The 2019 NBA Draft is tomorrow! There hasn’t been much buzz about the Clippers in the draft, as they only have two late 2nd round picks, and are more invested in free agency than the trade market. However, the area of their greatest need coincides with this draft’s greatest strength – wings. Therefore, even though they are picking so late, it’s possible they’re able to get legit rotation players. After all, the Clippers drafted Sindarius Thornwell at 48 two years ago, and he’s given some valuable minutes to the Clippers over the past couple seasons.
Last year, in my analysis on which college stats translate to NBA success for wing players, I found that assists, steals, rebounds, turnovers, age, and true shooting were most highly correlated to NBA advanced stats. Basically, good assists, steals, rebounds, and efficiency numbers are very important, as are low turnovers and being young. As always, I use the last two years of players’ college stats and average them to weight out players who improve later in their collegiate careers, and utilize actual production instead of “per 40” numbers.
To my mind, ancillary production is so crucial to a modern wing. They not only need to be able to move the ball and make plays for others in a fluid, dynamic offensive setting, but they have to be active, mobile defenders who can ideally switch multiple positions. Stats like steals and rebounds don’t necessarily indicate defensive aptitude, but they do correlate to instincts, functional athleticism, and basketball smarts. While a stat like points per game might indicate some top-tier scoring upside, the floor and ceiling of players rests more on what other production they can provide teams when their shot isn’t falling, or when they aren’t getting to the basket. Without further ado, here’s the 2019 NBA Draft collegiate wing class.
2019 NBA Wing Draft Prospect Stats
Now, let’s take a look at the best and worst performers in each category that are important statistically in all my models. Afterwards, I’ll discuss three players who, statistically, are projected for great, good, or poor value based on where they’re currently being predicted to be selected in mock drafts.
Top 5 assists
Top 5 rebounds
Top 5 steals
Quinndary Weatherspoon/Cam Reddish
Top 5 (lowest) turnovers
Cam Johnson/Nassir Little
Top 5 TS
Bottom 5 assists
DaQuan Jeffries/Louis King
Bottom 5 rebounds
Bottom 5 steals
Rui Hachimura/Kris Wilkes
Bottom 5 (highest) turnovers
Miye Oni/KZ Okpala/Jaylen Nowell/Cam Reddish
Bottom 5 TS
John Konchar – Konchar is, incredibly, the highest-rated wing in my statistical model. Despite his age (22.5), his incredible rebounding, assist, steal, and efficiency numbers push him to the top of the class. He played against lesser college competition at Purdue Fort Wayne, and that makes his stellar numbers look a bit less impressive, but what he did would be fantastic at any competition level. He has good feel for the game, flashes usable athleticism with his steal and rebounding rates, and can hit threes. Do I think he’s actually the best wing prospect in this class? No, of course not. However, he’s currently projected to go undrafted, and that seems like a mistake. He’s one of the best basketball players in this class, and regardless of deficiencies in athleticism or weakness in competition, that talent will come to the forefront in the NBA. The upside isn’t great, but I think he should be a 1st round pick.
Cody Martin – Martin is even older than Konchar, and his numbers are slightly worse across the board (though he did play against stronger competition), but still very strong. A massive wing, Martin has true ball-handling and playmaking equity that he can carry to the NBA – he could be a true “point-forward” if things pan out well. Martin isn’t a strong scorer and is not much of a shooting threat, which takes away from that “lead initiator” role, but the rest of the package is there for him to be a highly useful role player in the modern NBA. On defense, Martin’s size comes to good use, as he’s able to defend multiple positions on the perimeter. He’s far too good to go undrafted, and I’d take him as high as the early 2nd round.
Josh Reaves – Reaves’ numbers don’t pop off the screen like Konchar or Martin’s do, but he rates extremely well due to his excellent steals rate, and solid rebounding, assist, and efficiency stats. He’s a menace on the defensive end, one of the most capable perimeter defenders in the entire class, and has both a nose for the ball as well as a grasp of the fundamentals of man and help defense. Reaves’ weakness is as a scorer, and his lack of shotmaking takes away from his nascent talent as a passer, but he could still be a nice cog in an offense due to his cutting and ability to make sound reads quickly. If Reaves can shoot, he will be a very nice NBA player, and even if he doesn’t, he could carve out a niche as a defensive specialist. He’s not flashy, but he should certainly be drafted, and right now, he’s projected not to be.
Chuma Okeke – Currently mocked in the early 2nd round, Okeke measures up statistically on a comparable level to De’Andre Hunter, who will probably go in the top six of the draft. He’s actually slighter taller than Hunter, younger, and averaged more rebounds and steals per game with comparable assists. Hunter was the better, more efficient scorer, and his ability to create his own shot certainly separates him from Okeke in that regard. However, in their likely outcomes as “3 and D” role players, Okeke is every bit Hunter’s equal. Their being separated by 25 draft picks makes little sense, and Okeke will likely be a nice steal in the late 1st or early 2nd.
Ty Jerome – Jerome will be a below-average athlete at the NBA level. That fact alone limits his upside, and makes a selection higher up in the draft a bit more questionable. On the other hand, he’s a fantastic playmaker and passer for his size and position, a guy who could certainly be a secondary or tertiary passer on a good team. In general, he’s just a really smart, savvy basketball player with the size to guard a couple positions, and the shooting to stay on the court. I don’t know if he’ll be a “steal” in the late 1st round, but I think he’s likely to be a very nice NBA rotation player.
Matisse Thybulle – Thybulle is one of the more decorated players in this NBA draft, having won the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award in 2019. While playing in a zone defense boosted his steals and blocks rate considerably, Thybulle is a brilliant defensive player with the size and length to make good on his plus instincts. Thybulle’s three-point shooting fell off his senior year, but it was pretty good his first three collegiate seasons, and if he can maintain an acceptable level from out there, he should be a solid NBA player. This is especially since he’s a decent passer who can make quick reads in an NBA offense and plays with his head up. There was a time I thought he was a lottery player, and while that might be a reach, the early 2nd round feels fairly low for him.
Cam Reddish – Cam Reddish was not a good basketball player in his freshman season at Duke. He was an incredibly efficient scorer, had a negative assist to turnover ratio, and didn’t contribute much in the way of blocks. While Cam has feel for the game, he’s not particularly athletic or explosive, leading to his lack of finishing at the rim, as well as his getting in spots where he turns the ball over. The two promising signs for Cam are his age and steal rate. The first means he will have ample time to improve, the second that he has some natural basketball instincts. Reddish is a fine prospect, but his going in the top 10, as currently projected, is ludicrous. Statistically, there are well over a dozen superior wings in this class.
Nassir Little – Nassir’s rise back to the lottery after an inconsistent (at best) freshman year at UNC is even more baffling than Reddish’s. While he was a decently efficient scorer and an acceptable rebounder, he showed almost no feel for the game, easily detectable in his low assist rate and awful 1:2 assist to turnover ratio. Like Reddish, he has the size of a modern wing, and has the bulk and strength to switch onto bigger players. But his floor is even lower than Reddish’s, as he lacks Reddish’s innate feel and defensive instincts. I can’t see him being much more than a rotation player.
KZ Okpala – Okpala is being mocked in the late 1st round, but statistically measures out as one of the worst prospects in the draft. He, like Little and Reddish, certainly looks the part of a wing with his tall, long frame, and he flashed some shooting ability this year. However, he completely lacks feel and basketball IQ, possibly due to his starting basketball so late. Okpala is not a great finisher around the rim despite his size, without great touch, and does not play smart defense. Really, he’s a long-term project. If it all comes together for him, he could be a pretty good wing, but it seems like a long shot.
There are a lot of talented wing players in the 2019 NBA Draft. Weirdly, some of the best in the group are projected to be drafted in the 2nd round, or not at all, while a few of the more middling-worse prospects are destined for the lottery. Guys like Cam Reddish and Nassir Little have “upside” due to their size and youth, but neither are better basketball players than John Konchar or Chuma Okeke, and there’s every possibility they never become that good. Some team will take Cam Reddish at 8, and they might get a very good player. A much smarter team will take Okeke at 32, and spend a lesser asset on a far statistically superior prospect.