After a series of questionable moves in free agency last summer, Portland Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey stepped up with a power move in the 2017 NBA Draft, trading picks 15 and 20 to the Sacramento Kings to select Gonzaga center Zach Collins with the tenth pick. Collins is a modern NBA big man, with the ability to make plays off the bounce and hit shots from the perimeter while still retaining the ability to protect the rim.
Olshey adds a prototypical stretch big man to last season’s trade for old school bruiser Jusuf Nurkic. With the Blazers up against the cap after awarding huge contracts to Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner last summer, moves on the margin like this trade are critical to Portland’s ability to improve despite dollar constraints. This is a brilliant pick that only fell to tenth because of the draft’s overall depth.
#17 – Donte DiVincenzo – Milwaukee Bucks
Donte DiVincenzo put himself on the map with his breakout performance in the 2018 National Championship, scoring 31 points and winning the Most Outstanding Player award. The Milwaukee Bucks, needing spacing around Giannis Antetokounmpo, nabbed the sharpshooter with the 17th pick in the draft.
DiVincenzo’s shooting ability and high basketball IQ should fit nicely with new coach Mike Budenholzer’s pace and space offense and will be able to provide rebounding help and toughness at the guard position. One of Milwaukee’s biggest issues last season was spreading the floor, finishing 24th in three-point percentage. DiVincenzo will give them a scoring option off the bench that can stretch the floor. Posting a 42″ vertical leap at the Combine, DiVincenzo is a superior athlete who competes on defense and will benefit from the long-armed Bucks frontcourt behind him.
DiVencenzo has already played in several high stakes games including two National Championship games and was not afraid of the moment, likely a factor in the Bucks’ selection. He projects to be a longtime rotation player with a lot of room for growth.
#20 – Josh Okogie – Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Georgia Tech’s Josh Okogie with the 20th overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft.
At the NBA level, Okogie probably projects as a shooting guard. Despite being 6-foot-4, Okogie has the physical tools and the ability to guard taller shooting guards. He was a pretty good defensive player in college and that will probably be one of his strengths in the NBA.
On the offensive end, Okogie is a good shooter. He shot 38 percent from the three-point line last season as a sophomore. An outside shooter is something the Timberwolves will definitely welcome to the rotation. In terms of the rest of his offensive game, he might struggle a bit getting his shot off over taller wing defenders in the NBA. At the college level, he was able to get to the rim and score and it will be interesting to see if that translates to the NBA.
Overall, he does project as a nice 3-and-D prospect. Defense and shooting are his strengths and lockdown defenders who can hit the three-ball are highly desired at the next level. It’s a bit difficult to imagine him getting regular rotation minutes right away for a playoff team but down the line he should emerge as a solid rotation player.
#19 – Kevin Huerter – Atlanta Hawks
With the No. 19 pick in the NBA draft, the Atlanta Hawks selected Kevin Huerter from the University of Maryland.
After 10 consecutive seasons reaching the playoffs, the Atlanta Hawks failed to win 25 contests in 2018. Gone are All-Stars Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague, each of whom the franchise groomed at various points during their decade of playoff bliss. Now the team is faced with a daunting rebuild under second year general manager Travis Schlenk and first year coach Lloyd Pierce.
Huerter becomes the first Maryland player to be selected in the first round since center Alex Len was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 2013. Huerter was projected to be available in the 16 to 24 range and the Hawks get a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, who has the ability to spread the floor.
In two seasons at Maryland, Huerter averaged 12 points, five rebounds and three assists on 46 percent shooting from the floor. As a sophomore, Huerter connected on 73 three-pointers on a sparkling 42 percent accuracy from long range.
The Hawks have been looking for consistent production from the two guard spot ever since Tim Hardaway Jr. left the team to join the New York Knicks in free agency last summer.
Huerter will join a young Hawks core of point guard Dennis Schroder and forward John Collins, two of the team’s first round draft picks from prior years, as well as dynamic guard Trae Young, who was selected with the fifth overall pick of this year’s draft (pending the trade with the Dallas Mavericks being finalized).