For most NBA teams, the scouting process has already begun. College practices, pro day, and international events. Most teams have sent their best scouts to begin the process. Even though the 2019 draft is more than 200 days away, it is never wrong to start preparing as early as today.
While currently, we have a compact and clear top-6, the entire board looks very promising. With a proper mixture of young talent with veteran savvy and of course a little international flavor, this might be the most versatile class in terms of the assortment of talent.
The draft has never been correct in terms of a better player going over the other. Busts have been picked first while All-Stars have fallen to the second round. The nature of the draft almost makes it impossible to predict it correctly but it is also what makes it fun to discuss as fans.
For this article, we will look at how the 2019 NBA draft’s first round might pan out. For the sake of this piece we will use the reverse standing of last season; note that we won’t factor in each teams needs but rather we will look at the talent of each player and how they match up with one another.
30 R.J. Barrett (Duke – Small Forward)
Without a doubt the consensus number one pick, R.J. Barrett has no weakness in his game at all. If healthy, he projects to be a franchise player due to his skill set and athleticism. Offensively, Barrett has a nice shooting stroke paired with great ball skills, meaning he has great handles and a great sense of when to pass; he works really well on the pick and roll, the open court, and in the half-court setting, so far Barrett is the complete package. Defensively, he is quick and can guard four positions with his size and athleticism and his natural basketball instincts.
The only gripe experts have with his game is Barrett could improve a little more from beyond the arc, but other than that, he is a complete basketball player, even by today's standards.
29 Cam Reddish (Duke – Shooting Guard/Small Forward)
Offensively, Reddish has an argument for the most intriguing prospect this year. At 6’8", Reddish handles the ball like a guard using crossovers to get to the rim or using them as a way to create separation to get off his shot. Defensively, he stays in front of his opponents using his length and foot speed.
Although he has great instincts in getting to the rim and creating space, Reddish has to improve more as a shooter. For now, he is very inconsistent with his shooting, which allows defenders to give him space and pack in in the paint.
28 Nassir Little (UNC – Small Forward)
A well-rounded player, it is hard to find a weakness in Nassir Little’s game. A strong athlete and a menace on the defensive end, Little has the potential to be the best player in this year’s class. Defensively, Little welcomes any challenge thrown at him and offensively, he has shown a nice shooting stroke in the mid-range and a knack for strong drives and finishes.
The only real issue Little has on his game is he is not an above average three-point shooter. If he can develop a respectable shot from the outside, it will unlock more avenues for him to explore offensively.
27 Zion Williamson (Duke – Power Forward)
Well known for his highlight dunks, Zion Williamson is the best athlete this year and probably one of the best all-time athletes for his age. Built like a bull, Williamson is one of the strongest players in the nation and if you mix it with his athleticism, you get a freight train on the open court. It's not a priority for most scouts, but Zion is one of the best dunkers in the world, with how effortlessly he glides through the air.
Zion needs a lot to work on but for now, he needs to focus on improving as a shooter. At 6’6"-6’7", Williamson does not have the luxury to bully his way to the rim in the NBA like he did in high school.
26 Sekou Doumbouya (France – Small Forward)
Another defensive specialist, Sekou Doumbouya has to potential to be the best defender in the NBA. A dynamic athlete, Doumbouya is strong for his age and if you pair it with his wingspan, he easily has the most defensive potential out of anyone. Offensively, he relies on the open court where he blows past defenders with his overwhelming size and speed, but as a shooter, he is slightly below average for now.
He has a lot to improve, but the biggest thing is his skillset. He is still a relatively young basketball player and he needs to improve his ball-handling and shooting if he wants to be a modern small forward in the NBA.
25 Romeo Langford (Indiana – Shooting Guard)
Arguably the best scorer this year, Romeo Langford has all the tools necessary to be a modern day Ray Allen. At 6’6", Langford has a pretty stroke to go along with great ball handling which allows him to score any way he sees fit. Whether it is coming off of screens or having to create for himself, Langford is ready to score in the NBA, even today. Defensively, he is engaged at all times, while showing signs of being an above average defender.
While Langford is quick, he is not an explosive athlete. He tends to rely on side steps, spin moves, and the like to score inside the paint.
24 Nazreon Reid (LSU – Power Forward/Center)
An old-school type of big, Nazreon Reid is a very physical post player that has shown enough skill to be considered one of the best prospects this year. Reid can mostly be found in the paint where he either fights for the rebound or scores over defenders. He not only welcomes physicality but he seeks it on both ends of the floor. All around a very unique character, Reid has developed nicely in terms of skill.
While he is fueled by emotions, sometimes it gets the better of him as he needs to learn how to play under control. Reid is a big physical player but he is below average as an athlete which might result in him struggling early on.
23 Quentin Grimes (Kansas – Point Guard)
Grimes is a big point guard that overpowers his matchup. While most guys need to put on weight, Grimes does not need any more, as he is a barrel-chested guard that bulldozes his way to the basket where he finishes with ease. He also has nice ball handling that gets defenders off balance.
Like most athletic point guards, Grimes needs to improve his shooting this coming season with Coach Self and the Jayhawks. Similarly, he can learn how to improve discipline at the defensive end where he has a lot of potential with his size.
22 Bol Bol (Oregon - Center)
Bol Bol has the most freakish measurements in this class. Standing at 7’2 and a wingspan of 7’8, Bol has all the tools to be a Rudy Gobert-type defender in the NBA. On the defensive end, Bol times his jumps well to swat away shots or at least alter them. At 7’2", it is easy to rely on height to be a plus defender, but Bol has shown natural instincts not even some NBA players have. Offensively, Bol has shown the ability to knock down threes and handle the ball relatively well for his size.
Bol is still raw in terms of his other skill set. He is not yet a good passer and he does not have a go-to move down in the post. If he wants to reach his max potential he will have to develop more skill to go along with his natural gift. Lastly, he needs to gain a bit more weight, just enough that he will not be bullied down in the post but not too much that he will lose his quickness and agility.
21 Keldon Johnson (Kentucky – Shooting Guard)
Another great shooter for Kentucky, Keldon Johnson has a pretty shot with solid mechanics and a picture-perfect release. With his shooting, Johnson opens a lot of avenues in terms of his scoring, he can blow by defenders who are wary about his jump shot; in the lane, Johnson has a different way to score, mainly with a Euro-step that he uses to avoid shot blockers.
Keldon Johnson is not a very good athlete in the college level, meaning he will struggle a lot in the NBA. If he wants to make an impact he will have to do it with his shooting and high basketball IQ.
20 Daniel Gafford (Arkansas – Power Forward/Center)
This class is full of big-time athletes and Daniel Gafford is no exception. A rim-running athletic 7-footer who effortlessly hangs in the air, Gafford has the potential to be an upgraded version of Clint Capela. On offense, Gafford relies on guards setting him up after the pick and roll where Gafford makes crisps dives. Defensively he uses his athleticism to be a shot blocker and to keep up against bigs that are more skilled.
So far Gafford has a limited role wherein he just rim-runs and defends. If he wants to be a star he will have to improve his shooting and add at least one post move to his arsenal.
19 Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga – Small Forward/Power Forward)
Rui Hachimura has one of the more NBA ready body in this year’s class. Already strong enough to handle playing in the NBA, Hachimura is a physical specimen that can potentially turn into a multiple time all-star. While we can talk about his athleticism and body all day, Hachimura has shown flashes of being an excellent “3-D” player that can keep the defense guessing with strong drives to the rim.
Although he has shown flashes, Hachimura does not have a consistent jump shot just yet and it might take some time before he figures out how to play in the NBA. Consistency is also key for him as he tends to disappear for multiple nights in a row before putting up great numbers in one game.
18 Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky – Power Forward/Center)
One of the best prospects in his class before re-classifying to play a year earlier, Bassey is a project in terms of his skill set. At 6’11", Bassey is very fluid in his movement while maintaining a high athletic profile. Bassey easily blows past defenders on the open court with his combination of good ball handling, quickness, and his speed in terms of going from one end to the other.
While the potential to be great is there, Bassey is still undeveloped in most parts of his game especially his shooting. If Bassey can develop a respectable shot he can sneak into the first five picks.
17 Kevin Porter (USC – Shooting Guard)
Another outstanding athlete, Kevin Porter is both explosive and talented as a scorer. Porter has a unique ability to get his own shot off the dribble using great ball handling while also being able to score in traffic with his athleticism. At 6’5", Porter has nice size along with his NBA ready frame. Lastly, Porter is surprisingly skilled with both hands, an ambidextrous player that has the potential to be a big-time scorer in the NBA.
Porter is talented and there are times when it looks like he knows it a bit too well. The scoring guard tends to have inconsistent intensity on both ends of the floor, a bad habit he needs to break if he wants the respect of his teammates and coaches. And for now, Porter is a good passer that can be a great passer if he is willing to put in the time.
16 Kris Wilkes (UCLA – Small Forward)
Another wiry athlete, Kris Wilkes is an all-around player that relies on his athleticism to make an impact on the court. The Bruin has a quick first step that allows him to penetrate the defense and get to the rim at will where he can score from different angles or set up teammates with his passing. Most players his age tend to play lazily but Wilkes plays with his heart 100% of the time. All in all, Wilkes is a fundamentally sound player that can excel in any role or any offensive system.
While he is a good athlete compared to other college players, he might have a rude awakening in the NBA where most of the players are as, if not more, athletic than him. Not a threat from outside just yet, Wilkes has a developing jump shot that will take some time.
15 Darius Garland (Vanderbilt – Point Guard)
Another pass-first point guard, Darius Garland is a super skilled lead guard that has a deep understanding of offensive schemes and how the game is played. If there is one thing scouts will rave about Garland it is his passing. As he is a point guard that uses his passing as a tool to break down the defense and find open looks, Garland does not hunt for assists but rather looks for an open shot for his team even if it means sacrificing his own assist numbers. As a scorer, Garland is very crafty in which he relies on floaters and separation to get his shot off.
One look at Garland and you can tell he will struggle to put on ideal weight. With small hips and tiny shoulders, Garland will have the same problem Tyler Ulis had in terms of matching up defensively in the NBA.
14 Tyler Herro (Kentucky – Shooting Guard)
In today’s NBA, shooting is the number one skill a player must possess, and Tyler Herro might just be the purest shooter this year. A shooting guard with great size, Herro has a pretty shot with excellent mechanics that extends all the way to the NBA range. Herro is also an underrated defender that can stay in front of most guards with his length.
While Herro is a great shooter, he tends to rely on his jump shot too much. As an average athlete that lacks necessary strength, he also projects to be a player that cannot get to the rim at will.
13 Eric Paschall (Villanova – Small Forward/Power Forward)
Every team needs a player that holds the five on the court together. These players are better known as the glue guys, and Eric Paschall has the potential to be an outstanding one in the NBA. Paschall is a smart player that does not look for his shot; rather, he looks for the best shot available to his team. He fights on rebounds and loose balls, makes the right passes, and all in all just an excellent team player.
Most glue guys tend to not have a high ceiling, and Paschall is the same. He does not excel in one area of his game and in the NBA, players tend to be really good at one skill. His playstyle might be outdated in today’s NBA.
12 Darius Bazley (Power Forward)
Darius Bazley is a unique all-around prospect that can score, pass, rebound, and defend. He is certainly a player that has no clear weakness in his game, especially at the power forward position. Bazley is not a long guy in terms of wingspan to height ratio, but he uses his athleticism on both ends of the court properly.
While he has no clear weakness yet, Bazley has a thin frame that will be taken advantage of in the NBA. If he wants to succeed, he will need to bulk up a little more in order to avoid getting bullied on defense.
11 Ja Morant (Murray State – Point Guard)
If there is a potential star point guard in this year’s class, it is Ja Morant. An explosive athlete that makes it look effortless, Morant has shown to be a tremendous rebounder and a good enough passer to warrant teams taking a risk with him in the first round.
While he has found success as a rebounder and passer, Morant still needs to prove he can become a reliable scorer, as he only averaged 10 points per game last year for Murray State.
10 Jaylen Hoard (Wake Forest – Small Forward/Power Forward)
If a team is looking for an offensively gifted wing then Jaylen Hoard is the perfect answer. A combination of size, athleticism, and skill, Hoard has shown everything needed to be considered a potential All-Star in the NBA. While he is still a project, it won’t take long for Hoard to be a consistent threat.
Defensively, Hoard can improve a lot. Hoard perceives a calm demeanor that looks like he is going through the mentions instead of asserting his will and dominance on both sides of the court.
9 Lindell Wigginton (Iowa State – Point Guard)
Lindell Wigginton is a strong scoring point guard that can get anywhere he wants on the court. Wigginton is aggressive in terms of getting his shot off, especially at the rim. A plus defender, Wigginton is willing to be physical on both ends of the floor.
Sometimes Wigginton’s aggression works against him, as he tends to take undesirable shots and pick up fouls on the other end. He is also very turnover-prone, which is a result of his aggression going to the rim.
8 Jalen McDaniels (San Diego State – Power Forward)
Jalen McDaniels is a freakishly long athletic power forward. McDaniels does not need any room to load up and explode, as he can just spring right up for a lob or a putback dunk. Playing last year for San Diego State, McDaniels showed flashes of what he can develop into.
The athleticism is already there. Jalen just needs to pair it with a scoring skillset that can easily translate to the NBA. While he’s at it, he needs to gain a bit more weight if he wants to compete in the next level.
7 Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s – Point Guard)
Shamorie Ponds is an intriguing prospect. Last year, Ponds averaged 21.6 points per game while shooting a poor 25% from three. If any team is looking for a spark off the bench, Ponds might be the option, as he can easily light up any opposing defense with his shot-making and his tendency to start heating up at any given moment.
While Ponds is a great offensive talent, he still needs to show he can improve his decision-making and his passing. He also is not the biggest guard out there, so he needs to find a way to be reliable defensively.
6 Jalen Smith (Maryland – Power Forward/Center)
If there is one thing to describe Jalen Smith it is that he is long. Smith is a 6’10" big who is seemingly active around the rim and has a nose for the ball. Along with his size, he is also very fluid in terms of footwork and athleticism. All in all, the guy is a coordinated big man that can stretch the floor and has the potential to be a great defender.
While Smith is long, he is also quite thin. At the next level, expect him to get bullied down in the post.
5 Sagaba Konate (West Virginia – Power Forward)
Sagaba Konate of West Virginia is a throwback power forward. A defensive-minded big who hunts and tracks down the ball with accurate precision, Konate has an argument for being the best shot blocker in the nation and one of the strongest post defenders in all of college basketball.
While he is a defensive savant, Konate has yet to develop an offensive game. If he wants to separate himself from the late first round cluster, Konate needs to have at least one reliable move down in the post.
4 Jaylen Hands (UCLA – Point Guard)
At this time last year, Jaylen Hands was one of the best high school point guards coming into the college season. In his first year at UCLA, Hands disappointed a lot of scouts as he looked raw as ever while his shooting never got going. Plus, he tended to rely on his athleticism, resulting in boneheaded plays.
This year we will definitely see a different player. If he can harness his athleticism and funnel it into something positive, Hands has the potential to be a good starter in the NBA.
3 Matisse Thybulle (Washington - Shooting Guard/Small Forward)
It is easy to pin what Matisse Thybulle’s role will be in the NBA. He will be tasked to guard the opposing team’s best offensive player while on the other end, he will be a spot up shooter. A modern-day “3 and D” guy, Thybulle will make any team happy.
Thybulle is a competent role player and what makes him special is that he knows his role and he sticks with it. The senior Husky has played along with other great players, potentially making the jump to the NBA an easy one.
2 Tre Jones (Duke - Point Guard)
The brother of Tyus Jones, Tre Jones is a very similar player. A pass-first point guard who has a tremendous understanding of the game, Tre is likely to be a quality NBA guard.
While Jones will never light up a game with his scoring or lock someone down defensively, you will always have an advantage with him on the floor because of how smart of a player he is.
It is currently unclear how big of a role Jones will play at Duke, but based on his talents, he should be a first-round pick.
1 De'Andre Hunter (Virginia – Small Forward)
Defense is a skill that any team looks for in a player, and right now, De'Andre Hunter is a candidate for best wing defender in all of college. Standing at 6’7" and a wingspan of over 7 feet, Hunter is a rangy defender on the perimeter, while having enough strength to potentially be a great post defender.
Right now, Hunter is very limited offensively as he relies on straight-line drives and corner threes to get his number on the board. If he cannot add more to those two, especially his shooting, he will struggle to get minutes in the NBA.