2019 NBA Draft Reactions & Grades: #15 - 30
Updated: Jun 29, 2019
This is part 2 of our draft reactions and grades, focusing on picks #15 - 30. Lottery reactions and grades can be found here.
French League | SF/PF
Other picks options?: Could make case for Brandon Clarke, but this was the pick
At 6-8, 230-pounds and the youngest pick in the draft, 18-year-old Doumbouya landed in an odd spot in that Detroit is an NBA outpost of sorts. In that regard, I think Detroit did better than Doumbouya on this pick. With his combination of athleticism and (presently inconsistent) shooting ability, I like Doumbouya’s foundational tools. While he’s much more project than ready-made prospect, on a fringe playoff team like the Pistons, one would hope he can get playing time even as a young rookie. This is the low risk/high reward pick I would’ve liked to see the Hornets make. And even though there were better prospects on the board (Brandon Clarke, Grant Williams), I’m a fan of the pick and what could be their starting small forward of the future.
Auburn | SF/PF
Other picks options?: Kevin Porter Jr, Matisse Thybulle
Even though Chuma Okeke tore his ACL in what was arguably the best performance of his college career, I remain bullish on the burly shooting forward from Auburn and love this pick for Orlando. Okeke could miss the entirety of his rookie season, but again, I don’t think it matters all that much. At 6-8, 230 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan, the selfless, defensive minded Okeke looks like he was hatched in the lab of Orlando GM John Hammond. And while the Magic is already set at the forward spots with Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon, Okeke adds depth, versatility, and a potential hedge against a Gordon trade. You can easily argue that Clarke and Williams were better fits as immediate contributors, but Clarke lacks the length Hammond covets and Williams isn’t quite as long or tall as Okeke and neither player shoots it as well as Okeke.
Pelicans by way of Hawks
Virginia Tech | SG/SF
Other picks options?: Brandon Clarke, Bol Bol, Goga, Thybulle
In the nearly 6-6 Walker-Alexander, New Orleans gets an above average-shooting combo guard who’s comfortable playing on or off the ball, creating for others or spotting up. In theory, he slots in somewhere behind Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, and Josh Hart in the guard rotation. He’ll compete with Ian Clark and Frank Jackson for additional time. It’s low pressure, low expectations, and yet, I’m not a big fan of the pick. Walker-Alexander is slight of frame and despite his production at Virginia Tech (16-4-4 with 2 steals as a sophomore), whenever I watched their games, he was often a player I struggled to notice. It can be that he’s just an understated producer or it can be that while he produces, he doesn’t get his fingerprints on the game. The pick makes sense in terms of need, but like the Pelicans #8 pick Jaxson Hayes, it leaves me wanting more.
Adriatic League | C
Other picks options?: Brandon Clarke, Grant Williams, Kevin Porter Jr
A good pick of a good prospect by a good team. Everything about Indiana selecting Bitadze screams competence. The Georgian big man can shoot it at a clip that keeps defenses honest, he’s an aggressive and smart defender if occasionally overzealous, and doesn’t shy away from contact at all. Of course, with Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, the Pacers seem to be set in the front court so does this signal a potential move or is it just taking a player the Pacers saw as best available? We’ll have to wait for the rest of GM Kevin Pritchard’s dominoes to fall, but Bitadze can play and increasing your overall talent is never a bad thing. The grade is B+.
San Antonio Spurs
Croatia | PF/C
Other picks options?: Brandon Clarke, Grant Williams, Kevin Porter Jr, Bol Bol, Thybulle, Nassir
Samanic kind of feels like a Spurs pick, but like Cam Johnson to the Suns at #11, it felt like an overreach. We’ll avoid poking and prodding too deeply into draft slot and instead acknowledge that it’s difficult to know how and when Samanic will make an appearance with the Spurs. Will he be a draft and stash or will he come over immediately? At 19, if he does come over immediately, I imagine he’d split his time between the end of the Spurs bench and with their G-League affiliate, the Austin Spurs. And probably a lot of time with San Antonio’s vaunted shooting coach Chip Engelland. I give this pick a C, but should’ve given it an incomplete.
by way of Boston Celtics
Matisse Thybulle Unviersity of Washington | SF/SG/PF
Other picks options?: Grant Williams, Nassir
I graded this out as a B+ and am pro-Thybulle for obvious reasons, the strongest being his functional length and defensive timing. Playing at the top of UW’s zone, Thybulle was a long-winged predator stalking the basketball like a it was a life-giving orb. You draft him for his defense and hope that his average-to-below average offensive game can improve and translate. Over 4 seasons at UW, he shot 36% from deep and flashed a passive, if underrated off-the-dribble capability. He’s more athletic than he shows, but consistently presenting himself as a potential threat with the ball in his hands will go a long way in determining the ultimate value of this pick. Thybulle’s good enough to an NBA starter, but I’m not convinced the defense translates to the same elite levels or that he can consistently shoot it well enough to be a threat.
by way of OKC
Gonzaga | PF/C
Other picks options?: No
It’s fair to point to Clarke as potentially the steal of the draft. He’s a smart player and elite athlete who can switch across multiple positions and protect the rim at a potentially elite rate for his size (6-8). Playing alongside current Grizz wunderkind Jaren Jackson Jr immediately gives Memphis a backline defense that projects out as special. Having two rim protectors roaming around the basket allows Grizzly guards to be more aggressive and take more risks. As I wrote with Morant, I have no clue how coach Taylor Jenkins will deploy this youthful cadre, but I’ll be there to see it.
Tennessee | PF/C
Other picks options?: Grant was the pick, but could make case for Nassir, KPJ, Bol Bol
If Brandon Clarke was the steal of the draft, then Grant Williams to Boston could easily be the runner-up. He lands at a peculiar time in Boston where the team is simultaneously influx while still maintaining a competitive and evolving core. Assuming Marcus Morris and Al Horford are gone, there’s an immediate path to meaningful minutes for the unofficial “Strongest Prospect” from the 2019 draft at both the 4 and 5 spots. Williams is a cerebral player on both sides of the ball and I’d expect him to get more minutes and have better outlook than Boston’s lottery pick, Romeo Langford.
by way of Memphis
Leap year | PF/SF
Other picks options?: Nassir, Bol Bol, Windler, Nic Claxton, Carsen Edwards, Mfiondu Kabengele
Bazley is a 6-9, 208 pound 19-year-old who skipped college to take on an internship with New Balance and work on his game outside the traditional paths and confines. He can play and showed his functional length and feel at the combine which likely helped bump up his draft stock. He’s a prototypical pick for an OKC team that craves long, athletic wings and feels like the next link in an evolutionary chain preceded by Jerami Grant, though I have doubts he’ll reach Grant’s level. Like Samanic, Bazley is a wildcard of sorts because we’ve seen about as much of him as we have of Darius Garland in the past year. He can play, but I anticipate slow growth as he develops to the physical rigors demanded of the pro game on and off the court.
by way of Celtics
Virgnia | PG/SG
Other picks options?: Nassir, Nic Claxton
Some players figure out how to play a game that only they can play, they become a best version of themselves that you can’t really teach, but that must be learned and Jerome is one of those unorthodox players. He can shoot and pass at a high level and those are presumably the reasons Phoenix took him at #24. Jerome’s feel and even his ability to produce out of the post are evident and impressive. How these skills carry over against NBA guards is the curiosity. He was able to get to his spots and get his shots against the best collegiate basketball players so my concerns aren’t too great, but the collective speed and variability of NBA defenses is something that makes the ACC look like remedial basketball. It will be difficult and Jerome doesn’t have elite athleticism to fall back on. And, as of this writing (6/28/19), he doesn’t have a veteran point guard who can show him the ropes. Depending on how Phoenix’s off-season unfolds, I could see him getting spot minutes at the point or getting spot starts. It’s a TBD situation, but ultimately, I’m guessing Jerome becomes a combo guard off the bench.
UNC | PF/SF
Other picks options?: Could argue for KPJ, but Little was excellent
Nassir Little was 20th on my final board and while I wasn’t high on him as a standalone prospect, I’m high on him going to Portland. As I reviewed prospects during the pre-draft process, I kept going returning to the value of continuity and stability as a key factor for draft prospect landing spots. There’s not a much more stable franchise and roster than Portland and Little, with his combo forward size and natural gifts looks like a player who can help out immediately. Despite his struggles as a freshman at UNC, Little goes hard and competes. At present, his shot needs a lot of work, but it’s easy to see him providing high-energy bursts off the bench as a rookie at the 3 or 4, defending and hitting the boards. With Al-Farouq Aminu as an unrestricted free agent, Portland’s 4-spot is undefined, but it feels like a stretch for Little to see even spot starts there at present.
by way of Houston
Belmont | SF/PF
Other picks options?: KPJ, Claxton, Kabengele, Keldon Johnson, KZ Okpala, Eric Paschall
The 6-7 Windler out of Belmont lands in a bizarre reality on a Cleveland roster that’s part kids learning the pro game and part NBA champions who wouldn’t be wrong to be on the lookout for the nearest exit. Windler likely slots in as a reserve wing behind Cedi Osman. It’s hard to imagine him defending 2s or 4s so wing it is. He shot over 40% on 3s on over 500 collegiate attempts and in whatever minutes he sees as a rookie, should be able to space the floor primarily as a shooter. Windler’s skillset goes beyond shooting, but Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, and Jordan Clarkson as primary handlers, I don’t envision much opportunity for Windler to attack off the dribble unless he’s attacking closeouts. I’m also under the assumption that, like many of his new teammates, Windler will struggle to defend at the pro level.
Los Angeles Clippers
by way of Nets
Florida State | PF/C
Other picks options?: Bol Bol, KPJ, Eric Paschall, Admiral Schofield
The nephew of Dikembe Mutombo comes into a Clippers team that’s in the midst of potentially franchise-altering off-season – IE; Kawhi Leonard. It’s hard to project out what their post-free agency roster looks like, but regardless of who is or isn’t there, Kabengele should split time between the Agua Caliente Clippers and reserve minutes at the 4 and 5. He’s a sturdy frontcourt player with length who can shoot. On the surface, those are great attributes, but Kabengele’s feel leaves a lot to be desired. He’s not much of a passer and despite solid defensive numbers and effort, the finer points of team defense are still to be learned. Jamychal Green (currently UFA) and Montrezl Harrell would be great mentors for Kabengele – assuming they’re still with the team come training camp.
Golden State Warriors
Michigan | SG
Other picks options?: Bol Bol, KPJ, Eric Paschall, Keldon Johnson, KZ Okpala
Poole is an above-average shooter who spent two seasons at Michigan before being a surprising (to me at least) first round pick. It’s surprising to me because Poole wasn’t a player who wowed me too much during his time in Ann Arbor. While he’s a good shooter who has a quick release off the catch or off movement, he’s not a plus-athlete, he hasn’t exhibited high level creation, and he’s not a plus-defender. While his shooting is good (37% from 3 on 311 career attempts, 83% 142 free throws), it’s not at the level of say, Landry Shamet who was picked in a similar spot in last year’s draft. Poole just turned 20 about a week ago so while I’m nowhere near writing him off, I’m also not high on his prospects with Golden State – Klay or no Klay.
by way of NBA Champion Raps
Kentucky | SG/SF
Other picks options?: Bol Bol, KPJ, Eric Paschall, KZ, Claxton
Like Nassir Little, I wasn’t a huge fan of Keldon Johnson, but love him at #29 to the Spurs. Johnson slots in at the 2/3 spots on a team with existing depth. He proved himself a smart player who could shoot it off the catch or the move in his one season in Kentucky. He plays with a lot of emotion and is an intense competitor though sometimes his emotions get the best of him. There’s not much of a path to playing time on the current Spurs roster that features potentially 7 players ahead of him on the depth chart. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though as the Spurs have proven a best in class ability to develop draft picks.
by way of Pistons
Kevin Porter, Jr.
USC | SG
Other picks options?: KZ Okpala, Eric Paschall
I was admittedly probably too high on USC’s Kevin Porter Jr, but the ability is just so damn intriguing and I’m just dumbly stubborn that I couldn’t back off so he ended up 12th on my board and yet I only gave this pick a C+. While I love KPJ’s ability and high ceiling, I hate the fit. He lands on a Cleveland roster with at least three ball dominant players ahead of him (Sexton, Garland, Clarkson) and a rookie NBA coach from the college ranks in former Michigan coach, John Beilein. I had hoped and prayed Porter Jr would land in San Antonio where he could develop alongside former high school teammate Dejounte Murray and in a culture of accountability but instead he lands on a Cleveland team enveloped in uncertainty and potential roster fluctuation (Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson). Given some of Porter Jr’s maturity questions and his unique playing style, I don’t love his chances of reaching potential here, it’s just too uncertain and too volatile. The flip side is that he can marry his awesome ability to a pro-level work ethic and his talent just outshines whoever Cleveland plans to start at off-guard. It’s possible, but in this climate, doubtful. Sad.