Predicting the Most Likely All-Stars from 2019 NBA Draft Class
A popular question throughout the 2018-19 college season asked how many stars would emerge from the 2019 NBA draft. Outside of the No. 1 pick, not many others popped as sure things.
But they don't always emerge right away. Nikola Vucevic, who was drafted at No. 16 overall in 2011, just made his first All-Star team during his eighth NBA season.
We pinpointed the five most likely future All-Stars from this class and, based on talent, room to improve, fit and team situations, ranked them by their likelihood to earn such an accolade.
5. Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies
Brandon Clarke has a potential path toward an eventual All-Star appearance, but it will look different from most others.
Despite lacking upside as a scorer, he'll have the chance to get there based off impact modeled after Draymond Green. Clarke leaves his fingerprints on games without needing many dribbles or on-on-one opportunities. He finished second in the country to Zion Williamson in box plus/minus while attempting just 10.1 shots per game.
The 6'8" energizer has an extraordinary nose for the ball on defense, where he blocked an outstanding 11.3 percent of opponents' two-point attempts last season. His reactions and timing are elite and create special defensive playmaking ability powered by exciting quickness and bounce.
He's still a threat on offense, having finished last year at Gonzaga averaging 24.1 points per 40 minutes on 68.7 percent shooting. He relies mostly on his athleticism, effort and fluidity off the ball, but he's flashed enough hints at room for improvement.
Though not a threatening shot-creator, Clarke still shows other ways to score. He converted nine of 13 drives to the basket out of spot-ups in 2018-19. He made 11 of 20 runners, demonstrating soft touch around the key. In summer league, Clarke hit five of nine three-pointers after taking just 15 all season for the Bulldogs.
He'll benefit from having a setup passer like Ja Morant, as well. To gain star recognition, however, Clarke will need the Memphis Grizzlies to turn things around and start winning games since he won't have a scoring average on par with the other All-Star forwards.
But Memphis appears on the right track with Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and now Clarke, arguably the leading candidate for steal of the 2019 draft.
4. RJ Barrett, New York Knicks
If RJ Barrett is ever going to make an All-Star game, he'll need to reach it with versatility.
Scoring alone may not be enough, given the questions about his shooting and ball-handling for shot-creation. But he became the only NCAA freshman since 1992 to average at least 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists. And despite an inefficient summer league, he still added 9.5 boards and 5.0 assists to go with his 16.8 points per game.
Though he's known for scoring instincts, Barrett's playmaking and boarding could be the keys to unlocking his All-Star potential.
He will still continue to remain a threat in transition with his nose for the rim, physical tools and footwork. And at 19 years old, he has plenty of room to improve his one-on-one skills and jumper in the half court.
His passing, particularly off ball screens, remains an underrated and valuable strength. Head coach David Fizdale should eventually start running pick-and-roll offense through Barrett, who's shown an excellent feel for hitting the screener, as well as tough driving ability when attacking downhill.
In the short term, the Knicks didn't help their rookie by failing to add one or two max free agents and instead opting to sign a handful of role-playing veterans on prove-it contracts for 2020-21. With Elfrid Payton joining Dennis Smith Jr., Barrett won't get those early reps as an initiator. He'll lose touches and shots to Marcus Morris.
Barrett will have significant challenges to overcome early. He's facing a major role change since leaving Duke, and he'll need to find other ways to score outside of fast-breaking and driving. There's also likely to be heavy roster turnover throughout his rookie contract.
But Barrett possesses enough potential in the scoring, playmaking and rebounding departments. Making just enough adjustments over the next five years could result in unique across-the-board production in his prime.
3. Jarrett Culver, Minnesota Timberwolves
Jarrett Culver could be in line to pass Andrew Wiggins as the Minnesota Timberwolves' No. 2 option.
Positional size (6'7"), budding creation ability, shot-making versatility and defense fuel his star potential. Culver reaching that potential, however, may still be considered a long shot dependent on his shooting development and effectiveness separating from defenders without explosive burst.
But in terms of his physical tools, fluidity and skill set, most of the ingredients are there. Culver also made a significant jump forward after one season at Texas Tech, transforming from a spot-up player into a lead scorer and playmaker for a team that reached the national championship.
Well-rounded offensively, he generated at least 70 points off each of the following play types: pick-and-roll ball-handling, spot-up, isolation, transition and screens. In comparison, RJ Barrett only scored 70 points in transition and out of spot-ups.
An improved off-the-dribble game has led to Culver adding value as a facilitator who's capable of setting up teammates off screens and penetration.
With standout height and length for a guard, quickness and an encouraging defensive mind, Culver appears on track to earning the two-way-player label. The upside to reach an All-Star level is there, even it takes him until his seventh season like Khris Middleton.
After shooting 30.4 percent from three as a sophomore and struggling against De'Andre Hunter in the championship game, the Wolves' rookie just has questions to answer about his jump-shot mechanics and execution against NBA wings.
2. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
The first NCAA player since 1995 to average at least 10 assists for a season, Ja Morant figures to top out as one of the league's premier playmakers.
A mix of nifty ball-handling, blow-by speed and elite passing skill points to his assist work quickly translating.
Morant's scoring will take longer, though between his athleticism and downhill driving, the nation's leader in transition points should still remain a threat while his jump shot develops. He'll push for 15 points per game right away just based on fast-breaking, attacking ball screens and maintaining a green light to keep shooting.
He did make notable progress around the perimeter this past season, converting 57 threes in 33 games at a 36.3 percent clip. Plus, consecutive seasons above 80 percent from the free-throw line highlight his touch.
Overcoming a thin frame when finishing and avoiding lapses in concentration will be key for his efficiency. He'll also need to continue improving as a shooter, particularly with the pull-up. But among 2019 draft picks, Morant seems like the right pick for the Memphis Grizzlies and enters his inaugural season as the second-most-likely rookie to become an All-Star.
1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
The year's least surprising prediction has Zion Williamson cracking an All-Star roster. The only question is how soon?
It won't happen this season, although signs point to fan voting helping his cause. Scoring won't come as easily as it did for Williamson last season at Duke, as NBA defenses are much stronger around the basket and smarter in the half court.
But after a season or two, his skills should begin catching up to the explosive athleticism around which his identity is built. Williamson's mix of quickness, power and bounce will remain unmatched and continue leading to easy baskets off transition, drives, dump-offs, lobs, low post-ups and offensive rebounds.
Even while he adjusts to reading the referees' whistles and opponents' actions on offense, his reaction time, athletic ability and motor should still translate to impactful defensive activity.
As his ball-handling tightens, he'll begin to create more scoring angles for himself. Williamson's jump shot could be last to arrive. But by the time it does, he may be too dominant inside the arc.
Playing alongside passers and shooters like Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick, Frank Jackson and Nicolo Melli should only lead to higher-percentage looks and extra space.