Finally, the 2019 NBA Draft is here. Over the past three drafts which I’ve covered scouting prospects, a ton has been learned along the way.
The 2019 draft class is the weakest one I’ve spent a full year covering, but, I can confidently say this was one of the most interesting. To be honest, this is the most confident I’ve felt with my rankings after spending the last six or so months analyzing college prospects on draft radars.
If you missed Lottery Big Board 1.0 and 2.0, check them out here and here. Without further ado, let’s dive into my final board which expands throughout the first round ranked in tiers (separated by horizontal rule).
- Zion Williamson, Big, Duke (-)
This is an easy answer, and it includes a tier below separating everyone else. Zion is the best prospect I’ve ever scouted. He’s going to be an All-Star right away off popularity alone. Williamson will be a nightly 20 and 10 player who also dominates defensively, too.
This shows how big of a gap Williamson has between everyone else in the 2019 draft.
2. Ja Morant, Ball Handler, Murray State (+1)
Others have Barrett or Culver at No. 2, but I’m sticking with Morant here due to his upside as a late bloomer. I’m not worried about his translation to the pros, because his passing ability will still be there if his offense takes time. One league source told me before that he views Morant as a true franchise building block, and wouldn’t deal him for a surefire veteran such as Jrue Holiday or Mike Conley.
3. Jarrett Culver, Ball Handler, Texas Tech (+4)
Surprise, surprise. Culver is ahead of Barrett but he’s also seen a position change for me. No longer labeled a wing, I’m buying completely in on the idea Culver can be a consistently stable secondary ball handler who can also defend primary backcourt scorers. From the Suns’ point of view, Culver would be their own version of Caris LeVert who can comfortably slide on-and-off ball alongside Devin Booker. Outside of Williamson, Culver is the safest pick in the draft.
4. RJ Barrett, Wing, Duke (-2)
I’ve tried to buy in on Barrett as a building block, but his negatives really scare me away from the thought. How do you maximize Barrett? He needs to be a team’s top scoring option, but it will come with inefficient splits. Barrett’s tendancy to get lost on defense coupled with tunnel vision has me believing his rookie year will be rough. If you’re all-in on the Canadian, he has many areas of his game he needs to tweak before reaching sky-high preseason marks.
5. Darius Garland, Ball Handler, Vanderbilt (+7)
Garland was one of my biggest risers, but it wasn’t due to him playing few games. If you go back and watch his high school tape, the scoring flashes stand out like a sore thumb. He can navigate as a pick-and-roll ball handler with some pizazz added in, plus he can pull-up on a dime if you leave any space available. Garland may take a year or two to physically develop more, but he’s really the last prospect in this class who has a good bet of becoming a consistent All-Star.
6. Brandon Clarke, Big, Gonzaga (+9)
One of the tweaks I’ve made myself with scouting is simple: If you’re good at all the little things, you’re going to be rated higher than most. Clarke is one of the most instinctual prospects I’ve looked at, and his innate touch makes him a two-way threat. Clarke’s knack for making mid-range jumpers after overhauling his jumper has me confident that eventually stretch out to the NBA three-point line. If that indeed happens, Clarke is everything you’re looking in a modern four.
7. De’Andre Hunter, Wing, Virginia (+1)
Hunter, who’s another safe prospect, has the length and shooting that Clarke doesn’t but lags behind athletically. Far too often would Hunter be in the right spot, but just lag behind a step or two. This shows up when Hunter is tasked to be a primary handler, which usually leads to turnovers or dribbling it off his own hand. Hunter will be a solid role player on the next level, and I believe his offensive upside is being slept on, but how high is the ceiling? It’s an interesting question, but think of Hunter more as an inverse to T.J. Warren. Hunter’s defense is consistent, but his offense might not be the best stylistically.
8. Jaxson Hayes, Big, Texas (+9)
Hayes along with Clarke were my biggest movers up the board over the past few months. The 7-footer from Texas has eye-popping fluidity for someone his size, plus there seems to be some untapped upside with him handling the ball. Texas is churning out lottery bigs left and right, but Hayes might be the most exciting to enter the league since Myles Turner. However, Hayes fits the mold of a Clint Capela or Jarrett Allen type. Even in that role, Hayes should feast for years to come.
9. Coby White, Ball Handler, North Carolina (NR)
An exciting creator who has a unique blend of dynamic speed and perimeter shooting, White checks plenty of boxes while also standing 6’5”. White is also the best defender of the top three point guards utilizing his size to his advantage. It’s fair to say that White has an upside that could reach similar levels as Jamal Murray, but his floor is worrisome. If his lack of length plagues him, White could become a long-term microwave scorer who might not be able to succeed at that. I’m not as bullish on White, but it’s not hard to envision why the Suns would buy in due to his two-way potential.
10. Cam Reddish, Wing, Duke (-3)
Reddish terrifies me with his fluctuating motor, but his scoring potential will still make him a top-8 selection on Thursday night. How would’ve Reddish’s stock gone had he ran his own team? Who knows, but what he flashed at Duke wasn’t promising. His steal rate is promising, but his inability to finish should cause concern. On the next level, Reddish might be a secondary ball handler who spots up when the ball is fired his way. There’s too many red flags for Reddish that I wouldn’t have seen when I first began scouting in-depth (ex: Josh Jackson), but he remains in my top 10 off potential alone. Grading what you see on tape versus grading ceilings and floors is a balancing act for sure.
11. Grant Williams, Big, Tennessee (NR)
Williams was one of the funnest prospects to watch for me personally, because he never really made many mistakes plus always contributed on both ends. Eerily similar to Mikal Bridges in this sense, Williams is one of the smartest on-court players I’ve looked over. If he’s able to stretch his shooting range out, Williams sets up as one of the best fits in the draft alongside Deandre Ayton. If he’s on the board at No. 32, which is definitely possible, don’t be surprised if the Suns run up the card in that scenario. Hard-working and unselfish basketball have helped make Williams into a prospect I’d confidently make a surefire bet on to succeed.
12. Sekou Doumboya, Wing, Limoges CSP / France (+1)
Pascal Siakam is going to turn into the new Draymond Green we try to find archetypes for. This is the case right here with Doumboya. The 18-year-old flashes the necessary tools to become a Swiss Army knife forward, but they come and go. Doumboya is a very fluid athlete who can run the court in transition, plus space the floor in half court sets. He also possesses the length to drive by defenders and slam it, too. Another bet on upside with this prospect, but it could pay huge dividends for whoever lands him. He’s improved probably more than other wings in the 10-15 range.
13. Tyler Herro, Ball Handler, Kentucky (NR)
Herro has way more untapped potential than many are giving him credit for. As you can tell, I’m not ranking him as a wing but as a secondary ball handler. Herro is a lights-out shooter, but also can operate out of the pick-and-roll and fire precise looks to the corners. The length concerns are obvious, but the shooting and playmaking outweigh it. Herro already has a clear-cut role as a spacer off the bench. The thing is, he could turn into much more.
14. Goga Bitadze, Big, Mega Bemax (NR)
I got around to watching Bitadze later in the process, but I definitely wasn’t disappointed with the results. Bitadze is way more fluid athletically than I gave him credit for beforehand, understanding how to use it as a rim protector or scorer with either hand. The offensive repertoire is appealing, and it could lead to early success driving or spotting up. Depending on how he’s able to cover NBA wings in switch situations, Bitadze has the potential to wind up as one of the five best players in this draft class when it’s time to reassess. Bitadze will fill an immediate need as a score-first big man who can develop into a steady rim protecting presence as well.
15. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Ball Handler, Virginia Tech
If it weren’t for his struggles finishing around the rim, Alexander-Walker would probably be rated in my lottery. However, there’s still plenty to love about NAW. Not only can he do well as an off-ball guard, but also capable of handling the primary load. Smart passer who doesn’t make many mistakes, especially flashes well in the PnR. There’s a chance NAW ends up the best two-way guard, maybe like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on a smaller level.
16. Nassir Little, Wing, North Carolina (-12)
What a disappointing year this was for Little. After watching Little before North Carolina, I was all the way in on the thought he was the prototypical modern-day wing. Well, I was wrong. The shooting didn’t translate and he was unable to really adjust well within North Carolina’s system. Little doubled the amount of turnovers he had to assist in a sub-20 minute per game role. The bust factor looms large with Little, but he has the intangibles to succeed in the right environment. Team more so than draft position might matter most for Little’s long-term success. For example, if he lands in a culture like Miami, that’s an ideal scenario to tap the All-Star upside back out of him.
17. PJ Washington, Big, Kentucky
Washington’s ever-improving shooting has helped me feel more confident in becoming a true stretch-four who can also guard bigs. During his sophomore campaign, Washington continued to flash three-level scoring while handling the primary role well. I like the idea of Washington stepping into a No. 4 role who can do all the intangible stuff, especially with teams like Miami, Boston or San Antonio.
18. Romeo Langford, Wing, Indiana (-8)
Langford was one of the smoothest scorers on the high school level in Indiana, but his adjustment to playing off others was a very worrisome trait. The ball-stopping manner Langford played with was head-scratching, and many teammates seemed to know they wouldn’t get the ball once it landed in his hands. Langford also doesn’t seem to enjoy playing off the ball, needing the ball to really create any sort of offensive momentum. Even though the red flags shine brightly, it’s tough to bet against Langford after what I saw for four years in Indiana. Langford has the frame to adjust on the next level along with the ability to knife through traffic and finish at the rim. The mixed bag campaign in Bloomington led to a disappointing slide out of the lottery for Langford.
19. Chuma Okeke, Big, Auburn
Even with the torn ACL, Okeke is a prospect I’m willing to confidently bet on. Physically, Okeke will be able to cover 3-5 on the next level, in my opinion. Okeke’s switch-ability along with his smooth three-point shooting mechanics at plus-38 percent leads me to believe he’s going to be a successful long-term role player. Okeke fits the mold of Robert Covington, stick him on the opposing team’s top wing/big scorer. If it weren’t for the injury during March Madness, Okeke might have big buzz as a late riser.
20. Nicolas Claxton, Big, Georgia
Claxton was one of the last prospects I watched. Not expecting much when I turned on the first game, the intrigue continuously rose in how he will be best optimized. Claxton has a handle, can rim protect, switch onto wings and also stretch the floor. I won’t be shocked if Claxton goes in the lottery, because he checks almost every box teams in need of modern bigs covet. Claxton is capable of finishing around the rim with both hands, but the most exciting parts of his game revolve around defense. There’s a chance Claxton turns into a hyper-active 5-man who can confidently guard three or four, maybe even five positions on the court with his well above-average fluidity.
21. Matisse Thybulle, Wing, Washington
Thybulle is a pitbull-like defender who excels in almost every facet. He can anticipate reads well both on-and-off ball along with patrolling the perimeter calling out reads/switches for others. With a 7-foot wingspan, Thybulle is projected to guard all primary scoring positions 1-3. Thybulle will end up on a contending team, which is the best outcome for him. His winning traits are obvious when you turn on Washington film, always diving for loose balls or scrapping through screens and box-outs.
22. Bol Bol, Big, Oregon (-13)
What a wildcard Bol is, it’s hard to fathom what exactly his maximum ceiling and floor will be with NBA athletes and spacing. When healthy, Bol looked like a top-five pick with Kristaps Porzingis-esque stat lines and production. The reason why he’s ranked so low to me is due to his major injury concerns. With a frail frame for someone who will be a full-time big, Bol has already struggled with lower extremity injuries in a small sample size at Oregon. Will he be able to consistently survive an 82-game schedule? I have major doubts.
23. Cameron Johnson, Wing, North Carolina
Plug and play on really any team similar to Thybulle, but this time it’s the offensive version. Johnson is a sharpshooter from deep at a 45-percent clip. Johnson can relocate off screens with the best of them with a quick trigger. Even though he lacks the tools to be a starter, Johnson projects as a 15-20 minute per game role player immediately. Whoever needs shooting, Johnson will provide it in spades.
24. Kevin Porter Jr., Ball Handler, USC (-18)
You are probably asking why KPJ is so low. The answer relates to his character concerns. I spoke with a league source in March who said Porter Jr.’s red flags are the ‘brightest’ seen in his years scouting prospects. That’s a worrisome thought, especially from someone I trust. But even on the court, KPJ seems more flash than results. He has a great handle and could be a super versatile guard defender, but the effort isn’t there. Maturity and translation to the next level are the biggest concerns with KPJ, which causes the biggest slide on my board. It seems like this thought is well-known around the Association, too.
25. Talen Horton-Tucker, Wing, Iowa State
THT is another interesting name due to his measurables. Standing at 6’4” with a 7’1.5” wingspan (!!!), Horton-Tucker is the youngest prospect in the draft who also produced consistently against Big 12 talent. THT is an above-average rebounder, passer and scorer in spot-up situations, which bodes well for his skills to translate even with youth against him. If there is a long-term plan to reform aspects of his offensive profile, Horton-Tucker will become a mainstay two-way wing.
26. Rui Hachimura, Big, Gonzaga (-12)
Hachimura proved to be the less superior Gonzaga prospect because of Clarke’s rise, but I still won’t be shocked if he ends up in the lottery even with my lower rating. His feel right now is very raw, missing reads continuously and also blowing switches on defense. Hachimura is DeMarcus Cousins defending pick-and-rolls, being abused and targeted often. The scoring upside is definitely on the table with Hachimura, but will he able to catch up on the opposite end? He’s in the early stages of his development, so environment will matter more than draft spot for the Japanese forward.
27. Keldon Johnson, Wing, Kentucky (-16)
Johnson was ranked as the top Kentucky prospect early on, but was usurped by Herro and Washington. The 3-and-D upside is there with Johnson, but he’s far too inconsistent. Against bigger competition, Johnson tended to struggle finishing through contact and also is slow off the ball. For a defense-first prospect, that’s not a good sign long-term. Johnson will have to continue to improve his perimeter shooting ability to stick with too many red flags popping up, in my opinion.
28. Ty Jerome, Ball Handler, Virginia
Jerome isn’t an athletic specimen, of course, but his instincts definitely make up for it. Virginia’s on-court leader shot 40 percent on 3s who is capable of making them off the catch and spotting up. Jerome is a savvy pick-and-roll creator who flashes high creation upside as a backup point guard. There’s not many better bets in this class than saying Jerome will carve out a niche for himself somewhere as a long-term rotation piece, similarly to T.J. McConnell.
29. Dylan Windler, Wing, Belmont
Winder is an absolute sharpshooter who can also make the correct reads at almost all times. An experienced prospect, Windler knows where to get to for his best shot opportunities whether it’s cutting or pulling off smooth footwork to create separation. Windler possesses all the tools to be a successful stretch-four. For someone his size, the Belmont product has plenty of surprising tricks in his bag related to scoring combos. He’s going to thrive within a competitive environment somewhere in the late first-round.
30. Luguentz Dort, Ball Handler, Arizona State (-14)
When I first watched Dort in early November, he reminded me of Marcus Smart physically. Dort will definitely be able to hold his own against NBA-caliber athletes, but his awareness on both ends has to improve incrementally. The Canadian can bully his way to the rim against smaller defenders, but his iffy jump shot leads to concern about how successful his scoring will be. If Dort is only a cutter who can guard multiple positions, who is he? That’s a first-round talent, but, again, he needs to find the best environment to develop within. As you can tell, that’s a familiar theme with the 2019 draft class outside the top few tiers.
Next In: Eric Paschall, Wing, Villanova; Mfiondu Kabengele, Big, Florida State; Zylan Cheatham, Big, Arizona State; Jontay Porter, Big, Missouri; Carsen Edwards, Ball Handler, Purdue
Well, that does it for Lottery Big Board 3.0 and locks in my final positions for the prospects I’ve covered all year. If you have any questions, feel free to write them in the comments section below or tweet me @esidery.