Why Jarrett Culver May Be the Best Player in the 2019 Draft
In 1964, United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart infamously uttered the words “I know it when I see it.” Justice Stewart was talking about…of all things, pornography. The Justice was essentially at a loss explaining exactly what would be categorized as obscene, what was protected free speech and what was not. ‘I know it when I see it’ has become a common colloquialism for those things which are sometimes a bit too hard to explain in extravagant detail. You know an a**hole when you see one. You know a beautiful person when you see them. You know a freak athlete when you see him.
No, this isn’t a Law Review article or an impassioned defense of pornography. Rather, it’s my effort to tell you why Jarrett Culver might end up being the best player in this year’s draft class.
I Know it When I See It
I can’t tell you PRECISELY why. I can’t pen 15,000 words on the topic or give you the analytics to definitively prove that he’s better than Barrett, or better than Hunter, or any other guy in the draft. What I can tell you is that I don’t pull out the “I know it when I see it” often. And Jarrett Culver just looks like that “it.”
I can give you a 12-minute film breakdown on his game, which you should definitely watch above. I can tell you that to me, his game has a striking resemblance to Paul George. I can tell you he has incredibly advanced footwork. He’s capable of scoring from all 3 areas: 3, midrange, and the rim. He has very advanced post game for his age. He’s capable of getting into gaps and driving both ways. He has a fluid, smooth stroke that allows him to shoot very well off the dribble and spot-up and from NBA 3-point range. He has incredibly big hands, which has worked out pretty well for a certain guy still playing in the NBA Finals (KAWHI). He’s able to get deflections, steals, blocks. He plays with a low center of gravity and is capable of being an incredibly impactful defender who can switch 2-4.
Not all these things are quantifiable. They’re not all provable. Did he get outplayed in the NCAA Championship by De’Andre Hunter? Sure. Do we realize how many times over the course of an NBA season or playoffs Damian Lillard outscores or outplays Steph Curry and how silly it would be to then say Damian is better? I sure hope so.
It will Take Work
His game isn’t perfect. He’s far from a finished product. Ultimately it’ll be up to him: how hard he’s willing to work, his perseverance, what system he ends up in, etc. Does Zion probably have the highest CEILING at the end of the day? Yes. Is Ja the most NBA-ready and my Rookie of the Year favorite? Yes. But would it surprise me at all if 5 years from now, Zion is regarded as a very good, supercharged Draymond Green – ultimate energy player, rebounds/blocks stud – and Ja is regarded as a Mike Conley-type: an outstanding, steady PG who isn’t a perennial All-Star (or tragically in Conley’s case: ever.)? No. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Culver is seen as a Kawhi-lite, a Paul George type two-way monster who drills 3’s, handles the ball, gets to the rim, creates his own shot, creates for others, plays in the post, elevates at the elbows, etc.
I’m not positive why, but Culver’s game feels very Justice Stewart obscene to me. If I’m the Knicks, I’d think long and hard at how Culver could improve their starting lineup; it won’t be easy passing up on the guy who could be the best player in the draft.