During the 2019 NBA Draft, 60 kids saw their biggest dreams realized. As expected, Zion Williamson went No. 1 overall to the New Orleans Pelicans and Ja Morant went No. 2 overall to the Memphis Grizzlies. Like every draft, there were a few players who went much higher than expected, and a few dropped considerably (poor Bol Bol). The Phoenix Suns had the weirdest and worst night of the draft. They tanked all season long just to trade down and snag Cam Johnson knowing their biggest hole was at the point guard position. Not every team had a bad night, though. A few teams absolutely nailed the draft, and below are the four biggest winners from the 2019 NBA Draft.
1. New Orleans Pelicans
Even before the Pelicans traded away Anthony Davis for the Lakers No. 4 overall pick and a plethora of young talent, even before they traded that No. 4 overall pick for No. 8 and No. 17 — it was already a foregone conclusion that the Pelicans were going to have a good night. Zion Williamson is a once-in-a-generation talent who is going to make an immediate impact on the court and in the city of New Orleans. Williamson’s athleticism doesn’t make sense for someone his size, he’s a good enough shooter to keep defenses honest and as an underrated playmaker for others. Playing alongside a pass-first point guard in Lonzo Ball is only going to make him better, and with Jrue Holiday, Ball, and Ingram, Williamson is going to have a group of defensive-minded players on the floor with him to help make the transition to the NBA much smoother.
On top of Williamson, the Pelicans finished the night by adding a nice young center out of Texas in Jaxon Hayes (No. 8), a wing out of Virginia Tech in Nickeil Alexander-Walker (No. 17) and a forward out of Brazil, Marcos Louzada Silva (No. 35). The Pelicans are going to be awfully young and really fun next season, and the team is set up for the long term with the number of young assets and future draft picks they were able to acquire by moving Anthony Davis to the Lakers.
2. Atlanta Hawks
The Pelicans were always going to have the best night by default, but the Atlanta Hawks are also setting themselves up nicely to have a fun, young core over the next half-decade. The Hawks were able to trade up to take De’Andre Hunter with the fourth overall pick and had Cam Reddish fall to them at No. 10 overall. The Hawks were already a must-watch team last season with Trae Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter — and with their two first-round picks from last night — the Hawks now have a five-man core of players all 21-years-old and younger. They may still be a few years from seriously contending, but the foundation is there now.
3. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies may have had the most underrated pick in last season’s NBA draft in Jaren Jackson Jr., and this year the team was able to add two more incredibly athletic prospects to the squad. Memphis lucked into the No. 2 pick in the lottery and were able to snag Ja Morant, a Russell Westbrook-esque point guard with insane athleticism who was easily the best passer in this year’s class. Knowing they were going to draft Morant, the Grizzlies traded long-time veteran point guard Mike Conley to Utah for Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen, and the No. 23 pick — which they traded to Memphis for the No. 21 pick, which they turned into Brandon Clarke out of Gonzaga. With a core of JJJ, Morant and Clarke, the Grizzlies could have one of the most athletic young cores in the NBA.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota went into draft night with the No. 11 overall pick, but were able to move up to No. 6 by trading Dario Saric to the Phoenix Suns. With that pick, the Wolves landed Jarrett Culver, an awfully talented wing out of Texas Tech. Culver is one of the most versatile players in this year’s draft. At 6’7, Culver was essentially the point guard for the Red Raiders, initiating the offense, creating for others and creating for himself. While Jeff Teague is still with the Timberwolves, he’s an unrestricted free agent next summer. Culver can play off the ball during the minutes he’s on the court with Teague and can slide over to handle the ball when Teague sits. Culver is going to have to work on his perimeter shooting, but there are very few holes in his game other than that.