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The Toronto Raptors are one win away from winning their first NBA championship in franchise history. For many teams that haven’t played in nearly two months, their players and coaches aspire to one day be in that position.
One key way for franchises to build toward that goal is through the draft, which takes place June 20 in Brooklyn. Picking the right players is important for teams to trend in the right direction. Bad decisions can lead to years of frustration for an organization.
This year’s NBA draft class is filled with potential future stars who could make an immediate impact on a franchise. Here’s a look at how the first round of the draft could unfold, as well as several prospects who could quickly carry their talent over to the pro level.
2019 NBA Mock Draft 1st-Round Predictions
1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, PF/C, Duke
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
3. New York Knicks: RJ Barrett, SG/SF, Duke
4. Los Angeles Lakers: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: De’Andre Hunter, SF/PF, Virginia
6. Phoenix Suns: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
7. Chicago Bulls: Cam Reddish, SG/SF, Duke
8. Atlanta Hawks: Coby White, PG/SG, North Carolina
9. Washington Wizards: Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
10. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas): PJ Washington, PF/C, Kentucky
11. Minnesota Timberwolves: Keldon Johnson, SG/SF, Kentucky
12. Charlotte Hornets: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC
13. Miami Heat: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento): Bol Bol, C, Oregon
15. Detroit Pistons: Sekou Doumbouya, SF/PF, France
16. Orlando Magic: Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga
17. Brooklyn Nets: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech
18. Indiana Pacers: Cameron Johnson, SF, North Carolina
19. San Antonio Spurs: Brandon Clarke, PF/C, Gonzaga
20. Boston Celtics (via Clippers): Talen Horton-Tucker, SG/SF, Iowa State
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky
22. Boston Celtics: Nassir Little SF/PF, North Carolina
23. Utah Jazz: Goga Bitadze, C, Georgia
24. Philadelphia 76ers: Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington
25. Portland Trail Blazers: Admiral Schofield, PF, Tennessee
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Houston): Mfiondu Kabengele, PF/C, Florida State
27. Brooklyn Nets (via Denver Nuggets): Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland
28. Golden State Warriors: Chuma Okeke, PF, Auburn
29. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto): Eric Paschall, PF, Villanova
30. Milwaukee Bucks: Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue
Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
While it’s quite likely that Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett will be the first three players selected, Culver has at least put himself in the conversation for the teams that own early picks.
Culver ranks third in Sports Illustrated‘s Jeremy Woo’s prospect rankings, and some of that is due to the potential of the 20-year-old guard. As Culver matures and continues to develop his game, he should only get better and add more skills to his arsenal.
In his sophomore season at Texas Tech, Culver averaged 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He led the Red Raiders to their first national championship game, although they lost to Virginia to end the NCAA tournament.
The Lakers would be a great fit for Culver, as he could develop alongside young stars Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma while learning from LeBron James, one of the sport’s all-time greats. They’ll draft the former Red Raiders guard to help them try to get back to the playoffs soon.
Bol Bol, C, Oregon
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Bol isn’t going to be picked until the middle of the first round at the earliest, but that’s mostly because he played only nine games this past season at Oregon and has some uncertainty because of that. But the athletic 7-foot-2 center has the potential to become a major impact player.
In his limited action for the Ducks in his freshman season, Bol averaged 21 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. That’s part of the reason why he’s still a top draft prospect despite playing so few games in his only college campaign.
It’ll be a gamble, but the Celtics have three first-round picks, so they can take that risk on a player that has the potential for tremendous upside. So, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bol make his return to the court in a Boston jersey for the 2019-20 season.
Cameron Johnson, SF, North Carolina
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While Johnson is a talented player in this year’s class, he also brings maturity. And that can be valuable to a franchise that already has a playoff-caliber team.
The Pacers had a balanced scoring attack in the 2018-19 season, and adding Johnson to the mix would immediately give them yet another option on the floor. Indiana made the playoffs this year, and adding some other key pieces, such as Johnson, could help it reach the next level.
Johnson averaged 16.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game this past season for North Carolina, his fifth collegiate season after transferring from Pittsburgh after three years. The 23-year-old is a versatile 6-foot-9 forward who brings many skills to the court.
Johnson seems like a perfect fit for the Pacers as one of the more experienced players in the class, and his game should quickly translate to the NBA.