NBA Teams Already Regretting Their 2019 NBA Draft Picks
It isn't too early for certain NBA teams to start questioning their 2019 draft selections, even if their regret has little to do with the performance of the player they took.
A handful of this year's top rookies slipped through the cracks into the teens, 20s or even the second round. Meanwhile, the following teams took players they would now be willing to swap.
This isn't about criticizing rookies. Instead, we're highlighting wishful do-overs for general managers now that they can identify steals that were tougher to see before the draft.
Atlanta Hawks: Cam Reddish over Tyler Herro, P.J. Washington
With the No. 10 overall pick, the Atlanta Hawks chose to overlook Cam Reddish's inefficient freshman season at Duke, where he shot 35.6 percent despite Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett commanding a ton of attention from opposing defenses.
Last year's problems are starting to look more legitimate than fluky.
Reddish has had an even tougher time so far in Atlanta, shooting 28.8 percent through his first 18 games. Erratic from deep in college, with no explosion or feel for finishing in traffic, the rookie wing's struggles have carried over, as he's shot only 21.2 percent on threes and 40.4 percent on attempts inside 10 feet.
While it's too early to write off Reddish as a useful NBA player down the road, it isn't too soon to suggest Atlanta likely regrets passing on Tyler Herro or P.J. Washington. Herro, who's averaging 14.4 points while shooting 40.4 percent from deep, would have given the Hawks another shot-maker next to Trae Young. Washington is shooting 43.9 percent from three and could have filled in for John Collins during his 25-game suspension.
The Hawks shouldn't have expected Reddish to come in and make an immediate impact. But he might have benefited from going to a more veteran team with an established winning culture.
Boston Celtics: Romeo Langford over Brandon Clarke
Romeo Langford eventually might develop into a solid NBA guard, but he isn't helping the Boston Celtics during their current window to compete for a title.
Brandon Clarke could have.
Clarke, who went seven picks later than Langford, currently leads all rookies in player efficiency rating, field-goal percentage and rebounding while bringing his signature defensive activity to Memphis.
Langford, who had a thumb problem at Indiana, has already dealt with a knee injury in the preseason and now an ankle sprain in the G League. The Celtics also just extended Jaylen Brown through 2023-24, while Marcus Smart remains under contract through 2021-22.
Knowing they would be able to draft Carsen Edwards at No. 33 overall, the Celtics might wish they had targeted Clarke at No. 14.
While his identity revolves around his athleticism, energy and defense, he's flashed encouraging offensive skills that didn't always pop at Gonzaga. Averaging 11.8 points, Clarke has shot 10-of-22 from deep while frequently scoring with touch on his one-handers off drives and push shots around the key.
Clarke is equally appealing long term compared to Langford, yet he would have been more useful to Boston throughout his rookie contract.
Golden State Warriors: Jordan Poole over Nicolas Claxton, Kevin Porter Jr.
The Golden State Warriors stole Eric Paschall in the second round and Ky Bowman when nobody deemed him worth drafting. However, they might want a redo on their No. 28 pick, Jordan Poole.
Poole has had his moments—such as the five three-pointers he hit against the Miami Heat on Saturday—and he'll have some more during a lost season that's given him a green light to keep firing away. But when Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson eventually return, the Warriors might wish they had drafted defensive ace Nicolas Claxton instead.
The No. 31 pick has been convincing in the limited minutes he's received behind DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen in Brooklyn. Claxton's easy-bucket finishes, defensive activity and five-position switchability would have worked well at the center spot for Golden State.
Even scorers such as Kevin Porter Jr. (No. 30) and Carsen Edwards (No. 33) seem like more appealing versions of Poole, who's averaging only 8.5 points on 10.1 shots per game.
Poole likely would have spent the season in the G League if it weren't for all of Golden State's injuries. He has a chance to stick around the NBA because of his streaky shot-making, but between his erratic shooting and decision-making, low-percentage shot selection and defensive lapses, the Warriors would have been best off with Claxton, a unique defender with plenty of untapped offensive versatility to develop.
Phoenix Suns: Cameron Johnson over Tyler Herro, P.J. Washington, Brandon Clarke
Cameron Johnson might develop into a legitimate NBA shooting specialist. The Phoenix Suns will still regret not taking Herro, Washington or Clarke at No. 11 instead.
Johnson turns 24 in March. Herro, who won't turn 20 until January, is averaging 14.4 points while shooting 40.4 percent from three and flashing far more upside in the shot-creation and playmaking departments.
Washington would have been a fine fit in Phoenix as well, helping to stretch the floor from the 4 spot with a three-point jumper that's connecting at a 43.9 percent clip. Even Clarke, a switchy defender, rim protector and efficient scorer, looks more appealing than Johnson, who adds little outside of set shot-making.
The No. 11 pick has made only 20 two-point field goals, 13 assists, nine steals and five blocks in 17 games. Phoenix's offense is even scoring 8.5 more points per 100 possessions when Johnson is off the floor.
Calling Johnson a mistake selection isn't a knock on him. He didn't reach for himself in the lottery. We had him pegged to go No. 30 in our final mock draft.
Johnson has at least lived up to his reputation as a long-range marksman. It's the Suns who deserve criticism for passing on Herro, Washington and Clarke, three of this year's top rookies taken in the Nos. 12-21 range.
Sacramento Kings: Justin James over Eric Paschall
Suggesting the Sacramento Kings' regret their No. 40 pick shouldn't reflect as criticism of Justin James. But Sacramento has to be frustrated by its inability to identify Eric Paschall, the second-leading scorer among rookies, who went one pick after James at No. 41.
Averaging 17.3 points on 51.0 percent shooting, Paschall has emerged as a steal for the Golden State Warriors, extinguishing predraft skepticism about how a 6'6", 255-pound forward could fit on an NBA floor. He would have been another key building block for a Kings team that will need rookie-contract contributors after it just committed over $22 million each to Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield.
With Marvin Bagley III injured early, Sacramento could have used Paschall's offense from the 4 spot right away. Instead, the Kings went outside the box by selecting James, who wasn't even invited to the NBA combine.
Other teams deserve blame for missing on Paschall as well, but at least Didi Louzada (No. 35) is producing for the New Orleans Pelicans in Australia's NBL, the Charlotte Hornets have found a role player in Cody Martin (No. 36), the Chicago Bulls have seen encouraging flashes from Daniel Gafford (No. 38) and the Warriors still managed to secure Paschall after taking Jordan Poole (No. 28) and Alen Smailagic (No. 39).
It's tougher to picture James emerging as an impact wing for the Kings in the near future.
An easy target to knock for passing on Luka Doncic, Sacramento—which isn't typically a hot free-agent destination—can't afford to miss in the draft.