My fantasy sports obsession broke out in the late ‘80s based from my love for card collecting. The two hobbies happily go together, as the players you seek to draft early in fantasy are usually ones you are seeing rookie cards of in #thehobby,
As my site begins to work in more sports card collecting stories, I’ll be writing some articles like the one you see here. We’re taking a look back at the 12 best 2019 NBA rookie cards. Since there are dozens of different rookie cards for every player, I’m actually just looking at the best 2019 NBA rookies who are now in their third season. You can decide which rookie cards to buy, but I do offer up a bargain basement base card to consider.
I’m going to do this series in the three major sports, over several different years, to help collectors understand which players to target.
Of course, ranking the best 2019 NBA rookie cards changes the farther away we get from that 2019 NBA Draft. That’s why these articles will get updated from year to year! Interestingly, the farther away we get from a particular draft class, the fewer changes need to be made. I can see me adjusting the rankings on 2020 and certainly 2021 NBA Draft classes much more frequently than I will the 2017 and 2018 NBA Draft classes.
What You Need To Know: These rankings aren’t based on any specific card, or even any specific card brand. This is a general list of the best 2019 NBA rookie cards you’d want to own if you had your choice of all the rookies in any one set. This isn’t saying these base cards are better than any inserts, autographed cards, patches, parallels, or anything else. But if you have a choice between two players in the same set or subset, I’d rank them this way:
Best 2019 NBA Rookie Cards: A Basketball Card Mock Draft in 2022
The end of the 2019-20 NBA season was altered by Covid-19, as was most of the 2020-21 NBA season. That actually gives collectors some opportunities to get good players who have better basketball days ahead of them.
1. Ja Morant, G, Memphis Grizzlies
Ja and Zion are the Luka and Trae of the 2019 NBA Draft class from the hobby’s perspective. Morant’s speed and lane-driving ability reminds me of a young Allen Iverson, even though Morant’s skinny frame doesn’t come close to resembling Iverson’s build. Either way, Morant’s star is on the rise, especially after he helped the Grizzlies reach the playoffs last year.
With his trademark ponytail dreads and his amicable disposition off the court, Morant is sure to become quite a marketable commodity, especially if the Grizzlies can make the next step and win a playoff series.
- Bargain Basement for a Bargain Base Card: 2019-20 Panini Chronicles Luminance #165
2019-20 Panini Chronicles – [Base] – Bronze #165 – Luminance – Ja Morant
2. Zion Williamson, PF, New Orleans Pelicans
Zion was no doubt the hobby’s favorite from this class just a few months ago, but injuries and weight issues have quickly doused his hobby fire. I do have reason to believe he is undervalued on his cards right now!
The Pelicans traded away Lonzo Ball (Chicago) and they missed out on Kyle Lowry (Miami). They are lined up for another lottery season in the Big Easy. Much like Anthony Davis before him, Zion is going to leave New Orleans for better pastures in the coming years – specifically, the New York Knicks. When that happens, Zion’s Q rating is going to go through the roof, as will his rookie card prices. (I mean, they’re already through the roof, I just mean through the roof of a second-story building!)
All of that is dependent on his injuries and weight, however. As his card prices fall, the opportunities to invest in him rise. His build portends to a player that might have four or five great healthy seasons in him, though, until gravity affects his play greatly.
- Bargain Basement for a Bargain Base Card: 2019 Panini Mosaic NBA Debut Orange Reactive #269
3. Darius Garland, G, Cleveland Cavaliers
The 2021-22 Cavaliers have been a great surprise this year, which has Garland’s card stock rising rapidly. He’s averaging over 20 points and 8 assists per game! Just a handful of players have that many points and assists per game this season.
The fifth pick from the 2019 NBA Draft, Garland was expected to take this big step in his junior season. Hoops Hype polled 15 NBA executives for their top-three picks to be 2021-22 breakout, and Garland garnered the top spot!
Garland is making his first All-Star Game in 2022, in his third season. That’s not unlike another Cavaliers point guard hero in Mark Price in the ‘80s, when he made the All-Star Game in his third season. (Garland made it at 22 years old, though, two years younger than Price did!)
Garland’s ability behind the arc makes him an offensive weapon that should help open things up for rookie Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen for years to come. He scored 17.4 ppg and dished out 6.1 assists per game last season, and the offense will continue to run through Garland.
- Bargain Basement for a Bargain Base Card: 2019 Donruss Optic #195
4. Tyler Herro, G, Miami Heat
After blowing up in the 2020 NBA Playoffs for 16-5-3 per game, a lot was expected from Boy Wonder last season. He stumbled a bit, even finding some time on Miami’s bench at one point, and now the team has brought in veterans Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo, relieving Herro of any point guard duties. That’s a good thing, as it appeared to overwhelm the sophomore out of Kentucky. Herro bulked up this offseason, and now he’s scoring 20 points per game on a very strong Heat team.
- Bargain Basement for a Bargain Base Card: 2019 Panini Prizm #259
5. R.J. Barrett, G, New York Knicks
Expected to start at shooting guard on a restocked Knicks squad, the former Duke playmaker was expected to take the next step in his progression to stardom. Going back to The Zion Effect, I believe Barrett’s cards will skyrocket once his former teammate joins him at MSG. Barrett has the personality and gravitas to be a star in the Big Apple, which makes his cards a nice buy in 2022.
- Bargain Basement for a Bargain Base Card: 2019 Panini Prizm Base #250
6. Kevin Porter, Jr., G, Houston Rockets
Putting the drama in Cleveland behind him, Porter’s move to Houston made a world of difference for the point guard. He’s playing alongside future superstar Jalen Green in the backcourt, but this team is not very good yet. That makes for a decent RC-buying opportunity. In 26 games with Houston last season, Porter averaged 16.6 points and 6.3 assists per game, which puts him in pretty good company. But he scored just 13.7 ppg in the first half of 2022. Even so, I’m buying now on Porter while I can.
- Bargain Basement for a Bargain Base Card: 2019 Prizm Mosaic #248
7. Keldon Johnson, San Antonio Spurs
After starting just one game in his rookie season, the man they call “Mustang” ramped things up in Year 2, averaging 12.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, with 67 starts at power forward. Interestingly, he’s over 15 ppg this season. Dejounte Murray has turned into the Spurs’ superstar, and Johnson is working in his shadow. They’re certainly still in rebuild mode, shipping out DeMar DeRozan this offseason, but things are looking up. Johnson is a hard-working player making his presence known down low.
- Bargain Basement for a Bargain Base Card: 2019 Donruss Optic #186
8. Luguentz Dort, G/F, Oklahoma City Thunder
Dort wasn’t even drafted in 2019 coming out of Arizona State after just his freshman season. The Canadian’s rookie success earned him a four-year deal with OKC, and while he’s solid defensively, it’s actually his scoring ability that has us interested in his cards. He’s young (22) and he’s playing on the youngest team in the NBA – and he has developed into their second-leading scorer behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
- Bargain Basement for a Bargain Base Card: Panini Hoops Premium Stock Silver #213
9. DeAndre Hunter, F, Atlanta Hawks
Hunter missed 23 games in 2020-21 with a torn meniscus, but don’t expect that to be an injury that slows him going forward. He made great progress from his rookie year to his sophomore season, but like many of the Hawks not nicknamed “Ice Trae,” Hunter’s stats have dipped backward. He’s a plus defender, and he has a deft shooting touch to keep opponents honest. Some are looking at Hunter as a future 20-ppg scorer, though.
- Bargain Basement for a Bargain Base Card: 2019 Panini Prizm 251
10. Rui Hachimura, F, Washington Wizards
Born in Japan, Hachimura is as intriguing a player as much as his name’s pronunciation. This power forward has started for Washington since joining the league, and collectors have paid close attention to over the past two seasons. From Year 1 to 2, he hasn’t made much progress statistically, averaging just around 13 ppg, but with Russell Westbrook in L.A. now, they might ask for Hachimura to score more. He’ll miss the start of the 2021 NBA season for personal reasons.
- Bargain Basement for a Bargain Base Card: 2019 Panini Prizm #255
11. Cam Reddish, G, New York Knicks
The third Dukie drafted in this class, Reddish found himself paired back with his old teammate Barrett in New York after a midseason trade. Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau is strangely limiting Reddish’s minutes, though, and Reddish has half the opportunities he had in Atlanta. (If/when Thibodeau gets fired, Reddish is someone to buy low on!
12. Coby White, G, Chicago Bulls
While White did improve statistically in his second season, he struggled as the point guard, which helped Chicago decide to trade for Lonzo Ball this past offseason. The Bulls extended White’s contract, but he has had limited opportunities on this surprising Bulls team that’s competing for a top-four playoff spot in the East. White’s cards, in my opinion, have been too high in recent years, but considering he turned 22 years old in February, 2022, in his third NBA season, he might be a good longshot for later rewards.
- Bargain Basement for a Bargain Base Card: 2019 Donruss Optic #180
- P.J. Washington, F, Charlotte Hornets: After starting for most of the past two seasons, the Hornets use P.J. Washington mostly off the bench in 2022.
- Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans Pelicans: Hayes backs up C Jonas Valanciunas this season.
- Brandon Clarke, F, Memphis Grizzlies: Backing up Jaren Jackson, Jr. at PF this season.
- Bol Bol, Orlando Magic: A player so nice, they named him twice! He’s now one of many centers with the Magic. It’s like they collect centers and point guards.
We’re going to continue this series over the next few weeks, looking into the best NBA rookie cards from these seasons, too:
- Rookie cards from 2016 NBA Draft
- Rookie cards from 2017 NBA Draft
- Rookie cards from 2018 NBA Draft
- Rookie cards from 2020 NBA Draft
- Rookie cards from 2021 NBA Draft
Which players from that 2019 NBA Draft are you targeting as your own best 2019 NBA Rookie Cards in 2021-22? Leave a comment below and let us know!