NBA Daily: Biggest Winners On Draft Night
With another year in the books, Ben Nadeau looks at the 2019 NBA Draft’s biggest winners — go get that money, Cam!
As usual, chaos reigned supreme during Thursday’s NBA Draft, an annual tradition like no other. Spearheaded by pre-draft trades involving Anthony Davis, Mike Conley Jr. and a number of smaller-sided deals, a rambunctious amount of league-wide movement went down in Brooklyn this week. After the all-but-announced business involving Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett had been decided, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Pheonix Suns helped to push the draft into an early frenzy — so, from there on out, matters only continued to rise. The New Orleans Pelicans used their freshly-replenished haul of draft picks to add even more depth to a young, athletic roster, while multiple surprises kept much of first 30 choices shrouded in mystery.
But when the dust settled at the Barclays Center, a few teams had notably come out on top. Whether by sticking to their front office guns or just simply reading the room, there can be no doubt that these franchises bettered themselves for both the present and the oncoming future.
New Orleans Pelicans
Now That’s What I Call Rebuilding A Franchise, Vol. 19! David Griffin, the recently-hired Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Pelicans, has absolutely smashed his opening months in charge. Anthony Davis’ trade deadline value had been torpedoed by that infamous public trade request — and doubled-down upon in June by Rich Paul’s insistence that his client would end up in Los Angeles — but that didn’t stop Griffin from squeezing every possible ounce of profit from the desperate Lakers. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram were quality centerpieces, but Josh Hart, Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker will factor in for years to come too. Naturally, that list doesn’t even include the trove of future draft picks that they received too
Billy King, unofficially, you are off the hook.
If that weren’t enough, Griffin also ditched the final year of Solomon Hill’s contract, a move that’ll put the Pelicans in prime position to chase a key free agent. For a franchise that looked stuck between a rock and hard place four months ago, it’s far more likely that New Orleans reaches the playoffs instead of the lottery next season. In short, even if the Pelicans weren’t your secret second favorite team, they probably are now.
There were no insane deals for Cleveland this year, nor did they have to worry about placating a nearly decided-upon LeBron James either. Now firmly entrenched in year two of their unanticipated rebuild, a palpable shape is starting to take form for the Cavaliers. Sure, Darius Garland and Collin Sexton play the same position — but that’s something for John Beilein, Cleveland’s shiny, new hire at head coach — to figure out. Joined by the excellent 1-2 scoring punch of Dylan Windler and Kevin Porter Jr. to finish out the night, the Cavaliers snagged plenty of ceilingless shooting potential. Although they’re likely to see at least one more lottery appearance, there’s plenty to be excited about in the Midwest — with or without a deep postseason run ahead of them.
Since Sean Marks was hired as the Nets’ general manager, he’s drafted exceptionally well — particularly for a franchise that didn’t hold their own first round pick for half a decade. Caris LeVert (No. 20), Jarrett Allen (No. 22) and Rodions Kurucs (No. 40) all seem like tent-pole contributors for Brooklyn — so the Nets, who once had two first-rounders in 2019, believe it or not, traded both of them away. With the Kyrie Irving gaining serious steam lately, Marks and the front office needed to keep the roster lean for a second max free agent — unfortunately, that came at the expense of those pesky guaranteed first-round deals. Brooklyn didn’t come away empty-handed, however, as the green room-invited Nic Claxton and late-round draftee Jaylen Hands are intriguing in their own ways — but their biggest prize remains that flexibility.
If the league has learned anything over the last four years, it should be that the Nets don’t willingly toss aside draft picks, especially with their sturdy track record. Whether or not Brooklyn lands some combination of Kevin Durant or Irving in July remains to be seen — but this marked a warning shot to the other 29 franchises: The Nets are back.
While the Luka Dončić-Trae Young debate is set to rage on until the end of time, it’s safe to say that the Hawks have crucially navigated their rebuild nonetheless. Flipping Nos. 8 and 17 — the former coming via the Allen Crabbe deal — with New Orleans to move up for De’Andre Hunter was shrewd business, but using the No. 10 overall selection, the extra asset from the aforementioned Mavericks trade, to collect Cam Reddish might be the cherry on top. Very suddenly, the Hawks have collected an entirely new starting five in just under three years. Additionally armed with Kevin Heurter, John Collins and Young — three of the league’s brightest breakout stars in 2018-19 — that core, somehow, got even better.
At No. 4, Hunter is a versatile, two-way standout that’ll protect Young on defense and shoulder some offensive millage for Heurter as well. In an alternative collegiate dimension, Reddish could’ve been a bonafide star — instead, he falls perfectly into the lap of Atlanta. Any franchise thinking about hitting the reset button should carefully study the Hawks — it’s early, but the signs are extremely positive.
New York Knicks
The Knicks are included on this list of winners precisely for Not Messing That Up™ — at long last, RJ Barrett is the new king of New York. Throughout the springtime, Barrett was merely considered a consolation prize compared to the real-deal main courses in Zion Williamson and Ja Morant — same, consequently, for whichever team ended up at No. 3 overall. Even if that many-times-rebuffed draft narrative comes true, Barrett was still the easy call for the Knicks to make. As if a sight for sore eyes, New York-area fans actually celebrated their latest first-round selection — a facet that hasn’t happened frequently as of late. But for everybody else, it was just refreshing not to see the always-struggling franchise not outthink itself for once.
The former Blue Devil averaged 22.6 points and 7.6 rebounds on 52.9 percent from the field and, in all likelihood, this will be his team from day one. Now paired with Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Dennis Smith Jr., the newly-drafted Barrett and the Knicks may finally be on the path to something bigger and brighter.
One of the most-puzzling moves of the night came at the expense of the Phoenix Suns, a team so badly in need of above-average defense that they moved down from No. 6 to No. 11 in exchange for Dario Saric. To slightly compound matters, the Suns then grabbed Cameron Johnson, an excellent shooter that was projected as a mid-to-late pick in the first round. Pundits have since crushed the choice — Jarrett Culver, a solid two-way player, slid to their original selection — but the Suns clearly saw something they loved in Johnson.
All that aside, the former Tar Heel just got much, much richer on behalf of the Suns.
If Johnson had fallen a little closer to his mocked-out range — let’s say to the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 24 overall, just as an example — his initial salary would’ve been a paltry downgrade. Of course, salary cap numbers differ year-to-year but the Trail Blazers’ Anfernee Simons went No. 24 in 2018 and was paid about $1.8 million during his rookie season. Simons will earn $2.1 million in 2019-20, plus $2.2 and $3.9 million over the following two years should Portland continue to pick up his team options ahead of restricted free agency.
So, across his first four NBA seasons, Simons will earn roughly $10.2 million — whereas Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, last year’s No. 11 overall pick, will take home close to $17 million on the same type of structured deal. For a 23-year-old like Johnson that was supposed to land closer to the second round than the lottery a week ago, that’s a significant financial windfall. Even if he doesn’t end up proving all his doubters wrong, he will, at the very least, be paid far more handsomely for his efforts.
From franchises that are looking to stockpile talented youngsters to those readying themselves for the hectic free agency period, most did fairly well during the 2019 NBA Draft. But in this world, there are always winners and losers — and, in this iteration, Cameron Johnson may be the biggest victor of them all.
So congratulations to Johnson on the major pay raise and best wishes to the rest of this promising class as well — October can’t come soon enough.
2019 NBA Draft Trade Recap
Drew Maresca revisits a crazy night of trades during the 2019 NBA Draft and offers his analysis on the moves.
The 2019 NBA Draft started off with more trade activity than expected as most experts even predicted a record-breaking night as far as trades were concerned. With many big-name stars on the move pre-draft, rumors galore and the pending free agency period, all 30 teams were looking to maneuver in a way that best suited their current course of action. But when the dust eventually settled, the final count ended at an above-average total of 12 draft night trades. Here is a comprehensive list of all of the deals agreed to on draft night.
Atlanta: Acquired the fourth overall pick from New Orleans and selected De’Andre Hunter, along with the 57th overall pick (Jordan Bone) a future second-round pick and Solomon Hill
New Orleans: Traded down for the eighth (Jaxon Hayes), 17th (Nickeil Alexander-Walker) and 35th overall picks (Marcos Louzada Silva), as well as a protected 2020 first-round pick (via Cleveland).
This move clearly benefits the Hawks by sending them a top-tier talent. Hunter gives Atlanta a talented two-way player who is a capable shooter and defender. He will join Trae Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter and Cam Reddish on a strong, young team, thus speeding up the timeline on the rebuild significantly.
Hunter, the centerpiece of the trade, is an elite 3-and-D guy. He should have an immediate impact on the Hawks given his length and noteworthy defensive versatility.
Elsewhere, the Pelicans were able to net two prospects that they like while clearing Hill’s salary, freeing up significant salary cap space immediately. They felt that they didn’t have to make the fourth selection considering they drafted Zion Williamson with the first overall pick minutes earlier.
Additionally, the Pelicans may also consider packaging a number of their 2019 draft picks for an established star or, perhaps, even sign one outright thanks to their new, lighter salary cap situation.
Minnesota: Acquired the sixth overall pick (Jarrett Culver)
Phoenix: Traded down for Dario Saric and the 11th overall pick (Cameron Johnson)
The Timberwolves clearly had eyes for Culver — and why wouldn’t they? Culver is a solid player that can score in bunches. He prides himself on his defensive abilities and projects well as a complete player who can help a team without requiring too many touches.
The Suns were obviously enamored with Saric, that much is clear. Ultimately, their selection of Johnson is a bit puzzling considering his injury history (hips), age (23) and where he was rated as a prospect (widely-viewed as a late first-rounder at the earliest); but the Suns clearly saw something. Maybe the Suns thought they had enough backcourt assets with Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges — typically, however, when a young team has an opportunity to draft a player like Culver, they capitalize on it.
Philadelphia: Acquired the 20th overall pick (Matisse Thybulle).
Boston: Traded back for the 24th (Ty Jerome) and 33rd (Carsen Edwards) overall picks
*Jerome was later traded to Phoenix along with Aaron Baynes for a 2020 first-round pick (via Milwaukee).
The Celtics were clearly not overly-sold on any prospects available in the 20-24 range. During the draft, allegedly, Boston was hoping to consolidate picks and move up. And when that didn’t come to fruition, they had to decide if they really wanted to bring on so many rookies.
Philadelphia potentially acquired the best perimeter defender in the draft in Thybulle. There were rumors they were interested in Nassir Little and Kevin Porter Jr., but they pounced when they realized Thybulle was available — in turn, the 76ers received an immediate impact player.
Phoenix’s acquisition of Jerome makes sense. Jerome is a 6-foot-5 point guard that shot over 40 percent from three-point range in his three-year career at Virginia — and the Suns, of course, are in need of a point guard. He distributes the ball well for a combo guard, but can he develop in as a true point guard? The Suns will hope so.
Further, giving up the 2020 Milwaukee pick after trading away the sixth overall pick was curious. Presumably, the Suns figured that Giannis Antetokounmpo stays in Milwaukee, the Bucks remain dominant in the Eastern Conference and that 2020 first-round pick turns out to be lower than 24.
Memphis: Acquired the 21st overall pick (via Utah) and selected Brandon Clarke
Oklahoma City: Traded down to the 23rd overall pick and selected Darius Bazley
The Grizzlies added Clarke to their young core, which also includes rookie phenom Ja Morant and the promising Jaren Jackson Jr. They should grow together nicely and Clarke’s extreme athleticism should fit perfectly with Morant. Clarke is also an elite defender, which means that the Grizzlies now have two potential defensive stoppers in him and Jackson Jr. Clarke is a relatively-high IQ guy that is poised and deliberate — on the court and in his interactions with the media — which usually bodes well for both the player and the team.
For the Thunder, this deal was all about savings. Oklahoma City is well over the salary cap and trying to mitigate spending as much as possible. While trading away Clarke hurts, it’s a means to an end.
Los Angeles Clippers: Acquired the 27th overall pick and selected Mfiondu Kabengele
Brooklyn: Received a future first-round pick (via Philadelphia) and the 56th overall pick (Jaylen Hands)
The Nets did not want to add any guaranteed salary given their pursuit of two max salary cap slots, hence the trade of another first-round pick.
And while the Clippers are also seeking two max slots, they are far enough below the cap that the 27th pick doesn’t hurt their pursuit of cap space.
Hands is an explosive point guard and an above-average defender. He uses his above-average quickness effectively and possesses an NBA-level shooting range. On the other end, Kabengele just adds to the Clippers’ young core, a shrewd pick-up that just won his conference’s Sixth Man of the Year award in 2018-19 — think Los Angeles could use another player like that?
Cleveland: Acquired the 30th overall pick (Kevin Porter Jr.)
Detroit: Received four future second-round picks and cash considerations
Not including Bol Bol, Porter Jr. probably had the biggest drop of all the top prospects. But he was ultimately selected with the last pick in the first round due to the Cavaliers trading up. He’s viewed as a steal at No. 30 at this point in time, rightfully so given his raw potential. Still, there are maturity concerns regarding Porter Jr. that must be addressed. He will likely be given room to grown and learn on the fly in Cleveland, but he must make good decisions both on and off the court. 29 teams passed on Porter Jr., so it’s up to him to prove them wrong.
And if Detroit is among the teams that had doubts about Porter Jr., they received a fair amount of compensation for the right to pick him — future second-rounders and $5 million in case. Could Porter Jr. have helped Detroit? Possibly. But given the doubts around him, the Pistons made a prudent decision.
Washington: Acquired Jonathan Simmons and the 42nd overall pick (Admiral Schofield).
Philadelphia: Received cash considerations
The 76ers clearly wanted to move Simmons. They traded away the rights to Admiral Schofield to get out of Simmons’ contract, which helps free up additional salary cap space — the 76ers are rumored to be interested in offering Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler max deals come free agency — and they need all the space the can get.
The Wizards, on the other hand, are stuck between rebuilding and competing — although competing seems challenging given the John Wall injury history and contract. So if trading for a player whose deal expires following the 2019-20 season is the cost to bring on Schofield, that’s a penalty the Wizards were willing to incur.
Schofield is a good shooter and scores well in the post. He projects to be similar to Jae Crowder, assuming all works out well for him. As a competitive gamer, Schofield will help the Wizards immediately on the offensive end. He’s likely to give up some height on defense, given that he’s a small forward — however, his grit and athleticism should help him keep pace.
Miami: Acquired the 32nd overall pick (KZ Okpala)
Suns: Received three future second-round picks
KZ Okpala projects to be similar to Rodney Hood, which is clearly not a bad thing given how Hood played in the 2019 NBA Playoffs. Okpala is super athletic and has good measurements of 6-foot-8 and 195 lbs. He can run the floor, handle the ball and is an above-average shot-maker. He needs to improve a bit defensively, but Miami will work with him on this.
The Suns could have used Okapala, as could most teams. But at the same time, three second-round picks can be a pretty big haul too. And the Suns, like many other teams selling second-rounders, already have their share of youth, which presents unique challenges.
Denver: Acquired the 44th overall pick (Bol Bol)
Miami: Received a future second-round pick and cash considerations
Bol Bol was projected as high as the lottery — but his night did not pan out how he would’ve liked. Nevertheless, any time a team identifies a prospect as someone of interest, that prospect should be thankful.
Bol was always going to be a risky selection given his foot injury, his extremely slim build and his surprisingly-high body fat percentage. Still, Bol Bol offers skills not previously seen in a player his size. He shoots incredibly well from three-point range and can grow into an above-average shot blocker. And given the Nuggets’ depth, they can bring him along slowly. Their player development team has their hands full with a guy whose drive and desire have been questioned — but the upside is not in doubt.
Los Angeles Lakers: Acquired the 46th overall pick (Talen Horton-Tucker)
Orlando: Received cash considerations
This move was a must-have for the Lakers, who are in need of cheap talent. If Los Angeles is serious about chasing a third max free agent, Horton-Tucker is solid fit — both rotationally and financially.
Horton-Tucker is a strong guard who boasts a ridiculous 7-foot-1 wingspan (considering he’s only 6-foot-4). He can defend both guard positions, allowing him to have an immediate impact if need be. Further, he doesn’t turn 19 years-old until November, which means he has more time than most to mature and develop.
The Magic were clearly more interested in the cash than they were in on-boarding another rookie.
Golden State: Received the 39th overall pick (Alen Smailagic)
New Orleans: Received two future second-round picks and cash considerations
Smailagic is an 18 -year-old shooter from Serbia that the Warriors monitored/hid in the G League last season as he was too young and ineligible for the NBA Draft. He was kept away from most showcases last year and the Warriors cashed in on draft night. He averaged 9.1 points last season for the Santa Cruz Warriors.
The Pelicans, on the other hand, are already committed to developing four rookies. In the end, they did not need a fifth, especially considering the number of other young players who still need guidance, too — e.g., Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball.
Detroit: Acquired the 57th overall pick (Jordan Bone)
New Orleans: Received cash considerations
Jordan Bone took a chance after relatively-disappointing freshmen and sophomore seasons with Tennessee. It paid off when Detroit traded for the 57th overall pick, using it to select Bone. The speedy guard averaged 16.3 points and 7.1 assists per game last season for the Volunteers. Bone led the third-most efficient offense in the country last year, which bodes well for a player who will likely struggle to find a spot immediately.
As far as the Pelicans are concerned, it makes sense that they would trade away the 57th overall pick considering they traded away the 39th too.
NBA Daily: The Undrafted List – Who Got Missed
Now that the 2019 NBA Draft has come and gone, Matt John analyzes which prospects were the best ones not to have their names called on draft night.
The NBA Draft is a time where dreams come true. Young basketball players everywhere have always fantasized over having their name called at the podium as their journey to the NBA begins.
But for the 60 players whose names get called at the draft, there are plenty of guys out there who wait all night who never get the honor. As heartbreaking as that can be, that does not mean their NBA dream is dead. It only means they’ve got some work to do.
Now we enter the field of undrafted free agents. With the latest provisions made with the CBA, teams are taking full advantage of rookies who are on the open market. Some have been signed to two-way contracts while others have been signed to deals that last up to four years. Teams pounce for opportunities like these because history has demonstrated that some undrafted free agents are diamonds in the rough.
The term “diamond in the rough” needs to be defined because some may confuse that with the notion that you can find a star in an undrafted free agent. Technically teams have. Ben Wallace, one of the best rim protectors of his generation, came into the league undrafted. He collected so many accolades in his career, but he is the best-case scenario and nobody of this particular breed has come close to what he’s achieved.
But you can find valuable rotation players, which is impressive on its own. After coming into the league undrafted, several players found their own ways to glory.
-Wes Matthews worked his way up to a near-max contract
-Bruce Bowen was one of the pioneers of the 3&D wing prototype
-Udonis Haslem was a pillar of loyalty in Miami in a league
-Jeremy Lin gave us “Linsanity”
And that’s just to name a few examples. This season alone, some undrafted free agents got some shine. Allonzo Trier got some love for the All-Rookie voting, and Fred VanVleet played a defined role in the Toronto Raptors winning their first championship. Their success individually shows teams that even if the success rate isn’t exactly high, it’s still worth giving it a shot.
So who among the undrafted rookies could be the next diamond in the rough?
Luguentz Dort – Guard – Arizona State
Dort was projected to go as high as the late first round. Seeing him go unselected was one of the draft’s biggest shockers. Dort definitely has his warts – he’s not the best decision-maker and is not an efficient shooter – but the intangibles he brings should have made him appealing as a prospect.
Everything about Dort spells aggression. He attacks the rim. He will run the fast break. He will go up for a rebound. He will always hustle. Basically, he’ll run through a brick wall if it can help his team win.
At the very least, teams will probably bring him in to challenge those who are on the roster bubble. Even if he winds up not making it into the league, teams will love that he truly gives it all when he steps onto the court.
Jontay Porter – Center – Missouri
Porter going undrafted isn’t really as surprising as Dort. Any prospect who tears his ACL is usually bound to see his stock drop. In Porter’s case though, after going against doctor’s orders, he re-tore it again. Teams were probably turned off both by his injury history and his negligence.
But you can’t deny the talent he has nor how he would it in the NBA like a glove. Porter demonstrated his freshman year his skills both as a passer and a shooter. As Nikola Jokic, Al Horford and Marc Gasol have demonstrated, having bigs who can do that can take you a long way in the modern NBA.
Don’t be surprised if someone gives Porter a shot and have him take the year to recover fully from his knee injuries. His skill set is too good to pass up.
Shamorie Ponds – Point Guard – St. John’s
Not every single prospect that teams missed has an exciting upside to them. If Ponds pans out in this league, he’d be much more suited for a back-up type role as a scoring plug. There are plenty of those in the NBA, but as Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford have demonstrated, those players are still very much a necessity.
Ponds isn’t a sure thing to replicate the same career that those two have, but he brings similar abilities. He has a reliable shooting stroke, and his 5.1 assists a game illustrate that he can run the show.
Every NBA team craves a reliable second unit scorer. Ponds is of course not a sure thing, but with no NBA experience to speak of, he offers an economical option in that department since scoring plugs don’t grow on trees in the NBA.
Louis King – Forward – Oregon
In a league that emphasizes shooting and versatility, Louis King would have for surely been someone who couldn’t be passed up. Yet here we are. King’s 38.6 shooting from three should be appealing to anyone looking to find a malleable shooter in the NBA, and Lou definitely fits the bill.
It’s not just his ability to space the floor that makes him worth looking at. King has all the physical tools to be another 3&D perimeter player with a height of 6-foot-8 and a wingspan of 7-foot, 1/4 inches. His defense isn’t great by any means, but it has potential. What he really needs is the right team to mold him into the best player he can be.
The leg injuries he’s suffered may have also played a role in going undrafted. No matter what happened there, teams want guys who can be a threat on both sides. Lou isn’t that right now, but he can be if you give him the time necessary to develop him.
Those are just a few of what could be many undrafted rookies from this year’s class. Or maybe none of them do. We’ll only know for sure when we see them take the court.
Undrafted rookies are like one dollar scratch-off tickets. The odds of you getting anything from them are slim to none, and if you do get something, the reward probably won’t be that large.
But, with the very little you’re paying for it, there’s no skin off your nose if they don’t work out.