The 2019 NBA draft is just hours away, but the state of things is far from certain—at least beyond the first few picks, for now. Over the past week, there have already been several first-round picks traded, and teams expect much more action as the day progresses toward the event itself. Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett will go off the board first, but from there, things really get started.
This is shaping up to be one of the toughest drafts to predict in recent memory, due in large part to the prospect of potential deals. It’s hard to predict the draft when you don’t know who’s picking where, after all, but based on the latest information at hand, here’s what we have. Among the biggest storylines:
• Pelicans still fielding calls for No. 4, but eyeing several players
• Cavs targeting De'Andre Hunter, but may not get him
• Will the Hawks trade up or keep their first-rounders?
Scroll down for the latest intel and analysis, and our final projections for all 60 picks. For scouting reports our ranking of the Top 100 prospects, see our Big Board. For the latest rumors and reports leading up to the draft, click here. And be sure to check out our full 2019 NBA draft guide for all your draft day needs. For the latest rumors leading up to the draft, click here.
SI's Jake Fischer contributed reporting.
TRADE ALERT: We have THREE big trades before the draft begins. The Pacers have acquired T.J. Warren and the No. 32 pick from the Suns in exchange for cash considerations. And the Pelicans have dealt the No. 4 pick to the Hawks for the Nos. 8, 17, 35 pick. New Orleans is also sending Solomon Hill, the No. 57 pick and a future second-rounder in the deal. In addition, the Timberwolves acquired the No. 6 pick from the Suns in exchange for the No. 11 pick and Dario Saric.
PF | Duke | Freshman
New Orleans Pelicans
There's a case to be made that Williamson is the individual winner in the blockbuster Anthony Davis trade. All that's left to do is walk across the stage on Thursday, and he'll officially become the centerpiece of one of the NBA's most favorable long-term situations, after New Orleans made out with nearly all of the Lakers' long-term draft assets, in addition to Lonzo Ball (who in particular complements him stylistically), Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart and the No. 4 pick in this draft, for which the Pelicans continue to field calls and offers as the draft approaches.
We've written plenty on Williamson's individual talent dating back to the fall and will spare the full breakdown in this space, but safe to say New Orleans is in a close to optimal position to engineer a winning team around his unique abilities going into the 2020s (a decade everyone has to think about now). Like any other teenage prospect, his game comes with holes, but surround him with smart players who can shoot threes and play uptempo, and you've got a start. So, as it's all turned out, the Pelicans under Alvin Gentry and EVP David Griffin have become perhaps the softest possible landing spot for Williamson to begin his pro career. It's a promising marriage.
PG | Murray State | Sophomore
The Grizzlies cleared the way for Morant on Wednesday, sending Mike Conley to Utah in a package that includes the 23rd pick in this year’s draft, a protected future first-rounder designed to convey in 2022, Grayson Allen and veterans Jae Crowder and Kyle Korver, per reports. Buzz had mounted over the past 48 hours that a deal was close, and Memphis extracting two first-rounders was the key part of that package in terms of value.
The expectation dating back to the draft combine has been that Memphis would take Morant here, and all indications are that they still plan to do so, particularly now that Conley is off to Utah. Morant has visited with Memphis and New York, and also met with New Orleans at the combine, but barring something unexpected, he’ll go at No. 2. He recently had a minor knee procedure done, but it’s not thought to be a serious concern moving forward, other than that he could miss summer league as a precaution. Morant may take a season or two to adjust to the speed of the NBA game, but his innate playmaking ability, elite athleticism and unique improvisational qualities give him a chance to be special.
G/F | Duke | Freshman
New York Knicks
The Knicks are expected to draft Barrett here, barring any unexpected last-second turns atop the draft. Darius Garland worked out for them on Wednesday, but that meeting was viewed as more of an additional contingency for New York. This will not shock anyone, and makes plenty of sense given the circumstances. The fact New York couldn’t gain much traction in the end in the Anthony Davis trade talks is a definite referendum on the leaguewide valuation of their young assets, and Barrett may walk onto the roster and be their most promising piece out of the gate. It’s unclear whether they’ll lure a star this summer, with Kevin Durant’s injury and Kyrie Irving seemingly intent on Brooklyn, but the Knicks had big designs on the offseason, and taking Barrett likely won’t impact that.
Barrett’s hard-wired scoring mentality will be a nice fit with the Knicks, and he’ll be able to grow into a bigger offensive role and take his lumps next season. He can at times be aggressive to a fault, but the hope is that his decision-making becomes more team-oriented as he matures, and that his outside shot improves. He may not be the franchise savior, but players of that caliber are few and far between. Expect Barrett to work hard and maximize his individual ability, and if he makes the right adjustments in playstyle, there’s strong upside here.
F | Virginia | Sophomore
New Orleans Pelicans
According to league sources, the Pelicans continue to field calls and weigh their options with the fourth pick going into draft night. There are strong indications right now that New Orleans will aim to maximize the value of this pick and move down in the lottery, with additional first-round picks or an established player they like coming back as part of the return. Given that the entire league shares an expectation for how the first three picks of the draft will unfold, naturally, there’s a market for No. 4, as there’s little confusion about who will be on the board here. With those discussions in mind, there are three players to keep an eye on: Hunter, Darius Garland and Jarrett Culver.
The team that’s always had the most ammunition for a deal here is the Atlanta Hawks, who as we’ve previously reported have been aggressive in attempting to package their first-round picks and move up from No. 8. There’s been some uncertainty over the past week as to which player the Hawks covet most; rival teams have come to believe that player is Hunter. There is also a strong belief around the league that Cleveland has real interest in Hunter at No. 5, meaning that Atlanta may have to come up to No. 4 to get him. The Timberwolves have also called about the fourth pick, according to league sources, but the Hawks can create a package involving No. 8 which could include either No. 10 or No. 17. There’s a reasonable school of thought that two chances in the lottery might be worth more than one in this draft, noting how minimal-to-nonexistent the gap in available talent becomes after the first two or three players are off the board. If you’re New Orleans, moving down for the right deal is something worth considering.
If the Pelicans choose to keep this pick, there’s a legitimate lack of clarity as to who they’d take. Given their acquisition of Lonzo Ball, Darius Garland feels like a luxury at point guard. Culver’s jump shooting concerns make his fit somewhat foggy, given New Orleans will already have to try and develop all three of Ball, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson into more consistent threats from distance. Hunter may not have immense upside, but he’s further along as a set shooter and you can understand why New Orleans might feel most comfortable plugging him in here, particularly from a defensive standpoint. What the Pelicans decide to do here will have a ripple effect on the rest of the draft.
PG | Vanderbilt | Freshman
Cleveland is thought to have real interest in De’Andre Hunter, and if he does fall to No. 5, league sources expect the Cavs would select him here. If Hunter were to go fourth, as in this scenario, it puts Cleveland at the forefront of the trade market for Garland, with a number of teams interested and buying in on his long-term potential. It’s entirely possible the Cavs could opt to move down from No. 5 and pick up extra value in that transaction.
The Cavs are also thought to have some degree of interest in Garland, as well as Coby White, and although they selected Collin Sexton No. 8 in last year’s draft, they could conceivably play him alongside another guard who shoots well from outside and is more playmaking-oriented in style. In this type of draft, there’s a good case for just taking the best prospect available here, and certainly, there are some who think it’s Garland.
SG | Texas Tech | Sophomore
The Suns would be thrilled to see Culver fall here, as they have maintained serious interest in him dating back to the regular season. There’s now a scenario in play where he makes it to No. 6, a spot many rival teams view as his floor in the draft. They like him enough to select him ahead of either Garland or White, if that’s indeed the choice they face on Thursday night. Phoenix has maintained an interest in finding a more experienced point guard to run their team next season, and can pursue that end while still taking the guy they covet here.
In the event Culver is off the board, the Suns would presumably grab either Garland or White: White fits well with Booker, noting his size defensively, but Garland is craftier off the dribble and closer to being a feasible setup man who can get more out of the Suns’ other players. But Culver’s size, feel, defensive acumen and rapid degree of improvement have made him a very attractive option in this range of the draft, and Phoenix will feel comfortable taking the best player available here if he’s on the board.
G | North Carolina | Freshman
The Bulls would likely be pleased with White making it to them at No. 7, given that point guard is their primary area of long-term need. There now looks to be a possibility he makes it to this spot. Chicago has also worked out Sekou Doumbouya and Jaxson Hayes, but the prevailing thought around the league is that they’d prefer to go guard here, with White, and Garland, if he slips, being strong fits.
White makes a lot of sense for Chicago in that he can play alongside either Zach LaVine or Kris Dunn in the early-going, supplying additional shooting and playmaking as he continues to learn his position. He has some untapped potential as a lead guard, good size for his position, and his outside shooting gives him a strong development base. Many teams think this would be his floor.
SF | Duke | Freshman
According to league sources, Atlanta continues to remain active in exploring all its options, with packages including Nos. 8 and either 10 or 17 creating different opportunities to move up. As previously noted, the fourth pick is available and creates an opportunity for them to target De’Andre Hunter or Jarrett Culver. There are scenarios where the Hawks deal both of these picks, and also ones where they end up keeping one, but the perception appears to be that they won’t keep both. With the first seven players appearing settled in some sequence, Reddish’s range would seem to begin here.
Reddish is thought around the league to be an option for the Hawks, and a natural fit. It would be a low-pressure development situation for him, where he can play off of Trae Young and others and focus on defending and making shots in a low-leverage role, at least to begin with. Still, teams are all over the board with their evaluations of Reddish: his statistics and performance at Duke unto themselves were uninspiring, and it would be easier to buy into him if he simply showed up to play on a more consistent basis. He floats in and out of games and seemed comfortable just fitting into the background, which would be more palatable if his play had been better.
The worst-case scenario for Reddish would be the Hawks dealing away 8 and 10 to a team that A) intends to keep both picks and B) isn’t interested in selecting him. It’s thought that the Wizards may pass if given the option, and that would send him into the late lottery. That’s considered the back end of his range, and his upside should still be well worth a shot at that point in the draft.
F | Limoges | International
The Wizards have a number of needs on their roster and will be prepared to grab whoever they deem the best prospect available at this spot. Per a league source, Washington has received a degree of interest in this pick, and will consider trading down in the right situation. It could certainly make sense for them to deal if they have the ability to add draft capital and still pick in a position they like, particularly given that the roster could use an injection of younger talent overall, and that much of the payroll is tied up in the injured John Wall and All-Star Bradley Beal, who they will reportedly offer a large extension to remain with the team.
Whether they stay put at No. 9 or opt to trade back, Doumbouya would be a strong option for the Wizards, with appealing physical tools and upside at forward, particularly in this range of the draft. He’s thought to be far off from a maturity standpoint, and his offensive skill set is still expanding, but his athleticism, strength and shooting touch are tangible, and he showcased appealing defensive versatility over the course of the season in France. The Wizards would be comfortable affording him the time and patience he needs.
C | Texas | Freshman
Atlanta Hawks (via Mavericks)
Hayes told SI on Wednesday that the only teams he worked out for were Atlanta and Chicago, and rival teams believe he’ll be a strong option for the Hawks at this juncture if they keep the pick. His combination of physical tools and defensive upside have put him firmly in the back half of the lottery. Granted, it’s not clear whether Atlanta will make this pick or if it moves, but he’s also someone other teams may attempt to target via trade in this range of the draft.
Hayes isn’t a perfect fit with the Hawks, unless you believe in his ability to eventually knock down open threes — spacing is going to be imperative going forward as they build around Trae Young. He does come with some risk due to iffy rebounding numbers and the fact he’s so raw. In the late lottery, the upside with him will be worth a shot. While Hayes likely won’t contribute much immediately, he might be closer to NBA-ready than perception suggests: if he adds strength to his above-average frame and continues to work on fundamentals, he should be able to make an impact as a defender and rim-rummer at some point on his rookie contract.
PF | Gonzaga | Junior
The latest on this pick is that the Timberwolves have made serious efforts to move up in the draft, seemingly targeting Darius Garland. But there’s an expectation that if they stay put, Hachimura will be the pick. Minnesota exploring its trade options would seem to be an indicator that they have not given him a hard promise, but rival teams believe Minnesota will be comfortable drafting him if he makes it to this spot. Per sources, there are teams trying to trade up to get Hachimura in this range, and if Minnesota sits on the pick, those suitors would have to move in front of No. 11. If the Timberwolves do move up, Hachimura isn’t expected to fall past No. 12, whether it’s Charlotte or another team making that pick.