The 2019 NBA Draft was definitely one to remember considering all of the major trades leading up to it, the milestones created, viral videos of pure emotion/excitement and of course the extraordinary talent this draft class has to offer. While the NBA is a strict business, the NBA draft brings out true emotion and the best of all of us. Seeing the raw emotion of so many players getting selected was heartwarming to say the least. Players endlessly and tirelessly put in countless hours of hard work to earn their moment (if you weren’t happy seeing RJ Barrett and his father crying tears of joy after Barrett was selected by the Knicks, I don’t what will make you happy). However, every draft has its figurative winners and losers. Without further ado, here are some of the winners, losers, and those in between for the 2019 NBA Draft.
Winner: Rui Hachimura
Whether it was the pure emotion of Zion Williamson, the excitement of Coby White finding out his college teammate Cam Johnson being drafted, Rui Hachimura being drafted was another one of those moments that was bigger than basketball. For those of you that don’t know, Rui Hachimura is the first ever Japanese player to be selected in the first round. The Japanese media couldn’t be more excited for Hachimura and Hachimura will definitely be inspiring to so many worldwide. However, the former Gonzaga forward shouldn’t be looked at differently when it comes to his skills on the basketball court. Hachimura is an extremely talented player and his nationality should not overshadow his play on the court. He was a top ten pick for a reason. Yet again, this was a milestone that will go down in history and the 6’8” forward who is already breaking records will have an entire passionate nation behind him when he begins his professional career in Washington.
Winner: New Orleans Pelicans
There’s no doubt the Pelicans were the biggest winners of the night. Not only were they the biggest winners of the NBA draft, I think they are the biggest winners of the offseason so far. Yes, their original superstar Anthony Davis left them but the Pelicans completely maximized all the talent they could get considering they had no choice to trade Davis. As the Pelicans beat writer Andrew Lopez tweeted out, Anthony Davis led the Pelicans to Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, the 2019 8th pick (more to come), the 2019 17th pick (more to come), the 2019 35th pick (more to come), a 2021 top 8 protected pick (or 2022), swapping picks in 2023 and finally the Lakers’ first pick in either 2024 or 2025 (in addition to getting rid of Solomon Hill’s contract). Not only did they make the most out of the Anthony Davis trade, they made the most out of draft night too. With a 6 percent chance to win the first pick, the Pelicans somehow won the draft lottery and obviously people will point to them as winners for simply taking Zion Williamson with the 1st pick. What NBA fans don’t realize yet is that the Pelicans did so much more than that on draft night and the Pelicans did so much even before the draft to put them into a great position. Selecting the lengthy Jaxson Hayes with the 8th pick will certainly help the Pelicans on the defensive end and selecting Nickeil Alexander-Walker will certainly help them on the offensive end. The Pelicans now have a team with a ton of talent/depth with 30 million dollars to spend in free agency this summer and the luxury of having 11 second round picks in the next four years. The Pelicans have been more than just winners this offseason.
Winner: Chicago Bulls
The Bulls had a tough draw in the lottery this year as their 4th best odds of winning the 1st overall pick turned into sliding down to the 7th draft pick slot for the third year in a row. In spite of that, the Bulls still had a very successful draft night. The Bulls needed a point guard and former University of North Carolina guard Coby White slid down to number 7. With Kris Dunn likely turning into the sixth man, Coby White should be the point guard of the future in Chicago. Coby White and Zach Lavine will be a very high scoring backcourt in a starting lineup with all lottery picks. White can play well at an exceptionally fast speed and has a strong frame. At 6’5” (no, this does not include his hair he has been growing out since his freshman year of high school), he can guard multiple positions and is a very solid ball handler who has shown glimpses of elite playmaking ability. Whenever he finds a rhythm with his shooting stroke, you better watch out because he can shoot the lights out and score at a very high volume. There’s definitely a lot of room for improvement, but the concerns about White right now should be fixed relatively soon. Many Bulls fans will agree that this was the missing piece the team needed. Hold on, Chicago’s night didn’t end right there though. The front office in Chicago has shown its tendency to overlook second round picks. They have sent away potential second round picks in basically worthless trades and the front office even held a press conference during the second round last year. The Bulls kept their second round pick this year though and they used it very well, taking 6’11” former University of Arkansas big man Daniel Gafford with the 38th overall pick. Gafford is a freakishly athletic talent who should provide another solid contributor off the bench. If coach Jim Boylen wants to play fast, it looks like the team has been constructed to do it. After two years where the Bulls plummeted to the bottom of the standings, the Bulls have a genuine chance to return to the playoffs in the 2019-2020 season. General Manager Gar Forman and Vice President John Paxson have received a ton of criticism these past couple years (some fans even going as far as to building a #FireGarPax billboard), but they did a great job Thursday night and look to further improve Chicago’s offseason with 18.5 million dollars to spend in free agency.
Winner: Atlanta Hawks
Have you ever played the Association mode in NBA2K and with every draft pick you take, you select the player with the most potential? Through the trade market and the NBA draft, the Atlanta Hawks scrolled over to the “potential” column and pressed the Y-button to filter the players with the most potential. With an exceptionally young roster, the Hawks have provided a ton of young talent to put together a promising core around future superstar Trae Young. Atlanta wisely moved up in the draft, acquiring the highly talented De’Andre Hunter out of Virginia with the 4th pick. Six picks later, they took a big-time player in Cam Reddish out of Duke, arguably a player that would go in the top 5 any other year. As many Duke fans and NBA fans will tell you, we didn’t see all the potential Reddish had considering he was overshadowed by top 3 picks Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. John Collins and Kevin Huerter add a great amount of potential to pair with these draft picks as well. With some great veteran leadership from future Hall of Famer Vince Carter, count on the Hawks speeding up their rebuild and being a contender in the Eastern Conference before we know it. Atlanta fans, the future has never looked brighter.
Winner: Memphis Grizzlies
Just like the Pelicans, the Grizzlies had maybe the best draft they ever had and made positive acquisitions leading up to the draft. It’s a new era in Memphis. As most of you probably know, the Grizzlies took Ja Morant with the second overall pick. Morant is a generational talent who would get so much more attention and hype around his name if it wasn’t for Zion Williamson. One of the most electric players in college last season at Murray State, he led the nation in assists, scored at an extremely high volume (scoring in many different ways) and showed basketball fans how he could completely change an NBA franchise for the better. It would have been nice for Morant to play with and learn from star veteran Mike Conley, but the bright side with him leaving is that Morant is given the keys to the franchise driver seat altogether. Speaking of Mike Conley, it was almost inevitable he was leaving the Grizzlies and Memphis made the most out of his absence by sending away Conley for a very underrated and solid two way player in Jae Crowder, veteran sharpshooter Kyle Korver, promising young talent in Grayson Allen, a future first round pick and the 2019 21st pick (more to come on that pick). Back to Morant, he is so much more than just a consolation prize (for Zion Williamson) and he should spark a bright future in Memphis. Now, don’t forget about the next pick Memphis made. Overshadowed by Morant, Memphis made one of the best picks in the draft by taking former Gonzaga forward Brandon Clarke with the 21st pick (pick was sent by the Oklahoma City Thunder). Clarke was supposed to be a lottery pick but he somehow slid down to the 21st pick. According to the ESPN NBA Draft Projections, Brandon Clarke has the third best chance in this draft class of being an All-Star. Not only was Memphis taking the best player available with this selection, they were also taking an exceptionally talented/athletic prospect who fits the needs of their team. The likes of Tony Allen, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol (among many others) are no longer leading the era of “Grit and Grind” but this new beginning with players like Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas, Jae Crowder, Brandon Clarke and others should lead to a very bright future in Memphis.
In the Middle: Bol Bol
Many of you are probably thinking that Bol Bol should go in the “loser” section considering he somehow slid down all the way to the 44th pick. While him unexpectedly falling that far down in the draft was hard to watch, the end result will actually benefit him. Sure, you can see him slide to the second round and chalk it up as a loss without thinking, but when you look beneath the surface this was actually a blessing in disguise (in my opinion, he is a “winner”). Joining the Denver Nuggets, this is a team who has embraced the freshmen redshirt year as their last pick was Michael Porter Jr. in a situation very similar to Bol Bol. Bol Bol is somewhat of a raw prospect with injury concerns but he is a very talented prospect nonetheless. Considering he was known as top five talent way before the 2019 NBA Draft, it’s crazy to think he would drop that far in the draft. There’s no doubt he’s way too good to be taken that late in the draft and he definitely knows that. He’s coming into the league with the right mindset as he said “I just want to prove everyone wrong and come out and be the best player I can be.” This draft will only serve as motivation and add fuel to the fire for Bol Bol. If that isn’t enough to prove he’s a winner, he’s playing with two of the best big men in the league (Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap) who were also second round overlooked draft picks. Mason Plumlee has only one more year left on his contract with the Nuggets and Bol Bol should fit very well with Denver on both ends of the floor.
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In the Middle: Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are in a very interesting position right now and the next couple weeks of the offseason will probably make or break the trajectory of their franchise. The Celtics had a solid NBA Draft but the signs are indicating that they are on the verge of a disastrous offseason. In the draft, the Celtics tried to be very aggressive by trading up for Darius Garland with the 5th pick. The Celtics did not acquire the 5th pick, but they still were very successful in the draft. With their pick, they took a good risk with the promising 19 year old Romeo Langford. Langford could realistically put up All-Star numbers in a couple years. With two more picks in the draft at number 22 and number 33, they took solid college upperclassmen with former Wooden Award candidates Grant Williams (out of Tennessee) and Carsen Edwards (out of Purdue). Both of these guys are NBA ready prospects who will provide immediate value and contribution to the Celtics. For more on Carsen Edwards, I wrote an article this week about him before the draft titled “Why Carsen Edwards Could Be One Of The Best Picks In the 2019 NBA Draft.” While the Celtics probably couldn’t have had much better of a night in the NBA Draft, their offseason looks like it is in shambles right now. There were multiple times during the regular season when the team chemistry was visibly terrible on the court and behind the scenes. During the regular season and during their second round loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Celtics were clearly dysfunctional from a leadership standpoint and as a team. There was a lot of negative drama associated with the Celtics and this offseason the negative drama has escalated. There have been plenty of reports that Kyrie has ghosted the Celtics and it looks like Al Horford and Terry Rozier will be leaving Boston this offseason as well. One of the few guys who actually wanted to stay in Boston was Aron Baynes. While Aron Baynes was probably not apart of their future core, the defensive numbers were better for the Celtics were better when he was on the court and as I mentioned he actually did want to stay. Brad Stevens knows the talent in the state of Indiana and he made great selections with Edwards and Langford. He knew he took a steal in Grant Williams with that last first round pick. However, this was when the Celtics were supposed to be in their prime. They had more draft assets and more draft picks than probably every other team at one point but instead of finding more stars in free agency, they kept too many picks/assets and that could hurt them. Maybe Kyrie Irving stays and the Celtics will find a way to maximize this offseason and finally start a potential dynasty. As great as that sounds, it’s just as likely that the team falls apart and the Celtics enter a nightmare they never wanted to see.
In the Middle: Kansas University Basketball
One of the bluebloods of college basketball, Kansas usually puts great talent in the NBA draft. Kansas was on one of the longest streaks in basketball for having a player from their school get drafted. Since 2010, at least one player from Kansas has been taken in the draft. Despite of great players in Dedric Lawson and Lagerald Vick, Kansas ended that streak this year. Kansas fans should appreciate the streak they had however. This wasn’t their only streak that ended this year as their incredible run of Big 12 championships ended as well. However, this is definitely not the end of any success for the program itself. First of all, Devon Dotson could have stayed in this draft after declaring and he would probably would have been taken in the second round. Staying at Kansas, Dotson will return to a team that looks like they could be the preseason best ranked team in the country. The expectations will be sky-high for Kansas next year and they have nothing to be ashamed of.
Loser: Phoenix Suns
Where do we start here? Without question, the Suns made the worst decisions not just during the draft, but the entire day. Hours before the draft started, the Suns traded a quality asset in TJ Warren in addition to a second round pick only for cash considerations in return from the Indiana Pacers. Averaging exactly 18 points per game for the Suns in the 2018-2019 season (he also averaged 19.6 PPG in the 2017-2018 season for the Suns), Warren shot 49 percent from the field, 43 percent from three point range and 82 percent from the free throw line. The other trade Phoenix made that day was also before the draft. Before the draft started, the trade seemed reasonable but still questionable. The Suns traded the sixth overall pick for the 11th overall pick and Dario Saric. What made trading for Saric questionable was how his production heavily declined after being traded by the Philadelphia 76ers and he is one year away from being an unrestricted free agent. Hold on, you haven’t heard the worst part yet… Not only did the Suns take the biggest reach of the draft with the 11th pick, they traded to take Cam Johnson with the 11th pick in the draft. Johnson was a sleeper going into the draft and most experts will tell you he is the best shooter in this draft class, but trading up to take him that early was a big mistake considering they wasted an opportunity to take Jarrett Culver and they definitely could have gotten Cam Johnson later in the draft if they traded for a higher pick. The worst team in the Western Conference last year, Phoenix should improve this year but it would be a real shame to keep wasting the prime of their star Devin Booker.
Loser: University of Wisconsin Basketball Fans
You probably didn’t think Wisconsin fans really had any significance to this draft but they definitely did. For those who don’t know, former Kentucky star Tyler Herro originally committed to the University of Wisconsin. He later made the decision to decommit from Wisconsin and commit to the Kentucky Wildcats. When Tyler Herro was just 17 years old, the entire Wisconsin fanbase absolutely attacked him (verbally through social media). It wasn’t just the fans who were slandering Herro, it was also team beat writers and famous alumni like Frank Kaminsky and Zak Showalter. The fanbase told him he wasn’t smart enough to go to Wisconsin, wouldn’t develop as a player if he went anywhere else, questioned his loyalty and basically told him he wouldn’t be successful. Frank Kaminksy said Tyler Herro was “#soft.” The common misconception was that Herro was a “snake” and he would only be on the bench during his time at the University of Kentucky. Herro referenced his hard work when acknowledging University of Wisconsin fans as he said “people can call me whatever they want, call me a snake, say I turned my back on the home state, but they don’t see what I’m putting in.” Herro proved the Wisconsin haters wrong as he led Kentucky in minutes (32.6 minutes per game) and was the team’s second leading scorer at 14 points per game. Kentucky would advance to the Elite 8 during their March Madness run while Wisconsin lost by 18 to 12th seeded Oregon in the Round of 64. Two years after Herro heard all the hate from Wisconsin fans, he’s a lottery pick headed to the Miami Heat. The University of Wisconsin is a great school and they do have some classy fans, but man those haters were certainly wrong about Herro.
Loser: Communication by the Washington Wizards
Making a Top Ten pick in any NBA draft is a pretty huge deal. Almost every team will evaluate their options through team workouts and interviews. Almost every team… The Wizards currently do not have a general manager and they selected Rui Hachimura without ever meeting him or inviting him for a workout (according to several reports). While Hachimura was a reasonable selection, it wasn’t very smart for the Wizards to not even communicate with Hachimura before the draft.
Loser: Draft Comparisons (Chauncey Billups)
Look, Chauncey Billups knows his basketball. The former five-time All-Star and 2004 NBA Finals MVP/Champion has been chosen as a nominee for the NBA Hall of Fame this year. He’s currently a basketball analyst for ESPN and he is great at being an analyst as well. However, none of this excuses him for his horrendous draft comparisons. There were several questionable comparisons such as when Billups compared Brandon Clarke to Shawn Marion, Coby White to Gilbert Arenas, R.J Barrett to the “Bulls version” of Jalen Rose, etc. As bad as those draft comparisons, there will probably never be another draft comparison as bad as comparing Rui Hachimura to Kawhi Leonard. Both players are very talented in their own ways but Billups deserved to get roasted on social media for that comparison. Despite of the tremendous basketball knowledge and talent Billups has with basketball, there was a unanimous agreement on how inaccurate his draft comparisons were.
Loser: Unpredictability (Twitter)
For those who don’t follow Adrian Wojnarowski (aka “Woj”) or Shams Charania (aka “Shams”), you might not know what I’m referring to here. During the draft, Woj would frequently tweet out spoilers before many picks. Minutes before a team would make their selection, Woj would tweet out who the team was taking. While it’s Woj’s job to provide inside NBA scoop to the fans on twitter, it did take away some of the fun on draft night.
Extra Winners: Kyle Guy and Jordan Bone
What a year it was for Kyle Guy. After the nation turned its back on Virginia when they lost to 16 seed UMBC, Kyle Guy used the loss as motivation. Guy changed the screensaver on his phone to a picture of his frustration and sadness immediately after losing to UMBC, simply for motivational purposes. Proving the doubters wrong, Guy was part of the Virginia core that would go on to win the National Championship. Months before winning the championship, Guy also became engaged to his longtime girlfriend he was dating since 8th grade. As if that’s not enough, the Sacramento Kings selected Kyle Guy with the 55th overall pick in the draft.
What a turn of events for Jordan Bone… After reaching the Sweet 16 with the Tennennesee Volunteers, Jordan Bone decided to declare for the NBA draft. At his draft party, the draft was very close to ending and everybody there began to accept the fact that Jordan Bone was not going to be drafted. Holding the microphone and speaking in front of everybody, Bone’s brother was visibly sad as he was trying to console Jordan. It was in the middle of this speech when Jordan Bone was drafted and everybody erupted in excitement. The mood shifted within an instant as Jordan Bone was mobbed by family and friends who couldn’t be more excited for him.