The 2019 NBA Draft doesn’t look as deep as 2018, but there’s plenty of solid prospects this year. To celebrate the start of the college basketball season, here are our top 100 prospects to watch for the coming year.
The 2019 college basketball season is about to begin, and that means that it’s time to get 2019 NBA Draft coverage underway. Over the past few weeks, we have been putting out detailed scouting reports of the top five prospects in the class, which can be found below, and now it’s time to introduce you to the rest of the class, with a top 100 big board of players to watch this coming season.
Initial thoughts on the class
2019’s NBA Draft class doesn’t have the loaded top tier of one-and-done players that has been the hallmark of recent drafts. 2018 obviously had as many as six players who looked like potential franchise-changers, and 2017’s lead guard class was hailed as one of the best we’d ever seen. Even the weak 2016’s top looked pretty strong, with Dragan Bender, Jamal Murray, and Jaylen Brown supplementing the top tier of Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram.
Instead, this year has a top five that somewhat pales in comparison to year’s past, with no clear number one prospect. An argument can be made for any of R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, or Nassir Little as the top guy, but it’s hard for me to make a solid case that any of them grade out better than Deandre Ayton, who was ranked fourth on our final 2018 Big Board. Barrett and Little look like the best shots at becoming primary scorers but showed enough holes in high school to doubt both. Williamson is supremely athletic but needs to demonstrate consistent value on both ends still. Someone will separate themselves, but it’s hard to determine exactly who that will be.
Complicating matters is that there’s a significant drop-off between the top five and the rest of the class. There’s always potential for breakout campaigns and dark horses, but right now there’s not much to get excited about if you’re picking in the back half of the lottery.
As far as the stock market of player types goes, this is another class like 2017, with a lot of middling-to-good big men. There are some potentially valuable centers in the No. 8-20 range, headlined by Jontay Porter and Sekou Doumbouya, the class’s best international prospect. Grading in a vacuum, though, the class quickly becomes center-heavy, and there just aren’t roster spots for them. How a player like Segaba Konate or Charles Bassey blooming is valued is going to be an interesting question.
Meanwhile, the wing depth is pretty decent, with emphasis on defensive talent later on. There are some solid bets as impactful two-way wings here, headlined by Virginia’s DeAndre Hunter, and masked later down the board in guys like Penn State’s Josh Reaves and Oregon’s Louis King. Where things get interesting is at point guard, where there is the combination of a lack of top-level talent and exciting depth. I have one point guard in the top 10 and four in the top 30, and I’m relatively down on guys like Immanuel Quickley of Kentucky and Andrew Nembhard of Florida that are coming in as well. It’s a bad year to be Phoenix and have a desperate need at the point.
The international class doesn’t have a Doncic, or even a Dzanan Musa, but it’s a deep one that could see a lot of draft-and-stash options late in the draft. Doumbouya leads the way, but interesting potential secondary options like Zoran Paunovic and Luka Samanic also deserve first-round consideration. A very raw but exciting 2000 international class also deepens the intrigue. It’s unlikely that many of them come out, but if someone like Vrenz Bleijenbergh or Deividas Sirvydas blooms, they could join more established options like Dino Radoncic or Yovel Zoosman here. Many of the players who could swing this class in the positive direction might be playing in Europe right now.
A bit of disclosure — overall, this was one of the hardest classes in recent years to get a good read on. The lower level of talent skews the rankings, so there seems to be a much larger range of potential prospects that could find their way into the first round this season. There are bound to be a lot of changes between now and the beginning of December after we’ve seen these freshmen in action and the returning prospects in their new settings. There’s bound to be more than a few Nick Richards’s or Trevon Duvall’s that start off high and crater, and probably a fair amount of risers like Jerome Robinson. So, we’re expanding our preseason Big Board from our usual 60 to a top 100, separated out into tiers, to cast our net further and get eyes on more prospects at the start of the year.
This group is clearly set ahead of the rest of the class. Barrett, Little, and Williamson are the safest bets to become high-level rotation players, while Reddish and Bol’s ceilings are too high not to include. The biggest debate I had was Zion vs. Reddish at No. 3 — Zion’s baseline due to his athleticism is higher, but I think Reddish’s skill set is more inherently valuable. It’ll be interesting to see how well the two teammates progress at Duke.
This group feels safe to become rotation players thanks to their skill sets. Hunter and Johnson look like pretty safe bets as two-way wings, while Doumbouya might have a future as a playmaking four. The star upside stops at pick five, though, as it’s hard to see a path to any of these three becoming top-three players on a good team. This draft board is about safety this year, though, and that’s why I have this group slightly ahead of Tier 3.
This group has some higher upside but also lower most likely outcomes. There’s some star potential in this group, headlined by Draft Twitter favorite Jontay Porter and Quentin Grimes, but each comes with some risk. I’m not worried about Porter’s ACL tear affecting his NBA trajectory, and even if he likely comes back for another season in college because of it, he’ll stay around this spot due to the confidence his freshman performance gives. Of the group, White and Roby are the likely players to make a leap into the next tier currently.
A cocktail of interesting returning college players, strong international prospects, and this class’s two most interesting freshmen. Bassey should put up numbers in Conference USA, but he is very raw and plays center, so it’s hard to rank him much higher than this. Meanwhile, Dosunmo might be the best defensive point guard in the class, and I’m optimistic about his development, which is why I have him much higher than average. Wilkes, Culver, and Washington are all flawed prospects that have the opportunity to solidify their standing with a strong season.
I’m not super thrilled by anyone here yet, but this is the group I’d deem as traditional second-round level prospects so far. Of this group, Bitadze, King, and Wade seem like the best fits to become NBA players. Jones and Zoosman are at least fun to watch, and Bane and Thybulle are just weird enough to gain traction. I have no idea what to do with Darius Bazley.
This group is the net-casting group. This is the group that I either don’t have a ton of faith in, haven’t scouted fully, or don’t have a good grasp of their potential with. But still, these are all names that could show up on draft boards in June, so it’s important to get eyes on them.