2019 NBA Draft

Syracuse’s Tyus Battle To Enter 2019 NBA Draft

Following his junior season, Syracuse swingman Tyus Battle intends to enter the 2019 NBA draft and go pro, a source tells Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com. News of Battle’s decision comes shortly after the Orange were eliminated from the NCAA tournament following a Thursday loss to Baylor.

In 32 games for Syracuse in 2018/19, Battle averaged 17.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 2.5 APG with a .431/.321/.763 shooting line. He tested the draft waters a year ago, but ultimately decided to withdraw and return to college for another year.

At the time he pulled out of 2018’s draft, Battle was ranked 40th overall on Jonathan Givony’s big board at ESPN.com. Over the last year, he has slipped to No. 63 on that list, so he’s not a lock to be drafted. While he’s a candidate to come off the board in the second round, Zagoria has heard from a couple NBA sources that Battle may be a candidate for a two-way contract next season (Twitter link).

The Clippers, Nets, Magic, Lakers, and Knicks were reportedly among the teams that worked out Battle when he went through the pre-draft process in 2018.

And-Ones: Kobe, Wilkes, Young Cores

Kobe Bryant spent his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers and doesn’t regret doing so, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t thought about what it would have been like to play for another franchise. In a Q&A with Frank Isola of The Athletic, Bryant suggested that the idea of playing for the Knicks was one that intrigued him.

“I always kind of dreamed about playing in New York and what that would have been like,” Bryant said. “It’s true. As a fan, the Garden was the historical arena. … There is like three historical arenas. Chicago Stadium and Boston Garden were torn down. The only thing left was MSG. So, I always wanted to be a part of that history and play in it. So, New York was a team … it would have been pretty good to play in that city.”

Bryant also shared some opinions on the Lakers, telling Isola that he thinks they’ll be “just fine” whether or not they decide to trade some of their younger players, and offered praise for Giannis Antetokounmpo (“He’s just scratching the surface”) and Zion Williamson (“Lot of potential”). He also laughed off Isola’s inquiry on whether he’d consider returning to the Lakers and teaming up with LeBron James.

“That’s an easy one … because I don’t want to play no more,” Kobe said. “I’m done.”

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • After testing the draft waters a year ago and ultimately returning to school, UCLA sophomore Kris Wilkes will sign with an agent and enter his name in the 2019 NBA draft, tweets Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports. Wilkes, the No. 67 prospect on ESPN’s big board, averaged 17.3 PPG on .432/.337/.671 shooting for the Bruins this year.
  • Which NBA teams appear to have the brightest futures based on their young talent? Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports tackles that question, identifying which clubs have the most promising young cores. The Sixers lead the way, while the Hawks, Bulls, and Suns fall outside of Goodwill’s top five.
  • A number of players who were bought out and/or waived last month have made an impact for new teams, according to Jordan Hicks of Basketball Insiders, who points to Wesley Matthews (Pacers) and Enes Kanter (Trail Blazers) as a couple veterans having success for their new clubs.

Community Shootaround: March Madness

At Hoops Rumors, we typically focus on the NBA, with virtually all of our content centered around current, former, and future NBA players. At this time of year though, with the trade deadline behind us, most of this season’s playoff teams set, and the postseason still a few weeks away, it makes sense to shift that focus – at least in part – to the NCAA.

2019’s NCAA tournament gets underway today, and March Madness will feature a number of future NBA players this year, including budding star Zion Williamson. Many of those top draft prospects can be found in a handful of blue-blood programs — besides Williamson, Duke’s lineup features R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones, all of whom could be first-round picks. Williamson, Barrett, and Reddish, in fact, could all come off the board in the top five.

As USA Today’s basketball writers detail though, while Zion may be the main event, there are plenty of other prospects worth watching in this year’s tournament, including Murray State’s Ja Morant, Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver, Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter, Maryland’s Bruno Fernando.

Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports identifies several other under-the-radar prospects who have a chance to make a name for themselves – and improve their draft stock – with strong showings in this month’s tournament. Iowa State’s Marial Shayok, Washington’s Matisse Thybulle, and Michigan’s Ignas Brazdeikis are among the names on Goodwill’s list.

Meanwhile, Danny Chau of The Ringer offers a guide to watching the NCAA tournament as an NBA fan. Besides watching big-name prospects like Williamson and Morant, Chau suggests monitoring a pair of Tennessee youngsters (Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield), two Iowa State freshmen (Talen Horton-Tucker and Tyrese Haliburton), and a few sleepers, including LSU’s Naz Reid and Auburn’s Chuma Okeke.

Of course, even if you’re not necessarily interested in projecting how certain prospects will translate to the NBA, March Madness should offer plenty of drama and intrigue — not to mention a great opportunity to show off your basketball knowledge in your office pool.

With March Madness set to tip off today, we want to know what you’re looking forward to watching in this year’s tournament. Are there certain teams or players you’re keeping an eye on? Which teams are you picking to advance to the Final Four?

Head below to the comment section to weigh in with your two cents on this year’s NCAA tournament!

Draft Notes: Zion, Reddish, Smits, Whitt

Zion Williamson, unsurprisingly, remains at No. 1 in the latest mock draft from ESPN insiders Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz. As Schmitz explains, while Williamson was already considered a lock to stay in that top spot, his performance in last week’s ACC tournament was the “latest reminder of just how far ahead of his peers he is.” Schmitz adds that the Duke forward is “far and away the most impressive collegiate prospect I’ve ever evaluated.”

Further down the draft board, Schmitz’s describes Cam Reddish‘s ACC tournament performance as the “most alarming of his yearlong disappearing acts,” though Reddish still comes in at No. 6 overall.

Meanwhile, at No. 11 overall, UNC’s Coby White has emerged as the third-best point guard in the 2019 class behind Ja Morant and Darius Garland, Schmitz writes. Morant and Garland both come in as top-four selections in ESPN’s latest mock.

Here’s more on the 2019 NBA draft:

  • Valparaiso junior Derrik Smits confirmed on Monday that he plans to test the draft waters this spring, per Paul Oren of The Times of Northwest Indiana (Twitter link). The seven-footer, the son of longtime Pacers center Rik Smits, will transfer to another program if he decides to withdraw from the draft.
  • SMU guard Jimmy Whitt has announced (via Twitter) that he’s entering his name in the 2019 draft pool. Whitt, who began his college career at Arkansas, averaged 12.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 4.0 APG in his junior year for SMU.
  • Ben Nadeau of Basketball Insiders identifies four prospects he believes will improve their stocks between now and draft day, starting with their performances in the NCAA tournament. Villanova’s Eric Paschall and Duke’s Tre Jones are among Nadeau’s picks.

Daniel Gafford Entering 2019 NBA Draft

Arkansas sophomore Daniel Gafford is going pro, head coach Mike Anderson announced on Monday (video link via Nikki Chavanelle of Rivals). Gafford, who is hiring an agent and forgoing his remaining college eligibility, won’t play for the Razorbacks in the NIT, per Anderson.

Gafford, a 6’10” center, projected as a mid-first-round pick in 2018’s draft, but elected to return to Arkansas after his freshman year rather than declaring for the draft. With 2019’s draft class not considered as deep as last year’s group, there was a belief that Gafford could improve his stock and potentially be a lottery pick with a strong season.

While Gafford improved his numbers in his second year as a Razorback, averaging 16.9 PPG and 8.6 RPG in 32 contests, his didn’t make the sort of major strides observers had hoped for. His stock has slipped a little, as he now projects as an early second-round pick, per ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Twitter link).

As ESPN’s Mike Schmitz explains, Gafford isn’t a reliable play-maker or scorer yet, and his defensive fundamentals are still “a work in progress,” though his athleticism is tantalizing. The young big man ranks 35th overall on ESPN’s big board.

No. 1 Prospect Zion Williamson Cleared To Return For Duke

After spraining his knee during an ACC showdown against North Carolina on February 20, top prospect Zion Williamson has missed the last three weeks of action. However, the star forward is set to return on Thursday for Duke’s game vs. Syracuse, the program announced today (via Twitter).

Following Williamson’s knee injury, which looked at first as if it might be worse than it was, there was speculation that the youngster – who is considered a lock to become the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft – might think about shutting it down and preparing to go pro. However, it appears that was never really a consideration.

Assuming he stays healthy going forward, Williamson is poised to rejoin the Blue Devils for the rest of the ACC Tournament and for March Madness later this month. While it will provide fans with another chance to watch the 18-year-old on a national stage, NBA teams probably don’t need to see much more from him at this point — no matter how he plays in Duke’s next few games, it’s hard to imagine Williamson not being the first player selected this June.

If Duke defeats Syracuse tonight, it would put the club on track for a rematch with North Carolina in the semfinals of the ACC Tournament on Friday, assuming UNC gets by Louisville.

And-Ones: Bird, Swift, Draft, Acy, Morant

Former Celtics guard Jabari Bird is awaiting sentencing after entering a plea of sufficient facts to the accusation of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, according to an Associated Press report. The plea is not an admission of guilt but acknowledges a likely conviction at trial.

Bird was released on bail after the hearing and will be sentenced May 28. He faced several charges in the alleged attack on the woman in September, including strangulation or suffocation, kidnapping, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Bird’s contract was traded to the Hawks in February, who quickly waived him.

We have more developments from around the basketball world:

  • Power forward Stromile Swift has entered his name in the BIG3 draft pool, the league’s PR department tweets. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 draft last appeared in the NBA during the 2008/09 season with the Suns and Nets.
  • NBA executives will scour the country at conference tournaments this week, looking at every possible prospect who might put his name in the draft. It’s a unique opportunity for some players to improve their stock on a big stage, ESPN draft expert Jonathan Givony notes. Las Vegas will be a particular hotbed of activity, with the Pac-12, WCC, WAC and Mountain West holding tournaments there. Givony takes a deep dive in the prospects that the scouts will be perusing this week.
  • Veteran forward Quincy Acy has left the Texas Legends, the G League affiliate of the Mavericks, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets.  Acy, 28, played 10 games with the Suns this season.
  • Murray State point guard Ja Morant has leapfrogged Duke’s R.J. Barrett as the second-best prospect in the draft behind Zion Williamson, according to Mike Schmitz of ESPN. Morant put on a dazzling display while carrying the Racers through the OVC tournament and into the NCAA Tournament. Givony maintains it’s premature to make that assessment before the draft lottery.

Division II Star Amir Hinton To Enter 2019 Draft

Amir Hinton, a junior at Division II school Shaw University, has confirmed to Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com that he’ll declare for the 2019 draft and hire an agent, forgoing his final season of college eligibility. Steven J. Gaither of HBCU Gameday indicated last week that Hinton would likely go pro.

“I think the timing is perfect for me,” Hinton told Givony. “I will be hiring an agent. I am ready. I am going to try and be a lottery pick.”

Hinton, who is the 49th-ranked prospect on Givony’s big board at ESPN.com, may have a hard time achieving his goal of becoming a lottery pick, but if he’s drafted at all, it will be an impressive feat. As Givony notes, no Division II player has been selected in the NBA draft since 2005.

A 6’5″ guard, Hinton led all Division II players in 2018/19 with 29.4 points per game and earned CIAA Player of the Year honors. According to Givony, NBA scouts are intrigued by Hinton’s “combination of size, athleticism and shot-making ability.”

As Givony relays, Shaw head coach Joel Hopkins said that 12 NBA scouts were at Hinton’s final game this past Saturday, and that all 30 NBA clubs have seen the youngster play at least once this season.

2018/19 NBA Reverse Standings Update

Throughout the 2018/19 NBA season, Hoops Rumors is maintaining a feature that allows you to keep an eye on what the 2019 draft order will look like. Our 2018/19 Reverse Standings tool, which lists the NBA’s 30 teams from worst to first, is updated daily to reflect the outcomes of the previous night’s games.

Our Reverse Standings are essentially a reflection of what 2019’s draft order would look like with no changes to lottery position. We’ve noted each club’s odds of landing the No. 1 overall pick, based on the league’s updated lottery format.

In instances where two non-playoff teams or two playoff teams have identical records, the order in our standings isn’t necessarily definitive — for draft purposes, the NBA breaks ties via random drawings, so those drawings would happen at the end of the year. Of course, the 14 non-playoff teams all draft before the 16 playoff teams, even if some non-playoff teams have better records than playoff teams. Our reverse standings account for that.

Traded first-round picks are included via footnotes. For example, the note next to the Clippers‘s pick says that Los Angeles will send that pick to the Celtics if it’s not in the top 14. As of today, the Clips hold a playoff spot and project to have the No. 19 pick, meaning that selection would be sent to Boston.

While the Knicks lost on Monday night in Sacramento, the Suns unexpectedly knocked off the NBA-best Bucks, flipping the order at the top of the Reverse Standings. At 13-51, the Knicks are now a half-game “ahead” of the 14-51 Suns, putting them in the driver’s seat for the most favorable pick in this year’s draft.

While the league’s three worst teams will all have an equal chance at the No. 1 overall pick and a top-four selection, the order of those three clubs remains crucial — the NBA’s worst team can’t fall further than the No. 5 pick, while the third-worst team could end up selecting as low as No. 7.

Our Reverse Standings tracker can be found at anytime on the right sidebar under “Hoops Rumors Features” on our desktop site, or on the “Features” page in our mobile menu. It’s a great resource not just for monitoring a team’s draft position, but also for keeping an eye on whether or not traded picks with protection will be changing hands in 2019. So be sure to check back often as the season progresses!

Note: Mobile users are advised to turn their phones sideways when viewing the Reverse Standings in order to see team records and lottery odds.

Community Shootaround: Most Fun Lottery Outcome

As a group, the Suns, Knicks, Cavaliers, and Bulls have established themselves in recent weeks and months as the NBA’s bottom tier for 2018/19. Lengthy losing streaks by the Suns (11-50) and the Knicks (12-48) have put them at the “top” of our reverse standings, and even after a little recent success, the Cavaliers (14-46) and Bulls (16-44) are right there with them.

Given how much separation those four teams have had from the NBA’s other 26 clubs for much of the season, speculation about the No. 1 overall pick for 2019 has centered mostly on them. It’s easy to imagine top prospect Zion Williamson ending up in Phoenix, New York, Cleveland, or Chicago.

However, the NBA’s new lottery system could shake things up this spring for the 2019 draft. In past seasons, the league’s worst team had a 25% shot at the No. 1 overall pick, and there was a 72.4% chance that one of those bottom four clubs would end up in the top slot. Under the new system, the odds for the worst team have been reduced just to 14%, and there’s only a 54.5% chance that a bottom-four club gets the first overall pick.

In other words, some scenarios that would have previously been considered long shots are a little more realistic this season. Could the Grizzlies jumpstart their rebuild and put together one of them most athletic young frontcourts in the NBA by pairing Williamson with Jaren Jackson? Could the Mavericks add Williamson to a core that already features Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis? How about the Wizards salvaging an otherwise lost season by landing the top pick and giving Bradley Beal and John Wall the frontcourt star they’ve long sought?

Whichever teams lose the playoff races in each conference won’t have a great chance to secure the No. 1 pick, but those odds will still be more favorable than in the past. Maybe the Heat could get lucky and land a young star after failing to secure any in free agency in recent years. If the Hornets lucked into the top pick, that could cement Kemba Walker‘s decision to stay in Charlotte.

If the Lakers were to miss the postseason and somehow scored the No. 1 selection, it could be the key to finally getting the Pelicans to accept their offer for Anthony Davis — assuming they wouldn’t want to keep Williamson themselves.

And then there’s the nightmare scenario for every Eastern Conference team outside of Philadelphia: What if the Kings miss the postseason and land the first overall pick? In that scenario, the pick would go to the Sixers (if it’s not No. 1, the Celtics will get it).

The lottery is still a few months away, but Williamson looks like the kind of prospect who could transform a franchise, so it’s not too early to speculate about which landing spot would represent the most fun outcome. What do you think? Putting aside your fandom, what draft lottery scenario would be the most enjoyable, or would make the best story?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in!