LATE JULY MEANS WE HAVE FINALLY REACHED THE OFFICIAL NBA OFFSEASON. A champion has been crowned, 60 players were drafted, literally 40% of the league switched teams, and Summer League is in the books. And now that all the dust has settled, it’s worth taking one more look at the 2019 NBA Draft.
Succeeding in the draft is about more than just talent. It’s about NBA fit, and fit within each player’s new NBA home. Some players are immediately more valuable once they land on a new roster. Most of my favorite prospects landed in an ideal NBA home, but others weren’t as fortunate. We also saw many of these rookies play at Summer League and learned a lot about some of them, especially guys that didn’t play high level college ball this year.
So let’s head around the league and re-rank the top 50 players in the 2019 NBA Draft. And spoiler alert: it’s great news for New Orleans fans. If you haven’t read it yet or need a reference, be sure to keep my 2019 NBA Summer League Manifesto open in the next tab over. Off we go!
TIER I — THE FRANCHISE CHANGER
1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans (previous 1, actual 1)
We’ve known Zion would be a Pelican for awhile. We also know now that we should feel good about David Griffin building a good team around him. Griffin has a stockpile of picks after the Anthony Davis trade, plus a ton of young talent. Perhaps more importantly, we’re seeing Griffin target versatile, long, multi-positional players, a lot of shooting, and a team that should run a lot and make quick decisions. Full speed ahead for Zion.
TIER II — THE SUPERSTARS
2. Brandon Clarke, Memphis (previous 2, actual 21)
I already had Clarke second on my board, but I’m sliding him up into my previously vacant Tier II. In my Summer League Manifesto, that meant slotting Clarke #8 in the past three drafts, outside the Luka-Zion tier but in a tier with Trae Young, Jayson Tatum, De’Aaron Fox, Donovan Mitchell, and Clarke’s new teammate, Jaren Jackson Jr.
Summer League didn’t tell us much new, but Clarke did win MVP and did all the usual good stuff against better and longer athletes than we got to see much of the year, squashing those concerns for now. More importantly, his pairing with JJJ in Memphis is ideal, with a stud rim protector behind him on D and someone that can space the offense out and let Clarke dive to the rim and work in the paint. Oh yeah, and Clarke is already hitting the NBA three. No idea how teams let him slide to #21. It’s already baffling.
TIER III — ALL-STAR UPSIDE
3. Ja Morant, Memphis (previous 3, actual 2)
4. Jarrett Culver, Minnesota (previous 4, actual 6)
5. Grant Williams, Boston (previous 5, actual 22)
Williams moves up a tier, but no one in my top 7 changed spots. I suppose that’s partly because we didn’t see them at Summer League with so many rookies sitting out, but more so because I really feel like the top guys all landed in ideal fits. Morant can’t ask for a much better start than two stud defensive big men in Clarke and Jackson who can clean up for his gambling and general apathy on defense. Culver will be a culture changer in Minnesota and gives the Wolves a needed handler and defender. I saw shades of Jimmy Butler all year watching Culver and now he steps into that vacant role. It won’t be long until folks talk about KAT and Culver among the top young NBA duos.
But the most important fit here is Grant Williams, whose fit mattered more than anyone in the draft. Just about anyone drafted by Boston slides up my post-draft rankings. Williams was already #5 but moves up a tier because He’ll be a coach on the court for Brad Stevens with his high-IQ play, and Boston has shown it will build its system to magnify its players’ strengths. Grant does a lot of things the team just lost from Al Horford. He can run the offense out of the high post, he’ll play smart team defense, and he’ll crush guys on screens and tag rollers off them. Williams will be an absolute pit bull for the Celtics.
TIER IV — FRANCHISE BUILDING BLOCKS
6. De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta (previous 6, actual 4)
7. Cam Reddish, Atlanta (previous 7, actual 10)
I ranked Hunter and Reddish back-to-back and Atlanta got both. They paid a lot more for Hunter, but draft day reports said they were picking between the two at #4. Atlanta wouldn’t have wanted Morant with Trae in tow, and Barrett doesn’t fit Travis Schlenk’s m.o., so I think Atlanta walked away from their draft landing two of their top three prospects. You could talk me into nudging Reddish above Hunter in Atlanta, but I’ll let the chosen Hawks draft order dictate for now.
8. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, New Orleans (previous 12, actual 17)
9. R.J. Barrett, New York (previous 8, actual 3)
Nickeil Alexander-Walker is the first name to change positions in my rankings, jumping from 12 to 8. I love his fit in New Orleans, where they now have him, Lonzo Ball, and Jrue Holiday as long, smart defenders that can play both guard positions. NAW showed real star equity at Summer League, more than he’d shown at Virginia Tech, just little flashes like we saw with Donovan Mitchell a couple summers ago. I had him and Barrett in the same shooting guards tier and, if I’m honest with myself, I think I’d rather have had Alexander-Walker from a team-building perspective all along.
10. Goga Bitadze, Indiana (previous 10, actual 18)
11. Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans (previous 23, actual 8)
Jaxson Hayes is by far my biggest riser, and only my confidence in Bitadze’s all-around game and my negative review of rim runners keeps Jaxson behind Goga, for now. I really like Hayes’ fit. New Orleans will run a ton and play with smart defenders. That should give Hayes easy transition opportunities on offense and plenty of room to help for blocks on D, maximizing his two most ready-made strengths. I like that New Orleans is set up to move Zion to the five in a crunch-time lineup while Hayes watches from the bench like most players of his type in the modern NBA. That works for both players.
Beyond that, this is just me seeing Hayes play in Summer League with real talent around him and recognizing instantly that I was wrong on him. I watched him all year and just never got there. Maybe I focused too much on the weaknesses. Maybe I pigeon-holed him as a “rim runner.” Perhaps it was all the fouls and poor rebounding numbers. Those things haven’t gone away. Hayes has plenty of flaws, and Summer League always flatters players like him. But there’s clear star potential, and seeing him next to a slew of other summer rim runners, it’s clear how much Jaxson stands out from them athletically with his natural blocking and defensive ability. He showed improved instincts and more of a role on offense, again helped by the fit. He’s going to catch a TON of lobs from these guards. The fouls, the rebounds, the physicality, it all still needs work. It will be a couple years. But I see it now. I see why he’s worth investing in. And honestly, only my low pre-draft ranking makes me hesitate from sliding him to the top of this tier.
TIER V — THE VERY SOLID ROTATION PLAYS
12. Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia (previous 11, actual 20)
13. P.J. Washington, Charlotte (previous 9, actual 12)
Thybulle and Washington slip a little, mostly because others rose. They seem more like rotation guys than franchise building blocks, based on fit. I didn’t like Thybulle on Philly’s old roster but like him a lot on the new one. Philly has a ton of length on D that will allow Thybulle to freelance and gamble, playing to his strengths. The Sixers may have found their new Robert Covington, and Thybulle can do more on offense. I always felt just fine with P.J. Washington, and his going to Charlotte is predictable and solidifies that further.
14. Coby White, Chicago (previous 13, actual 7)
15. Darius Garland, Cleveland (previous 14, actual 5)
It’s a holding pattern for these two. I still like them fine as rotation plays. I still worry a lot about either as a franchise point guard and think both were really overdrafted.
16. Chuma Okeke, Orlando (previous 16, actual 16)
17. Dylan Windler, Cleveland (previous 24, actual 26)
18. DaQuan Jeffries, Orlando (previous 26, actual UDFA)
We use “role player” as a dirty word, but every NBA team is made up of a couple stars and 10 role players. I’m increasingly confident that Okeke, Windler, and Jeffries will be really good filling a valuable NBA role. Okeke hit the trifecta. He started #16 on my board, finished #16 here, and got drafted #16 by Orlando. Yahtzee.
Windler and Jeffries were two of my favorite sleepers, and I only love them more after watching them play at Summer League. They have incredible instincts and natural feel for the game, and both have already shown they excel in the role they’ll play in the NBA. Windler makes so many smart passes and winning plays. Jeffries has such good movement and is always a split second early. I’m sure a couple guys behind them will turn out very good and look much starrier in time, but I’m convinced these three are just really good basketball players who will help good teams win.
19. Jontay Porter, undrafted (previous 15, actual UDFA)
20. Tyler Herro, Miami (previous 21, actual 13)
21. Keldon Johnson, San Antonio (previous 19, actual 29)
Jontay Porter didn’t get drafted, didn’t get signed yet, and didn’t play summer ball. For a player I once had top 5 before the re-injury, I’m losing hope.
I’m flipping the Kentucky wings after summer ball. Herro just feels like he has “it,” and Keldon did his disappearing act several more games and I’m sick of it. I’m sure the Spurs will help him find his best self in time.
TIER VI — THE UPSIDE SWINGS
22. Nassir Little, Portland (previous 18, actual 20)
23. Romeo Langford, Boston (previous 32, actual 14)
24. Kevin Porter Jr., Cleveland (previous 22, actual 30)
Nassir, Romeo, and KPJ are the three high-profile guys I just never got excited about. I originally had Langford well below the other three, but Boston taking him in the lottery is enough for me to move him up. The Celtics have a history developing young players, especially wings and non-shooters. Little should have excelled at a setting like Summer League but looked lost and invisible most of the time, and I worry that Jaylen Hoard outplayed him most of the summer in a similar role. We still know precious little about Kevin Porter Jr., but he needs the ball in his hands and I’m not exactly sure how he’s going to get it sharing a team with Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.
25. Jalen Lecque, Phoenix (previous 41, actual UDFA)
26. Nic Claxton, Brooklyn (previous 28, actual 31)
I’m swapping Lecque and Bazley after seeing them at Summer League. They’re two guys I gave myself a lot of latitude on since I’d seen so little from either on the court before the summer. Lecque’s nuclear athleticism pops. The rest of his game is a ways off, but I’m encouraged by his size and potential to play both guard spots. I don’t love him in Phoenix as their 179th point guard project, and being undrafted never helps, but this is a guy I’ll keep an eye on. I don’t like Claxton’s fit in Brooklyn with DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen ahead of him, but then again, one of those two will be gone by the time Claxton is ready to contribute. Expect a couple red-shirt years.
27. Talen Horton-Tucker, Los Angeles Lakers (previous 17, actual 46)
28. Isaiah Roby, Dallas (previous 20, actual 45)
THT and Roby were two of my favorites all draft process, but I really don’t like either of their team fits. L.A. has shown no ability to develop young talent and no patience to give them any time. LeBron teams just don’t do things that way. I’ll be shocked if THT is on the Lakers roster in two years. Roby’s inconsistency won’t fly with Rick Carlisle, and there’s not a good role for him with Porzingis and Powell taking all the skinny big man minutes. I have a hard time seeing him sticking.
TIER VII — EVERYONE ELSE
29. Didi Louzada Silva, New Orleans (previous UR, actual 35)
30. John Konchar, Memphis (previous 34, actual UDFA)
31. Ty Jerome, Phoenix (previous 25, actual 24)
32. Iggy Brazdeikis, New York (previous 35, actual 47)
Not gonna lie — I’d literally never even heard of Didi Louzada Silva when the Pelicans drafted him. I spent 1000+ hours on draft prep, but I don’t watch a lot of Brazilian ball and his name never caught my attention. I kind of shrugged off the selection... oh well, this was the third pick New Orleans got trading down from #4, and Jaxson and NAW were good so whatever.
After watching Didi in Summer League, he is anything but a whatever. Louzada looks like an ideal wing role player. He can dribble and shoot and shows great instincts, and he just turned 20. Louzada will spend the year playing ball in Australia, which should be great for his development. I have no idea where to slot him, but for now he gets the top spot in my Everyone Else tier. I could be talked into as high as late teens, but it seems silly to jump him that high just on Summer League impressions, so this will do for now.
Konchar was a favorite all draft process and showed why at Summer League. He didn’t get drafted, but I’m positive that dude will be a good professional basketball player. Hopefully it’s in the NBA. Ty Jerome fell a little far here but I don’t get the point in Phoenix, and I don’t know why they traded a future pick for an older point guard and immediately benched him behind Ricky Rubio. Jerome’s shooting and off-ball ability fit, but his lack of athleticism and defense don’t. Iggy Brazdeikis always had potential as a supernova bench player with irrational confidence that could win a playoff quarter, and he is a *chef’s kiss* perfect fit in Madison Square Garden.
33. Carsen Edwards, Boston (previous 39, actual 33)
34. Rui Hachimura, Washington (previous 29, actual 9)
These two will clearly be good at the things they do, that is, scoring the ball when they get fed a lot of times. I remain uncertain why NBA teams need that when both seem to offer so little else. And for that reason, I’m out.
35. Darius Bazley, Oklahoma City (previous 27, actual 23)
36. KZ Okpala, Miami (previous 33, actual 32)
37. Bruno Fernando, Atlanta (previous 38, actual 34)
38. Daniel Gafford, Chicago (previous 40, actual 38)
Bazley and Okpala are guys we’ll forget about for a couple seasons, then see if anything emerges in 2022. Fernando and Gafford are the right sort of investment to make in the modern game. They’re fine big men, ready for 15 to 20 minutes a game, and those sort of guys are worth a second-round pick or veteran minimum contract.
39. Sekou Doumbouya, Detroit (previous 30, actual 15)
40. Cam Johnson, Phoenix (previous 42, actual 11)
41. Bol Bol, Denver (previous 31, actual 44)
42. Mfiondu Kabengele, Los Angeles Clippers (previous 44, actual 27)
43. Luka Samanic, San Antonio (previous 43, actual 19)
Never been a fan of this group and not ready to start. The Cam Johnson pick was an absolute joke. Phoenix really traded Jarrett Culver for Cam Johnson and a year of Dario Saric. We only got a few minutes of Sekou Doumbouya in the NBA. Looks like that’s all we should get for another few years too. Bol is worth a gamble where he was taken, but the fact that so many NBA teams didn’t even bother with him makes me feel good about being so far out. I figured at least one team would take the shot. Samanic was quietly one of my least favorite picks, but it’s the Spurs, so I’m sure I’m wrong.
44. Tremont Waters, Boston (previous UR, actual 51)
45. Naz Reid, Minnesota (previous UR, actual UDFA)
46. Jordan Poole, Golden State (previous 45, actual 28)
47. Terence Davis, Toronto (previous 48, actual UDFA)
48. Jaylen Nowell, Minnesota (previous 47, actual 43)
49. Alen Smailagic, Golden State (previous UR, actual 39)
50. Tacko Fall, Boston (previous UR, actual UDFA)
Rounding out the 50 sees four players show up that were not in my previous top 50: Waters, Reid, Smailagic, and Fall. I really liked Waters all year and love his fit in Boston. He’s tiny but I think he can find a role. Naz annoyed me all year but stayed around my top 25 on sheer, immense talent alone before I finally punted thanks to his awful Combine. He looked better at Summer League so I’ll give him a chance with a huge amount of offensive talent. I can see him wrecking teams for 15 minutes off the bench once KAT sits.
My apologies to Tacko Fall. Not just a gimmick. Tacko can play, and he really affects the game. He’s old and can’t hit a free throw to save his life and he’ll never have a big role or even be usable in some matchups, but I can see a Boban type role if he sticks.
Yovel Zoosman, undrafted (previous 36, actual UDFA)
Jalen McDaniels, Charlotte (previous 37, actual 52)
Eric Paschall, Golden State (previous 46, actual 41)
Louis King, Detroit (previous 49, actual UDFA)
Josh Perkins, Charlotte (previous 50, actual UDFA)
These are the five names from my top 50 that dropped out post-draft. I like Zoosman but he looked lost at Summer League. McDaniels is a guy I liked less and less all year long and I’m just pulling the cord at this point.
Cody Martin, Charlotte (previous UR, actual 36)
Deividas Sirvydas, Detroit (previous 50+, actual 37)
Justin James, Sacramento (previous UR, actual 40)
Admiral Schofield, Washington (previous 50+, actual 42)
Terance Mann, Los Angeles Clippers (previous 50+, actual 48)
Quinndary Weatherspoon, San Antonio (previous UR, actual 49)
Jarrell Brantley, Utah, (previous UR, actual 50)
These guys were drafted in the top 50 but didn’t make my rankings pre- or post-draft. Mann would’ve been my #51 and I liked what I saw at Summer League. I don’t have much to say about the rest. You can’t like everyone. ■
DRAFT COVERAGE YOU MIGHT’VE MISSED
- The great 2019 Summer League manifesto notes and analysis
- Ranking the draft outcomes for every NBA team from 30 to 1
- My final 2019 Big Board rankings
- Why Zion Williamson is already a top-10 NBA asset
- Why Brandon Clarke is the second best prospect in the draft
- Why Ja Morant is worth the early hype
- Why Jarrett Culver is already good with the potential to be great
- Why I’m out on R.J. Barrett as an elite prospect
- Why I’m out on Jaxson Hayes and rim runners as elite prospects
- Point guard rankings and scouting profiles
- Shooting guard rankings and scouting profiles
- Small forward rankings and scouting profiles
- Power forward rankings and scouting profiles
- Center rankings and scouting profiles