2019 NBA Draft Grades: A team-by-team evaluation

The NBA draft is done, so let's go through every team and evaluate how they all went.

Atlanta Hawks: B

Pick 4: De’Andre Hunter
Pick 10: Cam Reddish

The Hawks didn’t have a flashy draft, but they were able to fill a major hole with two talented wings. They were able to use two of their three first round picks to trade up and ensure they got De’Andre Hunter. Hunter is a well-rounded 3-and-D wing that will make an impact from day one. Hunter is the best defender in this draft and is a solid off-ball shooter. He’ll be able to make an impact with his off-ball movement and shooting while also defending the opponent’s best defender.

The Hawks were linked to Reddish for a few months, and the fact they were able to get him as well, is a win. Reddish is polarizing but his potential is undeniable. He struggled at Duke but he still projects as a versatile wing. He is a good shooter and has all the tools to be a great defender. The Hawks didn’t get a star, but they were able to add to their weak wing rotation.

Boston Celtics: B-

Pick 14: Romeo Langford
Pick 22: Grant Williams
Pick 33: Carsen Edwards
Pick 51: Tremont Waters

The Celtics have had a less than ideal offseason. They could easily lose both point guards along with their versatile center. They tried to fill these holes but ended up making trades that eliminated the possibility for more promising prospects. With that said, the Celtics added three offensively minded guards. Langford, Edwards, and Waters all have big defensive question marks but will help the Celtics stagnant offense. Langford has a lot of potential, but needs to improve his work rate to reach his ceiling. Edwards can score in bunches and will be a nice scoring threat off the bench. Waters will be a nice back-up point guard who can control the offense and score from outside. Williams is a versatile big man that will try to fill the gaping hole left by Al Horford. Williams is a great rebounder, solid defender, and can stretch the floor at times. He has traces of Horford’s game but isn’t at that level.

Brooklyn Nets: B-

Pick 31: Nic Claxton
Pick 56: Jaylen Hands

The Nets seem to be clearing a lot of cap space to be a big player in free agency, but they were still able to improve with this draft. Claxton is a great pick for them and fits the type of big men they’ve targeted in the past. He is a good shot blocker and has the legitimate stretch-five potential. At Georgia, Claxton initiated a lot of their offense and proved to be a versatile scorer. He will need to add a lot of muscle to guard the post, but Claxton will be a lot of fun off the bench.

Hands is a much bigger question mark though. He is a volume shooter that fits with Brooklyn’s offensive philosophy, but he has struggled to show any sense of consistency. His time at UCLA was a letdown and he struggled to add any muscle. Hands is a small guard and will get targeted relentlessly on defense.

Charlotte Hornets: C+

Pick 12: PJ Washington
Pick 36: Cody Martin
Pick 52: Jalen McDaniels

The Hornets have a very one-dimensional frontcourt and don’t have any of them locked up long-term. Washington provides a sense of youth and versatility to this group. He can guard multiple positions and has a varied offensive game. He is great when he is acting as the screener and it could turn into a great pairing with Kemba Walker if they keep him. Their second-round picks drastically drop the overall quality of their draft. Martin doesn’t have much room for growth. He isn’t great at a specific thing but can do a little bit of everything. With that said, I see him as a poor man’s Jeremy Lamb. The McDaniels pick is much more inspiring though. McDaniels has a ton of length and could develop into a nice two-way wing. He will be a bit of a project, but his physical tools make him a good defender and he has shown flashes of outside shooting.

Chicago Bulls: A

Pick 7: Coby White
Pick 38: Daniel Gafford

The Bulls were extraordinarily lucky that one of the top three-point guards fell to them. White was one of my favorite players in this draft and I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes the best point guard in this draft. He is an electric scorer and is an impressive passer. He plays with a ton of energy and will be a lot of fun to watch running the Bulls’ offense.

The Bulls have a lot of big men that can stretch the floor but didn’t have the prototypical rim-runner. They fixed that by drafting Gafford. Gafford is an athletic center that lives around the rim. He will be able to protect the rim, rebound at a high rate, and be a great lob threat. Gafford will get played off the floor in some matchups, but against some opponents, you just need a big body in the paint.

Cleveland Cavaliers: B+

Pick 5: Darius Garland
Pick 26: Dylan Windler
Pick 30: Kevin Porter Jr

The Cavaliers made it clear that they may not be sold on Collin Sexton. Garland is the best scoring point guard in this draft. He has great handles and a beautiful shooting form. Garland is clearly their point guard of the future and will develop nicely under John Beilein.

Windler may have been a surprising pick for most casual fans, but he is absolutely a first-round talent. He is a very smart player, great rebounder, and a pure scorer. He is a very good shooter and uses change-of-pace dribbling and step backs to create space.

What really sealed the Cavaliers’ doubt in Sexton was the Porter Jr selection. He is a similar type of player as Sexton and may even have a higher ceiling. The issue is that he could also be out of the league in a couple of years. He is a big, uber-athletic guard who has no issue creating his own shot. Unfortunately, he is not a good shooter and is even worse on defense. If he can mature quickly and if Beilein can reach him though, Porter Jr could turn into a steal.

Denver Nuggets: C

Pick 44: Bol Bol

Coming into this season, Bol Bol was a top-five prospect but his injury concerns dropped him much farther than anyone expected. Bol doesn’t fill a specific need for the Nuggets but his potential was too much to pass up. Bol is over seven feet and has the ball handling skills of a point guard. He is comfortable with the ball in his hand and can consistently stretch the floor. The concern arises with his foot injury. It is always concerning when seven footers have foot injuries and even more so when it happens to them as a teenager. On top of this, Bol’s length gives him a very high center of gravity and he has really struggled to keep a consistent weight. This is an absolute shot in the dark, but if the Nuggets can keep him healthy and help him reach his potential, this could be the biggest steal of the draft.

Detroit Pistons: B+

Pick 15: Sekou Doumbouya
Pick 37: Deividas Sirvydis
Pick 45: Isaiah Roby
Pick 57: Jordan Bone

The Pistons have struggled for years to find a reliable wing. They may have fixed this with Doumbouya and Sirvydis.

Doumbouya is a great athlete but is a very raw prospect. He’ll be able to score in transition and defend at a high level from day one. His shooting and playmaking ability will need a lot of work though. The upside is that he’s only been playing basketball for a few years and has improved immensely. Sirvydis is a flamethrower from behind the arc. Players like Luke Kennard have struggled to provide consistent shooting so the Sirvydis pick makes sense to help with this.

The Pistons were also able to improve their frontcourt depth with Roby who is an athletic PF with stretch potential. He should be able to develop nicely behind Blake Griffin. Even though there wasn’t a point guard that made sense for the Pistons in the first round, they were able to grab a mature point guard in Bone. Bone is a great athlete and a very smart player. He won’t fill up the stat sheet, but he will do the little things and develop into a nice backup point guard.

Golden State Warriors: C

Pick 28: Jordan Poole
Pick 39: Alen Smailagic
Pick 41: Eric Paschall

The Warriors draft made little to no sense to me. They really just needed to add depth across the board. There were multiple prospects at 28 who would have been perfect for them, but instead, they decided to draft Poole. Poole projects as a shooter but was very underwhelming at Michigan. He was an inconsistent shooter, below average playmaker, and bad defender. There were questions regarding his maturity and he just doesn’t seem like a good fit.

The Smailagic pick may seem completely random, but the Warriors have been trying to hide this guy for a few years. They signed and stashed him in the G-League a few years ago and have been working on developing him. The organization is very high on him, but it may be a while until we see him make an impact.

The most promising pick was the selection of Paschall. Paschall is of the same mold of Draymond Green. He is a smart player, versatile defender, and solid shooter. He doesn’t have the fire or same instincts as Green, but he is a similar type of player.

Indiana Pacers: B-

Pick 18: Goga Bitadze

As a player, I am very high on Bitadze. He is a very good rim protector and has a diversified offensive game. He has a solid post game, can shoot from outside, and has shown a developing ability to play make. His defense takes a major drop when he gets dragged away from the basket, but he is solid in the interior. The reason I don’t love this pick is that I think the Pacers would have been better off taking a point guard like Ty Jerome. Instead, the Pacers wanted to strengthen their frontcourt depth which suggests they could be moving on from either Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis sooner rather than later.

Los Angeles Clippers: C+

Pick 27: Mfiondu Kabengele
Pick 48: Terence Mann

In the big picture, the draft doesn’t really matter for the Clippers as their main goal is to improve through free agency. With that said, they got a skilled big man in Kabengele. He can score from outside and is a strong rim protector. He will be a nice change of pace compared to the big men they already have on the roster and will provide a new look off the bench.

My questions come with the Terence Mann pick. Mann is an athletic wing who has a very high work rate. I have a lot of concerns about his offensive skill set and his defensive instincts are inconsistent. I was surprised that Mann was drafted at all and thought that he would have been a nice undrafted, summer league flyer.

Los Angeles Lakers: B+

Pick 46: Talen Horton-Tucker

The Lakers traded back into this draft and got a steal with Horton-Tucker. I had him as a first-round talent and was surprised he fell as far as he did. Horton-Tucker is a skilled wing that can score at any level of the floor. He is effective off the ball with his shooting ability but is very effective with the ball in his hand. He creates space with change-of-pace dribbling and does a great job of using his body to move defenders when he drives. The Lakers are in desperate need, right now, of ball handlers and wing scoring. Horton-Tucker is a great young, cheap option for them.

Memphis Grizzlies: A+

Pick 2: Ja Morant
Pick 21: Brandon Clarke

The Grizzlies had an awesome draft. They got their successor to the Mike Conley era in Ja Morant who could be a franchise point guard. He is a great athlete, scorer, and passer. He has an uncanny ability to create for teammates. He needs to improve his shooting consistency, but he will be asked to create and attack early in his career.

They also got the biggest steal of this draft in Brandon Clarke. I had Clarke as a top ten talent and am stunned that he fell to 21. Clarke was the best shot blocker in the country last season and has improved his shot to be effective within 15 feet. His athleticism and work rate are going to fit perfectly with this team. The frontcourt of Clarke and Jaren Jackson Jr is going to be great defensively and has the potential to develop into a unique offense.

Miami Heat: B-

Pick 13: Tyler Herro
Pick 32: KZ Okpala

The Heat could have really gone in any direction with this draft, but they decided to improve their wing depth. Herro is a great shooter who has also shown other facets to his game. He does a great job of running through screens, but also really improved his shot creation ability as the year progressed. He is extremely confident and competitive on both ends of the floor which will help take his game to another level.

The Okpala pick is more of a toss-up. He is a great athlete with impressive measurables. I have concerns though because he never really realized any of his potential. His outside shooting did improve, but he has a long way to go to make a consistent impact. In the Heat’s culture, both of these wings could develop into nice players.

Minnesota Timberwolves: B

Pick 6: Jarrett Culver
Pick 43: Jaylen Nowell

The initial thought when the Timberwolves traded up was that they were targeting a point guard, but the only point guard they seemed interested in was Garland. Culver is a very nice player and one of the best defenders in this class. He just doesn’t fit great with this roster. There is a rather large sample size of the Timberwolves being a worse team with Teague on the floor so finding the team’s next point guard would have been nice. Garland is a great defender and passer but struggled to show any shooting consistency last year. He struggles to create his own shot and his shooting form is still a work in progress. The Timberwolves could have a stifling defense with Robert Covington, Josh Okogie, and Culver on the floor at the same time, but they are going to struggle to find much shooting.

That’s where their second-round pick Nowell comes in though. Nowell is an average defender but really improved his outside shooting last season where he shot 44 percent from three. Nowell could turn into a decent shooting option off the bench.

New Orleans Pelicans: A+

Pick 1: Zion Williamson
Pick 8: Jaxson Hayes
Pick 17: Nickeil Alexander-Walker
Pick 35: Morcos Louzada Silva

It wouldn’t have really mattered who the Pelicans took after Zion, this grade was going to be perfect. Zion is a franchise cornerstone and the best player in this draft by leaps and bounds. The Pelicans proceeded to draft a couple other very good players though.

Hayes going in the top ten was a bit of a reach for me, but he is a great compliment to Williamson. He is a very athletic rim protector and rim runner. Having him defend the paint will allow Williamson to guard better opponents on the perimeter and not worry about the rim. Hayes will initially be a project though. He is still very raw and likely won’t play a ton of minutes his rookie year.

Alexander-Walker was one of my favorite two guards in this draft. He is a good on-ball defender and was impressive on offense. He will provide shooting that their backcourt needs and also can play make at a high level.

Silva is a much less known prospect. He came out of nowhere in the last few months and is still very raw. He has 3-and-D potential but has a long way to go before he can be thought of as a roster option. Silva will likely be a draft-and-stash prospect or be nurtured in the G-League.

New York Knicks: A-

Pick 3: RJ Barrett
Pick 47: Ignas Brazdeikis 

My views on Barrett soured as the year progressed, but he is still a very talented player. Barrett is a great scorer with an NBA ready body. He has the athleticism and tools to be a very good defender as well. At Duke, he was very inefficient, but I think a lot of that was due to a lack of shooting around him. By being surrounded by NBA level shooters, Barrett should be more effective. Defenses won’t be able to collapse on him as much which will improve his shot selection and when they do collapse, he’ll have better options to kick out to. 

Brazdeikis is a decent scorer but I don’t think that he has much more room for improvement. He is an average scorer and goes through stretches of being a good shooter. If he can improve his ball handling, his scoring opportunities will improve.

Oklahoma City Thunder: D+

Pick 23: Darius Bazley

The last thing the Thunder needed was another athletic wing who can’t shoot. Unfortunately, that is exactly who they drafted. Bazley plays with a lot of energy and is a great rebounder. He is a versatile defender and will be a nice rotation player off the bench. The issue is that he doesn’t help their shooting struggles at all. The strategy for the Thunder makes no sense and this pick won’t help diversify their offense or alleviate pressure on Paul George or Russell Westbrook.

Orlando Magic: B+

Pick 16: Chuma Okeke

Initially, I didn’t love this pick for the Magic because I would have liked to see them take a player that could help them return to the playoffs right away. Okeke, unfortunately, will miss most of, if not all, of next season. My skepticism had nothing to do with Okeke though and the more I think about it, the more I like the pick. Okeke is similar to other recent Magic draft picks as he is a lengthy wing who can guard multiple positions. The difference though is that Okeke can actually shoot from outside. Once he’s healthy, Okeke won’t hurt them defensively and he’ll provide a much-needed shooting threat.

Philadelphia 76ers: C+

Pick 20: Matisse Thybulle
Pick 34: Bruno Fernando
Pick 42: Admiral Schofield
Pick 54: Marial Shayok

The 76ers were in desperate need of shooting and unfortunately, they didn’t fill this hole. Instead, they added another great wing defender in Thybulle. He might be the best perimeter defender but his shooting really struggled. He was inconsistent and seemed to have lost all confidence in his jumper by the end of the season. Adding him to the backcourt with Zhaire Smith will drastically improve their defense but will provide very little offense.

Schofield and Shayok shot decently last year, but I don’t have a lot of confidence that this will carry over to the NBA. Regardless, the 76ers improved their wing depth in case they lose Jimmy Butler and/or Tobias Harris.

My favorite pick that they made was actually Bruno Fernando. Fernando is a physical, old school center. He greatly improved his low post defense and his shooting range. He can’t stretch it out to three, but he did become more consistent from the mid-range. He will be able to be a solid backup for Embiid which is something the 76ers really needed.

Phoenix Suns: D-

Pick 11: Cam Johnson
Pick 24: Ty Jerome

The Suns continue to make bewildering moves in the draft. Their early trades made sense because it looked like they were trying to create cap space to sign a free agent point guard. As the night progressed though, they made more trades that ended up bringing in more money. The pick of Johnson was surprising. He’s a nice player and the best shooter in the draft but taking him at 11 was a massive reach especially as some teams had a medical red flag on him. Johnson will be a high-level shooter from day one but doesn’t help fill any of their needs.

The only silver lining of the night was that they were able to trade back into the first round and take Ty Jerome. I am a big fan of Jerome’s game and think that he’ll be a solid player for a long time. He is one of the best passers in this draft, a very intelligent player, and a great shooter. Even though this was a really nice pick for the Suns, the reach at 11 and directionless trades really ruined their night.

Portland Trail Blazers: B

Pick 25: Nassir Little

The Trail Blazers needed help with their wing scoring but Little was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I had Little as a lottery talent despite his slow start at North Carolina. Little is a tough player who has a lot of room to grow. He is a versatile defender and a very good rebounder. His scoring ability right now is pretty limited to around the rim, but he did show an improved jumper as the year progressed and into the pre-draft process. Hopefully Little can expand his range to being at least a reliable corner three shooter. At the very least, Portland drafted an athletic, promising wing who will play his butt off.

Sacramento Kings: C-

Pick 40: Justin James
Pick 55: Kyle Guy
Pick 60: Vanja Marinkovic

There is only so much you can do with a handful of second round picks, but the Kings still made some questionable picks. James is a decent scorer, but he is also someone they likely could have gotten undrafted.

Guy is a great shooter and I’m glad he got drafted because he is more than just a shooter. He is an intelligent player and a competitive defender. The issue is that the Kings already have a handful of these players. The Kings seemed intent on drafting players in the mold of what they already have instead of trying to diversify their roster or fill holes.

San Antonio Spurs: B-

Pick 19: Luka Samanic
Pick 29: Keldon Johnson
Pick 49: Quinndary Weatherspoon

The fact that teams continue to let impressive talents fall to the Spurs in the late first round is beyond frustrating. Johnson is a good wing who is at his best when he is away from the ball on offense. He is a good spot up shooter and a really effective cutter. This will be a great fit with the Spurs’ offensive philosophy of frequent ball and player movement. On top of that, Johnson is a very competitive defender. His athleticism gives him a foundation but his instincts and competitiveness take him over the top.

It isn’t surprising that the Spurs took the mobile, foreign big man, but I also think they reached on Samanic at 19. He is very mobile for his size and has a nice offensive game. I worry about his defensive impact though. He goes through stretches of not playing very hard and struggles to defend on the perimeter. Weatherspoon is a solid back up point guard. He isn’t going to make winning plays, but he also won’t lose you the game.

Toronto Raptors: C

Pick 59: Dewan Hernandez

The draft was inconsequential for the Raptors as all of their focus needs to be on free agency and keeping the superstar that they traded their first-round pick for. Despite that, they still got an athletic big man in Hernandez. He had a great combine and showed off his strengths. He is very athletic which is evident in his solid rebounding and competitive defense. Ideally, the Raptors could have gotten a point guard for the future, but with the 59th pick, the options are limited.

Utah Jazz: C+

Pick 50: Jarrell Brantley
Pick 53: Justin Wright-Foreman
Pick 58: Miye Oni

The highlight for the Jazz was the Conley trade. It immediately makes them a better team and makes them a legit contender in the West. With only second-round picks, there is limited impact a team can have in the draft. The Jazz were able to add to their wing depth with three offensively minded wings. Brantley can score off the dribble and is a decent shooter. Wright-Foreman is another top tier shooter in this draft. He can light it up from outside and will help expand the range of the Jazz’s offense.

Oni is more well-rounded on both sides of the ball and is another wing who isn’t great at one specific thing but can do a bit of everything. These guys will likely be buried on the bench for most of the season, but with the Jazz’s limited rotation depth, they may see more time as the season progresses.

Washington Wizards: C-

Pick 9: Rui Hachimura

With the cap hell the Wizards are in, they really needed to hit on their first-round pick. I think Hachimura could develop into a solid player, but unfortunately, I don’t see that happening any time soon. Hachimura has a versatile scoring game, but he doesn’t have a great feel for the game. He will be a project and I don’t think the Wizards will have the patience or time to fully commit to developing Hachimura into a legitimate starter.

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