Draft day is here and there aren't many questions in the top three in the 2019 NBA Draft. Unless something crazy happens it's going to be Zion, Ja and RJ.
The consensus in this draft is that it's a three-star draft (or a two-and-a-half-star draft, depending how you feel about RJ Barrett). But I'm not sure that's quite true. After three, you can choose from a significant number of players who should be great role players in the NBA -- guys like De'Andre Hunter or Jarrett Culver, Rui Hachimura or Jaxson Hayes.
But presuming this draft is bereft of stars after the top three is simply short-term thinking. Ask any scout, and they'll tell you that judging a draft now -- calling this a weak draft -- is ludicrous. The 2013 draft, where Anthony Bennett was selected No. 1, was supposed to be the worst draft in recent memory, right? Well, I think Giannis Antetokounmpo, Victor Oladipo, CJ McCollum and Rudy Gobert all disagree. And the 2014 draft was supposed to be absolutely killer, an all-time draft, right? The following players were selected in the top 10: Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Dante Exum, Nik Stauskas, Noah Vonleh. Yikes.
Point is, we won't know how good this draft is for at least three years.
And there are several players outside that top three who we might be scratching our heads about three years from now, how they weren't considered future stars. Such as Darius Garland. Or Cam Reddish. Or Romeo Langford. Or Rui Hachimura. Or Bol Bol. Or Goga Bitadze. Or Mfiondu Kabengele. Or someone who is utterly and completely off the radar right now.
Point being, let's wait a bit before we judge these 19- to 22-year-old young men.
Round 1- Pick 1
Duke • Soph • 6'6" / 284 lbs
What more needs to be said about Zion? He's the most hyped prospect since Anthony Davis, and deservedly so. We don't know exactly what he'll become in the NBA - but that's because we've never seen a prospect like him.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Ja Morant PG
Murray State • Soph • 6'3" / 174 lbs
Such a rare combination for a young point guard of elite athleticism and elite basketball IQ. Think along the lines of a John Wall or a De'Aaron Fox. With Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., the Grizzlies' rebuild (which should have started a year before it actually did) suddenly looks really, really nice. This is a great core to build on for the future.
Round 1 - Pick 3
R.J. Barrett SF
Duke • Soph • 6'6" / 214 lbs
If there have been doubters for Barrett, it's because he was overshadowed by Zion. Remember: It was Barrett, not Zion, who was considered the likely No. 1 overall pick going into last season. The concerns are real (tunnel vision to the hoop, subpar 3-point shooting), but the upside is a slithery, creative James Harden-esque scorer.
From Los Angeles Lakers
Round 1 - Pick 4
Vanderbilt • Soph • 6'1" / 192 lbs
If the Pelicans keep this pick - and that's a big if, as rumors abound that they're currently shopping the pick - it stands to reason that it'll come down to a point guard or a versatile player like Jarrett Culver. I'm not a fan of the Culver match with Zion; Culver's shooting is just too much of a question mark. But Garland — who is one of the most electric scorers in this draft — could open up everything on the floor for Zion to work. This would be one of the most exciting duos in the NBA.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Cam Reddish SF
Duke • Soph • 6'8" / 217 lbs
All sorts of questions surround Reddish, mostly focused on his desire to become great. It echoes the concerns about Andrew Wiggins that have come to fruition in the NBA: Incredible natural ability, but doesn't have the heart. However, the ceiling for Reddish is a Paul George-like talent. If he digs deep and finds that heart, he could end up as the best non-Zion talent in this draft. Big risk - but the Cavs need to swing big.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Texas Tech • Soph • 6'6" / 195 lbs
Jack of all trades, master of none. Culver is the versatile type of player who can fit with most teams. His defensive prowess will be welcome with a Suns franchise in need of more defense.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Coby White PG
North Carolina • Soph • 6'4" / 195 lbs
The Bulls need a lead guard, and while there's certainly no guarantee any of the top three point guards in this draft will fall to them, they'll be thrilled if one does. White has some concerns around him — his wingspan is less than desired, he shoots with a low release point — but he ran the fast-paced UNC offense to perfection for a coach who isn't exactly the most freshman-friendly coach in Roy Williams.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Virginia • Soph • 6'8" / 221 lbs
A dream scenario for an up-and-coming Hawks team. Hunter might be the best defender in this draft. He's made exponential improvements in each of his three years at Virginia, so the fact he's an older (21-year-old) prospect ought not faze NBA execs. A Hawks team in need of a defensive stopper (and talented offensive player) would love this young man, who proved himself on the biggest of stages in April's Final Four.
Round 1 - Pick 9
North Carolina • Soph • 6'5" / 220 lbs
Little came to UNC with all sorts of hype, as he was considered a top-five pick after shining in the McDonald's All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic. Little's frustrating, inconsistent play at North Carolina made his draft stock take a hit, but there were bursts where you could see where all the hype came from. A classic high-risk, high-reward pick for a team that needs a high reward.
From Dallas Mavericks
Round 1 - Pick 10
Texas • Soph • 6'11" / 220 lbs
The Hawks lost on the night of the lottery, when two lower-seeded teams jumped them. But in this scenario they win draft night by having two perfect fits fall to them: Hunter and Hayes. Hayes is the most Clint Capela-like player in this draft. He's still learning the sport and the center position, meaning his potential is incredibly high.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Gonzaga • Soph • 6'8" / 215 lbs
This is still my favorite fit in the draft. The idea of pairing Clarke, a defensive force who may be the most freakish athletes in this draft, with Karl-Anthony Towns feels like a match made in heaven. His measurements weren't great at the combine, though, and neither is his age (almost 23). But this feels ideal.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Gonzaga • Soph • 6'8" / 230 lbs
Two Gonzaga picks in a row. Hachimura has an incredible motor, great size and high-level athleticism. And remember that he's still learning the game. A bonus is that his endorsement potential is sky-high as the first Japanese-born player to go in the first round. For a small-market team like the Hornets, that matters.
Round 1 - Pick 13
The Heat could use a point guard. Alas, this draft is not the place to find one, especially where the Heat are drafting. Doumbouya is a big, well-built forward who has been tested by playing against grown men in the French professional league. He'll take time to develop.
From Sacramento Kings
Round 1 - Pick 14
Kentucky • Soph • 6'7" / 230 lbs
Washington is a great story of a talented player who could have been drafted a year ago — but returned to Kentucky, worked on his body and improved his offensive skill set. He went from a tentative 23.8% 3-point shooter as a freshman to a talented 42.3% 3-point shooter as a sophomore. That's no small feat. He's got a high ceiling.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Indiana • Soph • 6'5" / 216 lbs
Langford's one-and-done year at Indiana did not go as planned. The team itself was a massive underachiever, and a ligament injury in his thumb meant we never got to see the best version of Langford. For that reason, though, Langford could be the biggest sleeper in this draft, with a Khris Middleton-esque skill set.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Tyler Herro SG
Kentucky • Soph • 6'5" / 195 lbs
The best shooter in this draft? Maybe. And that's one thing that this Magic team — loaded with potential but missing some key ingredients — needs. A 6-foot-6 guard who can score in multiple ways? That'll do. He's got size and can shoot it.
From Brooklyn Nets
Round 1 - Pick 17
Virginia Tech • Soph • 6'6" / 205 lbs
Will the Hawks keep all their picks? One would imagine not. If they do, though, Alexander-Walker would be an awesome addition to what's becoming one of the most stacked young rosters in the NBA. He's a smart and versatile player, not an alpha but certainly someone who is a winning rotation player in the NBA.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Tennessee • Soph • 6'6" / 236 lbs
Williams is not the most physically gifted player, standing at 6-7 without elite athleticism. What he is is an absolute winner: Non-stop motor, with toughness and smarts.
Round 1 - Pick 19
There hasn't been another player in NBA history quite like Nikola Jokic. But the big, long Bitadze has some of the same characteristics. The teenager has also shown a budding ability to shoot the 3-pointer (31.3% last season in EuroLeague).
From Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 - Pick 20
Bol Bol C
Oregon • Soph • 7'2" / 220 lbs
The biggest boom-bust player in this draft — but Bol could be something like a star. He's 7-2 with a 7-7 wingspan. He can shoot the 3-pointer and block shots. His biggest weakness is his strength — there simply isn't much of it. Danny Ainge can afford to roll the dice with all his first-round picks.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Kevin Porter SG
Southern California • Soph • 6'4" / 203 lbs
Porter is a roll of the dice character-wise. But he also has the look and feel of an NBA player, a 6-6 dynamo. Perhaps the work ethic and professionalism of fellow Southern California products Russell Westbrook and Paul George, plus the lack of distractions in a place like Oklahoma City, could bring out the best in this young man.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Ty Jerome SG
Virginia • Soph • 6'5" / 195 lbs
For a team that seems likely to lose Kyrie Irving, Jerome is a ready-made NBA backup point guard. He's smart and can shoot it, and comes from a Virginia system that's produced some underrated pros.
From Utah Jazz
Round 1 - Pick 23
North Carolina • Soph • 6'8" / 210 lbs
Johnson might be the best 3-point shooting in this draft. He's the perfect fit for a team that needs shooting, with size, versatility, and maybe the best 3-point stroke in this draft. Johnson shot nearly 50% on six 3-pointers a game this season.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Florida State • Soph • 6'9" / 250 lbs
The 76ers lack of options at backup center might have derailed their chances of making an NBA Finals this past season. Who knows what the Sixers will look like next season with Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler entering unrestricted free agency. But Kabengele will fill a need no matter what, as a big, athletic, NBA body who can stretch the floor (36.9% from 3-point range last season). He could be a pick that, a few years from now, we're perplexed didn't get selected in the top 10.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Kentucky • Soph • 6'5" / 220 lbs
A potential steal at this point of the draft for the Blazers. A team lacking in backcourt depth (as Rodney Hood and Seth Curry enter free agency, and as Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. remain unproven) could use an NBA-ready wing in Johnson. The versatile Johnson can shoot the 3-point shot (38.1% on more than three attempts per game) and has excellent athleticism.
From Houston Rockets
Round 1 - Pick 26
KZ Okpala SF
Stanford • Soph • 6'8" / 215 lbs
The Cavs don't have much of…well, they don't have much of anything, really. This feels like a pretty easy example of going for the available player with the highest potential. Okpala is a 6-10 Brandon Ingram-ish talent (for better and for worse), an explosive athlete and natural scorer who vastly improved his 3-point range during his sophomore season. Like Ingram, he's too skinny and avoids contact. But a filled-out body could turn him into a valuable player.
From Denver Nuggets
Round 1 - Pick 27
Villanova • Soph • 6'6" / 255 lbs
At age 23, the strong and athletic Paschall is ready to contribute now, and the Nets are ready to win now. He works his butt off on the court, can defend multiple positions and is good enough of a 3-point shooter. The best version of him looks a lot like PJ Tucker.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Georgia • Soph • 6'11" / 215 lbs
Claxton was one of the stars of the NBA combine and turned himself into a likely first-round pick. The Warriors' front court depth was exposed in the Finals. Claxton is raw, but for the Warriors, the 2019-20 season seems like a lost one anyway, so they can afford to develop an incredibly long, athletic, skilled big man like Claxton.
From Toronto Raptors
Round 1 - Pick 29
Chuma Okeke PF
Auburn • Fr • 6'6" / 229 lbs
Okeke was tearing up the NCAA Tournament as Auburn's best player before he tore his ACL in the Sweet Sixteen. He's a versatile athlete and an excellent shooter who, if his knee holds up in time, ought to be the type of player who can contribute to any NBA team.
From Milwaukee Bucks
Round 1 - Pick 30
Purdue • Soph • 5'11" / 200 lbs
The main question about Edwards: What's the NBA potential for a small, volume-shooting guard who isn't much of a floor space? The answer: A floor-spacing microwave scorer off the bench who plays with confidence and tenacity on both ends of the court.