Thursday night, the Class of 2019 was welcomed into the Association. Sixty selections learned their destinations, and 30 teams hope they’ve filled their holes for the future. Some picks were projected, others not, and we can now look at NBN’s five highlights of the 2019 NBA Draft.
It’s official: the French Quarter just got biblical
With the first pick of the NBA Draft, the New Orleans Pelicans took Zion Williamson, a surprise to no one who has paid even the slightest amount of attention to basketball in the last year. Williamson was the talk of the basketball world in his one collegiate season at Duke and solidified himself as the No. 1 pick months ago.
The Pelicans were in the headlines earlier this week for trading the previous face of their franchise, Anthony Davis, to the Los Angeles Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks, ushering in a new era in New Orleans.
Williamson will ideally replace Davis’s scoring and be the star for the team to build around. This team is in desperate need of an injection of elite talent. Jrue Holiday and some of the other pieces can help the Pelicans win, but they need a superstar to tie it all together. With the additions made through the Davis trade and the players already on the roster, plus the future first-round picks acquired by New Orleans and the No. 4 selection in this one, which turned into even more picks in 2019 and 2020 in a draft day deal with the Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans is obviously aiming for its future. The organization will have to hit on some of these picks for it to matter, but the opportunity is there, especially if Williamson is as advertised.
Atlanta really, really wanted De’Andre Hunter
The Hawks sent the No. 8, No. 17 and No. 35 picks, along with a heavily protected 2020 first-round pick originally owned by Cleveland, to New Orleans for the No. 4 and No. 57 picks, a future second rounder and Solomon Hill.
Clearly, the Hawks liked what they saw in Hunter.
The University of Virginia-product was an elite at shooting, getting to the rim and defending in college, and Atlanta believes that will translate to the next level. Right now, the team has two players scoring more than 14 points per game: John Collins (19.5) and Trae Young (19.1). With Hunter, Atlanta is hoping to have added another major scoring option to space the floor, and the team picked Cam Reddish with the No. 10 pick, a less polished player but one with plenty of upside that was showcased in spurts during his Duke career.
Still, Atlanta paid a price to move up four spots to nab Hunter, and it shows how much faith the organization has in its guy.
Denver traded into the NBA Draft and took Bol Bol with its sole selection
At the start of the night, Denver did not own a single selection in the 2019 NBA Draft. In the middle of the second round, the team decided to jump in, making a deal with the Miami Heat for the No. 44 pick, shipping a future second-round pick and cash considerations to Florida.
With that pick, the Nuggets drafted Bol Bol, who played nine games for Oregon in his only collegiate campaign before suffering a season-ending injury to his left foot. The 7-foot-2 son of Manute Bol averaged 21.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game and shot 52 percent from three in his shortened season.
Bol was the No. 4 recruit in the Class of 2018, according to ESPN, but his stock in the 2019 draft fell with his injury. But on draft night, he plummeted into the middle of the second round from his projected place as a mid-first round pick.
Denver already has one of the better rosters in the NBA. Its front-court is its strength, with Nikola Jokic evolved into a superstar the team can play through. If Bol can reach his potential, his ridiculous frame and perimeter skills, it will make guarding Jokic and handling Denver’s spacing virtually impossible.
Now, there are plenty of question marks surrounding Bol, which is why he fell to the No. 44 pick. But it only cost the Nuggets almost nothing to take the risk, and if it does pay off, it could make a massive difference in Denver.
Philadelphia adds defense with Matisse Thybulle
The 76ers sent the No. 24 and No. 33 picks to Boston for the No. 20 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, and the Celtics selected Matisse Thybulle for their divisional foe.
Thybulle ran the top of Mike Hopkins’s zone at Washington in his college career, and he destroyed opposing offenses. The guard averaged 3.5 steals per game in his senior year, set the Pac-12 record for career steals (331) and won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019. He also posted 2.3 blocks per contest in the 2018-19 season, a testament to his versatility defensively. Thybulle was one of the best college defenders I’ve seen in the last 10 years.
There are some issues with him, though. Under Hopkins, he played a zone, so we haven’t seen him play much in man-to-man situations like he will see in the NBA. For a defender of his caliber, he should be able to make the adjustment, but it’s something to consider. The biggest question is with his offensive game, though, where he was a middle-of-the-road player in college. Thybulle shot 30.5 percent from deep and averaged 9.1 points per game as a senior. It’s even harder in the NBA, so unless he makes some serious strides in his game, he will be a defensive specialist as a pro.
Philadelphia already has plenty of scoring options and don’t need more. Eight different players scored in double figures last season for the 76ers, and five posted better than 16 points per night. If Thybulle can’t produce much offensively, that’s fine for Philadelphia; that’s what Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, J.J. Redick and company are for. The 76ers were eighth in the NBA in offensive efficiency last year, but they were 14th in defensive efficiency. If Thybulle can be relatively close to as dominant a defender as he was in college for Philadelphia, it could make a world of difference for its defense.
Remember, this 76ers team was a wild bounce away from defeating the eventual-champions Toronto Raptors in the second round and were the only team to take the Raptors to seven games. Philadelphia is very much on the cusp of greatness, and improving defensively seems like a good idea to push itself over the edge.
Celtics pick three guards, possibly as replacements for Kyrie Irving
Boston selected Romeo Langford (No. 14), Carsen Edwards (No. 33) and Tremont Waters (No. 51), who all played point guard at their respective schools. The Celtics also drafted Grant Williams with the No. 22 pick, a physical front man who fits the team’s M.O. of fundamentals and well-rounded basketball. But taking all three guards with the team’s remaining picks might be attempts at finding someone to fill Kyrie Irving’s shoes.
Irving’s future with the Celtics has been a hot conversation topic, and right now, it’s not clear which way things will go. But there are rumors Boston is nervous he will opt out of his deal, and these picks would fall in line with that theory.
Now, I would be surprised if any of Langford, Edwards or Waters turned into the player Irving has become, and replacing a player of Irving’s caliber is barely even possible to begin with, though that will be the task the team is slated with if he does decide to leave.
But if the team thinks it will lose its superstar, these picks make sense. Edwards and Waters have tons of offensive upside, especially for where they were selected, and while Langford decision making and shot selection were issues, he has the raw skills necessary to score in the NBA. Plus, Boston and Brad Stevens could be the exact landing spot he needs to realize that potential.
Drop us a note in the comments below to let us know your favorite moves from the 2019 NBA Draft, or who made the biggest mistakes. What’s the point of us talking hoops if you aren’t talking back?