Grading Every Top 2019 NBA Draft Prospect in Key Categories

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterFebruary 25, 2019

Grading Every Top 2019 NBA Draft Prospect in Key Categories

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    With conference play winding down, NBA teams should be close to wrapping up their scouting reports on prospects expected to declare for the draft.

    Here, we've graded the consensus top prospects in three major categories: scoring, shooting and defense. We also looked at playmaking for guards and wings and rebounding for bigs. 

    Oregon's Bol Bol (foot) and Vanderbilt's Darius Garland (knee) were excluded here, as both have played fewer than 10 games.   

Zion Williamson (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Scoring: A+

    Key stat: 30.7 points per 40 minutes, 68.3 FG%

    The nation's leader in player efficiency rating, Zion Williamson could finish as one of three NCAA players (including Blake Griffin) in the past 27 years to average at least 20 points on 65.0 percent shooting. He's shooting 75.3 percent inside the arc, using his power, explosion and agility on every play. But his ball-handling and scoring instincts deserve credit for many of his easy-basket opportunities. He ranks in the 99th percentile on post-ups, and he's a combined 24-of-36 on isolation and pick-and-roll ball-handling possessions. 


    Shooting: C

    Key stat: 17-of-55 jump shots in the half court (30.9 percent)

    Williamson hasn't needed a jump shot to score. The only question worth asking about his potential: Will he need one to become an All-Star? He's made only 29.2 percent of his three-point attempts and two pull-ups all season. He's also converting only 66.9 percent of his free throws. But Williamson's 14 made threes have helped breathe life into his shooting potential and chances of at least becoming a capable open shot-maker. Regardless, it will be a few years before he's regularly attempting three-pointers in an NBA game.


    Rebounding: B+

    Key stat: 16.2 rebounding percentage

    Ranking in the 95th percentile on putbacks off misses, the 18-year-old Williamson grabs 3.5 offensive rebounds per game (tied for 10th in NCAA). His strength, quick jump and motor consistently translate to second-chance points. Williamson's 18.9 defensive rebounding percentage isn't as impressive, but his value under the boards will show at the other end.


    Defense: B+

    Key stat: 5.7 stocks per 40 minutes (steals and blocks)

    Occasionally caught steal-hunting, over-gambling or flat-footed off the ball, Williamson hasn't been perfect defensively. However, the positives have outweighed the negatives. Able to physically body centers, Williamson has also showed impressive foot speed switching and containing wings and guards around the perimeter. And behind Washington senior Matisse Thybulle, Duke's freshman has been the next-most active defensive playmaker among first-round candidates. He's able to cover ground fast, jump passing lanes and elevate high for shot-blocking both at the rim and away from it. 

RJ Barrett (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)

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    Chris Seward/Associated Press

    Scoring: A-

    Key stat: 27.2 points per 40 minutes, 46.0 FG%

    Turning 19 a week before the draft, RJ Barrett ranks second among power-conference players averaging 23.3 points. Third in the country in transition points, he's best in the open floor, where he changes speeds with impressive footwork that guides him toward the rim. He's been productive in the half court, able to score out of spot-ups, isolation and pick-and-rolls, but his execution hasn't always been there. His .903 PPP in the half court only ranks in the 63rd percentile, while his 1.054 PPP finishing at the rim falls in the 38th percentile. He turns into a black hole far too frequently. Inefficiency caused by poor shot selection and a reliance on improvisation over skill—plus shaky touch—bring down his scoring grade.


    Shooting: B

    Key stat: 68-of-192 jump shots in the half court (35.4 percent)

    Barrett deserves praise for his shot-making, hitting 2.1 threes per game and 44.3 percent of his pull-ups. However, inconsistency, bad misses and a 68.6 percent free-throw mark raise questions about the validity of his jump-shot production. 


    Playmaking: B-

    Key stat: 22.6 assist percentage

    Barrett can develop tunnel vision, but when he's focused on facilitating, he's been an effective setup man averaging 4.1 assists on the season. Eleven of his 12 ball-screen passes to the roll man have been converted into baskets. His tendency to look off teammates can be a turnoff, but his ability to make tight-window passes and drive-and-kick points to playmaking potential. 


    Defense: B-

    Key stat: 1.5 stocks per 40 minutes (steals and blocks)

    Some sequences highlight Barrett's ability to get low and engage defensively. On other possessions, he gives up too early or easily. Averaging only 1.0 steals and 0.5 blocks per 40 minutes, his lack of defensive playmaking is a possible red flag as well. Barrett's 2.2 defensive box plus-minus is the lowest among Duke rotation players.    

Ja Morant (Murray State, PG, Sophomore)

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    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    Scoring: A-

    Key stat: 26.9 points per 40 minutes, 51.0 FG%

    The draft's most explosive guard, Ja Morant leads all NCAA players in transition points per game. He's tremendous in the open floor using his speed, handle and leaping ability. Whichever team drafts him will naturally play at a faster pace. He's been less efficient in the half court, but he's still effective with his ability to change directions on a dime and slip through gaps toward the rim. He's shooting 58.5 percent inside the arc. He'll need to work on his runner, since he's missed 19 of his 26 attempts. But Morant, who's taking 9.0 free throws per 40 minutes, will lean on fast breaks and drives for scoring.


    Shooting: B-

    Key stat: 49-of-144 jump shots in the half court (34.0 percent)

    Morant has improved as a shot-maker, but his shooting remains a question mark for scouts. His form can change and his delivery can be slow. He's at 33.8 percent from three and 30.9 on jump shots off the dribble. But he's taken a clear step forward, as he's hitting 1.8 threes per 40 minutes, up from 1.0 a year ago. Morant also shoots 80.9 percent from the free-throw line, a sign of touch. 


    Playmaking: A+

    Key stat: 52.6 assist percentage

    Morant is on pace to become the only college player in the past 27 years to average at least 20 points and 10 assists. His 10.3 dimes per game lead the country. NBA teams will value Morant's playmaking over any other attribute. While his ability to break down defenses helps, he also shows terrific vision and passing skill with both hands. His knack for creating easy scoring chances and setting up teammates is highly likely to carry over. However, his 20.7 turnover percentage is too high, despite the overwhelming workload. He tends to make careless or forced passes and decisions. 


    Defense: C-

    Key stat: 3.1 stocks per 40 minutes (steals and blocks)

    Quick hands and hops have led to steals and blocks for Morant, but he hasn't been impressive defensively. He makes unnecessary gambles, and his effort and concentration fluctuate when he's defending off the ball. At 175 pounds, he's also easy to screen and take out of the play. Morant's quickness hints at room for improvement, but he'd ideally be paired with a two-way shooting guard in the NBA.

Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech, SG, Sophomore)

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    John Weast/Getty Images

    Scoring: B+

    Key stat: 23.1 points per 40 minutes, 49.9 FG%

    From role player to lead scorer, Jarrett Culver has risen into the top-10 conversation by improving and expanding his game off the dribble. He's averaging 18.0 points, and he ranks in the 76th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler (scoring only) and 86th percentile out of isolation. Despite lacking explosiveness, he's converting 60.9 percent of his shots at the rim, although his floater touch (6-of-16) could use work. Culver needs to tighten up his pull-up, but his consistent flashes and production suggest his arrow is pointing up.


    Shooting: B

    Key stat: 58-of-159 jump shots in the half court (36.5 percent)

    Culver has taken a step as a mid-range scorer and shooter, converting at least 41.0 percent on both short and medium jumpers. His distance shooting hasn't progressed. With a slow, high-arcing shot, he's down to 1.7 three-point makes per 40 minutes on 34.3 percent shooting. His 68.1 percent free-throw mark doesn't help ease any concerns, either. Still, the eye test detects enough shot-making skill. Shooting won't be the reason why teams pass on Culver. 


    Playmaking: B

    Key Stat: 26.7 assist percentage

    Playing on the ball more often as a sophomore, Culver has had the reps to develop as a facilitator. He's nearly doubled his assist rate to 26.7 percent from 13.7 percent. Culver lacks the blow-by, breakdown speed to work as an NBA point guard, but he's flashed secondary playmaking potential from the wing with the ability to make reads as a passer.


    Defense: B+

    Key stat: 1.9 stocks per 40 minutes (steals and blocks)

    Culver has the quickness and length to adequately guard both backcourt positions. However, he won't be strong enough to defend most NBA wings. Physical opponents can play through Culver. With that said, he's still a positive defensive link for his perimeter coverage and reads.

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

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    Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

    Scoring: B

    Key stat: 19.7 points per 40 minutes, 54.3 FG%

    A steady inside-out forward, De'Andre Hunter looks relatively similar to how he did last year, but he's moved into a featured role. His 19.7 points per 40 minutes are only slightly higher than the 18.4 points he averaged as a redshirt freshman. He's been effective driving to the basket out of spot-ups (9-of-17). He plays through contact and bumps to the basket. And though he isn't a high-usage post player (37 possessions), he's been efficient there with short jumpers, turnarounds and one- to two-dribble takes to the rim. His .922 PPP out of isolation ranks in the 70th percentile, and Hunter still has plenty of room to improve as a shot-creator. The one-on-one moves he pulls off now take time to execute. 


    Shooting: B+

    Key stat: 48-of-107 percent jump shots in the half court (44.9 percent)

    Hunter is shooting 47.4 percent from three and 50.0 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers. He looks comfortable in rhythm with a strong, balanced base and concise stroke. He's only making 1.3 threes per 40 minutes—the same number as last season—and the three-ball will be expected to become the most valued shot in his bag. Hunter is 14-of-39 on dribble jump shots, which is a sign that he's capable of becoming a more versatile shooter. But the scouting report will call for defenders to close out hard and force Hunter to fake and pull up.


    Rebounding: C

    Key stat: 10.7 rebounding percentage

    When Hunter has position under the boards, he's a putback threat (13 made field goals) off missed shots. But overall, this is the second season he's put up a weak rebounding rate. Hunter does spend time at small forward guarding perimeter players, but he won't give any teams a rebounding edge. 



    Key stat: 1.4 stocks per 40 minutes (steals and blocks)

    Hunter's low defensive stats aren't indicative of his performance. He guards inside and out with switchability the NBA values. He ranks in the 99th percentile in pick-and-roll defense. And while his defensive tools—6'7", 225-pound size, long arms, mobile feet— look textbook, his effort and reads deserve equal praise. The low steal and block rates may point to Hunter not being a quick-twitch athlete.

Cam Reddish (Duke, SF, Freshman)

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Scoring: C+

    Key stat: 19.3 points per 40 minutes, 35.6 FG%

    Shooting only 35.6 percent overall and 39.8 percent inside the arc, Cam Reddish has struggled to create, identify and convert on his scoring opportunities as Duke's third option. With spot-ups accounting for 34.9 percent of his offense, Reddish's .769 PPP ranks in the 28th percentile. In those situations, he's a combined 9-of-33 when he's forced to put the ball down and shoot a pull-up, runner or lay-up. Converting 47.6 percent of his shots around the basket, Reddish has shown poor explosion, feel and touch off one foot in the paint. He's still scoring at a strong rate, averaging 14.0 points, mostly due to distance shot-making. But on 30 pick-and-roll ball-handling possessions this season, his 1.20 PPP would also rank in the 98th percentile.


    Shooting: B

    Key stat: 58-of-192 jump shots in the half court (30.2 percent)

    Though he's been erratic all season, Reddish is still making 3.7 three-pointers per 40 minutes, showing the ability to catch fire for stretches of a game. His 33.2 percent three-point mark isn't overly concerning. The fact he's shot 16.9 percent on guarded catch-and-shoot jump shots versus 41.0 percent when left open is far more worrisome. 


    Playmaking: C+

    Key stat: 12.0 assist percentage

    The playmaking skill that Reddish flashed throughout high school has been masked in Duke's offense. Barrett and Tre Jones share most of the ball-handling duties for the Blue Devils. Reddish has occasionally shown he can attack and pass on the move. He does have some natural facilitating instincts that hinted at point-forward potential coming into college. It isn't as exciting as once thought, although he also hasn't been given many opportunities to create.


    Defense: B+

    Key stat: 3.3 stocks per 40 minutes (steals and blocks)

    With excellent size and length, Reddish has had an encouraging defensive season that's highlighted his quickness, anticipation and versatility. He's making reads and jumping lanes, racking up 1.9 steals per game. Reddish hasn't always made the right play or established himself as a lockdown defender, but the ups outweigh the downs overall.

Jaxson Hayes (Texas, C, Freshman)

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Scoring: B

    Key stat: 17.7 points per 40 minutes, 74.8 FG%

    Off the draft radar to start the 2018-19 season, Jaxson Hayes has turned heads with his tools and consistent athletic plays around the rim. He's shown minimal offensive skill or scoring ability outside of run-and-jump plays. But on those plays, he's been excellent, ranking in the 94th percentile as a pick-and-roll finisher, the 95th percentile as a cutter and the 87th percentile in transition. He shoots 78.4 percent around the basket. And though he's limited to basic moves out of the post, they'e worked (66.7 percent shooting). Otherwise, Hayes adds zero as a shot-creator or shot-maker.


    Shooting: N/A

    Key stat: 0-of-3 jump shots

    Hayes has been a non-shooter, attempting just two jump shots all season. His 73.2 percent free-throw mark is encouraging, but given his rim-running identity, it isn't practical to expect Hayes to do anything other than passing outside the paint.


    Rebounding: D

    Key stat: 13.0 rebounding percentage

    Hayes' rebounding numbers are underwhelming, partly because he's 18 years old and 220 pounds. He also takes himself out of the picture by trying to block every shot in his vicinity. His 9.0 boards per 40 minutes are oddly low for a 6'11" big man with bounce.


    Defense: A-

    Key stat: 5.1 stocks per 40 minutes (steals and blocks)

    His 11.8 shot-blocking rate is near elite and reflects a quick jump and ability to cover ground. He ranks 17th in the country in real defensive plus-minus, giving Texas an active rim protector who's improved sliding away from the basket. Hayes also averages 6.1 fouls per 40 minutes and leans on size, length and hops over IQ and feel. 

Keldon Johnson (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    Scoring: B

    Key stat: 18.4 points per 40 minutes, 48.2 percent FG

    The scouting report on Keldon Johnson looks different that it did in high school, when athleticism fueled most of his production. He grades out in only the 60th percentile in transition offense, and he's shot an underwhelming 50.8 percent at the rim considering the strong tools and burst he has to work with. He has converted a combined 19-of-35 runners, layups and dunks driving out of spot-ups. But Johnson appears limited in terms of shot creativity, totaling only 11 points combined between pick-and-roll ball-handling and isolation possessions. Outside of the catch-and-shoot three-ball, the most impressive shot in Johnson's bag has been his runner (18-of-35). He shows good control and use of angles on touch shots around the key.


    Shooting: A-

    Key stat: 42-of-102 jump shots in the half court (41.2 percent)

    Johnson hasn't shot threes in volume, but he's making 39.6 percent of his 3.4 attempts per game. He looks balanced on his jumpers when rising from standstill position or running off screens (83rd percentile). Johnson opts for runners and layups over pull-ups, but he's made 11-of-28 attempts. And he's shot 75.0 percent from the free-throw line, which contributes to his excellent 58.9 true shooting percentage.


    Playmaking: D

    Key stat: 10.0 assist percentage

    Johnson is a non-playmaking wing, which puts additional pressure on his scoring and shot-making. He may have to play up a position at small forward in the pros. Though he's a capable passer, Johnson isn't threatening enough off the dribble to be a setup assist man.


    Defense: B

    Key stat: 1.1 stocks per 40 minutes (steals and blocks)

    His defense has been up and down, looking strong on some plays for his quickness and intensity and ugly when he's getting beat too easily or making poor reads. He has the tools to defend multiple NBA positions, but he won't walk into the league as a plus defender. Johnson has flashed defensive potential at Kentucky, but he needs more coaching and reps to improve his awareness. 

Romeo Langford (Indiana, SG, Freshman)

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Scoring: B+

    Key stat: 20.3 points per 40 minutes, 45.8 FG%

    With Indiana losing 12 of its past 13 conference games, a cloud sits over Romeo Langford's average of 17.0 points. He'll still draw plenty of NBA interest for his physical tools, scoring efficiency and skill set. Langford has excelled as a pick-and-roll ball-handler (86th percentile), mostly by getting downhill, attacking (6.3 free-throw attempts per game) and finishing around the basket, where he's shot a terrific 65.6 percent. On 37 isolation possessions, his 1.135 PPP also ranks in the 92nd percentile, which highlights his ability to drive or separate in the mid-range with pull-ups and step-backs. He's making 58.3 percent of his medium-range jumpers. 


    Shooting: C+

    Key stat: 48-of-149 jump shots in the half court (34.3 percent)

    Langford is shooting only 27.1 percent on 4.0 three-point attempts per game. He doesn't generate a ton of leg power either as a shooter or a leaper, and he recently tossed up an airball at the free-throw line against Iowa. Langford has shot-making ability, averaging 1.1 threes per game while converting 32-of-85 dribble jump shots (37.6 percent) in the half court. But he'll need to eventually improve his distance shooting to take off as a three-level NBA scorer.


    Playmaking: C+

    Key stat: 14.8 assist percentage

    Langford isn't likely to earn a combo label at the next level, although he does flash playmaking out of pick-and-rolls, having helped to generate 74 points on 80 possessions passing off ball screens. When he makes his move toward the basket, he's typically looking to score or get to the free-throw line. Only two of his isolation possessions have resulted in baskets for teammates.


    Defense: B

    Key stat: 1.9 stocks per 40 minutes (steals and blocks)

    Like most freshmen, Langford can look silly on some defensive possessions and impressive on others. He does possess the size, length and foot speed to become a reliable perimeter defender. However, his low steal rate (1.4 steal percentage) doesn't help his case, and there have been sequences in which he's lost track of his man off the ball or been turned around in ball-screen coverage.

Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga, PF, Junior)

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    Scoring: A

    Key stat: 27.2 points per 40 minutes, 60.7 FG%

    A bench player through two seasons at Gonzaga, Rui Hachimura is now scoring 20.5 points per game while shooting 62.0 percent inside the arc. He's producing in a variety of ways, most frequently by cutting (18.3 percent of offense), running in transition (17.9 percent) and posting up (17.7 percent). Spotting up (14.5 percent), he's converted 11-of-15 takes to the basket and 12-of-19 on his pull-ups. Hachimura has also been excellent around the basket (63.8 percent shooting), showing a good feel and strength for finishing. His shot creation could use improvement, but he's still been successful out of isolation (47 points, 53 possessions, albeit against mostly weaker competition). 


    Shooting: B

    Key stat: 39-of-81 jump shots in the half court (48.1 percent)

    Hachimura's 44.4 percent three-point mark is somewhat misleading since it's only on 27 attempts. He's 6-of-22 from 17 feet to the arc. Hachimura shows far more touch inside 17 feet, making 66.7 percent of his short jumpers and 74.9 percent of his free throws. He's looked comfortable pulling up off of a dribble or two (20-of-35). Extending his range would ultimately raise his ceiling. It may require altering his shot mechanics, which currently result in a line-drive trajectory.


    Rebounding: C

    Key stat: 12.2 rebounding percentage

    Teams must decide whether to dock Hachimura for his weak rebounding rates when he usually has the physical advantage in a mid-major conference. A 12.2 rebounding percentage would be considered below-average for a power forward expected to draw looks from lottery teams.  


    Defense: C

    Key stat: 2.4 stocks (steals and blocks)

    With Gonzaga crushing most opponents in the West Coast Conference, Hachimura's defense isn't under the microscope. It should be, since his effort level fluctuates and he rarely makes a play on the ball. Is he tough enough inside for NBA bigs or laterally quick for guarding the perimeter? He can improve, but Hachimura's defensive upside appears limited.


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, Basketball Reference and Synergy stats are current heading into games on Saturday, Feb. 23. Other stats current through play Saturday.