The 2019 NBA Draft is finally upon us and with it optimism is in abundance as teams around the league hope they’ll be able to bring in a player that can help turn the fortunes of their franchise.
This particular draft isn’t star heavy beyond Zion Williamson at the top, but there are some intriguing players past him and some sneaky depth in terms of rotation-quality NBA players to be had. Somewhere there’s surely a sleeper, the player that will come from outside the top 10 to become a key piece for a playoff contender, and the expectation is for plenty of movement in the first round in terms of trades, particularly from those like the Hawks with multiple first round picks.
We’ll be tracking all of the activity of Thursday night’s draft here, which you can follow along with us live as we offer updates for every trade and draft pick, as well as initial reactions in the form of grades and quick analysis (NOTE: Grades are based on how well the team did in their position in the draft, given who was available, not necessarily an edict that the player selected is a sure-fire star).
So far, there have been two significant trades at the top of the draft, with the Pelicans sending the fourth pick to the Hawks for 8, 17, and 35 in this year’s draft, as well as a protected first next year from Cleveland. The Suns dealt the sixth pick to Minnesota for 11 and Dario Saric, and also sent T.J. Warren and No. 32 overall to Indiana for cash considerations in a separate deal.
To start, it’s the New Orleans Pelicans on the clock and they will be selecting Zion, after that, it will only get more interesting.
1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, Duke (Grade: A+)
The Pelicans make the only choice they could make and there is no drama with this one. Williamson is the clear No. 1 player in this class and the only prospect that should be flat-out projected as an NBA star. David Griffin is a lucky man.
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant, Murray State (Grade: A)
Memphis was tied to Ja Morant from the moment the lottery concluded and this choice was flagged as even more obvious with the Mike Conley trade. Morant may not be a traditional No. 2 overall pick but, for me, he’s the No. 2 player in the class and that makes this an appropriate choice. The big question comes with his perimeter shooting, but Morant is a tremendous athlete with upper-echelon passing vision, and his partnership with Jaren Jackson Jr. should be fun for a long time.
3. New York Knicks: R.J. Barrett, Duke (Grade: B)
There was at least some drama with the Knicks at No. 3, unlike the top two picks. In the end, the Knicks pull the trigger on the player that most scouts rank as the No. 3 player in the draft and Barrett seems to be embracing his new home in New York. There are legitimate concerns with his perimeter shooting and athleticism in creating separation, but Barrett was productive at a high level in college and should, at the very least, use possessions with effectiveness.
4. Atlanta Hawks (via New Orleans, via L.A. Lakers): De’Andre Hunter, Virginia (Grade: C+)
The Hawks went up to get their guy in Hunter and there is something to be said for that. He profiles as a (very) safe choice, with high-end on-ball defense and the ability to space the floor effectively on the offensive end. He doesn’t bring the traditional star power than one would associate with the No. 4 pick, particularly in a trade-up scenario, but Hunter does fit quite well alongside Atlanta’s current piece. The Hawks are docked slightly for what was an overpay in the trade and, on my own board, Jarrett Culver is ahead of Hunter, but Atlanta filled a need with a player they clearly prioritized.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Garland, Vanderbilt (Grade: C-)
There was lots of trade buzz around this pick, but in the end, the Cavs made it for themselves (at least so it appears). From a pure value perspective, Garland is perfectly fine as the No. 5 overall pick in this class. With that said, he isn’t a fantastic fit in Cleveland with Collin Sexton already on board and Jarrett Culver, in my view, is a superior prospect. In the end, taking the best player available, in their eyes, is perfectly reasonable with Sexton projecting as something less than a superstar, but it will be interesting to monitor how things shake out in Cleveland.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Phoenix): Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech (Grade: A-)
The Wolves paid a substantial price to climb up to No. 6 earlier in the day and, in the end, the team grabs a top-five prospect in this class. Culver isn’t an overly sexy prospect, but he brings two-way appeal and there is some theoretical upside with his offensive game. The question with Culver is his shooting, which isn’t ideal alongside Andrew Wiggins, but the presence of Karl-Anthony Towns covers up for a lot and Culver is an excellent value in this slot.
7. Chicago Bulls: Coby White, UNC (Grade: B)
After all kinds of buzz, the Bulls stayed put at No. 7 and they picked the No. 7 player on my board. That’s not always how it works, but White fills a need at the point guard spot, and his combination of blurry quickness and perimeter shooting should fit nicely. It isn’t an ideal defensive backcourt with Zach LaVine but, value-wise, Chicago made the right pick here and it checks a lot of boxes.
8. New Orleans Pelicans (via Atlanta): Jaxson Hayes, Texas (Grade: D)
Jaxson Hayes brings intrigue as a long, fluid athlete with a raw, moldable game. With that said, Hayes isn’t an ideal fit in New Orleans on a team without much in the way of shooting and, at No. 8 overall, it is also a reach when compared to the players available. The talented big man does bring upside, but the pick includes real projection.
9. Washington Wizards: Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga (Grade: D-)
The Wizards (still) don’t have a GM and this is the pick of a team that doesn’t have a GM. Hachimura has fans around the league and he brings an impressive physical profile to the table. There are real questions about his shooting and defensive aptitude, though, and this is a severe reach for Washington.
10. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas): Cam Reddish, Duke (Grade: B)
The Hawks have been linked to Reddish for months and, while much of that attention came through the lens of the No. 8 pick, Atlanta gets one of “their guys” at No. 10 overall. Reddish really struggled at Duke, with some of the worst finishing numbers you’ll ever see for a lottery pick, but he brings real two-way talent and impressive athletic pedigree. There is risk involved here, but Reddish at No. 10 is a good value and he’ll pair nicely with No. 4 pick De’Andre Hunter.
11. Phoenix Suns (via Minnesota): Cameron Johnson, UNC (Grade: D)
Phoenix continues to be Phoenix. On the bright side, Cam Johnson is perhaps the best shooter in this draft and it helps to have a legitimately skill. Unfortunately, that is the only above-average trait that Johnson brings to the table and, value-wise, taking him at No. 11 is very, very aggressive. (edited)
12. Charlotte Hornets: P.J. Washington, Kentucky (Grade: C)
This is an on-brand pick for Charlotte. The Hornets really enjoy players from blue blood programs and Washington is a very solid basketball player, virtually across the board. It has to be said that there isn’t much in the way of sexiness here, but he’ll be a useful role player and the Hornets could’ve done worse, even in the late lottery.
13. Miami Heat: Tyler Herro, Kentucky (Grade: C-)
Miami is an interesting situation, in need of upside without the potential of cap space. In drafting Herro, they check a box with his dynamic outside shooting but, from a ceiling perspective, this pick leaves something to be desired. Players like Sekou Doumbouya and Nassir Little would’ve presented more upside, but it isn’t a disaster.
14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento): Romeo Langford, Indiana (Grade: B-)
Langford slipped a bit from his preseason projection, largely because of his uneven perimeter shooting. There are reasons to believe that area will improve and, as an on-ball player, the former Indiana standout brings some real intrigue. He wasn’t the highest-rated player on my board but Boston is a good place for him to develop.
15. Detroit Pistons: Sekou Doumbouya, France (Grade: A-)
The Pistons really, really need to swing for the fences and Doumbouya certainly does that. The French forward wasn’t expected to be on the board at No. 15 but, after a bit of a slide, Detroit is banking on the future. He’s a talented, long combo forward and, while there is some downside, the reward is worth the risk if this works.
16. Orlando Magic: Chuma Okeke, Auburn (Grade: C)
As an unabashed fan of Okeke’s, it is thrilling to see him selected at No. 16 overall but this is a touch early, even for me. Make no mistake, it isn’t the reach that some will say, as Okeke would’ve been a top-20 prospect if not for the ACL tear. However, taking him ahead of Nassir Little, Brandon Clarke and others keeps this from being a home run.
17. Atlanta Hawks (via Brooklyn): Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Virginia Tech (Grade: B+)
Alexander-Walker won’t blow anyone away with his raw package of skills but he doesn’t take much of anything off the table. At 6’5 with a 6’10 wingspan, he feels the game well, can space the floor and defend at a solid level. That’s the kind of role player that is useful around the other core pieces in New Orleans, particularly when focusing on his shooting.
18. Indiana Pacers: Goga Bitadze, Georgia (Grade: B)
From a value perspective, Bitadze is an absolute home run at No. 18 overall. The only hiccup here is with Indiana’s roster, with two of the team’s best players (Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis) occupying the same position. Drafting the best player available is never a bad thing, though, and they did that here.
19. San Antonio Spurs: Luka Šamanić, Croatia (Grade: C+)
Samanic is a bit of a reach, at least for me, but he’s also incredible Spurs-y. There is a ton of talent from a future-facing standpoint and his skill set would fit nicely with San Antonio’s young guards, especially with his floor-spacing as a pick-and-pop big.
20. Philadelphia 76ers (via Boston, via L.A. Clippers): Matisse Thybulle, Washington (Grade: B-)
It takes some projection with Thybulle, who played in a weird zone defensive system at Washington and didn’t prove himself as a long-distance shooter. However, his defensive production was off-the-charts and, in Philadelphia, he’ll be allowed to act as a play-maker. It’s a bit concerning that Philly doesn’t have more shooting around him but it’s a perfectly reasonable upside play.
21. Memphis Grizzlies (via Oklahoma City): Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga (Grade: A+)
This is an unmitigated heist for Memphis. Clarke is a lottery-level talent and, while he does have concerns with a lack of measurables and shooting, most of that is offset with Jaren Jackson Jr. already in the mix for the Grizzlies. It’s a combination of intense value and strong fit, with the only description being that this is a home run.
22. Boston Celtics: Grant Williams, Tennessee (Grade: B)
The Celtics should be in best player available mode and, while Williams was not technically that prospect on my board, he was close. The Tennessee product brings a great deal of established basketball IQ and acumen, with a beastly physical profile and the ability to create for himself and others in the short roll game. Williams’ ceiling isn’t sky-high but he projects as a solid, two-way player in the NBA.
23. Memphis Grizzlies (via Utah): Darius Bazley (Grade: C-)
It’s been a weird year for Bazley but, despite not playing in college, he lands in the first round. Oklahoma City gets a talented player with two-way potential but, in the same breath, there were probably better fits at this juncture. The Thunder aren’t shy with taking swings, though, and this is one of them.
24. Phoenix Suns (via Boston, via Philadelphia): Ty Jerome, Virginia (Grade: B-)
The Suns are apparently on the hunt for shooting. After investing in Cam Johnson, Phoenix tabbed Jerome, who isn’t quite the shooter that Johnson is but profiles as a great pick-and-roll passer and floor-spacer. Athletically, the Virginia product is quite limited, but he competes on both ends and feels the game well. He projects as a long-term rotation piece.
25. Portland Trail Blazers: Nassir Little, UNC (Grade: A)
For reasons passing understanding, Little fell all the way to No. 25 overall. He did struggle, at least to some degree, at the college level, but Little’s talent far surpasses this draft slot. Portland was always going to be in the market for forward depth and, honestly, this is one of the best-case scenarios for the Blazers.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Houston): Dylan Windler, Belmont (Grade: B-)
Windler isn’t the best player available at this spot, particularly with Keldon Johnson on the board (who was briefly reported as the Cavs pick here). The Belmont product is a first-round talent, though, with big-time shooting ability and quality size for a wing. Defense is going to be an issue in Cleveland for a while, but Windler can play.
27. Los Angeles Clippers (via Brooklyn, via Denver): Mfiondu Kabengele, Florida State (Grade: C+)
The Clippers jumped into the late first round with an eye toward Kabengele and he has an intriguing skill set. With a 7’3 wingspan and the ability to space the floor as a shooter, the Florida State product could bring value sooner rather than later. Skeptically, though, he doesn’t feel the game at a high level and Kabengele might struggle with advanced NBA schemes.
28. Golden State Warriors: Jordan Poole, Michigan (Grade: C)
This was a bit of a stunner but a closer look yields a more favorable result. Poole wasn’t considered to be a first-round prospect but, offensively, he displays a well-rounded skill set as a shot creator. At Michigan, he wasn’t asked to utilize it regularly but Poole can space the floor and, while he declared for the draft a year earlier than expected, he could return late first-round value.
29. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto): Keldon Johnson, Kentucky (Grade: A)
The Spurs grabbed fantastic value in the NBA Draft. Does that sound familiar? Johnson is a top-20 prospect in this class and he profiles as a two-way wing that is a “16-game player.” Is he going to be a star? Probably not, but Johnson should be a rotation player at a position of need around the league. That’ll work at No. 29.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Detroit, via Bucks): Kevin Porter Jr., USC (Grade: A+)
Make no mistake, Porter has some question marks and that, presumably, is why he fell this far. At the same time, he’s a legitimate lottery talent and the Cavs can afford to take a swing with their roster construction. If it works, this will look brilliant. If it doesn’t, it’s “only” the No. 30 overall pick. It’s all upside and that is something Porter can really bring.
31. Brooklyn Nets: Nicolas Claxton, Georgia
32. Miami Heat (via Indiana, via Phoenix): KZ Okpala, Stanford
33. Boston Celtics (via Philadelphia): Carsen Edwards, Purdue
34. Atlanta Hawks (via Philadelphia): Bruno Fernando, Maryland
35. New Orleans Pelicans (via Atlanta): Marcos Louzada Silva, Brazil
36. Charlotte Hornets: Cody Martin, Nevada
37. Detroit Pistons (via Dallas): Deividas Sirvydis, Lithuania
38. Chicago Bulls: Daniel Gafford, Arkansas
39. Golden State Warriors (via New Orleans): Alen Smailagic, Santa Cruz Warriors
40. Sacramento Kings: Justin James, Wyoming
41. Golden State Warriors: Eric Paschall, Villanova
42. Washington Wizards (via Philadelphia): Admiral Schofield, Tennessee
43. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jaylen Nowell, Washington
44. Denver Nuggets (via Miami): Bol Bol, Oregon
45. Dallas Mavericks (via Detroit): Isaiah Roby, Nebraska
46. Los Angeles Lakers (via Orlando): Talen Horton-Tucker, Iowa State
47. New York Knicks (via Sacramento): Ignas Brazdeikis, Michigan
48. Los Angeles Clippers: Terance Mann, Florida State
49. San Antonio Spurs: Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi State
50. Utah Jazz (via Indiana): Jarrell Brantley, College of Charleston
51. Boston Celtics: Tremont Waters, LSU
52. Charlotte Hornets: Jalen McDaniels, San Diego State
53. Utah Jazz: Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra
54. Philadelphia 76ers: Marial Shayok, Iowa State
55. Sacramento Kings (via New York): Kyle Guy, Virginia
56. Brooklyn Nets (via L.A. Clippers): Jaylen Hands, UCLA
57. Detroit Pistons (via Atlanta, via New Orleans): Jordan Bone, Tennessee
58. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): Miye Oni, Yale
59. Toronto Raptors: Dewan Hernandez, Miami
60. Sacramento Kings: Vanja Marinkovic, Serbia