2019 NBA Draft: Every Projected Top Pick's Biggest Strength, Weakness

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterFebruary 23, 2019

2019 NBA Draft: Every Projected Top Pick's Biggest Strength, Weakness

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    As March approaches, NBA teams have already identified each top prospect's primary strength and weakness. 

    After acknowledging them, scouts must then decide if the strength will translate and the likelihood the weakness improves.

    We pinpointed the key positive that could help launch each NCAA player's pro career, as well as a negative that could make it difficult for each prospect to maximize his potential.  

Zion Williamson (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Chris Seward/Associated Press

    Strength: Physical tools/athleticism

    Finishing at rim: 72.7 percent, Post-ups: 1.304 PPP (100th percentile), Transition: 1.321 PPP (89th percentile) Cuts: 1.429 (88th percentile), Putbacks: 1.477 PPP (95th percentile)

    Defense: 4.2 STL Pct., 6.3 BLK Pct.

    Assuming Zion Williamson's knee injury only represents a temporary setback, his acclaimed power and athletic ability set him apart and fuel potential that could help change a franchise.

    His mix of strength, quickness, bounce and coordination should continue translating to easy baskets off transition, cuts, lobs and missed shots. It even propels him in the post, where he explodes through and over defenders as he turns over each shoulder.

    He consistently creates separation and high-percentage looks at the rim by elevating with force. 

    Williamson has also been an active defensive playmaker, able to jump passing lanes and block shots with his palms. He's also highly switchable because of his quick feet, arguably the more valuable attribute.


    Weakness: Shooting

    Unguarded catch-and-shoot: 4-of-23, Spot-ups: .846 PPP, 41st percentile, Three-point: 29.2 percent, Free throws: 66.7 percent

    Can Williamson improve his shooting, and if not, will it stop him from becoming a star? Those are the only questions and concerns worth thinking about when assessing his NBA fit and future. 

    Off the dribble, he relies on getting all the way to the rim, having missed six of his eight pull-up attempts all season.

    On the positive side, he's made 14 three-pointers, occasionally showing range and confidence that suggests a jumper could eventually be a shot in his bag. It won't any time soon, however, based on his freshman percentages.

RJ Barrett (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)

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    StrengthTransition scoring 

    Transition: 1.095 PPP (62rd percentile), Transition points: 6.6 PPG

    Only two players in the country average more transition points than RJ Barrett.

    It makes up 25.7 percent of his offense. Alarms should sound for opponents whenever he brings in a defense rebound. A threat to grab-and-go, Barrett thrives when looking ahead at a retreating, backpedaling defense.

    He isn't even the most explosive athlete—Barrett effectively changes speed and takes the right steps, and he does a better job maintaining body control in the open floor, when he has more time to assess and react.


    WeaknessHalf-court efficiency 

    Isolation: .784 PPP (49th percentile), Spot-up: .93 PPP (54th percentile), Cuts: .818 PPP (11th percentile), Off screens: .73 PPP (28th percentile)

    For a volume scorer taking 18.6 shots per game—who's also expected to go top three in the draft—his .884 PPP in the half court isn't impressive.

    Out of isolation, he tends to drive into traffic without a plan, particularly when he goes right (4-of-20). And though he's hit a number of off-balance, tough finishes, he still shows poor touch and decision-making in the lane, shooting 27.6 percent on runners and 49.6 percent at the rim.

    He's been inconsistent around the perimeter, converting 34.6 percent of his mid-range jumpers and 33.5 percent of his threes. And while the 2.1 threes per game are a promising indication of shot-making, his 69.0 percent free-throw mark and other shooting percentages are worrisome. 

Ja Morant (Murray State, PG, Sophomore)

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    Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

    Strength: Passing/playmaking

    Assists per game: 10.2, Transition assists: 1.564 PPP (90th percentile), Pick-and-roll passes: 8.4 PPG (No. 17 in country)

    Ja Morant averages 24.5 points, but playmaking will drive his NBA value, particularly early in his career.

    He leads the country in assists, thanks to standout passing skill, vision and elusiveness. Morant uses transition to set up teammates before defenses can set. He finds them in the half court off ball screens and penetration, often delivering quick, one-handed, righty and lefty passes through or around traffic. 

    His special athleticism hints at long-term upside. But Morant will be most effective early for his ability to create high-percentage shots for others. 


    Weakness: Shot-making

    Catch-and-shoot: 35.3 percent, Jump shots off dribble: 31.2 percent, Runners: 6-of-25, Three-point: 33.6 percent

    Morant's jumper is under the microscope. For a second-year guard expected to go top five, his mechanics and percentages aren't convincing. 

    He explodes to the basket and attempts 8.3 free throws per game, but Morant leans heavily on that athleticism for finishing attempts at the rim. He's missing a reliable pull-up and floater game, which will make it challenging to score at an efficient rate against NBA defenses, especially since his three-ball isn't a major weapon.

Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech, SG, Sophomore)

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    Strengths: Offensive versatility 

    Pick-and-roll ball-handler: .907 PPP (79th percentile), Isolation: 1.048 PPP (85th percentile), Off screens: 1.167 PPP (84th percentile)

    The draw to Jarrett Culver stems from his well-rounded skill set for a long, 6'5" 2-guard. 

    He scores and passes working on and off the ball, generating 23.0 percent of his offense as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, 19.1 percent out of spot-ups, 13.4 percent out of isolation, 13.4 percent in transition and 10.2 percent off screens.

    His shooting numbers are down this year, but Culver clearly has three-point range (career 88 makes), a working pull-up (31-of-89) and finishing instincts at the rim (60.9 percent). Attacking the basket, he's 13-of-20 out of isolation and 8-of-11 driving out of spot-up positions.

    He's also nearly doubled his assist rate to 26.9 percent (from 13.7 percent), showing improved playmaking off the dribble.

    He'll fit wherever he lands. The question teams must ask is how much upside they'll have to unlock.


    Weakness: No core skill/strength 

    Jump shots: 36.8 percent, Runners: 5-of-15, Cuts: 1.08 PPP (42nd percentile), Assists and turnovers: 4.7 and 3.7 per 40 minutes

    While Culver's offensive versatility covers ground, he's missing a bankable skill or strength.

    He lacks explosiveness, raising questions about his ability to create separation off the dribble.

    Culver can make shots, but he's shooting just 34.0 percent from three and 68.3 percent from the free-throw line. And though he's taken a step forward as a passer, his lack of blow-by burst and a projected off-ball role suggest his playmaking potential is capped.

    Culver checks enough boxes to strengthen the perception that his floor is high. The height of his ceiling seems questionable, however, without any specialty skill or trait.  

Cam Reddish (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)

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    Robert Franklin/Associated Press


    Three-pointers made: 3.8 per 40 minutes, Jump shots off dribble: .921 PPP (72nd percentile)

    With 68 made triples through 25 games, Cam Reddish is on pace to become the only freshman since 2009 to average multiple threes and steals in fewer than 30 minutes per game, per Basketball Reference.

    NBA scouts value his shot-making ability over the fact his percentages are underwhelming this early. Reddish's stroke appears effortless out to NBA range, and at 6'8", he should continue getting it off as an NBA wing.

    At some point, he'll need to up his consistency. But the made shots outweigh the misses and point to what he can do—arguably more important than what Reddish can't at 19 years old. 


    WeaknessesTwo-point scoring

    Two-pointers: 40.0 percent, Finishing at basket: 48.6 percent, Runners: 1-of-6, Mid-range jumpers: 3-of-15

    While Reddish has looked more confident around the perimeter, where he has extra space to release, he struggles in tight windows.

    He's hit 22 more three-pointers than twos. Reddish has limited feel for scoring in traffic around the key, converting one runner all season and ranking in the 33rd percentile finishing at the basket, though a lack of explosiveness and strength should also absorb blame for his problems at the rim.

    The scouting report on Reddish will be obvious—close out hard and run him off the line, particularly since he's shooting 16.7 percent on guarded jump shots, and he's only made 13 of 38 pull-ups.

Romeo Langford (Indiana, SG, Freshman)

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Strengths: Paint scoring

    Pick-and-roll ball-handling scoring: 0.991 PPP (88th percentile), Spot-up drives to basket: 9-of-12, Finishing at basket: 67.0 percent, Runners: 10-of-27

    A scoring 2-guard, Romeo Langford is averaging 17.1 points, hurting defenses most with his penetration and paint scoring.

    Despite lacking explosion, he gets to the rim using long strides and sharp footwork coming off ball screens. And he's flashed an impressive finishing package of layups and runners, showing a natural feel for what angles to take and how to use his length and touch.

    At 6'6", 215 pounds, Langford also has an encouraging physical profile for finishing among the NBA's trees.


    Weakness: Perimeter scoring

    Three-pointers: 26.7 percent, Guarded catch-and-shoot: 4-of-17

    Langford's shooting numbers pop out (27-of-101 3PT), as do his suspect mechanics the farther he is from the basket. His shot is mostly arms/wrist and minimal leg power. 

    It has also led to ineffective shot-making when contested, as he doesn't always create enough separation on his jumpers. He's 1-of-12 on jump shots in the half court with the shot clock under four seconds.

    As a scorer and limited playmaker (2.8 assists per 40 minutes), Langford will need to make adjustments/improvements to his perimeter shot.

De'Andre Hunter (Virginia, SF/PF, Sophomore)

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    Strengths: Defensive versatility/potential 

    Pick-and-roll defense: 0.30 PPP (99th percentile), Around basket defense: 0.643 PPP (90th percentile), Spot-up defense: 33.8 percent opponent FG

    Listed at 6'7", 225 pounds, De'Andre Hunter's physical profile pops under the NBA scouting scope. His strength, length and quickness are most appealing for defensive purposes.

    He should be highly switchable, with enough strength to body bigs and the quickness to slide and/or recover. Hunter grades as one of the nation's premier pick-and-roll defenders for its No. 3 overall defense, per KenPom.com.

    Physical abilities side, he demonstrates strong awareness in terms of reacting and reading plays.

    His defensive outlook ultimately hints at Hunter being one of the lower-risk lottery prospects.


    Weakness: Scoring upside

    Three-pointers made: 1.3 per 40 minutes, Jump shot off dribble: 36.8 percent

    While tough defense props up his floor, it's worth wondering about his scoring upside, given his rudimentary skill set and limited sample size of shot-making.

    Hunter lacks creativity inside the arc, often leaning on straight-line drives or post-ups he's unlikely to receive in an NBA offense. The scouting report also shows he's more effective going right (7-of-12) out of isolation compared to left (7-of-21).

    And though accurate from three (45.5 percent), he doesn't shoot many (2.8 per 40 minutes) with a line-drive jumper that may need adjusting. 

    With the eye test raising questions about his scoring creativity, teams will be thinking three-and-D with Hunter, adding more pressure to his development as a shooter.

Darius Garland (Vanderbilt, PG, Freshman)

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    Strengths: Perimeter scoring

    Three-pointers (five games): 11-of-23, Jump shots off dribble: 13-of-23, Pick-and-roll scoring: 16-of-27

    Before tearing his meniscus, Darius Garland gave scouts four full games worth of scoring and shooting, though every team should have been present for his 16 points on four triples at the 2018 Nike Hoop Summit.

    He'll step into the NBA ready to make outside shots, both from distance and off the dribble. Garland demonstrates convincing range and form stepping into catch-and-shoot opportunities, while his pull-up game should serve him well in ball-screen situations. 

    With a jumper capable of heating up, he's a threat to activate microwave mode and score points in bunches. That could wind up being his calling card in a bench-spark role if his floor game never develops.


    Weakness: Floor game

    Assists and turnovers: 3.7 and 4.3 per 40 minutes

    The sample size was tiny, but in 139 minutes, he had 13 assists, 15 turnovers and a 27.6 usage percentage, totals that don't scream point guard or passer.

    To justify being a point guard taken in the lottery, Garland will need to improve his floor game, specifically the ability to use his dribble to set up teammates and create shots for them running the offense. 

    For a lead ball-handler, his development as a decision-maker will be critical toward his chances of maximizing potential.

Bol Bol (Oregon, C, Freshman)

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    Strengths: Skill level

    Scoring (nine games): 21.0 PPG, Three-pointers: 13-of-25, Spot-ups: 1.40 PPP (99th percentile), Post-ups: 1.04 PPP (87th percentile)

    Bol Bol's skill level and production could be high enough for teams to overlook the risk tied to his fractured foot and durability concerns. 

    Scouts saw sequences that included Bol blocking a shot, dribbling down the floor and pulling up for a jumper.

    At 7'2", he flashed comfortable shooting range from NBA distance, plus unusual fluidity as a ball-handler and post scorer in terms of creating shots and converting tough ones. 

    A willing imagination could picture Kristaps Porzingis-like offensive upside if Bol can continue executing moves and making shots against NBA bigs.


    Weakness: Physicality  

    Fouls: 2.2 per 40 minutes 

    Physical bigs inside were able to move Bol at both ends. He has a thin waist and long skinny legs, plus a motor that's not always pumping. 

    While it's typical to knock a player for fouling too much, Bol's extremely low foul rate raises other questions.

    How will he take and give contact, both as a scorer and rim protector? And will his body hold up through 82 games year after year? With bigs, red flags are always thrown after foot fractures

    If it turns out the NBA paint isn't for Bol, it would put extra pressure on his perimeter-skill execution.

Keldon Johnson (Kentucky, SG/SF, Freshman)

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    Strengths: Off-ball scoring

    Spot-ups: 1.132 PPP (85th percentile), Off screens: 1.213 PPP (87th percentile), Catch-and-shoot: 44.1 percent

    The most comforting strength of Keldon Johnson's is his ability to score off the ball in multiple ways.

    Spotting up, which he does to generate 32.9 percent of his offense, Johnson shoots 46.0 percent off the catch and 52.9 percent on his drives past closeouts that result in runners, layups or dunks. 

    He's also shot well curling, fading and coming off screens straight, with the latter action resulting in baskets nine out of 16 times. 

    Rarely has coach John Calipari put Johnson on the ball, yet he's still averaging 13.9 points per game on an efficient 59.5 true shooting percentage.


    Weakness: Creating

    Pick-and-roll ball-handler: 13 possessions, .538 PPP (16th percentile), Isolation: Five possessions, four points, Assists: 2.0 per 40 minutes

    Johnson isn't used to initiate offensive possessions. He's not a creative ball-handler or shot-creator, as he leans on catch-and-shoot jumpers and straight-line drives (though an excellent runner has often come in handy). 

    Without one-on-one scoring or playmaking ability, coaches may want to play Johnson at small forward, which could negate some of the physical advantage he'd have as a 6'6" 2-guard.

Jaxson Hayes (Texas, C, Freshman)

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Strengths: Physical tools/athleticism 

    Roll man: 1.45 PPP (94th percentile), Cuts: 1.60 PPP (96th percentile), Finishing at rim: 79.0 percent, Blocks: 4.0 per 40 minutes, Transition: 1.30 PPP (87th percentile)

    Jaxson Hayes has caught the attention of scouts without flashing any notable skill. He's built a lottery case strictly off mobility and bounce for a 6'11" center.

    Shooting 74.5 percent from the field, Hayes positions himself for easy baskets by flying down the floor and giving his guards a large catch radius for finishing at the rim off rolls and cuts. 

    His size and quick jump have also translated to 4.0 blocks per 40 minutes, though improving his defensive awareness (6.1 fouls per 40) will remain a priority. 

    Hayes' role in the pros won't change, as it's already defined by his rim-running, finishing and rim protection. 


    Weakness: Skill

    Scoring: 17.8 points per 40 minutes, Assists: 0.5 per 40 minutes, Jump shots: 0-of-3

    Though ultra-efficient playing to his strengths, they're mostly limited to run-and-jump plays.

    He hasn't logged one possession out of spot-up or isolation. He hasn't made a jumper this year. And at 220 pounds with 12 field goals out of the post through 26 games, NBA teams won't waste possessions feeding Hayes back-to-the-basket entries.

    He's also done practically nothing as a passer, having totaled eight assists in 602 minutes. 

Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga, PF, Junior)

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Strengths: Two-point scoring

    Two-pointers: 62.0 percent, Finishing at rim: 63.9 percent, Cuts: 1.284 PPP (72nd percentile), Post-ups: .975 PPP (79th percentile), Spot-up: 1.338 PPP (97th percentile), Roll man: 1.404 PPP (92nd percentile)

    On pace to shoot at least 60.0 percent on two-pointers for the third consecutive season, Rui Hachimura has also developed into a 20.4-point-per-game scorer.

    He's become a threat to face up and attack, create out of the post or step into pull-up jump shots. He's totaled at least 45 points in each major scoring department, including cuts (111), transition (103), spot-ups (91), post-ups (77), pick-and-rolls (66) and isolation (46). 

    With more decisive footwork and softer touch, Hachimura, 6'8", 230 pounds, is suddenly one of the nation's toughest covers inside the arc for his tools, athleticism and versatile skill set.


    WeaknessSupporting attributes 

    Three-pointers: 0.6 makes per 40 minutes, Assists: 2.2 per 40 minutes, Rebounds: 8.7 per 40 minutes

    Defense: 2.7 BLK Pct., 1.8 STL Pct. While Hachimura has emerged as a go-to option for Gonzaga, he won't be next year in the NBA. And he hasn't flashed the supporting attributes role players typically have to possess.

    He's still not a regular three-point threat during his third season. And he offers little as a passer, demonstrating weak vision and instincts after making his move toward the basket. 

    His defensive potential isn't exciting, either, given his weak steal and block rates, plus sequences that highlight questionable effort.

Nassir Little (North Carolina, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Strengths: Physical tools/athleticism 

    Finishing at rim: 60.3 percent, Transition: 1.226 PPP (80th percentile), Putbacks: 1.296 PPP (79th percentile)

    Listed at 6'6", 220 pounds with giant arms, Nassir Little has physical tools that would attract the NBA and NFL.

    He's been most effective scoring from the power forward slot, where he's strong enough but also quicker than opposing bigs out of face-up position. 

    Otherwise, Little has used transition and the offensive glass to score off North Carolina's bench. He has a tremendous profile with foot speed and athleticism. 

    But will his skill level catch up?


    Weakness: Offensive skill/feel

    Spot-ups: .818 PPP (36th percent), Jump shots: 28.3 percent, Runners: 3-of-10, Isolation: .769 PPP (46th percentile), Off screens:.632 PPP (18th percentile)

    Some teams will look past Little's minimal role and production. The college game has a tendency to mask certain players' potential. But Little isn't blameless. His skill level and feel are clearly behind the other lottery forwards. 

    He's made 11 threes in 26 games and 28.3 percent of his total jump shots. Outside of the occasional, basic rise-and-fire pull-up, Little shows limited shot-creativity from isolation or the post. 

    And he's totaled just 22 assists all season, a super-low number for a non-center. 

    Little doesn't have any bankable skill to unleash every game, making it hard to imagine him playing the wing or receiving many minutes next year as an NBA rookie.


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Basketball Reference and up to date through games on Friday, Feb. 22.