Jalen Brunson averaged 18.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists on his way to winning the 2018 Naismith Trophy.
There are several candidates, ranging from freshmen to seniors, who are in the mix to win the Naismith in 2019. With that in mind, here is the official 50-player preseason watch list:
|Kamar Baldwin||Jr.||G||Butler||BIG EAST|
|Phil Booth||Sr.||G||Villanova||BIG EAST|
|Ky Bowman||Jr.||G||Boston College||ACC|
|Barry Brown||Sr.||G||Kansas State||Big 12|
|Jordan Caroline||Sr.||G/F||Nevada||Mountain West|
|Clayton Custer||Sr.||G||Loyola of Chicago||Missouri Valley|
|Mike Daum||Sr.||F||South Dakota State||Summit League|
|Carsen Edwards||Jr.||G||Purdue||Big Ten|
|Jon Elmore||Sr.||G||Marshall||Conference USA|
|Jessie Govan||Sr.||C||Georgetown||BIG EAST|
|Kellan Grady||So.||G||Davidson||Atlantic 10|
|Quentin Grimes||Fr.||G||Kansas||Big 12|
|Ethan Happ||Sr.||F||Wisconsin||Big Ten|
|Markus Howard||Jr.||G||Marquette||BIG EAST|
|Sagaba Konate||Jr.||F||West Virginia||Big 12|
|Romeo Langford||Fr.||G||Indiana||Big Ten|
|Dedric Lawson||Jr.||F||Kansas||Big 12|
|Nassir Little||Fr.||F||North Carolina||ACC|
|Caleb Martin||Sr.||F||Nevada||Mountain West|
|Charles Matthews||Sr.||G||Michigan||Big Ten|
|Luke Maye||Sr.||F||North Carolina||ACC|
|Juwan Morgan||Sr.||F||Indiana||Big Ten|
|Jordan Murphy||Sr.||F||Minnesota||Big Ten|
|James Palmer||Jr.||G||Nebraska||Big Ten|
|Eric Paschall||Sr.||F||Villanova||BIG EAST|
|Shamorie Ponds||Jr.||G||St. John’s||BIG EAST|
|Justin Robinson||Sr.||G||Virginia Tech||ACC|
|Chris Silva||Sr.||F||South Carolina||SEC|
|Dean Wade||Sr.||F||Kansas State||Big 12|
|Lindell Wigginton||So.||G||Iowa State||Big 12|
One name that jumps out is Lawson, who sat out last year as a transfer. In his final season at Memphis, the explosive hybrid forward averaged 19.2 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.
Lawson is an all-around force and figures to be the best player on a national title contender. Kansas is the No. 1 team in the preseason AP Top 25.
MORE: Full preseason rankings
Another guy to keep an eye on is Duke’s Zion Williamson, but truth be told, teammates R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish also have a shot at the award. A lot is going to have to do with shot distribution. Not much separates them from a talent standpoint, but Williamson’s sheer athleticism and strength combination could mean he’ll average a ton of points and rebounds. We’ll know more about Duke’s prospects after the Champions Classic.
As usual, there are some other ultra-talented freshmen that could gain some steam this year. North Carolina’s Nassir Little, Indiana’s Romeo Langford and Oregon’s Bol Bol are names that come to mind. All of these guys hope to become the third freshman listed on the Naismith Trophy, joining Kevin Durant (2007) and Anthony Davis (2012).
On the flip side, Brunson won it as a junior last season, and before him four seniors won it in a row: Doug McDermott, Frank Kaminsky, Buddy Hield and Frank Mason. There are 21 seniors on the above list of 50. A few names that stand out: North Carolina’s Luke Maye, Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Kentucky’s Reid Travis.
The field will be trimmed to 30 players in mid-February, semifinalists in early March, and four finalists during the NCAA tournament. The award will then be presented at the Naismith Awards banquet during the Final Four. The players hope to join past winners such as Lew Alcindor (1969), Pete Maravich (1970), Bill Walton (1972-74), Larry Bird (1979), Ralph Sampson (1981-83), Michael Jordan (1984) and Danny Manning (1988).