Let’s be honest.
The 2019 draft is shaping up as one of the weakest in several years.
After watching games involving the top prospects over the last 3 months, it’s pretty obvious there are 3 tiers to this year’s draft.
Tier 1: Zion Williamson. Potential franchise-changing talent who’s probably closer to Blake Griffin than LeBron James.
Tier 2: R.J. Barrett and Ja Morant: Potential multiple time All-Stars in the NBA. Barrett has the versatile scoring ability to average 20+ PPG on a consistent basis, while Morant is an explosive play-maker who has drawn comparisons to Sacramento’s 2nd year point guard De’Aaron Fox, with a ceiling of former league MVP’s Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook.
Tier 3: Everyone else.
In putting together a top 10 prospects list, the truth is you really can’t find any significant difference between Jarrett Culver at No. 4 and a player who might be drafted in the 20’s. Take any player on this week’s list between 4 and 10, and it’s likely he would have a tough time cracking the lottery in either of the last two drafts.
For example, if the Bulls don’t get lucky on lottery night and fall outside the top 3, which player are you taking?
Culver is a nice prospect who can score and can play the 2 and the 3, but isn’t an exceptional athlete. Reddish has been all hype to this point. You can see he has good positional size at 6’8” and is athletic enough to attack closeouts and get to the rim. But Reddish was billed as a knockdown 3-point shooter, and he’s been frighteningly inconsistent from beyond the college arc to this point, shooting 33%.
Nassir Little? He can’t even start at North Carolina!
That’s why some team in the top 10 will take a chance on Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland, even though he only played a handful of games in college before suffering a meniscus injury that ended his freshman season. Garland has already left school to start preparing for the draft, and if he tests well at the combine, he’ll be drafted highly on potential alone.
Similar story with Oregon center Bol Bol, Manute’s son. His one year college career ended with a broken foot, and foot injuries for 7-footers tend to set off alarm bells in the minds of NBA talent evaluators. Still, a player with that size who can knock down 3’s will probably work his way into the late lottery, maybe even the top 10 if GM’s are convinced he’s healthy.
And, let’s not forget about USC’s Kevin Porter Jr., who’s missed games because of injury and a conduct-related suspension. Porter Jr. hasn’t shown much on the court, but he’s one of the best perimeter athletes available in this year’s draft and could wind up in the top 10 if he interviews well at the combine.
Bottom line, once you get past the top 3, beauty will definitely be in the eye of the beholder for the 2019 NBA draft. I’m still hoping a couple players will start to move closer to Tier 2 as we head into conference tournaments and the NCAA big dance.