The 2019 NBA Draft has come and gone, leaving the typical round of questions. Which teams managed to come out of the draft looking good? Which ones floundered and never quite found their way? Who drafted Georgios Papagiannis in the lottery?
That’s why we’re here to play armchair quarterback and hand out some draft grades. Hopefully it’ll help figure out who did well and who didn’t. Of course, all of this could look horribly stupid in three years when we find out which prospects actually panned out. Such is the risk of offering up instant grades.
2019 NBA DRAFT:
A quick note about the grading philosophy employed below: I’ve historically found one of the most frustrating things about reading NBA Draft grades to be that I don’t understand why picks are being graded the way they are. So, I wanted to lay out a rubric of sorts to try to help the reader make sense of what’s to come.
My goal is to grade selections against the historic value of each pick. We know we should expect more out of the No. 1 pick than the No. 15 pick than the No. 30 pick and so on. Based on what we know about the prospect selected, how close did the team get to finding the appropriate value for the pick it had? That’s what we’ll attempt to grade. C is average, and grades go up or down from there.
Of course, things can get a bit more complicated and abstract when other assets like future draft picks or established players get tossed into the mix in trades, but we’ll cover that. Hopefully the above provides at least some idea of what these letters mean rather than viewing them against some ambiguous unknown.
Now, let’s get on the record with some grades.
NBA Draft picks, grades: Round 1
1. Pelicans – Zion Williamson, Forward, Duke
It will never not be odd to consider just how much a certain bouncing of the ping pong balls can change the trajectory of a franchise. Just days removed from the end of the Anthony Davis saga that turned the organization on its head, New Orleans is able to lock in the best college prospect since at least Davis as its cornerstone.
Hopefully it’s well known by now Williamson is more than the highlights that have earned him over three million followers on Instagram. Certainly the athleticism and power that epitomize his best moments are a big part of why he’s thought of so highly – it’s tough to ignore a one percent of the one percent level athlete – but it’s often his impressive basketball IQ and constantly running motor making those plays possible.
So, where does Williamson fit in with the Pelicans’ newly acquired young core? The easiest and most obvious fit is in transition. Head coach Alvin Gentry wants to play fast. Williamson’s size, strength and athleticism make him nearly unstoppable in the open court. He and Lonzo Ball should make for a dynamic duo. New Orleans also has a chance to be very good defensively with Ball and Jrue Holiday patrolling the perimeter and Williamson on the back line to generate defensive events.
If there’s an immediate concern, it’s in the half court. Williamson’s not a shooter yet. The numbers – 33.8 percent from deep and 64.0 percent from the foul line as a freshman – combined with his near set shot form suggest he’ll need some time to develop into one if he ever does. New Orleans’ return for Davis was light on shooting, too. At least David Griffin has an obvious need to target going forward.
It may take a bit for the Pelicans to turn things around, but immediacy isn’t why Williamson went No. 1. Still 18 years old, he’s the future for New Orleans and maybe, if things break right, the league as a whole.
2. Grizzlies – Ja Morant, Point, Murray State
Morant’s journey from the bowels of a high school basketball event to becoming the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft has been well chronicled in the weeks leading up to Thursday night. Now, following Wednesday’s trade with Utah, the once unheralded recruit knows his future: shouldering the burden of replacing Mike Conley in Memphis. Simple enough.
The Murray State product is potentially capable of doing just that. He possesses tremendous court vision and the ability to throw passes that make his teammates’ lives easier. He also has the shifty handle and athleticism to generate offense on his own. Combined, Morant’s ability to draw defensive attention and pass out of it should complement last season’s first-round pick, Jaren Jackson Jr., allowing him to excel in advantage scoring situations in the half court.
There are reasons to be concerned about Morant, particularly as it relates to his pull-up jumper, turnovers and defensive ability, or lack thereof. Nonetheless, FiveThirtyEight’s upside-based draft model pegs the 19-year-old as the second-best prospect in this class behind Williamson. It also rates him as a better prospect than any college player in last year’s draft class. High praise considering 2018’s draft included the likes of Deandre Ayton, Trae Young and Marvin Bagley.
The Grizzlies couldn’t do much better here. They’ve managed to match a positional need with a talent worthy of the No. 2 pick. What more could you ask for?
3. Knicks – RJ Barrett, Wing, Duke
The Knicks are badly in need of a star with their free agency outlook appearing frostier than it did a few months ago given Kyrie Irving is potentially headed to Brooklyn and Kevin Durant is slated to miss next season following his Achilles injury.
Stars are obviously vital for competing for championships and having established ones allows a front office to shape its strategy for acquiring role players around their strengths and weaknesses. Given New York’s current roster construction, its primary focus should be on finding that star.
Barrett has the potential to be one. He averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game at Duke. College freshmen don’t do that. He’s also a hard worker with an alpha dog mentality and a desire to be great. Barrett functionally played point guard for a Blue Devils offense that finished in the top 10 nationally in adjusted efficiency. He can operate a ball screen, beat defenders in isolation and find teammates when he’s looking. Barrett has legitimate potential to be the prized wing creator every team lusts after.
There’s also a chance the tunnel vision and inefficiency he showed in college never changes, he struggles to find a home defensively and he travels the path of the likes of Carmelo Anthony or Brandon Ingram.
The 19-year-old is a perfectly reasonable No. 3 pick in a vacuum. There’s an argument New York could have received slightly more value by trading down a spot or two for Jarrett Culver or Darius Garland and adding another asset if that was an option. Barrett’s upside as an initiator and the Knicks’ need to find a star overrides some of that here, though. See? Grading is horribly complicated (and subjective).
4. Lakers – De’Andre Hunter, Forward, Virginia (proposed trade to the Hawks)
Hunter may have worn a Lakers hat when he shook Adam Silver’s hand on stage, but he won’t play for them next season, as this pick is part of the agreed upon trade sending Anthony Davis to Los Angeles. Hunter won’t end up in a Pelicans jersey either, though.
New Orleans dealt this pick along with No. 57, Solomon Hill and a future second-rounder to the Hawks in exchange for No. 8, No. 17, No. 35 and a protected first-rounder belonging to the Cavaliers next year that will likely become a pair of second-rounders.
On face, Hunter’s skill set is a terrific fit for what Travis Schlenk is building in Atlanta. He’s a non-ball dominant wing who can create in advantage situations and knock down outside shots. The release is certainly a bit slow and will need to speed up for him to be a true 3-and-D threat, but the base is there. On the other end, Hunter is one of the best on-ball defenders in the class. He uses his strength to body up opposing offensive players and can guard multiple positions. Hunter isn’t one to gamble, and he doesn’t create the number of events most great defenders do, but he should still be a huge plus as a stopper.
The problem with Hunter – and ultimately the issue with this trade for Atlanta – is that he’s not a high-upside play. He’s already 21 years old, he hasn’t flashed much to suggest he’ll be more than a tertiary offensive player and he’s not a passer. In short, he’s not the Kawhi Leonard comparison he often gets. Hunter is fine, but the Hawks gave up a ton in this transaction.
Atlanta is sacrificing two first-rounders in a draft that, while not great at the top, does have some depth to it. Given how hard it is to find a star, there’s value in having more bites at the apple. The Hawks also gave up a high second-round pick – a historically useful selection for occasionally finding a steal. While Hunter is a nice fit in Atlanta, factoring in everything else, it’s hard to view this move as a success.
5. Cavaliers – Darius Garland, Point, Vanderbilt
Time to get weird. Seemingly after failing to find a trade partner for the No. 5 pick, the Cavaliers used a high first-round pick to select a point guard for the second year in a row. Garland is an interesting enough prospect worthy of a top-five selection, but this seems like an odd allocation of assets for Cleveland.
Let’s start with Garland as a prospect. He played just five games for Vanderbilt this season before suffering a knee injury that ended his college career. During that stretch, it was clear Garland possessed one of the better live dribble games in the draft. He can get to his spots working out of ball screens and possesses a deadly pull-up jumper out beyond NBA range. Given the importance of the dribble pull-up in modern basketball, Garland has a path to becoming a star at the next level.
The 19-year-old’s path is more narrow than someone like Trae Young, though. Garland is not the facilitator Young is. His court vision isn’t great, and in his five games with the Commodores, he posted a negative assist-to-turnover ratio. Like Young, Garland projects to struggle defensively. He’s small and doesn’t play with the highest motor. His scoring ability is going to need to generate the bulk of his value.
Now, the asset allocation. It’s hard to imagine a winning backcourt in Cleveland featuring both Garland and incumbent point guard Collin Sexton, even if new head coach John Beilein can succeed in designing an offense that takes advantage of multiple ball handlers. The combination would be small defensively and struggle to get stops. Given the Cavaliers had the option of landing a wing like Jarrett Culver here, the selection is even more perplexing. Culver likely has just as much upside as Garland given his two-way prowess.
Garland’s a good prospect, but this is a weird fit – sounds average.
6. Suns – Jarrett Culver, Wing, Texas Tech (proposed trade to the Timberwolves)
Selected by Phoenix, Culver will be headed to Minnesota in a deal that will see the No. 11 pick and Dario Saric go to the Suns. Although the Timberwolves sacrificed an initial asset to snag Culver, this feels like a positive play for Minnesota’s new front office, as Saric is already 25 years old and doesn’t figure to be anything more than a rotation piece.
Culver, on the other hand, has some legitimate upside. He came into the draft as the No. 4 prospect on our big board. The 20-year-old is also the third-highest rated prospect in FiveThirtyEight’s upside model. Why? Culver checks the boxes on both sides of the ball, and his ability to generate steals sticks out, in particular. He’s not necessarily a defensive stopper, but his steal rate suggests a certain innate feel for the game that’s often present in prospects who outperform expectations.
The Texas Tech product’s offensive game is interesting. In college, he transitioned from spot-up threat as a freshman to ball-dominant pseudo-point guard as a sophomore. Culver has underrated court vision and playmaking ability. The jumper, though, remains a question mark. It has a super high release point and a bit of a hitch. His sophomore shooting numbers – 30.4 percent from 3-point range and 70.7 percent at the foul line – don’t suggest he’ll be a good shooter right away, but these are the type of players worth betting on figuring out ways to contribute.
Culver’s got a high basketball IQ, he’s a hard worker and he has enough skill to work with as a base. Minnesota needs to find additional talent to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns after the Andrew Wiggins deal went down in flames. This should be a good start.
7. Bulls – Coby White, Point, North Carolina
Chicago stays put and lands the point guard it needs to help round out its starting five. As the draft process progressed, it seemed clear the Bulls didn’t believe in Kris Dunn as a viable option at the position, so finding a replacement seemed a priority. White should fit in well.
The North Carolina product excels pushing the pace in transition. He’s one of the fastest end-to-end players in this draft class. He’ll generate a handful of points each game for the Bulls in transition on his own. In the half court, White’s ability to knock down jumpers off the catch will allow Zach LaVine to continue to initiate the bulk of the offense. Not shouldering White with a heavy creation burden right away should be a positive.
Long-term, White has the potential to be a gravity-inducing pull-up threat from outside the arc. Although he struggled to shoot it efficiently off the bounce in Chapel Hill, White’s mechanics look good, and he should progress well.
The 19-year-old does have his concerns. Chicago likely won’t be building a league-topping defense with White playing significant minutes, and he still needs to develop as a playmaker and facilitator. The good news is this situation should give him space to grow.
8. Hawks – Jaxson Hayes, Center, Texas (proposed trade to the Pelicans)
Hayes is headed to New Orleans as part of the deal that saw Atlanta move up to select De’Andre Hunter at No. 4. The late-blooming Texas project is rated extremely well in numerous draft models thanks to his efficient scoring and how well rim protection translates to the next level. Hayes averaged 3.8 blocks per 40 minutes as a freshman.
The 19-year-old still has a long way to go, though. He’s undersized to play the center position right now and will need to add strength in order to engage in the night in, night out battles the position requires. His offensive game is efficient in large part because he was able to feast on points around the basket.
I had Hayes ranked quite a bit lower than this on my final big board in large part because his development curve may push him past his first franchise and the general abundance of serviceable bigs at the NBA level. That said, it’s hard to ignore the analytics here. Hayes should at least be a useful pro.
In New Orleans, he’ll pair with Zion Williamson to form one of the most athletic frontcourts in the league. The Pelicans also get a bit of a residual bump for the sheer value they received from sliding down in this draft.
9. Wizards – Rui Hachimura, Forward, Gonzaga
Masai Ujiri wouldn’t have let this happen. Hachimura is a prospect who was ranked significantly lower on my big board, and while it seemed clear NBA teams were bigger fans, it still puzzles me as to why.
Here’s the optimistic case for Hachimura – while he’s 21 years old, he’s still learning the game. When he came to Gonzaga from Japan, he barely spoke English. He’s improved every year since then. He’s a plus athlete who wins against defenders using that athleticism and his strength. There’s a chance he develops into a high-level scorer from the power forward spot. He’s also by all accounts a hard worker and high-character guy.
Here’s the problem – Hachimura is already 21 years old. That’s old for a lottery pick these days, and there’s a limited upside that comes with that. FiveThirtyEight’s upside model rates him behind the likes of Josh Reaves, Dylan Windler and noted Fort Wayne star John Konchar.
Hachimura’s feel for the game is lacking. He’s a non-passer, which is a real problem for someone you’re hoping will turn into one of your top scoring options. He struggles defensively, too. It may be that he just hasn’t learned how to play on that end yet, but Gonzaga’s got one of the best coaching staffs in the country. More likely than not, Hachimura’s feel isn’t going to develop. It’s one of those things that doesn’t really get taught.
This is a reach in my book, especially when Washington needs to get things right for the inevitable rebuild that’s coming down the line.
10. Hawks – Cam Reddish, Forward, Duke
After selecting De’Andre Hunter at No. 4, Atlanta snags another combo forward at No. 10. There was a time when Reddish was thought of as the most talented player in this class, but a tough year at Duke behind RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson saw his draft stock slide.
In the late lottery, taking a shot on Reddish is well justified. He probably has one of the highest upsides of players remaining on the board. In his ideal form, Reddish operates as a bit of a point forward using his size to create offense for himself and his teammates. He’s flashed the occasional pull-up jumper and should shoot it well off the catch in the NBA. His defense is also a positive. Reddish impressed on that end as a Blue Devil and should be able to guard multiple positions in the NBA.
The likelihood he finds his way to his best outcome, though, is low. Basically no NBA stars shot worse than 40.0 percent on 2-pointers in college regardless of shot selection. Reddish’s struggles inside the arc are reflective of his overrated athleticism. He shot just 50.0 percent at the rim in non-transition situations, per Hoop-Math. He’s 6-9.
The good news for Atlanta is Reddish’s middling outcome should still be a useful player assuming the jump shot progresses to the point many think it can. Don’t be surprised if he turns into the type of 3-and-D player NBA teams need.
11. Timberwolves – Cameron Johnson, Forward, North Carolina (proposed trade to the Suns)
Well, this is unexpected. Johnson is actually headed to Phoenix along with Dario Saric for the rights to draft Jarrett Culver at No. 6, which begs the question… Did the goats make this pick? Johnson was largely projected as a late first-rounder in most mock drafts.
I actually like Johnson quite a bit. I thought he would be an excellent selection for a team in the early 20s as a player who could come in and help right away. He’s probably the best shooter in the draft, and he has positional size. He’s able to get his jumper off over most defenders. There’s a ton of value in that alone.
But Johnson is also already 23 years old. He’s a limited to non-existent on-ball creator. He’s skinny and almost certain to struggle defensively at the next level. He also has an extensive injury history and had reportedly been flagged by multiple teams for those injury issues. His best case scenario is a 3-and-D combo forward.
Phoenix, a team drastically in need of a point guard, passed up the chance to draft a good one at No. 6 in Coby White in exchange for a fine role player? This selection is frankly awful.
12. Hornets – PJ Washington, Forward, Kentucky
Charlotte selecting a productive college player may be the only thing less surprising than Phoenix making a poor draft decision. Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, Miles Bridges – the Hornets have some history.
Washington is actually a pretty fascinating prospect. Some of the most underrated defensive prospects in recent memory have been combo forwards with lengthy wingspans. Washington’s measured 7-2 at the NBA Draft Combine. He wasn’t elite on that end in college, but there’s arguably some untapped physical potential there.
At worst, Washington should be a valuable rotation player, especially if you believe he can be a spot-up threat from beyond the 3-point line. He shot 42.3 percent from deep as a sophomore on limited attempts, but is just a career 63.2 percent foul shooter.
Charlotte could use some additional help at the power forward spot, and Washington should be just that.
13. Heat – Tyler Herro, Wing, Kentucky
Miami’s roster is lacking star power, so there’s an argument its front office should have taken a bigger swing here in search of a potential steal, but perhaps I’m underselling Herro’s upside.
The 6-6 wing is one of the purest shooters in the class, capable of knocking down jumpers in a variety of ways. Off-movement shooters matter in the NBA, and so do ones who can occasionally connect with their pull-up. While he only shot 35.5 percent from behind the arc at Kentucky, he’s a safe bet to shoot significantly better than that over a larger sample in the pros. Herro has terrific mechanics and made 93.5 percent of his free throws as a freshman. If he can add a bit more playmaking, maybe he’s better than I think.
Herro is going to need his offense to carry the bulk of his NBA value. He’s got a negative wingspan and will almost assuredly be a minus defender. There’s a chance it will, though, and for that reason, this is a slightly above board pick.
14. Celtics – Romeo Langford, Wing, Indiana
Langford is a prospect who was rumored to be slipping throughout the draft process. It seems that was a bit of a ruse, as Boston lands him at the end of the lottery. While the Indiana product isn’t likely to soothe the sorrows of Celtics fans stemming from the likely loss of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, he has the potential to be a productive NBA player.
The 19-year-old struggled with his outside shot in college, making just 27.2 percent of his 3-point attempts. A thumb injury may have contributed to his stumbles. Boston has always been willing to bet on its ability to improve shooters. Langford was able to knock down shots off the bounce in high school and shot better than 70 percent from the foul line in college. Maybe there’s a chance.
The thing to like about Langford is his ability to create offense going downhill. He controls the pace of the game when he’s on the ball and is crafty around the basket, even flashing touch on floaters. If he can develop an efficient jumper, he has the potential to be the total package as a scorer.
I like this risk for the Celtics. They have three first-round picks, they’re facing a retooling of the roster and you can never have too many quality wings.
15. Pistons – Sekou Doumbouya, Forward, France
This is a nice value for the Pistons here just outside the lottery. Doumbouya was widely regarded as a top-10 prospect in this draft heading into Thursday night. He’s one of the youngest players in the class and combines positional size with plus athleticism. There’s a foundation of something interesting here. The dream is that he turns into some version of Pascal Siakam.
Doumbouya likely won’t be ready to contribute right away, so Detroit will need to show some patience in developing him for the long-term. In theory, that shouldn’t be a problem, as the Pistons have Blake Griffin to play the bulk of their power forward minutes.
The 18-year-old is still a risk. There’s a chance he never develops into a valuable player for his first franchise, even if he ultimately pans out. There’s also a reasonable chance he just never turns into an NBA player. The talent value Detroit gets here is a plus, but it’s important to understand the risks involved, especially for a team seemingly concerned with consistently making the playoffs.
16. Magic – Chuma Okeke, Forward, Auburn
Although we don’t have official wingspan measurements for Okeke, it’s pretty tough to imagine a more Orlando pick here at No. 16. In fact, the Magic already have a few positionally similar players on their roster in Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac. The Auburn forward has excellent size and checks the boxes associated with being a valuable 3-and-D player at the next level.
Okeke was a darling of some of the analytics models heading into the draft. He’s a career 38.9 percent 3-point shooter despite only shooting 70.3 percent from the foul line. He might be one of the rare cases of a poor foul shooter who can knock down 3s. He’s limited in the types of shots he can make, but he should be comfortable hitting from the corners.
Defensively, Okeke’s numbers stick out. He averaged 2.5 steals and 1.7 blocks per 40 minutes as a sophomore. He’s got the length to contain perimeter players off the bounce, and he’s strong enough to defend against larger opponents. He should excel defensively in the league.
Had Okeke not torn his ACL in the NCAA Tournament, there’s a reasonable chance he would have been selected higher than this. Given ACL injuries aren’t what they used to be, it’s nice to see the Magic taking a risk in this spot.
17. Nets – Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Wing, Virginia Tech (proposed trade to the Pelicans)
This pick was initially traded to Atlanta as part of a deal to clear Allen Crabbe’s salary, and it was ultimately sent to New Orleans as a piece in the trade for No. 4. This is a necessary addition for the Pelicans after their Anthony Davis package netted no shooters and they selected a pair of frontcourt pieces earlier in the draft.
Alexander-Walker projects to shoot it well from deep. He made 38.3 percent of his 303 college 3-point attempts. He’ll provide some of the floor spacing needed for Zion Williamson to operate in the half court. The Virginia Tech prospect also offers New Orleans some backcourt flexibility. He’s capable of playing both on and off the ball. He should pair well with either Lonzo Ball or Jrue Holiday.
The reason Alexander-Walker didn’t come off the board higher is his lack of athleticism. He lacks the burst necessary to be a primary creator on the offensive end. The 20-year-old should still be a useful player, and he’s landed in a nice situation here. Another excellent move from New Orleans’ new front office.
18. Pacers – Goga Bitadze, Big, Georgia (country)
On face, this seems like an odd selection for a franchise that already has Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on its roster. Perhaps this is Indiana preparing for a future in which both big men aren’t around?
Bitadze was rated by some as the best big man in this draft. He’s a mature offensive player who excels playing out of ball screens, whether it’s rolling to the rim or popping out beyond the 3-point line. He’s even flashed some passing as a short-roll decision-maker. On defense, Bitadze figures to be one of the best rim protectors in this class.
There are a few wings left on the board here, including Nassir Little and Kevin Porter, that may have made more sense from a positional perspective for the Pacers, but Bitadze’s a good player. It’s hard to be mad at them for seeking some flexibility when it comes to sorting out the contracts of their frontcourt.
19. Spurs – Luka Samanic, Big, Croatia
Phoenix making mistakes, Charlotte drafting successful college prospects, Orlando drafting power forwards and the Spurs taking skilled international big men. For all of its chaos, sometimes the NBA Draft brings comfort in its consistency.
Samanic fits a lot of what the Spurs want out of their big men. He can shoot it a little bit and is a smart decision-maker when put into those positions. He should bring quite a bit of value on the offensive end. Defensively, it’s not clear what role Samanic will play at the NBA level, as he’s not a particularly valuable rim protector, and he hasn’t proven he can consistently switch out on the perimeter.
I think this is a little high for Samanic, but it’s clear the Spurs like him. He fits the profile of a player they’d be interested in. Some slight deference goes to San Antonio.
20. Celtics – Matisse Thybulle, Wing, Washington (proposed trade to the 76ers)
The Celtics are sending this selection to Philadelphia in exchange for No. 24 and No. 33 in this year’s draft. The pairing of the 76ers and Thybulle had been a popular one in the lead-up to the draft.
The Washington wing player brings a lot of what Philadelphia needs in its role players to the table. He’s not a lock to shoot it at the NBA level, but he made 35.8 percent of his 3-point attempts in college and shot 85.1 percent from the foul line in his final season. He may not be a particularly diverse shooter off movement. He should still be able to knock down catch-and-shoots, which should be enough to offer the likes of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid space to operate.
Thybulle is also an incredibly disruptive defender, even if he’s not an elite on-ball guy. He averaged an absurd 4.5 steals and 2.9 blocks per 40 minutes as a senior. He’ll provide the 76ers a very valuable help defender.
Philadelphia had to give up a valuable second-rounder in order to move up a few spots to land Thybulle, but given how valuable his archetype is for the team’s particular roster construction, it’s hard to be too mad at the Sixers.
21. Thunder – Brandon Clarke, Forward, Gonzaga (proposed trade to the Grizzlies)
Clarke is being traded to Memphis in a deal for No. 23 and a future second-round pick. So, where do I sign up to hop on the Grizzlies bandwagon? Is there an official “Grit’N’Grind” initiation ritual I need to go through? Do I have to try to score against Tony Allen until I tap out?
Clarke is one of my favorite prospects in this draft. He finished the season as the No. 5 prospect on my draft board. The 22-year-old was talked about as a potential fit with Minnesota at No. 11 – before he measured poorly from a wingspan perspective at the draft combine – because of how well he’d pair with Karl-Anthony Towns. Well, Jaren Jackson Jr. will have to do.
Given Clarke’s lack of a jumper, he needs a shooting big man to keep lineups he plays in from constraining the floor. Jackson should make up for his weakness. Clarke will be free to find the garbage buckets offensively and make plays out of short rolls when needed.
Defensively, the pairing of Clarke and Jackson should be terrifying. They’re arguably the two highest-IQ defenders to come out of the last two drafts. Any opposing player will need to think twice when shooting around the basket. The duo will also allow Memphis to switch consistently.
Considering Memphis gave up less than Philadelphia to move up a similar number of spots – plus the gap between big board position and actual landing spots (and Clarke’s potential upside if he ever develops offensively) – this is an absolute home run for the Grizzlies.
22. Celtics – Grant Williams, Forward, Tennessee
After using No. 20 to maneuver around the board, Boston stays put here and brings together what will likely be another one of my favorite pairings from the first round.
Williams struggled at the NBA Draft Combine’s scrimmages in large part because his game doesn’t translate well in a free-for-all setting. In a more controlled environment, he should thrive. Williams isn’t much of an athlete, but he is one of the smartest players in the draft.
Despite being just 20 years old, Williams is a two-time SEC Player of the Year. He excels as a help defender, uses his strength to outmuscle opponents and is capable of making plays with the ball in his hands offensively. In the NBA, he’ll need to thrive in short rolls rather than the post-ups he got in college.
One of the reasons I was higher on Williams than NBA teams is I’m buying the jump shot, at least in spot-up situations. He only shot 32.6 percent from deep as a junior on limited attempts, but he made 81.9 percent of his free throws and flashed touch from the midrange.
Williams is an excellent bit of value here, and he fits the Celtics. He also comes with a nice little shot at Kyrie Irving.
23. Jazz – Darius Bazley, Forward, N/A (proposed trade to the Thunder)
The Jazz made this selection, but it’s going to Oklahoma City via Memphis as part of the deal for Brandon Clarke at No. 21. Although Clarke is a significantly better prospect than Bazley, it’s hard to punish the Thunder too much given Clarke would have been a miserable fit on Oklahoma City’s limited shooting roster.
Bazley is a player who skipped out on college basketball this season, but he made some strides during the pre-draft process. I’m not the biggest fan from what I’ve seen. Bazley is billed as a versatile forward threat who can shoot it and attack on face-ups. He relies on his jumper a bit too much, and it’s not particularly accurate.
The Thunder like players similar to Bazley – athletes with size – but there are a number of other players I would have taken above him here who I think likely would have provided more value relative to the historic value of this selection. At least Oklahoma City got another second-rounder.
24. 76ers – Ty Jerome, Combo, Virginia (proposed trade to Suns)
Boston acquired this pick from Philadelphia in the Matisse Thybulle deal, and the Celtics are sending it and Aron Baynes to Phoenix for the Bucks’ 2020 first-rounder.
I suppose at least the Suns have prioritized shooting in this draft, landing Cam Johnson at No. 11 and Jerome here. The Virginia guard has the ability to play on or off the ball and should fit well in lineups with Devin Booker as a shooting threat while Booker initiates the offense. It’s tough to imagine Phoenix ever developing a coherent defensive scheme with those two on the floor at the same time, though.
I like Jerome a lot as a rotation piece, even if he likely won’t be a starter at the NBA level. His shooting and high basketball IQ should play well.
25. Trail Blazers – Nassir Little, Forward, North Carolina
Once thought of as a potential top-three pick in this draft, Little slid this far thanks to an uninspiring year at North Carolina. He struggled to fit in there and displayed a noticeable lack of feel for the game.
Still, it’s hard not to think this is an above average No. 25 pick for Portland, especially considering the Trail Blazers could use some help on the wing. Despite his lack of feel, Little possesses good positional size and plays with a high motor. If he can get back to his high school body type, his athleticism should pop a bit more as well.
Little flashed a decent bit of on-ball creation as a high school player and didn’t get to show much of that at North Carolina. Maybe that skill will come back around and turn him into a nice steal for Portland here.
26. Cavaliers – Dylan Windler, Forward, Belmont
Here’s a bit more shooting for Cleveland’s roster under John Beilein. The former Michigan head coach should be able to put Windler’s off-ball movement and knockdown shooting to use. Windler connected on 40.6 percent of his 3-pointers in college.
This is slightly higher than I would have wanted to select Windler. He faces questions about how his athleticism will translate against better players. He largely struggled against the best teams he played in college, seeing his efficiency numbers tumble.
27. Nets – Mfiondu Kabengele, Big, Florida State (proposed trade to the Clippers)
The Nets traded out of this pick by snagging Philadelphia’s 2020 first-rounder and No. 56 in this draft from the Clippers.
Kabengele was a healthy riser during the pre-draft process, although this is even slightly lower than where he was projected to land. It is, however, consistent with where he was ranked on my final big board. The Florida State big man combines outside shooting with rim protection – that’s a unique combination to grab this late in the first round.
There are still plenty of concerns regarding his feel for the game offensively. He doesn’t really pass the ball, for example, compiling just 21 assists in 1,301 minutes of college action. If he can settle into a 3-and-D role as a big man, perhaps that’ll be good enough.
28. Warriors – Jordan Poole, Wing, Michigan
The Warriors are just one season removed from “Swaggy P,” so they had to go snag “Swaggy Poole” to right the ship. The Michigan sophomore is a prospect who bounced in and out of my top 60 throughout the season, and ultimately, I left him off my final list.
Poole definitely has some offensive talent. He can knock down shots, making 37.0 percent of his college 3-point attempts and shooting 83.1 percent from the foul line. He even has the ability to operate on the ball out of some ball screens. His lack of athleticism may prevent him from doing so in the NBA. He’s also an impressively poor defender.
The Warriors could have done better here, especially if they were looking for a player to contribute right away. This is a miss for me.
29. Spurs – Keldon Johnson, Wing, Kentucky
Good at many things, not great at any. Such is the nature of Keldon Johnson.
I thought Johnson had a chance to be a lottery pick when the season started. That was probably based more on his character and work ethic than his actual basketball skill. Johnson lacks the athleticism to be a super impactful offensive player. He’ll likely settle in as a low-usage, off-ball option. He did make 38.1 percent of his 3s this season.
At No. 29, this is still a nice value for the Spurs. Johnson was ranked No. 24 on my final board. He should be a good rotation piece. He’ll knock down shots, compete defensively and hopefully add some value as a straight-line scorer.
30. Bucks – Kevin Porter Jr., Wing, USC (proposed trade to the Cavaliers)
Milwaukee traded this pick to the Pistons in order to shed Tony Snell’s salary, and Detroit turned around and dealt it to Cleveland in exchange for four future second-rounders and some cash. Porter represents a high-variance selection here, but he’s a top-10 talent if he can put everything together.
Porter excels creating his own shot, in particular getting to his stepback jumper and using his strength to power through defenders at the rim. Defensively, he’s rough, and there are off-court questions about his maturity. There remains a reasonable chance he develops into a starter if his offense pans out as it could.
This is a worthwhile risk for Cleveland, and I’m betting he outperforms his draft slot.
NBA Draft picks: Round 2
31. New Jersey Nets – Nic Claxton | Georgia
32. Phoenix Suns (proposed trade to the Heat) – KZ Okpala | Stanford
33. Philadelphia 76ers (proposed trade to the Celtics) – Carsen Edwards | Purdue
34. Philadelphia 76ers – Bruno Fernando | Maryland
35. Atlanta Hawks (proposed trade to the Pelicans) – Marcos Louzada Silva | Brazil
36. Charlotte Hornets – Cody Martin | Nevada
37. Dallas Mavericks – Deividas Sirvydis | Lithuania
38. Chicago Bulls – Daniel Gafford | Arkansas
39. New Orleans Pelicans (proposed trade to the Warriors) – Alen Smailagic | Santa Cruz Warriors
40. Sacramento Kings – Justin James | Wyoming
41. Atlanta Hawks (proposed trade to Warriors) – Eric Paschall | Villanova
42. Philadelphia 76ers (proposed trade to the Wizards) – Admiral Schofield | Tennessee
43. Minnesota Timberwolves – Jaylen Nowell | Washington
44. Atlanta Hawks (proposed trade to the Nuggets) – Bol Bol | Oregon
45. Detroit Pistons – Isaiah Roby | Nebraska
46. Orlando Magic (proposed trade to the Lakers) – Talen Horton-Tucker | Iowa State
47. Sacramento Kings (proposed trade to the Knicks) – Ignas Brazdeikis | Michigan
48. Los Angeles Clippers – Terance Mann | Florida State
49. San Antonio Spurs – Quinndary Weatherspoon | Mississippi State
50. Indiana Pacers (proposed trade to the Jazz) – 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. New York Knicks (proposed trade to the Kings) – Kyle Guy | Virginia
56. Los Angeles Clippers (proposed trade to the Nets) – Jaylen Hands | UCLA
57. New Orleans Pelicans (proposed trade to the Pistons) – Jordan Bone | Tennessee
58. Golden State Warriors (proposed trade to the Jazz) – Miye Oni | Yale
59. Toronto Raptors – Dewan Hernandez | Miami
60. Sacramento Kings – Vanja Marinkovic | Serbia
NFL Shockingly Decides Not to Suspend Chiefs Star Tyreek Hill Following Child Abuse Investigation
In a shocking twist of events, the NFL announced Friday it would not suspend Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill following a four-month investigation into the wide receiver’s family situation.
Hill was under scrutiny for alleged child abuse after an audio recording was leaked to a television station featuring Hill and his fiancee Crystal Espinal discussing aggressive discipline of their child together.
Previously it was reported the Chiefs were “hopeful” that Hill might not be suspended and they were eyeing a max of four games for the wide receiver.
Legal authorities ultimately decided not to charge Hill, although they did say they believe a crime was committed by someone in the matter.
“This office has reviewed all the evidence and has declined to file charges against Tyreek Hill and Crystal Espinal,” Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said. “We are deeply troubled by the situation. We believe a crime has occurred; however, the evidence in this case doesn’t establish who committed a crime.”
The NFL issued a lengthy statement on the situation, noting that no one at the league office can “conclude that Mr. Hill violated the Personal Conduct Policy.” Additionally, the league said that “information developed in the court proceeding is confidential and has not been shared with us.”
In its statement, the league did add that if “further information becomes available” Hill could face a suspension.
Perhaps that could involve a discussion with Espinal? According to a report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the league did not speak with Hill’s fiancee during the course of its investigation.
That’s surprising — the league cannot compel a non-employee to participate in its investigation, but it’s surprising the league would not lean on Hill some to have Espinal speak to the NFL’s investigators.
Here is the league’s statement in full:
Over the past four months, we have conducted a comprehensive investigation of allegations regarding Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Throughout this investigation, the NFL’s primary concern has been the well-being of the child.
Our understanding is that the child is safe and that the child’s ongoing care is being directed and monitored by the Johnson County District Court and the Johnson County Department for Children and Families.
In conducting our investigation, we have taken great care to ensure that we do not interfere with the county’s proceedings or compromise the privacy or welfare of the child in any way.
The information developed in the court proceeding is confidential and has not been shared with us, and the court has sealed all law enforcement records. Local law enforcement authorities have publicly advised that the available evidence does not permit them to determine who caused the child’s injuries.
Similarly, based on the evidence presently available, the NFL cannot conclude that Mr. Hill violated the Personal Conduct Policy.
Accordingly, he may attend Kansas City’s training camp and participate in all club activities. He has been and will continue to be subject to conditions set forth by the District Court, Commissioner Goodell, and the Chiefs, which include clinical evaluation and therapeutic intervention.
If further information becomes available through law enforcement, the pending court proceeding, or other sources, we will promptly consider it and take all appropriate steps at that time.
Obviously the safety and well being of the child is the No. 1 concern here, but Hill is one of the best players in football and a unique talent, and this suspension — or lack thereof — does affect Hill and the Chiefs from a pure football standpoint.
On the field
From a football standpoint, getting Hill back for the entire season is a massive win for Kansas City. The Chiefs lost Kareem Hunt last year after they released the running back in the wake of video, emerging when TMZ uncovered it, showing Hunt assaulting a woman in a hotel hallway.
A few months ago it felt as if Hill could suffer a similar fate as it relates to the Chiefs roster.
Now he’s going to play the entire year barring new evidence popping up, and it means the Chiefs will be as close as possible to full speed offensively.
Hill changes how teams game-plan against the Chiefs, and he’s a matchup nightmare. Patrick Mahomes’ odds of repeating as MVP only increase with this news.
It looked like the Chiefs might enter Week 1 with Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson and 2019 second-round pick Mecole Hardman as their top receivers on the depth chart, assuming Hill was missing due to a suspension. With the news that Hill is back, the Chiefs offense looks loaded again. Watkins is a great second wide receiver option, and with Hill and Travis Kelce on the field as well as Damien Williams in the backfield, Mahomes and KC will be an offensive force to be reckoned with.
The Chiefs were already the favorites to win the AFC West, but a lot of people were getting on board the Chargers bandwagon. Expect that to flip back some. The regression chatter with Mahomes should slow down as well if he gets a full season of Hill.
Throwing for 5,000 passing yards and 50 passing touchdowns is not the most likely scenario, simply because of how difficult it is to actually produce back to back seasons like that, but Hill makes those lofty totals much more achievable.
Hill is now a first-round pick in fantasy, according to Heath Cummings. Heath pegs Hill as early as the fifth overall pick in a PPR league and a late first-round pick in non PPR leagues. The diminutive wide receiver was going as late as the fourth round in recent drafts, with uncertainty about his future playing a key role in people not wanting to invest in him as a high pick. The prevailing logic had Hill facing somewhere between a four- and six-game suspension, but now that he’s in the clear, he should be expected to produce something similar to last year’s 1,479-yard season.
Hill and the Chiefs were, by all accounts, getting pretty close on a new mega extension for the wide receiver in the wake of his All-Pro season in 2018. However, according to a report from James Palmer of NFL Media, it is going to be “several weeks, if not months” before the two sides start talking again. Any new deal, per Palmer, would likely “have some very specific language within it” relating to Hill’s off-field actions. Any sort of massive deal that the wideout gets — and he’ll get one, because ultimately talent wins out in the NFL — would ostensibly have outs for the Chiefs if Hill violates the Personal Conduct Policy.
It would be exceptionally odd of the Chiefs to storm forward with contract talks. They can still utilize the franchise tag on Hill and let things play out with his court situation and with the NFL before agreeing to commit a large degree of financial investment to the wideout.
U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Win 2019 World Cup Over the Netherlands in 2-0 Final
The U.S. women’s national soccer team proved their dominance at the 2019 Women’s World Cup by defeating the Netherlands 2-0 on Sunday in the championship match.
The victory in Lyon, France — capping an unrivaled run and capturing the world’s attention — marks both the fourth world title and back-to-back wins for the U.S. women after taking home the trophy in 1991, 1999 and 2015.
The first half of the game went scoreless, with co-captain Megan Rapinoe earning the first goal of the game with a penalty kick at the 61-minute mark. Just before the 69-minute mark, midfielder Rose Lavelle, 24, scored the second goal.
“It’s surreal,” Rapinoe, 34, said after the win. “I don’t know how to feel right now. It’s ridiculous.”
Following the victory, Rapinoe was awarded the Golden Boot for the most goals scored in the shortest amount of time.
Rapinoe and teammate Alex Morgan both scored six goals and had three assists, but Rapinoe’s goals were scored in 394 minutes compared to Morgan’s 445 minutes, the BBC reported.
After Sunday’s win, the internet exploded with praise for the U.S. Women’s National Team.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulated them with a tweet, as well as first lady Melania Trump and tennis star Billie Jean King, who added a call for the women to receive equal pay to their male counterparts.
“It is long past time to pay them what they rightly deserve,” King wrote.
Congratulations to the #USWNT on their 4th World Cup win! These athletes have brought more attention, support, & pride to women’s sport than perhaps any other team in history. It is long past time to pay them what they rightly deserve. 🇺🇸🏆🏆🏆🏆 #USAvNED #WorldCupfinal #EqualPay
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) July 7, 2019
Congratulations to 2019 Women’s World Cup Champions @TeamUSA! ⚽️🇺🇸
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) July 7, 2019
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) July 7, 2019
Yes! Fourth star. Back to back. Congrats to the record breakers on the @USWNT, an incredible team that’s always pushing themselves—and the rest of us—to be even better. Love this team. #OneNationOneTeam
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) July 7, 2019
We will be watching! Go USA! https://t.co/YV0w7cG5KW
— Mia Hamm (@MiaHamm) July 7, 2019
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) July 7, 2019
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that a parade would be held on Wednesday for the women’s team.
The U.S. women’s national team roared onto the field during the group stage of the World Cup, defeating Thailand, 13-0. They continued to trounce their competitors throughout the games in France.
The win comes after a season that was marked by increasing visibility of LGBTQ athletes, controversy, calls for equal pay, and public battles against President Donald Trump.
In June, Rapinoe said in a recorded interview that she would decline to visit the White House if invited by Trump. In a video clip shared on social media, Rapinoe told a reporter, “I’m not going to the f—ing White House.”
— Team USA (@TeamUSA) July 7, 2019
— Team USA (@TeamUSA) July 7, 2019
She added that Trump doesn’t invite teams he knows will decline or “like he did when the Warriors turned him down, he’ll claim they hadn’t been invited in the first place.”
Trump later responded in a series of tweets, saying he would invite the women’s team win or lose, but adding a rebuke for Rapinoe.
“I am a big fan of the American Team, and Women’s Soccer, but Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!” Trump wrote.
Rapinoe later accepted a Twitter invitation from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to visit the U.S. House of Representatives.
“It may not be the White House, but we’d be happy to welcome @mPinoe & the entire #USWMNT for a tour of the House of Representatives anytime they’d like,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Two hours later, Rapinoe replied to the tweet, accepting the invitation.
The U.S. women’s team not only stirred up drama off the field, but also on it. The high-scoring game against Thailand led some to criticize how they ran up the score and appeared arrogant by celebrating too much.
NBA Summer League 2019: Las Vegas Summer League Day 1 Recap
The Las Vegas Summer League was kicked off with 10 games of action!
There was plenty to unwrap as the first day of the Vegas Summer League did not disappoint.
Zion Williamson’s debut was filled with thunderous dunks but Frank Jackson stole the show. Tyler Herro continued his high level of play and Dwayne Bacon showed his ability to score the rock.
The back end of the schedule was postponed due to an earthquake in the arena, but there was still plenty of basketball played throughout the day.
For all other action, we had you covered below!
Detroit Pistons 96, Croatia 80
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) July 5, 2019
Pistons: Khyri Thomas – 26 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists
Croatia: Zeljko Sakic – 17 points, 5 rebounds
Former Creighton star and No. 38 pick of the 2018 NBA Draft Khyri Thomas aws the best player on the floor in this one, going for a game-high 26 points with seven made 3-pointers.
Philadelphia 76ers 107, Milwaukee Bucks 106
— NBA (@NBA) July 5, 2019
76ers: Marial Shayok – 19 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist
Bucks: Jock Landale – 25 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Canadian rookie Marial Shayok led a balanced scoring attack for the 76ers, who had six players score in double figures. Jock Landale was the best player on the floor, making things difficult for the 76ers’ defence.
Minnesota Timberwolves 85, Cleveland Cavaliers 75
Marial Shayok: 19 PTS, 3 3PM
Jalen Jones: 16 PTS, 5 REB
Shake Milton: 15 PTS, 7 AST
Norvel Pelle: 12 PTS, 7 REB
Zhaire Smith: 10 PTS, 5 AST pic.twitter.com/l8flxRSsJ8
— NBA (@NBA) July 5, 2019
Timberwolves: Josh Okogie – 14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal
Cavaliers: Dylan Windler – 15 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists
Josh Okogie’s efforts on both ends of the floor helped the Timberwolves earn the victory. Cavaliers’ first round pick Dylan Windler – who impressed during his time at the Salt Lake City Summer League – was at it again with 15 points and eight boards but shot 1-for-5 from beyond the arc.
Miami Heat 103, China 62
— NBA Draft (@NBADraft) July 6, 2019
Heat: Tyler Herro – 23 points, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 rebounds
China: Zhelin Wang – 12 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists
Tyler Herro was the standout player at the California Classic and he kept that going in Day 1 of the Vegas Summer League. He scored 23 points shooting 44.4% from beyond the arc with a couple of smooth assists.
Dallas Mavericks 96, Brooklyn Nets 92
Nick Mayo: 20 PTS, 3 AST
Kendrick Nunn: 15 PTS, 6 REB, 4 AST
Duncan Robinson: 14 PTS, 4 3PM pic.twitter.com/LrrdkoEfIE
— NBA (@NBA) July 6, 2019
Mavericks: Antonius Cleveland – 22 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Nets: Jarrett Allen – 19 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks
The Mavericks edged the experienced Nets squad behind a big game from Antonius Cleveland, the G Leaguer who went undrafted out of Southeast Missouri State University in 2017. Cleveland’s 22 points led all scorers, giving the Mavericks the win despite a solid performance from Nets’ starting centre Jarrett Allen.
Chicago Bulls 96, Los Angeles Lakers 76
— NBA TV (@NBATV) July 6, 2019
Bulls: Daniel Gafford – 21 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Lakers: Zach Norvell Jr. – 15 points, 5 assists, 1 steal
Daniel Gafford – the No. 38 overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft out of Arkansas – dominated on both ends of the floor. His 21 points came on a near-perfect 9-for-10 shooting from the field. First round pick Coby White also had a solid showing in his debut, going for 17 points and three assists.
Charlotte Hornets 93, Golden State Warriors 85
— NBA TV (@NBATV) July 6, 2019
Hornets: Dwayne Bacon – 25 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists
Warriors: Eric Paschall – 12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists
Dwayne Bacon ended the season strong and he carried that into the start of Summer League. The No. 40 overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft was getting buckets, going for a game-high 25 points going 9-for-20 from the field and 3-for-9 from beyond the arc.
New Orleans Pelicans 80, New York Knicks 74 – Postponed during 3Q
— NBA (@NBA) July 6, 2019
Pelicans: Frank Jackson – 30 points, 3 rebounds
Knicks: Alonzo Trier – 21 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists
Zion Williamson: 11 points (4-9 FG, 0-2 3PT, 3-6 FT), 3 rebounds, 1 steal
RJ Barrett: 10 points (4-18 FG, 1-8 3PT, 1-4 FT), 5 rebounds, 1 assist
This game produced plenty of highlights – from Zion Williamson ripping the ball out of Kevin Knox’s hands for a thunderous jam…
— NBA (@NBA) July 6, 2019
To Mitchell Robinson’s electric alley-oops…
— NBA (@NBA) July 6, 2019
But unfortunately, the game was cut short due to an earthquake and the remainder of games at the Thomas & Mack Center have been postponed until further notice.
Orlando Magic 75, San Antonio Spurs 59 – Postponed during 3Q
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) July 6, 2019
Magic: Erik McCree – 16 points (6-11 FG), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block
Spurs: Lonnie Walker IV – 28 points (11-17 FG), 2 rebounds, and 1 steal.
Despite a scoring burst from Lonnie Walker (28 points in 24 minutes), the 18th overall pick in 2018, the Magic led by 16 at the end of the third before the game was suspended for precautionary earthquake-realted reasons.
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