2019 NBA Draft Prospects with Real All-Star Potential
The star power of the 2019 NBA draft is emanating from five specific prospects.
They've flashed the most upside, which is backed by a mix of physical tools and athleticism, production, skill level and room for improvement.
Each of these players has an All-Star ceiling, though they're all at different levels on the developmental ladder. Some will need to make more dramatic adjustments to max out their potential.
While we expect three of these players to wind up as top-five picks, risk will presumably cause the other two to fall, possibly into the teens or 20s, where they could offer serious value if they're able to hit their strides.
Zion Williamson (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)
The draft's likely No. 1 pick, Zion Williamson has exceeded the preseason hype through 19 games at Duke. He's leading the country in player efficiency rating, averaging 21.7 points and 9.2 rebounds in 28.1 minutes.
Neither the college nor NBA game has seen an athlete like Williamson, whose mix of power and explosive bounce has helped him shoot 74.8 percent inside the arc.
His 1.2 points per possession in the half court (98th percentile) are more than previous No. 1 picks Anthony Davis', Karl-Anthony Towns', Blake Griffin's and Deandre Ayton's during their final college seasons.
While his value and identity will always revolve around athleticism, which is also translating to 2.0 steals and 1.8 blocks, Williamson's skill set continues to evolve, as he's totaled 55 points on 46 combined isolation and pick-and-roll ball-handling possessions. And though not a traditional post scorer, he's been dominant when fed the ball there, making 14 of his 19 attempts.
A force around the basket (72.2 percent FG), Williamson also has game away from it, particularly as a driver off crossovers and his signature inside-out dribble move. Continuing to add touch and range to his jump shot (10-of-37 3PT) could propel Williamson into a perennial All-Star starter.
Ja Morant (Murray State, PG, Sophomore)
The national recognition is starting to build for Ja Morant, who's on pace to become the only player in the last 27 years to average at least 20 points and 10 assists.
He'll draw comparisons to Russell Westbrook and De'Aaron Fox for his explosiveness at the point guard position. But his playmaking and passing differentiate him from both, with Morant the more natural setup man.
Using his speed, ball-handling, vision and signature one-handed lefty delivery, he'll be valued most in the NBA for his ability to create quality scoring chances for teammates.
He'll still apply significant pressure to defenses as a driving scorer early in the shot clock (No. 2 in the nation in transition field goals) and off ball screens. He's also appeared comfortable for stretches working off the ball by tapping into his athleticism on cuts (10-of-14) and putbacks (9-of-13) while making eight of 17 spot-up jumpers.
Whether he can develop into a threatening-enough shooter will be the key question lottery teams ask before the draft. He's converting 33.3 percent of his 4.7 three-point attempts per game and 30.5 percent of his overall pull-ups.
RJ Barrett (Duke, SG, Freshman)
From high school, All-Star showcase events and FIBA play to Duke, RJ Barrett's scoring has translated in every setting. The NBA should be next.
He's averaging 23.9 points with assuring consistency, having only finished below 20 points three times all season.
At 6'7", Barrett has strong positional size and athleticism for either wing position. He leads the country in field goals made in transition, where he's at his best using hesitations, body control and burst to weave and finish through retreating defenses.
In the half court, he scores in every way imaginable, often by improvisation. He's also knocking down two three-pointers per game and 42.6 percent of his pull-ups, encouraging numbers regarding his shot-making potential.
And despite taking some heat earlier in the season for his tendency to hunt for shots, he is averaging 3.9 assists. All eight of Barrett's ball-screen passes to the roll man have been converted into baskets.
He's close to being a top-three lock in this draft, capable of giving a franchise an offensive weapon to feature and build around.
Bol Bol (Oregon, C, Freshman)
A season-ending foot injury doesn't lower the height of Bol Bol's NBA ceiling. It may even allow a team to buy lower and steal a star, assuming those picking top-five find him risky.
But if Bol can move past this isolated stress fracture, the 7'2" big man could be one of the few from this class to eventually crack an All-Star roster.
He was averaging 21.0 points on 56.1 percent shooting before going down, turning heads with unique offensive skill for a player his size.
Having made 13 of 25 three-pointers through nine games, Bol's shooting stroke is a primary selling point. But it's the flashes of shot-creativity that fuel even more upside, with Bol showing the ability to attack a closeout, pull up off the dribble and separate into coordinated fallaways out of the post, where he was 22-of-39.
His development defensively will ultimately be crucial to his future NBA value, as Bol has the potential to become a disruptive rim protector (3.6 blocks per 40 minutes) thanks to his 7'8" wingspan. His awareness and effort just have to improve as a team's anchor.
Kevin Porter Jr. (USC, SG, Freshman)
It's been a bizarre season for Kevin Porter Jr., who created early buzz before missing time to a thigh injury and team suspension.
Among the five potential stars from this class, he's the furthest from reaching his ceiling. But it's undoubtedly high, and with the proper development and fit, he has a chance to become one of the draft's top NBA players.
Porter stands out for his physical tools and athleticism, plus advanced shot-creation and shot-making skill.
He does tend to settle for contested jumpers, but he's also making them with comfort and fluidity. He's a pure scorer knocking down 39.3 percent of his threes and 47.4 percent of his pull-ups while ranking in the 98th percentile in transition points per possession.
A veteran-heavy team, USC doesn't feature Porter often. His draft range should be one of the widest of any prospect's. The next month will be critical for his stock, which seems all over the place given his small sample size of success and how alluring it looks under the NBA scouting scope.
He'll be categorized as a boom-or-bust option come June, but the boom could result in Porter emerging as a volume-scoring star.