The college basketball season is underway and scouts are already anticipating another strong class of lottery picks. theScore's Wael Saghir ranks the early favorites to land in the top 14 for the 2019 NBA Draft.
1. Zion Williamson - Duke, Freshman, F
Williamson's hype train is unstoppable after a strong start to the season. His bulky 6-foot-7, 285-pound frame doesn't hold him back from being the most physically gifted prospect since LeBron James. His playmaking is better than expected, showing an innate ability to blow past defenders to finish at the rim or find an open man. He's also proved to be a dominant rebounder and strong defender.
The concern for Williamson is his vertical reliability. When taking on players that match his strength, he can become slightly ineffective and predictable, as shown when he faced Gonzaga's Rui Hachimura. Finding a consistent jump shot may be his path to becoming a generational talent.
2. R.J. Barrett - Duke, Freshman, G/F
Ahead of Williamson's explosion onto the scene, Barrett was the favorite to land at the top of this list. He's one of the purest scorers in college basketball and addresses a position of need for the majority of the NBA.
Unfortunately, Barrett has been inconsistent from the perimeter early in the season. Though he's shooting a respectable 34.8 percent on 5.8 3-point attempts per game, the analytics aren't entirely on his side. Nonetheless, it's hard to imagine him not adjusting after three inefficient performances at the Maui Invitational.
3. Cam Reddish - Duke, Freshman, F
Reddish would easily be the top option on most teams in the nation. Joining forces with Barrett and Williamson has pushed the versatile forward to third in the Blue Devils' pecking order, often becoming the odd man out.
He's at his best as a ball-handler, providing excellent vision and a consistent jumper that should catapult him into the top five of all draft boards. Defensively, he'll have some work to do, but his fit in today's well-rounded, offensive NBA will help him remain among the elite in the class.
4. Nassir Little - North Carolina, Freshman, F
Aside from Williamson, Little is easily the most physically gifted prospect in the draft. He'll likely be slotted as an undersized power forward in the NBA but will help space the floor with his underrated spot-up shooting.
Little will likely be one of few players who leave the prestigious program at North Carolina after one year. Head coach Roy Williams is mostly committed to his upperclassmen, electing to play his seniors over freshmen. The 6-foot-6 brute has yet to start and is playing just 19.6 minutes per game through eight contests. The results have been mixed thus far, but it's his lack of floor time that could be a detriment to his draft positioning if things don't change by March.
5. Bol Bol - Oregon, Freshman, C
Simply put, Bol is essentially a shooting guard in the body of a 7-foot-2 center. Manute's son can sky for a block, run the break, and finish due to one of the most versatile two-way skill sets in the draft. He's already proven he's an effective 3-point shooter and has hit 75-plus percent from the charity stripe this season.
The major concern is his rail-thin frame that could become an issue against bigger competition. If Bol is tasked with taking on the Joel Embiids and Anthony Davises of the world, he'll more than likely struggle to slow them down. Regardless, he's already proven to be more polished than expected through seven games.
6. Romeo Langford - Indiana, Freshman, G
Langford is exactly what teams are searching for on the perimeter. He can take on the scoring burden and could develop into an elite defender in the NBA. He's proven he can score in isolation and has shown a knack for finding open shooters if the defense focuses on him. Ignoring his stinker against Duke, Langford has been a delight on both ends for the Hoosiers. The early long-range struggles are more likely a product of adjustment, as he should eventually be a legitimate threat from behind the arc.
7. Rui Hachimura - Gonzaga, Junior, F
Hachimura has developed into one of the most skilled forwards in the country and looks primed to make an immediate impact at the next level. The Japanese forward's game has a Paul Millsap-esque feel. He is capable of stepping out from three, can get to the rim with a solid burst of speed and strength, and possesses veteran-savvy moves around the basket. He'll likely end up as the oldest player drafted out of the top 14, but Asia's best basketball export in nearly two decades still has plenty of untapped potential.
8. Kevin Porter Jr. - USC, Freshman, G/F
Porter has quickly emerged as a potential top-10 pick after scouts pegged him as a late first-rounder. He's adept at making big plays on both ends and possesses a versatile offensive game that mixes explosive scoring bursts and sound distribution. The 6-foot-6 Trojan will need to gain a better feel for team concepts and adjust to sets on both ends of the floor if he hopes to continue his rise up the ranks.
9. Sekou Doumbouya - Limoges CSP (France), G/F
There's at least one European prospect that should land in the lottery. Doumbouya has the physical tools to develop into an elite two-way player. He's explosive from the perimeter, has a strong handle on the ball, and has shown upside as a jump shooter.
The French forward is 6-foot-9 with an almost 7-foot wingspan and will be just 18 years old by the time he's drafted. There's a legitimate chance he'll continue to grow (similar to Giannis Antetokounmpo). However, he's also a raw prospect and far from a finished product.
10. Keldon Johnson - Kentucky, Freshman, G
Coach John Calipari will always find a way to get one of his elite recruits into the lottery, and this year is no different. Johnson has been excellent on both ends of the floor, and although he's shooting a poor percentage from three, he should become one of the elite long-range gunners of the class.
Johnson needs to add some muscle to compete against stronger opponents, but he's a tenacious defender with a high IQ. He could become an excellent scorer with improved ball-handling.
11. Ja Morant - Murray State, Sophomore, G
A season ago, Trae Young became the first player to lead the nation in both points and assists. Morant is attempting to follow his path as he's been an absolute terror on offense, ranking third in both points (27.2) and assists (8.4), while still averaging 8.2 boards per contest.
Unfortunately, he has yet to prove he can shoot from beyond the arc with consistency. For now, the majority of his points come on drives, where he's able to collapse the opposition in the paint and either finish at the rim or find an open teammate.
12. Darius Garland - Vanderbilt, Freshman, G
Garland remains arguably the top point guard prospect in the draft despite suffering a season-ending MCL tear in just his fifth game. He was in the midst of a strong campaign after joining the Commodores as the No. 15 recruit, averaging 16.2 points. The 6-foot-2 freshman is among the best shooters in the draft and his intangibles could eventually make him a starter at the next level. However, he may struggle on defense due to his small frame and average athleticism.
13. De'Andre Hunter - Virginia, Sophomore, G/F
Similar to Mikal Bridges last year, Hunter is the top 3-and-D prospect of the 2019 draft. His length, elite basketball IQ, and overall relentless nature has been instrumental in helping Virginia become a top-two defense for the second consecutive season.
The 6-foot-7 wing is the top option for an undefeated Cavaliers squad, averaging 16.6 points and shooting 44.4 percent from three after settling into a sixth-man role last season. Hunter may never be an All-Star in the professional ranks, but he's a safe bet for a team looking for a difference-maker on both ends.
14. Daniel Gafford - Arkansas, Sophomore, C
Gafford was almost a guaranteed first-round selection last year before choosing to return to Arkansas. The results have been positive through six contests, with the 6-foot-11 big man improving his numbers across the board, including a seven-point increase in scoring. He'll be the prototypical rim-running, shot-blocking center teams desire. However, he must do a better job securing the basketball (5.2 turnovers per 40 minutes) and needs to knock down free throws at a higher rate (58.7 percent) if he wants to stay on the floor for longer stretches.
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