As the teams retreat to war rooms and fill up the white boards with all of their analysis and permutations for the 2019 NBA Draft, we feel confident in this — we have the first pick correct. Beyond that, even with scouts and executives pointing to a tier of three top players, mystery remains on just where the rest of the picks will fall.
1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, Duke
Someday we may look back and redraft this, but right now no one doubts this is the only pick to make for the Pelicans.
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant, Murray State
While there were whispers that the Grizzlies might opt for RJ Barrett even without a workout, the trade of Mike Conley Jr. would seem to cement this spot for Morant, the athletic point guard who averaged 24.5 points and 10 assists per game as a sophomore.
3. Knicks: RJ Barrett, Duke
The Knicks happily will settle for whoever is left of this trio and Barrett, who wants to be in New York, is an easy fit. If Morant falls they’ll content themselves with a star point guard. Darius Garland’s last-minute workout may be due diligence but he was ranked higher than Morant before injuries ruined his season.
4. Pelicans (from Los Angeles Lakers): De’Andre Hunter, Virginia
If the Pels move this pick, it’s Darius Garland here. But they are loaded with point guards right now and taking someone with Kawhi Leonard comps isn’t a bad play.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech
Like Morant, made a huge jump as a sophomore, and the 6-6 wing is a solid, new-age NBA player, versatile enough to play almost any position.
6. Phoenix Suns: Darius Garland, Vanderbilt
Still think someone will deal up to No. 4 to grab him, but if he’s here it’s a steal for the Suns.
7. Chicago Bulls: Coby White, North Carolina
Size and speed have put him in contention for the claim of being the best point guard in the blue-chip crop.
8. Atlanta Hawks: Cam Reddish, Duke
A disappointing season for the Blue Devils doesn’t change the scouting report that he has an NBA body and a smooth shooting stroke that projects as a perfect fit alongside Trae Young.
9. Washington Wizards: Jaxson Hayes, Texas
Athletic big man has improved in leaps and bounds. The regrets on those who passed on Mitchell Robinson last year won’t happen with Hayes.
10. Hawks (from Dallas Mavericks): Sekou Doumbouya, France
Size and skills have elicited comps to Pascal Siakam.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nassir Little, North Carolina
Didn’t live up to expectations as a Tar Heel and didn’t even start, but hasn’t dimmed scouts' views of potential.
12. Charlotte Hornets: Kevin Porter, USC
Elite scorer raising echoes of James Harden, but red flags over injuries and attitude.
13. Miami Heat: Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga
Raw still, he is strong and athletic at 6-8. Didn’t live up to the early-season performance against Duke and Zion.
14. Boston Celtics (from Sacramento Kings via Philadelphia 76ers): Goga Bitadze, Republic of Georgia
A little old-school among big men, but has shown upside on both ends.
15. Detroit Pistons: Romeo Langford, Indiana
A bit of a reach for need based on production, but Langford played with a thumb injury all season and had it surgically repaired ahead of the lottery.
16. Orlando Magic: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Virginia Tech
Fills the need at guard and is a solid playmaker for a shooting guard.
17. Hawks: Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga
Played well for the Zags, but some doubt he translates to the NBA’s inside play at 6-8.
18. Indiana Pacers: Tyler Herro, Kentucky
Improved throughout the season, a ready-made NBA shooter.
19. San Antonio Spurs: P.J. Washington, Kentucky
Strong and skilled, versatile power forward.
20. Boston Celtics (from L.A. Clippers via Memphis Grizzlies): Bol Bol, Oregon
When you have three first-rounders you can gamble and his potential is nearly as big as his 7-2 frame. He's son of Manute Bol, who played in the NBA for a dozen seasons.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Darius Bazley, Princeton HS
Opted for an internship with New Balance and training for the draft. Showed out well at Draft Combine.
22. Celtics: Ty Jerome, Virginia
Heady guard who doesn’t wow physically but wins.
23. Utah Jazz: Grant Williams, Tennessee
Two-time SEC player of the year is smart and tough.
24. Philadelphia 76ers: Cam Johnson, North Carolina
Best three-point shooter in the draft is solid insurance in case they lose JJ Redick (not to mention Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler).
25. Portland Trail Blazers: Keldon Johnson, Kentucky
Nice complement to the star backcourt of Blazers.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Houston Rockets): Mfiondu Kabengele, Florida State
Nephew of Dikembe Mutombo is a shot-blocker but more skilled offensively than Dikembe.
27. Nets (from Denver Nuggets): Nic Claxton, Georgia
Athletic defender fits the versatile skill set of today’s game.
28. Golden State Warriors: KZ Okpala, Stanford
Sophomore season didn’t advance his skills as expected, but versatile forward still is intriguing.
29. San Antonio Spurs (from Toronto Raptors): Dylan Windler, Belmont
Lights-out shooter will fit well in Spurs system.
30. Milwaukee Bucks: Jontay Porter, Missouri
Like his older brother, Michael, injuries have derailed his prospects — two torn ACL’s for Jontay — but the potential of a floor-stretching, ball handling big man is worth the risk.