The 2018 NBA Draft is yesterday’s news, literally. The true draft heads are already onto scouting the 2019 class. Only 364 more days, people.
If the 2018 draft was defined by its glut of big men, the 2019 draft is defined by its depth on the wing. The first seven players in this mock are nominal wings who can be slid all over the court. The way the game is trending these days, some of these players are just as likely to be long-term centers as they small forwards.
A lot of analysts aren’t high on this class of incoming college freshmen, but it’s undeniable that the modern NBA demands wings and many of the players projected at the top of the 2019 class are between 6’7 and 6’9. We’re looking at a versatile, athletic group that just needs to prove it can play with high effort on a consistent basis.
Taking an early shot at predicting the next draft class the day after the current one is an exercise we do every year. Check out my Day 1 boards for the 2018 draft, 2017 draft, 2016 draft, and 2015 draft, too.
1. Cameron Reddish, G, Duke
Reddish is such an effortless scorer when he’s cooking that there have been questions about his ability to bring a consistent competitive fire on every possession. That just underscores his natural talent as a 6’7 guard with a 7’1 wingspan who can play on or off the ball. He can hit jumpers off the dribble or space the floor as a catch-and-shoot threat, and is already comfortable operating in ball screens and making reads in the half court. His length makes him a versatile and pesky defender who can smother opposing offensive players when he’s locked in.
It will be fascinating to see how Reddish, R.J. Barrett, and Zion Williamson coexist at Duke. Will Reddish blend in or stand out? Most view Barrett as the alpha dog and the No. 1 player in this class, but we’ll take Reddish’s silky-smooth game by a hair to be the No. 1 pick at this point. He can be as great as he wants to be.
2. R.J. Barrett, G, Duke
Barrett has aced every test he’s faced on his way to Duke. His crowning achievement was leading Canada to a gold medal at the under-19 World Cup last summer, which was highlighted by a 38-point performance in an upset win over John Calipari’s USA team in the semifinals:
Barrett is an athletic 6’7 guard who can handle the ball and get to the rim. He’s a force in transition and a developing facilitator. His jump shot is the question mark in his skill set.
3. Nassir Little, F, North Carolina
Little has surged up the recruiting rankings late in his high school career, placing as high as No. 2 in the country, according to Rivals. He was the MVP of the McDonald’s Game and Jordan Brand Classic, establishing himself a physical forward with a developing skill set and intriguing versatility. He has a strong frame and broad shoulders at 6’7 with a 7’1 wingspan, and is able to aggressively attack the paint, clean the glass, and compete defensively.
If he can prove he has a consistent jumper at UNC, he’ll have a good chance to go No. 1 overall in this draft.
4. Sekou Doumbouya, F, France
A 6’9 forward with great defensive potential and impressive catch-and-shoot ability, Doumbouya is a French teenager already playing pro ball who appears to be just scratching the surface of his talent level. He drew rave reviews at Basketball Without Borders earlier this year in Los Angeles:
5. Zion Williamson, F, Duke
You know Zion Williamson as the viral internet sensation whose incredible dunking ability made him a household name before he ever entered college.
How does he fit into the modern NBA? That’s the million dollar question.
Williamson is such a unique player — the height of a shooting guard (6’6), the weight of a center (270 pounds), blessed with powerful finishing, rebounding, and shot blocking ability. Still, he must make major progress with his jump shot. Can a player his size be an NBA center in the modern era?
He’ll be the most compelling player to track in this draft class.
6. De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia
Hunter likely would have been a first rounder in the 2018 draft, but he chose to come back to school after suffering a hand injury that prevented him from playing in Virginia’s historic NCAA tournament loss to No. 16-seed UMBC.
The reigning ACC Sixth Man of the Year, Hunter is a 6’7 wing with a developing jump shot and ball skills. He should be a long, versatile defender with the type of body and skill set the league lacks now.
This is probably a few spots higher than most have him, but Hunter has already proven it at the college level, making him a safer bet than some of the freshmen in this class.
7. Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga
A huge forward at 6’8 and 225 pounds with a 7’ wingspan, Hachimura improved immensely throughout his redshirt freshman season at Gonzaga last year. He’s ideally a versatile modern front court player who can rebound and finish in the paint while he continues to fine-tune his shooting stroke. He couldn’t hit threes last season, but he did make almost 80 percent of his free throws, hinting at his potential as a shooter.
8. Bol Bol, C, Oregon
Bol Bol is a 7’2 center with a 7’8 (or greater) wingspan who hit 40 percent of his threes on Nike’s EYBL circuit. His physical talent resembles Mohamed Bamba’s, only he’s a lot further along as a shooter.
There are questions about Bol’s ability to remain consistently locked into the game. If he proves he has the mental and physical toughness required to get the most out of his talent, he should be the first big man selected in this draft.
9. Romeo Langford, G, Indiana
Langford is a long, smooth 6’5 shooting guard who put up historic scoring numbers as a high school player in Indiana. NBA teams will be looking to see just how efficient he is at the college level. Is he as good of a three-point shooter as his reputation suggests? Can he finish inside against length? Teams will also want to see him stay healthy after a prep career marred by injuries.
10. Quentin Grimes, G, Kansas
A smooth scoring shooting guard, Grimes was the best player on the USA Basketball under-18 team that just won gold. He could be the offensive focal point on a Kansas team that may start the year No. 1 in the preseason polls.
Kansas is getting a big-time player in Quentin Grimes. Big, versatile guard with a tremendous poise about him. Rarely sped up. Can shoot it off the catch or the bounce, plays at different speeds in pick and roll, has floaters, strong feel for the game, competitive. So solid. pic.twitter.com/kS69iQXVBT— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) June 15, 2018
11. Jontay Porter, C, Missouri
Porter is another player who could have been a first-round pick this year. The younger brother of Michael Porter Jr., Jontay is a cerebral big man who can shoot and block shots. His athleticism is a major question mark. We’ll see if he can get himself into better shape for his sophomore season.
12. Keldon Johnson, G, Kentucky
Listed at 6’6 and 225 pounds, Johnson is a big off-guard with impressive shot-making ability. He’s good going to the basket and has shown an ability to hit jumpers off the dribble or in catch-and-shoot situations. Kentucky will be stacked as always next season, but Johnson has a chance to establish himself as the team’s go-to scorer on the perimeter.
13. Jaylen Hoard, F, Wake Forest
Hoard is a French forward who came to the United States a couple years ago and will play for Danny Manning at Wake Forest next season. He’s a versatile 6’8 playmaker with a 7’1 wingspan who can handle and pass like a guard. He’s a versatile and terrific defender, too.
He’s not a big-time scorer yet and needs to improve his perimeter shot.
14. Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas
Another player who would have been a first rounder this year. Gafford is a long and bouncy center who can fill a rim runner/rim protector role. He should be in for a huge sophomore season at Arkansas.
15. Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
Garland is a small guard who plays under control and has a high skill level. He’s not particularly big or athletic, which will make him a tricky fit in today’s league, but we’ll stick him in the middle of the first round for now as a bet on his feel and skill level.
16. Jalen Smith, F, Maryland
Smith is a late bloomer who now finds himself around the top-10 of the recruiting rankings as he enters Maryland. He’s an athletic 6’10 forward who can finish above the rim and is developing range on his face-up jumper. From an NBA perspective: does he play enough defense to be a center? Can he shoot well enough to be a power forward?
17. Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue
Edwards has a chance to be the best point guard (maybe even the best player) in college basketball next year. He’s undersized at 6’2, but he’s an explosive athlete and can shoot with range off the dribble. NBA teams will want to see if he can continue to grow as a facilitator.
18. Herb Jones, F, Alabama
Jones is a long, versatile forward with great defensive potential. He’s not much of a scorer at this stage, but his combination of length and athleticism makes for an intriguing package in a league that wants to switch everything defensively.
19. Jalen McDaniels, F, San Diego State
McDaniels is a late bloomer who was outside the top-150 of the recruiting rankings, but put himself on the map at San Diego State as a freshman as an athletic 6’9 forward with defensive versatility and a budding skill level. Remember the last name: his younger brother Jaden looks like an even better prospect as an emerging top-10 recruit in the incoming high school senior class.
20. Louis King, G, Oregon
A 6’8 wing who has length, fluid athleticism and can make shots, King is part of an intriguing mix of incoming talent at Oregon. Watch the Ducks this season.
21. Naz Reid, C, LSU
Reid is a strong and long 6’9 center who looks like a throwback, but actually has impressive outside shooting ability. He’s the centerpiece of a strong recruiting class pulled in by Will Wade at LSU that should make the Tigers an upstart team in the SEC this season.
22. Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland
Fernando is a physical specimen as a strong and lean 7-footer with a 7’4 wingspan. He’s a gifted athlete who can make plays above the rim as a shot blocker and lob catcher. It’ll be fun to watch him and Jalen Smith work off each other with the Terrapins this season.
23. Luka Samanic, F, Croatia
A 6’10 Croatian who can shoot it. Here’s a good scouting report on him.
24. Jarrett Culver, G, Texas Tech
Zhaire Smith wasn’t the only breakout freshman on Texas Tech this past season. Culver opted to go back for his sophomore season, but he could be an intriguing 2019 draft prospect as a shot-making 6’5 guard who makes good decisions with the ball.
25. OShea Brissett, F, Syracuse
Brissett is a long 6’8 forward who can handle the ball some and has great defensive versatility. He hit 33 percent of his threes last season, which is OK, but there’s a big opportunity for him to boost his stock but improving his perimeter jumper.
26. Kris Wilkes, G, UCLA
A skinny, bouncy wing who hit 35 percent of his threes as a freshman for the Bruins. He has upside and a fit in today’s league if he can get stronger and prove his defensive ability.
27. Shamorie Ponds, G, St. John’s
A 6’1 pure scoring guard, Ponds made a name for himself by slaying Duke and Villanova in the same week last season. He’s a better shooter by reputation than percentage (25 percent from three), but if his outside shooting ability improves dramatically, he could work his way into the first round as a microwave scorer who can get in the passing lanes, find teammates, and get to the line.
28. Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky
Mitchell Robinson never played for Western Kentucky, but head coach Rick Stansbury went out and got himself another five-star center for this upcoming season, too. Bassey just reclassified to join the Hilltoppers, projecting as a long and strong 6’10 big man who can dive to the rim, block shots, and hit some mid-range jumpers.
29. E.J. Montgomery, F, Kentucky
An athletic 6’10 big man who is comfortable with the ball in his hands, can hit the glass and shows a developing lefty shooting stroke, Montgomery is part of a stacked Kentucky frontcourt. Who knows if he’ll get to show his true talent level with all those stars in front of him, but as long as he continues to play with a high motor, he’s a name to monitor.
30. P.J. Washington, C, Kentucky
Washington is intriguing as a small ball NBA center. Only 6’7 but blessed with a 7’3 wingspan, Washington has developing offensive skill level and the strength to hold his own in the post.