The end of the 2018 NBA Draft signals the start of a new cycle, and while the smoke has barely cleared, it’s time to begin projecting forward in earnest. As such, The Crossover’s Front Office presents its first Top 60 Big Board for 2019. After sifting through the returning pool of prospects and evaluating nearly all of the top incoming freshmen in live environments, we bring you a preliminary set of rankings for next year’s class.
Granted, there are 12 months to go, but at the moment the consensus opinion among scouts and executives seems to be that this is a thinner crop of talent. Where this year’s draft favored big men at the top and 2017 was full of point guards, 2019 is presently rife with versatile wings atop the draft and fits in more neatly with where the NBA’s positional spectrum has shifted. Players who are tall, athletic and multiskilled are at a premium, and that’s what lottery teams are likely looking at a little less than a year from now—a welcome set of circumstances, even if there’s a lack of surefire star talent at this stage.
It’s a bit early to worry about which teams are drafting where, but below you’ll find an early ranking of the top crop of prospects, a list that will be extremely fluid as next season approaches. But at minimum, these are players you can expect to hear about as the fall approaches.
1. R.J. Barrett, G/F, Duke | Freshman
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 210 | Age: 18
As we move into the summer, Barrett remains the early favorite to go No. 1 in 2019, his career to date characterized by a well-rounded game and consistent production at every turn. He’s a high-caliber athlete and slasher who can get to the basket off the dribble and work in isolation, and has an appealing competitive streak. NBA teams are concerned about the quality of his three-point shot, but if he can answer that question, there won’t be any glaring holes in his skill set. There’s a good chance he ends up as the alpha dog on a loaded Duke roster. A lot can change in this shuffle in a year’s time, but he could follow in the footsteps of Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett as Canadian prospects selected first overall.
2. Cameron Reddish, G/F, Duke | Freshman
Height: 6'9" | Weight: 205 | Age: 18
Reddish might be the most individually talented player in next year’s draft, and where he ends up in this hierarchy may come down to a matter of want. He has a reputation among evaluators for being overly nonchalant and passive, a byproduct of the game having come exceptionally easy to him at this point in his life. He prefers playing with the ball in his hands, and possesses a natural blend of size and strength that can overwhelm smaller opponents. He has high-end ability to change speeds and generate space off the dribble, and sees the floor at a high enough level to play point guard. If Duke can get the most out of Reddish the results could be scary, but he can’t be content to sit back and coast.
3. Nassir Little, SF, North Carolina | Freshman
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18
No player did more for himself on the high school All-Star circuit than Little, who’s become a known commodity rather quickly with his scoring ability at all three levels. Already mature physically, Little has a relentless mentality on both ends of the floor, gets downhill to the rim easily and can be a disruptive on-ball defender with his 7'1" wingspan. He’s improving as a jump shooter, and the next step is improving his shot selection and handle. He’s big, tough and quick enough to keep up with most opponents, and could be a power wing at the next level à la Jaylen Brown. Little appears to be trending upward, and will be a major part of a UNC team that will have high expectations.
4. Sekou Doumboya, F, Limoges
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 230 | Age: 17
Doumboya was the most impressive prospect at February’s Basketball Without Borders Global Camp, cementing himself as a likely lottery pick and potentially one of the first names called at the draft next year. After playing in France’s Pro B last year, he’ll make the move up a division to Limoges, a club that will also compete in the EuroCup. He’s been stellar within his age group, and the tenor of his pro season will determine how high he can climb in the draft. Blessed with natural bounce, a strong build, a 6'11" wingspan and huge hands, Doumboya has a rare power-skill combination on the offensive end, and can be a standout defender when fully engaged. He’s a confident jump shooter and should be capable of playing either forward spot as he matures. Improving his handle is the next step.
5. Zion Williamson, F, Duke | Freshman
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 270 | Age: 18
While Williamson the viral phenomenon tends to precede Williamson the prospect, the latter is actually far more interesting to consider. Of course, he’s a freak athlete in every sense of the word, capable of aerial feats that belie his hefty build. There just aren’t many useful comparions here for a guy with his physical talent and frame. To his credit, Williamson has a good deal of skill and feel, preferring to play with the ball in his hands so he can facilitate and score. Some scouts believe his future lies as a small-ball big, and how Duke uses him will be fascinating to monitor. His jump shot is his Achilles’ heel, and may answer a lot of those questions for him. Williamson may not end up a top-five pick, but the athleticism and skill package should continue to wow people.
6. Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana | Freshman
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 200 | Age: 18
After appeasing his entire home state with his college committment, Langford heads to Indiana with serious hype, and has a well-rounded skill set that projects nicely to the pros. He’s a smooth player with a protoypical build for a shooting guard, and is already comfortable creating off the dribble and generating his own offense. Langford doesn’t have a glaring weakness at this stage, but will need to keep developing his craft to become a star—he’s a good but not elite athlete, and a capable but not great three-point shooter. The effort needs to be there defensively, but given how many shots he could end up taking, it’s hard to know what we’ll get on that side. Langford has a natural feel for scoring that should translate to big freshman-year numbers and a substantial NBA career.
7. Quentin Grimes, G, Kansas | Freshman
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 205 | Age: 18
Grimes was a key cog for the USA team coached by Bill Self that just won gold at the U18 FIBA Americas, and should play a similarly large role for Kansas. Checking all the key boxes for a combo guard, Grimes has a nice mix of positional size, ball-handling ability and passing feel and is ready for the college level. He has impressive coordination for his size and finishes pretty well around the rim. He stands to be more aggressive defending and imposing his will on the game in all facets, and appears to need the ball in his hands to thrive right now. His three-point shot is also a little shaky at times. As long as Grimes rises to the occasion at Kansas, the lottery should be within reach.
8. Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas | Sophomore
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 235 | Age: 19
After opting to stay at Arkansas without even testing the 2018 draft waters, Gafford returns as arguably the top center in the class at this stage and returns with expectations that didn’t exist for him whatsoever a year ago. He put together quite a freshman season after coming in off the radar (18.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.5 blocks per-36), and profiles as a rim-runner and shot-blocker with enough defensive mobility to play in the modern NBA. Gafford still lacks a level of polish and consistency and can be foul-prone. He’ll need to keep improving his touch as a finisher, free-throw shooting and overall discipline, but the talent is there and next year’s draft appears a bit thinner at this stage.
9. Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga | Junior
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 225 | Age: 20
Some around the league speculated Hachimura may have had a chance to sneak into the back end of the 2018 lottery had he stayed in the draft. Instead, he’ll return to a loaded Gonzaga team that should have a strong shot at the Final Four, and will in all likelihood be a first-rounder in some capacity. A powerful athlete and finisher who should be able to play both forward spots, Hachimura has clear NBA-caliber tools, but has to refine his game off the dribble, and scouts will be looking for him to take a step forward as a shooter (he has a capable mid-range game and shot 79% from the line, but made just five of 26 three-point attempts this season). He’s a popular candidate to break out in full.
10. Luka Samanic, F, KK Olimpija
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 210 | Age: 18
Samanic’s play was up and down at Basketball Without Borders in February, but his overall skill set and strengths at his size are highly appealing in the long-term. Should he enter the draft next year, he’s almost sure to be a first-rounder. He’s not a stiff athletically and has enough of a pass-dribble-shoot skillset to fit in anywhere on the floor. He’s most likely to end up as a combo forward at the next level with his ability to handle and shoot and given his slender build. Samanic has yet to log high-level minutes as a pro and finding consistent playing time is the next logical step, which made leaving Barcelona for Olimpija a sound decision with respect to the draft. He’ll be in the lottery mix if all goes well.
11. Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky | Freshman
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 230 | Age: 17
After recently announcing his decision to reclassify and head to Western Kentucky (which had been rumored for some time), Bassey is expected to be in the first-round picture as long as he’s technically eligible, given he turns 19 in the calendar year of the draft. Born in Nigeria, he’s already well-known in scouting circles, and has the physical strength and power to slide into an NBA frontcourt one day. His skill set has begun to expand a bit, and he has some shooting touch, but Bassey is probably best off focusing on banging in the paint and showcasing his rim-running skills next season. In a draft that looks thin on bigs, he stands to benefit.
12. De'Andre Hunter, F, Virginia | Sophomore
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 225 | Age: 20
Hunter would likely have been a first-round pick in the 2018 draft, but opted to return to school and will hopefully have more of a featured offensive role for Virginia. Defensive versatility is the hallmark of his game, as he’s capable of guarding 1–4 and has outstanding hands and instincts on that side of the ball. Hunter also looks comfortable handling it, and has shown some ability to create his own shot within a limited role in Virginia’s rigid system. How the Cavaliers decide to optimize his skills next season could have a direct impact on his draft slot, and given they’re losing Devon Hall and Isaiah Wilkins, expect Hunter to have ample opportunity.
13. Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt | Freshman
Height: 6'3" | Weight: 170 | Age: 18
A twitchy athlete with ideal tools to run the point, Garland has a fluid game off the bounce and profiles as one of the more intriguing long-term playmakers for 2019. He sees the floor well and appears to be more of a drive-and-kick downhill passer than a natural setup man. Garland can shoot from outside and has a natural knack for putting the ball in the basket, but will need to get stronger in order to hold his own defensively and to better finish in the paint. His build is smallish, and if Garland has trouble adding muscle, he’ll have to improve his skill level in other areas to split the difference.
14. Louis King, F, Oregon | Freshman
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19
King tore his meniscus in January and had to sit out the All-Star circuit in the spring, but is expected to be a big part of Oregon’s team next season. An offensive-minded wing with a reliable jump shot, King has a bit of a reputation for inconsistent play, but substantial talent. He may wind up as a combo forward as his body continues to fill out. He’s smooth and coordinated but not an elite run-jump guy, and continuing to polish his scoring and showing more committment to defense and rebounding will help. King has theoretical versatility, but is still figuring out how to harness it.
15. Jontay Porter, C, Missouri | Sophomore
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 235 | Age: 18
One of the more surprising twists in this year’s draft cycle was the news that Porter would return to Missouri—entering the combine, a majority of teams felt he was a lock to turn pro. Given he won’t turn 19 until November, it’s a perfectly fine basketball decision, one that will make him even more likely to land in the first round and give him time to get in to better shape, which is paramount in his success. Porter has a ton of natural basketball skill and just happens to be extremely tall, and his passing skills and three-point shooting should make him a weapon in ball-screen situations. His cerebral game already has plenty of fans around the league, and his production is due for an uptick along with his minutes.
16. Keldon Johnson, G/F, Kentucky | Freshman
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 210 | Age: 18
Though he’s not quite as hyped as some of the other wings in this group of incoming freshmen, Johnson was impressive at McDonald’s All-American week and has the makings of a useful supporting scorer at the next level. He’s extremely competitive and can bully opponents with a consistent mid-range game and ability to finish around the basket with either hand. Johnson is physically mature and highly polished in terms of skills and approach, and should put up numbers for Kentucky early in the season. If he continues to shoot consistently from three-point range, he should be able to put himself in the first-round mix, but he may lack elite upside given he relies more on strength than explosiveness.
17. Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland | Sophomore
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 235 | Age: 19
All things considered, Fernando probably made a wise decision to return to school as he was trending more toward the second round of the draft. He has all the athletic ability to shine as a rim-running, shot-blocking big, but has to continue developing the know-how to apply it on the court. Fernando is a powerful finisher off the gather and has a surprising amount of touch from outside, and Maryland would be remiss not to use him as a roll man more often and let him pop out to the three-point line as well. He picked up basketball late and it’s evident in his overall court sense, but another year of fast development should land him in the first round.
18. Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC | Freshman
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 210 | Age: 18
Porter has become a bit of a hot name going into the fall, with many scouts viewing him as a strong bet for the first round given his blend of skill and power on the wing. He put himself on the map at the Hoop Summit, where he stood out playing in a scrimmage against the USA select team and showcased his ability to score the ball from all over the floor. Porter is a creative ball-handler and dynamic, above-the-rim slasher with strong footwork already. How much of an impact he makes defensively and how consistently he makes threes (he has a bit of a low release on his left-handed stroke) are two key areas that will factor into his draft position.
19. P.J. Washington, F/C, Kentucky | Sophomore
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 230 | Age: 19
Washington was at his best playing as a small-ball five this season, with freakish length that helps compensate for his lack of height, and returns to Kentucky expected to anchor the frontcourt with his rebounding and finishing skills. He was impressive at the combine with his overall work rate and court awareness, and will have a much better shot at the first round in 2019. He doesn’t have crazy upside, but his skill level on the interior and quickness off the floor could make him a quality role player. Washington can make from mid-range, and if he can become consistent out to the three, he’ll do himself a favor.
20. Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech | Sophomore
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19
Zhaire Smith wasn’t the only Red Raider who arrived on the NBA map this season. A long, athletic wing scorer who operated primarily as a spot-up threat, Culver boasts a terrific physical profile for an NBA two-guard and is a guy who passes the eye test. He made 38.2% of his threes this year and is very comfortable shooting off the catch and attacking closeouts. Culver is smooth but not extremely explosive turning the corner, and has to improve his ball-handling in order to generate more of his own offense. If he becomes a more consistent shooter and defender, he’ll have some definite value.
21. Bol Bol, C, Oregon | Freshman
Height: 7'2" | Weight: 220 | Age: 18
The son of the late Manute Bol is one of the more unique players you’ll find, but also comes with his fair share of questionmarks. Bol is highly coordinated for his extremely tall body, with a 7'9" wingspan and 9'6" standing reach that naturally creates some problems on the defensive end. He can catch lobs and dunk from places others can’t. But NBA teams have serious questions about his desire and willingness to win and improve, not to mention what aspects of his game actually translate. He may not be able to get much stronger, which creates inherent difficulties, and has some issues with the low release on his jumper. Bol has a crucial year ahead, and could wind up closer to the top of the draft, or potentially drop further than this if things don’t break correctly.
22. Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue | Junior
Height: 6'0" | Weight: 190 | Age: 20
Edwards put together a big sophomore year (18.5 ppg) and solidified himself as a legit prospect, and could follow a trajectory similar to Aaron Holiday and end up landing in the first round with continued production. He’s a big-time shot-maker who can hit deep threes and plays with an nice level of calm and confidence. Scouts wonder about him as a playmaker, as his natural inclination is to score and he needs to prove he can set up teammates and run more offense. He’s undersized, but his stocky, strong frame helps make up for it. Purdue’s success revolves around Edwards taking another step forward, and he should be rewarded with a favorable draft slot if he does.
23. Ky Bowman, PG, Boston College | Junior
Height: 6'1" | Weight: 190 | Age: 20
A former defensive back recruit who picked basketball over football, Bowman quietly put together a terrific sophomore season and left many teams wondering why he wasn’t invited to the combine in May. With Jerome Robinson off to the pros, the rains to the Eagles’ offense are his alone, and his ability to get teammates shots, attack the paint, defend the ball and rebound should make him one of the more well-rounded guards anywhere in college basketball. Bowman plays with energy and rarely tires, and if he can handle even more offensive possessions next year, he should be in the picture here.
24. Simi Shittu, F, Vanderbilt | Freshman
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 220 | Age: 18
Shittu tore his ACL in January and missed the brunt of his senior year at Vermont Academy, but is said to be ahead of schedule in his recovery and is currently expected to be ready for the start of college season. The Canadian-born hybrid forward has a smooth, versatile game and an ideal body for the NBA level that’s already relatively mature. He’s still refining his perimeter skills and his jumper, and could end up as more of a small-ball big in the pros. Time is certainly on Shittu’s side as it pertains to his long-term development.
25. Lindell Wigginton, PG, Iowa State | Sophomore
Height: 6'2" | Weight: 185 | Age: 20
Wigginton is a quick-twitch athlete who’s more scorer than playmaker right now, but will have a good platform to leap into the first-round picture while leading what should be an improved Iowa State team. He plays low to the ground, can get into the paint and make open threes, but had major struggles with turnovers last year and needs to prove he’s a true point guard to move into the first round, as well as to help his team win more games. He’ll be 21 by draft night, which raises questions about upside.
26. Jalen McDaniels, F/C, San Diego State | Sophomore
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 195 | Age: 20
After spending much of last season out of the spotlight until the Aztecs made a surprising run to the NCAA tournament, McDaniels tested the waters, worked out for a wide range of teams, and opted to return to school at the last minute. He was an infrequent offensive option as a freshman, but his length and springs make him a quality rebounder and he did a strong job of drawing contact on the inside and impacting the game regardless. Getting stronger is imperative and he’s still more of an idea than a player, but McDaniels has the outlines of a capable energy big with his solid motor. He still has a lot of work to do.
27. Jalen Smith, C, Maryland | Freshman
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 195 | Age: 18
A stretch big who goes by the nickname “Sticks,” Smith was able to showcase legitimate three-point shooting skills in front of NBA personnel this spring. As that name would suggest, he needs to bulk up. Smith’s a competitive, skilled scorer who has enough foot speed to succeed at the next level. He is built more like a four than a five and until he gets stronger, it’s hard to see him being an impact defender. But he appears to be improving quickly, and could be an interesting fit opening up the floor alongside Bruno Fernando.
28. Jarrey Foster, SF, SMU | Senior
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 220 | Age: 21
Foster announced he would return to SMU for his senior year after his recovery from an ACL tear ended a standout season prematurely. Had he stayed healthy Foster would have likely fallen somewhere within the first 40 picks of this year’s draft, and as long as he’s good to go, he should wind up projected into that range again. He’s a terrific athlete, versatile defender and ideal role player for the next level, with a high IQ on both ends of the floor. Improving his three-point shooting and expanding his scoring profile with Shake Milton out the door are on the docket for Foster this off-season.
29. Herbert Jones, SF, Alabama | Sophomore
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 200 | Age: 19
While Jones remains very much a work in progress, he has the NBA on notice after showing flashes of occasional brilliance as a freshman who came in as an unknown. With the NBA’s premium on versatile wing players, his potential to defend four positions as he adds mscle is noteworthy. That said, Jones has a long way to go when it comes to learning how to play. He flashed bits and pieces of skill as a freshman but struggled to score efficiently in any facet. In his defense, Jones had never really played against high-level competition before arriving at Alabama, and should be poised for a step forward as a sophomore.
30. Nazreon Reid, C, LSU | Freshman
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 240 | Age: 18
While Reid has more of an old-school body, his versatile offensive skill set makes him an intriguing name to follow, though he’s far from a safe bet right now. He’s extremely skilled for his size, capable of shooting the three, posting up and potentially shouldering some sets as a passer on the block. Expect him to be featured at LSU. Reid has a reputation with scouts for dogging it effort-wise, and the factor of how much he cares is pivotal. His heavy build may also cause some issues in terms of defensive mobility. If he gets in peak shape and his offensive positives can outweigh the other factors, he could surprise.
31. Darius Bazley, F, NBA G League
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 195 | Age: 18
Already a national topic of discussion after opting to forgo a year at Syracuse to turn pro, it’s particularly early to make sweeping judgments about Bazley’s draft stock. He has athletic tools and can defend on the perimeter, but has to add muscle in order to be a versatile option. His raw offensive game is a questionmark right now in most facets, and Bazley’s handle and jump shooting development will be the key areas to watch. How his season plays out will be extremely intriguing as a precedent for high school prospects skipping college for the G League.
32. Jaylen Hoard, F, Wake Forest | Freshman
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 205 | Age: 19
Born in France, Hoard played in this year’s Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic and is the highest-profile recruit in Danny Manning’s tenure at Wake. A physically gifted combo forward, he’s an athletic finisher with a quick first step and fluid coordination for his size. He has immense potential on the defensive end, where his 7'1" wingspan comes into play and creates matchup versatility. Hoard needs to continue honing his handle, and his jump shot can be inconsistent, but the tools are there to make him a first-rounder if he can hit the ground running.
33. Zach Norvell Jr., SG, Gonzaga | Sophomore
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 205 | Age: 20
After coming on strong in the month of March and hitting multiple threes in Gonzaga’s final six games of the season (including six against Ohio State in the NCAA tournament), Norvell will be a name to watch as part of a Bulldogs team that will live in the national spotlight. He’s athletic with some size and a smooth, left-handed stroke, is a strong positional rebounder and moves his feet well on the perimeter, offering 3-and-D potential as he continues to mature. If Norvell can become a more consistent perfomer, his production should be in for an uptick, and he could start to force the NBA issue.
34. Jarron Cumberland, SG, Cincinnati | Junior
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 215 | Age: 20
Thanks to an appealing blend of toughness and shot-making ability, Cumberland has a chance to follow teammate Jacob Evans into a favorable selection in next year’s draft. Though not wildly long, he’s extremely strong and can shoot from deep, although he’s streaky. His efficiency numbers should have been much better last season, and given the Bearcats lost three of their starters this off-season, finding a way to improve while taking on more of the offensive load will be a challenge. His talent level is there if he can parlay the opportunity into a full-fledged star turn in the fall.
35. Kris Wilkes, SF, UCLA | Sophomore
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 195 | Age: 19
Wilkes’s massive struggles at the draft combine were a clear indicator he needed to return to school, as he frequently forced shots up and showed little ability to play within a team concept. Without being overly harsh, his athleticism and jump shooting potential are evident, but whether or not he’s drafted will hinge on fine-tuning his offensive skill set. His numbers weren’t awful last year, but he struggles to create off the dribble and will have to become a much better ball-handler to play as a true wing. If he can also establish himself more on defense as a sophomore, he should have a shot at the first round.
36. E.J. Montgomery, F/C, Kentucky | Freshman
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18
Montgomery is a talented big with ball skills who will be in the mix at Kentucky and will have a shot at the first round with a strong season. In the past, he’s had a penchant for spending too much time trying to be a guard, and his toughness has been questioned. Still, as a smooth, versatile lefty with inside-out game, his potential to space the floor will certainly pique scouts’ interest. How consistent he can be and what type of a role he’ll earn within a crowded frontcourt is yet to be seen.