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2019 NBA Mock Draft: Pro Comparisons and Predictions for Elite Guard Prospects

Zach Buckley

While the biggest intrigue around the 2019 NBA draft starts up front with human highlight reel Zion Williamson, the strength of this class—or the non-Zion strength, at least—might reside in the backcourt.

Three of the top-four prospects—and six of the top-10—on the latest big board from Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman primarily suit up at one of the guard spots.

So, after laying out our latest mock first round, we'll spotlight the three top guards on our board and compare them with current NBA players.


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: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech

5. Cleveland Cavaliers: De'Andre Hunter, SF/PF, Virginia

6. Phoenix Suns: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

7. Chicago Bulls: Coby White, PG/SG, North Carolina

8. Atlanta Hawks: Cam Reddish, SG/SF, Duke

9. Washington Wizards: Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas

10. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas Mavericks)Bol Bol, C, Oregon

11. Minnesota Timberwolves: Sekou Doumbouya, SF/PF, France

12. Charlotte Hornets: PJ Washington, PF/C, Kentucky

13. Miami Heat: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC

14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento Kings): Nassir Little, SF/PF, North Carolina

15. Detroit Pistons: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana

16. Orlando Magic: Keldon Johnson, SG/SF, Kentucky

17. Brooklyn Nets: Goga Bitadze, C, Georgia

18. Indiana Pacers: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech

19. San Antonio Spurs: Brandon Clarke, PF/C, Gonzaga

20. Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers): Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue

21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky

22. Boston Celtics: Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga

23. Utah Jazz: Talen Horton-Tucker, SG/SF, Iowa State

24. Philadelphia 76ers: Cameron Johnson, SF, North Carolina

25. Portland Trail Blazers: Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington

26. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Houston Rockets): Mfiondu Kabengele, PF/C, Florida State

27. Brooklyn Nets (via Denver Nuggets): KZ Okpala, SF/PF, Stanford

28. Golden State Warriors: Ty Jerome, PG/SG, Virginia

29. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto Raptors): Luka Samanic, PF, Croatia

30. Milwaukee Bucks: Isaiah Roby, PF/C, Nebraska


Pro Comparisons for Elite Guard Prospects

Ja Morant: Russell Westbrook

From the explosive athleticism to the overstuffed stat sheets, it's hard not to see the parallels between Morant and the 2016-17 MVP.

According to Morant himself, that doesn't happen by accident.

"Westbrook is my favorite player and who I try to model my game after—the aggressiveness, the chip on his shoulder," Morant told ESPN The Magazine's Anthony Olivieri. "That's how I play, just from being under the radar and really trying to work hard to get to where I'm at."

The comparison is mostly favorable for Morant. Like his NBA idol, Morant can explode to the rim, finish through contact and leave his fingerprints all over the primary counting categories. He recorded three triple-doubles this past season, including the NCAA Tournament's first since 2012.

But Morant also shares Westbrook's struggles with range shooting (34.3 percent for his college career) and decision-making (5.2 turnovers in 2018-19). Since Morant is only 20 years old, though, his NBA employer has some time to iron out the kinks.


RJ Barrett: James Harden

David Sherman/Getty Images

To be clear, NBA comparisons have a tendency to reflect a prospect's ultimate upside. In other words, fans of Barrett's first big-league employer shouldn't expect MVP production out of the gate.

Of course, it's important to remember the first NBA sightings of Harden looked nothing like his current form. He shined first as the Thunder's sixth man and wasn't a full-time starter until joining the Rockets ahead of the 2012-13 campaign.

But when you think of Harden's style, size, positional strength and seemingly effortless scoring ability, Barrett has all of the same attributes in his bag.

"He's a lot like James Harden in the way he plays, not just the fact that he's left-handed," ESPN's Jay Bilas said, per Steve Serby of the New York Post. "But he gets to the basket with ease, and he's a fabulous finisher, and one of the best rebounding guards in the country."

While Barrett must mature with his shot selection and susceptibility to tunnel vision, he had a tremendous one-and-done run through Duke. He paced the Blue Devils in points (22.6 per game) while ranking second in both rebounds (7.6) and assists (4.3), all as an 18-year-old college freshman.


Jarrett Culver: Khris Middleton

Is it sacrilegious to compare a Red Raider with an Aggie? Eh, so what if it is, the comparison fits.

Like Middleton, Culver's game is built more on substance than sizzle. The latter will enter the Association with a high floor as a capable shot-creator, facilitator and multipositional defender. As big-league clubs work on projecting roles for these prospects, Culver's should be easy to craft as a do-it-all support player.

Culver, who exited Tech after his sophomore season, is further along than Middleton was when he left A&M after his junior campaign. Culver has the edge in almost every statistical category, including points (18.5), rebounds (6.4) and assists (3.7).

But Middleton, the 39th pick in 2012, has since displayed exponential growth that isn't promised to Culver. One thing that would help the latter close the gap is improving his outside shot, as he followed a promising freshman season from the perimeter with only a 30.4-percent three-point conversion rate in his second go-round.  


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