The NBA Draft just happened and this is when you can really tell which NBA front offices have a good plan and communicate well and which front offices are a mess. I love this time of year though as it brings optimism to every fanbase across the league as they look at their shiny new draft picks and think maybe, just maybe, they can build something special. Without further ado, here are the teams that I thought did well and those who I believe did poorly.
New Orleans Pelicans
Draft Picks: Zion Williamson(Duke), Jaxson Hayes(Texas), Nickeil Alexander-Walker(Virginia Tech), Marcos Louzada Silva(Franca)
It is incredible how fast the Pelicans went from the dreaded no man’s land of being just good to maybe make the playoffs each year to now the team with the brightest future and best assets in the league. With the selection of forward Zion Williamson, big man Jaxson Hayes, and guard Alexander-Walker the Pelicans now become one of the fastest teams in the league. We all know about Zion so let me take a minute to shine a light on the other Pelican draft picks. Hayes is a great fit next to Zion, at least defensively. Hayes has the potential to be a great rim protector and he has quick enough feet to switch onto smaller guys. Those quick feet might’ve come from playing wide receiver in high school as he was only 6 feet tall when he entered high school. He also knows what he’s good at as he shot over 70 percent from the field this past season at Texas, so he knows his role is going to be mostly to set screens and run to the rim to catch lobs and throw it down. He also shot 74 percent from the free throw line which is pretty good for a college big man and is a sign that maybe in the future he can develop to be a decent spot up shooter. The Pelicans needed a 3-and-D guy, and Alexander-Walker can fill that role. He’s cousins with Clippers’ guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and you can see the pedigree in the family because both play hard on both ends of the floor. I think he’ll get a lot of opportunities to shine, especially on a young, fast team like this with no pressure to win right away and no pressure of being a lottery pick. Marcos Louzada Silva is a draft-and-stash for the Pelicans.
Draft Picks: Cameron Johnson(North Carolina), Ty Jerome(Virginia)
I like the guys that the Suns drafted. Wing Cameron Johnson is a spectacular shooter and an extremely hard worker and point guard Ty Jerome is the same and was the leader of the Virginia team who won the national championship, but the path the Suns took to get them was just difficult to understand. First off, before the draft even started, they traded T.J. Warren and the 32nd pick to the Pacers for cash considerations which is dumbfounding. Warren’s contract averages around $12 million a year which is actually pretty good for someone who averaged 18 points per game last year and on top of that they gave them the 32nd pick to take him. Kevin Pritchard, the Pacers’ general manager, must be a wizard. Then the Suns proceeded to trade their sixth pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 11th pick and Dario Saric which I liked. Dario is a good player and next to Devin Booker will probably flourish and I was like “what a smart move” and then they took Cameron Johnson with the 11th pick. Johnson was taken off most team’s draft boards because of health concerns and they picked him in the lottery. After that they traded back into the first round by trading the Milwaukee Bucks’ 2020 first round pick they owned and got back the 24th pick, which was Ty Jerome, and they also got Aron Baynes’ expiring contract. What was the point of trading away T.J. Warren’s contract if you’re just going to take back Baynes’ contract. It’s not like they don’t have cap space, the only two players they have that make over $10 million is Devin Booker and Tyler Johnson. To play devil’s advocate though, they probably wanted to instill a winning culture and guys like Johnson, Jerome, and Baynes will help do that.
Draft Picks: De’Andre Hunter(Virginia), Cam Reddish(Duke)
This team will definitely be fun to watch next season with the addition of these two wings. Their potential starting line-up of Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, and John Collins is just dripping with potential. This makes for extreme versatility on the defensive end as Hunter can guard multiple positions and Reddish has the tools to guard multiple positions. Let me highlight their strengths and weaknesses. The reason the Hawks traded their 8th, 17th, and 35th pick to get to the 4 spot to draft Hunter is because he meshes so well with their players right now. He’s not going to take a lot of shots, he’s a good screener, versatile defender, and a solid shooter. His weakness is that he’s not a particularly good ball handler and he’s not a good passer, but again he won’t be asked to do a lot of these because that won’t be his role. I don’t worry about that fact that he’s not a great athlete either because I think he has more than enough to get by and with NBA training he’ll probably get more athletic. BallisLife recently did a video asking this year’s top high school prospects who is the hardest player you’ve ever guarded, a lot of them said Cam Reddish. He dominated in high school because he was bigger, faster, stronger, and more athletic than most players he played against. His upside is way above Hunter’s because of offensive potential. He has a smooth handle and a smooth shot and it provides him with an arsenal of moves to hit the defender with. I think his main weakness is just that he doesn’t use athleticism to his advantage. On offense he should be able to finish over guys way more than he does and on defense he should be able to lock guys up way more often than he does. He shot 35 percent from the field last season at Duke, not from the three point range, but from the field. Though with the spacing in the NBA and having a whole offseason to learn and train, he’ll do much more in the NBA than in college. To me this pairing seems like a lite version of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum on the Boston Celtics, being that they are both wings picked high in the draft and Brown is known for his defensive chops and Tatum his offensive repertoire.
San Antonio Spurs
Draft Picks: Luka Samanic(Petrol Olimpija), Keldon Johnson(Kentucky), Quinndary Weatherspoon(Mississippi State)
The Spurs needed some speed and youth and they got it with their draft picks. I’m not going to lie to you and say I watched a bunch of EuroLeague and give you an in-depth analysis of big man Luka Samanic, I watched his highlight mixtape on Youtube and I was decently impressed. The big knock on him from multiple analysts is that he’s weak, but he’s playing in a grown man’s league so I can let that go. I guarantee you any prospect, outside of Zion Williamson and maybe Admiral Schofield, doesn’t have the strength to regularly bang in the post in EuroLeague because they’re still so young. They don’t have that strength that just comes with age. So I think Samanic will be fine. I promise you the Spurs will get him in the weight room. Forward Keldon Johnson and guard Quinndary Weatherspoon though, since they were stateside I can give you the rundown on them. They are some freaking try-hards and that’s a good thing, especially since they are both bountifully gifted with athleticism. Johnson will be a solid player at the least. Coaches love that kind of hustle and intensity and in the Spurs system they’ll clean up all the little things he’s weak on, Most of his weaknesses, like bad off-ball defense, are mostly things all young players are bad at.
Washington Wizards & Detroit Pistons
Wizard Draft Picks: Rui Hachimara(Gonzaga), Admiral Schofield(Tennessee)
Pistons Draft Picks: Sekou Doumbouya(Limoges CSP), Jordan Bone(Tennessee)
I put them together because I just like their first round picks of forwards Hachimara and Doumbouya. Rui Hachimara (Japanese) being drafted is a special moment for me as an Asian because I love basketball and sports overall and you don’t see a lot of Asian athletes at all. Asian people will support you and love you forever as an Asian athlete because there are so few and far between. Look at Jeremy Lin, who still gets a lot of all star votes – a lot more than players who are better than him – because he’s Asian. Not to say he’s not good, but just showing the type of support we give to our athletes. Hachimara is also a nice player with a lot of upside even more so when you consider the fact that he only started playing basketball at 14 years old. He isn’t good defensively though, I’m not going to lie like he’s bad, but he’s a good athlete and he’s 6-foot-8 with 7-feet-2-inch wingspan so he has the tools to be a better defender. I think it’ll come with time as he learns the game better. Being picked at ninth is a little high for him, but this year’s draft is really a crapshoot outside the first three picks, so I’m fine with it. Power wing Admiral Schofield will be a solid player for the Wizards too because he is just extremely wide, his traps are defined to their maximum potential. His arms are bigger than my head, he plays with great hustle, his screens are bricks walls. He’s exactly what you want in a second round pick. Sekou Doumbouya from Limoges CSP of the LNB Pro A is such a tantalizing prospect, I searched and scoured for every single video I could find of this dude because he just looks like he could be so good in the NBA. I like athletes who grew up playing different sports because I feel like it makes the athlete better due to having to learn different skills and train their athleticism in different ways. The best example of this is Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon. Olajuwon didn’t start playing basketball until his teens, but already had great footwork and speed due to playing soccer for years. So believing this and learning that Doumbouya played soccer growing up, made me like him even more and it’s apparent in his game that his footwork is really good for someone his age. He also played in EuroLeague with some grown men. It’s the second best league in the world behind the NBA and he dropped 34 points one game. He only averaged around seven points per game overall, but that’s typical because he didn’t play a lot of minutes, he played a role, and he’s young.