There are mere days until Zion Williamson is drafted by New Orleans… and the NBA draft is broadcast worldwide to showcase the next batch of NBA stars. It’s common knowledge that there are going to be studs, duds and diamonds in the rough over the 60 picks, with the first round having all the intrigue.
The Athletes Hub analyst Devon Withers and I teamed up to put forward our thoughts about the first round picks, with a few surprises that we think could just shake the draft up. Without further ado, the first round of the 2019 NBA draft will look like this:
1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson (PF/C, Duke)
Unless pigs start flying, this is the obvious number 1 pick. Add on the fact that New Orleans just got the number 4 pick, with the potential to grab RJ Barrett if New York doesn’t pick him, and it makes for a young but strong Pelicans line up to start off.
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant (PG, Murray State)
With Mike Conley on the trade block, it only makes sense for the Memphis Grizzlies to take the best available player in Ja Morant. He is easily the most gifted passer in this draft class, leading all Division I athletes with 10.0 assists per game.
3. New York Knicks: RJ Barrett (SG/SF, Duke)
The best available player with some of the biggest upside in the draft. The Knicks need a playmaker who can shoot from anywhere and dominate the court, so Barrett makes sense here.
4. New Orleans Pelicans DeAndre Hunter (SF/PF, Virginia)
Despite gaining the #4 pick from the Los Angeles Lakers in a trade involving Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans could use this selection as leverage in order to gain a veteran presence. If not, DeAndre Hunter would be a great asset to an already-youthful roster.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jarrett Culver (SG, Texas Tech)
The thought of seeing Jarrett Culver alongside Colin Sexton should be enough to tickle the tastebuds of Cleveland fans. A versatile scorer who defends incredibly well wide out, the former Red Raider should combine with Sexton nicely. Both will grow as players together and be a dual threat for years to come.
6. Phoenix Suns: Darius Garland (PG, Vanderbilt)
With Tyler Johnson listed as the starting point guard going into the offseason, the front office would be wise to take the top point guard in either Darius Garland or even Coby White. Garland however is a far better shooter from beyond the arc and in the lane.
7. Chicago Bulls: Coby White (PG/SG, North Carolina)
Chicago have a win-win here, taking the best player on the board while also filling their need for a point guard. The Tar Heel can shoot from almost anyone on the court, and possesses the size to cause enough havoc in the paint that teams might leave him free from range. Add in a seamless transition up and down the court, and White could be a steal at 7.
8. Atlanta Hawks: Cam Reddish (SG/SF, Duke)
Averaging nearly 30 minutes per game, Cam Reddish would be the third member from Duke to go within the top ten. While his statistics won’t catch many eyes, Reddish, 6’8″, has the length to play the shooting guard and small forward position.
9. Washington Wizards: Kevin Porter Jr. (SG, USC)
The Wizards need to take a gamble here if they want to find their way back into the playoffs in 2020. Kevin Porter Jr. has been regarded as a lottery pick in terms of talent, and would compliment Bradley Beal very well from deep to give the Wizards multiple deep threats. If the Wizards take the gamble and it pays off, it’s a genius pick. If it doesn’t pay off… well there’s next year.
10. Atlanta Hawks: Sekou Doumbouya (SF/PF, France)
After previously selecting Cam Reddish, the Atlanta Hawks could add to their depth in an international talent in Sekou Doumbouya. With one season in France under his belt, Doumbouya has potential to climb his way up the roster in Atlanta.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves: Rui Hachimura (SF/PF, Gonzaga)
A truly talented power forward who can adjust when needed, Hachimura can take some pressure away from the tall timber at the Timberwolves. Likely to play on the wing alongside Wiggins and Covington, Hachimura would have time to develop his game further before breaking out in his second year. It also leaves the franchise in good stead of one of the wingers were to leave between now and 2021.
12. Charlotte Hornets: Jaxson Hayes (C, Texas)
It’s entirely possible that Jaxoson Hayes goes prior to the #12 pick, just because he’s ranked as the top pure center in this draft class. Despite foul trouble and underwhelming minutes, Charlotte could do enough to evolve him into an eventual starter.
13. Miami Heat: Romeo Langford (G, Indiana)
Langford has been mocked anywhere from the 9th pick to the 23rd pick, and Miami would do well to pick him here. A great shooter out wide, a little work on his mid-range jumper would do him a great deal of good. It would add another young guy to an already young roster, but it bodes well for a Miami side who wants to improve on a solid season this year.
14. Boston Celtics: Brandon Clarke (PF/C, Gonzaga)
The Boston Celtics need to reload on talent if Kyrie Irving walks in free agency, and Brandon Clarke is a solid start to that process. Ranked 3rd in the country in blocks per game, Clarke also reached a career-high field goal percentage of 68.7%.
15. Detroit Pistons: PJ Washington (SF, Kentucky)
One of the safer picks during the first one, PJ Washington is a true forward who has the potential to improve on his shooting after his sophomore year. Detroit need help in the scoring department, with Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin unable to carry the team themselves. Washington averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds at Kentucky this season, and would be a good dual threat with Luke Kennard.
16: Orlando Magic: Nassir Little (SF, North Carolina)
While Nassir Little averaged under 20 minutes per game as a freshman, he’s still valued as a first-round selection. Shooting 48% from the field, Little could help the Orlando Magic in a variety of ways.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Bol Bol (C, Oregon)
He only played 9 games this year but Bol Bol had the potential to be a top 5 pick. At 7 feet tall, a 7 and a half foot wingspan and shooting range to boot, it’s a low risk/high reward pick for Atlanta. Assuming Bol can stay healthy, Atlanta have a steal here.
18. Indiana Pacers: Tyler Herro (SG, Kentucky)
Tyler Herro is an excellent shooter, as he averaged 46.2% from the field, 35.5% from three, and 93.5% from the free throw line. The Indiana Pacers need depth in their back court, and Herro seems to be the perfect fit.
19. San Antonio Spurs: Keldon Johnson (SG, Kentucky)
The second shooting guard out of Kentucky, Keldon Johnson would be a great addition to Sam Antonio. A flat out scorer, averaging 13.5 points a game, he can score from every position on the court and provide Gregg Popovich with a good option off the bench.
20. Boston Celtics: Bruno Fernando (F, Maryland)
The Boston Celtics have an efficient back court, so it makes sense that they continue to develop their forwards. Al Horford could very well walk in free agency, and Fernando ranked 13th in the nation in rebounds per game.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Johnson (SF, North Carolina)
The current Oklahoma City team scoring consists of Paul George, Russell Westbrook and on occasion, Steven Adams with bench production. Another true shooting option in Cameron Johnson would leave George and Westbrook to do as they please, while knowing that Johnson himself can hit shots from deep.
22. Boston Celtics: Nickeil Alexander-Walker (SG, Virginia Tech)
Viewed as a potential sleeper in this draft class, Nickeil Alexander-Walker is a 6’5″ guard who averaged over 4 rebounds per game last season. While his average of almost 3 turnovers per game may become an issue, Alexander-Walker would be a fine bench piece.
23. Utah Jazz: Goga Bitadze (C, Republic of Georgia)
Rudy Gobert is a great centre, but he needs some help. Goga Bitadze would be able to provide some much needed respite off the bench for the Jazz. The Jazz are a solid defensive team, the one aspect that Bitadze needs work on. If the Jazz can improve that during this rookie year, they’ve got some powerful centres to make a deep run in the conference playoffs.
24. Phildelphia 76ers: Ty Jerome (PG, Virginia)
After spending three seasons at Virginia, Ty Jerome is finally entering the NBA Draft. Shooting nearly 40% from three, Jerome is also a gifted passer, as he averaged a career-high 5.5 assists per game in 2018.
25. Portland TrailBlazers: Matisse Thybulle (SF, Washington)
Portland would be a great destination for Thybulle. He would give Damian Lillard and CJ McCullum some defensive help, while not having a need to be a main offensive threat. It could be a great pick if he goes there, given time to develop and grow under a good system.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers: Mfiondu Kabengele (C, Florida State)
Averaging 1.5 blocks per game in 2018, Mfiondu Kabengele is an efficient two-way option for teams to look at. The Cleveland Cavaliers have Tristan Thompson for now, but he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season.
27. Brooklyn Nets: Darius Bazley (PF, Princeton HS, Ohio)
This pick is purely based on high school form, and Bazley had plenty of highlights to look at. The Nets have an incredible knack of developing young players into talented impact players. If the Nets are confident in their development staff, they need to take Bazley here.
28. Golden State Warriors: KZ Okpala (PF, Stanford)
Without Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson (pending free agency, as well as injuries), the Golden State Warriors need to reload sooner than later. KZ Okpala was a star for Stanford in his freshman season, and helps the Warriors towards their hopes to contending once again.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Carsen Edwards (PG, Purdue)
Sam Antonio were praying that the Warriors didn’t take Edwards, and we’re excited when they didn’t. Edwards almost carried Purdue to a final 4 appearance, averaging 35 points in the tournament. Coach Popovich can mould Edwards into the player he needs, while allowing him to grow in the NBA.
30. Milwaukee Bucks: Dylan Windler (G, Belmont)
The 22-year old is one of the older players to enter the draft, as he spent all four possible seasons with Belmont. During that time, Windler averaged 30+ minutes per game in three of his last four seasons, and saw increases in points and rebounds per game. In fact, Windler averaged 10.8 rebounds per game as a 6’8″ guard.