The 2018-2019 season is over and the Toronto Raptors have captured their first championship. And while Drake and the rest of Canada are celebrating, another group of youngsters are preparing for the biggest day of their young lives, the 2019 NBA Draft. Next Thursday on June 20th, 2019, 60 young prospects will hear their names called by league commissioner Adam Silver and begin their next venture furthering their basketball careers. Then there will be a large crop of players who unfortunately don’t hear their names called on draft night, but end up being signed to an NBA team’s G-League affiliate summer team and have an opportunity to prove their worth. It’s not about how you get to the league, but instead about how you secure your spot amongst the league for the years to come. Many players drafted won’t be cut out for the next level and find their professional playing careers short. Some will go on to be NBA all-stars, and a few may even become superstars at some point (ahem, Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, JA Morant). Then there will be a group of goes who go undrafted and end up carving out a role at the next level, such as Fred Van Fleet has done for the Raptors. There’s no telling who’s going to end up becoming what at the next level and at the end of the day only time will reveal each rookie’s fate in the league. But just because we’re unsure, doesn’t mean we can make predictions. Some may end up being spot on, and others may be way off. Either way, that’s the beauty of predicting something such as a draft, who’s going to go where, and what they’re going to become. So below I’m going to give some insider info on who I think are the ten best overall players in this draft, who I think will end up being a sleeper, and who I believe will be a bust.
Best 10 – This is not a prediction of I think will be drafted 1st-10th. This is a list of players who I believe are the ten best overall players in the draft and will have the career achievements to prove so.
Kawhi Leonard was drafted 15th overall by the Spurs, Klay Thompson 11th by Golden State, 7 Kyle Kuzma 27th by the Brooklyn Nets before being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers on draft night. Those three are just a few of many players in the league who were drafted outside of the top-10 and are easily some of the very best players from their draft class. The ten best aren’t always the first ten selected.
Sleepers – A sleeper is just a player who has flown under the radar and has no real chance of being a lottery pick, a late first round pick, second rounder or maybe even undrafted. A sleeper is a synonym for a draft steak, a guy who has a ton of potential to become a terrific player but without the hype of the lottery guys.
Draymond Green was drafted in the 2nd round with the 35th pick of the 2012 NBA Draft. Look at him now. All he’s done is gone on to become one of the best defensive players of this era, become a 3x NBA Champ, 3x NBA All-Star, represent Team USA at the Olympics, and win the DPOTY award. Another good example is Toronto Raptors point guard Fred Van Fleet. Van Fleet went undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft, and now he’s playing arguably the most crucial role in the Finals by taking on the challenge to slow down the greatest shooter the game has ever seen in Steph Curry, and he’s done arguably better than anyone else I can ever remember. Lastly, there’s Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon was selected in the 2nd round with the 36th pick by the Milwaukee Bucks and went on to be the first player drafted outside of the first round to win NBA ROTY since 1965. Sometimes these drafts eventually best players are the ones you’d least expect.
Bust – A bust is just someone who has hype/momentum going into the draft, and doesn’t pan out to be what he was expected to become.
The most notable bust I can think of is Anthony Bennett. The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Bennett out of UNLV with the 1st overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, making him the first Canadian drafted #1 overall in NBA history. Bennett was expected to be a more versatile Blake Griffin at the time, but instead became the NBA’s version of JaMarcus Russell. Bennett posted career averages of 4.4ppg and 3.1rpg and was out of the league in just four seasons. Just remember, there’s no certainty that someone is going to become what’s expected of them at the next level. I’ll do my best to point out the ones I think will fail to live up to the hype.
ZION WILLIAMSON – Duke Blue Devils – Freshman – Age 18.9
Williamson is an obvious no-brainer. It’s damn near been a sure thing he was going to be drafted 1st overall since the day he stepped onto campus at Duke. Zion is a once in a lifetime athlete who can defend multiple positions and run the floor like a baby LeBron. He’s a prototypical small-ball big who can push the tempo directly off of a rebound, much like Draymond Green does for the Warriors. At 285lbs Zion will be entering the league as the second heaviest player the NBA has to offer behind only Philly’s Boban. His rare blend of speed, power, strength, and size make him a once in a generation talent. If he can pull it all together and become a consistent shooter, this kid has the ability to go down as one of the best to ever do it.
JA MORANT – Murray State Racers – Sophomore – Age 19.8
When I watch Ja Morant play I think of a rich man’s Lonzo Ball. His ability to push the ball up the floor is by far and away the best in this class, and then his athleticism is second to none. The kid can fly. And if you don’t believe me just YouTube “Morant” and watch him completely leap over an Alabama defender on his way to creating a poster. He’s got insane handles, and will immediately become one of the most explosive point guards in the NBA from the second he debuts. If he can develop into a consistent shooter, he could have the potential to be the best point guard in the league for years to come.
RJ BARRETT – Duke Blue Devils – Freshman – Age 19.0
When you watch RJ Barrett, it’s hard not to be reminded of Ben Simmons, except with a jump shot. Barrett is at his best with the ball in his hands, creating plays off the dribble for himself and others. Often in his one season at Duke, it was hard for Barrett to truly display his complete game since he wasn’t sharing the floor with elite shooters. If you watch the film, opposing teams were pack lining their defense, forcing Barrett to kick the ball out to guys who couldn’t knock down the open look. That won’t be a problem in the pros. He’ll be able to operate with much more space, and if the defense collapses on him, he’ll have knockdown shooters drooling over the wide-open look. Barrett possesses an elite all-around game that should flourish at the next level. He has real potential to become the best player from this entire draft class.
DARIUS GARLAND – Vanderbilt Commodores – Freshman – Age 19.4
Darius Garland can flat-out get buckets, and that’s all there is to it. The kid is an automatic microwave that cooks whoever lines up to defend him. He can make a shot from anywhere on the floor, has creative playmaking skills, and is not afraid of any shot. He’ll have an instant impact in the NBA due to his ability to create his own shots, score from a catch-and-shoot position, and score from off-ball movement. He possesses elite pick-and-roll offensive ability with a tremendous feel and pace for the flow of the game. He’ll immediately make an impact at the next level.
CAM REDDISH – Duke Blue Devils – Freshman – Age 19.8
When I watch Cam Reddish play, I can’t help but be reminded to the Tracy McGrady glory days. He reminds me of a spitting replica of a young T-Mac. Now obviously we all know that T-Mac evolved into one of the dopest players and is viewed by many as one of the greatest players of his generation. I’m not saying that Reddish will have the career that McGrady went on to fulfill, that’s yet to be determined. But there are undoubtedly many similarities in their game. Reddish has a beautiful shooting stroke, and elite size for a shooting guard (6’8”). His wiry frame allows him to knife and elude his way to the basket. He was overshadowed at Duke by arguably the two best players in this entire draft in Barrett and Williamson, which in return hindered his stats and potential in my opinion. In the NBA where he’ll be viewed as a guy-to-guy on whichever franchise selects him, I see bonafide scorer written all over him.
JARRETT CULVER – Texas Tech Red Raiders – Sophomore – Age 20.3
If you watched the Red Raiders at all this past season, you know that Chris Beard’s team plays with grit and tenacity. That’s their MO. It’s the DNA of the program. If you can’t grind it out on both sides of the ball, you have no spot in Beard’s rotation. Culver is an exact product of that. He’s a grit and grind guy who will defend multiple positions and leave it all on the line for his team. His demeanor reminds me of Kawhi Leonard. He doesn’t show much expression, never seems too high, and never seems too low. He has a remarkably even-keeled personality. He appears extremely coachable and has a solid jump shot. At the very worst he could be a tremendous athletic 3-and-D player in the next level. However, I expect him to become much more than that.
DEANDRE HUNTER – Virginia Cavaliers – Sophomore – Age 21.5
As an NBA GM if you’re looking for versatility and resilience then look no further, your dude’s right here. Hunter is a knockdown shooter who shoots the three ball at a clip well over 40%. He’s got superb athleticism and brute strength. But where I think the pure gold of Hunter lies, is on the defensive end. He is easily the most versatile, sound defender in this class. At 6’7” Hunter can switch across the board, and if he gets stuck on a big, he has the strength and frame to hold his own – reminds me much of Draymond Green as far as defensive versatility. His offensive game still needs polishing, but don’t doubt the former NCAA Champ. He showed dramatic improvements from his freshman to sophomore campaign at Virginia so there’s no reason not to believe he can continue to develop.
BOL BOL – Oregon Ducks – Freshman – Age 19.5
The son of the late, Manute Bol, can BALL! While Manute was an elite rim protector and not asked to do much offensively, Bol Bol is much more or an offensive weapon and less of a defensive player. While he has extreme height at 7’3”, he plays more like a wing than a big. He operates around the perimeter and can hit shots from deep. He doesn’t have great explosion or athleticism, but with him standing over 7-foot tall it won’t be necessary, he’ll be able to shoot right over the top of the defense. The only reason he’s not projected to be a Top 10 pick at the moment is because he’s coming off season-ending surgery. But there is no question he’s a Top 10 talent. The landscape of the NBA has shifted, and everyone on the floor is now asked to shoot the perimeter jump shot. There is not a better shooting big in this class.
KEVIN PORTER JR. – USC Trojans – Freshman – Age 19.1
JR Smith 2.0. Kevin Porter Jr. has insane upside. He possesses an excellent physical profile with a durable frame and long arms. His go-to move seems to be his stepback jumper, much like Smith. Porter underwhelmed at USC, but much of it was due to the lack of talent around him and lingering injuries. With the NBA spacing, Porter should find himself with room to operate in the open and utilize is 1-on-1 abilities. He’s arguably the most talented iso player in this class. If he puts it all together, he could end up an extremely special player, or he could remain as is and be the next JR. Which hey, let’s be honest, wouldn’t be a bad career at all. Smith has come a long way from his early years in his career.
COBY WHITE – North Carolina – Freshman – Age 19.3
White is the fastest player in this draft class, and it’s not even close. His speed in the open floor is much like De’Aaron Fox’ of the Sacramento Kings. In the right offense, White could flourish and lead the charge of one of the most electric offenses in the NBA. Oh, and he’s not too shabby of deep ball shooter either. With his quick release and fluid rhythm, he should have no problem filling up the stat sheet on any given night at the next level. If White can continue to improve his playmaking ability, he could become something special. He will be elite in the open floor regardless of what else transpires with the rest of the make-up of his game
TYLER HERRO – Kentucky Wildcats – Freshman – Age 19.4
Shooting has never been regarded as much of a premium in the history of the game as it is today. If you can shoot the rock, there’s a spot for you in this league, which is music to Tyler Herro’s ears. Herro is an ELITE shooter with a sweet stroke. He’s got a prototypical NBA 2-guard frame and is a better shot creator than maybe some scouts are giving him credit for. His defense this past season was tremendous. So good in fact that for much of the second half of the season he found himself matching up with the opposition’s best perimeter player. Herro is flying slightly under the radar due to his lack of athleticism, but there have been plenty of pure scorers to overcome that notion. Just look how Devin Booker and Klay Thompson have turned out. Herro will have a luxurious and long NBA career. Mark my words.
KYLE GUY – Virginia Cavaliers – Junior – Age 21.9
Doubt him if you want. He’ll prove you wrong. He was the first McDonald’s high school All-American to commit to Virginia in the program’s history, and his commitment paid off. He led his club and team to an NCAA Championship. Obviously with lots of help from guys such as Ty Jerome and DeAndre Hunter, but Guy’s role on the team cannot be overlooked. He was the engine that made it all run. The most polished shooter in this draft class who can shoot the lights out from anywhere on the floor and do it in a variety of ways. Guy is excellent from a catch-and-shoot position, and even better when he’s in motion off ball coming off screens and pin downs. He has the unique ability to catch the ball and square up to the basket all in one motion, which translates tremendously to the NBA. Guy is a better defender than he’s given credit for. Also, let’s not forget the ice that runs through his veins. He may not project as an NBA starter, but that’s not necessary. Look at the make-up of all the championship caliber teams, and it’s the bench that sets them apart. Guy is instant offense off the pine and can stretch/space the floor beautifully for the stars of the team to operate. Guy could potentially go undrafted. But I’m telling you now that wherever he winds up, that franchise is getting an absolute steal.
ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD – Tennessee Volunteers – Senior – Age 22.2
At 6’5”, 240+ lbs, and less than 7% body fat Admiral Schofield is built more like a spartan than a basketball player. However, on the court, the senior out of Tennessee leaves it all on the line every night, and every coach can appreciate that. Schofield never takes a play off and never quits on the ball. When he’s on the floor you, as a coach you know you’re going to get everything he has for the duration of his stint out there. You can’t teach that. He’s an explosive finisher in space and is capable of finishing plays over the top of the defense. He has defensive versatility and grit, and the ability to shoot the 3. He’s an insane bargain for a second-round projection. At the very worst he’ll be a role player who leaves it all on the line for his team each and every night. And if I’m a coach that’s precisely the kind of player I want in my locker room.
TY JEROME – Virginia Cavaliers – Junior – Age 21.9
Ty Jerome operates and moves like a 3g iPhone trying to keep up with the LTE bandwidth. It literally looks like he’s in slow motion out there. But, he’s effective, has great footwork and can make shots from all over the floor. He blows by defenders with clever jab steps and unorthodox movements. He may not project as an elite starter at the next level, but he very well could project as a bigger Fred Van Fleet. Who let’s be honest can flat-out ball and just became the Curry stopper on his way to an NBA Championship. Even though Van Fleet wasn’t a starter, he played a pivotal role on the Champs run to the glory. I can see Jerome playing the same type of role on a future championship contending team.
PJ WASHINGTON – Kentucky Wildcats – Sophomore – Age 20.8
Washington may very well pan out to be a solid NBA player. I could easily see it. He’s a talented four who can facilitate the ball well enough to earn notice, and is improving his jump shot. However, he’s projected Top-10, and I think there are too many guys who are going to be drafted behind him with far more upside. Washington doesn’t have a high motor, is undersized for his position, and doesn’t possess elite athleticism. I’d prefer to have Grant Williams out of Tennessee over Washington, who’s projected to be drafted later but possesses much of the same skills and similar body composition.
ROMEO LANGFORD – Indiana Hoosiers – Freshman – Age 19.6
Coming out of high school Langford was projected as almost a lock to be a high-end top-10 pick in the NBA draft. Now he finds himself sitting on the fringe of that and for good reason. Langford has far too many lapses on the defensive end and often looks completely lost out there. Offensively he needs a ton of work. He’s a poor playmaker and extremely poor off the ball. He lacks movement and is not a sound a catch-and-shoot player at the moment. He could develop. However, he is not worth a fringe top-10 pick as he currently projects. You can find far more value elsewhere.
NASSIR LITTLE – North Carolina – Freshman – Age 19.3
This one hurts. Once upon a time, Little was a serious threat to be the top overall pick, and a guaranteed lock to go top-3. Now he’s just a shell of that. He’s still projected to go in the lottery just because of his oozing potential, but his current game is not worthy of that high of a selection. With a long and filled out frame coming out of high school, NBA scouts were drooling over what Little had to offer and could potentially become. Fast forward one year and now their just holding on to hope that he can pan out. While Little does offer elite athleticism and explosion, that’s about as far as his game goes at the moment. He was expected to be an extremely athletic 3-and-D wing at UNC, and it just never happened. His defensive miscues and offensive limitations and liabilities instead resulted in him often finding himself on the outside looking within the Tar Heels rotation. He looks un-confident and unsure of himself on the offensive end of the floor and often gets lost in the rotations defensively. I am not utilizing a lottery pick on a guy who currently has a game where I can’t count on him to produce on either end of the floor.