NBA Draft Grades

Jaxson Hayes
The Pelicans not only came away from the 2019 NBA Draft with the top overall pick in Zion Williamson, but also two other top-15 players on the Hoop Prospects’ draft board, including Texas center Jaxson Hayes. (Photo courtesy University of Texas Athletics Photography)

Last night’s draft featured a high number of trades to the point that it became downright confusing as to who was drafting whom. In all, 28 of the 60 picks were dealt, including 11 first rounders.  Reviewing which players will ultimately end up at each team, we have graded each club’s overall haul. Of course, we won’t really know who were the winners and losers last night for a number of years, but Hoops Prospects is all about projecting the future.  

Moving from best to worst, we start with the Pelicans.

Pelicans: A+

  • Zion Williamson (No. 1)
  • Jaxson Hayes (No. 8)
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker (No. 17)
  • Marcos Louzada Silva (No. 35)

Surprise, surprise, Zion Williamson was the first player off the board. The Pelicans move on from one superstar in Anthony Davis to potentially another in Williamson. The Duke All-American will join Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart in New Orleans.

After making a trade with the Hawks, the Pelicans were left with the No. 8, 17, and 35 picks in which they selected Jaxson Hayes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Marcos Louzada Silva, who will likely be a draft and stash.

Hayes will fill the hole at center and will be a nice lob target for Ball. Alexander-Walker is a combo guard, who can score, defend and create for others. Louzada Silva is a young draft-and-stash candidate.

Grizzlies: A

  • Ja Morant (No. 2)
  • Brandon Clarke (No. 21)

The Grizzlies traded Mike Conley, the last player of the grit-and-grind era, to the Utah Jazz, and received two solid role players in Grayson Allen and Jae Crowder, plus a first-round pick, in return. Ja Morant walks in as the starting point guard from day one and will be expected to lead the next generation of talent in Memphis to success.

Brandon Clarke will turn 23 soon but has a great motor and will slot in nicely as the power forward next to Jaren Jackson Jr. Memphis’ defense will be one of the best in a few years with Jackson and Clarke paired up in the frontcourt.

Hawks: A

  • De’Andre Hunter (No. 4)
  • Cameron Reddish (No. 10)
  • Bruno Fernando (No. 34)

In back-to-back years, the Hawks pulled off significant draft day trades. This year, the return was selecting De’Andre Hunter with the No. 4 pick. He has a high floor and low ceiling, but is expected to be able to defend multiple positions at a high level from the get go. Also, his ability to play off the ball is key with players such as Trae Young and Cameron Reddish demanding the ball.

Reddish played an off-ball role at Duke and suffered because of it. That should be different with the Hawks, as he should be the secondary ball handler behind Young. He gives the offense another dynamic with his shot creation.

The Hawks picked up Bruno Fernando from the 76ers in a trade following the draft. He should add some much-needed rim protection.

Cavaliers: A

  • Darius Garland (No. 5)
  • Dylan Windler (No. 26)
  • Kevin Porter Jr. (No. 30)

The Cavaliers may not play a single bit of defense next year, but the organization acquired three talented players all in the first round. Darius Garland will play alongside Collin Sexton, forming a dynamic duo in the backcourt. Kevin Porter Jr. gives the team another shot creator with the ability to stretch the floor, while Dylan Windler is one of the best three-point shooters in the draft. Both Porter and Windler will provide depth to the roster.

Knicks: A

  • R.J. Barrett (No. 3)
  • Ignas Brazdeikis (No. 47)

Despite losing out on the Zion Williamson sweepstakes, the Knicks landed a future star in R.J. Barrett, who recently said that he wanted to play for the Knicks and refused to work out for the Grizzlies. The mutual love for each other, along with the star potential, is exactly what the rebuilding Knicks need going forward.

Ignas Brazdeikis, though a late second rounder, has potential to give the Knicks scoring as soon as this year. The southpaw is a good overall scorer that can play either forward spot.

Celtics: A-

  • Romeo Langford (No. 14)
  • Grant Williams (No. 22)
  • Carsen Edwards (No. 33)
  • Tremont Waters (No. 51)

The Celtics have had themselves quite a week. From missing on Anthony Davis to likely losing Kyrie Irving and Al Horford in free agency, the Celtics fell from contenders to a middle-of-the-pack team.

Draft night was different, though, as General Manager Danny Ainge did his magic. He drafted Romeo Langford at pick 14, giving the Celtics a ball handler in the backcourt who has the ability to be a dynamic scorer. He suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb while at Indiana, and didn’t play his best basketball this season.  He’s expected to make a full recovery and be ready for the season. In the long run, he could be a steal.

Grant Williams is an interesting prospect, as he doesn’t exactly pass the eye test. He looks a bit chunky and is on the small side for a power forward. That said, he’s an intelligent basketball player, who excels around the basket.  He also can stretch the floor at times, while also playing defense at a high level.

Carsen Edwards was a monster in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 34.8 points per game through four games. He can score at will from all over the floor, and has the ability to find his teammates when needed. The main concern is his height. He stands at 6-feet, but has great strength and a 6-foot-6 wingspan, which will help him on the defensive end.

The diminutive Tremont Waters (5-foot-10), despite a late selection, may find his way into the rotation relatively quickly due to a lack of point guards. Irving is an unrestricted free agent, and Terry Rozier is a restricted free agent, so Waters could see minutes early and often.

Timberwolves: B+

  • Jarrett Culver (No. 6)
  • Jaylen Nowell (No. 43)

The Timberwolves traded up to the No. 6 pick in the draft in what seemed to be in accordance with their need for a point guard. Coby White was on the board at six, but the T’wolves opted for Jarrett Culver. Culver was the best choice in terms of talent, but not in terms of need. He’s an incredible two-way player, but joins Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington and Josh Okogie on the wing. Sharing time will be difficult, and a future trade seems likely.  Culver’s talent should shine through, paving the way for significant minutes in the upcoming season.

Nowell, meanwhile, is dynamic scoring combo guard.  He was mostly a shooting guard at Washington, and it seems unlikely that he will be ready to run an offense any time soon, meaning the Timberwolves will eye a point guard in free agency in order to fill that need.

Bulls: B+

  • Coby White (No. 7)
  • Daniel Gafford (No. 38)

The Bulls got lucky with Coby White falling into their lap at No. 7. White can take over the offense and push the Kris Dunn era in Chicago out the window. White’s ability to create and score at all three levels should help get the Bulls offense flowing. Daniel Gafford will serve as depth at the center position behind Wendell Carter Jr., providing rim protection and an efficient inside scorer.

Spurs: B+

  • Luka Samanic (No. 19)
  • Keldon Johnson (No. 29)
  • Quinndary Weatherspoon (No. 49)

It’s not the NBA Draft without the Spurs selecting a foreign player. Goga Bitadze was taken one pick early, so the Spurs settled for Luka Samanic. He is a potential stretch four with very good athleticism.

Keldon Johnsoon, a former top high school recruit, fell in the draft. He’s a talented wing but not yet great at one thing. He had a reputation for playing with great energy, but that didn’t always prove to be the case at Kentucky. With the right coaching, he may be able to turn some of his good attributes into great attributes.

Quinndary Weatherspoon, a senior from Mississippi State, is an underrated wing, who might surprise and contribute right away.  He is a mature player and has an all-round game. He was consistent during his collegiate career, steadily improving over four years. He was named to the SEC All-Freshman team and to an 2018-2019 All-SEC team. This season, he averaged 18.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game with .508/.396/.809 shooting splits.

Pistons: B

  • Sekou Doumbouya (No. 15)
  • Deividas Sirvydis (No. 37)
  • Jordan Bone (No. 57)

The Pistons have two all stars on their roster in Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond – both frontcourt players. That said, it would be smart to draft a player that would fill a backcourt position. Sekou Doumbouya doesn’t do that, nor does he fit the win-now mode that the Pistons are in. Doumbouya is not only the youngest prospect in this draft, but also likely best suited to be a power forward.  He is unlikely to make an impact this season. He was, however, the best player available, so drafting him six picks after where he was projected is a plus.

Deividas Sirvydis is a tall wing and a promising shooter, but he, too, is very young and unlikely to contribute this season. Bone, meanwhile, is a an ultra-athletic point guard, who might give the team some quality minutes off the bench.  

Wizards: B

  • Rui Hachimura (No. 9)
  • Admiral Schofield (No. 42)

The Wizards still do not have a general manager in place, so the unexpected selection of Rui Hachimura at No. 9 makes a little more sense. Most expected either Sekou Doumbouya or Nassir Little going to Washington. Hachimura is great player, who can play either forward position, but he is at least two years older than the other two players. The Wizards are entering a long-term rebuilding stage, so selecting someone who is more NBA-ready is questionable.

Admiral Schofield is in the same boat. He is one of the better seniors entering the NBA, but doesn’t fit the Wizards’ rebuilding mode.

Trail Blazers: B

  • Nassir Little (No. 25)

Nassir Little had a rough freshman year at North Carolina, averaging 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in 18.2 minutes per game. He had spurts of excellence, but lacked consistency and appeared out of his depth at times. Even so, given Little’s physical profile and potential, his fall from a lottery selection to pick 25 is a bit drastic and is a steal for the Trail Blazers. He will slot in alongside Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum as the team will look to get back to the Western Conference Finals this season.

Heat: B-

  • Tyler Herro (No. 13)
  • KZ Okpala (No. 32)

Romeo Langford, Sekou Doumbouya, and Nassir Little are just a few players that the Heat passed on at the 13th pick. Instead, they took Tyler Herro, a sharpshooting two guard with a minuscule wingspan. He may become a great shooter in the league, but could be limited to that one facet of the game, while the previous three mentioned have more well-rounded games.

KZ Okpala is raw, but he may be the better player in the long run due to his all-round attack on both ends of the floor. He’s long and athletic, and has the potential to stretch the floor from both forward positions.

Hornets: B-

  • P.J. Washington (No. 12)
  • Cody Martin (No. 36)
  • Jalen McDaniels (No. 52)

The Hornets future heavily relies in Kemba Walker’s hands, with his free agency decision up in the air. At the 12th pick, there wasn’t a point guard in range to either backup Walker or replace him heading into next season. Selecting P.J. Washington was a good pick, giving the Hornets’ frontcourt a young piece with an all-around offensive attack, while also providing defensive versatility.

Soon to be 24 years old, Cody Martin at pick 36 was a bit of a surprise, but he plays good defense and can play anywhere from point guard to small forward. He gives the Hornets depth at the shooting guard position behind Malik Monk.

Jalen McDaniels will most likely spend most of this year in the G-League. He’s a thin 6-foot-9 forward with improving perimeter skills, but will need time to polish them in order to make an impact at the NBA level.

Nets: C+

  • Nicolas Claxton (No. 31)
  • Jaylen Hands (No. 56)

The Nets had two first round picks (17 and 27) but traded both. The 31st pick was their highest selection, and they may have hit a homerun with Nicolas Claxton. The Georgia big can guard positions 1-5, take the ball from coast to coast, and score from the perimeter. He is a long-term investment, but he has great upside and should pay off.

Jaylen Hands was a popular name in college basketball entering the 2017-2018 season. He was the 20th ranked player on the ESPN Top 100. At UCLA, he was a dynamic scorer and playmaker, but he struggled with consistency, shot selection, and decision-making. He also wasn’t a great defender. This season, he was solid as a three-point shooter (37.3 percent) and had an assist-turnover ratio of 1.9. He’s unlikely to play much for the Nets early on, but he does have more upside than your average prospect at the end of the second round.

Pacers: C+

  • Goga Bitadze (No. 18)

At first thought, the addition of Goga Bitadze may be confusing, with Myles Turner locked in at center, and Domantas Sabonis capable of playing at the five spot as well. However, backup center Kyle O’Quinn is entering free agency, and Bitadze will eventually give the team a change of pace, as he’s more of an offensive weapon, especially as a shooter, than Turner. His defensive ability is also improving but will likely be a drop defender in the pick and roll entering the NBA.

Nuggets: C+

  • Bol Bol (No. 44)

The Nuggets came into the night with zero draft picks, but traded with the Miami Heat to acquire Bol Bol. Bol was once considered a top 10 pick entering the college basketball season, but a foot injury and other concerns derailed his stock. Entering the night, Bol was expected to be drafted in the first round, but slipped all the way to the 44th pick.  The Nuggets receive bonus points for drafting a player with a very high upside with little risk involved.

Warriors: C

  • Jordan Poole (No. 28)
  • Alen Smailagic (No. 39)
  • Eric Paschall (No. 41)

The Warriors added an additional second-round pick, anticipating that their roster would be severely depleted due to injuries and free-agent losses. Wing Jordan Poole was a surprise pick at No. 28th. He has the ability to shoot the rock (92nd percentile this season as a spot-up player) – something the Warriors need now that Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson enter free agency with major injuries.  Alen Smailagic, a very young stretch four, was a member of the Santa Cruz Warriors, so keeping him in the organization was key for Golden State. Forward Eric Paschall was projected by many to go in the late first round, but ultimately fell to the middle of the second round. He’s NBA ready, and may see a good amount of minutes next season. 

Clippers: C

  • Mfiondu Kabengele (No. 27)
  • Terance Mann (No. 48)

The Clippers have added two hard-working players to their already great culture. Center Mfiondu Kabengele should see solid minutes immediately with Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell as the only two other options. Terance Mann will serve as depth at the wing spot, providing the team with energy and effort on both ends of the floor. Both players are from Florida State.

Suns: C

  • Cameron Johnson (No. 11)
  • Ty Jerome (No. 24)

The Suns generously receive a passing grade despite making a couple bone-headed decisions both before and during the draft. They traded the No. 6 pick for Dario Saric and the No. 11 pick, ensuring that they would not draft an elite point guard in the lottery. The Suns seemingly drafted 23-year-old sharpshooter Cameron Johnson prematurely, despite his terrific overall metrics.

The Suns attempted to fill their need at point guard with Ty Jerome at the No. 24 pick, but passing on a top-tier floor generals in either Darius Garland or Coby White is odd. They acquired the No. 24 pick from the Celtics while also taking on Aaron Baynes’ contract.

Prior to the draft the Suns also dumped T.J. Warren’s contract along with the No. 32 pick for cash considerations. Warren averaged 18 points on .486/.428/.815 shooting splits.  The 32nd pick could have yielded guard Carsen Edwards or forward KZ Okpala.

76ers: C-

  • Matisse Thybulle (No. 20)
  • Marial Shayok (No. 54)

The Sixers started the draft with five of picks and came away with two mature wings and two future second-round picks.  The 22-year-old Matisse Thybulle is arguably the best defender in the draft, as he averaged 3.5 steals and 2.3 blocks per game in his senior season. The 6-foot-5 wing will have no trouble locking up an opponent. The concern around him is his offensive ability, especially behind the three-point line (30.5 percent). He will need to knock down outside shots with Ben Simmons running the point.

Soon to be 24 years old, Marial Shayok is quite the opposite. He ranked at the 89th percentile for points per possession this season, and has a more reliable jumper from deep (38.6 percent), but he’s not as well versed on defense as Thybulle. Shayok excels at shooting off the bounce, and by selecting him, the Sixers appear to be trying to make up for trading away the promising Landry Shamet last season.

Lakers: C-

  • Talen Horton-Tucker (No. 46)

The Lakers need to fill roster spots on their barren roster. Talen Horton-Tucker has an interesting frame. He’s 6-foot-4, 235 pounds with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. He’s also very young, and has a vast amount of upside on both ends of the court  At the same time, he is highly inconsistent and inefficient, and it will be a few years before we know if this pick pays off. He currently doesn’t possess the outside shooting to space the floor alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Thunder: C-

  • Darius Bazley (No. 23)

The Thunder took another chance a player who skipped college. First, it was Terrance Ferguson, who played limited minutes in the Australian NBL in 2017, and now it’s Darius Bazley, who didn’t play anywhere this past season. Bazley has the potential to be an athletic point forward, but he’s too raw to help the Thunder win now. It’s more likely that Bazley spends time developing in the G-League than helping the Thunder make a push at the Western Conference Finals.

Magic: D+

  • Chuma Okeke (No. 16)

The only things certain in the world are death, taxes and the Magic making a poor pick in the draft. Chuma Okeke was regarded as a first rounder before the NCAA Tournament when he tore his ACL. He has a great motor and can do it all on offense, averaging 12 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game on .496/.387/.722 shooting splits. He was projected to go later in the draft, though, so the Magic could have likely traded down to select him rather than wasting a mid-first rounder on him.  

In addition, the Magic failed to add a point guard. They traded away the 46th pick to the Lakers – a pick that could’ve been used to draft point guard depth. Even at pick 16, the Magic could have selected combo guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker to play the point.

Mavericks: D+

  • Isaiah Roby (No. 45)

The Mavericks were limited to just a second-round pick due to the Luka Doncic-Trae Young trade last year. Power forward Isaiah Roby plays great defense with high energy and motor. He will likely take some time in the G-League, but has an interesting upside due to his length, athleticism, and offensive versatility.  

Kings: D+

  • Justin James (No. 40)
  • Kyle Guy (No. 55)
  • Vanja Marinkovic (No. 60)

The Kings drafted two really good college players in Justin James and Kyle Guy and one European in Vanja Marinkovic. All three are close to 22 years old (give or take) and have questionable upside entering the NBA.  James, one of the best Wyoming basketball players of all time, is an athletic wing, who can struggle as a shooter and shot creator. Guy, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, is one of the best outside shooters in the draft, but may lack the size and athleticism to succeed. Guy excels at shooting off screens and on the move. Marinkovic is also a floor spacer.  He shot 35 percent from deep for KK Partizan this season.  He has much better size than Guy (6-foot-2), but Marinkovic (6-foot-6) is more of a spot-up shooter.  He may stay overseas for another year until making his way into the league.

Jazz: D

  • Jarrell Brantley (No. 50)
  • Justin Wright-Foreman (No. 53)
  • Miye Oni (No. 58)

For most Jazz fans, these three small-college players are likely unknown. All three come with impressive stats that were mostly complied vs. less-than-stellar competition. Jarrell Brantley is from the College of Charleston.  He is a muscular 6-foot-6 power forward, who averaged 19.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. His skill level is very questionable, and he’s 23 years old. Justin Wright-Foreman is undersized shooting guard from Hofstra, who lit up the scoring column with 27.1 points per game. He is a shifty three-level scorer, but doesn’t bring much else to the table.  Last but not least, Miye Oni is from Yale, and he might be the best of the bunch. The Ivy League Player of the Year averaged 17.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game this season. He has an NBA-ready body, with great strength and length (7-0 wingspan) for a wing. However, he isn’t overly athletic, and is not especially dynamic with the ball in his hands. No one from this group is likely to receive many minutes next season, especially since the Jazz will be in contention for a championship.

Raptors: D-

  • Dewan Hernandez (No. 59)

The trade to acquire Kawhi Leonard left the Raptors with just 59th pick. Dewan Hernandez did not play last year after being ruled ineligible. The 6-foot-10 center last averaged 11.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in 2017-2018 as a sophomore, showing great potential as a pick-and-roll scorer.

Bucks: D-

By trading out of the first round, the Bucks managed to get rid of Tony Snell’s unappealing contract, which will help them resign their many free agents, but they did pass an opportunity to get a dynamic floor spacer, such as Carsen Edwards.

Rockets: F

The Rockets are loaded on the books, so trading into the draft would make a lot of sense. That didn’t happen, however.

About Brendan O'Sullivan 13 Articles
Brendan O’Sullivan is currently majoring in journalism at Quinnipiac University, and is a regular contributor to HoopsProspects.com as a writer and analyst. He also contributes to The Knicks Lead, Allsportsnews.com, and FancredSports.com.