Every year, NBA teams overlook someone come draft day. In 2019, we know Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and R.J. Barrett well, but who will be the inevitable player — or players — to slip through the cracks?
In last year’s draft, Landry Shamet — a key piece in a trade involving Tobias Harris and a big shot-maker for the Clippers — was taken No. 26 overall, Hawks All-Rookie Second team guard Kevin Huerter was selected No. 19, and Knicks center Mitchell Robinson went at No. 36. Late-round steals will happen! They always do.
Here’s who the SB Nation staff thinks your team should snag.
[Want to just skip over to draft grades? Here are our 2019 NBA Draft grades]
1. Chuma Okeke
Okeke, an Auburn forward, was having the game of his life against North Carolina in the Sweet 16 when he tore his ACL. It’s a devastating injury that will set back the start of his NBA career.
But his performance in that game is also the reason Okeke is in this draft. As scouts went back to look at his tape, they saw a 6’8 combo forward who feels like an ideal fit in today’s NBA.
Okeke has an advanced feel for the game that translates on both ends of the floor. Defensively, he has the size, quickness, and technique to guard up to three positions in the NBA. He put up monster block and steal rates this season as a sophomore, and has value not only at the point of attack, but also as a help defender.
Offensively, Okeke hit 39 percent of his threes and was an efficient scorer on a variety of play types, according to data from Synergy Sports. He finished in the 91st percentile of half-court scorers, in the 81st percentile in transition, and graded out as “excellent” on cuts, post-ups, and in limited isolation opportunities.
Okeke has lottery talent for a player who should be available late in the first round. He’s a prospect worth being patient for.
- Ricky O’Donnell
2. Jontay Porter
Porter risked everything by going back to school for his sophomore season at Mizzou, and it’s a decision he may regret for the rest of his professional career. The 6’11 forward tore his ACL and MCL in a scrimmage before the 2018-19 season, then tore his ACL again five months later without stepping back onto the court. ACL injuries are scary, but not career-threatening, making the younger brother of Nuggets’ 2018 lottery pick Michael Porter a low-risk, high-reward second-round pick.
In his one season in college, Porter was every bit the versatile big man the modern NBA seeks. He posted a 57 percent true shooting percentage from the field, including 37 percent on 109 three-point attempts. Porter was the No. 93 defensive rebounder in the nation and No. 90 in block percentage, too. Ten points and seven rebounds per game may not sound like much, but he can do a bit of everything.
He’s worth the late gamble for a team willing to wait out his healing process.
- Matt Ellentuck
3. Admiral Schofield
Schofield was a key reason for Tennessee’s most successful seasons in program history. The two-time All-SEC guard stands at 6’6, but he like plays much bigger than that. At 240 pounds, his strength and physicality allows him to slip into the post to score and rebound. That versatility makes Schofield an interesting prospect.
As a four-year college player, he’s a finished product and likely will be immediately ready to contribute to any team. Whatever team ends up taking him will get a lot of value from the selection.
In his senior season, Schofield averaged 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He improved his three-point shooting throughout his time at Tennessee, shooting nearly 42 from beyond the arc in 2019. Defensively, Schofield has proven himself along the perimeter, but may struggle guarding some of the NBA’s larger forwards.
Overall, Schofield has a high floor with potential for more development. He’s primed to be a solid role player for any NBA team this coming season.
- Kennedi Landry
4. Grant Williams
Despite winning the SEC Player of the Year Award for the past two seasons, Williams has flown under the radar in this draft. Despite being only 6’7, Williams has the tools to contribute in the NBA from day one. He is a good facilitator, crashes the glass, and was an efficient scorer during his final season with the Volunteers.
Williams posted a true shooting percentage of nearly 65 percent because he doesn’t try to force shots up. He can score anywhere in the paint, using his strength to move defenders off him. Williams only shot 29 percent from three at UT, but his solid free throw percentage, which was at 82 percent last season, shows there is a path for him to add deep shooting to his vast array of offensive skills. Williams also recorded an assist percentage of 18.5 last season, suggesting he can make smart reads to open teammates when defenders collapsed in on him. Defensively Williams can hold his own, again using his strength to not get moved around by bigger players.
While Williams doesn’t exactly have superstar potential, the skills he’s shown give him the makings of a key player on a contending team.
- Vijay Vemu
5. Kyle Guy
The Virginia sharpshooter raised some eyebrows when he announced that he was staying in the NBA Draft instead of returning to school after the Cavaliers won the 2019 National Championship. Really, there’s not much Guy can improve upon except his size, and while coach Tony Bennett is pretty much the best around, he still can’t make guys taller, as far as I know.
The biggest knock on Guy is his small frame (6’2, 168 pounds), but he can shoot the daylights out of the ball. In his final season in Charlottesville, Guy shot 43 percent on 282 attempts from beyond the arc and averaged 15.4 points per game in a system that ranked dead last in the NCAA in possessions per game. If a team is willing to take a chance on him, they’ll get a hardworking, deadeye shooter with the ability to finish through contact at the rim.
- Caroline Darney
6. Cam Johnson
Johnson reminds me a lot of fellow UNC product Justin Jackson, who has became a solid NBA player for the Mavericks. He has the potential to become a superior scorer solely because of his beautiful mix of off-ball movement and a quick three-point trigger. He’s a four-year college player with great defensive instincts off-the-ball as well.
In short: Johnson is tailor-made to thrive in an NBA infatuated by the three-point shot, riddled with offenses predicated on player spacing and movement.
Like Jackson, though, Johnson will need the right environment to reach his full potential. For that reason, I hope he slides down the draft boards. (You’ll get that check on the back end, big fella. I promise you!)
I would love to see him in Indiana, Atlanta, or, dare I say, San Francisco next season.
— Kristian Winfield
7. Simi Shittu
The five-star 6’10 big man was a poor fit on a Vanderbilt team that finished the season on a 20-game losing streak. He clashed with since-fired head coach Bryce Drew and recovered slowly from the torn ACL that cost him a big chunk of his final season as a high schooler.
That made it a bit surprising when he not only declared for the draft, but also kept his hat in the ring after Drew was fired and Jerry Stackhouse took the reins at Vandy. Rather than pick up another year of seasoning for a team destined to be better in 2019-20 (for no other reason than it almost certainly could not be worse), Shittu decided to roll the dice on a pro career.
It might be the right decision! Shittu has looked like a new man this summer, showcasing the speed and explosion to be a hard-cutting, lane-annihilating big who can pass his way out of trouble and turn an inch of space into a big finish at the rim. He’s not much of a shooter, which is effectively the death sentence that could keep him from hearing his name called Thursday, but if he can show his knee injury and inability to find a proper role at Vandy were the limiting factors in his lone NCAA season, he’ll have a place in the NBA.
Take a flier on Shittu and you’re getting an athletic big man who isn’t afraid to shoot the ball from long range — even if he shouldn’t sometimes. He’s a player who can facilitate an offense from the post. He’s also extremely raw, but hey, what’s wrong with a gamble in the second round?
- Christian D’Andrea
Give him a shot!
- Seth Rosenthal