NBA Draft 2019: The best and worst picks of the first round
The NBA Draft is a gamble.
Players who everyone is convinced are going to be good (Greg Oden, Markelle Fultz, Jahlil Okafor) sometimes aren’t. Whether that’s because of fit or injury or whatever, sometimes things just don’t work out.
But no matter what happens, after every draft people leave loving what their team got or flat-out hating it.
So what did we love and flat-out hate from the first round of this draft? Oh, there was plenty.
Best and worst picks from the first round of the NBA Draft
Cameron Johnson, North Carolina, Suns, No. 11 overall: This is nothing against Johnson. In fact, we like him. He’s a long athlete who can shoot the ball like crazy and he’s a mature player who can contribute right away. But the Suns don’t need someone to contribute right away. They’re probably, at least, three years away. And they traded away another piece in TJ Warren before the draft even started so they took an even further move back.
What makes this even worse is the Suns actually traded down from No. 6 to take Johnson at No. 11. They had a shot to take Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver, who is younger, a fantastic defender and fits the Suns’ timeline. The Suns probably could have gotten Johnson eight or nine picks later. And, if they couldn’t and another team took him with the 12th pick, then they should have let them, because the value wasn’t right. Again, we wish the best of luck to Johnson, but the Suns’ decision here doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Chuma Okeke, Auburn, Magic, No. 16 overall: There’s a little bit of a theme here in that we like Okeke’s game. He’s athletic, he can shoot and he gives tons of effort. But he just tore his ACL and had surgery in April. He will likely be out for the entire season, and if the Magic lose Nikola Vucevic in free agency, it could be an insanely rough season for them next year.
Orlando finally took a step forward last season getting to the playoffs and adding a player who could contribute sooner like Nickeil Alexander-Walker out of Virginia Tech or Brandon Clarke out of Gonzaga might have both filled needs and given more immediate production. Terrence Ross could leave in free agency, as well, and Alexander-Walker could have helped that loss while Clarke would step in to fill a bit of a void left by Vucevic, even if he doesn’t have that kind of size. This one just seems like it wasn’t thought out all the way.
Grant Williams, Tennessee, Celtics, No. 22 overall: This one is actually kind of on the line of the Cameron Johnson pick. Williams was probably taken a little bit too early. He is a bit of a polarizing prospect who some ranked as high as 15 on their big boards but others saw him closer to the late first round or even early second. So the argument could be made the Celtics reached a little bit here.
But, Williams is just too perfect for the Celtics to dislike the pick. He’s a hard worker who excels on the offensive boards and gets more out of his smaller frame than just about anyone in this draft. Brad Stevens will absolutely love this guy. And, he is a better shooter than people give him credit for, which also fills a need for Boston. The Celtics need shooting and Williams gives them that. It’s really hard to dislike this pick.
Nassir Little, North Carolina, Trail Blazers, No. 25 overall: It made little sense that Little fell to the 25th pick but the Trail Blazers couldn’t care less. This is easy to write as Little was one of the top recruits in the 2018 class and has one of the highest ceilings in this entire draft.
He logically could step in and give the Trail Blazers huge minutes right away and shoots more than well enough to help the team space the floor. He has also already shown in his time at North Carolina that he doesn’t always have to have the ball and is humble enough to take a lesser role for the betterment of the team. Portland has to be absolutely over the moon after getting Little. And, it didn’t even have to trade up to do it.