Winners and Losers from 2019 NBA Draft
The NBA draft is the one event of the year in which the bad teams have the advantage. Fans of franchises that couldn't beat a rug are suddenly flush with optimism and hope.
This is when some teams build for the future and others cement championships. The Toronto Raptors just became the first to win the title without a single lottery pick.
And it's the time of year when massive trades go down, either in the days immediately ahead of the draft or on the day of. Stars such as Anthony Davis and Mike Conley were dealt in the lead-up. In all, counting veterans and draft picks, 20-plus assets were traded before the draft even started.
It's little wonder that this is one of the most important days of the year for teams to start, continue or finish building championships. But while some franchises took steps forward Thursday, others went back.
Here are the winners and losers from the 2019 NBA draft.
Winner: Rui Hachimura
When the Washington Wizards drafted Rui Hachimura at No. 9, it was historic.
Enzo Flojo of The Basketball Writers detailed the history of Japanese players in the NBA:
"There have been NBA players of Japanese descent in the past, of course: Like Rex Walters, who played 7 NBA seasons; and Wataru Misaka, who was the first-ever non-Caucasian professional basketball player, beginning his career in 1947 with the New York Knicks. Another is JR Henderson, who was drafted by the Vancouver Grizzlies in 1998, played one season in the Association and became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 2007, changing his name to JR Sakuragi.
"More recently, two Yutas—Yuta Tabuse and Yuta Watanabe—have seen NBA action, with Tabuse playing 4 games for the Phoenix Suns in the 2004-2005 regular season and Watanabe logging 15 contests for the Memphis Grizzlies this past season despite going undrafted last year."
Hachimura broke new ground when he became the first Japanese player taken in the first round. That he broke in as a top-10 pick means he could draw a whole new nation into NBA fandom.
Loser: Chauncey Billups' Player Comps
Player comps are usually pretty bad, but ESPN commentator Chauncey Billups took it to another level on the broadcast.
Coby White is Gilbert Arenas.
Brandon Clarke is Shawn Marion.
RJ Barrett is the Bulls version of Jalen Rose.
De'Andre Hunter is Jae Crowder.
Jaxson Hayes is Tyson Chandler.
And of course, Twitter's favorite, Rui Hachimura is Kawhi Leonard.
"Chauncey" was trending on Twitter for a bit, and for the first time in history, there seemed to be 100 percent consensus that the player comps needed to stop.
Nylon Calculus' Ben Taylor put it best when he tweeted: "If you believe Chauncey's player comps, there are 58 Hall of Famers in this draft."
Winner: Maria Taylor's Interview Skills
The NBA draft can be a moving event for players who have worked their whole lives to get to this point, and Maria Taylor did a fantastic job to bring out the emotions while she interviewed players and their parents on the ESPN broadcast.
It started with getting Zion Williamson to shed tears.
Then she made RJ Barrett cry.
Then she got Matisse Thybulle, whose mother died of cancer while he was in high school, to cry by asking him about her.
When she wasn't making people cry, she was making us laugh, such as when she clapped back on Jay Bilas' fashion sense after he made a reference to her shoes not matching her dress.
Her questions were poignant and relevant, and among the broadcast crew, she was the big winner.
Loser: Bol Bol
Every year, there seems to be "that guy."
The guy who entered the season as a top-five prospect but is left sitting in the green room, waiting for his name to be called. Each pick passes, and the cameras pan on his increasingly forlorn face as the world watches and the broadcast crew wonders when he'll get called.
There's not much worse for a draft prospect than being the only one left. This year, that man was Bol Bol, who fell and fell until he went No. 44 to the Miami Heat.
And then, just when you thought his degradation was done, you found out the team that drafted him didn't even want him, as the Heat dealt him to the Denver Nuggets. Dude!
Little wonder he told ESPN's Maria Taylor in the interview after he was selected: "The wait is over. I just want to prove everyone wrong and come out and be the best player I can be."
Maybe he'll turn them all into believers instead of "Bol leavers." The 7'2" son of Manute Bol does have skill, but his slight frame (235 lbs) seemed to leave general managers skeptical.
Winner: Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls were hoping Coby White would fall to them, and he did.
Chicago has a young core consisting of Zach Lavine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr., who play the 2 through 5, respectively. The Bulls just needed the right point guard to get things moving. White could be that guy.
As K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune pointed out, White is the Bulls' first first-round pick from North Carolina since Michael Jordan in 1984. If he even remotely follows in those footsteps, this would go just swimmingly for the Bulls.
White broke the North Carolina high school record for points scored. While he is not a great distributor, he still calls himself a point guard. But this is what makes him such a great pick for the Bulls: Even if he doesn't work out as the starter, he could light a fire under Kris Dunn—the resident and disappointing starter who fares well under pressure, according to Johnson's article—and be a great sixth man.
Creating buckets is the toughest skill in the game, and it's White's specialty.
They followed that up with the 6'11" Daniel Gafford out of Arkansas at No. 38, and he'll give them depth at center. He's a tremendous athlete, per Hoops Hype's Alex Kennedy, and should complement a high-paced Bulls attack.
The Bulls still have $18.5 million to spend in free agency, which could be used to add depth.
If the team can stay healthy, Chicago could be back in playoff contention next year.
Loser: Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns made a pair of trades.
First, they sent T.J. Warren and the No. 32 pick to the Indiana Pacers for what amounts to cap room, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Next, they sent the No. 6 pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the No. 11 pick and Dario Saric, per Wojnarowski.
Then they drafted Cameron Johnson with the No. 11 pick.
SI's Jake Fischer tweeted: "Several teams red-flagged Cam Johnson out of the first round due to his history of injury on both hips, sources say. For Phoenix to trade out of a chance to select Coby White here is certainly unexpected."
ESPN's Kevin Pelton had him as the 32nd-best player in the draft (ironically they traded No. 32).
Then, when you thought they'd bottomed out, they gave the Milwaukee Bucks' 2020 first-round pick to Boston for the No. 24 pick and Aron Baynes, who they could buy out, according to NBA reporter Keith Smith. While the pick they used on Ty Jerome was reasonable, acquiring Baynes when they reportedly gave away Warren to free up cap space was confusing.
Winner: New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans were winners from the night they won the lottery and gained the rights to Zion Williamson, who looks like he could be their next franchise cornerstone. But they kept improving their lot after that.
Usually, when a team faces the prospect of losing its superstar, it's just trying to salvage the future. But the Pelicans feel like a team that has gotten better by giving up one of the best players in the NBA.
The Pelicans had a tremendous week; every time you thought the deal with the Los Angeles Lakers was too good to be true, it got better.
They traded Davis to the Lakers. But right away, they got help by acquiring the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA draft, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart. Ingram and Ball were taken at No. 2 overall in the 2016 and 2017 drafts, respectively.
But wait, there's more! The Pelicans also got help for the future, per Wojnarowski:
"The future picks going to the Pelicans include a 2021 pick that will go to New Orleans if it is in the top eight in that year's draft -- and will become an unprotected pick in 2022 if it isn't -- sources told ESPN's Tim Bontemps.
"In addition, the deal includes a pick swap in 2023, which is unprotected, as well as an unprotected first-round pick in 2024 that the Pelicans will have the right to defer until 2025, sources told Bontemps."
But wait, there's more! Prior to the draft, Wojnarowski reported that the Pelicans traded the No. 4 pick and freed themselves of Solomon Hill's $13.3 million contract for 2019-20, which means they now have over $30 million in cap space, per Keith Smith of Yahoo. They also got the Nos. 8 and 17 picks, which were used on Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
Hayes fits well with Williamson defensively, and Alexander-Walker is a complete offensive player who fits offensively.
Add in that they picked up Jahlil Okafor's $1.7 million team option, per ESPN.com's Malika Andrews, and the allegedly rebuilding Pelicans have suddenly assembled a team with four top-three picks, a former All-Star in Jrue Holiday, another top-10 pick and over $30 million to spend in free agency.
But wait, there's more!
Thanks to their early-offseason moves, the Pelicans also have 11 second-round picks over the next four years, according to Mason Ginsberg of Bourbon Shots.
Cap info via Spotrac unless otherwise noted.