Alex Brandon/Associated Press
The 2019 NBA draft is on June 20, meaning we’re less than a month out. While free agency and the trade market may have a more immediate impact on next season than the draft, there are some prospects with legitimate superstar potential.
Chief among them is Duke product Zion Williamson, who was by himself must-watch television in college. He’s almost certain to go to the New Orleans Pelicans at No. 1, and he could be the face of their franchise for the next decade.
Williamson isn’t the only prospect with NBA star potential, though.
Here, we’ll examine some other prospects who could become central franchise figures sooner than later. First, though, is an updated Round 1 mock draft.
2019 NBA Mock Draft
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: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Cam Reddish, SG/SF, Duke
6. Phoenix Suns: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
7. Chicago Bulls: Coby White, PG/SG, North Carolina
8. Atlanta Hawks: De’Andre Hunter, SF/PF, Virginia
9. Washington Wizards: Goga Bitadze, C, Georgia
10. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas): Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
11. Minnesota Timberwolves: Keldon Johnson, SG/SF, Kentucky
12. Charlotte Hornets: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
13. Miami Heat: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC
14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento): Bol Bol, C, Oregon
15. Detroit Pistons: PJ Washington, PF/C, Kentucky
16. Orlando Magic: Sekou Doumbouya, SF/PF, France
17. Brooklyn Nets: Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga
18. Indiana Pacers: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech
19. San Antonio Spurs: Cameron Johnson, SF, North Carolina
20. Boston Celtics (via Clippers): Talen Horton-Tucker, SG/SF, Iowa State
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky
22. Boston Celtics: Chuma Okeke, PF, Auburn
23. Utah Jazz: Nassir Little, SF/PF, North Carolina
24. Philadelphia 76ers: Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington
25. Portland Trail Blazers: Brandon Clarke, PF/C, Gonzaga
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: Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State
29. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto): Dylan Windler, SF, Belmont
30. Milwaukee Bucks: Admiral Schofield, PF, Tennessee
Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
Jessica Hill/Associated Press
While Williamson’s physical and energetic style of play makes him a likely future star, Murray State’s Ja Morant may actually be the more exciting player. He’s an offensive firestarter who averaged 24.5 points and 10.0 assists per game in 2018.
Morant has the potential to be a top-tier point guard within his first couple of seasons. This is precisely why the Memphis Grizzlies appear unlikely to pass on him at No. 2.
According to Sam Amico of AmicoHoops, it is “widely believed” the Grizzlies will take the 19-year-old second overall. However, he may not be a full-time starter as a rookie.
“There has been talk that Morant would back up Mike Conley Jr. for a season, as Conley still has two years left on a maximum-salary contract,” Amico wrote.
If Morant does sit behind Conley in 2018, he’ll still be an asset as a scorer and a distributor off the bench.
RJ Barrett, SF, Duke
Alex Brandon/Associated Press
With Williamson getting most of the pre-draft buzz, it’s easy to forget RJ Barrett was also a star at Duke this past season. He averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game and was the offensive focal point while Williamson was out due to injury.
Assuming Morant does go to Memphis at No. 2, Barrett will likely be scooped up by the New York Knicks at three. This could provide New York with a star for many years to come.
“I think he’ll be an exciting player for Knicks fans. He’s able to handle that type of stuff (of being in New York) because he’s been at Duke, but he’s also been one of the top, if not the No. 1 kid, since he’s been 13, 14 years old. So he’s able to handle it,” former NBA star Steve Nash said of Barrett, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.
While Knicks fans may have been hoping for the No. 1 pick and a chance at Williamson, Barrett is more than just a consolation prize. He’s potentially a franchise-altering player.
De’Andre Hunter, SF/PF, Virginia
Sean Rayford/Associated Press
Though not as prolific a scorer as either Morant or Barrett, Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter has star potential because of his all-around game.
The 21-year-old is a strong defender who averaged 15.2 points per game while shooting 52 percent from the field. His offensive production will have to improve at the next level, but he will intrigue plenty of teams.
“Hunter’s defense will probably translate to the NBA, but there are questions about his ceiling offensively. He needs to refine his ball-handling and play-making skills,” Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington wrote. “And though he is athletic, his speed and leaping ability won’t stand out as much in the pros.”
It will require an offensive jump for Hunter to emerge as a legitimate star, but the potential is there. Two-way players are extremely valuable, and the Virginia product might be the best one in this draft class.