NBA Teams That Will Regret Their 2019 NBA Draft Picks

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistJune 22, 2019

NBA Teams That Will Regret Their 2019 NBA Draft Picks

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    NBA fans around the world could have used the famous advice of Jurassic Park's Mr. Arnold prior to this summer's draft. Really, holding on to anything would've been helpful before this wild ride.

    All told, 24 teams combined to make a total of 24 trades, according to Yahoo Sports' Keith Smith:

    "Going back to the trade between Atlanta and Brooklyn from two weeks ago, there were 24 trades agreed to involving 2019 NBA draft picks.

    "Hawks were involved in five of these trades.

    "All told, 28 total selections changed hands yesterday alone, some of them multiple times."

    Now that the dust has settled, and we (think we) know where everyone is headed, it's easier to get a handle on how each team did Thursday.

    Some were obvious winners. The New Orleans Pelicans made the no-brainer No. 1 pick with Zion Williamson. And that probably would've been enough to garner praise, but they also came away with a potential rim protector in Jaxson Hayes, a good-sized playmaker in Nickeil Alexander-Walker and a sweet-shooting teenager from Brazil in Marcos Louzada Silva.

    The Memphis Grizzlies tabbed their point guard of the future by picking Ja Morant at No. 2, but their best pick may not have come until the 20s. With Brandon Clarke inexplicably falling all the way to No. 21, Memphis wisely traded up to snag him. The Grizzlies may now have their long-term 1 (Morant), 4 (Clarke) and 5 (Jaren Jackson Jr.).

    But, as is always the case, not every team nailed this draft. There were some head-scratchers as well. And yes, immediate reaction to draft picks can be risky. Plenty of guys outperform their initial expectations. But some of the players taken by the following teams appear to have a little steeper hill to climb.

NBA Teams That MIGHT Regret Their 2019 NBA Draft Picks

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    A couple of teams made curious picks Thursday but for a variety of reasons couldn't quite be doomed to the more forceful "will regret their 2019 draft picks" description.

    For the Atlanta Hawks, De'Andre Hunter has some upside, but my goodness, that price was steep. Atlanta gave up three picks between Nos. 8 and 35 in this week's draft and another first in 2020. Oh, and that's not all. The Hawks also took on Solomon Hill, who was the New Orleans Pelicans' worst contract.

    Hunter has decent wing size (6'7") and shot well over 40 percent from three, but it's hard to project a single elite or defining skill. Even the three-point shooting should come with a tiny asterisk thanks to his 78.3 free throw percentage.

    Hunter's fine, but this is just a tough asking price to justify.

    "It's particularly surprising Atlanta would give up so much given the conventional wisdom that the fourth through eighth prospects in this year's draft are all in the same tier," ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton wrote. "The Hawks clearly believe Virginia forward De'Andre Hunter belongs in an entirely different tier than the rest."

    And they may be right, but what saves them from having their own slide here is what they got later.

    At No. 10, Atlanta picked up Cam Reddish, who really struggled during his lone season with Duke. But at various times over the last year, Reddish was considered a top-three talent. To get him at 10 feels like great value.

    The Cleveland Cavaliers are the other team that might inspire some lukewarm post-draft takes.

    In a vacuum, each of Darius Garland, Dylan Windler and Kevin Porter offer intriguing skills and potential. The issue is that Cleveland already has a shoot-first guard in Collin Sexton. Adding two more in Garland and Porter goes beyond positional overlap.

    And while Windler has a combination of size and shooting that's coveted all over the league right now, very few projections had him as a first-rounder.

Phoenix Suns

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Let's get this out of the way. Cameron Johnson is an excellent shooter. And he could very well have a long and successful career in the NBA.

    Now, (*clears throat*) what are the Phoenix Suns doing?

    When you combine the deals they made Thursday, the return is thoroughly uninspiring.

    "The Phoenix Suns swapped Jarrett Culver, T.J. Warren and the 32nd pick for Cam Johnson and Dario Saric," The Timeline Podcast's Sam Cooper tweeted.

    Seeing it in print really drives it home.

    T.J. Warren will be 26 next season. He's coming off a year in which he averaged 18.0 points and 42.8 percent from three in the first season he attempted a decent number (4.2 a game). His $10.8 million salary would've accounted for less than 10 percent of the 2019-20 cap.

    That kind of production might be the absolute ceiling for Johnson, who was projected to go well outside the lottery in most mock drafts. He's already 23 years old and has a history of hip problems.

    And then, at No. 24, where they may have been able to get Johnson all along, the Suns picked up Virginia point guard Ty Jerome.

    He is certainly a heady player, but he didn't reach a double-digit box plus/minus until his junior year, when he was older than much of his competition. (Freshmen and sophomores with double-digit box plus/minuses tend to have a better track record in the pros.)

    What's more, Jerome has the dreaded negative height-to-wingspan ratio and finished near the bottom of the class in athletic tests at the combine.

    Maybe he can be a bigger, more-confident-in-his-shot T.J. McConnell, but that's maybe not worth a first-round pick when you already have two combo guards in Devin Booker and De'Anthony Melton who complement each other fairly well.

Miami Heat

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Like Cameron Johnson, Tyler Herro has a chance to be a weapon in the NBA based on little more than his shooting. It's the second part of that sentence that's concerning.

    "The question is whether he will be well-rounded enough to earn playing time for a defensive-minded coach like Erik Spoelstra," The Ringer's Jonathan Tjarks wrote. "The reason Herro ended up going two picks behind Johnson is because he's much smaller (6'6", 192 pounds) and may not stay on the floor."

    Consider, for a moment, the statistical similarities between Herro and Nik Stauskas.

    In his lone year at Kentucky, Herro posted an 8.9 box plus/minus and a 58 true shooting percentage. He averaged 17.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.3 steals per 40 minutes.

    In Stauskas' two years at Michigan, he posted an 8.7 box plus/minus and a 63.8 true shooting percentage. He averaged 17.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 0.7 steals per 40 minutes.

    Now, there are two obvious differences here. One is that Herro was a freshman. Stauskas used an improved sophomore season to slightly enhance his college numbers. The other is that Herro's steal rate was much better.

    Other than that, there are some ominous statistical similarities.

    Of course, scouting draft prospects is one area of analysis where numbers almost certainly mean less than the eye test. But there were players picked behind Herro with stronger statistical profiles, like Gonzaga's Brandon Clarke or perhaps Virginia Tech's Nickeil Alexander-Walker.

    Miami's second pick Thursday (No. 32) was KZ Okpala. There's little use getting bent out of shape over second-round picks. The draft gets tougher to gauge the further into it you go. But Okpala is another player whose advanced numbers generally don't equal NBA star or even rotation player.

    For his career, he has a 52 true shooting percentage and a 1.6 box plus/minus, which ranks 801st among players with 1,000-plus minutes over the last two seasons.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    In 2017, the Oklahoma City Thunder selected Terrance Ferguson with the No. 21 pick. What made the selection unique was that Ferguson had opted to skip out on NCAA basketball for a year of the pros in Australia.

    Two years later (and two picks further down the board), OKC went to the "skipped college" well again. With the No. 23 pick Thursday, the Thunder drafted Darius Bazley.

    Bazley skipped a year of school for an internship with New Balance. Yes, an internship.

    The jury is still out on whether the unconventional route worked with Ferguson. Among the 46 first- and second-year players with at least 2,000 minutes over the last two seasons, Ferguson is 34th in box plus/minus. There's still plenty of work to be done with him.

    So, it's curious that OKC would sign up for a potentially similar project in Bazley when the one with Ferguson is ongoing.

    No, they're not the same player. But the appeal with both at the time of the draft had more to do with athleticism than it did skill. And OKC needs the latter.

    The Thunder were 22nd in three-point percentage last season (25th post-All-Star). And they're already way over the salary cap before free agency even starts this summer.

    They needed inexpensive shooting, and it could be a while before Bazley offers that (or much else).

Washington Wizards

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    Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

    The biggest surprise of the night may have come at No. 9, when the Washington Wizards selected Rui Hachimura.

    "Rui Hachimura told me that he didn't meet with the Wizards before he was selected ninth," Bullets Forever's Ben Mahic tweeted. "He didn't speak to anyone from the team, either. This was just as surprising to him as anyone else."

    In the immortal words of Pepper Brooks, "That's a bold strategy..."

    Look, Hachimura isn't without his strengths. He has good size for his position, and you can see some playmaking-4 potential, if you look hard enough.

    But this feels like another reach, if you were to believe mock drafts. Interim general manager Tommy Sheppard tried to sell the opposite when he was asked about moving down in the draft.

    "We tried to trade back until you hear people are trying to trade up to get him ahead of us," Sheppard said, per Hoop District. "When we got the [trade] call, we kinda knew who they were calling about. Say thank you and hang up. Took our guy."

    It's all well and good if you believe that, but there were still plenty of options on the board who probably made more sense. That includes his teammate, Clarke, who thoroughly outperformed Hachimura this season.

    In 2018-19, Clarke topped Hachimura in rebounding percentage, assist percentage, steal percentage, block percentage and true shooting percentage.

    And Clarke's 2018-19 box plus/minus is the second-highest on record, just ahead of Anthony Davis' in 2011-12 and trailing only Zion Williamson's.

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