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Joe Boozell | | November 5, 2018

Zion Williamson, Dedric Lawson lead Naismith Trophy preseason watch list

Zion Williamson headlines the hoops show at Duke

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:

Naismith candidates
Player Class Position School Conference
Kamar Baldwin Jr. G Butler BIG EAST 
R.J. Barrett Fr. F Duke ACC
Tyus Battle Jr. G Syracuse ACC
Bennie Boatwright Sr. F USC Pac-12
Bol Bol Fr. C Oregon Pac-12
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
Daniel Gafford So. F Arkansas SEC
Darius Garland Fr. G Vanderbilt SEC
Jessie Govan Sr. C Georgetown BIG EAST 
Kellan Grady So. G Davidson Atlantic 10
Quentin Grimes Fr. G Kansas Big 12
Kyle Guy Jr. G Virginia ACC
Rui Hachimura Jr. F Gonzaga WCC
Ethan Happ Sr. F Wisconsin Big Ten 
Markus Howard Jr. G Marquette BIG EAST 
De'Andre Hunter So. G Virginia ACC
Keldon Johnson Fr. G Kentucky SEC
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 
Cam Reddish Fr. F Duke ACC
Justin Robinson Sr. G Virginia Tech ACC
Admiral Schofield Sr. G Tennessee SEC 
Chris Silva Sr. F South Carolina SEC 
Killian Tillie Jr. F Gonzaga WCC
Reid Travis Sr. F Kentucky SEC 
Dean Wade Sr. F Kansas State Big 12
P.J. Washington So. F Kentucky SEC 
Tremont Waters So. G LSU SEC
Lindell Wigginton So. G Iowa State Big 12
Kris Wilkes So. G UCLA Pac-12
Grant Williams Jr. F Tennessee SEC 
Zion Williamson Fr. F Duke ACC
Cassius Winston Jr. G Michigan State Big Ten

MORE: Cousy Award watch list | West Award | Erving Award | Malone Award | Abdul-Jabbar Award

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.

Will RJ Barrett be one of Duke's next stars?

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).

MORE: 5 big men we can't wait to watch this season

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).

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