5 Questions From the 2019 NBA Draft
Deep breath. It is over. The 2019 NBA draft may not have been loaded with top tier talent, but it will be one of the more memorable ones. General managers were whipping through trades, Woj was Wojier than ever, and some players entered into freefalls. But this draft left me with some questions. What’s on my mind?
1. Are scouts favoring skill over physical gifts more than ever?
Cam Johnson surprised everyone when he was drafted with the 11th overall pick. Tyler Herro, a player I was high on but many others had ranked somewhere between 20-35 on their big board, went 13th to the Heat. What do Johnson and Herro have in common?
They can shoot the lights out. They also lack physical gifts. Herro has a minus wingspan, Johnson allegedly had injury concerns, and both of them won’t wow you with their athleticism. Other first rounders that fit this skill-over-physical-gifts mold are Grant Williams, Ty Jerome and Luka Samanic; players who would not have surprised anyone if they fell to the early second round.
Instead, Williams was taken 22nd by the Celtics, the Suns traded to nab Jerome and Samanic was drafted much earlier than his projection at 19th overall. Additionally, the Magic selected the injured Chuma Okeke in the middle of the first round because they value his vision and spot-up shooting. Let’s also look at the players who fell.
Brandon Clarke could be seen ranked as a lottery pick on many big boards. He was the best athlete not named Zion but is lacked offensive polish. Nassir Little met those criteria as well and slipped to the 25th pick despite having been a riser during the pre-draft process. Am I overreacting to this trend or merely reading the NBA tea leaves?
2. Where do the non-Kyrie free agent guards go now?
Prior to the draft the Utah Jazz acquired Mike Conley. Cross them off of the D’Angelo Russell and Kemba Walker sweepstakes list. The Phoenix Suns (more on them later) now may not have the cap space to offer Russell a max restricted free agency contract.
The Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics, however, both came out of this draft with paths to create enough money to offer both Russell or Walker max contracts. Did the Pacers become more attractive by adding Warren? If it means sacrificing Bojan Bogdanovic, who knows. Still, get ready for the rumors.
I wouldn’t be shocked if either of these names also become linked to the Celtics. I would be shocked, however, if Ainge opted to sign one of them now instead of waiting to see if he can snag a point guard from next year’s loaded class. Regardless, this situation will be a fun one to monitor as free agency approaches.
3. Is there still a stigma attached to international players?
Sekou Doumbouya was ranked 8th on my big board and Goga Bitadze was not far behind him in the 12 spot. There were several draft experts who were also very high on these international prospects. Still, they each experienced significant draft day slides.
I envisioned a scenario where both of these players were taken in the lottery. With last year’s overseas class being a strong, albeit top-heavy one, I assumed that the stigma attached to international prospects would be reduced.
I was wrong. The Pacers got a steal with Bitadze, so much so that you can find people having the “Is Myles Turner on the block?” discussion on NBA Twitter. While I do not agree with that notion, Goga is a wonderful draft pick.
Doumbouya fills a need for the Pistons and they should be grateful that some scouts can’t figure out how to properly analyze overseas hoopers.
4. Is Phoenix taking GM applications?
I am only half kidding.
General Manager James Jones has taken a lot of heat (pun intended) for what he has done with the Suns so far. Let’s recap. First, he shipped off Warren’s contract for a second-round pick and cash. Ostensibly this was done to clear cap space.
Next, he cleared some more space by trading out of the 6th pick. Jarrett Culver went to Minnesota for Dario Saric’s expiring contract and what ended up being a huge reach in Cam Johnson. Lastly, Jones traded a future Bucks pick to acquire late first rounder Ty Jerome and Aron Baynes.
What was accomplished? In doing so the Suns made it very difficult to offer a player like Russell a max contract. They also managed to use their lottery pick to draft a fringe first round selection in Johnson; a guy who is already older than Devin Booker and will be 28 when his rookie contract expires. I won’t even go in detail about how Culver is a better prospect than anyone they acquired yesterday. Yuck, Phoenix. Yuck.
5. What should we expect in next year’s draft?
The 2020 class already appears to be deeper than this year’s class. It boasts a Ball brother, a pair of intriguing Frenchmen, a handful of YouTube sensations, another Romeo and Cole Freaking Anthony.
Theo Maledon and Killian Hayes are the top international prospects and could have challenged Garland and White as the best guards not named Ja Morant. Will the stigma against them continue to exist? Will it impact their draft stock?
The infamous double draft will only be two years away from this class. Will teams opt to trade their first-round picks for future firsts? Or, will teams be active to get into next year’s top seven? Regardless, expect the pre-draft process to continue its evolution as commissioner Adam Silver attempts to reach the hype status of the NFL Draft.