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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.

Drew Maresca

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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?

You betcha.

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.

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NBA Daily: Examining Michael Porter Jr.’s Ascension

Since Jamal Murray’s season-ending knee injury, Michael Porter Jr. is averaging over 25 points per game and looks like a future All-NBA player. Bobby Krivitsky examines Porter’s ascent and the questions that come with it.

Bobby Krivitsky

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Since Jamal Murray’s season-ending knee injury, Michael Porter Jr. has taken his game to new heights.

In the wake of Murray’s ACL tear in mid-April, Porter’s playing time has gone from 30.6 minutes per contest to 35.7, while his shots per game have risen from 12.6 per game to 16.5. The increased responsibility has fueled his ascent. He’s knocking down 56.3 percent of those attempts. He’s taking 8.2 threes per game and making a blistering 50 percent of them. As a result, Porter’s gone from averaging 17.5 points per game to 25.1. He’s also grabbing 6.1 rebounds and blocking almost one shot per contest.

At the time of Murray’s injury, the Denver Nuggets were in fourth place in the Western Conference. They remain there now, 9-4 in his absence, and they boast the eighth-highest net rating in the NBA.

The only way for the Nuggets to fall from fourth would be if they lost their four remaining games and the Dallas Mavericks won their final five contests because the Mavericks have the tiebreaker since they won the season series. On the more realistic end of the spectrum, Denver sits just 1.5 games back of the Los Angeles Clippers, who occupy the third seed in the West. The Nuggets won their season series against the Clippers, meaning they’d finish in third if the two teams ended the regular season with the same record.

There’s a bevy of questions surrounding Porter’s recent play that need to be asked but cannot get answered at the moment. That starts with whether this is anything more than a hot streak. While it’s impossible to say definitively, it’s reasonable to believe Porter can consistently and efficiently produce about 25 points per game. He was the second-ranked high school prospect in 2017 and entered his freshman year at Missouri firmly in the mix for the top pick in the 2018 NBA draft. That was thanks in large part to his offensive prowess as a 6-10 wing with a smooth shot that’s nearly impossible to block because of the elevation he gets when he shoots. 

A back injury cost him all but 53 minutes of his collegiate career and caused him to fall to the 14th pick in the draft. He ended up in an ideal landing spot, going to a well-run organization that’s also well aware of its barren track record luring star players looking to change teams, making it vital for the Nuggets to hit on their draft picks. 

Porter’s first year in the NBA was exclusively dedicated to the rehab process and doing everything possible to ensure he can have a long, healthy and productive career. Last season, finally getting a chance to play, he showed off the tantalizing talent that made him a top prospect but only took seven shots per game while trying to fit in alongside Nikola Jokic, Murray, Paul Millsap and Jerami Grant.

More experience, including battling against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, an offseason, albeit a truncated one, to prepare for a more substantial role with Grant joining the Detroit Pistons and Millsap turning 36 this year, helped propel Porter. 

But for the Nuggets, before Murray’s injury, the perception was that even though they weren’t the favorites to come out of the Western Conference, they were a legitimate title contender. How far can they go if Porter’s consistently contributing about 25 points and over six rebounds per game while effectively playing the role of a second star alongside Jokic? 

It seems fair to cross Denver off the list of title contenders. But, if Porter continues to capably play the role of a second star alongside Jokic when doing so becomes more challenging in the postseason, the Nuggets can advance past a team like the Mavericks or Portland Trail Blazers. And at a minimum, they’d have the ability to make life difficult for whoever they had to face in the second round of the playoffs.

Unfortunately, the timing of Murray’s ACL tear, which happened in mid-April, means there’s a legitimate possibility he misses all of next season. Denver’s increased reliance on Porter is already allowing a young player with All-NBA potential to take on a role that’s closer to the one he’s assumed his whole life before making it to the sport’s highest level. If the Nuggets are counting on him to be the second-best player on a highly competitive team in the Western Conference next season, it’ll be fascinating to see what heights he reaches and how far they’re able to go as a team.

Theoretically, Porter’s growth could make it difficult for Denver to reacclimate Murray. But given Jokic’s unselfish style of play, there’s room for both of them to be satisfied by the volume of shots they’re getting. Unfortunately, the Nuggets have to wait, potentially another season, but Jokic is 26-years-old, Murray 24, Porter 22. When Denver has their Big Three back together, they could be far more potent while still being able to enjoy a lengthy run as legitimate title contenders.

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NBA Daily: D’Angelo Russell Back on Track

D’Angelo Russell lost much of the 2020-21 season to injury. Drew Maresca explains why his return will surprise people around the league.

Drew Maresca

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D’Angelo Russell was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves last February, just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the entire season. But we’ve yet to see what Russell can really do in Minnesota.

The Timberwolves acquired Russell in late February in exchange for a future first-round pick – which transitions this season if they pick later than third – a 2021 second-round pick and Andrew Wiggins.

Sidenote: For those keeping score at home, the Timberwolves currently have the third-worst record in the league with five games remaining. It would behoove Minnesota to lose as many of their remaining games as possible to keep their 2021 pick. If the pick does not transition this season, it becomes unrestricted in 2020.

Trying to turn an owed pick into an unprotected future first is usually the wrong move; but in this instance, it’s better to keep the high first-rounder this year with an understanding that your 2022 pick will probably fall in or around the middle of the lottery.

The thinking around the deal was that Minnesota could qualify for the playoffs as soon as this season by swapping Wiggins’ contract for a young, talented lead guard in Russell. It has not played out as planned.

COVID resulted in a play stoppage shortly after the deal, robbing Russell of the opportunity to ramp up with his new team. When the NBA returned to finish the 2019-20 season, the Timberwolves failed to qualify for bubble play – and considering the US was still battling a global pandemic, Russell couldn’t easily practice with his new teammates and/or coaches.

The 2020-21 season began weirdly, too. The NBA proceeded with an abbreviated training camp and preseason. And while this impacted all teams, Russell was additionally hindered by the decision.

Ready or not, the season began. In 2020-21, Russell is averaging a near-career low in minutes per game (28.2) across just 36 games. He’s tallying 19.1 points per game on 43.6% shooting and a career-best 38.8% on three-point attempts. He’s also he’s posting a near career-best assist-to-turnover ratio (5.7 to 2.8).

Despite Russell’s contributions, the Timberwolves have failed to meet expectations. Far from the playoff squad they hoped to be, Minnesota is in contention for the top pick in this year’s draft. So what has gone wrong in Minneapolis?

Russell’s setbacks are fairly obvious. In addition to the lack of preparation with his teammates and coaches, Russell was diagnosed with a “loose body” in his knee, requiring arthroscopic knee surgery in February. As a result, he missed 27 consecutive games. Russell returned on April 5, but head coach Chris Finch revealed that he’d been on a minutes restriction until just recently.

Minnesota is clearly being cautious with Russell. Upon closer review, Russell has been restricted to under 30 minutes per game in all of his first 10 games back. Since then, Russell is averaging 31 minutes per game including an encouraging 37 minutes on May 5 in a four-point loss to Memphis.

Since returning from knee surgery, Russell is averaging 27 minutes per game across 16 games. Despite starting 19 of the team’s first 20 games, he hadn’t started in any game since returning – until Wednesday.

On the whole, Russell’s impact is about the same as it was prior to the injury, which should be encouraging to Timberwolves’ fans. He’s scoring slightly less (18.8 points since returning vs. 19.3 prior), shooting better from the field (44.9% since returning vs 42.6%% prior) and has been just slightly worse from three-point range (37.4% since vs. 39.9 prior). He’s dishing out more assists per game (6.5 since vs. 5.1 prior), too, and he posted three double-digit assist games in his last five contents – a feat achieved only once all season prior to his last five games.

Despite playing more and dropping more dimes, there’s still room to improve. Looking back to his career-bests, Russell averaged 23.1 points per game in 2019-20 in 33 games with Golden State (23.6) and 12 games with Minnesota (21.7).

But his most impactful season came in 2018-19 with the Brooklyn Nets. That season, Russell averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 assists per game, leading the Nets to the playoffs and earning his first trip to the All-Star game. He looked incredibly comfortable, playing with supreme confidence and flashing the ability to lead a playoff team.

At his best, Russell is a dynamic playmaker. The beauty of Russell is that he can also play off the ball. He has a quick release on his jumper and impressive range. His game is not predicated on athleticism, meaning he should stay at his peak for longer than guys like De’Aaron Fox and Ja Morant.

And while he’s been in the league for what feels like ever (six seasons), Russell just turned 25 approximately two months ago. Granted, comparing anyone to Steph Curry is unwise, but Curry wasn’t Steph Curry yet at 25. Former MVP Steve Nash hadn’t yet averaged double-digits (points) at 25. Twenty-five is also an inflection point for Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook. And the list goes on.

To be fair, Russell was drafted at 19 so he’s more acclimated to the league at this age than most, but his game will continue expanding nonetheless. He’ll develop trickier moves, become stronger and grow his shooting range. And a good deal of that growth should be evident as soon as next season since he’ll be fully healed from knee surgery and have a full offseason and training camp to finally work with teammates and coaches.

So while Minnesota’s 2020-21 season was incredibly bleak, their future is quite bright – and much of it has to do with the presence of Russell.

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NBA AM: Is This It for Indiana?

Following their major drop-off, Matt John explains why the Pacers trying to get back to where they were may not be the best decision.

Matt John

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Remember when, following the maligned trade of Paul George, the sky was the limit for the Indiana Pacers? The 2017-18 Pacers were one of the best stories in the NBA that season because they made their opponents work for their victories, and they put on a spectacle every night.

It’s hard to believe that all transpired three whole years ago. When Cleveland eliminated Indiana in a very tight first-round series, I asked if having the exciting season that they did – when many thought it would turn out the opposite – was going to benefit them in the long run. Three years later, this happens.

We were getting plenty of smoke about the Pacers’ drama behind-the-scenes beforehand, and now, we have seen the fire firsthand. More and more reports indicate that the crap has hit the fan. Indiana has seemingly already had enough of Nate Bjorkgren in only his first year as his coach. When you see the results they’ve had this season compared to the last three, it’s not hard to see why.

The Pacers have routinely found themselves in the 4-5 playoff matchup for the last three years. Sadly, despite their fight – and, to be fair, they had pretty awful injury luck the past two postseasons – they haven’t been able to get over the hump in the first round. They may not have been in the elite tier, but they weren’t slouches either. So, seeing them not only fail to take the next step but look more and more likely for the play-in is as discouraging as it gets. Especially after they started the season 6-2.

If these reports about the tensions between the players and Bjorkgren are real, then this has already become a lost season for the Pacers. It’s too late in the season to make any major personnel changes. At this point, their best route is just to cut their losses and wait until this summer to think over what the next move is.

In that case, let’s take a deep breath. This has been a weird season for everyone. Every aspect minus the playoffs has been shorter than usual since last October. Everything was shortened from the offseason to the regular season. Oh, and COVID-19 has played a role as the season has turned out, although COVID-19 has probably been the least of Indy’s problems. Let’s think about what next season would look like for Indiana.

TJ Warren comes back with a clean bill of health. Caris Levert gets more acquainted with the team and how they run. Who knows? Maybe they finally resolve the Myles Turner-Domantas Sabonis situation once and for all. A new coach can come aboard to steady the ship, and it already looks like they have an idea for who that’s going to be

Should they run it back, there’s a solid chance they can get back to where they were before. But that’s sort of the problem to begin with. Even if this recent Pacers’ season turns out to be just a negative outlier, their ceiling isn’t all too high anyway. A team that consists of Warren, Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, and Caris Levert as their core four is a solid playoff team. Having Turner, Doug McDermott, TJ McConnell, Jeremy Lamb, and the Holiday brothers rounds out a solid playoff team. Anyone who takes a good look at this roster knows that this roster is a good one. It’s not great though.

Just to be clear, Indiana has plenty of ingredients for a championship team. They just don’t have the main one: The franchise player. Once upon a time, it looked like that may have been Oladipo, but a cruel twist of fate took that all away. This isn’t a shot at any of the quality players they have on their roster, but think of it this way.

For the next couple of years, they’re going to go up against Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. All of whom are on the same team. For potentially even longer, they’ll be going up against the likes of Giannis Antetoukounmpo, Joel Embiid, and Jayson Tatum. With the roster they have, they could make a series interesting against any one of those teams. However, it’s a rule of thumb in the NBA that the team with the best player usually wins the series. Not to mention, they’d have to beat most of the teams those players play for to go on a substantial playoff run. That’s a pretty tall order.

There’s no joy in talking about the Pacers like this because they have built this overachieving underdog from nothing more than shrewd executive work. They turned a disgruntled and expiring Paul George into Oladipo and Sabonis. Both of whom have since become two-time all-stars (and counting). They then managed to turn an expiring and hobbled Oladipo – who had no plans to return to Indiana – into the electric Levert. They also pretty much stole Brogdon and Warren away while paying very little for either of them.

That is fantastic work. The only hangup is that, as of now, it just doesn’t seem like it will be enough. But, doubt and skepticism are things Indiana’s had thrown their way consistently since 2017. Many thought their approach to trading Paul George would blow up in their face, and since then, they’ve done everything in their power to make everyone eat their words.

Kevin Pritchard’s got his work cut out for him this summer. This season will hopefully turn out to be nothing more than performance ruined by both the wrong coaching hire and an unusual season that produced negatively skewed results. But at this point, Pritchard’s upcoming course of action this summer shouldn’t be about getting his team back to where they were, but deciding whether he can get them a step or two further than that by adding more to what they have or starting over completely.

Indiana’s had a rough go of it in this COVID-shortened season, but their disappointing play may have little to no bearing on where they go from here.

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