In this 11-20 portion of the big board, this is the part of the board where the picks selected are a little less about potential and more so about fit. These guys are not going to be as nationally recognized as a Zion Williamson or an RJ Barrett, but they have the skill to rise up draft boards and fit into teams with established stars or systems. Here are next 10 guys I think are talented enough to be taken in the first round of the 2019 NBA draft.
11. Keldon Johnson
Currently playing as a combo guard that moves between shooting guard and small forward for the Kentucky Wildcats, he is quickly rising up draft boards exponentially throughout this stretch of conference play. Averaging nearly 14 points, six rebounds and two assists per game, Johnson has proven in spurts that he can score at a high level while competing on the defensive end. With 20+ point performances against high-level competition like Duke, North Carolina, and Auburn, he definitely is the kind of player that raises his game as the competition improves. Johnson biggest issue is his inconsistency as a scorer because for every 20 point game he has there is a zero point game against Georgia or an eight-point game against Texas A&M. Performance in the NCAA tournament will be his key to cracking the top 10.
12. KZ Okpala
I'll be the first to say that this man needs to have a little more respect put on his name. Listed as a 6'9 forward for the Stanford Cardinals, this man truly can ball. Averaging 17 points, nearly six rebounds and two assists per game, this guys will be a Lou Williams or Jamal Crawford type microwave scorer coming off of somebody's bench. Okpala practically has 20+ point games posted all over his month to month stat lines including a 30 point performance against conference rival California University. Similar to Keldon Johnson, he's lengthy, active defensively and can put the ball in the bucket, but playing in a watered down Pac-12, his performance in the NCAA tournament might actually reveal more about his capabilities as a scoring forward at the next level.
13. Darius Garland
Don't let the season-ending injury fool you when healthy Garland easily would be one of the top 10 prospects coming out this season. Despite playing in only five games, Garland displayed his ability to be a consistent knockdown shooter at the guard position for the Vanderbilt Commodores. In the small sample size, Garland posted 16 points, nearly four rebounds, and three assists while shooting at a clip of 48 percent from behind the arc and nearly 60 percent from the floor. His shooting percentages show off a player who plays very efficient basketball and can turn into a shooter when asked to. Without the large sample size of the regular season, SEC tournament and the NCAA tournament to back him up, Garland's biggest pursuit should be proving that he is healthy at the NBA Combine. It may not be real game time reps, but competition in one on ones, individual drills and pick up team play will show his range and decision making.
14. Nickeil-Alexander Walker
Nickeil Alexander-Walker Instagram
Personally, he is one of my favorite prospects coming out this year. Posting up 16 points, four rebounds, and four assists, Walker just has a very good all-around game that I feel will really translate to the next level. Shooting 55 percent from the field and nearly 40 percent from behind the arc, Walker can shoot, put it on the floor and just flat out play. He also averages two steals per game which shows active hands on the defensive end. I would not necessarily loop into a specific archetype like shooter, scorer or lockdown defender, but the guy is just a solid all-around player that may be getting overlooked because of all the other big names in the ACC. More so than the NCAA, the ACC tournament may actually be one of his best opportunities to show off how he plays up to the competition of top talent like Duke, UNC, Florida State, and others.
15. Bruno Fernando
Representing one of my favorite teams in college basketball, playing for the Maryland Terrapins, Fernando is just a force to be reckoned with. As possibly the second best big man prospect in this year's draft, he was even referred to by an Iowa radio announcer as "King Kong." I look at this guy and just think of very good rim running big men like Clint Capela or the old Orlando Magic version of Dwight Howard who just gives you buckets and boards. Averaging 14 points, nearly 11 rebounds and two assists on 67 percent from the floor, Fernando is just a force in the paint that you almost can pencil in a double-double for before the game even starts. My only concern for Fernando at the moment is the fact that he is a 25 percent three-point shooter heading into a league where having a stretch four or five on the floor is a new norm for championship caliber teams. In order to improve his stock, he is going to have to show off his ability to the basketball with range at least to nearly 30 percent just as a way to present himself as a threat from deep.
16. Kevin Porter Jr.
Not to be confused with last year's star prospect Michael Porter Jr., Kevin is being compared to JAMES HARDEN when scouts and analysts have evaluated his play style. Despite the stats screaming that he just a mediocre player at best averaging nine points, four rebounds and almost two assists per game, Porter Jr. has shown off NBA like talent through his ability to shoot off the dribble create space and create contact in the lane. For him, I actually think that his play on the court is going to receive less questioning than his conduct off the court. Coming off a conduct-based suspension, NBA scouts are going to have to identify if the talent is worth the risk because as far as I'm concerned, the best ability is availability. Nonetheless, I believe that his draft stock rises or falls based on how he performs at the combine because his stats in college are not going to get it done as of right now.
17. Daniel Gafford
Gafford is a man's man down low. With a bully ball style of play, the Arkansas star center is averaging nearly 17 points, nine rebounds and one assist per game on 65 percent shooting from the field. The issue Gafford has is similar to Fernando's in which he has not displayed any true ability to adapt to the floor spreading type style that the NBA is moving toward. Unless he shows off the technical ability to at least decently shoot with range, his ceiling will be that he becomes a DeAndre Jordan or Clint Capela style player which is not bad but makes him less of a threat coming into his first season.
18. Charles Bassey
Truly an underrated prospect as a center coming out of Western Kentucky, Bassey has a 6'10, 245 pounds frame that he is able to throw around down low. This guy is a built body that has not let his weight hinder his play as he is averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds shooting 63 percent from the floor and OVER 50 percent from three. As a big man who is athletic, shoots well and has an NBA body, the biggest dilemma is going to be him displaying his skills against high-level competition. So far his best game against strong competition is his 21 points and nine rebounds against Arkansas which makes it where he is going to raise his stock more so based off things like measurables and personal performance in the combine.
19. Jaxson Hayes
Coming out of Texas this year, I believe that Hayes has the potential to be the second best center entering the draft after Bol Bol. As a 6'11 center that is long, runs the floor well and has the ability to finish strong in the paint, his potential upside on the defensive end is just as intriguing as that on the offensive side. Averaging 10 points, five rebounds and over two blocks a game on 73 percent shooting from the floor, Hayes is the type of center that contending teams looking for a dominant inside presence defensively are practically pleading for. Now he is a rim runner and a screen and roller that needs to develop an outside shot but ability as a shot blocker can't be overlooked. My biggest issue with Hayes is for someone that tall, I need him to be able to rebound at a higher clip in order to get significant minutes. Shot blocking is great but I need him to be able to significantly attack the boards night in and night out
20. Jontay Porter
Porter is one of the biggest projects entering the NBA draft but is a very good power forward that can be a decent rotational piece for a team in need of big men. After tearing both his ACL and MCL leading to a missed season last year, his draft stock easily was considered to drop coming into this year and rightfully so considering the significance of that type of injury to big men and the history behind it. Averaging nearly 10 points, seven rebounds and two assists on 43 percent shooting from the floor and 36 percent from three which shows off his potential as a David West type stretch four. Between his body type and ability to shoot, I feel like he definitely can give a team 10 points and five rebounds a night consistently on a nightly basis.
These middle of the pack prospects are the guys who for some teams is a project and for others is a legit rotational piece that can give quality minutes. In a draft where after the first five prospects the picks are a toss-up, these guys are the next core group of guys who can contribute early for a team that is a face or two away. Stay tuned as the article for the final 21 - 30 picks in the first round of the 2019 NBA draft drops later this week.