Way-Too-Soon Look at Potential Lottery Picks in the 2019 NBA Draft
With 2018's draft class preparing for its first NBA season, it's time to examine the potential lottery picks for 2019.
Unsurprisingly, freshmen should dominate once again, particularly since players such as Donte DiVincenzo, Kevin Huerter and Josh Okogie decided not to return to school.
Only three of our top-14 prospects played college basketball last season.
There are always unforeseen risers, such as Trae Young, to emerge as high picks once the season gets going. But until then, here are our top-14 names, plus five more on the fence who'll be capable of breaking into the lottery discussion.
1. RJ Barrett (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)
RJ Barrett already has a loaded resume for an incoming freshman: MVP of the 2016 Jordan Brand Classic International Game; MVP of the U19 World Cup; a national title with Montverde Academy; Gatorade National Player of the Year; and a 20-point, nine-rebound, six-assist, five-steal line for the World Team in a win at the 2018 Nike Hoop Summit.
He'll start the season atop Bleacher Report's 2019 Big Board. The most accomplished, complete player in his class, Barrett has developed into a three-level scorer equipped with handles, floaters, pull-ups and a three-ball that's become more consistent by the year.
Throw in evolving playmaking ability, smooth athleticism and competitiveness. Even if Barrett is missing an elite skill or strength, he's too well-rounded, and he's risen atop the competition in practically every setting.
He projects as Duke's go-to option and leader and the early favorite to go first in the draft.
2. Nassir Little (North Carolina, SF, Freshman)
After combining for 52 points between the McDonald's All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic, Nassir Little appeared to have moved himself into the projected draft's elite tier.
Strong, long and athletic, Little looks the part of an NBA wing, but he's also developed into a well-rounded scorer in terms of creating and converting in different ways from all levels.
Expected to immediately step in for Theo Pinson and emerge as North Carolina's No. 2 option behind Luke Maye, Little has the half-court game to match his transition prowess. He's capable of shaking defenders with quick dribble moves, separating into jumpers and stepping into three-point makes. He's tough getting to the basket and finishing after contact around it.
With terrific defensive tools and a competitive edge, Little has a chance to be the draft's top two-way wing.
3. Quentin Grimes (Kansas, SG, Freshman)
Quentin Grimes' game and NBA case look better after each event. His latest work came at the U18 Americas Championship, where he averaged 14.7 points and 3.8 assists on 49.4 percent shooting.
Grimes should continue to fill up box scores at Kansas with his scoring, playmaking and defensive versatility. Listed at 6'5", 210 pounds, he has the tools and athleticism you look for. He also has basketball IQ and an unselfish demeanor to match his improving ball skills and jump shot.
4. Zion Williamson (Duke, PF, Freshman)
A special kind of explosive, Zion Williamson is in his own class of athlete—a forward fueled by a destructive mix of power, quickness and bounce.
Listed at 6'7", 285 pounds, he'd already be the NBA's second-heaviest player behind 7'3" Boban Marjanovic, per NBA.com. And though Williamson must continue working on his body and conditioning, he can still fly with all that weight.
He's also able to handle the ball, get low and shake defenders off the dribble, a rare skill for a player with his physical profile.
Williamson has still leaned on strength, athleticism and a second jump throughout high school. And there are questions as to how he'll fit unless he develops a more consistent jump shot. But his shooting mechanics aren't broken, and in today's NBA, he has enough size and face-up ability to work from the power forward position.
Williamson remains one of the nation's more unique prospects. Scouts are wondering this: is he a star or merely a gimmick?
5. Cameron Reddish (Duke, SF/PF, Freshman)
All the star ingredients are there with Cameron Reddish, a combo forward with size and athleticism plus scoring and playmaking versatility.
Can he put it together and apply all that talent consistently? It's the question scouts ask about Reddish. His shot selection and overall level of concentration can leave a lot to be desired.
But no prospect in the field can match his mix of tools, physical abilities and skill set. At 6'8", Reddish has experience bringing the ball up and creating for himself or teammates. And though overconfident at times in his shooting, he's developed the range and ability to bury jumpers in bunches.
It will be interesting to see how he fits and operates playing alongside other star players at Duke. Will he drift or stay assertive? Reddish has a chance to be the No. 1 pick in the draft, but he's also a candidate to slide if questions arise about his competitiveness and level of engagement.
6. Romeo Langford (Indiana, SG, Freshman)
Romeo Langford should bring some NBA attention back to Indiana.
He's a smooth scorer and athlete—the type who makes it look easy to the point where you question how hard he's going.
Langford has an advanced shot-making repertoire that includes three-balls, step-backs, runners and leaners. Scouts will be monitoring his shot selection and whether he can consistently create quality looks and convert them as a top option.
7. Sekou Doumbouya (France, SF/PF, 2000)
As the most exciting international prospect eligible in 2019, Sekou Doumbouya will have NBA scouts making frequent trips to France. That's where he'll be playing in Pro A, its top league, for the first time.
An athletic, 6'9" forward, Doumbouya, 17 years old, is still all about long-term potential over production or impact. He'll be the youngest player on CSP Limoges and is unlikely to have a major role.
But the scouting lens easily picks up on his physical tools and flashes of skill. With a solid power forward body, Doumbouya possesses developing ball skills and shooting range.
He's still a project who'll need to spend the next few seasons tightening his handle and improving his jump shot.
8. Darius Garland (Vanderbilt, PG, Freshman)
Darius Garland turned heads in April at the Nike Hoop Summit, where he finished with 16 points and five assists, looking like 2019's top point guard prospect.
A scoring ball-handler, Garland already has a balanced jump shot with NBA range and the ability to shoot off the catch or dribble. He's more quick than explosive. He's creative with the ball, capable of shaking defenders using tight handles and hesitations. His footwork is advanced in terms of separating into shots, and he's developing a floater game with touch and improvisation.
Between his elusiveness, passing and shot-making, Garland is well-rounded. Though there isn't anything flashy about his tools or explosion, he's going to win over scouts with his skill level and production.
9. Keldon Johnson (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
NBA scouts will be drawn to Keldon Johnson's body and athleticism and hope his skills catch up.
A 6'6" wing, Johnson puts pressure on defenses with his attacking and explosiveness. He has a quick first step and effective second move off the dribble that propels him either past or through his man toward the rim.
While Johnson excels at slashing north to south, his next step is developing his east-west scoring and shooting around the perimeter. He's flashed enough glimpses, however, to expect improvement over the next season at Kentucky.
His draft stock and ceiling will ultimately be tied to how far his jump shot and on-ball creating evolve.
10. Jontay Porter (Missouri, C, Sophomore)
Jontay Porter earned himself an invite to the NBA combine, and it's an experience he'll now use to strengthen his game and draft case for 2019.
He had the highest body fat percentage in attendance, finished with the slowest three-quarter sprint and tied for the lowest max vertical. Porter must improve his conditioning and body, but he also won't turn 19 years old until November, and his skill set for a big happens to be valued in today's NBA.
A convincing shooter, high-IQ passer and reactive rim protector, Porter was one of two players in the country last year to average at least a three-point make, 1.5 blocks and 2.0 assists per game, per Sports Reference.
Though heavier up top, he's light on his feet. He can also attack closeouts and quickly elevate off the floor. Porter should have a bigger role in 2018-19 to show scouts he's a modern-day center in the mold of Nikola Jokic.
11. De'Andre Hunter (Virginia, SF/PF, Sophomore)
A key piece for Virginia throughout conference play, De'Andre Hunter had been gaining steam before breaking his wrist in March. Without him, the No. 1-seeded Cavaliers would wind up losing their first game in the NCAA tournament.
An eye-test standout for his 6'7" size and athleticism, Hunter also earned attention by scoring in different ways and guarding multiple positions.
He graded out in the 90th percentile in half-court points per possession, making 21 of 55 threes, converting 15 of 25 times out of isolation and shooting 60.3 percent at the rim.
With a bigger role and presumably sharper skill in creating and making shots, Hunter will look to expand on the flashes and 9.2 points he averaged playing just 19.9 minutes per game as a redshirt freshman.
12. Jaylen Hoard (Wake Forest, PF, Freshman)
Jaylen Hoard's rise started in 2016 at the U17 World Cup, where he averaged 22.4 points. He continued to build himself up after moving to North Carolina from France. Hoard had a strong showing during last year's All-Star event circuit, particularly at the Nike Hoop Summit, helping the World Team knock off USA (11 points, 15 rebounds).
As an interchangeable forward standing 6'8", he plays inside and out, though the NBA will likely see him as a 4 in today's league. Hoard can make things happen off the dribble or use his athleticism and motor to score by cutting, crashing the glass or running in transition.
He's also shown signs of a developing jump shot that extends out to the arc. Still on the raw side, it's possible Hoard winds up needing two seasons at Wake Forest. But it's also easy to imagine teams willing to reach earlier on his potential.
13. Bol Bol (Oregon, C, Freshman)
A unique prospect with legendary genes, Bol Bol mixes 7'2" size and face-up scoring ability.
Stylistically, he tries to emulate Kristaps Porzingis around the perimeter, only he isn't as fluid or nimble athletically. Still, Bol has shooting range out to the arc, and he's become a threat to put the ball on the floor and make shots off the dribble.
With an enormous 7'8" wingspan, his potential in rim protection is another major draw.
He put together a pair of strong performances last April in front of dozens of NBA evaluators, finishing the Jordan Brand Classic with 22 points and nine rebounds before going for 12 points, 14 boards and six blocks at the Nike Hoop Summit.
Bol is poised to be one of the more polarizing players in country. There will be some unable to picture his game and awkward mobility fitting in. Others will see a defensive ace with mismatch offensive versatility.
14. Daniel Gafford (Arkansas, C, Sophomore)
Daniel Gafford had built a first-round case before choosing not to enter the draft.
We just saw Robert Williams make a similar decision that ultimately backfired after he failed to show enough improvement, leading to a slide down the first-round board.
Gafford is another athletic center who's appealing for his finishing and rim protection. He shot 69.3 percent at the basket and blocked 2.2 shots in just 22.6 minutes per game.
Gafford graded out in the 86th percentile or better as a cutter, transition weapon and pick-and-roll man. But he's a basic back-to-the-basket post player; he made nine jump shots all season and ranked in the 10th percentile defending in spot-up situations.
B/R's Fringe Lottery Prospects to Start Season
Luka Samanic (Croatia, PF, 2000)
Samanic is off to a hot start at the U18 European Championships, where he's already totaled 53 points through three games on 53.5 percent shooting. The 6'10" forward possesses stretch-big scoring versatility, with the ability to shoot threes, use the dribble to attack or create and pass from the post.
He's more of a finesse and skill player than one with power or explosion, but his success overseas has drawn NBA attention for a few years now. He'll continue to be monitored closely with Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia after playing for Barcelona's junior team in Spain's second division.
Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga, SF/PF, Junior)
Inconsistency kept Hachimura from drawing first-round love in 2018. But he finished strong in the NCAA tournament with a 25-point effort against Ohio State and a 16-point, nine-rebound game in Gonzaga's final loss to Florida State. Late in June, he scored 24 points in Japan's upset win over Australia in the World Cup qualifiers.
As an athletic, face-up forward with evolving perimeter skills, Hachimura is a prime breakout candidate who should finally be looking at a featured role at Gonzaga.
Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky, C, Freshman)
After reclassifying to enroll at Western Kentucky for the 2018-19 season, Bassey had a terrific showing in April at the Nike Hoop Summit, finishing with 13 points and 16 rebounds against the United States. At 6'10" with long arms, he's mostly tools and athleticism over skill, but he's also still 17 years old until Oct. 28. We've seen enough flashes of footwork and touch in the paint.
Naz Reid (LSU, C, Freshman)
A 6'10", 240-pound center, Reid will make his mark by finishing high above the rim and rebounding. Enough flashes of ball-handling and mid-range touch could push him up draft boards during his first year at LSU.
Louis King (Oregon, SF, Freshman)
A 6'8" wing scorer, King has the NBA body and skill set to create and make shots from each level. Depending on his consistency, scouts may be willing to overlook some questionable shot selection and decision-making for obvious talent and long-term potential.
Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports.