The 2019 NBA Draft doesn’t look as deep as 2018, but there’s plenty of solid prospects this year. To celebrate the start of the college basketball season, here are our top 100 prospects to watch for the coming year.
The 2019 college basketball season is about to begin, and that means that it’s time to get 2019 NBA Draft coverage underway. Over the past few weeks, we have been putting out detailed scouting reports of the top five prospects in the class, which can be found below, and now it’s time to introduce you to the rest of the class, with a top 100 big board of players to watch this coming season.
Initial thoughts on the class
2019’s NBA Draft class doesn’t have the loaded top tier of one-and-done players that has been the hallmark of recent drafts. 2018 obviously had as many as six players who looked like potential franchise-changers, and 2017’s lead guard class was hailed as one of the best we’d ever seen. Even the weak 2016’s top looked pretty strong, with Dragan Bender, Jamal Murray, and Jaylen Brown supplementing the top tier of Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram.
Instead, this year has a top five that somewhat pales in comparison to year’s past, with no clear number one prospect. An argument can be made for any of R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, or Nassir Little as the top guy, but it’s hard for me to make a solid case that any of them grade out better than Deandre Ayton, who was ranked fourth on our final 2018 Big Board. Barrett and Little look like the best shots at becoming primary scorers but showed enough holes in high school to doubt both. Williamson is supremely athletic but needs to demonstrate consistent value on both ends still. Someone will separate themselves, but it’s hard to determine exactly who that will be.
Complicating matters is that there’s a significant drop-off between the top five and the rest of the class. There’s always potential for breakout campaigns and dark horses, but right now there’s not much to get excited about if you’re picking in the back half of the lottery.
As far as the stock market of player types goes, this is another class like 2017, with a lot of middling-to-good big men. There are some potentially valuable centers in the No. 8-20 range, headlined by Jontay Porter and Sekou Doumbouya, the class’s best international prospect. Grading in a vacuum, though, the class quickly becomes center-heavy, and there just aren’t roster spots for them. How a player like Segaba Konate or Charles Bassey blooming is valued is going to be an interesting question.
Meanwhile, the wing depth is pretty decent, with emphasis on defensive talent later on. There are some solid bets as impactful two-way wings here, headlined by Virginia’s DeAndre Hunter, and masked later down the board in guys like Penn State’s Josh Reaves and Oregon’s Louis King. Where things get interesting is at point guard, where there is the combination of a lack of top-level talent and exciting depth. I have one point guard in the top 10 and four in the top 30, and I’m relatively down on guys like Immanuel Quickley of Kentucky and Andrew Nembhard of Florida that are coming in as well. It’s a bad year to be Phoenix and have a desperate need at the point.
The international class doesn’t have a Doncic, or even a Dzanan Musa, but it’s a deep one that could see a lot of draft-and-stash options late in the draft. Doumbouya leads the way, but interesting potential secondary options like Zoran Paunovic and Luka Samanic also deserve first-round consideration. A very raw but exciting 2000 international class also deepens the intrigue. It’s unlikely that many of them come out, but if someone like Vrenz Bleijenbergh or Deividas Sirvydas blooms, they could join more established options like Dino Radoncic or Yovel Zoosman here. Many of the players who could swing this class in the positive direction might be playing in Europe right now.
A bit of disclosure — overall, this was one of the hardest classes in recent years to get a good read on. The lower level of talent skews the rankings, so there seems to be a much larger range of potential prospects that could find their way into the first round this season. There are bound to be a lot of changes between now and the beginning of December after we’ve seen these freshmen in action and the returning prospects in their new settings. There’s bound to be more than a few Nick Richards’s or Trevon Duvall’s that start off high and crater, and probably a fair amount of risers like Jerome Robinson. So, we’re expanding our preseason Big Board from our usual 60 to a top 100, separated out into tiers, to cast our net further and get eyes on more prospects at the start of the year.
This group is clearly set ahead of the rest of the class. Barrett, Little, and Williamson are the safest bets to become high-level rotation players, while Reddish and Bol’s ceilings are too high not to include. The biggest debate I had was Zion vs. Reddish at No. 3 — Zion’s baseline due to his athleticism is higher, but I think Reddish’s skill set is more inherently valuable. It’ll be interesting to see how well the two teammates progress at Duke.
Hunter surprised by returning to school last year, and looks poised to benefit from it. He might be this draft’s best perimeter defender, and he’s developing as an off-ball scorer as well.
Doumbouya is an athletic energy big who is showing development as a ball-handler for Limoges in Eurocup. He’s this year’s best international prospect.
Johnson has shown flashes of a variety of offensive skills, and has the size and athleticism to be a strong two-way complimentary wing. He needs to prove he can take charge at Kentucky to elevate himself to the level of the class’s top tier.
This group feels safe to become rotation players thanks to their skill sets. Hunter and Johnson look like pretty safe bets as two-way wings, while Doumbouya might have a future as a playmaking four. The star upside stops at pick five, though, as it’s hard to see a path to any of these three becoming top-three players on a good team. This draft board is about safety this year, though, and that’s why I have this group slightly ahead of Tier 3.
A great open-court scorer with high level shooting potential, White can be erratic, but is the best scoring point guard in a class that’s very weak in that regard.
Coming off an ACL tear, we will have to see if Shittu’s athleticism is where it was before. If so, he’s an interesting fit as a rim-protecting small-ball five.
Garland’s comfort in the pick-and-roll and useful defense help him play bigger than his size. He needs to overcome shooting concerns, but should be able to show value in a weak point guard class.
Grimes has athletic talent, but doesn’t appear to have the foundation to put it to use. Can he show enough skill at Kansas, or will NBA teams be drafting more for potential?
It’s not a high ceiling, but Gafford appears ready to be an NBA-level rim runner and interior defender, and fortunately for him that should go far in this class.
Jones is likely to get overshadowed at Duke, but he’s the best passer in the freshman class outside of Barrett and has similar defensive skill to his brother, current Timberwolf Tyus.
One of the freshman class’s best shooters, Langford’s task this year is to prove he can create with the ball, for the sake of his NBA role and Indiana’s Big Ten hopes.
PF, Wake Forest
Hoard is a difficult player to evaluate. On one hand, he has some strong switching potential on defense and is a solid passer. On the other, he fails in some fundamental skill assessments, particularly finishing. He’s an important player to watch early on.
Tillie is a stretch-4 with one of the best jumpers in the class. If he adds strength and shows advancement as an interior defender, he could be a lottery pick.
SG, Penn State
An athletic 4 with ball-handling skill and great footwork, Reid needs to prove defensive viability to survive at the next level.
Roby is a big-time breakout candidate who projects as a weakside rim protector and pick-and-pop big with some handling ability. If he can turn last year’s flashes into a productive season as Nebraska’s go-to guy, he might threaten the lottery.
This group has some higher upside but also lower most likely outcomes. There’s some star potential in this group, headlined by Draft Twitter favorite Jontay Porter and Quentin Grimes, but each comes with some risk. I’m not worried about Porter’s ACL tear affecting his NBA trajectory, and even if he likely comes back for another season in college because of it, he’ll stay around this spot due to the confidence his freshman performance gives. Of the group, White and Roby are the likely players to make a leap into the next tier currently.
PF, San Diego State
McDaniels thrills with his athleticism and rebounding, and is a pretty good team defender, but he’s a work in progress on offense.
C, West Virginia
Konate isn’t tall, but he has impressive length and makes even better use of it as a rim protector. We’ll see how he does with more offensive responsibility this year.
SG, Texas Tech
Culver has some exciting playmaking skills and should have a breakout season, but his efficiency is a question with no Zhaire Smith and Keenan Evans to play off of.
Wilkes is interesting due to his scoring potential at the 3 but needs significant athletic development to make a leap this year.
SG, FMP Beograd
Paunovic shows some interesting playmaking talent from the 2 and is extremely young. How he develops as a secondary pick-and-roll threat will be interesting this season.
Washington struggled last year, but a new Kentucky roster means a more ideal setting for his playmaking and rebounding ability.
PF, Olimpija Ljubljana
A skilled passer, interesting ballhandler, and engaging defender, Samanic’s potential as a stretch 4 should put him in the conversation for the first round.
Dosunmo might surprise some this year at the point thanks to his positional size and transition ability. His team will be bad, but he’s an interesting player archetype.
C, Western Kentucky
Bassey spurned several major programs for WKU. Can he prove himself by dominating at the mid-major level? And if not, will that warp our perception of him?
A cocktail of interesting returning college players, strong international prospects, and this class’s two most interesting freshmen. Bassey should put up numbers in Conference USA, but he is very raw and plays center, so it’s hard to rank him much higher than this. Meanwhile, Dosunmo might be the best defensive point guard in the class, and I’m optimistic about his development, which is why I have him much higher than average. Wilkes, Culver, and Washington are all flawed prospects that have the opportunity to solidify their standing with a strong season.
C, Mega Bemax
A massive Georgian center, Bitadze has shown flashes as a shooter and is one of Europe’s better young defensive bigs.
King is another forward in this class with the tools to succeed, but who struggles with decision-making and anticipation. He’ll need to develop there to be a first-rounder.
SG, Kansas State
Wade’s perimeter defense is a rare find in this class, and he’s a decent shooter, too. With a breakout, he could be a solid value this year.
Age and agility concerns dog Udoka, but he’s an intimidating shot-blocker and rebounder inside who could have value on the bench in the NBA.
SG, Georgia State
Simonds is one of the better athletes in college basketball and shows some potential as a secondary creator. He’s a dark horse lottery pick if he improves as a shooter.
Jones is one of the best stories in college basketball, having come back from leukemia and a foot fracture. If healthy, he’s a decent bet as a potential reserve guard in the NBA.
Norvell looked the part as a freshman at Gonzaga. Now we need to see if he can take a step forward in his sophomore season.
SF, New Balance
Bazley wasn’t super promising before he decided to forego college and train for the draft. Now, he’s the draft’s biggest mystery, both in terms of development and how teams rate him.
Hachimura is a skilled rebounder and team defender, but he’s also one of college basketball’s worst perimeter players, and he’ll need skill there to stick.
SG, Murray State
Morant has an interesting profile as an offensive player, but he needs to take the next step as a decision-maker to solidify his draft stock.
SF, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Zoosman thrilled at the U20 European Championships, and has been strong for Maccabi Tel Aviv early on. He’s older, but could some day be an NBA level defender at the three.
Rackocevic is a good finisher and rebounder, and probably has some value as a bench big if there’s a spot for him in the league.
He plays in a 2-3 zone, but his defensive talent is still worth keeping an eye on. If he shows offensive improvement, Thybulle is likely to be a first round pick.
Bane showed efficiency as a complimentary shooter and has NBA-level athleticism. Can he show enough skill development to get himself drafted?
Last year’s NCAA Tournament heroics have many interested in what Poole can do as a lead guard for Michigan’s NBA-style system.
Like Poole, Cumberland is looking to show he’s capable in a larger role after a strong season as a role player at Cincinnati.
Jerome has proven to be a great off-ball shooter and defender, but he needs more on ball skill to survive at his size in the NBA.
Lawson’s scoring and rebounding were promising at Memphis, but he isn’t athletic enough to survive on defense. Can he show growth as an offensive player at Kansas?
PF, Real Madrid
Luka Doncic wasn’t the only prospect on Real Madrid last year. Radoncic’s size and fluidity on the defensive end could make him an interesting small-ball four in the NBA.
I’m not super thrilled by anyone here yet, but this is the group I’d deem as traditional second-round level prospects so far. Of this group, Bitadze, King, and Wade seem like the best fits to become NBA players. Jones and Zoosman are at least fun to watch, and Bane and Thybulle are just weird enough to gain traction. I have no idea what to do with Darius Bazley.
This group is the net-casting group. This is the group that I either don’t have a ton of faith in, haven’t scouted fully, or don’t have a good grasp of their potential with. But still, these are all names that could show up on draft boards in June, so it’s important to get eyes on them.