This was a layup: there isn’t much left to be said about Williamson, who has a chance to actually live up to the massive hype that built over the course of a transcendent college season at Duke. The Pelicans had an easy choice here, and in the wake of the Anthony Davis deal have positioned themselves remarkably well long-term, maximizing their flexibility and giving themselves plenty of options moving forward. What they do from here will be fascinating, beginning with additional draft picks they just acquired from Atlanta for the No. 4 selection.
Morant emerged as the clear No. 2 prospect in the minds of most evaluators as the season progressed, and far and away makes the most sense for Memphis here, giving them an heir apparent to Mike Conley at the point, and a long-term partner for Jaren Jackson. The Grizzlies now boast one of the league’s more promising young duos, and Morant’s natural gifts as a playmaker and high-end athleticism create an extremely high ceiling for him as he matures. Memphis should feel good about this choice, and are in a pretty strong position as their rebuild begins in earnest.
Barrett is generally considered to be the third-best prospect in the draft, and his scoring ability makes a lot of sense for the Knicks, who continue to accumulate talent in the interim while also angling to recruit star free agents. Barrett makes a good deal of sense situationally, and could immediately be New York’s most valuable young player. They need someone to score the ball, and can give Barrett time to play through his mistakes. If the Knicks don’t bring in any top talent this summer, it could be a long year ahead, but Barrett fits what they need long-term. If he can mature as a decision-maker and expand his skill set offensively, New York should ultimately be happy with this choice.
In a draft like this, it makes sense that the Hawks would consolidate their assets and move up for the player they covet most. While in most drafts, Hunter wouldn’t be a top-five talent, it’s understandable why the Hawks chose to prioritize him. Atlanta felt they had to get ahead of the Cavs at No. 5 to grab Hunter, and while it came at a high price, Hunter should fit nicely with the pieces they have in place. He’ll provide defensive cover immediately, should be a feasible threat from beyond the three-point line and doesn’t need to be a star to return value here. The hope is that Hunter becomes a strong complementary piece for Trae Young, and it’s a reasonable decision by Atlanta.
There’s some uncertainty as to what Cleveland is doing with this pick at the moment, but Garland is the choice at No. 5, and if they intend to keep him, it’s clear they came at this pick from a best player available perspective. The Cavs drafted Collin Sexton in last year’s lottery and would be pairing him with a more playmaking-oriented guard in Garland—although both are undersized, they excel at putting pressure on defenses off the dribble. We’ll see whether he stays here or if the pick is traded, but you can’t knock Cleveland for aiming high here.
This is strong value for Minnesota at No. 6, landing a player who you can argue for as the third-best prospect in the draft. Culver has made major strides, plays hard on both ends and should be a positive contributor for the Wolves. He’s a relatively safe choice for them, but also fits nicely with what they have on the roster, and comes with an appealing floor and ceiling. The Wolves maneuvered effectively to this spot and made a strong decision.
White is a strong fit for Chicago, helping to address their long-term need at guard with a player many had pegged as the best fit at No. 7. White’s shooting ability and size make him an appealing prospect, and he’s just begun to tap into his ability as a playmaker. This pick is hard to knock, given both value and need.
The Pelicans will keep this pick, per a source, and go with Hayes, imagining him as long-term defensive cover for Zion Williamson. He’s one of the most athletic big men in the draft, and while he may take a little time to come along, New Orleans continues to think long-term and swing big. Hayes makes a lot of sense here, looking at the pieces they have in place, and with center being a clear area of need. They deserve credit for flipping No. 4 into extra stuff, and landing a player with real upside at this spot.
This is an interesting pick for the Wizards, who are picking a player many teams were split on in terms of value. But there was a sense that Hachimura might be gone shortly after this, and Washington ultimately opted for the guy they liked the most here. There’s some risk involved, but he fits an area of need for Washington, and they’ll hope he turns into a useful scorer and rebounder long-term at forward.
At this point in the draft, Reddish is a worthwhile gamble for Atlanta, which was thought to be targeting him with one of their two picks at Nos. 8 and 10, and ultimately get their man. Reddish has as much potential as anyone in this range of the draft, and while there’s certainly a varying degree of confidence in whether he ever gets there, the middle ground could still be a strong fit for Atlanta. The Hawks walk away with Hunter and Reddish in the Top 10, giving them even more young talent that fits nicely around Trae Young. This is a risk, but it’s entirely defensible.
This is an extreme reach for the Suns, who are grabbing a player most teams expected to be available in the 20s here at No. 11 after trading down from No. 6. This is hard to explain—Johnson is one of the draft’s best pure spot-up shooters, but he’s already 23 years old. It feels like the Suns are drafting for need here, and this is an extremely high juncture in this draft to do that. Phoenix would seem to be trying to accelerate their rebuild, but this decision is questionable, given the way this draft seemed slated to fall. The choice itself makes some sense, but the execution here is the issue I have.
I like this pick for the Hornets overall—they need help in the frontcourt and get one of the more NBA-ready forwards on the board here. Washington made major strides as a sophomore, and if his jump shot is for real, he could be an ideal small-ball forward. Charlotte didn’t take a home-run swing here—Sekou Doumbouya was on the board—but Washington is a solid option.
Miami opts for Herro here, who many teams considered one of the most promising perimeter scorers in this draft. He can really knock down tough shots, has potential playing off the dribble and at least puts in real effort defensively. The Heat don’t really have anyone like him on their roster long-term, and this makes sense in terms of fit and upside.
Boston is taking a big gamble here with Langford, who comes with some real on-court concerns after a so-so year at Indiana. He was playing injured for much of the time, but there were teams who valued him lower than this, who didn’t buy in on him from a long-term perspective. It’s certainly possible he returns lottery value if he gets healthy and puts it together, but my own evaluation of Langford was much lower than this. Time will tell.
Doubouya took a tumble here, but he does have legitimate lottery upside if he puts it all together. Given where Detroit is as an organization, taking a big swing makes a lot of sense. There are concerns about his maturity level, but he’s still very young and has plenty of time to grow into a legitimate impact-caliber forward. This could end up going either way, but in concept, it’s a strong choice.
I really like this pick by Orlando: had Okeke not been injured during the NCAA tournament, he was tracking as a clear first-rounder in my eyes. This is a bit of a surprise, but provided he recovers well, he should be a strong fit in their frontcourt. I like this fit for the Magic, who can take their time and develop him into a versatile piece who can defend the perimeter and also stroke from outside.
Alexander-Walker is a solid fit with what the Pelicans have in place, adding auxiliary playmaking and shooting to their guard rotation and giving them a third quality player as part of their first-round haul. He’ll be a smooth fit with Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday, but New Orleans can also be patient with him. This is a good stylistic match between player and team.
Bitadze is the most NBA-ready big man in this draft, and while he doesn’t directly fill a need for the Pacers here, this pick is all about value. He could be an immediate contributor off the bench for them, combining skill, size and toughness in a package that profiles well at the NBA level. Concerns about his athleticism are a bit overblown. This is a shrewd choice by Indiana.
This might be a little high for Samanic, but the Spurs ultimately opted for a player they came to covet after Goga Bitadze went off the board one pick earlier. The fit between prospect and team here is strong, and he may not have made it all the way to San Antonio at No. 29. Credit the Spurs for just grabbing the guy they like here, although this was considered to be the high end of his range. There’s a bit of risk involved here, but Samanic lands in a good situation for his development.
This pick was reportedly dealt from Boston to Philadelphia, for picks No. 24 and 33. My read on this is that Boston sussed out that the Sixers were the mystery team who had tried to shut Thybulle down, dating back to before the draft combine. They were able to extract additional draft value out of them by taking him here and then moving back. This is shrewd operating by the Celtics, and remains a solid pick for the Sixers—Thybulle needs to grow offensively, but his defense could be outstanding, and he fits nicely with Philly as a long-term role player.
The Grizzlies traded up to No. 21 with Oklahoma City to make this pick. I’m not as high on Clarke as many are, but based on the way he was trending, this is a good value pick for Memphis. In this range of the draft, his shortcomings are less of a concern, and his considerable strengths make him a worthwhile choice. He’ll be a nice fit next to Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., giving the Grizzlies a potential lineup that can play fast, catch lobs and defend with flexibility in the frontcourt. I like the fit, and if Clarke pans out, this will end up looking smart.
Williams is a really nice fit in Boston, where he can play to his strengths alongside their array of scorers and focus on doing the dirty work and making their other players better. The Celtics may end up rolling with a young roster next season, and should benefit from having him around. There are some questions about translation with him offensively, and about his perimeter defense, but Williams lands in a pretty ideal situation here, and it should position him well for long-term success in the correct sort of role.
Bazley had been gaining momentum late in the predraft process, and there was buzz that the Thunder might be one of the teams interested in grabbing him in this range. This is ultimately a long-term investment from OKC, which is no stranger to such projects, and makes this a pretty nice fit for him. They’ll be patient with him. Bazley has really improved from a physical perspective, but he likely needs time in the G League, and it would be unreasonable to expect him to contribute a ton next season. The Thunder obviously believe in him, but this was also a juncture where they perhaps could have strengthened their rotation for next season. This pick might take some extra time to properly assess, but I don’t love it at a glance.
Phoenix has had a bit of a puzzling day at the draft, ultimately maneuvering out of No. 6, down to No. 11, and then coming back here at No. 24 to get this pick from Boston, who had just acquired it from Philadelphia. This is much better value than Cam Johnson at No. 11, and the hope is that Jerome’s impressive shooting, intangibles and basketball savvy turn him into a viable role player. He fits well with Devin Booker as a potential long-term rotation piece.
This is good value on Little, who unsurprisingly took a bit of a fall in the draft—many teams weren’t ever really as high on him as it seemed. I do like this for Portland, who get him on the cheap, at a position of need, and get a low-risk shot at developing him into a viable running mate for their stars. Little is unquestionably an NBA-caliber athlete, but he has a ways to go from a feel perspective. He’s certainly gifted enough to deliver a strong return on a pick this late.
Windler is one of the better pure shooters in this draft, but there’s also a risk he was a product of a very well-designed system at Belmont. Cleveland and John Beilein should be a good fit for him and be able to utilize him, but this is ultimately a pick that may not have a ton of upside. Windler does have his fans around the league, though, and having someone of his potential quality to space the floor for their guards could be a nice fit.
The Clippers acquired this pick from the Nets via trade, and will select Kabengele, who should be a nice fit with what they have in place, as a high-energy rebounder and shot-blocker who has the capacity to stretch the floor. He could be a plug-and-play role guy for L.A., which has designs on contending sooner than later. This is nice value.
This is a flier for the Warriors, who will hope to take Poole’s talent and turn him into a viable rotation player long-term. He’s a naturally gifted shooter who excelled on the workout circuit, but struggled with consistency at Michigan. The Warriors picked up another second-rounder that should allow them to find a player who’s closer to contributing. This is a bit of a surprise, but not altogether a reach for Golden State. If he puts it together, he can help them, but it may not be this season.
This is a fall for Johnson, but in this range, he’s a really nice value for them—he profiles best as a role player, and at No. 29, his position is commensurate with that. Johnson has a solid all-around skill set and competes, but has work to do playing off the dribble. He could be a nice piece for them long-term, and makes sense with their pieces. He was projected to go a bit higher than this, but I think this fit ends up being mutually beneficial.
Porter Jr.’s precipitous fall ended here, with Cleveland coming in to get this pick from Detroit. Porter fell in the draft due in large part to background concerns, but he’s extremely talented and if he puts it together, could deliver outstanding value. The Cavs were thought to have real interest in him, and after passing at No. 26, they came back in to grab him. The fit here could be strong, and playing for John Beilein could be extremely beneficial for Porter’s long-term prospects.