2019 NBA Draft Board Part 2 - 30-13

-Jim Root

Part 2 of my draft board - if you missed Part 1 (51-31), it’s right here. If you’re extremely against giving 3MW another click (we make a whopping $0.00 per extra click, how dare you!) and don’t want to read the write-ups, here’s the list:

Reminder: in the theme of this site (and given the hoops I’ve actually watched extensively), this board is Division I college-only. That means no Sekou Doumbouya, no Jalen Lecque, etc.

Tier 5 (continued from Part 1)

30. Bruno Fernando, Big, Maryland

Fernando is a force of nature, the kind of physical presence in the paint that makes his presence known whether he’s scoring or not. Of course, he’s capable of that, as his evolving post game and tireless offensive rebounding showed, and his activity level gets him to the line a fair amount as well. Perhaps his biggest improvement area this year, though, was going from “black hole” to “can beat a double team” as a passer. That was the type of progression NBA scouts wanted to see when he returned to school, and as such, he’s positioned himself right on the fringe of the first round. He’s a different type of big from Gafford or Mfiondu Kabengele, so the team fit will be important.

29. Admiral Schofield, Wing, Tennessee

I’ve been too high on a similar prospect before (shouts to the Semi-truck, Mr. Ojeleye), but I still think Schofield can carve out a role in a wing-hungry NBA. His perimeter shooting got better every year, culminating in a highly-impressive 42.2% on 173 attempts, including some big balls shots from NBA range against Gonzaga. He has the build and quickness to guard up or down positions, and although the Vols’ strangely regressed on that end this year, he was a big part of one of the nation’s best units in 2017-18.

Plus, he’s a renaissance man who can get down on the guitar and eventually learned to love Settlers of Catan!

28. Mfiondu Kabengele, Big, Florida St.

Kabengele is a physical marvel. He measured 6’10, 256 pounds at the combine with just 5.1% body fat, a 7’3” wingspan, and a “nothing to sneeze at for a big man” 35.5-inch vertical. He’s a mountain of a man who also showed the ability to hit some perimeter jumpers (37% on 91 career attempts) and block shots (8.3% block rate, 56th nationally). From a purely physical and talent point of view, he’s a drool-worthy package that theoretically should fit quite well into today’s NBA as a possible stretch five. The hesitancy on him, though, is on the mental awareness side of things. Kabengele’s tunnel vision to the hoop was awe-inspiring; he recorded an assist in only eight of Florida State’s 37 games this year (only 11 assists all season), and his inability to make even basic passes offensively demands caution in projecting him to play at a professional speed. That awareness matters defensively, too, as his athleticism can only make up for so much in terms of rotations, switches, and defensive reads. Hoop Lens data paints an interesting picture for someone many definitely labeled as FSU’s best player:

Clearly, Kabengele’s shooting helped space the floor offensively, but the defensive drop-off with him on the court helps illustrate the concerns with his defense. The basketball IQ part of the game is huge, and Kabengele will need to progress drastically there to be viable long term.

27. Matisse Thybulle, Wing, Washington

The history of Syracuse zone products translating into quality NBA defenders isn’t sparkling, and although Thybulle largely shatters the mold with his mind-melting block and steal rates, I still question how that translates into a disciplined, rotation-heavy NBA scheme. And he is nowhere near a certainty to contribute offensively, either, after a year averaging sub-10ppg and hitting only 30.5% from deep. Without much of an offensive game to speak of, the defensive questions loom even larger, despite massive upside on that end.

26. Luguentz Dort, Guard, Arizona St.

At 6’4, 222 pounds, Dort has ideal size for the strong safety position, and he’ll make millions pulverizing alligator-armed receivers over the middle for years. 

This is a basketball scouting report? Well, shit.

That frame and physicality is still an asset, though, as Dort uses his brute force against smaller guards to bully his way to the rim and earn repeated trips to the free throw line (200+ attempts as a freshman). Additionally, his dogged defensive mentality has earned him comparisons to Marcus Smart on that end. Unfortunately, his decision-making and inability to finish against size (a dismal 48.8% at the rim, per hoop-math) undermine his offensive gifts, and the mental/off-ball part of his defensive game needs to catch up to his wired intensity. To me, his shot has some promise, but it’s currently a skyscraping rainbow that doesn’t go in nearly enough (30.7% from deep, 70.0% from the FT line).

25. Eric Paschall, Forward, Villanova

Despite being one of the older prospects in the draft (turns 23 in November), I like a lot of what Paschall offers. He played in a system that centered around smart ball movement and extended floor spacing, and he was one of the country’s most efficient Power 6 players as more of a role player in 2017-18. His shot can come and go due to how much he needs to have his legs under him (it’s a true jump shot, he really elevates), but he was a 35% shooter on 300 attempts over his junior/senior years. His versatility is his calling card, and his ability to put the ball on the floor despite being 6’7”, 254 lbs. makes him a potential matchup problem. I envision a PJ Tucker-kind of player that can switch, play a tiny ball 5 role, and hit corner threes. 

Tier 4

24. Keldon Johnson, Wing, Kentucky

Johnson is the prototypical wing prospect: he fits the mold for size (6’6” with a 6’9.25” wingspan) and has solid athletic tools, and a hot start from deep helped alleviate some concerns around his shot. I question whether the shot is real (he made zero or one threes in 13 of his final 15 games), and his low steal and block rates call into question his potential to be a high-impact defender. I don’t have many profound thoughts on Johnson, though: I think he’s a lower ceiling, semi-high floor prospect who will be a decent NBA player.

23. Kevin Porter, Wing, USC

Much hyped entering last season (including by this very writer), Porter had a forgettable freshman season for an uninspiring USC team, dealing with injury (missed six weeks with a thigh bruise) and incurring a suspension due to an undisclosed conduct issue. While on the court, he showed off the tantalizing aspects of his game – an advanced pull-up arsenal, impressive finishing at the rim – while also displaying some questionable decision-making. He also shot a bafflingly low 52% from the free throw line, which may not be entirely an aberration after he hit just 68% in EYBL.

I’m of the opinion that this USC team was a wasteland, a rudderless collection of talent that had little interest in playing defense or properly sharing the ball, so I’ll forgive some of Porter’s struggles. Being in and out of the lineup could not have helped much, either. There’s some moldable skills here, and he only just turned 19, so perhaps this USC season will just be a blip in his development arc.

22. Nassir Little, Wing, North Carolina

Like Porter, Little is coming off a rather unremarkable freshman season for a prospect who received so much hype. Mentioned in the tier alongside Zion and RJ Barrett before the year, Little never lived up to the promise shown in settings like EYBL and the McDonald’s All-American game. He has the “big wing” size and vertical pop that scouts love, and he did do some positive things for the Heels. He made an impact defensively and on the glass, and he seemed on the verge of a bigger breakout in ACC play before suffering an injury in a February 11th game against Virginia. Ultimately, his inconsistency and inability to fit properly into the role Roy Williams wanted him to play led to limited minutes, but there’s still some clear long-term appeal to the 19-year-old.

21. Carsen Edwards, Guard, Purdue

I am fully buying Edwards as a professional hooper. He’s strong, he’s quick, and he’s dynamite offensively, with never-ending range and a quick release. His efficiency dipped slightly this year, but that was due to the Herculean load he shouldered offensively for a Purdue team that lacked many other surefire weapons. There are some defensive concerns given his lack of height, but his 6’6” wingspan helps make him less of a target on switches, and like Dort, he’s built like a concrete bunker. He learned from an intelligent defensive coach in college, and without being responsible for so much shot creation offensively, it’s reasonable to expect an increase in his effectiveness on D. He needs to be better finishing against shot-blockers, but the range, the developing play-making, and the intelligence are enough for me.

20. Ty Jerome, Guard, Virginia

Jerome has his physical limitations: his wingspan (6’4”) is tiny for someone who hopes to guard multiple perimeter positions, his lack of explosion forces his game to be decidedly below the rim, and apparently, he can’t dance whatsoever (Hyperlink Kyle Guy tweet here). But he’s a deadeye shooter, burying 39% of his 424 college attempts, including 41% of his 138 (!!) NBA-range threes last season, per The Stepien’s shot charts:

He’s also a threat to shoot off movement, an invaluable skill as the league looks more and more at taking away spot up chances. Ultimately, though, it’s his decision-making, positional awareness, and titanium testicles that make him a good bet to play quality rotation minutes in the NBA, continuing his production against elite athletes as he has all through college.

19. Bol Bol, Big, Oregon
18. Jontay Porter, Big, Missouri

Let’s discuss the two “highly skilled with injury red flags” together, shall we? Both Bol and Porter have immense offensive upside, albeit in slightly different roles. Bol is massive and a relatively proven knockdown shooter, potentially offering the intriguing “stretch 5” value that Brook Lopez and others have shown to be so effective. While Porter’s shot is still developing, he clearly grew more comfortable as the 2017-18 season wore on (40.3% from deep in SEC play). He’s also a brilliant passer for a big man and moves intelligently into space, constantly displaying his innate understanding of the game. As much as can be true for someone who tore the same ACL twice in six months, Jontay feels slightly “safer” to me.

Quite simply, Bol makes me uneasy. The way he moves, along with his thin, limb-dominant frame, make me extremely nervous for both health and basketball reasons. He can be a devastating shot-blocker with his timing and sheer size, but he’ll get displaced easily from his spots and likely will get incinerated off the dribble by any semi-mobile big man (don’t even think about switching). I can’t deny the sky-high ceiling if he properly adds strength, though, so he’s a perfect “swing for the fences” candidate for a team with patience and multiple picks (sup, Hawks).  

17. Talen Horton-Tucker, Wing/Forward, Iowa St.

Horton-Tucker is a peculiar prospect. He has the dimensions of a cyborg (7.1.25” wingspan despite standing just 6’4” in shoes), and his length plus strength combo make his versatility incredibly appealing. As it stands, though, the youngster (turns 19 in November) is exceedingly raw on offense, which he compounded by being irrationally confident with his shooting stroke for most of the year. Horton-Tucker was the only Iowa State player with an offensive rating below 100, an ignominious honor for a top 10 national unit. Still, though, he plays an intelligent game outside of those shot selection questions, and his potential to be a multi-positional monster keeps him ranked highly. Just don’t expect a lot his rookie year.

16. Cam Johnson, Wing, North Carolina

I like easy shooters, and few make it look as effortless from distance as Johnson:

He was in the 97th percentile on spot ups, per Synergy, and the 97th percentile off screens. He can get his shot off against most defenders thanks to his size (6’8.5” with a quick, high release), and although he doesn’t totally play to that size defensively (low rebound and block numbers), he really only needs to be competent on that end given how much of a perimeter threat he can be. He’s the type of player that will have real, floor-bending gravity as soon as he’s on the court, and that extra space makes everyone else better.

15. Tyler Herro, Wing, Kentucky

Though he was the least heralded (by recruiting rankings) of Kentucky’s five freshmen, Herro was almost certainly the best and most important of the bunch. He led the Wildcats in minutes played, provided most of what little spacing the offense had, and guarded his position quite well. His three-point shooting wasn’t as deadeye as advertised (just 35.5% for the year), but it picked up noticeably in conference play (42%) and he led the entire country in free shooting at 93.5%. I’ll go on record as having complete faith in Herro’s ability to be an impactful shooter in the NBA, both with makes and via his gravity.

What moves Herro up my board ahead of more physically gifted players (i.e., ones without a T-Rex wingspan) is a more underrated aspect of his game: his potential as a secondary creator. He attacked closeouts well last year, finishing at the rim or showing a strong floater game to attack shot-blockers:

He also made quality passing reads, averaging 2.5 assists per game and punishing defenses who rotated poorly against the threat of his shot or drives. He’ll never be a primary ball-handler in the league, but he’s much more than a standstill, spot up shooter, and that makes him exponentially more dangerous as a perimeter threat.

14. Cam Reddish, Wing, Duke

There’s something to be said for Reddish having to play an entirely different role at Duke than he ever had before in his career. He was the #3 recruit in the country, had always been the mega-star on his team, and suddenly he had to coexist alongside two even bigger studs as the third option. That’s not an easy transition, and it at least partially explains why it often felt like he disappeared from games. He was a solid defender, although his steal numbers dropped quite a bit later in the year after he’d been a terror for the first 3 months of the year.

That said, it’s still worth noting how poorly Reddish played his role offensively. He shot under 40% from inside the arc (how, with that size and athleticism?). He knocked down just 33.3% of his threes, despite many being open shots with defenses locked in on Zion and RJ Barrett. And perhaps most damning: he had more turnovers (78) than assists (68) despite rarely being asked to take on any sort of creation responsibility, showing extremely limited passion vision (though Duke had very few competent shooters to space the floor). It’s possible he still has some upside if he sees more of the ball and returns to how he was thrashing AAU and high school competition, but early in his career, he’ll be asked to play a similar role to what he did at Duke. And if he’s as bad at that in the pros as he was in college, that’s not very valuable. Someone will likely bet on the pedigree, though.

13. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Guard/Wing, Virginia Tech

If you saw that I was high on Justin Robinson in Part 1, you probably guessed that I would also like his younger, bigger, more naturally-talented teammate…and you were right. NAW looks like a tremendous secondary wing scorer to my eye, with a solid combination of size (6’5.5” with a 6’9.5” wingspan) and shooting (38% on 300 college attempts) to allow him to play and guard multiple positions. His efficiency suffered when Robinson missed 12 games, forcing NAW into the primary point guard role, but his numbers alongside Robinson in Virginia Tech’s spread scheme were outstanding: 51/40/80 shooting splits with 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio. Those numbers dropped to 37/32/75 and a 1.1 ratio without Robinson; that underscores the necessity of having him in the correct role. He also made an impact defensively (2.3% block rate, 3.4% steal rate), flashing his upside as a versatile disruptor. There are a ton of question marks through the lottery and into the middle of the first round, but for a team not necessarily swinging for a true star, NAW makes a lot of sense as a Caris LeVert-type of player.