It’s still slightly too early to know for sure who will go where in the 2019 NBA Draft, but Duke Blue Devils incoming freshman R.J. Barrett projects to be the king of college basketball next season.
Important notes and caveats should now be inserted, as anyone claiming to know with certainty who will go where in the 2019 NBA Draft, well before a single college basketball game is played, likely prefers to dabble in hyperbole.
As a disclosure of this: Admittedly, this version of our big board is essentially a skeleton product, with fluid parts and light on hard evaluations. This will change as the season starts, but for now, the point of emphasis is to allow the reader to see structure, have a starting point, then build from there.
Nevertheless, R.J. Barrett is special. While some have his Duke Blue Devils teammate Cam Reddish projected to go No 1. overall, Barrett’s two-way play, as well as his improving jumper (his biggest question mark), should allow for a favorable projection.
Anyway, here is the 2019 NBA Draft Big Board (version 1.0).
1- R.J. Barrett, Duke Blue Devils
R.J. Barrett is coming to college a season early, but that’s not unusual for the Canadian talent. Having reclassified for the 2018 recruiting class, the forward scored 38 points (on 12-of-24 shooting), grabbed 13 boards and dished five dimes as a 17-year-old against the United States in an U-19 game last year.
We will get more detailed NBA evaluations for these guys as the college season progresses, but here’s what Duke fans have to look forward to.
2- Cameron Reddish, Duke Blue Devils
As it stands, Coach K has two of the best 2019 NBA Draft prospects in the entire country. Couple these two talents with poor man’s Shawn Kemp (more on him later), if the Blue Devils don’t end up being the most entertaining team in the country next season, we can blame it on the vampire of Durham.
3- Sekou Doumbouya, France
4- Nassir Little, North Carolina Tar Heels
5- Zion Williamson, Duke Blue Devils
Even if you don’t recall the name, you know who Zion Williamson is.
With Cameron Reddish and R.J. Barrett getting all the realistic hype, Williamson has become the stuff of YouTube legend — a dynamic athlete who can jump out of a gym while being built like a fullback. There are, and should be, concerns about him only being a 6-foot-6 power forward without a jumper, but no incoming freshman ever hit campus as a finished product.
6- Bol Bol, Oregon Ducks
7- Quentin Grimes, Kansas Jayhawks
8- Romeo Langford, Indiana Hoosiers
9- De’Andre Hunter, Virginia Cavaliers
10- Jontay Porter, Missouri Tigers
A huge name thanks to his brother Michael Porter, Jontay came to college a season early last year. He’s a skilled big man with obvious build flaws, but there’s good reason to believe his frame and overall game should have a natural uptick in 2018-19. Also, given the run on talented big guys in the 2018 NBA Draft, despite the league supposedly going smaller, franchises still clearly value huge members of the human species.
11- Louis King, Oregon Ducks
12- Keldon Johnson, Kentucky Wildcats
13- Jalen McDaniels, San Diego State Aztecs
Let’s highlight Jalen at 13 quickly, as this is a bit of an admitted hot-take.
McDaniels hit the national landscape with little hype coming out of high school, but immediately showcased a terrific ability to defend, as well as a natural progression to his offensive game each time he hit the hardwood. McDaniels won’t wow many people with his scoring, though the 6-foot-9 versatile defender could jump up 2019 NBA Draft projections if he even only hints at a positive growth on offense.
14- Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga Bulldogs
15- Daniel Gafford, Arkansas Razorbacks
16- Darius Garland, Vanderbilt Commodores
17- Naz Reid, LSU Tigers
Reid is a gifted big man with a high ceiling. He’s also the sort of prospect who a person can as easily be talked out of as they could be inclined to buy all his stock.
He projects well in regard to production despite there being (small) murmurs about his motor. Getting to play in what will be a loaded SEC should allow him the chance to showcase how good is his good. On the flip of that, it will highlight how awful his bad might be.
18- Ashton Hagans, Kentucky Wildcats
19- Jaylen Hoard, Wake Forest Demon Deacons
20- Jalen Smith, Maryland Terrapins
Late-bloomers are the best because they tend to hit college with slightly less hype than those who have been dominating YouTube videos for the better part of two years.
Smith is in an interesting spot with Maryland, as he’s going to have the perfect teammate in Bruno Fernando (another good NBA prospect). Smith’s concerns rest on his defensive ability as well as his inconsistent shooting. Basically, he’s a 6-foot-10 big man who either needs to become dynamic enough as a five to be given a pass on his inability to stretch the floor, or Smith has to develop a better outside game to raise his stock by way of becoming a four/five hybrid who can hit from various places on the hardwood.
21- Bruno Fernando, Maryland Terrapins
Oh, hey, we just briefly talked about this guy. He’s physically gifted, but does need to show improvement on both ends of the floor and become slightly more productive. However, the idea of Bruno Fernando is great. Then again, the idea of a lot of prospects can result in NBA general managers getting fired.
22- Herb Jones, Alabama Crimson Tide
23- Simi Shittu, Vanderbilt Commodores
24- Kris Wilkes, UCLA Bruins
25- Carsen Edwards, Purdue Boilermakers
While I believe R.J. Barrett will be the actual best player in college basketball next season, Edwards is likely the guy to end up being most beloved by older guard media. An upperclassmen who can do plenty, he’s the backbone of Purdue basketball.
Edwards can score, from a variety of places, as well as play some solid defense. However, he’s a bit undersized as a 6-foot-3 point guard, and will need to show NBA executives that he can be a good facilitator. Problem here is that it would be slightly counterproductive for Purdue to ask Edwards to create for others more, as it would take away from the team’s chance at winning.
26- Lindell Wigginton, Iowa State Cyclones
27- Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
28- Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s Red Storm
29- Luka Samanic, Barcelona
30- Oshae Brissett- Syracuse Orange