2019 NBA Draft grades, team-by-team picks: Hawks, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Spurs earn As, but Suns get a D

Sometimes the NBA Draft is about getting smart, about maneuvering up and down the draft board to derive maximum value. And sometimes it's about only one thing: not screwing up.

The New Orleans Pelicans did both of those things well Thursday, first by doing the Not Screwing Up part by drafting Zion Williamson at No. 1 overall. The tricky part came later when they traded the No. 4 pick for Nos. 8 and 17, and they nailed that, too by scooping up ultra-athletic big Jaxson Hayes first and combo guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker next.

New Orleans may not be a playoff team right away in a post-Anthony Davis world, but decision-maker David Griffin ensured this franchise is set up for success in the long-term by acquiring exciting young building blocks to put around the draft's most exciting prospect of the decade.

NBA Teams

  • 4. De'Andre Hunter | Virginia | Soph | SF | 6-7 | 225 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with New Orleans
  • 10. Cam Reddish | Duke | Fr | SF | 6-8 | 208
  • 34. Bruno Fernando | Maryland | Soph | C | 6-10 | 237 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Philadelphia

Atlanta was one of the more active teams on draft day, and its efforts were rewarded. Not only were they bold in moving up to No. 4 to get De'Andre Hunter, a great 3-and-D fit who brings experience and a championship pedigree, but they were able to add another wing at 10 in Cam Reddish. This draft was about surrounding Trae Young with weapons, and he's now got them in spades. Grade: A


  • 14. Romeo Langford | Indiana | Fr | SG | 6-6 | 215
  • 22. Grant Williams | Tennessee | Jr | PF | 6-7 | 240
  • 33. Carsen Edwards | Purdue | Jr | PG | 6-0 | 199 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Philadelphia
  • 51. Tremont Waters | LSU | Soph | PG | 5-11 | 172

Danny Ainge took two players whose draft stock was slipping in Romeo Langford and Grant Williams -- and in a spot a tad higher than perhaps where they would have gone. The real steal is getting Carsen Edwards, a microwave scorer who can play on and off the ball, at No. 33. Ainge essentially finessed three first-round picks. Grade: B


  • 31. Nicolas Claxton | Georgia | Soph | PF | 7-0 | 217
  • 56. Jaylen Hands | UCLA | Soph | PG | 6-3 | 180 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with LA Clippers

The Nets traded out of the first round on Thursday and instead punted to next year by giving the Clippers the No. 27 pick (Florida State's Mfiondu Kabengele) in exchange for a 2020 first-round pick and the No. 56 overall pick (which later became UCLA point guard Jaylen Hands). I don't love trading away first-rounders, but a first for a future first is fair. And I'm grading favorably because Nic Claxton is a top-20 talent who they got at 31. Bravo, Brooklyn. Grade: B+


  • 12. PJ Washington | Kentucky | Soph | PF | 6-8 | 230
  • 36. Cody Martin | Nevada | Sr | SG | 6-6 | 192
  • 52. Jalen McDaniels | San Diego St | Soph | PF | 6-10 | 192

Half of the Hornets' draft was brilliant, half was bad. I think getting PJ Washington at No. 12 is going to look like a steal in three years, and I very much dig taking gambles on Cody Martin and Jalen McDaniels. But Martin at No. 36 was a little too rich for my blood, and McDaniels is a big man who doesn't play physical and struggles to block shots consistently. Ultimately, if Washington hits, this will wind up being a success overall. Grade: C


  • 7. Coby White | N. Carolina | Fr | PG | 6-5 | 191
  • 38. Daniel Gafford | Arkansas | Soph | C | 6-11 | 238

The Bulls got their point guard in Coby White by staying patient at No. 7, and also found a potential gem at 38 in Daniel Gafford. White's a speed demon who will score it well in Chicago, and Gafford's a rim specialist capable of throwing down lobs from outer space and chucking shot attempts into orbit. Overall, an impressive haul by staying put and not panicking amidst a chaotic draft day. Grade: B+


  • 5. Darius Garland | Vanderbilt | Fr | PG | 6-2 | 175
  • 26. Dylan Windler | Belmont | Sr | SG | 6-8 | 196
  • 30. Kevin Porter Jr. | USC | Fr | SG | 6-6 | 216 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Detroit

Cleveland was reportedly shopping the No. 5 pick but ultimately stayed put and picked the best player: Darius Garland. Unfortunately for them, it comes a year after selecting point guard Collin Sexton with a top-10 pick. I like Garland, but don't love the situation he's walking into which may or may not (probably won't) work well. Cleveland's saving grace from a full-fail is getting Kevin Porter Jr. at No. 30, a pick that came at a considerably steep price of four future second-rounders and cash considerations. Grade: D+


  • 45. Isaiah Roby | Nebraska | Jr | SF | 6-8 | 214 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Detroit

Mark Cuban's been around the block. He knows what he's doing. And by trading the No. 37 pick to Detroit in exchange for No. 45 and two future second-rounders, it's pretty obvious who won the draft day deal. (Hint: His name rhymes with Clark Rubin.) The Mavs got a player I had an early second-round grade on in Isaiah Roby with the pick they acquired, and he can fill a role in their frontcourt as early as next season. Grade: B-


  • 44. Bol Bol | Oregon | Fr | C | 7-2 | 208 -- to be acquired in trade with Miami

Look at Denver, swinging for the fences! A year after taking injury-prone Michael Porter Jr. in the lottery, the Nuggets pulled a similar -- yet more surprising -- stunt on Thursday by trading for Bol Bol only seconds after the Miami Heat drafted him at No. 44. For a future second-round pick and cash considerations, he's worth the risk -- even if he is a significant risk. Grade: B


  • 15. Sekou Doumbouya | France | - | PF | 6-9 | 209
  • 37. Deividas Sirvydis | Lithuania | - | SF | 6-8 | 190 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Dallas
  • 57. Jordan Bone | Tennessee | Jr | PG | 6-2 | 179 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Philadelphia

Sekou Doumbouya will wind up being a top-5 player in this draft class. And Detroit got him 10 spots after that. A steal! Adding sharpshooting Deividas Sirvydis after trading for the pick with Dallas was icing on top of a pretty solid draft for the Pistons. Grade: A-


  • 28. Jordan Poole | Michigan | Soph | SG | 6-5 | 191
  • 39. Alen Smailagic | Serbia | C | 6-10 | 215 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with New Orleans
  • 41. Eric Paschall | Villanova | Sr | PF | 6-7 | 254 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Atlanta

Most people believe Jordan Poole was a late-second round prospect, and potentially an undrafted player. To get him at No. 28 was … eye-opening. And truthfully: it was a bad value pick. But at pick No. 41, the Warriors totally redeemed themselves by snatching up Villanova forward Eric Paschall, a 3-and-D player who I think will be a rotation player next season. Grade: C


No, you didn't nap through the Houston Rockets portion of the 2019 NBA Draft. There was no Houston Rockets portion. I can't give them a good grade for doing nothing, but I can't fail them on not screwing anything up, either. Here's your hall pass, Rockets. Grade: N/A

  • 18. Goga Bitadze | Georgia | C | 6-11 | 245

The Pacers offloaded all of their second-round picks on Thursday, leaving them with only one pick in the first round at No. 18 overall. And boy, did they make it count. They got Goga Bitadze, an offensive assassin from overseas, who was simply too much value to pass on here. He can be a franchise center, and Indiana got him at a discount rate outside the lottery. Grade: B+


  • 27. Mfiondu Kabengele | Florida St. | Soph | PF | 6-10 | 256 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Brooklyn
  • 48. Terance Mann | Florida St. | Sr | SF | 6-7 | 215

The smart teams tend to make smart picks. And getting Mfiondu Kabengele in a trade with the Nets at No. 27 is, indeed, a smart pick. He's a floor-spacing big who can make 3s and protect the rim, which could fit well next to whatever free agent L.A. expects it will land this offseason. (Looking at you, Kawhi.) Getting his teammate, Terance Mann, at 48 is a smart flyer. Grade: B


  • 46. Talen Horton-Tucker | Iowa St. | Fr | SF | 6-4 | 235

L.A. didn't have a pick going into the night, but bought into the second round by acquiring pick No. 46 from Orlando and drafting Talen Horton-Tucker -- a Klutch client. Don't let that fool you though: Horton-Tucker has first round flashes and an intriguing 7-foot-1 wingspan to complement his 6-foot-4 frame. While he's more a developmental piece, he's at least a really tantalizing one. Grade: C+


  • 2. Ja Morant | Murray St. | Soph | PG | 6-3 | 175
  • 21. Brandon Clarke | Gonzaga | Jr | PF | 6-8 | 207 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Oklahoma City

Picture this with me if you will: Ja Morant pulls down a rebound off a miss on the defensive end, he scoots up the floor in transition, throws a cross-court lob and Brandon Clarke jumps eight feet over the head of Jaren Jackson Jr. to throw down a massive lob. Sound crazy? OK, maybe a little. But possibilities are unlocked now after the Grizzlies had one heckuva night by getting Morant, their point guard of the future, as well as super-leaping Gonzaga star Brandon Clarke at No. 21. Grade: A


  • 13. Tyler Herro | Kentucky | Fr | SG | 6-6 | 192
  • 32. KZ Okpala | Stanford | Soph | SF | 6-9 | 210 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Indiana

Miami wound up with a pretty nice haul getting Tyler Herro in the back end of the lottery and KZ Okpala, a player teams were rumored to be considering in the first round, in the first half of the second round. Need proof on the bargain? Here's Herro, from Thursday, on his suit: "It speaks for itself. I mean, look at it. Best drip here." What a treasure. Herro is going to be a star in Miami, and Okpala has star potential and a perfect fit to discover it with the Heat. Grade: A


What happens when you win more games in the NBA regular season than any other team? More often than not, your draft capital is pennies. In the case of the Bucks, it was non-existent. They traded their only pick -- No. 30 overall -- to the Pistons in return for Jon Leuer. That pick was then traded to the Cavs, who selected Kevin Porter Jr.  Grade: N/A


  • 6. Jarrett Culver | Texas Tech | Soph | SG | 6-7 | 194 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Phoenix
  • 43. Jaylen Nowell | Washington | Soph | SG | 6-4 | 202

Trading up from No. 11 to get Jarrett Culver at No. 6 was brilliant. The Wolves could have gone point guard, but they instead went with the best player on the board -- and a good fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns, to boot. Another smooth (but under-the-radar) move came in the second, when they snagged Jaylen Nowell, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, at 43. Grade: B+


  • 1. Zion Williamson | Duke | Fr | PF | 6-7 | 285
  • 8. Jaxson Hayes | Texas | Fr | C | 6-11 | 220 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Atlanta
  • 17. Nickeil Alexander-Walker | Va. Tech | Soph | SG | 6-5 | 204 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Atlanta
  • 35. Marcos Louzada Silva | Brazil | SF | 6-6 | 190 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Atlanta

I've already showed my cards in the lede, but the point remains: New Orleans simply not screwing up this draft was a massive win. Because of the value Zion Williamson brings to the franchise, getting players who could play well with him was key. And the Pelicans did that by getting a rim-running big, Jaxson Hayes, at 8, and a sharpshooting combo guard in Nickeil Alexander-Walker at 17. This team is barreling towards No. 1 status on League Pass … like next season. Grade: A


  • 3. RJ Barrett | Duke | Fr | SF | 6-7 | 202
  • 47. Ignas Brazdeikis | Michigan | Fr | SF | 6-7 | 221 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Sacramento

The Knicks, similar to the Pelicans, won by not coughing up the only real option. For them, that was staying at No. 3 and drafting RJ Barrett, the third star in a three-star draft -- but nonetheless a star. Count me as a believer: I am on the record in thinking he will be an MVP candidate before his career is over. Grade: A-


  • 23. Darius Bazley | Princeton HS (OH) | SF | 6-9 | 208 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Memphis

    Thunder fans across Oklahoma probably let out a collective Wait, Who? when Bazley's name was called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Bazley's an unknown because he skipped college to become a G League player (and New Balance intern making a million dollar salary). While he's a year or two away from being ready to contribute physically, OKC managed to dodge a failing grade by adding Luguentz Dort -- the No. 28 player on the CBS Big Board -- as an undrafted free agent. Grade: C+


  • 16. Chuma Okeke | Auburn | Soph | PF | 6-8 | 230

Tyler Herro had long been linked to the Magic at 16, but he got snatched up by the Heat three spots earlier. So Orlando came out of left field, drafting Chuma Okeke, an Auburn big man who had slipped on many boards because of an ACL tear last season at Auburn. While he's got first-round talent -- and likely would have been if not for the knee injury -- this was a pretty significant reach. Why not trade down and try to get better value by adding an extra pick and getting Okeke ten spots later? Grade: D+


  • 20. Matisse Thybulle | Washington | Sr | SF | 6-5 | 200 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Boston
  • 54. Marial Shayok | Iowa State | Sr | SF | 6-5 | 196

The worst-kept secret around the league was that Philly loved itself some Matisse Thybulle and had potentially promised him at 24. So Boston threw a wrench into things, drafting him at 20 and holding him hostage. The Sixers caved, surrendering the Nos. 24 and 33 picks to the Celtics. Was Thybulle worth it? Defensively, yes. But offensively … probably not. If the D can offset deficiencies on O, then great, but that's a massive risk for a bigger if. Grade: C-


  • 11. Cameron Johnson | N. Carolina | Sr | SF | 6-9 | 205 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Minnesota
  • 24. Ty Jerome | Virginia | Jr | SG | 6-5 | 194 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Boston

I hate to pile on to the downtrodden Suns franchise, who are already dealing with pooping goats in their front office. But this is a thing that happened: Phoenix traded No. 6 (Jarrett Culver) for No. 11 (Cameron Johnson) and Dario Saric. That really happened. Johnson's a good player, but that was a reach that shocked most everyone. Getting No. 24 from the Celtics (which turned out to be Ty Jerome) along with a 2020 first-rounder was the only W in a night full of L's. Grade: D


  • 25. Nassir Little | N. Carolina | Fr | SF | 6-6 | 224

Sometimes you draft well, and sometimes you get lucky and stumble into drafting well. That's what happened to Portland. After Nassir Little, former McDonald's All-American Game MVP and former top-3 prospect, slipped out of the lottery and into the mid 20s, the Blazers rightfully snatched him up at No. 25. Based purely on value, this was the steal of draft night. Grade: A


  • 40. Justin James | Wyoming | Sr | SF | 6-7 | 190
  • 55. Kyle Guy | Virginia | Jr | SG | 6-1 | 167 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with New York
  • 60. Vanja Marinkovic | Serbia | SG | 6-1 | 190

Sacramento entered -- and left -- the night with zero first-round picks. And two of its three second-rounders were spent on similarly sized small forwards, one in Justin James and another in Vanja Marinkovic. Seems like Vlade Divac could have gotten more bang for his buck, but then again, he didn't have many assets to enter the night. Grade: C


  • 19. Luka Samanic | Croatia | - | PF | 6-11 | 227
  • 29. Keldon Johnson | Kentucky | Fr | SG | 6-6 | 216 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Toronto
  • 49. Quinndary Weatherspoon | Miss. State | Sr | SG | 6-4 | 207

If it always feels like the Spurs wind up getting the absolute best player no matter where they pick, it's because history says, more often than not, that it's true. And here we go again. San Antonio got its guy at No. 19 with Croatia star Luka Samanic, a developmental big with major upside, and then waited out Kentucky product Keldon Johnson at No. 29 -- a player people projected as a lottery pick as recently as this past season. So of course the Spurs got him. Grade: A


  • 59. Dewan Hernandez | Miami | Jr | PF | 6-10 | 233

Toronto made just one pick on draft night, and spent it on a blue-chipper at No. 59 overall: Dewan Hernandez. A former five-star recruit, Hernandez sat last season due to an NCAA ruling but has some boom potential with a promising pedigree. Given the draft slot, this is about as well as you can do. Grade: B+


  • 50. Jarrell Brantley | College of Charleston | PF | 6-7 | 255 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Indiana
  • 53. Justin Wright-Foreman | Hofstra | Sr | PG | 6-2 | 190
  • 58. Miye Oni | Yale | Jr | SG | 6-6 | 206 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Golden State

Utah traded its only first-rounder this week in the Mike Conley deal with Memphis. But the Jazz got good value in both of their second-rounders, point guard Justin Wright-Foreman and shooting guard Miye Oni, whom they bought from the Warriors. They get the gentlemen's bump from me for already winning earlier this week by acquiring Conley. Grade: A-


  • 9. Rui Hachimura | Gonzaga | Jr | PF | 6-8 | 230
  • 42. Admiral Schofield | Tennessee | Sr | SF | 6-5 | 241 -- to be acquired in proposed trade with Philadelphia

Playing it safe is never wrong, per se, but for a Washington franchise in a rough spot and in need of a star, playing it safe with Rui Hachimura wasn't appealing. Hachimura's a great player with some promise, but there were other supernovas left on the board at the time. At least trading cash to bring in Jonathon Simmons and the No. 42 pick, Admiral Schofield, saved the day (relatively speaking). Grade: C-

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