Who are College Basketball’s Top NBA Prospects?
The 2018 Rookie class has been an impressive one, but the incoming 2019 class has a few names that NBA fans should know about.
In fact, there are top tier prospects not named Zion Williamson or R.J. Barrett, as there are collegiate basketball teams in the NCAA not playing for Duke University. From the recently injured Bol Bol to UNC’s Nassir Little, to Gonzaga star Junior Rui Hachimura, the 2019 class is top heavy with NBA talent.
BallnRoll’s own Ori Oroz provides an early look at what the June Draft may look like.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Zion Williamson (Duke, F, Freshman)
A year after losing their franchise cornerstone, Lebron James, the Cavaliers find themselves in a position to draft arguably the closest comparison to the next Lebron. Zion Williamson’s ceiling is literally through the roof. He is as athletically gifted and unique as any player the NBA has seen in a long time. His ability to affect the game on both ends of the floor and guard 1 through 5 makes him the consensus #1 pick this season and gives Cavs fans hope entering a new era.
2. Chicago Bulls: RJ Barrett (Duke, G, Freshman)
With a promising Lauri Markkanen & Wendell Carter tandem in the front court and Kris Dunn looking like he may have a future in the NBA as a starting point guard, the Chicago Bulls primary need is a wing to pair with Zach Lavine. RJ Barrett, the pre-season #1 consensus pick is a great consolation prize for the team selecting at #2. Even as a freshman, Barrett is very polished and in many ways is the prototypical SG, sharing a lot of similarities with someone like a Bradley Beal. He has good size and defends well, can create his own shot, shoots a high percentage from 3 and score in transition.
3. New York Knicks: Ja Morant (Murray State, G, Sophomore)
Unfortunately for the New York Knicks, the 2019 NBA Draft does not offer much at the point guard position. With Porzingis and Hardaway Jr in the fold, and rumours of Kevin Durant joining in free agency, it seems like the position that needs to be addressed. Should the Knicks choose to go in that direction, Ja Morant is their best bet. He possesses outstanding quickness off the dribble plus the ability to create shots for his teammates. Thus far, Morant is averaging a sensational 25 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists a game, raising comparisons to Russell Westbrook. He still needs to work on his long distance shooting and critics may worry about the fact that at Murray State, he has played against sub-par competition.
4. Phoenix Suns: Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga, F, Junior)
As the Suns carry on with their seemingly everlasting rebuild and with the franchise threatening to move out of Phoenix, the team needs to figure it out soon. With the 4thpick, the Suns can go in a few different directions. They are in desperate need of a point guard but due to the lack of options in the draft, would be better off targeting a veteran point guard via trade of free agency during the off-season. Rui Hachimura would fit in well between Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton. He has all of the necessary physical attributes to succeed in the NBA and fits the bill of a modern NBA four-man. He can create of of the dribble and score in transition though he will need to improve his defence and 3-point shooting.
5. Atlanta Hawks: Cam Reddish (Duke, G/F, Freshman)
As Duke’s third option behind Williamson and Barrett, it is easy to see why Cam Reddish has gone a little under the radar. For almost any other team in the nation, he would be the primary scorer. For the Atlanta Hawks, who love the push the pace and are 4thin the NBA in three points attempts, Reddish fits perfectly. He is an excellent three point shooter, can play well in the pick and roll and gives Hawks a very bright future in the backcourt to go with Trae Young.
6. Washington Wizards: Bol Bol (Oregon, C, Freshman)
Simply put, the Washington Wizards are a team in turmoil. Players, fans, and management are all unhappy, and it is difficult to envision a way forward with this current roster. More than likely, one of Wall or Beal will be traded before the deadline or during the off-season as the Wizards look to enter a rebuild. For a team with such little hope, Bol Bol may be a swing for the fences. At 7 ‘2, he has garnered many comparisons to Kristaps Porzingis, with his ability to score off of the dribble and shoot from distance. The risk on Bol is very high as he recently suffered a concerning foot injury and his defensive IQ and movement on the court is rather suspect. The Wizards may feel like they have nothing to lose.
7. Orlando Magic: Kevin Porter (USC, G/F, Freshman)
Loaded in the front-court with Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba and Nikola Vucevic, the Magic are perhaps a piece or two away from being a competent playoff team in the Eastern Conference. Again, due to a lack of point guard options in the draft, the Magic would be best off targeting someone like Kevin Porter. Though currently out with a somewhat concerning quad injury, Porter’s scoring ability, handle and athleticism makes him a worthy upside pick. Do not be surprised if he continues to climb up draft-boards as the season continues.
8. Brooklyn Nets: Nassir Little (North Carolina, F, Freshman)
With no all-star level talent on their roster, the Nets would be best off employing a best-player-on-the-board approach. Though he has gotten off to a slow start, Nassir Little’s frame, aggression and two-way potential offers enough upside for the Nets to give him a look. His ballhandling needs some development, but the thought of a Dinwiddie/LaVert/Little/Hollis-Jefferson/Allen lineup in 2019/2020 could have Nets fans thinking their playoff drought will finally end.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Romeo Langford (Indiana, G, Freshman)
The Timberwolves find themselves in a precarious position. They are near the bottom of a stacked Western Conference and following the Jimmy Butler fiasco, there are questions about the character of this team and their ceiling with Towns and Wiggins as the focal points. With that said, they can go in a number of different directions with the pick. The Timberwolves struggle to defend in the backcourt, so someone like Romeo Langford at #9 makes sense. He is a bigger guard, capable of defending 1 through 3, with a smooth mid-range game.
10. New Orleans Pelicans: Keldon Johnson (Kentucky, G/F, Freshman)
Should Anthony Davis decide to commit long term, the Pelicans may choose to trade this pick in favour of a more established wing scorer to pair with Davis and Jrue Holiday. Keldon Johnson is an athletic slasher who gets to the free-throw line at a high clip defends very well at his position. To take the next level, his jump-shot will need to improve.
11. Miami Heat: Darius Garland (Vanderbilt, G, Freshman)
Set to miss the rest of the reason after tearing his meniscus, Garland should be ready to go for next season and due to the lack of alternatives at point guard, his stock should not slip much. Garland’s three-point shooting and offensive savvy make him an exciting prospect. For a team like the Miami Heat, who are financially strapped for the next couple of seasons and with 33 year old Goran Dragic frequently dealing with injuries, Garland could be their point guard of the future.
12. Dallas Mavericks: DeAndre Hunter (Virginia, F, Sophomore)
The Mavericks have officially entered the Luka Doncic era, as the Slovenian sensation has given the team all the reason to be excited moving forward. Beyond Doncic, the Mavericks have solid complementary pieces in Dennis Smith Jr, Harrison Barnes and DeAndre Jordan and it should only be a matter of time before the Mavericks are back in the playoffs. DeAndre Hunter, whose stock continues to rise, is a shot-creating combo forward who stretches the floor, defends multiple positions and would fit perfectly between Jordan and Barnes for the Mavericks.
13. Sacramento Kings: Bruno Fernando (Maryland, C, Sophomore)
The Kings are one of the feel good stories in the NBA so far as they continue to surpass expectations and fight for a playoff spot in the West. With so many promising young players on their roster, (DeAaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Willie Cauley-Stein, Marvin Bagley, Buddy Hield) the Kings would probably be best off trading this pick, however should they decide to keep it they may look to address their depth in the front court. As an elite rebounder and rim protector, Bruno Fernando could a be good role player for the Kings off of the bench.
14. Memphis Grizzlies: Sekou Doumboya (France, F)
At only 17 years old, Sekou Doumboya’s draft stock will solely be based on potential. The Grizzlies may decide to make a play for the future, draft Doumboya and stash him overseas to allow him to develop for a few years.