NBA, NBA Draft

The Step Back 2019 NBA Draft Big Board: February Update

With conference play in motion, our updated draft board shows who is rising and falling in terms of NBA potential in the 2019 NBA Draft class.

The 2019 NBA Draft is now about four months away, and NCAA conference play is helping scouts identify the players who could follow up the top players that we have been excited about since August. Conference matchups have allowed us to see elite prospects against good NCAA competition, and have helped to suss out differences between similar prospects within the same conference. The big stage of March Madness looms, and while that is hailed as the proving ground where players can make or break their draft stock, this period is arguably more important for draft evaluation, giving us insight into the consistency and execution that will be important next year when the players are playing 82 games instead of 35. It’s nice to see Zion Williamson play De’Andre Hunter and Virginia, but making sure he brings it on a random Monday against a bad Notre Dame team is important, too.

The biggest updates since our last ranking have to do once again with injuries, as this year’s Draft crop has been marred by them. Bol Bol is now out for the season with a foot fracture, joining Darius Garland and Jontay Porter as potential top-ten picks on the shelf, and Sekou Doumbouya is still out with a thumb sprain over in France. However, more importantly, there was good news on this front – Kevin Porter (quad), Killian Tillie (ankle), Louis King (knee), and Tre Jones (shoulder) are all back in action and should be healthy for the home stretch. Porter in particular already looks fully functional, exciting news for the potential lottery prospect.

Below you will find our top 60 prospects to this point, broken into six tiers. Explanations for some of our biggest risers and droppers are provided, as well as some scouting nuggets on some players we haven’t touched on in depth yet.

Tier 1 — Potential Franchise-Changer

Zion Williamson

PF, Duke

Williamson is an athletic freak with a rare combination of ball-handling skill and size. He’s a little short to play the four, but he should be a comfortable driving scorer at the NBA level. For more on Williamson, click here.

Williamson has a 3-point lead on every college basketball player since 2010-11 in Box Plus-Minus. He also hit 8-of-20 from 3 in January, and still provides at least one jaw-dropping athletic achievement per game. If anyone else is in the conversation for number one for you at this point, I would like to reiterate Jackson Hoy of the Stepien’s recommendation that you continue doing research on Zion. He’s in the Karl-Anthony Towns/Anthony Davis tier of elite prospects.

Tier 2 — Solid franchise building blocks with slim star potential

R.J. Barrett

SF, Duke

Barrett hasn’t looked the best at Duke, but it’s hard to ignore how easily scoring comes to him. When paired with his high school tape, it paints the picture of a future star. For more on Barrett, click here.

Jarrett Culver

SG, Texas Tech

Culver has some exciting playmaking skills and is having a breakout year. His shot diversity and defensive utility should earn him an easy rotation spot, giving him one of the highest floors in the class.

A tough decision given that Culver hits more qualifiers that likely matter in terms of becoming a quality rotation place, as he has versatility playing off ball, is a better finisher and is an infinitely better defender. But he also just shot 7-of-32 from 3 in January, and while Barrett’s not perfect in either aspect, he’s a much better shooting prospect and is the better passer, and just seems to be much more comfortable as a go-to guy on offense. He keeps the two-spot for now, but Culver’s burgeoning pick-and-roll passing and continued defensive excellence could easily be argued ahead of him. Either way, these are the other two players I feel very confident in as probable starters regardless of most possible team contexts.

Tier 3 — Home run swings and likely solid role players

Bol Bol

C, Oregon

On some possessions, Bol looks like the best player in the draft. On others, he looks like he doesn’t belong on the floor in a Power 5 conference. With Bol out for the year with a foot injury, the Combine is very important for him. For more on Bol, click here.

Cameron Reddish

SG, Duke

Reddish is the best shooting prospect in the top tiers of this year’s class, and has the tools to potentially be elite on high volume from three. His defensive progression shown at Duke is also promising. For more on Reddish, click here.

Coby White

PG, UNC

A great open-court scorer with high level shooting potential, White can be erratic, but has star potential if he can reign his high-octane game in. For more on White, click here.

Jontay Porter

C, Missouri

Porter will miss the year with an ACL tear, but he should be ready for the start of next season and his value wasn’t predicated on athleticism anyway. He has the best feel in the class and seems like a lock to become a solid pick-and-pop big. For more on Porter, click here.

Ja Morant

PG, Murray State

Morant has an interesting profile as an offensive player, and he appears to be taking the next step as a decision-maker.

Darius Garland

PG, Vanderbilt

Garland will miss the rest of the year with a meniscus injury, but he could be the best point guard in the class despite his size. For more on Garland, click here.

Let’s talk point guards, given that my rankings differ from pretty much everywhere. Morant has been a massive riser throughout the season, sitting in many top fives, and he has risen six spots from our last update. He passes most statistical tests, and has real point guard skills, even if it looks like he’ll struggle out of the gate due to a thin frame and lack of defensive effort. The major hesitation is that shooting and finishing are such vital parts of even being a baseline point guard at the NBA level, and Morant’s not a guarantee to be strong in either area. His shooting mechanics definitely need work, and while he’s finishing well in the Ohio Valley Conference, it isn’t at an elite level, and there’s going to be a big jump to finishing in the NBA, even if he has the craft to succeed against teams like Auburn and Alabama with NBA-level athletes.

All three are going to be flawed point guards — Garland is undersized and needed to rely heavily on counter moves to finish at the college level, and White is rail thin like Morant. However, White is the player I think has the best shot to both shoot and finish at a high level — his frame will allow him to add more strength than the other two, he is on par with Morant as a passer, and his speed and ability to transfer momentum into his pull-up likely gives him the highest ceiling as a functional shooter. Throw in that he’s both the furthest along in defensive fundamentals and has the best shot at being a functional switch defender (Again, being 6-foot-5 helps), and he’s ahead of the others for now.

Jaxson Hayes

C, Texas

A high energy big with good rim protection skills and vertical spacing on offense, Hayes looks promising even if he hasn’t earned big minutes yet. For more on Hayes, click here.

Hayes has continued his roll into conference play, looking like he has the best ceiling of any big in the class on defense. He’s up 18 spots because he is one of the best upside plays available.

Nassir Little

SF, UNC

Little’s defense and creation ability have been disappointing, but it’s tough to ignore how strong of a scorer he is, even in limited minutes. For more on Little, click here.

The Virginia Tech game was good for Little, but we need to see consistency, and that has not been there at all this year.

DeAndre Hunter

PF, Virginia

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. For more on Hunter, click here.

Romeo Langford

SG, Indiana

Langford’s shooting has been a nightmare, but he’s been solid everywhere else. If the jumper gets going, he can definitely be a lottery pick. For more on Langford, click here.

Grant Williams

SF, Tennessee

Williams has impressed this year with one of the draft’s most versatile skills sets. He’s young for a junior and looks like he will fit in a lot of different NBA systems.

Keldon Johnson

SF, Kentucky

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 improve his consistency to truly belong in the elite of the class, however. For more on Johnson, click here.

Brandon Clarke

SF, Gonzaga

Clarke has proved himself early as a scorer and rim protector, and is another member of what looks like an incredibly deep wing class.

Neither of Williams or Clarke is particularly enticing on paper — the former is a 6-foot-5 power forward, the latter is a skinny big that can’t shoot and is 22-years old. But both are absolutely lottery-level talents in this class. Williams’s ceiling is as a super-Jae Crowder, a versatile switching forward that can defend fives, with brilliant passing and a functional jumper. Clarke, meanwhile, has improved his shot and is an elite finisher, and he’s an Ibaka-style destructive force on defense, looking like a real rim protector because of his advanced technique. And remember that all-time BPM list that Zion was leading? Clarke is third.

Both could unlock a variety of effective lineup possibilities thanks to their versatility, and their awareness and intelligence are a step above pretty much anyone else in the class. At a bare minimum, they should be positive situational defenders, but they should be a lot more.

Kevin Porter Jr

SG, USC

Porter’s athleticism and isolation scoring have intrigued many draft scouts, but his lack of production as an initiator is concerning.

Porter is probably better than what he’s shown at USC because of the injury and conflicts with coaches about how he handled said injury, but there just isn’t the body of work to earn the lottery projection he is getting many places.

Tier 4 — Probable situational role players

At this point in the draft, we’ve pretty much exhausted the high-level upside, and this is the tier where quality role players are more plentiful and likely more valuable. This tier focuses on the players that look like safe bets to fill necessary roles. There are upside shots left, but they come later.

Tre Jones

PG, Duke

Jones is getting overshadowed at Duke, but he’s the best passer in the freshman class and has similar defensive skill to his brother, current Timberwolf Tyus. For more on Jones, click here.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker

SG, Virginia Tech

Alexander-Walker’s scoring explosion in his sophomore year has put him back on draft radars. He’s still probably too thin to translate as a scorer, but his off-movement shooting is promising.

Naz Reid

PF, LSU

An athletic four with ball-handling skill and great footwork, Reid needs to prove defensive viability to survive at the next level.

Sekou Doumbouya

PF, Limoges

Doumbouya is an athletic energy big who is showing development as a ball-handler for Limoges in Eurocup. He’s currently out of commission with a thumb injury.

Matisse Thybulle

SG, Washington

Another member of the deep role-playing wing class, Thybulle is a havoc play machine that’s a major disruptor despite playing 2-3 zone. Everything points to him being a solid defensive wing in the NBA.

One of the biggest risers of this month, Thybulle’s performance in Washington’s excellent start to PAC-12 play has him back where he started the year on this board. Another high-IQ player that projects to be at least a situational defensive player, and at best a true impact 3-and-D wing, Thybulle is defying the conventions of the 2-3 zone wing. He’s going to be solid if he gets a chance.

Tier 5 — Projects and High-risk Prospects

Ignas Brazdeikis

SF, Michigan

Brazdeikis has emerged as a killer scorer for Michigan as a freshman. The Canadian wiing doesn’t have great athleticism, but his two-way play should make him a good bet to be a rotation wing.

Josh Reaves

SG, Penn State

A pit bull defender who continues to progress as a three-point shooter, Reaves has a lot of potential value as a floor spacer that can defend at the point of attack. For more on Reaves, click here.

Goga Bitadze

C, Buducnost

A massive Georgian center, Bitadze has shown flashes as a shooter and is one of Europe’s better young defensive bigs. His production since joining Buducnost in Euroleague furthers the idea that he can be an NBA center eventually. For more on Bitadze, click here.

All three of these guys could arguably be in Tier 4, but have limitations that give pause. Brazdeikis has physical tools that project to him being more of a Euroleague success than an NBA one. Reaves is Thybulle but four inches shorter. And Bitadze may just settle in as a strong Euroleague center given the contracts he could get from elite teams there.

P.J. Washington

PF, Kentucky

Unsustainable 3-point shooting aside, Washington’s profile hasn’t changed much from last year – a playmaking 4 who struggles with decision making and isn’t a quality defender.

Shamorie Ponds

PG, St. Johns

Ponds has established himself as an elite shooter, but questions about his finishing ability linger over his draft stock.

Daniel Gafford

C, Arkansas

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. However, his effort level this year has been dismal.

Gafford is this year’s Troy Brown — it seems like he’s quit in terms of effort level, and it’s hard to tell how much that matters for his long-term projection given that motor was one of his strengths. If he shows signs of life again, he’s probably a tier three talent, but that’s definitely not a sure thing.

Neemias Queta

C, Utah State

Queta’s incredibly raw, but his rim protection skills are surprising and he has the foundation of a strong face-up big. His athleticism almost guarantees that he’ll be an NBA player.

Jaxson Hayes without the name recognition. Queta’s raw and probably not coming out this year, but he’s a first-round talent whenever he does, especially if he grows as a passer.

Devon Dotson

PG, Kansas

Dotson’s playmaking in the open court is excellent, and he has potential as a defender despite his size. For more on Dotson, click here.

Nick Claxton

PF, Georgia

Claxton has an impressive package of raw traits: Length, agility, passing vision, finishing, and shooting. With development he has a shot to be a steal in this area of the draft.

Another big riser here as Claxton is a double-double machine with passing instincts and a handle that could help him be more than just a situational big at the next level. He destroyed Gafford in their matchup last week, and that does carry some water even if Gafford’s running on empty.

Yovel Zoosman

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 someday be an NBA level defender at the 3.

Bitadze is getting all of the hype in the Euro circles, but Zoosman is quietly playing rotation minutes with surging Maccabi Tel Aviv. He’s a lot like Brazdeikis in that he’s a subpar athlete but makes up for it with his touch and awareness on both ends.

Deivydas Sirvidis

SG, Lietuvos Rytas

He might weigh 170 pounds soaking wet, but his skill set is very advanced for being 18 years old. The Lithuanian shooter will definitely be in the sights of NBA teams wanting to draft-and-stash.

Dean Wade

SF, Kansas State

Wade’s perimeter defense is a rare find in this class, and he’s a decent shooter, too. With development, he could be a solid find later in the draft.

Killian Tillie

PF, Gonzaga

Tillie has lottery talent, but strength has always been an issue, and now there’s the potential for his foot injury to significantly bother him. Is he durable enough to play the 5 in the NBA?

Neither of these two looks 100% healthy yet after injury. Check back in a month.

Luguentz Dort

SG, Arizona State

Dort’s cooled off after a hot start to the year. His fluidity around the rim and raw decision-making prowess are nice, but he needs a complete overhaul on his shot to survive.

41/19/62 shooting splits for the month of January are decidedly not great. Dort has an archetype that finds its way into the NBA, but he just doesn’t have the statistical production to back it up right now, and his jumper is a mess. He’s one of this update’s biggest droppers, falling out of the tail of the lottery.

Talen Horton-Tucker

SG, Iowa State

Horton-Tucker’s massive 7-foot wingspan makes him an intriguing defensive prospect, and his offensive game may eventually reach an NBA level as well.

Isaiah Roby

PF, Nebraska

Roby projects as a weakside rim protector and pick-and-pop big with some handling ability. He’s one of the few second round prospects with star upside this year if he can refine his game further.

Jon Teske

C, Michigan

Teske is one of the best defenders in college basketball. It may not translate, but he has good hands on offense and has proven to be switchable.

He looks like he should be writing about the draft, but Teske’s hands and energy on offense pair with a rim protection ability that could make him into a nice backup big at the next level. He’s quietly been Michigan’s second-best draft prospect over the past month.

Tier 6 — Low-confidence lottery tickets

This tier’s about 40 players deep, as always. Names are mostly interchangeable.

K.Z. Okpala

SF, Stanford

Okpala has good athleticism and is scoring with good numbers. He’s not quick but could be a strong bench 4 in the NBA.

Another player making the rounds and getting buzz because of his size and potential as an on-ball scorer. I see him more as a stretch-4 type that could defend 3s because he’s not a great functional athlete for his size. That’s why he’s much lower on this board than many others have him.

Rui Hachimura

PF, Gonzaga

Hachimura is a skilled rebounder and wows with his athleticism, and is getting lottery hype. But he’s also perhaps the worst positional defender among this year’s upperclassmen prospects, which significantly hinders his upside.

Admiral Schofield

PF, Tennessee

Schofield’s combination of physicality and agility make him a very strong defensive prospect, and his passing improvement makes him an enticing development project.

Charles Matthews

SG, Michigan

With Matthews’ evolution into a capable isolation scorer this year, he now offers a small shot at creation ability and skilled defensive play, meaning he’s probably worth an early second-round pick at this point.

D’Marcus Simonds

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 talent if he improves as a shooter.

Quentin Grimes

SG, Kansas

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?

Jordan Poole

SG, Michigan

Poole is a creative guard with a strong reputation as a shooter. He needs to improve consistency and decision making to stick.

Ayo Dosunmu

PG, Illinois

Dosunmu has been promising on defense, but his raw offensive performance likely indicates he’s not ready yet.

Xavier Johnson

PG, Pittsburgh

Johnson is a tall point guard with a lot of enticing potential but he’s incredibly raw.

These four — Grimes, Poole, Dosunmu, and Johnson — are all enticing because of their raw potential as creators, but none inspire a ton of confidence. Poole is probably the most polished of the four; Dosunmu is probably the safest bet to translate; Grimes is the most likely to come out; and Johnson has the highest ceiling. At least a couple of these guys are probably 2020 Draft prospects.

Simi Shittu

C, Vanderbilt

Coming off an ACL tear, Shittu has seemed to regain his athleticism and has all of the offensive traits to make him a versatile small-ball five. For more on Shittu, click here.

I was late to the party on recognizing Shittu’s massive flaws as a defender. His offensive game looks like it will be valuable in the NBA, but he has minimal stock right now because he doesn’t understand basic tenants of defense.

Darius Bazley

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.

Ty Jerome

SG, Virginia

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.

Charles Bassey

C, Western Kentucky

Bassey is essentially mini-Bol: He wows with his rim protection and efficiency at times, but most of the time looks extremely raw.

Aaron Nesmith

PF, Vanderbilt

Nesmith is a long-term four prospect with rim protection and cutting skills that have made him look better than Shittu of late..

Nikola Rackocevic

C, USC

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.

Fletcher Magee

SG, Wofford

The best off-movement shooter in college basketball, Magee has flashed enough skill to make you believe that he can survive as an NBA rotation player.

37-of-90 3s in January. Magee is the best shooter in the draft and he’d be a first rounder if he were 6-foot-6.

Aric Holman

PF, Mississippi State

Holman’s rebounding makes him a nice prospect by itself, and he shows enough versatility to hint at becoming more.

Zoran Paunovic

SG, FMP Beograd

Paunovic shows some interesting playmaking talent from the two and is extremely young. How he develops as a secondary pick-and-roll threat will be interesting this season.

Miye Oni

PF, Yale

It’s cliche, but feel for the game is Oni’s avenue into the NBA Draft. Coupled with his frame, there’s a good case that he’s a bench four at the NBA level, or at least a dominant Euroleague four.

Carsen Edwards

PG, Purdue

Just like Ponds, Edwards is a solid college scorer who doesn’t really feel like he will translate well to the NBA level without significant strength addition.

Louis King

PF, Oregon

King doesn’t look healthy yet, but he looks like a solid shooter, and should be able to become a decent defender at the four eventually.

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

76ers: Watch scary moment Danny Green was injured, ruled out of Game 6 (Video)
Rajon Rondo accused of scary domestic violence in new court filing
Al Horford, Marcus Smart ruled out by Celtics for Game 1 of Eastern Conference Finals
Celtics handle Bucks in Game 7, advance to ECF
Warriors wisdom and old-school magic: How Golden State took it to Dallas in Game 1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.