2019 NBA Draft Class
It is always fun to look back at previous draft classes to assess what the ‘Experts’ had said about some prospects and where they stand after their first NBA season. Last year’s NBA draft class had it all. It boasted a franchise-altering talent in Zion Williamson. It had the ‘high ceiling, low floor’ prospects, and it’s fair share of late 1st round sleepers.
Today, I want to look back at how the 2019 draft turned out. Which players look like they have the brightest future and which players look like they may have a short NBA career?
So far, the top three picks from last year’s draft, Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett look to have very bright futures. If I had to choose one that could possibly turn into a bust it would be RJ Barrett out of Duke. I admittedly predicted him to be an NBA bust after he was drafted. Not necessarily for his talent and skillet, but because he was drafted to the black hole that is the New York Knicks. So far, after his rookie season and into the 2020–21 season, he has proven a lot of people wrong… Including myself. He will be the centerpiece of the New York Knicks for years to come. While that is not saying much as the Knicks simply lack talent, RJ Barret has been even better than he was at Duke. He has proven to be able to knock down the NBA 3-point shot as well as being able to handle the ball, create for his teammates and finish at the rim. I had my doubts about him, but those have been put to the side with how he has played through his young career.
Zion Williamson and Ja Morant have met and even exceeded expectations. They are two young, athletic, uber-talented athletes with very bright NBA futures ahead of them. These two are easily the face of this draft class so far, and they look to be MVP candidates down the line in their NBA careers.
A few other players who look like they have bright NBA futures ahead would be; De’Andre Hunter of the Atlanta Hawks, Darius Garland of the Cavaliers, Coby White of the Bulls, and Tyler Herro of the Heat.
De’Andre Hunter is a perfect fit with the young, Atlanta Hawks. He is another prospect whose shooting ability was in question after he was selected, but has proven the ability to knock down the NBA 3-pointer. He plays great defense, and his scoring ability has exceeded expectations. A solid NBA player who will enjoy a long NBA career. While he may never be an All-Star, he is still going to be an important piece and contribute to winning for any franchise that is lucky to have him.
Darius Garland looked like he may be a bust after the first half of last season. However, he turned it around on the back half of last year and really showed his ability to score, handle the ball, and create for his teammates. What really turned around his stock has been his improvement from last year to this year. He has played very well in the young 2020–21 season. He balled out in the pre-season and continued that into the regular season. He and Collin Sexton look like a solid young backcourt in the making for Cleveland.
Coby White of the Chicago Bulls had a great rookie season. He showed that he can score at a very high clip night in and night out. He had a stretch where he scored 30+ points in 9 straight games or something crazy like that. He does have a larger role in offense this season as he will run the point. He has some things to improve upon such as his passing and playmaking ability for teammates. He did a decent job in the pre-season but looked abysmal in the 1st game of the regular season. I think he will figure it out with the help of Mo Cheeks on the Bulls coaching staff. Coby White should have a bright NBA future ahead of him with his scoring ability alone, but he has some work to do.
Tyler Herro speaks for himself. He was a vital part in the Miami Heat’s title run in the NBA Bubble. His ability to score, create shots for himself and teammates, and his swag alone has exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations. He fits in seamlessly with the ‘Heat Culture’ down in Miami and should be a top scorer and 3-point shooter in the NBA for many, many years.
While there was no shortage of talent and potential in the 2019 draft class, there are a few players who have yet to meet expectations and could have a short, tumultuous NBA career. Players that come to mind are Jarrett Culver of the Timberwolves, Romeo Langford of the Boston Celtics, Sekou Doumbouya of the Detroit Pistons and Nassir Little of the Portland Trailblazers.
Jarrett Culver was drafted #6 overall by Phoenix but then traded to the Timberwolves. He showed flashes of being a formidable role player in the NBA, but when you get drafted at #6, there are much higher expectations. He played so poorly in his rookie season that when the Timberwolves had the #1 selection in the 2020 draft, they selected Anthony Edwards who plays pretty much the same position as Culver. He will probably be dealt this year or next to another team and will need to prove that he can develop into the elite scorer and defender he was advertised as coming into the draft.
Romeo Langford was a top 5 prospect in 2018 coming out of High School. He fell down draft boards after his lone season with the Indian Hoosiers due to his inability to make shots and help his team win games. He landed at #14 to Boston and due to a combination of injuries, and the players ahead of him, he has not really seen the floor. He has played in the G League for the Maine Red Claws, but while he should have been dominating down there, he struggled. The Celtics have not found a role for him on their club and he will most likely be shipped out of town in the near future.
Sekou Doumbouya of the Pistons has really only had one or two highlights in his young career. A few high flying, poster dunks have been the mark Doumbouya has left in Detroit. He has had plenty of opportunity to play as the Pistons are a terribly constructed roster. With his playing time, he has yet to show signs of becoming a nice NBA player. I could see Doumbouya getting another chance or two with other NBA teams, but do not see him having the future the Pistons had hoped for when they drafted him with the 15th overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft.
Nassir Little played pretty well in the NBA Bubble for the Blazers, but prior to that, he had not been very good with the limited minutes he saw on the court. Like Romeo Langford, Nassir Little was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school and after his year at North Carolina. He slipped down in the draft due to his combine performance and overall size. The Blazers took a chance on him with the #25 pick, but he has yet to show any real flashes of the prospect he was scouted to be. I see him being a Jahlil Okafor type of player where he will probably bounce around the league, but never find his niche in the NBA.