggie Jackson is under contract through next season, and the Pistons jump on taking one of the draft’s top point guard prospects. Jones is averaging 10.3 PPG and 5.9 APG at Duke this season, but he is extremely overshadowed. The Pistons are the 5th-worst three-point shooting team in the league, making Jones an appealing option (46.2% from deep). On top of that, he is able to run offenses effectively and set up teammates, further unlocking the offensive possibilities for Griffin, Drummond, and company.
22. Portland Trailblazers: SF Kris Wilkes- UCLA; So.
Some may not have Wilkes going this early, but Evan Turner and Maurice Harkless are not long-term solutions in Portland. The sophomore from UCLA brings athleticism and high basketball IQ to the table right away, but needs to improve perimeter shooting. Once considered a streaky scorer, Wilkes has averaged 17.6 PPG after deciding to return to school for the 2018-19 season. Concerns regarding consistency and strength linger around this selection, but he is one of the top wings remaining and his athleticism and 6-foot-8 frame make him an intriguing project-type of prospect.
23. Indiana Pacers: G Coby White- North Carolina; Fr.
Victor Oladipo and rookie Aaron Holiday are the only guards that are set to be back in the fall of 2019 and there is no telling if Indiana decides to retain Darren Collison, Tyreke Evans, and/or Cory Joseph. White is having a solid season under-the-radar, but will continue to pick up steam as the season progresses, Averaging 15.3 PPG and 41.9% from deep, the 6-foot-5 freshman brings yet another versatile scorer to the Pacers. Like Oladipo, White possesses the talent and the drive to light up the stat sheet on any given night. It is unclear what his role will be in the professional ranks, but his feel for the game and nuclear scoring capabilities land him toward the end of the first round.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder: PF Jalen Smith- Maryland; Fr.
Regardless of who OKC decides to take with this pick, the goal of the selection is provide depth. Smith will need to add weight and work on his outside shot, but he is a big man with a high motor who can score efficiently around and above the rim. The 6-foot-10 forward is crafty with the ball in his hands and can contribute on both ends of the floor. The Thunder are able to add an athletic workhorse-type player to bolster their frontcourt and an additional option for Russell Westbrook in pick-and-roll situations.
25. Philadephia 76ers: PF PJ Washington- Kentucky; So.
The 76ers opt to go the same route the Thunder did and choose to bolster their bench. Although he is only 6-foot-7, Washington possesses a 7-foot-3 wingspan and impressive mobility. He is not a terrific three-point shooter, nor does he attempt many shots from behind-the-arc, but he does have a 54.5 perimeter shooting percentage. Averaging 12.6 PPG and 8.4 RPG on a statistically-balanced Kentucky squad, Washington provides Philly with rebounding and transition scoring immediately while he continues to find his offensive identity in hopes to become a key piece in the rotation.
26. Brooklyn Nets (via Denver): PF Simi Shittu- Vanderbilt; So.
After tearing his ACL in January of his senior year of high school, scouts were unsure of how well the big man would bounce back. Almost a year later, Shittu is averaging 16.2 PPG and 8.3 RPG as a freshman at Vanderbilt and primed to be a first-round draft prospect candidate. The Nets added to their guard-play by selecting Quentin Grimes with the 7th overall pick, this time they look to find a running mate to plug in alongside Jarrett Allen. His game will need some polishing, but he contains unique craftiness for a big man.
27. Golden State Warriors: F Brandon Clarke- Gonzaga; Jr.
DeMarcus Cousins, Kevon Looney, and Jordan Bell are free agents after this season and all three could very possibly seek more money; big men do not have a huge role in the Warriors’ offense for obvious reasons. Clarke may not be the best prospect available, but his elite athleticism and defense make him a good fit in Oakland.
Transferring from San Jose State, the junior is averaging 15.9 points per game. Killian Tille’s return to Gonzaga will somewhat decrease Clarke’s production, but his playmaking and finishing abilities will find him on the floor. Despite only being 6-foot-8, he is grabbing 7.4 rebounds per game and recording 4.14 blocks per game (third in the nation).
28. Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers): SF Louis King- Oregon; Fr.
With their fourth selection in the first round, Boston decides to take a risk on a player with great potential. The freshman has yet to play a game at Oregon due to a knee injury and even before then, there were some concerns on how consistent of a scoring threat King would be. However, he does possess extreme athleticism and has shown the ability to score in a wide variety of ways.
29. Milwaukee Bucks: PG Shamorie Ponds- St. Johns; Jr.
Eric Bledsoe is set to hit free agency in July and the Bucks need a point guard, preferably one that can generate and initiate scoring. Despite being only 6-foot-1, Ponds has been a top scorer for St. Johns all three seasons; it took him less than two full seasons to score 1,000 career points.
His ability to create space and score from virtually everywhere inside half-court makes up from his lack of size. He will need to improve his skills as a point guard, his assist averages have increased with each season. Milwaukee overlooks the concerns and sneaks off with a potentially solid future playmaker late in the first round.
30. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto): C Naz Reid- LSU; Fr.
With LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol growing in age, the Spurs are faced with the task of building a frontcourt of the future. Jakob Poeltl and Davis Bertans are intriguing options, but that won’t stop San Antonio from adding another project-type player with immense potential.
Reid is averaging 12.1 PPG and 4.3 RPG during his freshmen season; he has shown flashes where his talent leads to impressive performances, but overall there is development to be done. Perimeter shooting, quickness, and consistency are causes for concern. However, there is time for Reid to learn under guys like Aldridge and Gasol for a couple seasons.