The start of the college basketball season is must-see television for NBA draft fans thanks to the Champions Classic. The Michigan State-Kansas and Kentucky-Duke matchups feature five of my projected top 10 players. NBA draft nerds will be tuning into many more Duke games this season with R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson teaming up in Durham.
There are questions about the cream of the crop of the 2019 draft class. Some feel the top players may not possess the top-level abilities typically associated with top NBA picks. ESPN's Jonathan Givony believes the race for the No. 1 pick is down to four players.
"NBA executives we've spoken with mostly call the race for No. 1 a four-player contest, with the drop-off to the next tier of prospects being relatively substantial," Givony explains. "In addition to Barrett, Duke's Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish are also firmly in the mix, as well as North Carolina's Nassir Little, who only emerged this past spring during the high school all-star game circuit as a serious contender. NBA teams don't appear to be convinced or enamored with the star power of this group, saying privately that it remains to be seen whether any of these prospects project to be the best player on a NBA playoff-caliber team down the line."
Zion Williamson's NBA Position Is Unclear
Williamson leads all players in the amount of highlight-reel dunks, but his NBA fit is more difficult to predict. Williamson would be an undersized power forward but does not have the quickness of a typical small forward. ESPN's Mike Schmitz wants to see the big man display more shooting.
"All three [Reddish, Barrett and Williamson] are high-upside prospects, but given Williamson's lack of shooting he's most deserving of the lowest-ceiling distinction [of Duke freshman] at this point," Schmitz told ESPN. "I do think he's able to space the floor with his passing and handle, which are maybe the most underappreciated parts of his game. Thanks to his motor and physical gifts, he has proven he can be extremely productive even without much of a jump shot, and I think that will continue all season at Duke. But nonshooters generally get eaten up in today's NBA, and until he proves he can knock down standstill 3-pointers at a decent clip, his ceiling will be somewhat limited."
I have had the opportunity to see the majority of the top 10 players in-person. You will see me reference the McDonald's All-American Game that took place earlier this year in Atlanta. Bigger than the game itself were the practices where you could get a better look at the players' skill set than the exhibition style game. It is hard to tell how many legit stars are in this class, but the college competition will help provide more clarity than the high school circuit does.
The following draft order is based on the Tankathon standings as of Tuesday, November 6. Click the next arrow to see my latest NBA mock draft for 2019.