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2019 NBA Draft

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Revisiting the 2019 NBA Draft

Since the 2020 NBA Draft isn’t happening tonight, let’s flash back to what took place in the 2019 Draft.

Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The 2020 NBA Draft was *supposed* to be taking place tonight, with the Minnesota Timberwolves slated to draft anywhere between the first overall pick and the seventh overall pick. The official odds for where the Wolves could possibly draft are listed below:

  • 1st: 14.0%
  • 2nd: 13.4%
  • 3rd: 12.8%
  • 4th: 12.0%
  • 5th: 14.8%
  • 6th: 26.0%
  • 7th: 7.0%

However, because of the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA has been forced to push back both the NBA Lottery (now scheduled for August 25) and the NBA Draft (now scheduled for October 15). While the staff here at Canis Hoopus has spent quite a bit of time researching the top prospects for this upcoming draft class (most notably Jake’s Draft Radar series and Dane’s weekly podcasts), it won’t truly feel like #DraftSZN until the NBA finalizes the draft order at the end of August.

With that said, I wanted to take a look back at the 2019 draft and discuss a variety of topics — including the results of lottery, the draft night trade between the Wolves and Phoenix Suns, and what the order *should* have been based on revisionist history (albeit a small sample size).

2019 Lottery Picks

To kick things off, let’s have a quick refresher on how the first 14 picks of the 2019 NBA Draft went down:

  1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson
  2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant
  3. New York Knicks: RJ Barrett
  4. Los Angeles Lakers: De’Andre Hunter (traded to Atlanta)
  5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Garland
  6. Phoenix Suns: Jarrett Culver (traded to Minnesota)
  7. Chicago Bulls: Coby White
  8. Atlanta Hawks: Jaxson Hayes (traded to New Orleans)
  9. Washington Wizards: Rui Hachimura
  10. Atlanta Hawks: Cam Reddish
  11. Minnesota Timberwolves: Cameron Johnson (traded to Phoenix)
  12. Charlotte Hornets: P.J. Washington
  13. Miami Heat: Tyler Herro
  14. Boston Celtics: Romeo Langford

Leading up to this draft, many were in agreement that it was a two star draft, with Zion Williamson being the clear cut number one pick (although, there were pockets of people who believed Ja Morant was the better overall selection). Nevertheless, the 2019 Draft was one of the more exciting nights in recent NBA history, with four of the top fourteen players switching hats throughout the night due to trades (and idiotic NBA rules that make players pretend like they got drafted by one team even though everyone and their cousin knows the player got dealt).

Outside of a couple trades, the lottery picks went about as projected. RJ Barrett was considered the third musketeer in most mocks, and although the Knicks were rumored to be in on Darius Garland, ended up selecting the lefty from Duke to no one’s surprise. Hunter went before Culver, Garland before White, and the only real “shocker” came with the Suns selecting Cameron Johnson at #11 (after trading with Minnesota).

Suns/Wolves Trade

Speaking of Phoenix and Minnesota, the two Western Conference foes got the party started on draft night with some interesting trade fireworks:

Just a few months after taking over as lead decision maker for the franchise, Gersson Rosas finally made his first big splash, swapping pick #11 for pick #6, while also sending the Suns Dario Saric (who had one year left on his deal at the time). The Wolves would go on to “select” Jarrett Culver at #6, while the Suns (as mentioned previously) would select Cameron Johnson.

Fast forward to today, and the excitement of that mini-blockbuster has definitely worn off, but it’s still very much an interesting transaction to dissect. In terms of stats per 36 minutes, neither Culver nor Johnson were very good in their rookie year, but each did show flashes from time to time during their first stint in the league.

The elephant in the room between the two rookies (one of whom just turned 21 and one of whom is somehow already 24) is the horrendous shooting splits for the Red Raider alum. To say Culver’s jumpshot is broken would be a Texas-sized understatement, and it was evident throughout the season that the Wolves were not going to wait until the summer to start fixing his flawed mechanics.

JC did have some good moments during his rookie campaign, leading the team in games played (63) and trailing only Josh Okogie in overall minutes played (1506); however, the defensive flashes and highlight dunks were quickly muddied by the eye-wrenching shot mechanics and overall shooting percentages (especially from the free throw line where Culver somehow connected on a putrid 46.2%).

Now a year removed, the ramifications of this trade seem far less important than they did during 2019 draft night, considering the Wolves would eventually go on to make far bigger splashes (i.e. acquiring D’Angelo Russell/Malik Beasley and trading away Andrew Wiggins). When Minnesota did make the trade on draft night, it was widely speculated that they were focused on selecting Garland (who went a spot before them), but with what we know now and having Russell in the fold, I’m not really sure if failing to get their prized rookie on draft night was a bad thing after all.

Nevertheless, it’s still an interesting discussion to have — should Minnesota have made the deal to move up in the draft? Rosas made it well-known when he arrived on the scene that one of his core competencies was “being aggressive” and the draft night trade was just his first in many chess moves to get the roster more to his liking.

While Culver might not have been the sixth best player in the draft (more on that in a second), I will go to my grave supporting the strategy of flipping average rotation players (i.e. Dario Saric) for the “opportunity” to land a franchise player. As it stands now, Jarrett Culver clearly does not possess the two-way game to be considered a franchise player (or possibly even a starting player) in the NBA, but the overall logic in making the move (small risk for possibly big reward) is the exact type of strategy this franchise needs to subscribe to if they are ever going to turn the team around.

2019 Lottery Picks: Redrafted

So again, knowing what we know now (which is a lot more than we did on June 20, 2019, but still not *that* much), let’s break down how the 2019 *should* have gone:

  1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson
  2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant
  3. New York Knicks: RJ Barrett
  4. Atlanta Hawks: Brandon Clarke
  5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Garland
  6. Minnesota Timberwolves: P.J. Washington
  7. Chicago Bulls: Coby White
  8. New Orleans Pelicans: Matisse Thybulle
  9. Washington Wizards: Tyler Herro
  10. Atlanta Hawks: De’Andre Hunter
  11. Phoenix Suns: Jarrett Culver
  12. Charlotte Hornets: Jaxson Hayes
  13. Miami Heat: Nickeil Alexander-Walker
  14. Boston Celtics: Rui Hachimura

In my mind, the top three of this draft should remain the same. The debate between Zion/Morant will be a fun one for the next decade or so, but at the end of the day it’s Williamson who possesses the higher ceiling and stronger superstar potential. As for Barrett at #3, that still seems likely, although there are a few players you could make an interesting case for.

The real “intrigue” in this redraft starts with Atlanta at #4. Much like many of the members of this class, Hunter was “fine” in his rookie campaign, but didn’t really blow people away in his 32 minutes per game. To me, the clear cut pick at #4 is Brandon Clarke, who somehow slipped to the Memphis Grizzlies at #21 and led all rookies in a variety of statistical categories, including win shares (4.4).

At #5, it still seems likely that the talent-deprived Cavs would select the player with the biggest upside (Garland), although the fit so far between him and Collin Sexton has been even worse than many people could have imagined.

As for Minnesota at #6 — there are a ton of different routes you could take, although none of them (at least to me) end with the Wolves selecting Jarrett Culver. I do still believe in JC as a prospect, I just think looking back there were MUCH better fits for the roster that currently exists today. For example, Coby White (who many fans thought would be Minnesota’s selection once Cleveland took Garland) clearly demonstrated a knack for putting the ball in the basket. However, on the defensive side of things, the UNC product rarely provided any sort of resistance whatsoever, and with Russell and Beasley now in the fold for the foreseeable future, I’m not really sure how valuable a player like that would be to this current roster.

For me, the answer here at pick six is P.J. Washington, who shot 37.4% from three and was fourth among all rookies in rebounding. You could definitely argue other prospects like Matisse Thybulle or Tyler Herro at this spot, but in my opinion Washington was one of the steals of the draft and has a game that strongly compliments that of Towns.

From there, I still think most of the players selected in the lottery still remain in the lottery (including Jarrett Culver), albeit landing in different spots than they originally had. Pairing Thybulle with not only Zion but also Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, and Brandon Ingram would give teams absolute nightmares on the defensive end, and I think a guy like Nickeil Alexander-Walker would thrive in the Miami Heat culture.

While we may not have a real draft to focus on tonight, we can always break down drafts of the past (which for Wolves fans specifically can be an extremely depressing way to pass the time). With exactly two months to go before the NBA Lottery, there will be plenty of time to break down the upcoming 2020 draft class, but for now I’d like your opinions on 1) whether or not Minnesota should have done the Culver trade and 2) how you would have redrafted the 2019 class.

Stay safe and be well.