We’re only a month into the NCAA Men’s college basketball and NBA Draft season is in full swing. Freshmen have emerged onto the scene as prospects and some hyped players have disappointed. I’m not going to ramble for long here. This top 60 is split into six tiers. Players in tiers are closer to each other than players in other tiers, despite their proximity in ranking. For the spreadsheet version of my board, click here.
1. Zion Williamson
I’m not going to say too much about Zion because everything has been said already. Zion was at the top of my board before the season and everyone else has joined me in that vein. He is a freak in every sense of the word. Athletes like Zion with his handle, passing, and motor do not come around often. Can you guess how many college players have averaged .68 TS%, 15.4 AST%, 7.5 BLK%, and 4.2 STL% (>25 MPG)? The answer is one. I don’t need to say who that player is now, do I?
2. Bol Bol
I think some of the aversion to Bol as a top prospect is a product of his weirdness and idiosyncrasies on the basketball court. Bol Bol doesn’t really look like a basketball player, sure. He looks a bit clunky when he moves and I hold my breath every time he falls over out of fear that the twigs he calls legs will snap in two like an angry squirrel threw a temper tantrum on them. However, if one can look past Bol’s oddities, there is a star to unearth hiding in plain sight.
How many 7-foot-2 19 year olds can do this?
Bol is currently shooting a clean 50% from deep on 2.6 attempts per game. Despite his low release, Bol’s gargantuan height and length makes his shot difficult to contest and his ability to hit pull-ups could become a weapon of nuclear proportion. His touch around the basket is light and he makes hook shots and turnarounds with ease. Bol is already a three-level scorer with enough passing ability.
How about this?
On the defensive end, Bol has his issues moving in space and holding his ground but Bol knows where to be and gives effort. His condorish wingspan makes it difficult for offensive players to blow by him for easy shots and his length is a major deterrent around the rim. Given Bol’s unicorn equity and the lack of real star talent in this draft, Bol lives alone in his own tier towards the apex of this class.
3. R.J. Barrett
After Barrett’s stinker of the fourth quarter against Gonzaga, his draft stock has been on a steady decline. Much of the mainstream media still has him at number two behind Zion but I have seen many people drop him outside of their top fives. Barrett does have some issues, yes. His handles severely limit Barrett as a scorer in the half court and he doesn’t have enough in-between game to be a primary initiator.
Still, Barrett is absolutely elite attacking the basket, in using his body to create space and finish. His defense hasn’t been spectacular but his athleticism, tools, and motor should have him eventually figuring it out on that end. In this class, Barrett is too talented to see himself fall out of the top four. He is basically 3a to Jarrett Culver’s 3b for me but it could really go either way.
4. Jarrett Culver
Jarrett Culver has definitely grown this year. He looks to be closer to 6-foot-8 or 6-foot-9 as compared to the 6-foot-5 he measured at last season. This height, combined with his length, amplifies his defensive ability along with his ability to operate as a primary ball-handler for Texas Tech. Not only this but there is a good chance Culver grows even more and an even higher chance that he bulks up later in his career. His improved handle and shooting combined with that frame makes Culver an enticing prospect with a solid floor as a small-ball big or big wing.
5. Kevin Porter Jr.
Kevin Porter might be the prospect with the most wing initiator potential in this class. It’s either him or Barrett but I lean Porter because of his advanced array of pull-up jump shots. He’s comfortable shooting on the move and his step back contorts the defense, opening up windows for shots. He can fall in love with the step back but having that move is better than not. Porter’s combo of athleticism, size, and offensive talent combined with his solid defense makes him a clear top prospect in this class.
6. Jontay Porter*
There’s not any indication that I can find whether Porter would declare or not for the 2019 NBA Draft. Forgetting about any injury setbacks that are unlikely due to the miracle that is modern medicine, Porter is a top-six player in this class. His uncanny ability to make plays at the five and underrated athleticism are perfect for the modern NBA. Porter will still only be 19 at the start of next year’s college basketball season so there is a good chance he stays another season.
7. De’Andre Hunter
Surprisingly, Virginia’s defense has been a bit disappointing this season, meaning it hasn’t been the absolute best in the nation (number three per KenPom). Hunter has been thrust into a big man role defensively this season and has struggled. He hasn’t been super impactful as a rim protector and has been inconsistent in his team defense. Yet, he is still an elite individual defender and brings surplus value all around as a big wing defensively. His slight offensive improvement in regards to his shooting and passing bode well for his offensive future.
8. Cam Reddish
I considered putting a tier break here. Reddish is fairly far behind Hunter in my mind as a prospect but not far enough to warrant a tier division. My main concern with Reddish being a top three or five pick is his inability to get his own shot at a high level. Reddish’s frame combined with him being the best shooter out of the top guys aside from Bol makes him a valuable prospect. Yet, he doesn’t show much of an in-between game, his first step is sluggish, and his explosion around the rim is very lacking.
Cam Reddish brings value as a prospect because of his relatively safe floor but I just don’t see a high enough ceiling to warrant forking over a top pick for him. Reddish compares favorably (on offense, at least) to Otto Porter in terms of role. Porter is a fine player and a valuable wing piece but is he a player that is worth a top three pick (yes, I know Porter was a top three pick) and an eventual contract that is far richer than it should be? Probably not.
9. Ja Morant
Posting a near triple-double for the Murray State Racers (24.2 points, 8.2 assists, and 7.3 rebounds per game), Ja Morant has officially broken out. His lightning quickness and explosive athleticism are overwhelming for the level of competition he faces. Ja’s three-point shot is coming along but it isn’t all the way there yet. He seems more confident on pull-ups than other threes at this point. Morant has an excellent feel for the game and is a supreme playmaker. His slight frame limits him as a driver and a defender at the NBA level but Morant’s athleticism and feel among other things makes him a clear top point guard in this 2019 NBA Draft class.
10. Simisola Shittu
Following Darius Garland’s injury, Shittu will have the chance to step up in his absence. The freshman has been a bit disappointing based on my thoughts on him before the season but his handle and vision combined with good athleticism are unique for a big man. Still, Shittu’s non-shooting and lack of defense has him trending downwards at the moment.
11. Keldon Johnson
Outside of his first college game against Duke, Keldon Johnson has struggled. Against Duke, Johnson flashed as a stout defender who uses his strength to gain advantages on both ends of the court. He isn’t a nuclear athlete and isn’t a great shooter but he is physical, passes well, and can attack the rim. He will have more chances to impress as the season moves onto conference play.
12. Nassir Little
Little hasn’t had a significant role with the North Carolina Tar Heels yet and his poor play is the fault of head coach Roy Williams’ stubbornness and Littles’ own deficiencies. Outside of straight-line drives, he can’t create his own shot. Little has had trouble defending in space, getting beat often on and off of the ball. Still, his talent level is high and the prospect of a player with his athleticism and movement shooting is still good enough to keep him in tier III for now.
13. Talen Horton-Tucker
One of the youngest players in the upcoming NBA Draft, Talen Horton-Tucker has burst onto the scene leading a surprising Iowa State team. He’s 6-foot-4 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and is built like a bowling ball. His impressive strength and solid first step quickness makes him a tough cover on drives. He has a refined handle for his age and has shown an advanced ability to make plays. Tucker’s efficiency is awful at the moment (38.8 FG%, .446 EFG%) but that should climb as Iowa State gets healthier.
14. Jalen McDaniels
McDaniels hasn’t made a spectacular leap in his second season. However, he has improved this season. McDaniels’ frame, coordination, and fluidity make him a rare athlete for his size and he has shown some playmaking and movement shooting ability. McDaniels is still raw and turns the ball over too much but the playmaking opportunities are encouraging. His motor and energy make him effective on the defensive end and an animal on the glass.
15. Sekou Doumbouya
Doumbouya is one of the least developed prospects in this draft. He started slowly in France but has been playing better as of late. Doumbouya still is a technical mess on defense and doesn’t have much of an offensive toolbag but his frame and athleticism are enticing. Sekou is the youngest player in the upcoming draft, not turning 18 for a couple more weeks. He won’t be able to drink legally until his fourth season in the NBA, assuming he sticks.
16. Tre Jones
17. Coby White
18. Darius Garland*
I had trouble differentiating between these three guards so I decided to clump them next to each other. There is a case for all of them to be ahead of each other. I like Tre Jones the best out of them. His below the rim style is a turnoff to many but his athleticism is underrated. He has a fantastic floater game to make up for his lack of athleticism, combining preternatural body control with a soft touch.
Coby White and Darius Garland are similar players but I give a slight edge to White because his defense is more functional, barring any setbacks due to Garland’s reported knee injury. They are both good pull-up shooters but Garland is a bit better in that vein because of his handle (The Step Back’s Trevor Magnotti broke this down, read that here). White is a better scorer at the first two levels and deserves more credit than he gets on defense. Still, both are solid prospects and I can’t really argue with ranking one over the other.
19. Brandon Clarke
20. Grant Williams
Clarke and Williams are two players who will play similar roles in the NBA. They are both fantastic defenders but Clarke wins with athleticism, instinct, frame. and rim protections, where Williams relies on his strength and IQ. Williams is more developed on offense; he is a nice passer with an ability to hit tough shots. His three-point shot has taken a tremendous leap this season, skyrocketing to 46.2%. Clarke’s frame and athleticism give him the slightest edge over Williams but separation between them is minimal.
21. Luguentz Dort
As a driver, Dort brings as much gravity as anyone in this class not named Zion Williamson. His brute strength and solid touch make him a menace to cover penetrating downhill. This strength makes him solid on the defensive end, despite some lapses in focus which should be expected from any freshman. He is still learning how to use his gravity to make plays for others and can be reckless with the ball often. Dort’s skill set grants him a high floor with potential to be great if the passing and jump shot develops.
22. Romeo Langford
One of the most highly touted freshmen in this class, many still see Langford as a top five prospect. Regarded as a 3-and-D prospect by some, his three-point shooting has been poor and his defense has been very inconsistent. Langford is a crafty scorer who uses his balance, touch, and footwork to find openings in the defense.
23. Killian Tillie*
Gonzaga has been able to find success without arguably their best pro prospect. When Tillie returns from his injury, Gonzaga will be even more unstoppable. Tillie is an elite shooter with a solid handle and great touch. His athleticism is solid and he gives enough effort on defense to survive. His fluid movement and great shooting should let him be a solid complementary big or even a big wing if his development goes well.
24. Dean Wade
Dean Wade brings value as a four man with movement shooting. His three-point percentage is down a bit from last season but still is excellent at 38.5%. His passing, shooting, and basketball IQ gives him a high floor as a role player in the NBA.
25. Isaiah Roby
Before the season, I viewed Isaiah Roby as a surefire lottery prospect, expecting quite a bit of development. Still, he makes no real impact on Nebraska’s offense, his threes have not been falling, and he is turning the ball over at an alarming rate. Roby is still making a huge impact on defense but the offensive flashes that he showed last season haven’t materialized into anything tangible.
26. Josh Reaves
I went into detail in my last piece on Reaves so I’ll keep this short. He’s a feisty team defender with excellent instincts. The key to his prospectdom is improving his three-point shot, which has improved this season. He’ll be a player to keep a tab on this season.
27. Kezie Okpala
Kezie Okpala has made a massive leap this season, transforming from a wing with a good frame to a wing who actually knows how to play basketball. His improved handle and passing should give him enough offense to constitute a solid 3-and-D prospect.
28. EJ Montgomery
Montgomery hasn’t been utilized much at all by Kentucky head coach John Calipari. Still, he is a talented big with passing chops and the ability to space the floor.
29. Carsen Edwards
Carsen Edwards is a flamethrower on offense with a vicious pull-up jumper, a great handle, and great quickness.
However, he is just a shade under 6-foot with shoes. Making it in the NBA at that size is a difficult task but Edwards’ offensive talent and core strength give him a chance.
30. Charles Bassey
Charles Bassey has been disappointing this season; he looks lost on both ends and is still raw. Still, he is athletic with solid touch around the rim and has good enough craft.
31. Daniel Gafford
Despite Daniel Gafford’s statistical production, he hasn’t been all that impressive to me. He isn’t great at anything on offense and has been inconsistent on defense. He has upside as a dive man but given the oversaturation of centers in the NBA, Gafford doesn’t make the cut as a first round prospect.
32. Devidas Sirvydas
The clear second best international prospect in the class, Sirvydas is a smooth offensive talent with shot-creation ability. He projects well as a big, scoring wing at the NBA level.
33. Ignas Brazdeikis
Brazdeikis has broken out as a star for Michigan under the tutelage of head coach Jon Beilein. The Canadian lefty is a strong, fluid athlete who attacks the rim with ease and is a solid defender. His handle is solid and he shoots the ball well. He is one of the biggest surprises of the season and has made Michigan one of the best teams in the country.
34. Naz Reid
Many have fallen in love with Reid as a prospect because of his undeniable offensive talent. Most guys his size don’t have close to his handle or shooting ability. Yet, Reid isn’t a great athlete, can’t defend well, and is inconsistent using his strengths on offense.
35. Nickeil Alexander-Walker
Alexander-Walker has made strides this season, improving his draft stock. His frame, shooting, and solid defensive ability could see him picked higher than this.
36. Zach Norvell Jr.
There aren’t too many shooters in this class with a good frame and any other skills. Norvell is athletic with a pretty solid handle. He can be woefully inconsistent but when Norvell is hot, he’s tough to defend.
37. Rui Hachimura
Following Rui Hachimura’s continued standout performances, the number of people who rank him outside of the first round is dwindling. Still, Hachimura is wildly overrated by the media in my opinion. He is strong and skilled offensively but for a 21-year-old, he is incredibly raw. Hachimura struggles mightily on defense, getting beat routinely and living out of position. On offense, he provides little value out of individual scoring on the ball. Even then, his love for mid-range shots isn’t translatable. Despite his frame and skill, Hachimura leaves plenty to desire.
38. Admiral Schofield
Admiral Schofield is a similar player to Hachimura in terms of role. He’s a big, physical wing/big who actually knows what he is doing on the defensive end. Outside of an okay three-point shot, he ultimately doesn’t bring enough offense to be considered a legitimate 3-and-D prospect.
39. PJ Washington
Washington hasn’t been able to shine as much as many hoped he would, partly because of Kentucky’s struggles. He is a skilled big with a good motor and solid defensive instincts. Despite his hot shooting start, I’m not sure if the jump shot is for real. He dominated against Seton Hall so maybe I am too low on him.
40. Jaylen Hoard
Hoard is a long, wiry wing with quite a bit of defensive potential. His offensive game is still raw and I admittedly haven’t gotten to watch him much thus far.
41. Sagaba Konate
West Virginia has been a major disappointment this season due largely to the departure of Daxter Miles and Jevon Carter. Because of this, Konate has stepped into a feature role on offense and has showcased more of his talent, including a newfound three-point shot on which he is shooting 39.1%. His BLK% has dipped but Konate is still an elite eraser, a skill that could make him useful in the pros.
42. Shamorie Ponds
Ponds is a bonafide scorer with a good pull-up jumper, a quick handle, and sufficient craftiness. However, he isn’t on the level of a guy like Carsen Edwards athletically, which limits his upside as an NBA player. The fact that he is a questionable decision maker and a negative on defense hurts his case.
43. Eric Paschall
Paschall is fairly athletic and is fairly skilled. His combo of size and lack of elite athleticism make him a potentially weird fit in the NBA, though.
44. Jordan Poole
Jordan Poole is agonizingly inconsistent. To start the season, he looked far from the top 30 prospect I expected him to play like. Showing his streakiness, Poole has been on fire over the last five games, averaging 18.8 points per game. When he is doing things right, there aren’t many prospects in this class more talented than Poole with the ball in his hands.
45. Devon Dotson
Dotson has emerged as the most impressive prospect on the Kansas Jayhawks. He is feisty on defense, using his quickness and effort to be a solid positional defender. He has solid handles and surprising ability to attack the rim using great body control and balance. His jump shot is a bit wonky and his feel is developing but Dotson is interesting nonetheless.
46. Jon Teske
Michigan’s emergence as a dominant power in college basketball has put a spotlight on all of their prospects. Teske might be their best player as one of the best defenders in the country. His technique, IQ, and effort on that end is fantastic. If he continues to his threes like he is at the moment, Teske could see himself go higher than this.
47. Dedric Lawson
Dedric Lawson is a super high IQ player with an excellent feel for the game and good vision on the move. However, his debilitating lack of athleticism and lack of a three-point shot do not bode well for his NBA chances.
48. Aric Holman
Holman is an athletic big who moves well and can space the floor. His shooting and defense could help him become a solid rotational big at the next level.
49. Quentin Grimes
50. Jalen Pickett
51. Goga Bitzade
52. Luka Samanic
53. Udoka Azibuke
54. D’Marcus Simonds
55. Mattisse Thybulle
56. Dylan Windler
57. Kris Wilkes
58. Sam Hauser
59. Ty-Shon Alexander
60. Tremont Waters
Quentin Grimes’s draft stock has dropped like a rock. I’m not even sure he will declare in the 2019 NBA Draft given how poor his season has been. Outside of the Michigan State game (which wasn’t even that impressive), Grimes has been mostly woeful. His only meaningful performances have come against paltry competition and even those haven’t been akin to the top five draft pick many touted and still tout him as.
I can’t understand why some people would still have Grimes ranked anywhere near the top 10, let alone the first round. Grimes is 6-foot-5, a good shooter, and a solid athlete with okay physical attributes. That player doesn’t sound like a top 10 pick to me. Grimes has almost no ability to reliably create his own shot against good defenders and his defense has been mostly bad. Grimes’ passing has been solid but it has been a bit sporadic. He may improve with age but he has done nothing in his career to suggest any improvement.
Right now, it doesn’t make sense to take Grimes in the top 40. Why have Grimes when a team can get Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who is bigger and a similar shooter. Right now, the future looks dim for Grimes but a good stretch of play could see his NBA Draft stock increase.