NBA Draft season is coming to an end, which means it’s time to render a final judgment on this class and the top prospects in it. Below you’ll find a final ranking of the draft’s top 60 prospects as well as a bit deeper dive into the reasoning for having the lottery prospects ranked where they are on the board.
Before diving into the rankings, here are a couple of principles that shape my board.
First, it’s fit agnostic. Fit is obviously something that matters when it comes to an individual team’s board. Phoenix is more likely to select Ja Morant than Cleveland is thanks to the presence of Collin Sexton. It’s simply impossible to take into account fit as a factor in this type of exercise. It’s also likely that where a player ends up will shape what he becomes and force a re-evaluation on these rankings. We’re always higher on prospects who end up in San Antonio rather than Sacramento.
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Second, there’s a focus on finding players who can contribute to winning. I’m a fan of Draymond Green’s axiom about 82-game players and 16-game players. Teams should be most interested in winning championships. I’m interested in finding players who could potentially contribute in those environments.
Finally, positional scarcity matters. Bigs are plentiful and cheap. It’s easier to find someone at a replacement level at that position. Quality wings, meanwhile, are scarce. If a ranking is close, I’ll lean in favor of the perimeter player. This is why you’ll find Jaxson Hayes, a Texas freshman with Clint Capela-esque tendencies, slightly lower on my board relative to most.
With those guidelines in mind, here’s a deeper look at the lottery prospects and my final top 60 rankings.
2019 NBA Draft prospect rankings
1. Zion Williamson, Forward, Duke
Height: 6-7 | Weight: 250 | Age: 18.9
Williamson is the top prospect in the class by a wide margin. Whether you project him as the next great oversized initiator or a superstar do-it-all prospect – think Draymond Green minus some basketball IQ and plus a lot of athleticism – he figures to be a hugely valuable NBA piece.
ESPN’s statistical projections give Williamson an astronomical 72 percent chance of becoming an All-Star. It’s the highest number they’ve assigned to a player dating back to the start of their projections in 2005. Higher than Anthony Davis. Higher than Kevin Durant.
Of course, it’s possible Williamson won’t reach those heights. It’s always possible. But the numbers and the eye test both suggest the 18-year-old Duke product is one of the best draft prospects of this generation. He’s an easy No. 1 at the top of the board.
2. Ja Morant, Point, Murray State
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 175 | Age: 19.9
Ball-dominant point guards who can generate offense for themselves and their teammates have increasingly become one of the most valuable archetypes in the NBA alongside plus-sized wing creators. The best bet to fulfill that role in the 2019 class is Morant.
The 19-year-old dazzles with an impressive handle featuring a litany of moves to change both pace and direction, allowing him to generate separation both going toward the basket and for his jump shot. His athleticism makes him a solid finisher at the rim for his size, and increased NBA spacing projects to improve his chances against larger foes.
Morant is also the best passer in this draft class. One season after Trae Young was praised for his passing ability, Morant posted more assists per 40 minutes and a higher assist percentage. He has impressive vision and can deliver a variety of passes, including one-handed whips to either corner. Decision-making remains a slight question mark, as Morant averaged 5.6 turnovers per 40 minutes, but that’s an area where young point guards tend to improve as they get older.
Two complaints feature prominently against Morant. The first is his lack of shot diversity. His pull-up is primarily powered by his stepback, and his acumen off screens remains to be seen. Morant will need to develop both skills as he ages. I’m willing to bet adding strength will help, and that his 81.0 career free throw percentage and high number of 3-point attempts this season both portend well for his shooting future.
The second worry is his defense. He’s small and doesn’t always play with high effort. There’s no real retort here beyond Morant just has to get better defensively. Adding strength and spreading out the offensive load may help.
3. RJ Barrett, Wing, Duke
Height: 6-7 | Weight: 208 | Age: 19.0
Barrett entered the season widely regarded as the top prospect in the class and holding a healthy lead as the presumptive No. 1 pick. Now, after a season during which he averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game – numbers unmatched by any other freshmen since at least 1992-93 – he’s generally seen as either the second- or third-best prospect in the 2019 NBA Draft. Weird, right?
Two primary issues hound Barrett when it comes to seeing him as the potential wing creator referenced above. The first is his poor decision-making. All too often Duke’s possessions ended with the 19-year-old barrelling into a bevy of opposing defenders, leading to a wild missed shot or a live-ball turnover. These moments also highlighted some concerns with Barrett’s limited vertical athleticism in tight spaces.
The second is his lack of a jump shot. He made just 30.8 percent of his 237 3-point attempts this season and shot a poor 66.5 percent from the foul line. Those numbers don’t bode well for improvement.
So, why’s Barrett still ranked this high? Part of it is a belief in his work ethic. All reports indicate he is one of the hardest-working players in the class with an intense desire to get better. Those prospects tend to be worth betting on. Part of it is he’ll benefit from the spacing an NBA floor provides. Barrett has a quick enough first step to get past defenders and without such a packed lane, his decision-making and finishing should improve. And part of it is there aren’t many other wings in this class with size and creator potential.
4. Jarrett Culver, Wing, Texas Tech
Height: 6-7 | Weight: 194 | Age: 20.3
The gap between Barrett and Culver is not particularly significant in my book. Culver is giving up just over a year in the age department, but he possesses some statistical traits that bode well for his upside, namely his steal rate, that Barrett doesn’t match.
Like Barrett, Culver can generate offense from advantaged situations and provide some playmaking on the ball. Culver is an underrated passer who can find teammates out of the pick-and-roll and keep the ball moving in a team concept. His pull-up jumper is better than Barrett’s despite some funky mechanics, but he still suffers from some of the poor shooting numbers that plague Barrett’s projections.
Defensively, Culver is just better. He does more to contain opponents on the ball, creates more defensive events and can impact plays away from the ball even if he’s occasionally aloof. The margin between Barrett and Culver is thing for me. In the end, the importance of offense and the slight youth advantage tip the scales ever so slightly in the Canadian’s favor.
5. Brandon Clarke, Big, Gonzaga
Height: 6-8 | Weight: 207 | Age: 22.7
This is presumably higher than any NBA team will have Clarke on their final draft board, as he’s currently projected to go somewhere in the teens. As such, his placement here requires some justification. Three things stand out as reasons why teams might like Clarke less than I do, including his age, poor physical measurements and lack of a jump shot. We can take each issue in turn.
Clarke’s age is a reasonable concern. He’ll turn 23 before the start of the season, meaning his timeline doesn’t necessarily coincide with many teams looking to build around younger rosters. Age also plays an important role in projecting potential.
Yet Clarke measures out better than most in the publicly available statistical projections. The aforementioned ESPN model gives him a 27 percent chance of becoming an All-Star despite being one of the older prospects in the class. That’s the third-highest mark in their results. Given the urgency some of the teams in the top 10 are placing on competing sooner rather than later, Clarke is worthy of a look.
Clarke’s physical profile is another understandable concern. His wingspan is equal to his height, and he weighed in at a small 207 pounds at the Combine. His standing reach is in the third percentile for combo forwards, per NBAthlete. Clarke overcomes those concerns in my mind thanks to his incredible functional athleticism. He registered a 40.5-inch max vertical and is in the 99th percentile for his position in lane agility time. Despite poor measurements, he still registered 12.2 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per 40 minutes last season. It’s OK to bet on Clarke to be an outlier who beats the poor physical measurements.
Clarke’s lack of a jump shot is also glaring. He doesn’t take many 3-pointers, and he shot worse than 70 percent from the foul line. Shooters like that don’t tend to become good shooters. There are arguments for betting on Clarke’s shooting, particularly his touch and year-to-year improvement, but his success as a shooter is frankly not entirely necessary to me when it comes to his projection. While it might require pairing him with a center who can shoot, Clarke can generate plenty of efficient offense in other ways.
He contributes to winning basketball. He does all the little things well. He’s a terrific free safety defender, creates an immense number of defensive events, can pass out of short rolls and is highly efficient around the basket thanks to his athleticism. He’s never going to be a No. 1 option offensively, but he’ll contribute.
In this class, combining that with his defensive ability is absolutely enough to put him in the top five.
6. De’Andre Hunter, Forward, Virginia
Height: 6-7 | Weight: 222 | Age: 21.5
To a degree, Hunter epitomizes this draft class. He’s good, not great. He’s very good at a lot of things, but probably not necessarily elite at any one of them. He’s already 21 years old, and his upside isn’t very exciting on its face. Still, he’s a near lock to be a lottery pick.
Hunter’s defense is his best trait. There are complaints to be had because he lacks the traditional steal and block numbers associated with some of college basketball’s best defenders. Watch the tape, though. He’s in the right place at the right time almost always. He’s strong enough and quick enough, and he plays well within the scheme.
Offensively, Hunter has flashed moments of self-creation. Maybe there’s potential there. The real attraction is his 41.9 percent career 3-point percentage while shooting 77.3 percent from the foul line. He should make spot-up 3s at a high clip.
Hunter fits the mold of a valuable archetype for winning teams, the two-way wing. He’ll be in an NBA rotation for a long while.
7. Darius Garland, Point, Vanderbilt
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 173 | Age: 19.4
Garland is a beneficiary of the evolution of Portland’s Damian Lillard and the immediate success of Atlanta’s Trae Young – we’re not here to compare anyone to the historically great Stephen Curry. Dynamic pull-up shooting with range has a floor-shaping effect, and the Vanderbilt product has the potential to be the latest point guard to put it to use.
The 19-year-old has legitimately deep range on his pull-up jumper and is adept at using ball screens to find and develop his own shot. The next step is finding ways to use his jumper to help facilitate for his teammates. Although he only played five games this season due to an injury, he still posted a negative assist-to-turnover ratio for the Commodores.
8. Cameron Reddish, Forward, Duke
Height: 6-8 | Weight: 208 | Age: 19.8
Reddish might be the toughest evaluation in the class. Coming out of high school, he was considered arguably the most talented player in this crop of freshmen. After one season at Duke, much of the shine has rubbed off.
It starts with a lack of efficiency. Despite sporting impressiveness measurements, Reddish finished the season with a 49.9 true shooting percentage. There are a few valuable NBA players who have overcome that first-season performance, including Wilson Chandler, Trevor Ariza and Andre Iguodala. However, Reddish also made worse than 40 percent of his 2s. Finding rotation players, let alone stars, who did that is near impossible.
Reddish was better in high school. He was miscast in a strict 3-and-D role at Duke with limited ball-handling opportunities. His defense was better than expected, a huge plus. Perhaps a new system will suit him better. That’s the optimistic take.
The 19-year-old almostly certainly won’t be the superstar many expected when he committed to Duke. He still could be a useful starter.
9. Coby White, Point, North Carolina
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 191 | Age: 19.3
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Like Garland, White is prized as a prospect thanks to his ability to knock down pull-ups from a variety of distances. The 19-year-old finished as a 35.3 percent 3-point shooter on 232 attempts while shooting 80.0 percent from the foul line as a freshman.
He’s also one of the fastest on-ball players in the class. White should excel in transition and in an uptempo offense should an NBA team offer him opportunities.
Like Garland, though, White is still finding his way as a playmaker and facilitator offensively. He averaged 5.7 assists per 40 minutes to 3.7 turnovers and is capable of making the right reads, but he doesn’t see the floor as naturally as a player like Morant.
10. Nassir Little, Forward, North Carolina
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 224 | Age: 19.3
Little was one of the biggest risers during last spring’s all-star circuit, but he struggled to adapt to the pace of the college game and find his role at North Carolina. There were defensive lapses that will inevitably call into question his floor IQ and all-around troubles on the offensive end.
The 19-year-old’s unique combination of effort, size and athleticism remain an attractive package if he can find a way to put things together at the next level. Little looks more like a bit of a project rather than an immediate impact player, but given the value of two-way wings, he’s likely worth the bet.
We’re also only a year removed from Little showing an impressive ability to generate his own offense off the dribble. Perhaps he’ll be able to rekindle that in a different situation.
11. Sekou Doumbouya, Forward, Limoges
Height: 6-8 | Weight: 230 | Age: 18.5
Doumbouya is one of the youngest prospects in the class, and he combines that youth with terrific size for a modern-day forward. The 18-year-old checks in with an 8-11 standing reach and impressive athleticism. If he can translate that defensively, he has the potential to be an impactful piece on that side of the ball guarding multiple positions.
What he’ll offer offensively remains a sticking point. The jump shot lacks the level of consistency needed to make him a real threat, and the shot creation is missing outside of his transition game.
Doumbouya has one of the wider ranges of outcomes in lottery ranging from a decent amount of star equity to a fairly high chance of being out of the league, per ESPN’s draft model.
12. Grant Williams, Forward, Tennessee
Height: 6-7 | Weight: 241 | Age: 20.5
Williams is one of my favorite prospects in the class. As a junior, he won his second SEC Player of the Year award despite being the age of an average sophomore. He’s also one of the smartest players in the draft.
The 20-year-old can be an interesting offensive piece thanks to his passing acumen and playmaking. He averaged 4.0 assists per 40 minutes last season. He also has some interesting shooting upside. While he only took 46 3-pointers and made just 32.6 percent of them as a junior, he shot 81.9 percent from the foul line and made 52.3 percent of his 2-pointers not at the rim, per Hoop-Math. There’s unexplored touch there.
Williams will likely need to figure out where he can fit into a defensive scheme, whether it’s at the power forward spot or potentially in some sort of small-ball center role. I’m willing to trust that a player with his intelligence can do it.
13. PJ Washington, Forward, Kentucky
Height: 6-8 | Weight: 230 | Age: 20.8
Washington is not dissimilar to Williams in potential role thanks to his size. However, he’s not the same level of playmaker, and his shooting upside is more questionable. Some will point to his 42.3 percent mark from 3-point range as a sophomore. That number came on just 78 attempts, and he’s a career 63.2 percent foul shooter.
The 20-year-old’s physical measurements, including a 7-2 wingspan, offer him a bit more leeway. Washington has the potential to develop into a traditional power forward with spot-up 3-point range who can downsize to the center spot in playoff lineups. He should be a valuable role player in the NBA.
14. Kevin Porter Jr., Wing, USC
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 212 | Age: 19.1
Individual shot creation is a valuable skill in the playoffs when defenses lock in and take away a team’s best options. Porter is one of the best shot creators in this class. He’s capable of getting into his stepback at ease with a shiftiness few in this group possess. He can also get downhill and finish at the rim against larger opponents.
Whether Porter can bring other things that contribute to winning to the table remains a question. He averaged just 2.6 assists per 40 minutes, for example. Plus, there are some questions about what exactly kept him out of some games at USC. Still, the value of his shot creation and potential upside associated with it thrusts him into the back end of the lottery for me.
2019 NBA Draft big board of top 60 prospects
|2.||Ja Morant||Murray State||Point||6-3||175||19.9|
|4.||Jarrett Culver||Texas Tech||Wing||6-7||194||20.3|
|9.||Coby White||North Carolina||Point||6-5||191||19.3|
|10.||Nassir Little||North Carolina||Wing||6-6||224||19.3|
|17.||Goga Bitadze||KK Buducnost||Big||6-11||245||19.9|
|20.||Cameron Johnson||North Carolina||Forward||6-8||210||23.3|
|21.||Nickeil Alexander-Walker||Virginia Tech||Wing||6-5||210||20.8|
|25.||Talen Horton-Tucker||Iowa State||Wing||6-4||233||18.6|
|26.||Mfiondu Kabengele||Florida State||Big||6-10||256||21.8|
|28.||Luka Samanic||Petrol Olimpija||Forward||6-10||210||19.4|
|37.||Luguentz Dort||Arizona State||Wing||6-4||215||20.2|
|38.||Terence Davis||Ole Miss||Wing||6-4||205||22.1|
|45.||Deividas Sirvydis||Lietuvos rytas||Wing||6-8||190||19.0|
|46.||Shamorie Ponds||St. John’s||Point||6-1||175||21.0|
|50.||Zylan Cheathem||Arizona State||Forward||6-8||220||23.6|
|53.||Jalen McDaniels||San Diego State||Big||6-10||195||21.4|
|58.||Terance Mann||Florida State||Wing||6-7||215||22.7|
|59.||Jaylen Hoard||Wake Forest||Wing||6-8||215||20.2|