NBA null null null null Basketball The 2019 NBA Draft has come and gone, leaving the typical round of questions. Which teams managed to come out of the draft looking good? Which ones floundered and never quite found their way? Who drafted Georgios Papagiannis in the lottery? That’s why we’re here to play armchair quarterback and hand out some draft grades. Hopefully it’ll help figure out who did well and who didn’t. Of course, all of this could look horribly stupid in three years when we find out which prospects actually panned out. Such is the risk of offering up instant grades. NBA DRAFT WINNERS & LOSERS: A quick note about the grading philosophy employed below: I’ve historically found one of the most frustrating things about reading NBA Draft grades to be that I don’t understand why picks are being graded the way they are. So, I wanted to lay out a rubric of sorts to try to help the reader make sense of what’s to come. My goal is to grade selections against the historic value of each pick. We know we should expect more out of the No. 1 pick than the No. 15 pick than the No. 30 pick and so on. Based on what we know about the prospect selected, how close did the team get to finding the appropriate value for the pick it had? That’s what we’ll attempt to grade. C is average, and grades go up or down from there. Of course, things can get a bit more complicated and abstract when other assets like future draft picks or established players get tossed into the mix in trades, but we’ll cover that. Hopefully the above provides at least some idea of what these letters mean rather than viewing them against some ambiguous unknown. Now, let’s get on the record with some grades.
Pelicans, Grizzlies build bright futures; Suns, Wizards reach
NBA Draft picks, grades: Round 1Pick - Team - Player1. Pelicans — Zion Williamson, Forward, Duke
The 2019 NBA Draft has come and gone, leaving the typical round of questions. Which teams managed to come out of the draft looking good? Which ones floundered and never quite found their way? Who drafted Georgios Papagiannis in the lottery?
That’s why we’re here to play armchair quarterback and hand out some draft grades. Hopefully it’ll help figure out who did well and who didn’t. Of course, all of this could look horribly stupid in three years when we find out which prospects actually panned out. Such is the risk of offering up instant grades.
NBA DRAFT WINNERS & LOSERS:
A quick note about the grading philosophy employed below: I’ve historically found one of the most frustrating things about reading NBA Draft grades to be that I don’t understand why picks are being graded the way they are. So, I wanted to lay out a rubric of sorts to try to help the reader make sense of what’s to come.
My goal is to grade selections against the historic value of each pick. We know we should expect more out of the No. 1 pick than the No. 15 pick than the No. 30 pick and so on. Based on what we know about the prospect selected, how close did the team get to finding the appropriate value for the pick it had? That’s what we’ll attempt to grade. C is average, and grades go up or down from there.
Of course, things can get a bit more complicated and abstract when other assets like future draft picks or established players get tossed into the mix in trades, but we’ll cover that. Hopefully the above provides at least some idea of what these letters mean rather than viewing them against some ambiguous unknown.
Now, let’s get on the record with some grades.
It will never not be odd to consider just how much a certain bouncing of the ping pong balls can change the trajectory of a franchise. Just days removed from the end of the Anthony Davis saga that turned the organization on its head, New Orleans is able to lock in the best college prospect since at least Davis as its cornerstone.
Hopefully it’s well known by now Williamson is more than the highlights that have earned him over three million followers on Instagram. Certainly the athleticism and power that epitomize his best moments are a big part of why he’s thought of so highly — it’s tough to ignore a one percent of the one percent level athlete — but it’s often his impressive basketball IQ and constantly running motor making those plays possible.
So, where does Williamson fit in with the Pelicans’ newly acquired young core? The easiest and most obvious fit is in transition. Head coach Alvin Gentry wants to play fast. Williamson’s size, strength and athleticism make him nearly unstoppable in the open court. He and Lonzo Ball should make for a dynamic duo. New Orleans also has a chance to be very good defensively with Ball and Jrue Holiday patrolling the perimeter and Williamson on the back line to generate defensive events.
If there’s an immediate concern, it’s in the half court. Williamson’s not a shooter yet. The numbers — 33.8 percent from deep and 64.0 percent from the foul line as a freshman — combined with his near set shot form suggest he’ll need some time to develop into one if he ever does. New Orleans’ return for Davis was light on shooting, too. At least David Griffin has an obvious need to target going forward.
It may take a bit for the Pelicans to turn things around, but immediacy isn’t why Williamson went No. 1. Still 18 years old, he’s the future for New Orleans and maybe, if things break right, the league as a whole.
2. Grizzlies — Ja Morant, Point, Murray State
Morant’s journey from the bowels of a high school basketball event to becoming the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft has been well chronicled in the weeks leading up to Thursday night. Now, following Wednesday’s trade with Utah, the once unheralded recruit knows his future: shouldering the burden of replacing Mike Conley in Memphis. Simple enough.
The Murray State product is potentially capable of doing just that. He possesses tremendous court vision and the ability to throw passes that make his teammates’ lives easier. He also has the shifty handle and athleticism to generate offense on his own. Combined, Morant’s ability to draw defensive attention and pass out of it should complement last season’s first-round pick, Jaren Jackson Jr., allowing him to excel in advantage scoring situations in the half court.
There are reasons to be concerned about Morant, particularly as it relates to his pull-up jumper, turnovers and defensive ability, or lack thereof. Nonetheless, FiveThirtyEight’s upside-based draft model pegs the 19-year-old as the second-best prospect in this class behind Williamson. It also rates him as a better prospect than any college player in last year’s draft class. High praise considering 2018’s draft included the likes of Deandre Ayton, Trae Young and Marvin Bagley.
The Grizzlies couldn’t do much better here. They’ve managed to match a positional need with a talent worthy of the No. 2 pick. What more could you ask for?
3. Knicks — RJ Barrett, Wing, Duke
The Knicks are badly in need of a star with their free agency outlook appearing frostier than it did a few months ago given Kyrie Irving is potentially headed to Brooklyn and Kevin Durant is slated to miss next season following his Achilles injury.
Stars are obviously vital for competing for championships and having established ones allows a front office to shape its strategy for acquiring role players around their strengths and weaknesses. Given New York’s current roster construction, its primary focus should be on finding that star.
Barrett has the potential to be one. He averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game at Duke. College freshmen don’t do that. He’s also a hard worker with an alpha dog mentality and a desire to be great. Barrett functionally played point guard for a Blue Devils offense that finished in the top 10 nationally in adjusted efficiency. He can operate a ball screen, beat defenders in isolation and find teammates when he’s looking. Barrett has legitimate potential to be the prized wing creator every team lusts after.
There’s also a chance the tunnel vision and inefficiency he showed in college never changes, he struggles to find a home defensively and he travels the path of the likes of Carmelo Anthony or Brandon Ingram.
The 19-year-old is a perfectly reasonable No. 3 pick in a vacuum. There’s an argument New York could have received slightly more value by trading down a spot or two for Jarrett Culver or Darius Garland and adding another asset if that was an option. Barrett’s upside as an initiator and the Knicks’ need to find a star overrides some of that here, though. See? Grading is horribly complicated (and subjective).
4. Lakers — De'Andre Hunter, Forward, Virginia (proposed trade to the Hawks)
Hunter may have worn a Lakers hat when he shook Adam Silver’s hand on stage, but he won’t play for them next season, as this pick is part of the agreed upon trade sending Anthony Davis to Los Angeles. Hunter won’t end up in a Pelicans jersey either, though.
New Orleans dealt this pick along with No. 57, Solomon Hill and a future second-rounder to the Hawks in exchange for No. 8, No. 17, No. 35 and a protected first-rounder belonging to the Cavaliers next year that will likely become a pair of second-rounders.
On face, Hunter’s skill set is a terrific fit for what Travis Schlenk is building in Atlanta. He’s a non-ball dominant wing who can create in advantage situations and knock down outside shots. The release is certainly a bit slow and will need to speed up for him to be a true 3-and-D threat, but the base is there. On the other end, Hunter is one of the best on-ball defenders in the class. He uses his strength to body up opposing offensive players and can guard multiple positions. Hunter isn’t one to gamble, and he doesn’t create the number of events most great defenders do, but he should still be a huge plus as a stopper.
The problem with Hunter — and ultimately the issue with this trade for Atlanta — is that he’s not a high-upside play. He’s already 21 years old, he hasn’t flashed much to suggest he’ll be more than a tertiary offensive player and he’s not a passer. In short, he’s not the Kawhi Leonard comparison he often gets. Hunter is fine, but the Hawks gave up a ton in this transaction.
Atlanta is sacrificing two first-rounders in a draft that, while not great at the top, does have some depth to it. Given how hard it is to find a star, there’s value in having more bites at the apple. The Hawks also gave up a high second-round pick — a historically useful selection for occasionally finding a steal. While Hunter is a nice fit in Atlanta, factoring in everything else, it’s hard to view this move as a success.
5. Cavaliers — Darius Garland, Point, Vanderbilt
Time to get weird. Seemingly after failing to find a trade partner for the No. 5 pick, the Cavaliers used a high first-round pick to select a point guard for the second year in a row. Garland is an interesting enough prospect worthy of a top-five selection, but this seems like an odd allocation of assets for Cleveland.
Let’s start with Garland as a prospect. He played just five games for Vanderbilt this season before suffering a knee injury that ended his college career. During that stretch, it was clear Garland possessed one of the better live dribble games in the draft. He can get to his spots working out of ball screens and possesses a deadly pull-up jumper out beyond NBA range. Given the importance of the dribble pull-up in modern basketball, Garland has a path to becoming a star at the next level.
The 19-year-old’s path is more narrow than someone like Trae Young, though. Garland is not the facilitator Young is. His court vision isn’t great, and in his five games with the Commodores, he posted a negative assist-to-turnover ratio. Like Young, Garland projects to struggle defensively. He’s small and doesn’t play with the highest motor. His scoring ability is going to need to generate the bulk of his value.
Now, the asset allocation. It’s hard to imagine a winning backcourt in Cleveland featuring both Garland and incumbent point guard Collin Sexton, even if new head coach John Beilein can succeed in designing an offense that takes advantage of multiple ball handlers. The combination would be small defensively and struggle to get stops. Given the Cavaliers had the option of landing a wing like Jarrett Culver here, the selection is even more perplexing. Culver likely has just as much upside as Garland given his two-way prowess.
Garland’s a good prospect, but this is a weird fit — sounds average.
6. Suns — Jarrett Culver, Wing, Texas Tech (proposed trade to the Timberwolves)
Selected by Phoenix, Culver will be headed to Minnesota in a deal that will see the No. 11 pick and Dario Saric go to the Suns. Although the Timberwolves sacrificed an initial asset to snag Culver, this feels like a positive play for Minnesota’s new front office, as Saric is already 25 years old and doesn’t figure to be anything more than a rotation piece.
Culver, on the other hand, has some legitimate upside. He came into the draft as the No. 4 prospect on our big board. The 20-year-old is also the third-highest rated prospect in FiveThirtyEight’s upside model. Why? Culver checks the boxes on both sides of the ball, and his ability to generate steals sticks out, in particular. He’s not necessarily a defensive stopper, but his steal rate suggests a certain innate feel for the game that’s often present in prospects who outperform expectations.
The Texas Tech product's offensive game is interesting. In college, he transitioned from spot-up threat as a freshman to ball-dominant pseudo-point guard as a sophomore. Culver has underrated court vision and playmaking ability. The jumper, though, remains a question mark. It has a super high release point and a bit of a hitch. His sophomore shooting numbers — 30.4 percent from 3-point range and 70.7 percent at the foul line — don’t suggest he’ll be a good shooter right away, but these are the type of players worth betting on figuring out ways to contribute.
Culver’s got a high basketball IQ, he’s a hard worker and he has enough skill to work with as a base. Minnesota needs to find additional talent to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns after the Andrew Wiggins deal went down in flames. This should be a good start.
7. Bulls — Coby White, Point, North Carolina
Chicago stays put and lands the point guard it needs to help round out its starting five. As the draft process progressed, it seemed clear the Bulls didn’t believe in Kris Dunn as a viable option at the position, so finding a replacement seemed a priority. White should fit in well.
The North Carolina product excels pushing the pace in transition. He’s one of the fastest end-to-end players in this draft class. He’ll generate a handful of points each game for the Bulls in transition on his own. In the half court, White’s ability to knock down jumpers off the catch will allow Zach LaVine to continue to initiate the bulk of the offense. Not shouldering White with a heavy creation burden right away should be a positive.
Long-term, White has the potential to be a gravity-inducing pull-up threat from outside the arc. Although he struggled to shoot it efficiently off the bounce in Chapel Hill, White’s mechanics look good, and he should progress well.
The 19-year-old does have his concerns. Chicago likely won’t be building a league-topping defense with White playing significant minutes, and he still needs to develop as a playmaker and facilitator. The good news is this situation should give him space to grow.
8. Hawks — Jaxson Hayes, Center, Texas (proposed trade to the Pelicans)
Hayes is headed to New Orleans as part of the deal that saw Atlanta move up to select De’Andre Hunter at No. 4. The late-blooming Texas project is rated extremely well in numerous draft models thanks to his efficient scoring and how well rim protection translates to the next level. Hayes averaged 3.8 blocks per 40 minutes as a freshman.
The 19-year-old still has a long way to go, though. He’s undersized to play the center position right now and will need to add strength in order to engage in the night in, night out battles the position requires. His offensive game is efficient in large part because he was able to feast on points around the basket.
I had Hayes ranked quite a bit lower than this on my final big board in large part because his development curve may push him past his first franchise and the general abundance of serviceable bigs at the NBA level. That said, it’s hard to ignore the analytics here. Hayes should at least be a useful pro.
In New Orleans, he’ll pair with Zion Williamson to form one of the most athletic frontcourts in the league. The Pelicans also get a bit of a residual bump for the sheer value they received from sliding down in this draft.
9. Wizards — Rui Hachimura, Forward, Gonzaga
Masai Ujiri wouldn’t have let this happen. Hachimura is a prospect who was ranked significantly lower on my big board, and while it seemed clear NBA teams were bigger fans, it still puzzles me as to why.
Here’s the optimistic case for Hachimura — while he’s 21 years old, he’s still learning the game. When he came to Gonzaga from Japan, he barely spoke English. He’s improved every year since then. He’s a plus athlete who wins against defenders using that athleticism and his strength. There’s a chance he develops into a high-level scorer from the power forward spot. He’s also by all accounts a hard worker and high-character guy.
Here’s the problem — Hachimura is already 21 years old. That’s old for a lottery pick these days, and there’s a limited upside that comes with that. FiveThirtyEight’s upside model rates him behind the likes of Josh Reaves, Dylan Windler and noted Fort Wayne star John Konchar.
Hachimura’s feel for the game is lacking. He’s a non-passer, which is a real problem for someone you’re hoping will turn into one of your top scoring options. He struggles defensively, too. It may be that he just hasn’t learned how to play on that end yet, but Gonzaga’s got one of the best coaching staffs in the country. More likely than not, Hachimura’s feel isn’t going to develop. It’s one of those things that doesn’t really get taught.
This is a reach in my book, especially when Washington needs to get things right for the inevitable rebuild that’s coming down the line.
10. Hawks — Cam Reddish, Forward, Duke
After selecting De’Andre Hunter at No. 4, Atlanta snags another combo forward at No. 10. There was a time when Reddish was thought of as the most talented player in this class, but a tough year at Duke behind RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson saw his draft stock slide.
In the late lottery, taking a shot on Reddish is well justified. He probably has one of the highest upsides of players remaining on the board. In his ideal form, Reddish operates as a bit of a point forward using his size to create offense for himself and his teammates. He’s flashed the occasional pull-up jumper and should shoot it well off the catch in the NBA. His defense is also a positive. Reddish impressed on that end as a Blue Devil and should be able to guard multiple positions in the NBA.
The likelihood he finds his way to his best outcome, though, is low. Basically no NBA stars shot worse than 40.0 percent on 2-pointers in college regardless of shot selection. Reddish’s struggles inside the arc are reflective of his overrated athleticism. He shot just 50.0 percent at the rim in non-transition situations, per Hoop-Math. He’s 6-9.
The good news for Atlanta is Reddish’s middling outcome should still be a useful player assuming the jump shot progresses to the point many think it can. Don’t be surprised if he turns into the type of 3-and-D player NBA teams need.
11. Timberwolves — Cameron Johnson, Forward, North Carolina (proposed trade to the Suns)
Well, this is unexpected. Johnson is actually headed to Phoenix along with Dario Saric for the rights to draft Jarrett Culver at No. 6, which begs the question… Did the goats make this pick? Johnson was largely projected as a late first-rounder in most mock drafts.
I actually like Johnson quite a bit. I thought he would be an excellent selection for a team in the early 20s as a player who could come in and help right away. He’s probably the best shooter in the draft, and he has positional size. He’s able to get his jumper off over most defenders. There’s a ton of value in that alone.
But Johnson is also already 23 years old. He’s a limited to non-existent on-ball creator. He’s skinny and almost certain to struggle defensively at the next level. He also has an extensive injury history and had reportedly been flagged by multiple teams for those injury issues. His best case scenario is a 3-and-D combo forward.
Phoenix, a team drastically in need of a point guard, passed up the chance to draft a good one at No. 6 in Coby White in exchange for a fine role player? This selection is frankly awful.
12. Hornets — PJ Washington, Forward, Kentucky
Charlotte selecting a productive college player may be the only thing less surprising than Phoenix making a poor draft decision. Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, Miles Bridges — the Hornets have some history.
Washington is actually a pretty fascinating prospect. Some of the most underrated defensive prospects in recent memory have been combo forwards with lengthy wingspans. Washington’s measured 7-2 at the NBA Draft Combine. He wasn’t elite on that end in college, but there’s arguably some untapped physical potential there.
At worst, Washington should be a valuable rotation player, especially if you believe he can be a spot-up threat from beyond the 3-point line. He shot 42.3 percent from deep as a sophomore on limited attempts, but is just a career 63.2 percent foul shooter.
Charlotte could use some additional help at the power forward spot, and Washington should be just that.
13. Heat — Tyler Herro, Wing, Kentucky
Miami’s roster is lacking star power, so there’s an argument its front office should have taken a bigger swing here in search of a potential steal, but perhaps I’m underselling Herro’s upside.
The 6-6 wing is one of the purest shooters in the class, capable of knocking down jumpers in a variety of ways. Off-movement shooters matter in the NBA, and so do ones who can occasionally connect with their pull-up. While he only shot 35.5 percent from behind the arc at Kentucky, he’s a safe bet to shoot significantly better than that over a larger sample in the pros. Herro has terrific mechanics and made 93.5 percent of his free throws as a freshman. If he can add a bit more playmaking, maybe he’s better than I think.
Herro is going to need his offense to carry the bulk of his NBA value. He’s got a negative wingspan and will almost assuredly be a minus defender. There’s a chance it will, though, and for that reason, this is a slightly above board pick.
14. Celtics — Romeo Langford, Wing, Indiana
Langford is a prospect who was rumored to be slipping throughout the draft process. It seems that was a bit of a ruse, as Boston lands him at the end of the lottery. While the Indiana product isn’t likely to soothe the sorrows of Celtics fans stemming from the likely loss of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, he has the potential to be a productive NBA player.
The 19-year-old struggled with his outside shot in college, making just 27.2 percent of his 3-point attempts. A thumb injury may have contributed to his stumbles. Boston has always been willing to bet on its ability to improve shooters. Langford was able to knock down shots off the bounce in high school and shot better than 70 percent from the foul line in college. Maybe there’s a chance.
The thing to like about Langford is his ability to create offense going downhill. He controls the pace of the game when he’s on the ball and is crafty around the basket, even flashing touch on floaters. If he can develop an efficient jumper, he has the potential to be the total package as a scorer.
I like this risk for the Celtics. They have three first-round picks, they're facing a retooling of the roster and you can never have too many quality wings.
15. Pistons — Sekou Doumbouya, Forward, France
This is a nice value for the Pistons here just outside the lottery. Doumbouya was widely regarded as a top-10 prospect in this draft heading into Thursday night. He’s one of the youngest players in the class and combines positional size with plus athleticism. There’s a foundation of something interesting here. The dream is that he turns into some version of Pascal Siakam.
Doumbouya likely won’t be ready to contribute right away, so Detroit will need to show some patience in developing him for the long-term. In theory, that shouldn’t be a problem, as the Pistons have Blake Griffin to play the bulk of their power forward minutes.
The 18-year-old is still a risk. There’s a chance he never develops into a valuable player for his first franchise, even if he ultimately pans out. There’s also a reasonable chance he just never turns into an NBA player. The talent value Detroit gets here is a plus, but it’s important to understand the risks involved, especially for a team seemingly concerned with consistently making the playoffs.
16. Magic — Chuma Okeke, Forward, Auburn
Although we don’t have official wingspan measurements for Okeke, it’s pretty tough to imagine a more Orlando pick here at No. 16. In fact, the Magic already have a few positionally similar players on their roster in Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac. The Auburn forward has excellent size and checks the boxes associated with being a valuable 3-and-D player at the next level.
Okeke was a darling of some of the analytics models heading into the draft. He’s a career 38.9 percent 3-point shooter despite only shooting 70.3 percent from the foul line. He might be one of the rare cases of a poor foul shooter who can knock down 3s. He’s limited in the types of shots he can make, but he should be comfortable hitting from the corners.
Defensively, Okeke’s numbers stick out. He averaged 2.5 steals and 1.7 blocks per 40 minutes as a sophomore. He’s got the length to contain perimeter players off the bounce, and he’s strong enough to defend against larger opponents. He should excel defensively in the league.
Had Okeke not torn his ACL in the NCAA Tournament, there’s a reasonable chance he would have been selected higher than this. Given ACL injuries aren’t what they used to be, it’s nice to see the Magic taking a risk in this spot.
17. Nets — Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Wing, Virginia Tech (proposed trade to the Pelicans)
This pick was initially traded to Atlanta as part of a deal to clear Allen Crabbe’s salary, and it was ultimately sent to New Orleans as a piece in the trade for No. 4. This is a necessary addition for the Pelicans after their Anthony Davis package netted no shooters and they selected a pair of frontcourt pieces earlier in the draft.
Alexander-Walker projects to shoot it well from deep. He made 38.3 percent of his 303 college 3-point attempts. He’ll provide some of the floor spacing needed for Zion Williamson to operate in the half court. The Virginia Tech prospect also offers New Orleans some backcourt flexibility. He’s capable of playing both on and off the ball. He should pair well with either Lonzo Ball or Jrue Holiday.
The reason Alexander-Walker didn’t come off the board higher is his lack of athleticism. He lacks the burst necessary to be a primary creator on the offensive end. The 20-year-old should still be a useful player, and he’s landed in a nice situation here. Another excellent move from New Orleans’ new front office.
18. Pacers — Goga Bitadze, Big, Georgia (country)
On face, this seems like an odd selection for a franchise that already has Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on its roster. Perhaps this is Indiana preparing for a future in which both big men aren’t around?
Bitadze was rated by some as the best big man in this draft. He’s a mature offensive player who excels playing out of ball screens, whether it’s rolling to the rim or popping out beyond the 3-point line. He’s even flashed some passing as a short-roll decision-maker. On defense, Bitadze figures to be one of the best rim protectors in this class.
There are a few wings left on the board here, including Nassir Little and Kevin Porter, that may have made more sense from a positional perspective for the Pacers, but Bitadze’s a good player. It’s hard to be mad at them for seeking some flexibility when it comes to sorting out the contracts of their frontcourt.
19. Spurs — Luka Samanic, Big, Croatia
Phoenix making mistakes, Charlotte drafting successful college prospects, Orlando drafting power forwards and the Spurs taking skilled international big men. For all of its chaos, sometimes the NBA Draft brings comfort in its consistency.
Samanic fits a lot of what the Spurs want out of their big men. He can shoot it a little bit and is a smart decision-maker when put into those positions. He should bring quite a bit of value on the offensive end. Defensively, it’s not clear what role Samanic will play at the NBA level, as he’s not a particularly valuable rim protector, and he hasn’t proven he can consistently switch out on the perimeter.
I think this is a little high for Samanic, but it’s clear the Spurs like him. He fits the profile of a player they’d be interested in. Some slight deference goes to San Antonio.
20. Celtics — Matisse Thybulle, Wing, Washington (proposed trade to the 76ers)
The Celtics are sending this selection to Philadelphia in exchange for No. 24 and No. 33 in this year’s draft. The pairing of the 76ers and Thybulle had been a popular one in the lead-up to the draft.
The Washington wing player brings a lot of what Philadelphia needs in its role players to the table. He’s not a lock to shoot it at the NBA level, but he made 35.8 percent of his 3-point attempts in college and shot 85.1 percent from the foul line in his final season. He may not be a particularly diverse shooter off movement. He should still be able to knock down catch-and-shoots, which should be enough to offer the likes of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid space to operate.
Thybulle is also an incredibly disruptive defender, even if he’s not an elite on-ball guy. He averaged an absurd 4.5 steals and 2.9 blocks per 40 minutes as a senior. He’ll provide the 76ers a very valuable help defender.
Philadelphia had to give up a valuable second-rounder in order to move up a few spots to land Thybulle, but given how valuable his archetype is for the team’s particular roster construction, it’s hard to be too mad at the Sixers.
21. Thunder — Brandon Clarke, Forward, Gonzaga (proposed trade to the Grizzlies)
Clarke is being traded to Memphis in a deal for No. 23 and a future second-round pick. So, where do I sign up to hop on the Grizzlies bandwagon? Is there an official "Grit'N’Grind" initiation ritual I need to go through? Do I have to try to score against Tony Allen until I tap out?
Clarke is one of my favorite prospects in this draft. He finished the season as the No. 5 prospect on my draft board. The 22-year-old was talked about as a potential fit with Minnesota at No. 11 — before he measured poorly from a wingspan perspective at the draft combine — because of how well he’d pair with Karl-Anthony Towns. Well, Jaren Jackson Jr. will have to do.
Given Clarke’s lack of a jumper, he needs a shooting big man to keep lineups he plays in from constraining the floor. Jackson should make up for his weakness. Clarke will be free to find the garbage buckets offensively and make plays out of short rolls when needed.
Defensively, the pairing of Clarke and Jackson should be terrifying. They’re arguably the two highest-IQ defenders to come out of the last two drafts. Any opposing player will need to think twice when shooting around the basket. The duo will also allow Memphis to switch consistently.
Considering Memphis gave up less than Philadelphia to move up a similar number of spots — plus the gap between big board position and actual landing spots (and Clarke’s potential upside if he ever develops offensively) — this is an absolute home run for the Grizzlies.
22. Celtics — Grant Williams, Forward, Tennessee
After using No. 20 to maneuver around the board, Boston stays put here and brings together what will likely be another one of my favorite pairings from the first round.
Williams struggled at the NBA Draft Combine’s scrimmages in large part because his game doesn’t translate well in a free-for-all setting. In a more controlled environment, he should thrive. Williams isn’t much of an athlete, but he is one of the smartest players in the draft.
Despite being just 20 years old, Williams is a two-time SEC Player of the Year. He excels as a help defender, uses his strength to outmuscle opponents and is capable of making plays with the ball in his hands offensively. In the NBA, he’ll need to thrive in short rolls rather than the post-ups he got in college.
One of the reasons I was higher on Williams than NBA teams is I’m buying the jump shot, at least in spot-up situations. He only shot 32.6 percent from deep as a junior on limited attempts, but he made 81.9 percent of his free throws and flashed touch from the midrange.
Williams is an excellent bit of value here, and he fits the Celtics. He also comes with a nice little shot at Kyrie Irving.
23. Jazz — Darius Bazley, Forward, N/A (proposed trade to the Thunder)
The Jazz made this selection, but it’s going to Oklahoma City via Memphis as part of the deal for Brandon Clarke at No. 21. Although Clarke is a significantly better prospect than Bazley, it’s hard to punish the Thunder too much given Clarke would have been a miserable fit on Oklahoma City’s limited shooting roster.
Bazley is a player who skipped out on college basketball this season, but he made some strides during the pre-draft process. I’m not the biggest fan from what I’ve seen. Bazley is billed as a ve