Says what seems to be consensus, that 2019 draft is weak. Hope we'll get another Bagley-type reclassification or two. Root against Memphis next year.
NBA mock draft: Five rising prospects for 2019
With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, NBA decision-makers can now shift their attention not only to the 2018 draft, but beyond. At this time of year, more than ever, they will be closely monitoring the progress of young players around the globe.
Teams try to build deep and thorough logs in their internal scouting databases on as many legitimate draft prospects as possible. That includes collecting background information on physical development, character, injury history, social media tendencies and much more. You can never have too much data at your disposal to help understand a player's trajectory potential, which includes where they came from, their current status and what they might achieve down the road.
The 2018 high school senior class is considered one of the weakest in some time, and with the international crop looking fairly shallow (once again), NBA teams aren't overly optimistic early about about the way the 2019 draft is shaping up thus far, particularly within the top 10, but also in terms of first-round depth.
There is an alarming lack of quality point guards on the horizon. However, it seems highly unlikely that only eight freshmen will end up becoming one-and-done draft picks, as we currently have projected. We don't know who will be the next Trae Young (No. 21 by RSCI), Daniel Gafford (No. 36) or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 33), but certainly someone will emerge from the pack who ends up being much better than the high school recruiting analysts thought.
Here's our new 2019 mock draft, including five relatively new players who have established themselves as first-round prospects to keep an eye on heading into the 2018-19 season. If you're searching for a common theme, players on teams that have exceeded expectations and are contributing to squads playing winning basketball are always a good place to start.
Keep in mind that this is not an exact science. A certain amount of projection goes into evaluating a draft class 16 months out, and we'll have to see whether these players continue to improve and take the next steps in their evolution or stagnate and get eclipsed by others.
Note: ESPN's Future Power Rankings and Basketball Power Index were used to project the draft order.
2019 NBA Mock Draft
PLAYER YEAR/LEAGUE TEAM HEIGHT POS. AGE
R.J. Barrett HS Sr. Duke 6-8 SG 17.6
Cameron Reddish HS Sr. Duke 6-7 SF 18.4
Zion Williamson HS Sr. Duke 6-6 PF 17.6
Nassir Little HS SR. North Carolina 6-6 SF 18.0
Romeo Langford HS Sr. Uncommitted 6-6 SG 18.3
Luka Samanic LEB Gold Barcelona 2 6-11 PF 18.0
Sekou Doumbouya France 2 Poitiers 6-9 PF 17.1
Quentin Grimes HS Sr. Kansas 6-4 SG 17.7
Bol Bol HS Sr. Oregon 7-2 C 18.2
Louis King HS Sr. Oregon 6-7 SF 18.8
Jontay Porter Fr. Missouri 6-11 C 18.2
Rui Hachimura So. Gonzaga 6-8 PF 20.0
Justin Jackson So. Maryland 6-7 SF/PF 20.9
Marko Simonovic LegaDue Siena 7-0 PF/C 18.3
Herb Jones Fr. Alabama 6-8 SF 19.3
Zhaire Smith Fr. Texas Tech 6-5 SF 18.6
Nickeil Alexander-Walker Fr. Virginia Tech 6-5 PG 19.4
Aric Holman Jr. Mississippi St. 6-10 PF/C 20.5
Gary Trent Fr. Duke 6-5 SG 19.0
O'Shae Brissett Fr. Syracuse 6-9 PF 19.6
Terence Davis Jr. Mississippi 6-5 SG 20.7
Kris Wilkes Fr. UCLA 6-7 SF/PF 19.4
D'Marcus Simonds So. Georgia St 6-3 PG/SG 20.3
De'Andre Hunter Fr. Virginia 6-8 PF 20.1
Jarrey Foster Jr. SMU 6-6 SF 21.1
Josh Okogie So. Georgia Tech 6-4 SG 19.4
Jerome Robinson Jr. Boston College 6-5 SG 20.9
Brandon Randolph Fr. Arizona 6-6 SG 20.4
Kyle Alexander Jr. Tennessee 6-11 C 21.3
Donte Divincenzo So. Villanova 6-5 PG/SG 21.0
Jarred Vanderbilt Fr. Kentucky 6-8 SF/PF 18.8
Kevin Huerter So. Maryland 6-6 SG 19.4
John Petty Fr. Alabama 6-5 SG 19.1
Shamorie Ponds So. St. John's 6-1 PG 19.6
Quinton Rose So. Temple 6-8 SG 20.0
Markis McDuffie Jr. Wichita St 6-8 SF 20.4
Isaac Bonga Germany Frankfurt 6-9 SF 18.2
Tony Carr So. Penn St 6-3 PG 20.3
Donta Hall Jr. Alabama 6-9 C 20.5
Sagaba Konate So. West Virginia 6-8 C 20.4
Tryggvi Hlinason ACB Valencia 7-1 C 20.2
Goga Bitadze Adriatic Mega Bemax 6-11 C 18.5
Tyus Battle So. Syracuse 6-7 SG/SF 20.3
James Palmer Jr. Nebraska 6-6 SF 21.5
Josh Reaves Jr. Penn St 6-4 SG 20.6
Austin Wiley So. Auburn 6-11 C 19.0
Markus Howard So. Marquette 6-0 PG 18.9
Killian Tillie So. Gonzaga 6-10 PF 19.7
D.J. Hogg Jr. Texas A&M 6-9 SF/PF 21.4
Nick Richards Fr. Kentucky 6-11 C 20.2
Omer Yurtseven So. N.C. State 7-0 C 19.6
Abdoulaye N'doye France Cholet 6-7 PG 19.9
Tadas Sedekerskis Lithuania Nevezis 6-10 SF 20.0
Matisse Thybulle Jr. Washington 6-5 SG 20.9
Aleksa Radanov Adriatic FMP 6-8 SG 20.0
LaGerald Vick Jr. Kansas 6-5 SG 21.0
Cameron Johnson Jr. North Carolina 6-7 SF 21.9
John Konchar Jr. IPFW 6-6 SG 21.9
Shakur Juiston Jr. UNLV 6-7 PF 20.8
Vic Law Jr. Northwestern 6-7 SF/PF 22.1
1. PHI (via SAC)
9. BOS (via MEM)
20. ATL (via CLE)
24. BOS (via PHI)
31. PHI (via SAC)
33. LAL (via CHI)
35 ORL (via BKN)
36. BKN (via NYK)
42. POR (via LAL)
44. LAC (via POR)
48. MIN (via MIA)
50. SAC (via CLE)
52. SAC (via MIL)
53. DEN (via WAS)
56. ATL (via MIN)
58. MEM (via BOS)
59. NYK (via HOU)
60. DAL (via GSW)
De'Andre Hunter | 6-foot-8 | Fr. (RS)
Power forward | Virginia
At 12-1 in the ACC and 23-2 overall, Virginia should be ranked No. 1 when the polls are released on Monday, and Hunter is a huge reason for that.
Despite redshirting last year and now coming off the bench, Hunter has overcome a slow start and established himself as an essential cog on both ends of the floor.
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While slightly undersized at 6-8, Hunter's 7-2 wingspan, chiseled frame and outstanding lateral quickness more than make up for that, allowing him to defend guards, wings and big men alike. We've seen him effectively slow down ACC stars such as 6-11 Marvin Bagley III, 6-4 Josh Okogie and 6-7 Tyus Battle, demonstrating the type of multipositional defensive versatility that the NBA so actively covets these days.
Hunter enjoys an unusual amount of offensive freedom for a freshman on the slowest-paced team in all of college basketball, ranking second on the team in usage, He's one of the better shot-creators on the team thanks to his ability to dribble, pass and shoot, and his poise, confidence and versatility on this end of the floor have been impressive.
Hunter's jumper is far from a finished product, but he has a nice stroke and the ability to stretch the floor confidently, something that will be tracked closely going into next season as one of the biggest keys to his evolution as a prospect. The fact that he is such a good passer helps mask the fact that he's not a freakish athlete. But it will be important for the 20-year-old to continue to make progress with his skill level and polish as incumbent starting forwards Devon Hall and Isaiah Wilkins graduate and he's asked to step into their shoes as a sophomore.
You can't have enough versatility, basketball IQ and length at the combo forward position in today's NBA, and Hunter stands out in both those categories as a strong candidate to play positionless basketball. Being a key cog on the No. 1 defensive team in college basketball while learning how to play a role under highly respected coach Tony Bennett helps his cause a great deal, as well.
Zhaire Smith | 6-5 | Fr.
Small forward | Texas Tech
Texas Tech will achieve its highest AP poll ranking in program history when the polls are officially released Monday.
Part of the reason for that -- besides senior point guard Keenan Evans and the leadership of coach of the year candidate Chris Beard -- is the play of Smith, an unheralded freshman who has made huge contributions on both ends of the floor.
A season-ending injury to senior Zach Smith forced Zhaire Smith into the starting lineup, and he has responded with impressive productivity and a slew of highlight-reel plays that have made him a fixture on SportsCenter.
Smith elevates for epic putback slamNiem Stevenson misses a layup, but Zhaire Smith comes out of nowhere and rises up for a two-handed dunk.
Smith fits the mold of what NBA teams are looking for in a wing physically, standing 6-4 barefoot with a 6-10 wingspan, an excellent 199-pound frame and tremendous athletic ability, all while measuring a 44-inch vertical leap, according to Texas Tech. He covers ground exceptionally. He's quick off his feet and explosive vertically, being one of the better two-foot jumpers in high-major basketball.
Smith's offensive game is raw at this stage, as his ballhandling skills are crude and his jump shot is far from a consistent weapon. He's still figuring out the nuances of utilizing his athleticism to create high-percentage shots, even if he's a terror attacking in a straight line in the half court or operating in the open floor. While his shooting mechanics aren't terrible, he doesn't have great footwork and regularly passes up open shots from the perimeter, hitting just eight 3-pointers on the season through 25 games. To Smith's credit, he doesn't turn the ball over, plays an efficient style and shows flashes of a solid basketball IQ, despite not having the most polished skill level.
Smith's primary value at the moment comes on the defensive end, where his combination of quickness, length, intensity and anticipation skills makes him a multipositional stopper. He's the only underclassman in high-major basketball averaging more than 1.8 blocks and steals per 40 minutes pace adjusted. Texas Tech is an undersized team, and Smith's ability to put a body on power forwards, despite his still-developing frame, has been valuable for the Red Raiders at times.
Smith will benefit from another year of seasoning in the Big 12, as he has been somewhat inconsistent throughout the year, which is to be expected considering his career trajectory (No. 223-rated high school recruit) and the fact that he doesn't turn 19 until June. He'll have to show he can make shots with his feet set and score more consistently in the half court to hold scouts' interest next year, but he has certainly put himself on the map.
Herb Jones | 6-8 | Fr.
Shooting guard/small forward | Alabama
Jones had his coming-out party on a national stage at the end of January against Oklahoma, being tasked with slowing down Trae Young while also initiating Alabama's offense at times, scoring a season-high 14 points.
Jones has been inconsistent since, scoring just 14 total points on 17 field goal attempts in four games, showing that he's very much a down-the-road prospect at this stage.
Nevertheless, it's difficult to ignore Jones' tools and overall talent. He measured 6-6˝ barefoot with a 7-foot wingspan at the Alabama pro day in October, giving him ample size and length to guard anywhere from 1 to 4 as his skinny-but-promising 194-pound frame fills out.
He already is Alabama's best defender, which is no small feat considering it has been the best defensive team in the loaded SEC by a wide margin. His combination of length and lateral quickness is elite, and the fact that he's a real competitor gives him a chance to make huge strides in this area as he gets stronger.
The development of Jones' scoring ability will dictate how quickly he can emerge as a more immediate NBA prospect. At the moment, he looks uncomfortable operating in the half court, as his inability to make jump shots consistently hampers him.
Avery Johnson seems to have a lot of confidence in Jones, often asking him to moonlight as a secondary initiator, and he has shown some promise operating out of ball screens and finding the open man with solid court vision. He has plenty of room to improve his ballhandling skills, as well, as he's clearly at his best in the open court right now, where his fluidity and athleticism shine through most vividly.
Jones is somewhat of a speculative prospect at this stage, as evidenced by his paltry numbers (5 points per game, 49 percent true shooting), and he might end up being more of a 2020 draft prospect when it's all said and done. Players with his physical tools, budding versatility and motor are intriguing in today's NBA, and there's no doubt that his upside could be harnessed into something interesting down the road.
Donte DiVincenzo | 6-5 | So. (RS)
Point guard/shooting guard | Villanova
A season-ending injury to Phil Booth has put DiVincenzo into Villanova's starting lineup and forced him to take on more offensive responsibility, giving NBA scouts more insight into his progress.
DiVincenzo has long been considered one of the NCAA's top glue guys, as his ability to play either backcourt spot (or as a wing in three-guard lineups), rebound, defend, make shots consistently and do all the little things is attractive, even projecting to the NBA level.
DiVincenzo is first and foremost a bulldog on defense, with great feet, a high activity level and a penchant for delivering hard fouls. He's extremely physical boxing out and in helpside situations, bumping opposing players running off screens and demonstrating a level of grit that scouts love to see from potential role players.
While not overly long (6-5 wingspan), DiVincenzo has a strong frame and good size for a guard at 6-5. He has improved considerably as a perimeter shooter since arriving at Villanova, hitting 40 percent of his 3s this season on a high volume of attempts.
Although he's not yet comfortable operating as a full-time primary ballhandler, DiVincenzo does a great job of helping Villanova's offense flow with his unselfishness and willingness to execute in the half court. He drives with his head up, finds cutters with well-timed bounce passes and looks to make the extra pass along the perimeter.
With Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges both graduating and likely moving onto the pro ranks this spring, DiVincenzo will move into a more prominent role next season, potentially as Villanova's starting point guard. It will be interesting to see how he handles an increased workload, as he isn't the most talented shot-creator in terms of his ability to play pick-and-roll and go one-on-one with the shot clock running down.
Having redshirted his freshman year due to an injury, DiVincenzo is a little bit older than most sophomores (already 21). DiVincenzo isn't oozing with upside like some of the other players on this list, but there's plenty of value in versatile defensive-minded guards, as players such as T.J. McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova are showing.
Kyle Alexander | 6-11 | Jr.
Center | Tennessee
It certainly makes sense to dig into the success that Tennessee (8-4 in the SEC, 18-6 overall) is having and try to understand how the Volunteers have skyrocketed into the No. 16 spot by BPI.
A good place to start is with 6-11 defensive anchor Alexander, who is leading the SEC in blocks per 40 minutes while also leading the country in offensive efficiency.
Alexander is a fairly unlikely story, having grown up playing mostly soccer and volleyball in suburban Toronto before deciding to try his hand at basketball as a sophomore in high school just five years ago. His father was a Division I player and his sister a first-round pick in the WNBA. Alexander's body has taken a while to fill out, and at 222 pounds he is still a ways away, but the fact that he stands 6-11˝, with a 7-5˝ wingspan and a massive 9-2 standing reach, obviously helps.
Alexander isn't only tall and long, he's also mobile, covering ground exceptionally on both ends of the floor while being quick getting off his feet. He regularly beats opposing big men down the floor, corralling outlet passes and going up for dunks in one fluid motion.
Alexander shows off speed and scores for Tennessee early in second halfJordan Bone finds Kyle Alexander, who beats everyone down the court before finishing at the rim with an easy one-handed dunk.
He's shooting a ridiculous 72 percent from the field, which while impressive on the surface also is a testament to the limited number of touches and shots he gets every game. He ranks 11th on Tennessee in usage rate, which is alarming considering the team only goes eight or nine deep on most nights. Still, it's hard not to be impressed with Alexander's reliable hands, soft touch and occasional ability to make turnaround or short-range face-up jumpers. This, combined with the fact that he's shooting 73 percent from the foul line, indicates he might still have room to expand his offensive game as he gets stronger and more comfortable making decisions with the ball in his hands.
For now, Alexander is an elite screen-setter, diver, offensive rebounder and finisher -- all coveted traits in the NBA.
His defense is what will get him on the map, though. He shows terrific timing as a shot-blocker and gets out to hedge or switch screens on the perimeter.
While already 21 years old, Alexander is still a baby at this stage of his development physically and experience-wise. He has made a massive jump from his sophomore to junior seasons, and NBA scouts will be interested to see if he can continue to make similar improvement after a good offseason in the weight room. He draws rave reviews for his character and work ethic from people who have worked with him.