Every NBA fan hopes their team is poised to make a deep NBA Playoff run and even hoist the Larry O’ Brien Championship Trophy; however, for most teams, that vision just simply isn’t realistic. Each NBA franchise is at a different point along the spectrum ranging from potential champion to perennial loser. The NBA draft allows some of those basement-dwelling teams the ability to try and transform the team dynamic. The NBA Draft features many top players, both domestically and internationally, and just one stud athlete can alter everything- just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers about Lebron James’s impact. This year’s NBA draft is chock-full of electric talent, and even a player picked at #10 could yield the same outcome as the #4 selection. Here are my top 6 prospects in the 2019 NBA Draft, otherwise known as my “Sensational Six”:
1. Zion Williamson- F, Duke: Zion Williamson is the consensus #1 selection and for good reasons. The 6’7”, 285 lb. power forward stunned the NCAA landscape with his finesse and skill. Williamson was force as he averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 2.1 steals per game in his lone season at Duke. He has dynamic footwork in the post, incredible speed for his size and a vertical that is off the charts. The one area I think Williamson can elevate his game is his perimeter jump shot. I believe if Williamson can develop a more consistent jump shot, he will be the complete overall package, especially from 3-point range. He is the clear #1 pick, and it would take a miracle package to get the Pelicans to trade away the selection.
2. Ja Morant- G, Murray State: Ja Morant would be the clear #1 selection in any draft that didn’t feature Zion Williamson. Williamson and Morant actually played on the same AAU team before, but the two took very diferent directions afterwards. Morant has plenty of potential and showcased major growth across two seasons in the NCAA. Morant ended his sophomore year averaging 24.5 points, 10 assists and 1.8 steals per game. The 6’3” guard led Murray State to the Round of 32 for the first time since 2012 with a first round victory over Marquette. He showcases a great handle, tremendous court vision, a fantastic jump shot and an incredible vertical. He is a franchise leader for years to come.
3. R.J Barrett- F, Duke: Don’t think R.J Barrett was just Zion Williamson’s sidekick; he is the real deal. Ranked by ESPN as the #1 overall recruit in his class, Barrett lived up to the hype. He averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. He transformed the college landscape with his ability to score quickly and efficiently, and he is a weapon on both ends of the floor. He can knockdown big shots and also effectively attack the basket and draw fouls. Barrett is ready for the big stage, and he will be ready to perform under the bright lights. Despite not bringing a national championship to Duke, Barrett led the Blue Devils to excellence and can transform a struggling franchise quickly.
4. Jarrett Culver- G, Texas Tech: Jarrett Culver helped shock the world carrying the #3 seed Texas Tech to the National Championship game. Culver and Texas Tech knocked off two #2 seeds and a #1 seed before falling to Virginia in the title game. The 6’5” guard has an incredible ability to score. He averaged 18.5 points per game- 7.3 more than the season before- in addition to 6.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Culver is a special prospect due to his leadership and defensive ability. He led Texas Tech in their quest to be one of the top defensive teams in the country, and his defensive prowess makes him a major dual threat. Culver can immediately step into any roster and make an impact both offensively and defensively.
5. De’Andre Hunter- F, Virginia: De’Andre Hunter is an incredibly gifted athlete who will step in and make an immediate impact. The 6’7” Hunter averaged just 15.2 points per game, but he made his impact known on both ends of the floor. He is a product of Tony Bennett’s stout defensive system, and he helped Virginia dominate the pace of play. Hunter helped turn smart, efficient defense into terrific, methodical offensive sets. He is also a superb shooter averaging 43.8% from 3-point range. He is a reliable shooter who can be trusted in big situations and like Culver is a fantastic two-way player. Hunter is a nightmare on both ends of the floor, and he is a prospect who will make a huge splash when drafted.
6. Darius Garland- G, Vanderbilt: Darius Garland is the biggest question I have entering the draft. I didn’t get to watch very much of his season, but then again it unfortunately ended quickly. After having his freshman season cut short due to a torn meniscus, the 6’2” Garland made the move towards the NBA. He finished his lone season- just 5 games played- averaging 16.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. He excites NBA owners with his ability to create offense and knockdown big shots. He scored 33 points against Liberty and 24 points against Winthrop, but he also scored just 3 points against Alcorn State. He has shown that he has skills that thrill NBA owners, as this video clearly notes, but that injury makes me very weary. He is someone for me who could have major upside, but that risk makes me hesitant to rank him any higher. He’s the biggest example of high risk/ high reward in this draft.
Honorable mentions for spot #7 include Jaxson Hayes and Bol Bol. I really do believe a center will be taken earlier than many expect and both are viable options. I would take Hayes if given the option, but that’s simply because I would be nervous about the lingering affects of Bol’s injury long-term. If it isn’t a center, I believe Coby White is almost guaranteed to be a lock then.
Cam Reddish may be the most intriguing player in this draft, and here is why. Reddish spent his lone college season at Duke in the shadow of both Williamson and Barrett. He clearly is a top tier player in his own right, but I believe he may have been limited due to the star talent around him. Will he explode given the chance to lead his own organization, or is he really just a talented, but not absurdly gifted athlete? I believe Reddish has the ability to provide the biggest gain from the spot he is drafted. He is another player with boom or bust potential, but not nearly as much as Garland in my eyes.