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My 2019 NBA Draft Big Board, Part 1: Trying to find value in the back half of the class

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The 2019 NBA Draft has to be frustrating for teams hoping to improve dramatically, but that also makes it pretty interesting to analyze.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional-Purdue vs Tennessee Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

All season, I tried to convince myself the 2019 NBA Draft class wasn’t as bad as everyone was saying. After Zion Williamson showed us what was up against Kentucky in the season-opener, that added one more can’t-miss prospect to the class, and it looked promising. The problem is no one else actually rose to that level, to the point that a relatively anonymous mid-major point guard became the consensus No. 2 prospect and Williamson’s own Duke teammates couldn’t even maintain their high stock.

This class has one sure-thing superstar. That fact, coupled with a bizarre lottery night, screwed up years of planning for teams at the top. We’ve already seen that mess manifest in trades by Brooklyn and and Utah, giving up picks to improve their roster now. Atlanta and Boston seem desperate to solidify the three first-rounders each has in order to get a top-end talent rather than three question marks. Phoenix and Chicago got thrown off course by falling three slots each. The movement and frustration all signifies a sense of agreement around the league that this class simply doesn’t have it.

That said, as with any year, the 100 or so amateurs who will file into the NBA and G League from this class will produce plenty of solid value. The 2013 draft, which we all love to point to as the worst in recent history, still produced plenty of role players in the first round, though the back half of the draft is scary to look at now. Back in 2000, another relatively weak class, churned out another dozen or so solid role players.

Considering Williamson’s pedigree and the fact that I believe the players from 12-26 represent a better group of potential role players than the guys taken in 2013, this year’s draft is unlikely to fall quite to the lows of 2000 or 2013. That said, the group I have ranked from 30-60, which we will cover today, appears unlikely to produce more than a handful of above-average starters. It is, however, stocked full of potentially useful two-way wings and skilled big men, two of the most coveted positional archetypes in the NBA.

As a disclaimer before the list begins, note that I am not particularly familiar with the international crop outside the top four or five guys, which is why you will not see players like Yovel Zoosman or Adam Mokoka on this list.

60. Jordan Bone, G, Tennessee

Bone has to be considered one of the 10 best raw athletes in this class, finishing the lane agility drill at the draft combine in fewer than 10 seconds and surpassing the max vertical leap of good athletes like Brandon Clarke and Luguentz Dort. It’s an open question whether Bone can make plays at the NBA level on offense, but he’s worth a look.

59. Jalen McDaniels, F, San Diego State

McDaniels, thought to be a possible 3-and-D project, looked unimpressive at the combine despite already being 6-10 and 21 years old.

58. Tremont Waters, G, LSU

Another tremendous athlete who shot over 50 percent from 2 this year and showed nice creation for his teammates during the Tigers’ NCAA tournament run.

57. Sagaba Konate, C, West Virginia

All of Mountaineer nation seemed to turn against Konate after he returned for his junior season, injured his knee after eight games, then sat the remainder of the year so as to not worsen the injury. A massive question mark, but still a great athlete with functional strength who blocked over 15 percent of opponents’ shots during his first two seasons at WVU.

56. Jalen Lecque, G, Brewster Academy HS

Our final “tiny, athletic guard who might not be able to handle NBA decision-making” guy, though Lecque gets a tiny bump here because he just turned 19 and has never played past the high school level, giving him higher upside than the older Bone and Waters. Even among college veterans, Lecque’s athleticism showed out at the combine.

55. Ignas Brazdeikis, F, Michigan

I see Brazdeikis as nothing more than a shooter and ball-mover, and his athleticism and functional skill may not be good enough to cut it in the NBA. He looked atrocious at the combine, and his stock took a major hit as a result. Brazdeikis is also 20 years old already, despite being technically a freshman at Michigan.

54. Miye Oni, F, Yale

Oni didn’t do too well for himself in Yale’s one NCAA tournament game, but he is 6-6 with a 6-11 wingspan. He spoke honestly about his game after a workout in Phoenix that he wants to commit to defense at the next level and believes he can defend 1-4 based on his success in workouts throughout the pre-draft process.

53. Eric Paschall, F/C, Villanova

Another potential 3-and-D prospect whose functional athleticism and skill is hard for me to buy into. Feels weird betting against a Villanova guy after the early-career success of their lower-tier prospects like Ryan Arcidiacono and Omari Spellman, but it’s hard to know what Pascall will be good at in the NBA.

52. Naz Reid, F/C, LSU

I’m fairly high on Reid’s functional strength and shot creation for himself and his teammates out of the high post, a skill set that could lend itself to development in the short roll or as a diver in the high pick-and-roll, but the freshman is a subpar athlete and will need to see his shooting, passing, and rebounding all translate at a high level to make it as a smaller big.

51. Zylan Cheatham, F/C, Arizona State

Cheatham is a legit athlete with slightly above-average feel, but the Draymond Green comparisons aren’t fair. Few see the game like Green does, and Cheatham at age 23 still isn’t anywhere near an elite help defender or playmaker, and his shot looks a long way off.

50. Cody Martin, G, Nevada

Guys like this have unexpectedly long NBA careers all the time. It helps that Martin is 6-7 and could be built into a versatile defender thanks to his decent foot speed and 6-10 wingspan, but he only had one year of good shooting in college.

49. Luka Samanic, F/C, Croatia

Samanic checks all the boxes to provide value at a high level based on how the European game is played. He can move the ball intelligently, operate comfortably in space, and make open 3s. However, he was just 27/80 (34 percent) on threes this season and struggled with turnovers. He looked great finishing inside with touch and strength at the combine and sat out Day Two as a result. Most see him as a first-round pick thanks to his showing in Chicago.

48. Louis King, F, Oregon

After a knee surgery robbed us of seeing King play with presumptive first-round pick Bol Bol, the Ducks took on a defensive identity led in large part by King.

“Me playing the 2 on shorter guards, that was more of the key of our four-game stretch in the Pac-12 tournament,” he said at the combine. That versatility will help him in the NBA if he can make it work on offense.

47. KZ Okpala, F, Stanford

A pure bet on size and spot-up shooting ability, Okpala could easily find a career as an end-of-bench depth piece, but lacks the shot creation and athletic upside to imagine him as anything close to a starter.

46. Isaiah Roby, F, Nebraska

With his functional strength and potential to make spot-up corner 3s, Roby has the outline of a small-ball 4, but has a long way to go. The combine was deep with solid forward prospects and Roby held his own physically and was accurate on a few open shots.

45. John Konchar, G, Purdue-Fort Wayne

Konchar shot 41 percent from deep over four seasons in college and added steal and block rates each at 3 percent, making him a darling of statistical models. Konchar, however, gave one of the most bizarre quotes from any of the dozens of prospects I spoke with during the pre-draft process when he said his top role models in the NBA are Pat Connaughton and Kirk Hinrich. Maybe shoot a little higher, dude.

44. Mfiondu Kabengele, F/C, Florida State

Hard to bet on someone who feels the game so poorly. Kabengele reminds me of early-career, out-of-control Serge Ibaka, but perhaps with a better chance of becoming a shooter. The other problem is Kabengele is about to turn 22.

43. Simi Shittu, F/C, Vanderbilt

Shittu came along slowly after tearing his ACL in early 2018, but emerged as Vanderbilt’s best playmaker after Darius Garland went down. He has the potential to be an elite passer in the short roll, has the functional strength, length and athleticism to defend big men, and could one day space the floor.

42. Darius Bazley, F, Princeton High School

Read my thoughts on Bazley here.

41. Alen Smailagic, F/C, G League

This 19-year-old competed at one of the highest levels of competition in the world as a G Leaguer this year for the Santa Cruz Warriors. He’s a quick post scorer with above-average footwork who can stretch to midrange effectively, though he’s right-hand dominant. Defensively, he has the length and mobility to be effective in drop coverage in the right situation, as well as fairly functional fluid athleticism.

40. Terence Davis, G/F, Ole Miss

Davis looked athletically superior to almost anyone on the floor at the combine, but his shot is erratic. Still, it’s easy to bet on someone who had a steal rate over 3 percent and block rate over 2 percent, as second-round picks like De’Anthony Melton and Kenrich Williams proved as rookies this year.

39. Jaylen Nowell, G, Washington

Nowell is an elite spot-up shooter who made 44 percent of his threes from NBA distance this season as a sophomore. His high-level touch from floater- and mid-range make him a good bet to be an effective bench scorer in the NBA, while his size and instincts as a team defender and passer open up a ceiling to be much more.

38. Admiral Schofield, G/F, Tennessee

Easy to bet on a high-level intangible guy who improved every year, can defend three positions, stretch the floor, lock down in man-to-man defense, and contribute on the glass.

37. Carsen Edwards, G, Purdue

It’s fascinating to imagine Edwards within NBA-level spacing and a defense that can hide him, but those situations are rare. Only Dallas, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and maybe a few others could offer it to him. You can’t deny Edwards’ elite shooting and shot creation.

36. Deividas Sirvydis, F, Lithuania

An elite shooter with size with a supremely versatile jumper. Sirvydis projects to be able to make contested jumpers on the move at the forward spot, something only a handful of NBA players can say. He shot 36 percent overseas this year, including 19/41 (46 percent) in the Eurocup tournament.

35. Shamorie Ponds, G, St. John’s

Can’t say I’m thrilled with Ponds’ decision-making, but when you watch his second-leading scorer miss double-digit shot attempts in the First Four of the NCAA tournament, it’s tough to blame the man. Ponds can legitimately make pull-up 3s from NBA range and shot 59 percent at the rim this year. He’s also an elite steals guy defensively despite a 6-4 wingspan.

34. Jontay Porter, F/C, Missouri

Read my thoughts on Porter here.

33. Dylan Windler, F, Belmont

Not an elite athlete by any means, Windler still projects to add considerable value, including in the playoffs, as a shooter. He can stretch the defense to nearly 30 feet with his elite range and is also smart moving off-ball to keep the defense honest and create points in the halfcourt. Windler figures to chip in as a rebounder as well — think of him like a poor man’s Nikola Mirotic.

32. Luguentz Dort, G/F, Arizona State

Read my thoughts on Dort (and Cheatham) here.

If Dort can become a league-average or just below three-point shooter and simply learn to be a solid ball-mover and decision-maker, he will be able to stay on the court and provide value as a potentially elite multi-position defender.

31. Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas

The best athlete of any traditional center in this class, Gafford is unlikely to play in the playoffs but could start games in the regular season, as he has enough post mojo to score against mismatches and protects the rim at a high level. You probably don’t want to take a so-called 82-game player in the first round, but Gafford has a high floor as a likely rotation contributor for a long time.

Check back tomorrow for Nos. 30-1 as we gear up for the draft at 4:30 p.m. PT.