NBA Draft: Winners, Losers and More

NBA Draft: Winners, Losers and More

This article is part of our NBA Draft series.

With the 2019 NBA Draft in the books, it's time to sort through the carnage and pick the winners and losers from Thursday night.


New Orleans Pelicans: The Pelicans have won two lotteries since moving to New Orleans, and they've happened to be arguably the two most consequential of the last 15 years. Drafting Zion Williamson in and of itself makes the Pels a winner, but they also added Jaxson Hayes at No. 8 and Nickeil Alexander-Walker at No. 17 and suddenly have one of the brightest -- if not the brightest -- long-term outlooks in the league.

Teams almost always enter a rebuild after losing a top-five player, but the Pelicans are in the rare position to compete and rebuild simultaneously. They may not be a true title contender for a few more years, but the Pelicans head into 2019-20 with a borderline-unbelievable combination of roster flexibility and future draft capital that'll carry them through much of the next decade.

Memphis Grizzlies: Much like the team picking ahead of them, simply drafting Ja Morant second overall makes Memphis a winner. But trading up two spots to grab Brandon Clarke at No. 21 was maybe the best value picks of the night. Clarke has some glaring shortcomings, but he's a big-time athlete and finisher who, at the very least, projects to be a versatile defender. The Grizzlies have a foundational big man in Jaren Jackson, but outside of that, the frontcourt was relatively thin.

Once faced with a bleak future following the longest run of sustained success, Memphis now has one of the best young duos in the league in Morant and Jackson. The Grizzlies are even further away from true contention than New Orleans, but if Morant is as talented as many believe, Memphis will have positioned itself to be among the contenders-in-waiting once the current guard of Western Conference elites phases out.

David Griffin: Griffin has been at the helm for just over two months, but he's already reminded everyone why he earned a reputation as one of the more shrewd decision-makers in the league. On top of the Anthony Davis mega-haul, Griffin flipped the No. 4 pick -- which the Pelicans got as part of the Davis deal -- to Atlanta for No. 8, No. 17 and No. 35. New Orleans also pawned Solomon Hill off on the Hawks, shedding his nearly $12.8 million in salary for next season.

Combining the two deals, Griffin turned Davis and two second-rounders into: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Nos. 8, 17 and 35 in this year's draft, a top-eight protected pick in 2021 (which becomes unprotected in 2022 if it does not convey), the right to swap first-round picks with the Lakers in 2023, and an unprotected 2024 first-round pick that New Orleans can defer to 2025. Plus, he dumped Hill's contract. Not a bad week.

Coby White: This is all about fit. White didn't go any higher than expected, but he joins a point-guard-needy team that, despite being terrible for the last two seasons, has a nice young core in place. White-Zach LaVine-Otto Porter-Lauri Markkanen-Wendell Carter is formidable, young starting five.

Atlanta Hawks: While they had to give up some draft capital to get to No. 4 and ensure Hunter would be available, the Hawks ended up getting both of the players they wanted in the lottery. Hunter is by far the safer pick of the two, and with him in the fold the Hawks could feel more comfortable rolling the dice on Cam Reddish at No. 10. Atlanta also added a defensive-minded center in Bruno Fernando in Round 2.

Cam Johnson: The league invited 22 players to the green room and Cameron Johnson wasn't one of them. He went 11th overall.

John Calipari: The streak continues. With PJ Washington and Tyler Herro going 12th and 13th, respectively, Calipari has now had at least one lottery pick in each of his 10 years at Kentucky. His nine-year streak of having a player taken in the top-10 was snapped, however.

San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs did it again. I love the Luka Samanic pick at No. 19, and getting Keldon Johnson with the second-to-last pick in the first round was one of the better values of the night. Neither player is going to vault the Spurs up the ladder in the Western Conference, but they'll be part of the foundation once LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan move on.


Bol Bol and Nicolas Claxton: Claxton loses more for monetary reasons after falling out of Round 1. But he ended up in a favorable basketball situation with the Nets, who have a young center in Jarrett Allen but not much else up front -- especially as Ed Davis heads back into free agency this summer.

All things considered, it wasn't terribly surprising to see Bol slip to Round 2, but it also wouldn't have been shocking if he went in the top 20. He had perhaps the widest range of any prospect coming into the night, and the draft broke about as badly as it could have for the 7-3 freshman. Still, he ends up in an interesting spot with the Nuggets, who will make him their second consecutive big-name reclamation project.

Everyone except Bol Bol: One of the more underrated components of draft night is the unspoken, yet very much palpable competition for the best suit. This year, it was one-man race.

And that speaks volumes, because it was one the stronger fields in recent years. Snakeskin always plays well. The Kentucky trio showed up. But when a Young Thug-designed bedazzled spider web covers most of your upper-body, you automatically have the best suit. Those are the rules.

Collin Sexton: The Cavs taking Darius Garland at No. 5 doesn't mean Sexton is suddenly expendable, but it does speak to how the Cavs view his ability to run the show. Sexton's raw scoring numbers as a rookie were impressive -- and he shot the three much better than expected -- but he was historically bad as a passer and struggled on the defensive end, belying his collegiate reputation. Given where the Cavs are at from a pure talent perspective, Sexton is still a top-three asset, but he may be staring at a transition to more of a primary off-ball role next season.

Kris Dunn: The Coby White pick may not be the end of Dunn in Chicago, but the former No. 5 overall pick is certainly on the hot seat. Dunn demonstrated some encouraging progress two seasons ago following a trade from Minnesota, but he stalled out last season, struggling to shoot just 42.5 percent from the floor. Dunn still has one year left on his contract before a 2020-21 qualifying offer, but with White now in place, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Bulls shop Dunn -- who's six years older than White -- to what would be his third team in four seasons.

Kevin Porter: Like Bol, The USC freshman's slide all the way to No. 30 wasn't a massive surprise, but in terms of pure talent, there's no debate Porter was a top-10 prospect in this class. Porter's character concerns and tendency to freelance were apparently enough to scare teams away.

The Suns: You're never going to believe this, but it's not immediately clear what the Suns are doing. Prior to the draft, they dumped T.J. Warren on the Pacers for cash -- a strange but understandable move for a team apparently looking to clear cap space. Then, the Suns moved out of the No. 6 pick, sending it to Minnesota for No. 11 and Dario Saric. It's understandable if Phoenix didn't like its options at No. 6, but the real crime was moving back five spots to take a guy who wasn't even invited to the green room.

For all we know, Cam Johnson will be a fine fit for a shooting-desperate team, but he's already 23 years old and probably could've been had 10, or even 15, spots later. Simply put: The Suns managed to turn No. 6 (Culver), T.J. Warren and No. 32 (KZ Okpala) into Cam Johnson and free-agent-to-be, Dario Saric.

Stray Thoughts

  • The Timberwolves gave up No. 11 and Dario Saric for the chance to move up five spots, and while it's unclear if the plan was to take Culver or try to use the pick as bait in a larger deal, Culver is an excellent value for a team in need of versatility. While Saric still has some value, he never quite fit in Minnesota last season, and he would've presented a difficult free agency decision next summer.
  • I like the Sekou Doumbouya pick at No. 15 for Detroit. It's a swing for the fences, but that's exactly what Detroit should be doing -- especially at this spot in the draft.
  • Orlando taking Chuma Okeke at No. 16 was an interesting one. He's coming off of a torn ACL just three months ago, but there's plenty to like in terms of longer-term upside. That's now three straight defensive-minded first-round picks (Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac) for the Magic.
  • Opinions on Nassir Little are split to the point that I can't call this a "win" for Portland, but getting an athlete of his caliber so late in the first round is rare. While going to a deeper team in Portland may mean a slower development path for Little, that may be what's best in the long-term.
  • At one point -- from the Spurs at No. 39 to the Knicks at No. 47 -- there were 19 consecutive picks that were, at some time or another, involved in a trade.

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Nick Whalen
Now in his 10th year with the company, Nick is RotoWire's Senior Media Analyst, a position he took on after several years as the Head of Basketball Content. A multi-time FSGA and FSWA award winner, Nick co-hosts RotoWire's flagship show on Sirius XM Fantasy alongside Jeff Erickson, as well as The RotoWire NBA Show on Sirius XM NBA with Alex Barutha. He also co-hosts RotoWire's Football and Basketball podcasts. You can catch Nick's NBA and NFL analysis on VSiN and DraftKings, as well as RotoWire's various social and video channels. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @wha1en.
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