Beyond the most hyped prospect since “The Chosen One,” this draft class offers a lot of talent to the NBA over the next decade, with multiple players possessing All-Star caliber potential. However, this article focuses strictly on which players not only have the talent, but also the opportunity to do some major damage in 2019-20. These are the players that could be recognized as the 2019-20 NBA All-Rookie Team when it’s all said and done.
Player Charts info: Stats are from 2018-19, NOW = 2018-19 Grade (Rook = Rookie status still intact), Future Grade: Highest realistic potential grade going forward.
At this point, all basketball fans are expecting Zion’s first season to be nothing short of spectacular. The dynamic forward faces the highest rookie expectations since Lebron James, and has already signed a mega-deal with Jordan brand to further increase the hype.
Williamson should be an everyday starter from opening night in New Orleans where they will face off against the defending champs in primetime. His ability to glide to the rim and tenacious athleticism will be hard to defend, even for seasoned NBA bigs. What should be really exciting to watch is his playmaking ability which undoubtedly will lead to endless instagram highlights. Aspects of Zion’s game such as his vision should make their way to the forefront as the Pelicans will play a much more free-flowing style of basketball than Duke.
Williamson’s jump shot needs work, but with other playmakers around him, he should be able to get open looks which will be great for his long-term development. Aside from that, there isn’t many weaknesses in his game and due to Zion’s arrival, New Orleans will be more in the national spotlight than ever before as a basketball franchise. Exciting times await fans down in the French Quarter, and the rest of the league should be on notice.
Unlike most of the other top picks, White was able to play in this year’s Las Vegas Summer League and despite an up-and-down performance, Bulls fans have a lot to look forward to with the fiery young guard. White should have the chance to get above 25 minutes a game while playing in the backcourt with Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Tomas Satoransky. Besides the youth attached to all of those players, White figures to be the point guard of the future with LaVine being his likely back court running mate.
White showed scoring promise during his time at the LVSL, but his shooting efficiency was poor both from the floor, and behind the arc. He has clear go-to moves at his disposal and he showed flashes of being a competent passer. White should have no problem in isolation sets and when paired with more talented front court players, his pick-and-roll game will be fun to watch.
The Bulls are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture, and their young core is 1-2 years from being a fierce contender in the East. Chicago should look to get White a lot of playing time with Lauri Markkannen and Wendell Carter throughout the season. If Chicago does find itself in the middle of an expedited playoff hunt, White will have the experience of playing in meaningful games, which will only help his development throughout the season.
The most electrifying player in the NCAA last season besides Zion looks to pick up the pace this season in Memphis and should have plenty of playing time to do it. By trading away Mike Conley, the Grizzlies have gone all-in on Ja Morant being their Point Guard of the future. Morant should have no problem starting all 82 games this year if he stays healthy. The Grizzlies have plenty of young pieces to play alongside Morant, such as Jaren Jackson Jr., Josh Jackson, Bruno Caboclo, and fellow rookie Brandon Clarke.
Morant was able to lead Murray State to a NCAA Tournament victory over Marquette, as the 2nd player over the last decade to record a triple-double in the Tourney. He thrived in their run and gun style of offense and was able to set up his teammates for easy buckets. Now that he is surrounded with NBA talent, Ja’s creativity will truly flourish. Morant will have to improve on his shooting but he should get enough playing time to create looks for himself, and he has the natural ability to go and get a bucket at any time.
Brandon Clarke should be an ideal player for the Point God to jumpstart a fast break alongside as well. Clarke’s length and athleticism allows him to be a great rim runner in the open floor. Jaren Jackson Jr. would be able to fit in with these two as someone who trails behind looking for a kick-out 3 or a way to create against a smaller opponent. Overall, Ja will get the minutes to prove he is worth the #2 overall pick and should give the fans of Memphis a show during what will most likely be another lottery bound season for the Grizz where their 1st Rd Pick heading to Boston is top-6 protected.
The best defensive player in the NCAA last season landed on a contender undergoing a period of transition this off-season. The Sixers lost starting guard Jimmy Butler and sharpshooter JJ Reddick, but added veteran forward Al Horford and re-signed Tobias Harris, a key addition for them at last years trade deadline. This means there is a lot of minutes to be had on the wings and Thybulle is a prime candidate.
Thybulle has the potential to be a premier defender in the NBA. His length and basketball IQ are perfect for this Sixers team as a replacement for Jimmy Butler, the best perimeter defender on last season’s playoff team. Thybulle is likely to come off the bench behind Josh Richardson and should compete with Zhaire Smith for minutes.
If given the opportunity, it would be interesting to see Thybulle play alongside the starters. His lack of offensive consistency would be masked by the 76ers starting unit’s scoring prowess. The group is also strong defensively with Simmons & Richardson at the forefront, but Matisse would be able to ease their load management, and not allow the defensive effectiveness to be reduced at all. If he can steadily improve his offensive game throughout the year, fans should be ready to see him play important minutes in the playoffs and even close out tight games as the best perimeter defender on the court.
Despite the year-long pleas from Knicks fans, New York came up short in free agency. After missing out on the top lottery spot, the Knicks brass had no choice but to go with RJ Barrett, a move that most Knicks fans shouldn’t be too disappointed with. Barrett has been groomed since a young age to be an NBA star, and as a first-year starter in one of the biggest basketball cities in the world, the spotlight will shine bright on him. He said himself he’s “ready for the challenge.“
Barrett should be a starter from the first game, and he will have plenty of veterans around him to guide him through his first year in the league. Barrett joins Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr., Mitchell Robinson, and newcomer Julius Randle, to form the Knicks future core. Barrett will most likely become the main scoring option out of this group at some point, so he will have plenty of opportunities to put up big numbers.
There is no doubt that Barrett will have growing pains, as proven by his inconsistent summer league performance. He’s also joining a team that had the worst record in the league last year, and have been lottery-bound in each of the past six seasons.
On the court this year, RJ should be a force in transition where his length and aggressive play will help him get to the line. The Maple Mamba will have the freedom to test his shot throughout the year, which was streaky at Duke. Once he improves on the 30.8 3P% from last year, every other part of his game will come easier to him. Overallm the season will have some rough patches, but the combination of veteran guidance and natural talent will make RJ successful during his rookie year.
Despite being the lesser known of the two Pelicans lottery picks, Jaxson Hayes will have quite the opportunity to make a name for himself this coming season. The Texas product had a stellar summer league performance and should be in contention for the starting center spot in New Orleans.
As of now, Derrick Favors and Jahlil Okafor are above him in the depth chart. Hayes has the chance to get runs in with the rest of the young core because Favors and Okafor are not long-term solutions. Hayes still has a lot of polishing to do on the finer parts of his game, but he is exciting to watch and his explosive dunks will make him hard to keep off the court. It will be interesting to see how Hayes and Williamson play together, because neither of them have a huge offensive presence outside the paint.
A second unit featuring Hayes, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart would not only be a highlight machine, but also one of the better bench mobs in the league. Ball loves to get out in transition and set up his teammates, plus with Hayes’ rim-running ability, they should develop chemistry quickly. Both Ball and Hart have the ability to drive to the basket well which will set up Hayes with lots of put-back opportunities. Zion might be the main source of excitement in NOLA, but Hayes should add his own share of highlights during his rookie season.
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