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2019 NBA Draft Big Board: Post-combine rankings shakeup

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2019 NBA Draft Big Board: Post-combine rankings shakeup

The 2019 NBA Combine has come and gone. Impressions made will linger. 

Before revealing the updated and expanded 2019 NBA Draft Big Board, we dive into news and notes coming out of three days in Chicago.

Also, check out insight into the Wizards options with the ninth overall selection and the latest NBC Sports Washington NBA mock draft.

*Based on conversations with six NBA teams and other league sources, here’s a list of players that stood out during the two days of 5-on-5 scrimmages. Note projected lottery and first-round selections largely did not participate other than Tennessee’s Grant Williams:

Nic Claxton -- The 6-foot-11 center entered the Combine outside of first-round projections. Now the sense is “late first” assuming he remains in the draft after Claxton’s impressive defensive work protecting the rim and switching on the perimeter when needed.

Tremont Waters -- The small point guard tested the NBA Draft pool after leading LSU to the Sweet 16. That looks like a savory decision after a team source declared the one-time Georgetown recruit as the best player during Thursday’s action. The 5-foot-11 Waters splashed 3-pointers off the dribble, showed quick hands defensively and posted a 40-inch vertical.

Jalen Lecque – The Brewster Academy product/NC State recruit received the most praise from various sources, though the unknown with the high schooler likely played some part. The 6-foot-4 guard with a 43-inch vertical leap received lofty athletic comparisons -- his nickname is “Baby Westbrook” -- and his skill in spots matched the hype. The 18-year-old skipped the second day of scrimmages after receiving positive feedback from teams, ESPN reported. There’s a rung to climb before the first-round talk, but scouts certainly took notice.

Luka Samanic -- The 6-foot-10 forward “made friends” within the scouting community after flashing his smooth athleticism, steady shooting stroke and hoops smarts during Thursday’s session. Samanic entered the Combine outside the top 30-35 selections. That probably won’t be the case soon.

Isaiah Roby -- Hey, an upperclassman. The 6-foot-8 forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan made noise with his full-court skills and defensive versatility. According to one source, Roby would stay in the draft if a top 40 selection. How teams decipher his limited shooting numbers last season -- 33 percent on 3-pointers, 68 percent from the free throw line -- could determine which side of that projection he falls.

Others: Brian Bowen, Darius Bazley, Devon Dotson, Cody Martin, Tacko Fall, Jordan Bone

*The trend of top prospects sitting out the scrimmages went up another level to the chagrin of NBA teams. Williams was the only top-35 on ESPN’s pre-Combine list to scrimmage. That the SEC Player of the Year struggled with his shot and perhaps slid a tick won’t help the argument that players should play. “Agents control things,” one NBA general manager mused. “What can you do?”

*The Wizards met with several prospects potentially available in the 31-40 range, another sign of the franchise’s intentions to buy into the second round. That group includes Oregon forward Louis King.

The 6-foot-8 forward offers a 7-foot wingspan. The 39 percent 3-point shooter at Oregon was one of the top “on the move” shooters from 15 feet during non-game shooting drills in Chicago.

“This is great exposure for people that declared for the draft,” the Ducks’ leading scorer told NBC Sports Washington. “I felt like helping my team get to the Pac 12 championship and the (NCAA Tournament’s) Sweet 16, having a lot of confidence in my game, I was ready for the league."

*We can probably remove Ty Jerome from that early second-round grouping. One source put his draft range at 18-22 based on teams interviewing the Virginia guard -- I’ll note Jerome stood out in our 1-on-1 interview -- and reviewing his shooting prowess.

*As for the overall first round, here’s a rough look based on tiers.

We start with Zion Williamson, then Ja Morant with maybe RJ Barrett. From there think 4-9 with that group perhaps expanding or decreasing by a player or two. Then we go 10 to early 20’s. While there’s always the chance a single player stands out for a specific team, the sense from Chicago is this large group makes the idea of trading down from say 9 more hopeful than likely.

2019 NBA Draft Big Board

1. Zion Williamson, PF, Duke

2. Ja Morant, PG, Murray State

3. RJ Barrett, SG, Duke

4. De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia

5. Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech

6. Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

7. Coby White, SG, UNC

8. Cam Reddish, SF, Duke

9. Sekou Doumbouya, PF, International

10. Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas

11. Bol Bol, PF, Oregon

12. Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga

13. Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga

14. Nassir Little, SF, UNC

15. PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky

16. Goga Bitadze, C, International 

17. Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC

18. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Va. Tech

19. Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana

20. Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky

21. Ty Jerome, SG, Virginia 

22. Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky 

23. Cameron Johnson, PF, UNC

24. Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee 

25. Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland

26. Luka Samanic, PF, Croatia

27. Carsen Edwards, SG/PG, Purdue

28. Nicolas Claxton, C, Georgia

29. KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford

30. Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas

31. Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State

32. Admiral Schofield, PF, Tennessee

33. Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State

34. Dylan Windler, SF, Belmont

35. Mfiondu Kabengele, PF, Florida State

36. Eric Paschall, PF, Villanova

37. Isaiah Roby, SF, Nebraska

38. Jalen Lecque, SG, USA 

39. Louis King, SF, Oregon

40. Tremont Waters, PG, LSU 

41. Jalen McDaniels, PF, San Diego State

42. Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington

43. Ignas Brazdeikis, F, Michigan

44. Darius Bazley, SF, USA 

45. Brian Bowen, PF, USA

46. Naz Reid, C, LSU

47. Jontay Porter, C, Missouri

48. Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky

49. Shamorie Ponds, PG, St. John’s

50. Cody Martin, SG, Nevada

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Which team is closer to contention: the Wizards or Grizzlies?

Which team is closer to contention: the Wizards or Grizzlies?

While watching the Wizards take on another rebuilding team, as they did on Saturday night in their loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, it's only natural to compare the stages of those respective rebuilds and wonder which team is closer. That may be an even more interesting question with a game like Saturday's that matched the Wizards against a team doing things a decidedly different way.

In a sense, the Wizards are where the Grizzlies were last season. Memphis had unexpectedly bottomed out the year before, enough to land Jaren Jackson Jr. in the draft. And, like the Wizards this year, they were holding onto their core veterans, in their case Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol.

But the Grizzlies didn't bounce back into playoff contention like they had hoped and ended up trading both Gasol and Conley, and arguably too late. The Wizards wish to avoid that fate with Bradley Beal and John Wall.

Neither the Wizards (7-17) or Grizzlies (9-17) are a good team right now and both would like to be back in the playoff mix sooner than later, maybe even next year. So, who is closer?

The Grizzlies have the more impressive young core with Jackson and Ja Morant. Both are just 20 years old and they each look like future All-Stars, if not All-NBA talents.

Jackson is averaging 17.6 points and 1.2 blocks while shooting 40 percent from three on six attempts per game. He's a two-way unicorn who can make plays like a guard and has potential to become an elite rim protector.

Morant is the early favorite for rookie of the year, averaging 18.7 points and 6.4 assists while shooting 42.6 percent from long range. He has future star written all over him with a game reminiscent of a young Wall or Russell Westbrook.

The Grizzlies appear to have hit on their high draft picks, but have also nailed later ones, the type of moves that separate the best front offices. Brandon Clarke, the 21st pick this past June, looks like a steal. And Dillon Brooks, a second round pick in 2017, is a solid young player.

But the Wizards also have an emerging young core with Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura and Moe Wagner. None of them are as good as Jackson or Morant, but they are good players on the rise. And, most importantly, the Wizards have Beal.

While Jackson and Morant could someday be stars, Beal already is one and he's signed long-term. Potential is a commodity in the NBA, but nothing is guaranteed for young teams and young players. Just look at the Bulls and Hawks this season.

Now, the Grizzlies do have something the Wizards would absolutely love to have and that is real financial flexibility. They have close to $70 million in salary coming off the books this summer and have the second-lowest payroll committed for next season of any team in the NBA, second only to Atlanta.

The Wizards, meanwhile, are strapped with Wall's supermax contract which, depending on how he returns from a torn Achilles, could be an albatross for years to come. Though cap space doesn't mean the Grizzlies will be able to lure free agents, as Memphis has never been mistaken for a prime destination, but it's a preferable spot to be in. Wall's deal may prevent the Wizards from keeping players they would otherwise re-sign, when Memphis should have no such problem.

So, so far we have the Grizzlies with a better young nucleus and a much better salary cap situation. The Wizards, though, have the proven star and may have two if Wall returns to form.

But here's what may give the Wizards the edge, or at least secure a push. The Grizzlies have to give one of their next two first round picks to Boston by way of a 2015 trade. It is top-6 protected this year and unprotected in 2021 if it doesn't convey this June. That could be a major problem for a team trying to build through the draft.

Also, the Wizards are lucky to be in the Eastern Conference. Though the Grizzlies geographically should be in the East, they remain in the West which has been the superior conference basically since Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls.

There is, of course, no definitive answer to the root question of this analysis. The easiest way to settle it would be to say the Grizzlies have a higher ceiling at this point because of Morant and Jackson, but the Wizards probably have the more likely path to the playoffs next season, given they play in the East and have two guys with a track record of getting there.

But as we compare the teams, keep in mind what Memphis wanted to do and what they ended up doing in terms of trading their veteran stars. The Wizards don't want to take their rebuild that far, but sometimes things don't go according to plan. Just ask the Grizzlies.

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Wizards fall flat in battle with young Grizzlies

Wizards fall flat in battle with young Grizzlies

The Washington Wizards lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 128-111 on Saturday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. It was just over a week ago the Wizards had their best win of the season against the Sixers. Saturday night was one of their worst.

They went into Memphis to play an emerging, but struggling team and got their you-know-whats handed to them. The Wizards jumped out to a 13-6 lead in the first, then lost the momentum and never got it back.

By halftime the Wizards were down 15. That deficit grew to 24 in the second half.

The Wizards ended up losing by 17, but it wasn't as close as the score would suggest. It was Washington's seventh loss in eight games.

Maybe it was the three-day layoff. Perhaps they weren't sharp. Whatever the reason, that was a bad one.

2. As this game went on, it became very obvious that Memphis' gameplan was to make sure Davis Bertans didn't beat them. They swarmed the Latvian Laser on the perimeter and guarded him well beyond the three-point line.

Bertans was held to nine points on 2-for-9 shooting and 1-for-6 from three. His one three was a quick release shot from about 27 feet out. Soon after that, the defense was picking him up at halfcourt.

 

This type of treatment was inevitable for Bertans, who has been the biggest surprise of the Wizards' season so far. He has turned into one of the league's best three-point shooters and the second-best scorer on the team. Teams now know it.

3. Rui Hachimura's college teammate stole the show in this one. Brandon Clarke, who played last year with Hachimura at Gonzaga, put on an impressive scoring display highlighted by a series of vicious dunks. He measured a max vertical of 40 1/2 inches and used every inch of it to dunk all over the Wizards.

He had 19 points in the first half, including an alley-oop where his head was level with the rim and a poster dunk on the fastbreak that nearly ended Ian Mahinmi's career.

 

Clarke had 25 points on 11-for-14 shooting with four rebounds. Coming out of the draft, he was considered a good defensive player but too old (he's 23) and too raw offensively without a three-point shot.

So far, he's looking like a major steal at the 21st overall pick. 

4. The Grizzlies might not be good, but they are fun to watch and have a nice young core with Clarke alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. and Morant. Jackson is a unicorn at 6-foot-11 with the ability to drive coast-to-coast and hit threes. Morant is a force of nature, able to play well above the rim despite being 6-foot-3.

Morant nearly pulled off one of the most disrespectful plays in basketball on Bradley Beal. He tried to pull a "Michael Jordan on Ron Mercer" by snatching the ball off the glass with two hands. But he clipped the rim and was called for goaltending. Still, it was impressive because of how high he got in the air.

Memphis has an exciting young team. They might contend for a playoff spot next year with a good offseason. If they were in the East, they could really make some noise.

5. The Wizards were without several key regulars once again. Isaiah Thomas missed his fifth straight game with a left calf strain and Moe Wagner was out with his left ankle sprain after playing in the past four games.

They did get back Garrison Mathews, though. The two-way guard played in his first game since Oct. 25 after sitting out due to a stress reaction in his right leg. It was Mathews' third professional game, but he made his first shot - a corner three. It happened to come in his home state of Tennessee. 

Mathews might actually get some minutes in the next few weeks because he is the second-best shooting guard on the roster with Jordan McRae out due to a finger injury.

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