What Went Wrong in the 2019 NBA Draft

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Thursday’s NBA Draft almost had everything a basketball fan could ask for: an incoming superstar capable of capturing the hearts of fans league-wide, a colossal amount of trades, prospects getting stuck in the green room and questionable selections. However, it’s the latter that has my head boiling. The process of selecting and drafting players is such an inaccurate science and reared its ugly head last night more than most years.

Each pick is a critical opportunity for franchises to improve their teams, and as bystanders we have the chance to evaluate, question and criticize their decisions at every turn. There were two players who suffered large falls on draft night and 9 others who far outreached their predicted value before the draft.

Stock Down:
#25 Nassir Little (North Carolina) – Picked by the Portland Trailblazers
#44 Bol Bol (Oregon) – Picked/Traded to the Denver Nuggets

Stock (Unexpectedly) Up:
#11 Cameron Johnson (North Carolina) – Picked by the Phoenix Suns
#16 Chuma Okeke (Auburn) – Picked by the Orlando Magic
#28 Jordan Poole (Michigan) – Picked by the Golden State Warriors
#35 Marcos Louzada Silva (Brazil) – Picked by the Atlanta Hawks
#36 Cody Martin (Nevada) – Picked by the Charlotte Hornets
#39 Alen Smailagic (Santa Cruz Warriors) – Picked/Traded to the Golden State Warriors
#40 Justin James (Wyoming) – Picked by the Sacramento Kings
#59 Dewan Hernandez (Miami) – Picked by the Toronto Raptors
#60 Vanja Marinkovic (Serbia) – Picked by the Sacramento Kings

While I was disappointed in their slides, Little and Bol were top 10 talents that will make many teams pay for not taking deeper looks at them. I also cannot fault teams for jumping up to grab Cam Johnson or Chuma Okeke. Johnson was a top 3 shooter in the draft and when healthy (torn ACL) Okeke proved to be a dynamic wing player. My problem comes in for the majority of second-round picks listed above that were extreme reaches for their value.

The remaining players were drafted 25+ picks higher than their projected rankings among eligible prospects. In the case of reaching for talent, I’m much more accepting of the move if a player’s skills are already developed. However the 6 instances after Jordan Poole represent guys with largely unrefined skillsets that teams won’t be able to utilize right away. In my view the following prospects should have been selected instead with one of the 60 picks in last night’s draft:

#28 Luguentz Dort, SG (Arizona State) – Signed UDFA deal with Oklahoma City
#40 Terence Davis, SG (Ole Miss) – Signed UDFA deal with Denver
#42 Jontay Porter, C (Missouri – #42) – No UDFA signed yet
#46 Shamorie Ponds, PG (St. John’s) – Signed UDFA deal with Houston
#47 Jalen Lecque, PG (USA) – Signed UDFA deal with Phoenix
#49 Naz Reid, C (LSU) – Signed UDFA deal with Minnesota
#67 Charles Matthews, SF (Michigan) – No UDFA deal signed yet
#70 Ky Bowman, PG (Boston College) – Signed UDFA deal with Golden State

For what it’s worth, I think Bowman, Dort, Ponds and Lecque can be productive NBA guards and have strong careers in the league. The same goes for Reid, who fits the modern big skillset, and Matthews who is a talented defender.

Looking at the needs of teams around the league, I felt the following organizations could’ve provided opportunities for some of the undrafted players above:

PGs: Charlotte Hornets, Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers
SGs/SFs: Washington Wizards, Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers
Cs: New York Knicks

The big question relates to several of the above teams entering the offseason in a precarious situation for certain positions and failing to appropriately address the need. For example, Charlotte is potentially going to see All-Star Kemba Walker decline a max contract (if offered) and head towards unrestricted free agency. The only other point guard on the roster is Devonte Graham and the Hornets could use a backup or potential replacement if Walker indeed leaves the team.

The contentedness of certain organizations to ignore problem areas heading into next season baffles me. Specific to the players mentioned above, teams with costly expiring contracts or aging players could have easily used a solid, productive and cheap replacement option. Most teams will now look towards free agency to land bigger fish, but recent NBA champions like Golden State and San Antonio have proven you can win titles by drafting and developing. Ignoring the talent doesn’t help you get any closer…

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