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Positive storylines for the 2019 NBA draft include Zion Williamson matching the hype and the emergence of Murray State’s electric point guard Ja Morant. But this year’s conversation also features a handful of disappointing starts and injuries.
Three of the highest-ranked recruits and freshmen have struggled, raising questions about their preseason scouting reports and projections. Plus, a pair of breakout candidates have gone backward as sophomores.
Meanwhile, injuries have knocked out three lottery prospects for the entire season and others for extended periods of time.
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True shooting percentage: 50.9 percent
Spot-ups: .766 PPP, 29th percentile
Guarded catch-and-shoot jump shots: 6-of-35
Cam Reddish will get a pass from NBA teams for the inconsistency, given his dramatically changed role from No. 1 option in high school to role player (spot-ups account for 31.3 percent of offense) behind Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. His inability to adapt has still been disappointing.
He’s shooting just 37.4 percent, generating .784 points per possession in the half court (34th percentile), where he’s converting 29.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot chances and 36.0 percent of his pull-ups.
Reddish hasn’t been able to build or sustain any rhythm from outside, but he’s also struggled to create and finish in tighter two-point windows. He’s missed nine of 11 mid-range shots and all four of his runners, while a lack of strength, explosion and feel has led to an uninspiring 50.0 percent finishing mark around the basket.
He’s also totaled 49 turnovers to 26 assists, with poor shooting performances appearing capable of affecting his decision-making.
The NBA long-term scouting scope still admires his positional tools, shot-making (2.4 3PTM) and defensive potential. But since he arrived at Duke, more questions have been raised about whether Reddish can convert talent into impact.
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Gerry Broome/Associated Press
Jump shots in half court: 12-of-40
Assists: 14 total in 18 games
The bar has been lowered to a level where 11- and 12-point efforts from Nassir Little in January are considered encouraging.
He’s struggled throughout the season in his role at North Carolina, unable to generate enough quality scoring chances or build any rhythm playing just 18.9 minutes per game.
Even if his usage and role deserve blame, Little’s skill level and feel have been exposed.
Shooting 20.7 percent from three, his jump shot is far from ready. And he’s appeared limited as a creator (39th percentile isolation) outside of straight-line drives and the occasional pull-up. His 7.1 assist percentage is as low as it gets for a first-round, non-center prospect.
Beatable defensively around the perimeter with 11 steals and nine blocks total, Little has made it difficult for scouts to identify any bankable, translatable strength.
His tremendous physical profile, plus the flashes of finishing, face-up quickness and shot-making, hint at untapped potential and room for improvement. But in terms of skill and instincts, Little hasn’t appeared advanced in the scoring, passing or defensive departments, making him a tough sell as a top-10 prospect.
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Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
Pick-and-roll ball-handler: .375 PPP, 5th percentile
Pull-up jumpers: 3–of-15
Finishing around rim: 46.2 percent
Before arriving at Kansas, Quentin Grimes had just gone from averaging 14.7 points through the McDonald’s All-American Game, Nike Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic to being named MVP of the FIBA U18 Americas Championship. His draft-stock arrow was pointing up.
Two months into his freshman year at Kansas, it looks like Grimes will need a late-season breakout to have a first-round case for the 2019 draft.
He hasn’t checked any one box with enough proficiency.
Limited off the dribble, both in terms of burst and creativity, Grimes’ scoring has been dependent on his ability to make jump shots. And though a capable shooter, his three-ball hasn’t been accurate enough (31.4 percent) to carry him offensively. In the six games he’s finished in double figures, he shot a combined 15-of-34 from three. He was 7-of-36 in those other 12 games.
Grimes has totaled 10 points on 24 combined isolation and pick-and-roll ball-handling possessions. He also hasn’t been able to showcase any true playmaking with a 12.5 assist percentage (19.2 turnover percentage).
The 6’5″, 210-pound 2-guard still holds appeal for his shot-making and defensive potential. But even in those areas, Grimes hasn’t been overly convincing.
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Amanda Loman/Associated Press
Pull-up jump shots: 28.1 percent
Off screens: .756 PPP, 30th percentile
Assist percentage: 11.6 percent
Kris Wilkes’ stock hasn’t improved despite the sophomore averaging 17.1 points. A good chunk of his production has come during losses, with UCLA having already dropped eight games by an average of 15.3 points.
There was hope that Wilkes would return a more consistent shooter, given the unlikelihood of him developing into a high-level creator or playmaker based on his skill set and lack of burst/wiggle.
But after shooting 35.2 percent from three, he’s down to 30.7 percent this season. He continues to struggle converting off screens and pull-ups, weaknesses from last year. And he’s still a non-playmaker with an 11.6 assist percentage.
Defensively, he grades out in the 12th overall percentile, allowing opponents to shoot 43.4 percent against him out of spot-up situations (9th percentile).
His 6’8″ positional size, shot-making and slashing earned him an invite to the 2018 NBA combine. But the extra 3.4 points Wilkes is averaging aren’t blinding scouts from his lack of improvement, versatility or specialist potential.
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Gerry Broome/Associated Press
Spot-up: .624 PPP, 15th percentile
Around basket: 45.1 percent
True shooting: 48.2 percent
A productive freshman (14.9 points) with significant room for improvement, Oshae Brissett came off as a breakout candidate, capable of raising his efficiency and his draft stock in turn. Instead, the same player returned to Syracuse—an exciting athlete with a lagging skill level and feel for the game.
He popped last year because of his 6’8″ physical profile, athleticism and face-up scoring. But he continues to show zero feel finishing in traffic around the basket—even in transition, where he ranks in the 23rd percentile in spite of his strength and agility.
His three-ball, which also needed to improve, has gone in the wrong direction, from 33.1 percent to 28.9 percent.
Often a black hole, Brissett hasn’t done enough to remove tunnel vision (12.6 assist percentage) from the scouting report.
He no longer appears draftable in 2019 after starting the season at No. 50 on our board.
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Chris Pietsch/Associated Press
This year, injuries will complicate the NBA scouting and decision-making process more than usual.
Missouri’s Jontay Porter (No. 15 prospect) won’t play a game after tearing his ACL before the season. He only averaged 9.9 points on 43.7 percent shooting as a freshman, but he earned an invite to the NBA combine, standing out to scouts for his valued mix of three-point range and shot-blocking, plus strong passing ability and an overall solid feel for the game.
He would have taken on a bigger workload in a role that would better illuminate his development as a scorer and defender. Instead, scouts may have to assess him based on 808 minutes a year ago while he continues to rehab from major knee surgery.
Then, Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland (No. 7) went down with a torn meniscus—five games into the season and one following a 33-point effort against Liberty. There isn’t serious long-term concern regarding his knee; the injury just clouds the scouting scope, which is needed to determine how advanced his floor game and defense are at Vanderbilt.
Kevin Porter Jr. (No. 6) created immediate excitement at USC with his athleticism and scoring package, until a nagging quad injury knocked him out. After returning for one night last week, he was suspended indefinitely by the team for misconduct.
Depending on his return and role, scouts will have the difficult job of filtering through the small sample size of highlight play and off-court issues that led to his benching.
Bol Bol’s (No. 12) season-ending foot injury could cause the most debate within teams. At Oregon, he’d already been arguably the draft’s most polarizing prospect for his 7’2″ size, unique perimeter skill, 21.0 points per game, rail-thin frame, lack of physicality and flickering motor. Now, teams must add durability questions to the equation. Bol could go top-five or slide outside the lottery based on medicals and the draft order.
France’s Sekou Doumbouya (No. 13), an 18-year-old playing in France, was just starting to establish a rhythm before suffering a thumb injury expected to cost him over a month. By June, scouts won’t have a ton of minutes or possessions to analyze.