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2019 NBA Mock Draft 5.0: Who Will Stand Out in the NCAA Tournament?

The NCAA tournament is finally here and The Crossover's Front Office provides its latest first-round projections for the 2019 NBA draft. Which prospects will leave a strong impression during March Madness?

With a dozen or so games remaining in the NBA’s regular season and the NCAA tournament underway this week, the landscape of the 2019 draft continues to clarify in a very real way. We essentially know who the lottery teams are going to be, we know a large chunk of the prospects who will end up in the green room, and we can start putting the pieces together. We’ll revisit this after March Madness and expand to projecting both rounds down the line, but for now, here’s a sense of how the first round could shape up.

As always, our mock draft paints a picture of what the draft might look like if it took place on a given day. For evaluations and rankings of the available prospects, check out our most recent big board, a fluid, comprehensive list of the top 80 players.

The sequence of teams is based off of Basketball Reference’s playoff projections as of March 18, which can be found here

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1.

New York Knicks

  Knicks: Zion Williamson, PF, Duke

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 285 | Freshman

If the Knicks do in fact manage to win the lottery—for which they will have the best odds, but also the same odds as the two teams directly ahead of them in the overall standings—there will doubtlessly be debate about what they should do with it. If they can package the No. 1 pick and other stuff for Anthony Davis, that’s probably a legitimate consideration. On the other hand, Williamson’s hype has certainly grown to the point where one might be justifiably annoyed at the Knicks for not drafting him. Putting aside the flowery hyperbole, Williamson has some warts, but he also has a chance to be a generational player, and whoever wins the lottery will be remiss to not find out. There’s not much of an argument for anyone else at the top of the draft, and at this point, it’s just a matter of who gets a lucky draw.

2. 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Cavaliers: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State

Height: 6’3” | Weight: 175 | Sophomore

Yes, the Cavs have Collin Sexton, who also nominally plays point guard, but if they end up with this pick and are picking between Morant and Barrett, there is going to be some positional/stylistic conflict with last year’s lottery pick regardless. Picking Morant, who actually likes passing and should be considered the superior long-term prospect to Sexton (and Barrett) anyhow, would be more prudent if Cleveland were in this scenario. Morant has an chance to be a franchise-changing playmaker, though he will require a little bit of time, and whether the Cavs were to pivot from Sexton entirely or not, they would be justified in doubling up on guards. They could also look to trade down with a point guard-needy team, particularly if situated directly ahead of Phoenix.

3. 

Phoenix Suns

 Suns: R.J. Barrett, G/F, Duke

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 200 | Freshman

The Suns don’t expressly need Barrett, and this will be another position in the draft where teams might aim to try and trade down. When considering how to maximize the potential asset value of this pick, he seems like the optimal choice. Barrett is going to be able to score in the NBA, the question is just how efficiently and to what end. If he can play with and off of Devin Booker, Phoenix might have something interesting, but the Suns also have a ton of wings already on the roster. They desperately need a point guard, but reaching from here might be tough to justify. 

4.

Chicago Bulls

  Bulls: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech

Height: 6’6” | Weight: 195 | Sophomore

Culver is a pretty ideal fit with the Bulls, as a no-nonsense college standout who looks like a safe selection and can fit neatly into their mix of guys on the wing without cutting into anyone else’s shots. Chicago could also use a point guard, with Kris Dunn approaching restricted free agency as a less-than-inspiring long-term solution there. Taking Culver isn’t a home-run swing, but he’s one of the few lottery guys with whom you can walk away feeling somewhat confident that you’re getting a solid rotation player, and with how quickly he’s developed in college, there’s some upside here if he keeps working on his outside shooting.

5.

Atlanta Hawks

  Hawks: Cam Reddish, SF, Duke

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 220 | Freshman

Atlanta is set with Trae Young and Kevin Huerter in their backcourt going forward, and with two Top-10 selections should end up in position to take a risk on Reddish. While he’s been wholly underwhelming for Duke this season and his issues finishing at the rim are particularly concerning, going to the Hawks would put him in a low-pressure situation where team and player can focus on specializing his skill set, rather than trying to turn him into something he’s not. If Reddish can just harness his ability more consistently, he has the tools to become a versatile 3-and-D forward. This would be an ideal situation for him.

6. 

Memphis Grizzlies

  Grizzlies: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 170 | Freshman

It seems like the Grizzlies are going to be unsuccessful in conveying this pick to the Celtics (which would help long-term, but involve finishing outside the bottom eight), and so they’ll be in position to go shopping for a long-term Mike Conley replacement. After Morant is off the board, teams are going to be debating between Garland and Coby White. Despite the fact he only played four games this season, the overall volatility of this draft is going to help keep Garland’s lottery stock somewhat solid. There are questionmarks attached with his physical profile, but someone will take a chance and try to develop him into a lead playmaker. His pre-draft workouts will obviously be key, noting the minimal body of work.

7.

Atlanta Hawks

  Hawks (via Mavericks): De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia

Height: 6’7” | Weight: 225 | Sophomore

If Dallas’s pick ends up in the top five, they’ll get to keep it, and that scenario is in play. Otherwise, it goes to Atlanta. With last year’s draft as a precedent, the Hawks could again consider trying to flip one of their firsts into a lower selection and a future first, maximizing their asset value. If they keep it, they could couch the risk of someone like Reddish at No. 5 with the safety of Hunter, who should provide defensive versatility and floor spacing from a forward spot. Like with Reddish, having Trae Young in place to handle primary shot-creation makes a guy like Hunter all the more valuable in filling in 

8. 

Washington Wizards

  Wizards: Coby White, G, North Carolina

Height: 6’5” | Weight: 185 | Freshman

There’s not a quick fix for the Wizards, particularly with John Wall injured, and they’d be justified in taking an upside throw in this range of the draft, positional fit notwithstanding. White has rapidly improved as North Carolina’s lead guard, and his size, projectable three-point shooting and potential to fit next to Wall and Bradley Beal in the short-term make some sense as a building block for Washington. He’s a prime candidate to break out in the tournament, and someone who has really helped himself over the course of the season.