Analyzing the NBA Draft

The NBA Draft gave us all it promised and more. There were plenty of solid, predictable selections, but there were all some head-scratching picks. As expected, Zion Williamson was selected first by the New Orleans Pelicans, and the predicted top three fell into line with Ja Morant going second and RJ Barrett going third. There was plenty of draft day movement as well as picks 4, 6, and 8 all traded hands. This draft will dynamically changed the NBA landscape for years to come. Check out my letter grades below for each of the top 10 selections and some other key picks as well.

  1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans: Williamson was the obvious selection, and it was so widely known he would be the choice. ESPN even labeled the Pelicans needs as “a center to play next to Zion”. This was an easy homerun, and the Pelicans will have an absolute monster for years to come. Grade: A+
  2. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies: In any other draft, Ja Morant would be the easy #1 selection. The former Murray State guard is quick, extremely athletic and has a unique ability to both score at a high volume and distribute the ball effectively. The Grizzlies have their stud to fill the void of a long time veteran Mike Conley, and the Grizzlies future looks much brighter after back-to-back years of solid selections. Grade: A+
  3. RJ Barrett, New York Knicks: The Knicks’ fans actually cheered for a draft selection! Although the Knicks brought in Coby White and Darius Garland for pre-draft to workouts, the Knicks were clearly always going to take Barrett. Barrett is a box-office talent, and he will fit in nicely with the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. The Knicks got a guy at #3 that without Williamson’s rise to fame could have been the #1 pick; that’s not too shabby for a franchise who needed to draft correctly. Grade: A+
  4. De’Andre Hunter, (will be on the Atlanta Hawks via trade): The Hawks made their move up the draft ladder to get another versatile young stud. Hunter can shoot incredibly well from 3-point range, and he is also a talented defender. Hunter has great leadership ability, and he knows what it takes to win on the NCAA’s biggest stage. My only concern is the Hawks overpaid. I believe Garland or Culver would have been the pick here, and the Hawks lost having three selections in the top 20 because of their trade up. The Hawks got a stud for sure, but they probably only needed to get to #6 to get Hunter. I believe Hunter was the 4th best player, but many mock drafts had him below both Culver and Garland. Regardless, Hunter is one of my players in the draft, and he will fit in nicely with a young Hawks team. Grade: A-
  5. Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers: From the little we saw of him in college, Garland is a player comparable in style to Damian Lillard. He is a talented shooter from anywhere on the floor, and he generates offense so effectively. He should pair well with Colin Sexton, the Cavaliers first-round selection from the 2018 NBA Draft. My only concerns are the health factor and his limited NCAA action. Garland played in just six collegiate games, and many of those games were against lower quality opponents. Can Garland explode against the best and still be 100% healthy? Culver would have been my pick here. The Cavaliers are taking a slight risk here, but risk may just yield high reward. Grade: B+
  6. Jarrett Culver, (will be on the Minnesota Timberwolves via trade): Culver is extremely underrated. He is an elite two-way player because he is impressive on both ends of the floor. He also proved he can lead a team to the biggest stage when he carried Texas Tech past three higher ranked teams in the tournament. He may not pop out like other prospects, but he is a solid player who can be a rock to be leaned upon in critical situations. Grade: A
  7. Coby White, Chicago Bulls: The Bulls snatched up the best guard available. The Bulls were possibly going to get White plucked out of their hands just a pick above them by the Suns, but they lucked out and got a top talent guy at #7. White is the exact type of player the Bulls need, and the Bulls didn’t even have to give up picks to aquire him. Sometimes, you are just in the right place at the right time. Grade: A
  8. Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans Pelicans: I believe this is the worst pick of the first round. Hayes is an incredible defender and can score well, but the Pelicans needed scoring here, particularly 3-point shooting. I would have loved to see both Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson on the same roster. The Pelicans took the top big man in the draft, but I feel the pick could have been better utilized on a long-range shooter. Grade: C+
  9. Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards: Hacimura was a guy who I thought early in Gonzaga’s season could be in the 6-7 range in the NBA Draft. He is a versatile PF who helped lead Gonzaga to another #1 seed and an impressive season. He is walking into a bit of a mess with the Wizards, but he offers charm, dedication and a likability factor I think Wizards fans will gravitate towards. Grade: B+
  10. Cam Reddish, Atlanta Hawks: Reddish is a wild card. He was projected to be selected anywhere from 6-12, and I still believe he has a lot to offer. He now has the chance to prove himself in a situation away from the Zion Williamson hype. Will he shine and play to his full potential? I think the Hawks snagged a top talent with their second top-10 selection, and he could be a dark horse candidate for ROTY. Grade: A

Some other notable selections include:

Cameron Johnson (#11 to the Phoenix Suns): The Suns had the perfect opportunity to get the guard they desperately needed. Instead, they traded back and selected a guy at #11 that some had falling to #24. It’s a major reach for the Suns, especially since the trade down only netted Dario Saric. I love the pick and believe in him highly; it was just way too early. Grade: D

Chuma Okeke (#16 to the Orlando Magic): Okeke is a guy to me who has an extremely high motor and love for the game. He laid it all out on the floor before his ACL injury in the NCAA tournament. While he may not play at all this upcoming season, I believe he will come back more motivated than ever. I think he will develop into a top tier talent in the NBA. Grade: B+

Dylan Windler (#26 to the Cleveland Cavaliers): Please do yourself a favor and watch his performance in the NCAA tournament this past season. He is an extremely gifted scorer, and he almost single handedly carried Belmont to a tournament win. I love this pick. Grade: A+

Carsen Edwards (#33 to the Boston Celtics): This one is easy. Simply put, Edwards should have been a top-20 selection, and the Celtics made the best pick of the night. Grade: A+

Bruno Fernando (#34 to the Atlanta Hawks): I don’t get how he fell this far. The Hawks got a tough, gritty player who adds to that young core. It makes perfect sense to me that two of the best picks happened back-to-back. Grade: A

Bol Bol (#44 to the Denver Nuggets): He is another draft pick with high potential, but that injury is a concern. Regardless, he was a top-5 talent pre-injury, and I think he has potential to be in the top-10 best players in the draft. I thought for sure he would be stolen by at least the end of the top-20. Grade: A+

Honorable Mentions include: Brandon Clarke (#21), Admiral Schofield (#42) and Tremont Waters (#51).

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