After following the SEC and the rest of college basketball all season, here is my top 30 prospects for the 2019 NBA Draft. The first 14 prospects on this list, who deserve to be headed for the lottery, have more in-depth breakdowns while prospects 15-30 receive shorter descriptions. And yes, this is just one man’s opinion who watched way too much college basketball last season.
1. Zion Williamson, Forward, Duke
I’m all in on Mr. Williamson. Yes, we all know he is a hulking behemoth who can jump put of a gym. However, he is so much more than that. Combining that athleticism with his endless motor and defensive potential easily makes him the best overall prospect since Anthony Davis in 2012.
Zion Williamson's 62 dunks at Duke!
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) May 14, 2019
As far as weaknesses, his mechanics on his jump shot are still funky and he doesn’t get much lift underneath him when he shoots. He also needs to add a few more offensive moves to his game besides that Julius Randle spin move (which is very effective). But these are still nitpicks. Williamson actually shot better than his other talented teammates last season and his current offensive moves are borderline unguardable. Who knows just how good Zion will be, but he is a once in every decade type of talent. He is the prize of this draft.
2. Ja Morant, Point Guard, Murray State
I think there is a clear second-best player in this draft, and that title belongs to the best college player from the state of Kentucky last season. Morant is an uber-athletic point guard and an elite playmaker. “Skinny John Wall” is actually a relatively close comparison. He is in the mold of De’Aaron Fox from a body-build perspective, but I think his game is closer to that of a healthy Wall due to Morant’s flashiness.
Ja Morant comparison breakdown from today’s NBA Draft Combine show. pic.twitter.com/O8OLfdnth9
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) May 17, 2019
While that is certainly high praise, Morant is not the generational prospect that Williamson is. His weaknesses are much more apparent. Morant needs to refine his jump shot as well, but more importantly, he is just straight-up bad on defense. This will make him a liability against the several great point guards in the league today. Overall, despite those critiques I do think his complete offensive game makes him a guaranteed non-bust at the next level. If he can learn behind Mike Conley Jr. in Memphis, I think he will end up being an all-star in the NBA.
3. Jarrett Culver, Shooting Guard, Texas Tech
Many say this is a three-player draft. I just don’t see it that way. After Zion and Ja, I think there is a large drop off. I’m not suggesting that there aren’t any good players after them, but I just don’t see any sure-fire all-stars. Many scouts have Duke’s R.J. Barrett here and for good reason. However, I think the more complete player is Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver.
Jarrett Culver's offensive skill set is real enticing, man. pic.twitter.com/9xeVjSNJ6e
— ? (@LifeOfABruin) May 15, 2019
Culver is easily the better shooter, arguably the better playmaker, has a better personality on the court, and is the better defender. While I’m not sure just how high his “ceiling” really is, I think his bust potential is smaller than any other player on this board. Culver also carried the Red Raiders all the way to the championship even while being the guy every team concentrated on. His role will be dependent on the team that is smart enough to pick him, but Culver is going to be good at whatever is asked of him at the next level.
4. R.J. Barrett, Forward, Duke
Before the college basketball season started, I had Barrett as the best player in this draft. I still really like his overall talent level despite him falling to No. 4 on this list. I actually think his greatest attribute is his play-making ability. Barrett brought the ball up the court many times for Duke and made some outstanding passes for his teammates. He has the ability to make those around him better.
— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) May 15, 2019
However, there are two big questions facing him. The first being his three-point shooting. For a guy that shoots a lot of 3’s, he is not very good at it at all which is a problem in a league that has made a shift to that style of play. But the biggest problem I have with Barrett is his inclination to play hero-ball at the end of games. Barrett can become an all-star in this league. However, if he doesn’t fix his shot and that over-alpha mentality then he could be someone that no one likes to play with.
5. Brandon Clarke, Power Forward, Gonzaga
I have zero idea why more scouts do not have this guy higher on their boards. Clarke was easily the most underrated player in college basketball this season. Not only did he average 17 ppg and 8.6 rpg, but he also was fifth in the entire sport in blocks per game (3.8). He is an incredibly explosive athlete who is already an elite-level defender because of his timing in blocking shots.
The only thing holding him back from being higher on my board is that his midrange jumper needs more work for a guy that is just 6’8. Its “alright” right now, but it needs more consistency in order to make him a good offensive player at the next level. Worst-case scenario I see him being a Kenneth Faried-type at the in the league due to his high motor and competitiveness, but he has the potential to be much, much better than that.
6. Nassir Little, Forward, North Carolina
From here on out, I think there is another big drop off as far as guaranteed “good picks.” I’m confident that the top 5 players here will be good NBA players, but after that….oh boy. Good luck finding a quality starter. That’s just how the draft is this year.
This leads me to put Little here at No. 6. This is pretty controversial as some scouts truly hate him and won’t touch him with a ten-foot pole. The reason is that at times for UNC he seemed genuinely uninterested in playing hard when it didn’t matter. This is a huge red flag. However, when he is engaged like he was in the NCAA Tournament, Little is easily the best one-on-one defender in this draft. I see him right now as Jaylen Brown but with a weaker jump shot. Not the most attractive sentence, but at such a young age with an NBA ready body, Little is worth the risk. Either he turns into Stanley Johnson, or his offensive game improves and he turns into a poor man’s Kawhi Leonard. In this draft, that makes him my sixth best prospect. Always. Gamble. On. Defense.
Nassir Little gets it. Really enjoyed diving into his game yesterday on ESPN2. His understanding of where he excels and where he can still improve will allow him to maximize his potential. pic.twitter.com/mAMadKfWCY
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) May 17, 2019
7. Darius Garland, Point Guard, Vanderbilt
The first SEC player to make an appearance on this list just so happens to have played only five games of collegiate basketball due to injury. Like I said, its not a very deep draft. However, I do really like what very little I saw from Garland. At the point guard position, I think he is far and away the best shooter in this draft. His release is incredibly quick and natural. His handle is elite, and while he is a shoot-first PG he is still a good passer.
Those positives came against extremely weak competition, however. Garland’s frail frame also makes him a potential defensive liability. Also, we don’t know how good of a finisher he is at the rim. Basically, all that we for sure know about Garland is that he can shoot. That’s not enough for me to move him up higher on this list, but in a make-or-miss league it’s definitely a good attribute to have.
8. Goga Bitadze, Center, KK Mega Bemax / Georgia (International)
Yes, I know you probably just said “Huh?” out loud when you read off that name, but trust me on this one. Goga is the best international prospect in this draft despite what others may say. His fundamentals in the low-post are just incredible. He has great overall length and his consistency down low is a great marker for success in the NBA.
Defensively, Goga uses his length and great anticipation to be a real shot-blocking threat. There aren’t many weaknesses in his overall game. Of course, International prospects can be very hit-and-miss sometimes so that is a concern. As for me, I freely admit the most I’ve seen from him is from YouTube highlights. But man, was I impressed. I think Goga is a starting two-way center in this league, and in this draft that’s easily a top-10 pick.
9. Coby White, Point Guard, North Carolina
White is basically a 6’5 version of Ty Lawson. It sounds good in theory, but don’t forget that as an NBA player Lawson never played at an all-star level. I see a similar ceiling for White. He is incredibly fast and plays at a blistering tempo. He is a very good shooter and an even better passer. His defense is just “fine” but its definitely not a weakness.
The problem with White is that he gets too out of control sometimes and misses easy reads on the offensive end. This is the biggest reason why Ashton Hagans ate him alive when Kentucky played UNC back in the winter. In theory, this seems like an easy problem to fix, but it really isn’t. Understanding tempo is an incredibly hard thing for point guards to grasp in the moment. I think White is a perfect starting point guard on a team that doesn’t need him to be one of its three best players. I think he will have a good career in the league.
10. Jaxson Hayes, Center, Texas
Meet the newest, super talented rim-running big guy in the NBA. Hayes is a naturally gifted athlete who has the length to go up against any player in the league. His biggest strength is that his hands are outstanding. He is a natural lob catcher and has the power/athleticism to slam everything he gets his hands on.
In 2019, Jaxson Hayes shot 85.4% at the rim on 123 attempts. Since 2008, that's the third most efficient season at the rim (min 100 attempts) behind 2012 Anthony Davis and 2018 Doral Moore. He's obviously raw but his rim finishing+ft% give some hope for shooting upside. pic.twitter.com/qyGFnXfGms
— Ben Pfeifer (@Ben_Pfeifer_) May 14, 2019
As far as weaknesses, he needs to improve on his fundamentals. His low post moves are…not great! But in a pick-and-roll situation teams have to account for him or its going to be an automatic lob every time. He is getting a lot of comparisons between Clint Capela and Jarrett Allen. That’s probably what he will be at the high point of his career, but has to improve a lot before he gets to their level. His talent does justify a top-10 pick.
11. P.J. Washington, Power Forward, Kentucky
I’m not going to spend too many words on this guy, because at this point we all know his strengths and weaknesses. Washington works great as a stretch-four because of his ability to hit threes. Also, his competitiveness is going to be something that teams love. However, this is probably as high as PJ should go in the draft. He is still a little undersized despite his impressive wingspan, plus his offensive game is too basic at the moment. I’m not sure how his career will pan out, but at the very least he will be an invaluable role player.
12. Jontay Porter, Center, Missouri
This will surely be the point of much controversy in this draft. In case you did not know, Porter has torn the same ACL twice in the past seven months. To say he is an injury risk would an understatement. In a very deep draft I would normally have Porter outside of my top 20. I never like to bet on injury risks.
However, this is not a deep draft and Porter is not your usual prospect. I think he is the most talented basketball player at the center position in 2019. He is a perfect fit in today’s NBA. He has a good three-point shot, and he is an effective shooter from distance. Also, he is an AMAZING passer who has incredible basketball IQ. I honestly believe that if he was completely injury free, he would universally be considered as a top-three prospect in this draft. But “if” is not the reality here. Even if he stays injury free from now until the end of his career, who knows if he is the same player now. It’s a huge risk, but I think his talent is totally worth it at the end of the lottery this year.
Jontay Porter has stepped out of older brother Michael's shadow to help lead Mizzou to the NCAA Tournament. pic.twitter.com/4U0vIbH6UZ
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 16, 2018
13. De’Andre Hunter, Forward, Virginia
I’m a bit low on Hunter compared to the majority opinion, but I do not think he will be a bust at all. In fact, he is one of the safest picks in this draft. He will be a role-playing, three-and-D player from day one in the league. He is a pretty good shooter, and he is a good defender. His length on the wing makes him able to guard multiple positions.
However, he doesn’t have much potential at all to be a star in the league. I don’t take well to players who don’t make those around them better. Hunter’s passing/play-making ability is not good, and he is too much of a blunt-force object on the court. In other words, he got away with a lot in college that he will not get away with in the NBA. Also, he is not a good finisher around the rim. If you want to take a wing then Culver, Barrett, and Little are all better prospects even if they aren’t sure things. I think that Hunter will be too average to justify a high selection in this draft.
14. Jalen McDaniels, Forward, San Diego State
Yes, this is the brother of Jaden McDaniels which I know everyone is a huge fan of now. McDaniels will most likely not be picked this high, but I do predict he will be a fast riser through the draft process. At 6’10 he has the skills of a slashing shooting guard on offense, and a lockdown small forward on defense. That sentence alone should be justifiable for a lottery pick here.
I've always believed Jalen McDaniels should focus on being a wing at the NBA level, and developing his handle is key for that. Excellent display of ball handling here; the between the legs cross leaves Hernandez in the dust pic.twitter.com/3ah1BRvM2b
— Ben Pfeifer (@Ben_Pfeifer_) May 19, 2019
Like Jaden, he is painfully skinny and will need to add a lot of muscle to that skinny frame. Plus, his fundamentals have to get better as well. He is pretty raw as a prospect. But he also plays really hard and had a great showing at the combine last week. This is the type of prospect you take a risk on and most likely will benefit big time for it. I don’t care that he played for a small school. I think he is a lottery talent.
15. Talen Horton-Tucker, Shooting Guard, Iowa State
Horton-Tucker is a very strange prospect as his 6’4, 233 pound frame for a guard makes him very unique. However, he is a very crafty offensive player who can hit 25-footers with ease. Has the ability to also guard forwards with his wide size. A promising role player for a decent team.
16. Kevin Porter Jr., Shooting Guard, USC
Porter Jr. is a boom or bust prospect. He has a great wingspan and plays a lot like James Harden due to his flashiness on the offensive end. However, things did not work out at all at USC which is a huge red flag. He was suspended in the middle of the season for off-the-court reasons. Who knows with this guy.
17. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Guard, Virginia Tech
As it turns out, the cousin of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander plays a lot like him. He can play either the 1 or the 2 as he is has a good jump shot and is already an elite passer. Plus, he is a solid defender. NBA athleticism is just not there for him, however. He could be a steal as a role player, but there is very little star potential with him.
18. Keldon Jonson, Guard/Forward, Kentucky
I really like Johnson’s overall game. However, he finds himself all the way at No. 18 because he just didn’t show enough down the stretch of the season. He projects as a two-way player due to his improved shot and defensive potential. His motor could totally make him the fifth or sixth best player on a championship team.
19. Cam Reddish, Forward, Duke
Wondering where Reddish was at all this time? Well, I think his bust potential greatly out weighs his supposed star potential. He was not a consistent shooter at Duke (check the stats), he was never all that competitive, and he is terrible at finishing at the rim. The frame and shot form are there, but Reddish has a long way to go before he earns Paul George comparisons. Anyways, please enjoy this clip of Anthony Edwards talking with Tyrese Maxey (among others) on how Reddish was the hardest player he ever had to guard (language warning):
Yall keep sleeping on Cam Reddish he continues to fall down draft boards. Culver and Hunter are mentioned ahead of him in most mock drafts ?? you got to be kidding me!! Just listen to the young boys….
Fyi: This is Trendon Watford, Anthony "Ant Man" Edwards and Tyrese Maxey. pic.twitter.com/FlLnhf16UD
— Derik Williams (@coach_srt) May 16, 2019
20. Grant Williams, Power Forward, Tennessee
Williams may admittedly be a bit low here, but he is very undersized for the league at his position which worries me. Some see Draymond Green in him due to his playmaking ability which is enticing. However, he is not as good as a shooter as Green (who isn’t a good shooter for GSW), and Williams is not a great ball-handler. I see him as a high-effort role player off the bench.
21. Bol Bol, Center, Oregon
This may be too high for Bol if I’m being honest. Yes, I know that he can really shoot the ball at 7’2 like Kristaps Porzingis. However, Bol has nowhere near the drive or motor that Porzingis does. Plus, at only 208 pounds his frame is not one that’s built for the NBA. I haven’t even gotten to the serious foot injury he just recently sustained. I think Bol may be a bust, but the potential is worth a top-25 pick here.
22. Romeo Langford, Shooting Guard, Indiana
I’m also not a very big fan of Langford. For a shooting guard, he isn’t very good at the whole “shooting” thing. His length and athleticism are nice, but his defense isn’t there and neither is a consistent motor. Nothing stands out from him other then he got to shoot a lot on a bad team. Hope he proves me wrong, but I see a role player at-best.
23. Naz Reid, Center, LSU
This is my personal reach of this year’s draft. Many scouts have a second round or undrafted grade for Reid which is just crazy to me. While sometimes inconsistent, his skillset as a center who can rebound well and shoot the three ball is very important in today’s game. I think he will be a very solid role player.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 21, 2019
24. Rui Hachimura, Power Forward, Gonzaga
I’m decently low on Rui who reportedly has a promise in the lottery. I just don’t see it. He has average athleticism and is not very good defensively. He has a solid midrange game and could put up solid numbers throughout his career, but I think he is a liability against great NBA teams.
25. Sekou Doumbouya, Forward, Limoges CSP / France (International)
This was one of my toughest evaluations. Sekou will be lottery pick, make no mistake about it. However, nothing really jumps off the page with him. He is “solid” all over the court and has good defensive potential. I think there is very little difference in this draft between picks 10-25 so he got the bad end of the stick. I just think everyone else is better.
26. Matisse Thybulle, Guard, Washington
Thybulle is a very strange prospect. His wingspan for a guard is ungodly which is why he was the best defensive player in the Pac-12 last year. That should translate to the next level pretty well. But man, does his offensive game stink. His maximum potential is an energetic, athletic defender off the bench. There is a lot of improvement to be had here.
27. Tyler Herro, Shooting Guard, Kentucky
Before everyone starts going crazy over me ranking Herro this low, let me make something clear: I think he is a good basketball player! However, I just don’t think he does anything particularly “great.” Yes, that even goes for his shooting. I think he is a good shooter, but his overall consistency needs to improve. The Booker comparisons MUST stop. That’s an injustice to Herro. He needs to improve upon his frame and he needs to work on his ball handling more. He could be very good, but I see him as a serviceable bench player in the league.
28. Daniel Gafford, Center, Arkansas
I actually like Gafford. In fact, I may have him a little low on this list. He would have been a lottery pick last year, but he returned to school only to see Arkansas waste his last season there. He would be higher, but he is still undisciplined on defense. He is also a liability on both ends of the floor outside of the paint. That means he won’t ever get consistent, good playing time until he improves.
The last time Arkansas and Florida met in the SEC Tournament, Daniel Gafford did this ? pic.twitter.com/hzA1UrB6W1
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 14, 2019
29. Admiral Schofield, Forward, Tennessee
Schofield isn’t a first rounder to many scouts, and I can see why. His potential is relatively low. However, his chiseled NBA body is ready to go for the wear and tear of an NBA season. He is a good shooter, but he needs to learn to move without the basketball more. Schofield is a strange fit in any franchise, but he could be a steal with his team-first mentality.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 16, 2019
30. Ty Jerome, Guard, Virginia
We end with one of the biggest stars of March Madness this year. Jerome’s main selling point is that at 6’5 he is able to pass and shoot over smaller defenders. He has a cerebral basketball IQ which translates to any level. However, he doesn’t possess NBA athleticism or quickness which will kill him on one-on-one defense. This is another guy who you cannot justify starting, but he could be valuable off the bench.