2019 NBA Draft: 5 Prospects with Legit Star Potential
NBA teams drafting in the top five on June 20 will be hoping to add a star. They'll have some enticing options between this year's freshman class and one of the nation's breakout sophomores.
All of these prospects appear to possess All-Star upside based on their physical profiles, athletic abilities, skill sets and early success, though some are obviously further away than others.
It's all about the long term and projected trajectories for teams scouting the draft. And 2019's could produce a star point guard, wing (two), power forward and center.
Zion Williamson (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)
Even with holes in Zion Williamson's game, general managers won't be able to resist his potential star power.
It's been recognizable since midway through high school. Only now it appears to be real and reachable after his start at Duke. Leading the nation in player efficiency rating (41.9) and box plus-minus (20.2), Williamson hasn't let up since debuting with 28 points in a win over the Kentucky Wildcats.
He's been dominant, registering averages of 31.0 points, 13.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 3.2 steals and 3.0 blocks per 40 minutes. The 6'7", 285-pound Williamson is shooting 72.7 percent inside the arc, thanks to a mix of strength, quickness and explosion that creates one of the most unique, often answerless advantages college basketball has seen.
It consistently leads to easy-basket chances around and above the rim off transitions, post-ups, cuts and missed shots. But he's also demonstrated enough handles to beat defenders off the dribble and create his own offense against a set defense.
Limited perimeter-scoring ability shouldn't hold back Williamson. Unmatchable athleticism and budding offensive skill could carry him into the NBA's elite tier of stardom. He'll be the first pick in the draft and a likely leader in NBA jersey sales for years.
RJ Barrett (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)
RJ Barrett's knack for scoring has translated in every setting, from high school, FIBA tournaments and showcase events to Duke, where he's averaging 24.2 points through his first 10 games.
Signs indicate his scoring will soon be carrying over to the NBA, given his 6'7" profile, plus athleticism and the wide array of moves, counters and shots in his bag.
While Barrett will have to fine-tune specific skills, like his pull-up game, his unteachable ability to invent and improvise can't be measured or capped in terms of how high it can elevate his game.
He's a shotmaking wiz, capable of adjusting in crowds and converting tough-angled layups and runners. And since high school, Barrett has shown gradual improvement to his perimeter shooting. He's now knocking down 2.2 threes per game.
A threat out of every situation from each level, he's made 55 field goals at the rim, 46 two-pointers away from it and 22 threes, per Hoop-Math.com.
Barrett looks like a top-three lock because of his potential to be a go-to player and premier NBA scorer.
Kevin Porter Jr. (USC, SG, Freshman)
Kevin Porter Jr. won't need volume production to convince a top-10 team he's worthy.
Consistent flashes should be enough to illuminate his star potential, which pops when evaluating his 6'6" size, smooth athleticism, advanced shot creation and shotmaking under the NBA's scouting lens.
He's been limited recently with a strained quad, but Porter imitates NBA stars by executing their signature moves with nifty footwork, ball-handling maneuvers and speciality jumpers.
The freshman guard is comfortably executing behind-the-back dribble step-backs and crossovers into pull-ups and showing confidence rising into his shots. And his quickness and bounce are guiding him to easy baskets at the rim, while his coordination comes to life on mid-air adjustments through tougher finishes.
Still on the raw side, he may be further away from reaching his ceiling than others who'll be drafted around him. But when Porter gets there, tying everything together and converting talent into consistent impact scoring, he could be making All-Star appearances.
Bol Bol (Oregon, C, Freshman)
NBA teams may label Bol Bol with a boom-or-bust tag, but the potential boom could change a franchise.
The 7'2" center is averaging 21 points per game on 56.1 percent shooting from the field, and he's consistently executing skill plays away from the basket, converting them with convincing fluidity and precision.
Few NBA teams will have a player fully equipped to match and defend Bol's size, shooting release point and ability to use the dribble.
He's making 1.4 threes per game at a 52.0 percent clip. Though that's an unsustainable rate, Bol demonstrates an obvious comfort level with his jump shot.
And he's making more than just simple catch-and-shoots. Bol has hit pull-ups and fallaways, maintaining unusual body control and coordination while getting into those speciality shots.
His defense has drawn mixed reviews early, but there will be NBA coaches salivating at the chance to unlock his potential in rim protection, which stems from a spectacular 7'8" wingspan.
Only Kristaps Porzingis stands out as having similar measurements and skills. One team early in the lottery will gamble on Bol in hopes of landing another unicorn big man.
Ja Morant (Murray State, PG, Sophomore)
The last time the first point guard taken came from a mid-major conference: 2012, Damian Lillard.
Ja Morant should be the next one.
Across-the-board freshman numbers and captivating explosiveness helped Morant earn a built-in audience of curious scouts to start the 2018-19 season. And he's blown up early under their watch, averaging 22.3 points, 9.5 assists, 6.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game on 55.2 percent shooting.
No college player in 25-plus years has finished a season averaging more than 20 points, eight assists and five boards. The 6'3" Morant is playing at the highest level, strengthening his draft case and his individual brand with extreme production and athleticism, which point right toward his NBA upside.
Equally capable of catching an alley-oop lob as he is throwing one, Morant stands out for his unique positional bounce and easy playmaking ability.
Defenses can't stay in front of him. Morant gets to any spot he wants off his speed, shiftiness and ball-handling, leading to frequent layup, dunk and kickout opportunities. And he's shown terrific vision and passing ability with both of his hands, hitting rolling bigs and shooters.
Creating and generating offense at an elite rate, Morant has the tools, burst and ball skills to continue at the next level. Scouts will be monitoring his jump-shot development closely over the next three months. He's started the season making 1.5 threes per game (up from 0.8) at a 34.3 percent clip.
Stats courtesy of Sports Reference unless otherwise indicated.