Publish date:

THE PICKS ARE IN ...

Author:

After months of mocks, the actual draft unfolded with a few surprises and a lot of wheeling and dealing

ZION IS A PELICAN, Ja is on his way to Memphis, there were approximately 75 trades throughout the night, and the 2019 NBA draft is in the books. If you are looking for some wildly premature reactions to everything that went down in Brooklyn, we've got you covered.

WINNERS

•PELICANS: New Orleans was a mixed bag—but they got Zion Williamson, the most exciting draft prospect to hit the NBA since LeBron James in 2003. There have been better players to enter the draft (Kevin Durant in '07, Anthony Davis in '12), but not since LeBron has there been a player who combines the kind of magnetism and talent that Zion will bring to New Orleans. Earlier this year, asked for an NBA comp for Zion, a scout said, "Draymond Green with rockets in his ass." That's a potential top five player at his peak.

•GRIZZLIES: Ja Morant will have to prove he can shoot if he's going to be a full-fledged star in the NBA, but he's an excellent passer and a great athlete. Listen to him explain that negativity fuels him because his first hater was his father—Morant will be fun.

Memphis also added Brandon Clarke of Gonzaga, a steal at the 21st pick. Clarke's bruising around the rim should pair perfectly with Jaren Jackson Jr.'s spacier game, and both of them will be great on the break with Morant. For a Grizz team that has spent several years wedded to an aging nucleus and struggling to come up with a coherent vision of the future, the past two drafts—Jackson Jr. and now Morant and Clarke—have been a great step forward.

•HAWKS: Atlanta loved De'Andre Hunter as a three-and-D wing and got him at four after a deal with the Pelicans. Considering the wealth of young talent the franchise already has, the cost to jump from No. 8 to No. 4 was low—the 35th pick, the 17th pick, absorbing Solomon Hill's contract, and a heavily protected 2020 first—and in Hunter, Atlanta gets a rookie with one of the highest floors of anyone in the draft. Then, as a bonus, the Hawks grabbed Cam Reddish at No. 10. Reddish had a disappointing year at Duke, but he's got size and athleticism for a wing, and he was one of the stars of this draft class in high school.

•R.J. BARRETT: He clearly wanted to go to New York, and the interest was mutual. Even the normally miserable Knicks fans were in a good mood when Barrett was picked. He will have to improve as a shooter, but he's an incredibly hard worker and at 6'7", he's a skilled playmaker who will be excellent in space. It remains to seen what kind of teammates Barrett will have, but with Kevin Durant likely redshirting a year, Barrett will probably enter next season on a team with low expectations and plenty of opportunities.

•DARIUS GARLAND'S STYLIST: Draft fashion has improved in recent years, but that's mostly because today's players have stopped taking risks. It's time for the pendulum to swing in the other direction, and Garland is ready to lead the way. As a player, he may be another Mo Williams, but if he's closer to Kyrie Irving or Damian Lillard, the Cavs just got the second-best player in the draft.

LOSERS

•SUNS: They traded the sixth pick and a chance to draft Jarrett Culver—good value there, potentially a nice fit next to Devin Booker—to reach for Cameron Johnson with the 11th pick and add Dario Šarić a year before he hits restricted free agency. Johnson is a good player who would have been a nice pickup in the 20s, but it's unclear whether he has the potential to be a starter—and he's already six months older than Booker. Meanwhile, on the way into the draft, Phoenix traded T.J. Warren and the 32nd pick to the Pacers for cash considerations and cap room.

Either of those moves would be inexplicable on its own. Together, they made for an extremely on-brand night for the Suns. No one is sure what the plan is in Phoenix, but that has been true for nearly a decade.

•WIZARDS: Rui Hachimura was often lost on defense at Gonzaga, and while he was productive on offense at power forward, he's 6'8", 230 pounds and took only 36 three-pointers all season long. The Wizards drafted him despite never working him out and never formally meeting with him prior to the draft.

•LAKERS: Look, no one needs to beat a dead horse, but as of draft night it became official: The Anthony Davis deal will be executed on July 6 instead of July 30, and as a result, the Lakers will have a much harder time creating max cap space before July 1. The lack of max cap space makes the rest of L.A.'s offseason so much more complicated, and it leaves the league looking more wide-open than it has been in years.

And with that, it's almost time for free agency.