2019 NBA Mock Draft: Can Anyone Catch Duke’s Zion Williamson for the No. 1 Spot?

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21. Boston Celtics (via Grizzlies): Luguentz Dort (Arizona State, PG/SG, Freshman)

Teams may be split on Dort, whose style and mentality result in tough baskets and bad mistakes. For a 19-year-old, 6’4″, 215-pound guard, his production should eventually outweigh his inefficiency. Dort is averaging 21.7 points, fearlessly attacking defenses with hard drives and three-balls. He’ll need to focus on toning down the 3.6 turnovers per game, developing a floater, improving his shooting mechanics and staying attached defensively.


22. Los Angeles Lakers: Jaxson Hayes (Texas, C, Freshman)

A surprise riser this early, Hayes has been tough to ignore for his standout tools, activity and production. He’s blocking 13.0 percent of opponents’ shots and ranks No. 9 in the NCAA in defensive box plus-minus, showing terrific mobility for a 6’11” big. Hayes remains limited offensively, but he’s still adding value as an easy-basket weapon on rim runs, misses and pick-and-rolls. 


23. Detroit Pistons: Quentin Grimes (Kansas, SG, Freshman)

Grimes’ stock is falling after his 21-point debut against Michigan State. He’s struggled to create and make shots, and his defense has been on and off. Grimes should still have support for his solid NBA body (6’5″, 210 lbs), shooting and secondary playmaking potential, and at 18 years old, the long-term projection lens should overlook the freshman slumps—to a degree. He’ll need to get back on track to solidify himself as a one-and-done first-rounder. 


24. Golden State Warriors: Jalen McDaniels (San Diego State, PF, Sophomore)

McDaniels looks sharper than a year ago, showing more scoring skill with his jump shot and ability to face and use the dribble. He’s cooled off since going for 26 points against Xavier, and his shooting will likely be erratic all season. But McDaniels’ NBA tools and athleticism will buy him time with scouts, while the improvement he’s made should help persuade them that more is coming.


25. Philadelphia 76ers: Simi Shittu (Vanderbilt, PF, Freshman)

Shittu is still getting his legs back after last season’s torn ACL, as he’s had trouble around the rim (55.6 percent) or offering any defensive resistance (25th percentile in man-to-man). Still, at 6’10”, 240 pounds, he’s impressive physically with scoring ability in the paint and unique ball-handling and playmaking skill. Shittu would likely need two years in college to max out his stock, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he choses to reduce risk, go pro in 2019 and sell teams on his potential and ability to regain explosion.


26. Milwaukee Bucks: KZ Okpala (Stanford, SF/PF, Sophomore)

A 6’9″ face-up scorer, Okpala has made a noticeable leap, showing improvement in his ball-handling, passing and early shooting numbers (10-of-21 3PT). He’s raw and possibly another year away, with plenty of work still to do ironing out his jump shot and shot creation. But he’s cooked the weaker competition early and given scouts some impressive flashes against North Carolina (16 points, nine rebounds) and Kansas (22 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks). Potential and production could be enough for Okpala to earn a first-round grade in 2019.


27. Oklahoma City Thunder: Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s, PG, Junior)

Ponds is building a first-round case and not just by averaging 22.4 points on 52.9 percent shooting. His production hasn’t been empty. He’s answered the call from scouts early, guiding St. John’s to an undefeated start while carrying the team late in games, including Saturday against Georgia Tech, when Ponds poured in 37 points to fuel the comeback. He can be wild, and NBA teams may see more of a spark than lead guard, but his scoring and shot-making have reached convincing levels.  


28. Boston Celtics (via Clippers): Talen Horton-Tucker (Iowa State, SF, Freshman) 

At 6’4″, 238 pounds, Horton-Tucker isn’t your typically sized guard or forward. But he’s averaging 2.4 assists, 1.8 threes and 2.1 steals, surprising scouts with his wiggle off the dribble, shot-making and defensive quickness. A below-the-rim athlete, Horton-Tucker is shooting just 37.3 percent, though, and he’ll want to improve his scoring efficiency to keep building momentum with his draft stock.


29. Brooklyn Nets (via Nuggets): Jaylen Hoard (Wake Forest, SF/PF, Freshman)

Hoard hasn’t shot well (3-of-14 3PT), but he’s averaging 16.0 points, scoring in different ways with skill and athleticism. It’s easy to see potential tied to his tools and versatility, which, when coupled with this type of production, should be enough to draw first-round interest. Still, Hoard has plenty to improve on. He’s struggling off the ball in spot-up situations (5-of-17), and he isn’t the sharpest shot-creator. 


30. San Antonio Spurs (via Raptors): Tre Jones (Duke, PG, Freshman)

Jones has played a key role in orchestrating Duke’s offense and pressuring opposing ball-handlers. Despite lacking speed, explosion and scoring pop, he’s making a case for himself with his passing, decision-making (48 assists to eight turnovers) and defense. Teams could view Jones as another Monte Morris.


Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Basketball Reference.

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