The 2019 NBA Draft class is barely a year old, but it’s time to take a look at how this draft would shake out if GMs knew what we know now.
Players from the 2019 NBA Draft have been interesting to watch. Unfortunately, we may have seen the last of their rookie campaigns due to the indefinite suspension of the 2019-20 NBA season. But how have these youngsters fared? Here’s a re-draft of the most recent class based on the players’ performances this season.
This list doesn’t necessarily take into account the team that’s drafting at each position or its needs, just where each player would sit. This list also doesn’t include rookies who have played fewer than 15 games this year and/or averaged fewer than 15 minutes a night.
28. Naz Reid, C (Minnesota Timberwolves) Original Selection: Undrafted
30 G, 16.5 MP, 9 PPG, 4.1 TRB, 1.2 AST, 0.6 STL, 0.7 BLK, .412/.330/.698, 47.7 eFG%
Naz Reid has shown signs of promise since joining the Timberwolves as an undrafted free agent. What allowed the basketball world to see his talent and the reason he’s even here is the injury to Timberwolves star center, Karl-Anthony Towns. Playing the same position as Towns has allowed Reid to see more time on the court, and he’s benefitted from that.
Reid has emerged primarily as a shooter, and that’s where the majority of his points come from. His shooting numbers aren’t amazing but that’s his skill and he’ll likely look to develop that part of his game further. As a bonus, Reid has also emerged as a creative playmaker and good passer.
The Golden State Warriors had the 28th pick in the draft and it would’ve been interesting to see what they would’ve done with Reid, especially since they have some issues at the five.
His biggest flaw is that he isn’t very efficient and that may be what prevents him from taking his game to the next level. It’s still impressive that he went from being an undrafted nobody to a top-28 rookie who gets playing time.
27. Caleb Martin, SF (Charlotte Hornets) Original Selection: Undrafted
18 G, 17.6 MP, 6.2 PPG, 2.1 TRB, 1.3 AST, 0.7 STL, 0.4 BLK, .440/.541/.810, 56 eFG%
Caleb Martin’s story has been a fun one to follow. Not only is he being given a chance to show what he’s got after going undrafted, but he gets to do it on the same team as his twin brother, Cody.
Martin has spent most of the year in the G League where he shined. However, the Hornets have been relieved to see Martin do well in the NBA, too. Malik Monk’s suspension has allowed him to get more playing time and he’s taking advantage of it.
In his last nine games, Martin averaged 9.9 points, 2.7 TRB, 1.8 AST, and shot 49.2% from the field. His shooting has been great but has gotten even better and his effective field goal percentage is tremendous. It seems like he’s already established himself as a long-term option for the Hornets.
His biggest problem? Defense. Martin’s game consists of virtually nothing in that regard, especially compared to his brother.
26. Darius Bazley, PF (Oklahoma City Thunder) Original Selection: 23
53 G, 17.2 MP, 4.5 PPG, 3.7 TRB, 0.5 AST, 0.4 STL, 0.7 BLK, .383/.300/.681, 44.8 eFG%
The Cleveland Cavaliers took an option at forward with the 26th pick, Dylan Windler, but he’s yet to play in the NBA and has been out since January with a leg injury. We obviously don’t know what Windler will bring to the table, but it would’ve been intriguing to see Darius Bazley on this Cavaliers team, especially as Kevin Love’s potential replacement.
His stat line is far from impressive but Bazley has shown he has good agility and can shoot. He’s also been impressive on the defensive end and brings good energy. He’s always ready to go and puts in a consistent amount of effort.
There’s room for improvement but Bazley is trending in the right direction and has already gotten better as the season progressed. Bazley will assuredly be part of the Thunder’s future.
25. Jalen McDaniels, PF (Charlotte Hornets) Original Selection: 52
16 G, 18.3 MP, 5.6 PPG, 4.1 TRB, 0.8 AST, 0.5 STL, 0.2 BLK, .471/.375/.536, 53.6 eFG%
Another Hornets rookie has made the cut. McDaniels hasn’t played many games this year but has already been a pleasant surprise for Charlotte. He’s displayed a variety of strengths: he’s excellent from three, has length, shows good mobility, and is a good shot blocker.
He needs to work on his play in the paint and driving to the basket but for someone not expected to play in the NBA pretty much at all this year, McDaniels has brought a lot to the table.
He likely wouldn’t have gotten any playing time in the NBA but McDaniels may have been able to bring some much-needed depth to a Portland Trail Blazers team (who had the 25th pick) struggling to get into a playoff spot.
24. Cody Martin, SF (Charlotte Hornets) Original Selection: 36
48 G, 18.8 MP, 5 PPG, 3.3 TRB, 2 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.2 BLK, .430/.234/.646, 47.3 eFG%
The other Martin twin checks in at 24. Cody has become an important part of this Hornets team and, like his brother and McDaniels, is benefitting from Monk’s suspension. He’s also getting better. In his last nine games, Martin averaged 7.6 points, 5.1 TRB, 4.4 AST, 1.2 STL, and made 45.6% of his shots.
His defense has been awesome. He’s the league leader in charges taken and is 13th among rookies in steals with 39. He’s also proven to be a good playmaker and has great court vision.
However, Martin needs to work on his three-point shooting, which has been atrocious. He shot 23.6% on threes considered “wide open”, meaning the closest defender is at least six feet away. 20.4% of his attempts from three were considered such. No rookie on this list has a worse three-point shooting percentage.
Martin likely will never be a prolific scorer, but it looks like he can do enough to have a good career and benefit his team. The Hornets deserve some recognition: they acquired three players who weren’t expected to be impactful and helped turn them into some of the best rookies in the game.
23. Sekou Doumbouya, SF (Detroit Pistons) Original Selection: 15
38 G, 19.8 MP, 6.4 PPG, 3.1 TRB, 0.5 AST, 0.5 STL, 0.2 BLK, .390/.286/.674, 44.9 eFG%
We’ve gotten to our first disappointment of the class. Sekou Doumbouya was considered to be a sleeper in the draft and the Pistons were praised for taking him. Doumbouya hasn’t been awful but this season could’ve definitely gone better for the rookie.
It’s unfair to judge him before Blake Griffin was ruled out for the year. That’s when Doumbouya began to start. He looked excellent in his first eight or so games as a starter, racking up some double-doubles, playing good defense, and showing that he was more than decent in transition.
However, it didn’t take long for Doumbouya to regress. His issues with ball-handling and his bad court vision began to become apparent: he recorded three assists just once this year and never notched any more. His shooting has even gotten worse. In his last 23 games, Doumbouya has shot an awful 24.2% from three.
Even so, we can’t call Doumbouya a bust just yet. For one, he’s the youngest player in the entire league. He has so much time to get better. And second, he’s being misused. He really isn’t being given any scoring opportunities and is expected to just wait for the ball to come to him.
The Pistons are going to have to find a way to use him properly, but Doumbouya has much to work on during this offseason and beyond.
22. Jordan Poole, SG (Golden State Warriors) Original Selection: 28
57 G, 22.4 MP, 8.8 PPG, 2.1 TRB, 2.4 AST, 0.6 STL, 0.2 BLK, .333/.279/.798, 40.6 eFG%
Jordan Poole’s first year’s adventures have been volatile. Because the Warriors have been injury-riddled from the get-go, Poole was immediately expected to take on a large workload and be impactful. Of course, that didn’t happen, and he struggled, so much so that he was sent to the Santa Cruz Warriors.
However, Poole was able to get it together upon returning to the NBA. In his last 13 games when he played at least 20 minutes, Poole’s scoring has been in the double digits and he’s shot an impressive 47%. If Poole can keep this up, he can prove to be a key depth player for the Warriors once everyone is healthy and they’re back to making playoff runs.
21. Ky Bowman, PG (Golden State Warriors) Original Selection: Undrafted
45 G, 22.6 MP, 7.4 PPG, 2.7 TRB, 2.9 AST, 1 STL, 0.2 BLK, .417/.308/.829, 46.9 eFG%
Bowman has had a peculiar journey, thus far. He quickly went from being an undrafted nobody to Steph Curry’s replacement. Bowman was great: he was playing good defense, was shooting well, and always put in effort.
That is, until he served a stint in the G league. Since returning to Golden State in February, Bowman has been a turnover machine and can seemingly no longer shoot from three. To add to that, he isn’t a great passer and his build doesn’t help him, either. At 6’1”, 187 lbs., he’s undersized.
Now that Curry is back, Bowman will definitely see less playing time. One can’t help but think he was only relevant because Curry was out. However, it can’t be denied that Bowman has done more than enough in his debut season to warrant an opportunity at being Curry’s back-up, especially since he wasn’t expected to do much, at all.
20. Grant Williams, PF (Boston Celtics) Original Selection: 22
62 G, 15.6 MP, 3.5 PPG, 2.7 TRB, 1 AST, 0.5 STL, 0.5 BLK, .417/.247/.725, 47.1 eFG%
It’s evident in his numbers, but Grant Williams’ greatest strength, by far, is his defense. He doesn’t produce much offensively but the Celtics have seemingly gotten what they wanted in the rookie.
He’s been slightly better than initially expected and is developing quite nicely in Boston. His defense has already been impressive, but Williams has the potential of turning into a real threat.
19. Jarrett Culver, SG (Minnesota Timberwolves) Original Selection: 6
63 G, 23.9 MP, 9.2 PPG, 3.4 TRB, 1.7 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.6 BLK, .404/.299/.462, 46.2 eFG%
Jarrett Culver may be the greatest disappointment in this class, so far. He was expected to be one of the very best rookies this season, but that hasn’t been the case. This is most evident in his truly awful shooting stats. I personally had to do a double take when I saw his FT%.
However, what has saved Culver so far is his ability to finish at the rim. He scores 58.3% of his attempts there. He also has been pretty good on defense. Even though there have been some respectable parts of Culver’s game, he still needs to work on his shooting in order to not be considered a bust.
The San Antonio Spurs had the 19th pick and it would’ve been curious to see Culver work with and learn from the various good shooting guards they have. And who knows how Gregg Popovich would’ve developed the youngster?
18. Luguentz Dort, SG (Oklahoma City Thunder) Original Selection: Undrafted
29 G, 22 MP, 6.2 PPG, 1.9 TRB, 0.7 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.1 BLK, .414/.301/.778, 48.4 eFG%
The Thunder may have bid the face of their franchise, Russell Westbrook, farewell, but they had themselves a pretty decent offseason.
If anyone says they knew anything about Luguentz Dort before this season, they’re lying. Now, he’s one of the best rookies in his class. Unfortunately, Dort is on a two-way deal so he can only be on the Thunder’s main roster for 45 days. But he and the team are making the most of it.
Since Dort began starting for the Thunder, he’s led the team in charges drawn, contested three-pointers, and has recovered 75% of defensive loose balls. He’s impactful both offensively and defensively.
Dort has been referred to as the “bravest defender in the NBA”. No player spends more time on the opponent’s number one option than Dort. He’s successfully contained the likes of James Harden, Trae Young, and Donovan Mitchell.
Dort is a special player and has undoubtedly earned a starting spot. He should be a crucial piece of the Thunder’s starting five for years to come.
17. Cameron Johnson, PF (Phoenix Suns) Original Selection: 11
49 G, 20.3 MP, 8.1 PPG, 2.9 TRB, 1.1 AST, 0.6 STL, 0.3 BLK, .418/.397/.761, 55.8 eFG%
In this scenario, Cameron Johnson would’ve been drafted later than he was, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been good. Others have just been better. Johnson has been a very good shooter and his field goal efficiency is excellent.
Johnson is second in FG3% among rookies with over 50 attempts. He was also getting better. Johnson was diagnosed with mononucleosis at the beginning of March but in the 11 games before that, he was averaging 9.2 points while keeping his shooting numbers consistent. It looks like Johnson can blossom into a serious threat from three for the Suns in the future.
16. De’Andre Hunter, SF (Atlanta Hawks) Original Selection: 4
63 G, 32 MP, 12.3 PPG, 4.5 TRB, 1.8 AST, 0.7 STL, 0.3 BLK, .410/.355/.764, 48.9 eFG%
Here we have another early disappointment. Hunter was supposed to be special, but he’s yet to live up to the hype. Coming into the draft, Hunter was a top defensive prospect, but he’s been average compared to other rookies. However, Hunter has been surprisingly decent on offense. Most notably, he’s shooting very well from three.
Even though Hunter hasn’t been what everyone was expecting, he’s still young and can end up becoming the defensive beast the Hawks hoped he’d be.
15. Kevin Porter Jr., SF (Cleveland Cavaliers) Original Selection: 30
50 G, 23.2 MP, 10 PPG, 3.2 TRB, 2.2 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.3 BLK, .442/.335/.723, 50.5 eFG%
Kevin Porter Jr. has been a sight for sore eyes on a Cavaliers team that has struggled. Porter boasts a 53.5 true shooting percentage and has finished at the rim 71.8% of the time. He also has shown marked improvement since the beginning of his rookie campaign.
If he can stop hogging the ball as much and work on his passing while simultaneously developing a defensive game, Porter may be able to take the starting SF job away from Cedi Osman.
An interesting point to think about: the Pistons took Doumbouya, who is also a SF, with the 15th pick. Imagine how differently things would’ve been for them had they taken Porter there instead.
14. Jaxson Hayes, C (New Orleans Pelicans) Original Selection: 8
56 G, 17 MP, 7.5 PPG, 4 TRB, 0.9 AST, 0.4 STL, 0.9 BLK, .660/.250/.630, 66.2 eFG%
Jaxson Hayes has one of the most peculiar stat lines of any player on this list. He doesn’t average many points but is reliable in rebounding, among other defensive categories. His shooting numbers are also very strange. He is shooting a phenomenal 66% from the field but is dreadful from three and isn’t impressive from the free throw line. He also boasts an impressive efficiency field goal rating.
The Pelicans clearly have themselves a good defensive center who has the potential to be one of the best shooting bigs in the NBA. After all his 67.5 true shooting percentage is good for eighth in the entire league.
The Celtics had the 14th pick in the draft and of they had taken Hayes, it wouldn’t have been impossible to see him fighting Enes Kanter for the starting center spot on the team.
13. Matisse Thybulle, SG (Philadelphia 76ers) Original Selection: 20
57 G, 19.5 MP, 4.7 PPG, 1.5 TRB, 1.2 AST, 1.4 STL, 0.7 BLK, .410/.352/.610, 51.7 eFG%
Matisse Thybulle is, hands down, the best defensive rookie in the league. He’s just one of nine players in the history of the game to record a block and steal rate greater than three percent.
He has some work to do on offense, but he’s been good in transition and even though he doesn’t shoot much, his numbers aren’t terrible.
Thybulle has already proven to be a standout rookie this year and has a bright future ahead of him. He can definitely end up becoming one of the most dominant defenders in the game down the line.
12. Darius Garland, PG (Cleveland Cavaliers) Original Selection: 5
59 G, 30.9 MP, 12.3 PPG, 1.9 TRB, 3.9 AST, 0.7 STL, 0.1 BLK, .401/.355/.875, 47.6 eFG%
Everyone was eager to see what the Cavaliers would do upon drafting Darius Garland, since they had just taken another point guard in Collin Sexton the year before. But that’s how good Garland was expected to be. They had to take him at five even though they already had a PG.
Unfortunately, Garland is another rookie who hasn’t met expectations just yet. He was anticipated to be one of the best in his class this year, but Garland’s offense has been very underwhelming. He’s shot well from three but that’s been the only highlight of his season and it isn’t close. He hasn’t been a great overall shooter at all and that’s evident in his 49.8 true shooting percentage. He also hasn’t been effective in finishing at the rim, being able to successfully score just 46.8% percent of the time that he gets there.
However, what’s saved Garland from falling further on this last has been his recent play. Before coming down with a groin injury at the end of February, Garland scored in the double digits in 15 straight games.
Fans, especially of the Cavs, will be anxious to see if Garland’s days of struggling are behind him, at least for the most part, and if he can be the point guard of the future that they’ve needed. If Sexton can continue to produce and maybe even improve and if Garland can live up to the hype, the Cavaliers may end up having a threatening backcourt.
11. Terence Davis, SG (Toronto Raptors) Original Selection: Undrafted
64 G, 17 MP, 7.7 PPG, 3.4 TRB, 1.7 AST, 0.5 STL, 0.2 BLK, .463/.396/.865, 57.5 eFG%
The rookies in this class have had some interesting stories and Terence Davis is no different. After going undrafted in the first round, Davis told teams to not bother picking him in the second: he wasn’t interested in signing a two-way deal and didn’t want to spend time in the G league. He was able to impress the Raptors at camp and never looked back.
Davis’ numbers are great especially when one acknowledges the fact that he doesn’t start. He has proven to be a crucial piece coming off the bench for one of the best teams in the East. Davis is a great shooter but can also play defense. He has room and time to develop but so far, there really aren’t any major holes in his game. We’re also going to need to see Davis play more before assembling a bigger picture of what he is and can do as a player.
It may have been more fun to see him on a worse team because he would’ve gotten the opportunity to start on a nightly basis. In any event, the Raptors should count their blessings because they truly are lucky: rarely are teams able to say an undrafted rookie ended up being a contributor to their success.
10. Cam Reddish, SG/SF (Atlanta Hawks) Original Selection: 10
58 GP, 26.7 MP, 10.5 PPG, 3.7 TRB, 1.5 AST, 1.1 STL, 0.5 BLK, .384/.332/.802, 45.9 eFG%
Hawks rookies appear on this list multiple times, but their situation could be better. Although this list has him going 10th and he was actually taken at 10, Cam Reddish is another Hawks rookie who hasn’t had the ideal start to his NBA career. His start to the season, in particular, was abysmal.
In his first 18 games, Reddish averaged 7.2 points and was shooting an awful .288/.212/.771. Things couldn’t have gone worse for the youngster.
However, Reddish has really been able to turn around and some think he’s finally found his form. In his last 10 games, Reddish averaged 16.4 points and shot 38.9% from three. Reddish has also been able to give us a look at his good defense that the Hawks were hoping for when they selected him: he leads all players taken in his draft class in steals.
Hunter and Reddish were both held in high regard before the season began and thinking about a starting line that included both of them alongside Trae Young and John Collins was truly terrifying. Even though neither has had the outcome the Hawks desired, if they really have permanently gotten better, Atlanta is definitely headed in the right direction.
9. Eric Paschall, PF (Golden State Warriors) Original Selection: 41
60 G, 27.6 MP, 14 PPG, 4.6 TRB, 2.1 AST, 0.5 STL, 0.2 BLK, .497/.287/.774, 52.6 eFG%
After the draft, no one would’ve thought that Eric Paschall would be carrying the mighty Warriors through the season. He’s benefitted greatly from a depleted squad, but the second rounder has made the most of it. Paschall is undoubtedly the best player taken in the second round of the draft.
He’s sixth among rookies in rebounds, fourth in win shares, and 11th in shooting from the field. His 14 PPG are good for fifth among all rookies and he’s boasting an impressive 57 true shooting percentage. Overall, he’s been an offensive force, but his defense has been great, too. He’s shown that he’s capable of guarding any player at any position. Paschall’s biggest problem by far is his shooting from three but other than that he’s looked very good.
As great as Paschall’s been, however, it’s unclear what his role will be on the team once everyone is healthy and playing. Since he’s done so well in his inaugural campaign, however, it’s very plausible that the Warriors will deploy him off the bench next season.
They may be the worst team in the league right now, but they have an abundance of talent. What’s added to that is the myriad of promising rookies they have on their hands.
8. Rui Hachimura, PF (Washington Wizards) Original Selection: 9
41 G, 29.7 MP, 13.4 PPG, 6 TRB, 1.7 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.2 BLK, .478/.274/.829, 50 eFG%
Rui Haachimura has shown weaknesses but has had a strong NBA debut, thus far. He’s also one of the few rookies who’s performed very similarly to what was expected of him in his inaugural campaign.
His passing has been unimpressive, he doesn’t have much of a defensive game, and hasn’t been good from three, but Hachimura is showing that he has the potential to be a great scorer in this league.
If he can work on other aspects of his game to become more well-rounded, he’ll be a standout player. Hachumira is already a starter for the Wizards and figures to be their number one option at PF for years to come.
7. P.J. Washington, PF (Charlotte Hornets) Original Selection: 12
58 G, 30.3 MP, 12.2 PPG, 5.4 TRB, 2.1 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.8 BLK, .455/.374/.674, 52.8 eFG%
Yes, the Charlotte Hornets are back again- this time with a stud. P.J. Washington has had a better than anticipated start to his NBA career and has already become one of the best players on his team.
As is evident in his numbers, Washington is one of the best shooters in his class, from the field as well as from three. What makes his game even better is that he is also great on defense: after all, he is averaging over five rebounds a game.
He isn’t a playmaking threat and needs to work on his shooting from the free throw line, but he can stretch the floor and that makes him a valuable asset. Washington is another indicator that the Hornets are quietly doing a very good job of building a promising team that has the potential to compete in the future.
6. Tyler Herro, SG (Miami Heat) Original Selection: 13
47 G, 27.2 MP, 12.9 PPG, 4 TRB, 1.9 AST, 0.6 STL, 0.1 BLK, .414/.391/.835, 50.7 eFG%
The Suns had the sixth pick in the 2019 draft. With it they drafted SG Jarrett Culver, whose rights they immediately traded to the Timberwolves. Tyler Herro looks like he’s going to make Minnesota feel bad for choosing the wrong SG.
There are questions regarding Herro’s defense and creativity, but he’s already an elite off-ball shooter. Not only that, Herro is actually one of the best rookie three-point shooters in recent history- and his debut season may not even be over yet.
The Heat have played two shooting guards on the court at once, Herro and Jimmy Butler, and along with other rookie phenom Kendrick Nunn and Bam Adebayo, the Heat have become one of the most dangerous teams in the league. If Herro can dedicate more time to working on his play-making skills, the rest of the league will have a serious problem on its hands.
5. Coby White, PG (Chicago Bulls) Original Selection: 7
65 G, 25.8 MP, 13.2 PPG, 3.5 TRB, 2.7 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.1 BLK, .394/.354/.791, 47.8 eFG%
A situation similar to the one involving Herro seems to have happened with Coby White. The Cavaliers took Darius Garland with the fifth pick and so far, it looks like they took the wrong PG.
White didn’t really look good at all in the first half of the season. In fact, during that span, he couldn’t reach double digit scoring in 24 games.
However, everything began to click for the youngster after the All-Star break. Since then, he’s been the highest scoring rookie in the league after Zion Williamson of the Pelicans. In 10 games in the second half, White has scored fewer than 19 points just once.
He was also named the Eastern Conference rookie for the month of February. Since Feb. 1, White has averaged 20.9 points, 4 TRB, 4.8 AST, and is shooting 43.7% from the field and 37.4% from three. He also scored at least 33 points in three consecutive points coming off the bench- a feat that has never been done before. Those performances also marked the first time a Bulls rookie has had back-to-back 30-point games since a guy named Michael Jordan did it way back when.
Something else that warrants White being re-drafted so high is that he can’t stop getting better. In his last nine games he was averaging 24.1 points, 5.1 AST, and was shooting .460/.390/.900.
White is extremely fast, something that he uses to his advantage, and is obviously a great shooter. He is also very confident and very efficient at shooting from three. The Bulls got it right with this very promising youngster.
4. Brandon Clarke, PF (Memphis Grizzlies) Original Selection: 21
50 G, 21.7 MP, 12 PPG, 5.8 TRB, 1.4 AST, 0.5 STL, 0.8 BLK, .623/.404/.785, 64.8 eFG%
This right here might be the story of the year. Brandon Clarke has been nothing short of outstanding. The Grizzlies traded up to get him and it looks like they knew what they were doing. Clarke was identified as a sleeper before the draft, but no one expected this from him. He’s easily been the biggest steal.
He’s already emerged as an elite two-way way player: he’s a monster on offense but is more than capable on the other end, as well. He’s actually second among rookies in blocks. Clarke’s entire stat line looks good but what stands out most are his shooting numbers. His 67 true shooting percentage is good for ninth in the entire league.
Clarke is an elite shooter but is also an exceptional finisher in the paint. The Grizzlies couldn’t have gotten a more complete player than Clarke if they tried. He can drive, shoot, and defend- you name it, he can do it.
The Hawks had the original fourth pick and imagine if they had taken Clarke instead of Hunter. They would’ve been working with a PF duo of Clarke and John Collins. The Grizzlies took a chance by trading up for Clarke, but it seems to have paid off. Clarke is going to be crucial to the future success of his team.
3. RJ Barrett, SG (New York Knicks) Original Selection: 3
56 G, 30.4 MP, 14.3 PPG, 5 TRB, 2.6 AST, 1 STL, 0.3 BLK, .402/.320/.614, 44.5 eFG%
RJ Barrett in the three spot might take some people aback but that’s exactly where he belongs. Several rookies have had better starts to their NBA careers than Barrett and he doesn’t really have the stat line of a player who should be considered the third best in this class.
However, no rookie has had a more difficult job than Barrett. The Knicks are and have been for a few years now one of the worst teams in the league. They’re constantly immersed in some type of drama and are deprived of talent. Barrett was basically thrown to the wolves and immediately expected to have an impact. For someone fresh out of just one year of college ball, that’s a lot.
Even with the weight of the team playing in the biggest and most difficult market in the country, Barrett has done a solid job. He’s fourth in rebounds and second in steals among rookies who have played at least 20 minutes a game and is third among rookies in this class in PPG. He has his weaknesses, the most significant of which has been his bad shooting, but other than that he’s looked good and keeps getting better.
His improvement makes it hard to rank him lower. He looked bad in his first 28 games but in the next 28, he shot .415/.348/.688 while averaging 18.4 points per 36 minutes. Since the All-Star break, he’s averaged 17.2 PPG and 20.5 points per 36 minutes.
It’s difficult to put others ahead of Barrett primarily because of the dominance he displays in driving to the basket. That alone makes him look elite. Lastly, Barrett is one of the very few players on this list who visibly has superstar potential. He can easily become the face of his franchise and absolutely has the potential to be a dominant force in the league, more so than others in his class.
2. Zion Williamson, PF (New Orleans Pelicans) Original Selection: 1
19 G, 29.7 MP, 23.6 PPG, 6.8 TRB, 2.2 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.5 BLK, .589/.462/.645, 59.9 eFG%
The only reason Zion Williamson isn’t retaining the number one spot is because he missed the majority of the season. While Williamson was recovering from injury, everyone wondered if he’d be as good as advertised upon making his season debut. He’s been better.
Williamson is already seventh in the NBA in scoring per 36 minutes and has scored 20 or more points in 16 of his 19 games. He’s explosive, dominant, can shoot, and plays good defense. He’s completely capable of eventually leading the Pelicans to the playoffs. We’re watching a true star of the future develop in Zion.
1. Ja Morant, PG (Memphis Grizzlies) Original Selection: 2
59 G, 30 MP, 17.6 PPG, 3.5 TRB, 6.9 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.3 BLK, .491/.367/.770, 52.3 eFG%
Ja Morant is the likely Rookie of the Year. He’s been exhilarating. He leads the Grizzlies in scoring and assists and is the only rookie with 20 games of 20 or more points (he has 25).
He’s another player who can do it all. He’s an incredibly skilled driver and is already one of the fastest point guards in the league. He also has great vision, which has allowed him to become a great passer.
The Grizzlies did a phenomenal job in this draft and got themselves two studs who are capable of leading the way in championship runs. With the help of Brandon Clarke, Morant was well on his way to getting the Grizzlies to the playoffs this year, a surprise that no one saw coming.
No rookie other than Zion has exhibited the skill and dominance that Morant has. He’ll be a player whom most will be scared to face sooner rather than later.