I won’t even rap y’all up on the intro. I'm just going to praise the Pelicans, Grizzlies, Hawks, Suns, Trail Blazers and Heat for owning the night. Done. Enjoy.
1. New Orleans Pelicans — Fr. F Zion Williamson, Duke 6-7, 285lb 22.6p, 9r, 68%, 33.8% (64% FT)
Consensus All-American, Wooden Award, Naismith Award, '19 ACC POY, ‘19 All-ACC, ACC All Defense
With a simple wardrobe choice, Zion reminded us of the 2003 NBA Draft, the last time a commissioner officially introduced such a meteoric talent to the league. Williamson has been the presumptive #1 overall pick since winter, a status that usually comes with a shy arrogance. The 19-year-old wrecking ball went through the motions, accepting his christening as the league’s next star, before succumbing to his Emotions, exhibiting his keen humility. That shows a lot about what this game means to him, and it'll go a long way in NO. In Zion, and with the plethora of players, assets and flexibility they earned by trading star Anthony Davis, the Pelicans might be the new wave. If he develops a lil fade away, good luck.
2. Memphis Grizzlies — So. G Ja Morant, Murray State 6-3, 175lb 24.5p, 10a, 5.7r, 50%, 36.3%
Consensus All-American, ‘19 OVC POY, ‘19 All-OVC
As high as we are on Williamson, he might not even be the best player invited to the green room. Murray State’s Ja Morant, the electric, savvy point guard was just handed the keys to the court. Barely 24 hours before the draft, Memphis traded away franchise point guard Mike Conley for Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder and two first-round picks, giving the team veteran depth and Ja some weapons. Forward Jaren Jackson is fresh off an All-Rookie year, and look for his production to skyrocket after adding an eager play-maker like Morant. My early pick for Rookie of the Year.
3. New York Knicks — Fr. G/F RJ Barrett, Duke 6-7, 202lb 22.6p, 7.6r, 4.3a, 45.4%, 30.8%
Consensus All-American, ‘19 All-ACC
Knicks fans, this might be the one. A lefty with an incredible will to get to the rack, Barrett plays a game that can appease the New York fanbase. Barrett played at Duke with Williamson, who out-dives his own teammates for loose balls. In the six games without the first overall pick, Barrett averaged 26 points and 8.2 rebounds and shot better from the field (but worse from three), showcasing his abilities in the open court. He isn't the best shooter but I feel that with his mechanics, that’ll come with time. Meanwhile I’m sure he (or NYC) doesn’t mind getting to the rack. It'll be interesting watching the growth of this young back court of Barrett, Dennis Smith Jr. and Alonzo Trier together.
4. Atlanta Hawks (Frm LAL via NOP) — So. G De’Andre Hunter, UVA 6-7, 225lb, 15.2p, 5r, 52%, 43.8%
NCAA Champ, '19 All-ACC, '19 ACC DPOY, ACC All Defense
We know he plays winning basketball, as evidenced by a Final Four run to the title. We know he plays defense like he should. What we don’t know is if his offensive game will evolve enough to keep him on the floor when you need to score. ROY finalist Trae Young, sniper Kevin Huerter and athletic P&R monster John Collins will present the Hawks with enough offense to make up for Hunter’s learning curve. The fourth-best prospect in this draft might be the second-best rookie on his team this year. This is a young team to watch closely.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers — Fr. G Darius Garland, Vanderbilt 6-2, 175lb 16.2p, 2.6a, 53.7%, 47.8%
Injured five games into his freshman year (torn left meniscus)
Remember what I’m about to say: Darius Garland is a problem, and barring injury, will be for a long time. The #1 point guard prospect from a year ago chose his hometown Vandy, then scored 19.8 points on 53% FG & 48% 3pt shooting in four games before he tore his meniscus. Garland is a score-first point guard, with a feel for the game that rivals Ja Morant’s. First-year head coach John Beilein appreciates the scoring point guard. Now he has two.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves (from PHX) — So. G Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech 6-5, 195lb 18.5p, 6.4r, 46%, 30.4%
Consensus All American, ‘19 Big 12 POY, ‘19 All-Big 12
I’ll be honest, during the year, I wasn’t convinced of Jarrett Culver’s talent, and therefore, hype. Not once did he jump off my screen, but in watching interviews and film, I learned I wasn’t watching the right games. At just 6-5, Culver’s 30.4% 3pt shooting and decision making (3.7apg, 2.7 turnovers a game) will need improvement before he can command the respect that his defensive approach and offensive talent deserve. Minnesota traded away Dario Saric and the #11 pick, and it feels like more roster changes are on the way. Look for them to move Andrew Wiggins this summer, creating that needed window of opportunity for Culver.
7. Chicago Bulls — Fr. G Coby White, UNC 6-5, 185lb 16p, 4a, 3.5r, 42% 35.3%
Like Culver, I needed time to appreciate Coby White’s game. Took me awhile to ignore the fro’. A 6-5 combo guard, White turned up when his team needed. In a ten-game stretch entering March, White was dropping 19.4 ppg whole shooting 40.5% from behind the arc, making him the scoring guard Chicago has missed since Tom Thibodeau and Derrick Rose. He's still young, but I see White as a career combo guard who can contribute to a winning team.
8. New Orleans Pelicans (from ATL) — Fr. C Jaxson Hayes, Texas 6-11, 220lb 10p, 5r, 72.8%
'19 All-Big 12, '19 Big 12 All-Defense
When you barter off a franchise cornerstone who is among the top five players in the world, you better have won that deal. With the initial acquisition of Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and this year’s #4 overall, it’d already seemed like Pelicans GM David Griffin did that. With Zion and now Hayes, New Orleans now has their front court pillars. The latter can step in and block a couple shots a night immediately, but he’ll need some G-League grooming and a healthy dose of push-ups if he’s to reach his potential. The Pelicans have one of those young, dangerous mobs as well, and should chase the tail end of the Western Conference playoffs within a couple years.
9. Washington Wizards — Jr. F Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga 6-8, 230lb 19.7p, 6.5r, 59%, 42%
'19 WCC POY, '19 All-WCC
The Wizards don’t care what you think. They went into the draft without an official GM, and left it with a player they never met or spoke to. Don’t panic, #DCFamily, we think you’ll love his game. With his mid-range game and size, Hachimura gives coach Scott Brooks a malleable forward who can play a true swingman 3 or a stretch 4. He’s one of the older players in the draft pool, but he does need some more refining. Lateral quickness and toughness are where his game lacks, and being that those are tangible and intangible traits, respectively, the verdict is still out on what he can do. Troy Brown, Jr’s approval ratings shot up at the end of last year, at least give Rui a shot. He won’t disappoint.
10. Atlanta Hawks — Fr. F Cam Reddish, Duke 6-8, 218lb 13.5p, 35.6%, 33.3%
Cam I am. STEAL. It looks like the top eight teams in the draft fell victim to the smoking mirrors of Cam Reddish’ freshman year. One, he played alongside the top two players in the nation, hurting his touches and at times, hindering his confidence. He had a ten-game stretch where he scored 10 ppg, shooting 28% from the field and 24% from deep, so I understand the concern. He also has a well-aged offensive game that can translate to the league tomorrow. I have said on the show that he's a future All-Star, and I stand by that claim. Cam Reddish and Trae Young sound like a scary duo to guard moving forward. Like I said, this is a young team to watch closely.
Last night’s draft was top-heavy, but the bottom is filled with potential starters and rotation guys. The first three prospects can change a franchise, but it gets a little hazy after that. There are players with special abilities who had their seasons cut short by injuries. Guys who were out shined by superstars or a rigid upperclassman rotation. The draft must go on after the tenth pick, so here are some more hoopers to look out for. These guys either have the talent or the intangibles to enjoy lengthy NBA careers.
11. Phoenix Suns (from MIN) — 5y Sr. G Cameron Johnson, UNC 6-9, 210lb 17p, 6r, 50.6%, 45.7%
GREAT MOVE PHOENIX. In his first draft as signal-caller, James Jones has impressed, but don’t let Twitter tell you. Johnson, a 23-year-old, is a rare draftee: he’s “old”. I’d call him “experienced,” or “mature”. Phoenix might have a younger core, but for a playoff team, Johnson is an immediate plug-and-play rookie. Look for him to be a 50-40-90 guy.
14. Boston Celtics (from SAC via PHI) — Fr. G Romeo Langford, Indiana 6-6, 215lb 16.5p, 5.4r, 44.8%, 27.2%
'19 All-Big 10
For a franchise who could lose two All-Stars in one summer, GM Danny Ainge might just have to start using his draft picks. With their first, they addressed the void Kyrie’s departure would fill. Langford might be the most dynamic scorer in this class, with the size and repertoire to get to any spot he wants. With the strong wing players in Boston, Langford can grow into his role without tooooo much pressure.
24. Phoenix Suns (from PHI) — Jr. G Ty Jerome UVA 6-5, 195lb 13.6p, 5.5a, 4.2r, 43.5%, 40%
2x All-ACC, NCAA Champ
Jerome is a tall, lanky point guard who plays a beautiful game. Along with Morant and Garland, Jerome helps make up a trio of guards who can come in and, because of their calm, patient pace, immediately control the fluidity of their offense. Jerome always seems to make the right play, evidenced by his nation-leading 3.3 ast-to-turnover ratio.
25. Portland Trailblazers — Fr. F Nassir Little, UNC 6-6, 220lb 9.8p, 4.6r 47.8%, 27%
Consensus top 3 incoming freshman
The rich just got richer with this one. After bowing out of the Western Conference Finals, Portland found a top-5 talent with the 25th pick. UNC Coach Roy Williams has heard criticism aimed at his rotations, which are upperclassman-heavy (especially in the front-court). Little, coming off a HS career that’s as decorated as anyone's (including Williamson's), was just the most recent victim of the Tar Heel way. Immediate impact + a chip on his shoulder should equal a much needed wing scorer for Portland. Look for him to make an immediate impact.
30. Detroit Pistons (from MIL) — Fr. G Kevin Porter Jr., USC 6-6, 218lb 9.5p, 1.4a, 4r, 47%, 41%
Started four out of 21 games played
Detroit needs perimeter scoring, and although Porter couldn’t crack the starting rotation as a freshman, his talent with the rock is undeniable.
34. Philadelphia 76ers — So. C Bruno Fernando, UMD 6-10, 240lb 13.6p, 10.6r, 1.9bl, 60.7%
'19 All-Big 10, Big 10 All Defense
Bruno Fernando took a slight fall into the second round, but that's relative to most popular mock drafts. The athletic big can and will be a formidable backup to star Joel Embiid. He has an imposing defensive presence and a post game that’ll improve with time.
44. Miami Heat — Fr. C Bol Bol, Oregon 7-2, 235lb 21p, 9.6r, 2.7b, 56%, 52%
Injured nine games into his freshman year (stress fracture in left foot)
The only way I’d understand this is if the league found out his injury & work ethic is worse than initially reported. My confusion is simple: how does a 7-foot-2, 52%-3pt-shooting, hooping unicorn fall THIRTY spots out of the lottery??? Honestly, his body language looked more discouraged than motivated, but I always said, if Bol 2x can stay healthy and get a little stronger, aw man. Good luck.
It's interesting to think that two of the three players I was highest on (for the Wizards to draft at #9) — Cam Reddish and Bol Bol — will be playing in the same South Eastern Division that Washington competes in. We'll be reminded of the GM-less draft four times a year. Hope you're ready for Summer League. Rui Hachimura should be fun to watch alongside Troy Brown Jr., Thomas Bryant and this year's second rounder Admiral Schofield. Free Agency's cool too, but the Summer League tho....