My favorite 2019 NBA draft prospects
With college basketball season underway, everyone is releasing their NBA Draft “Big Boards.” I, for one, am not a fan of creating a 60 player big board based on two games in college and YouTube highlights. So instead, I’m going to give you a few of my “Favorite” draft prospects. For the sake of this article, my definition of “favorite” would be the following: someone whose game I really like that I believe more people should pay attention to. I’m also apologizing in advance if you expected a Zion, RJ or Cam debate for the number one pick, that’s a story for another day. I still think it’s a little too early, but at some point I will have an article weighing each of their cases to be the number one pick. So putting the Duke guys aside, here are my favorite draft prospects that I believe you should definitely keep an eye on as the college season gets going:
Darius Garland, Vanderbilt
Garland was one of my favorite players in the entire class of 2018 throughout high school because he has everything you want from a point guard. On the court, he can score from anywhere, has elite vision, is very crafty around the rim and is a first class competitor. Off the court, he has a great personality that his teammates certainly gravitate towards. His IQ and decision making is what separates him from the rest, Garland always knows what to do with the basketball and he has the skills to make it happen. He has a lot of freedom at Vanderbilt this year and will be able to show off his entire arsenal. The Commodores won’t rely on him as heavily as Oklahoma did last year with Trae Young, but it’s a similar situation. Garland will have the ball in his hands at all times and Vanderbilt will rely on him to score the basketball at an effective clip while also making his teammates better.
Kevin Porter Jr, USC
If you heard my college basketball preview podcast, you heard me rave about Kevin Porter Jr. He was underrated in high school and his low profile at this stage in his freshman year is largely due to the fact that most people haven’t seen him play. Porter didn’t receive an invite to Jordan Brand Classic or McDonalds All American Game and only received an invite to the Nike Hoop Summit to be part of a team made up of local northwest players, that was brought in to scrimmage the real Team USA in practice. Porter Jr, had a Jimmy Butler like performance against Team USA (first string) and luckily for him, there were NBA scouts in attendance. The Seattle native got to show what he could do against the best of the best, many executives came away thinking he was the best player there, despite not receiving a real invite. Porter Jr. is a prolific scorer that can get a bucket at any time, he can create for himself off the dribble and knock down contested shots with ease. He is also a freak athlete in transition and fits into the current NBA perfectly as a two guard.
Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s
In a draft that’s very light on point guards for a league that’s in high demand, look for New York City’s hometown hero to garner some attention come June. Ponds burst on to the scene last February with a five game stretch which he averaged 32 points per game while leading the Red Storm to a four game win streak that included victories over Duke and Villanova. His only red flag is the fact that he shot 25% from three on nearly 6 attempts per game, which was down 12% from his freshman year. Despite shooting so poorly from deep, Ponds still averaged 22 points per game and five assists. He is an electrifying player and if he can get his three ball back up and his production starts to translate to the wins column, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t signing a guaranteed contract next summer.
Quentin Grimes, Kansas
Outside of Barrett, Williamson and Reddish, I think Grimes is the best freshman in the county. He may not always take over a game or have stats that jump off the page, but he impacts the game in a positive way every time he touches the court. Grimes is one of the most versatile players in the nation, his size and skill allow him to play and guard positions 1-3. His feel is one of his biggest assets and truly elevates every other aspect of his game. Grimes gets great lift off his jumper which allows him to rise up over defenders and knock it down, both off the dribble and the catch. The former five star recruit is also a very willing and capable passer and an elite competitor on defense. Quentin Grimes is just a guy you want on your team, I have no doubt NBA teams will gravitate towards him come June, I just hope my Knicks are one of them.
Tremont Waters, LSU
This one is more of a long shot considering Waters isn’t listed in ESPN’s two round mock draft, but that doesn’t change the fact that I absolutely love watching him play. As I mentioned before, this draft is very thin on point guards, and Waters could have the type of season that propels him up draft boards. He is very consistent with his production on the offensive end, averaging 15 points and six assists per game throughout his freshman season. But, the main draw to Waters is his defense. He is a ferocious defender and has already racked up 11 steals in just two games this season. If LSU can become one of the top teams in the SEC, look for Waters to be mentioned as one of the top two way players in the country, which could ultimately translate to his draft stock.
Remember, these are not who I think will be the first five picks in the draft, these are just guys I think you should keep an eye on throughout the season. Hope you all enjoyed the opening week of college basketball, I think this season is going to be special.