Ten years from now, when we look back at the 2019 NBA Draft we might all be asking what the hype was about.
Zion Williamson appears to be a lock to go No. 1 overall to the Pelicans, followed by Ja Morant to the Grizzlies at two and then R.J. Barrett to the Knicks with the third overall pick. Beyond that, it's a mystery as to what will unfold – and for good reason.
According to an anonymous NBA scout, via The Athletic's Seth Davis (paywall), this year's draft class is bad.
“It’s been quite a few years since I’ve seen one this bad,” a scout told The Athletic. “After you get past the first three or four picks, it’s like falling off a cliff. You could get a guy at 40 who’s just as good as the guy you get at 15.”
That's potentially bad news for the Wolves, who own the No. 11 pick and continue to be linked in mock drafts to Gonzaga power forwards Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura.
The anonymous scout who talked to The Athletic isn't all that high on either player.
“I’m just not a fan. I don’t know what he does. He doesn’t shoot it well enough. He’s a straight 4 who can’t play the 3. I like that he’s a big, good athlete who handles it, but in our league, if you’re going to be a stretch 4, you gotta make shots. He doesn’t have a great feel for the game. I thought it was interesting when they lost to Saint Mary’s, they ran nothing for him the last few minutes, almost like they didn’t want the ball in his hands. He can guard multiple positions, he can score inside and outside. He needs to improve his range. He’s got that line-drive shot. Seems like he’s a good worker with a high motor. I wish he was a better rebounder. I wish he knew how to use his strength a little better.”
We profiled Hachimura last week, and you can read more about his game right here.
“I like him, but I’m not over the moon about him like some people. He can block shots and dribble and pass, but he’s little. He’s got some holes in his game. Couldn’t shoot well during the season, but I’ve heard in workouts he’s looking better. Terrific attacking off the bounce in the high post. My question is if he can’t play off the ball, how does he impact the game? He’s a terrific weak-side shot blocker but that doesn’t necessarily translate to being a good NBA defender. There’s not as much upside when a guy is 22. That’s just the mentality of our league. I worry about his feel. I don’t think he’s a great defender, he’s a defensive playmaker. It’s hard for me to see him doing what he did at Gonzaga in the NBA. His height is never going to change. Can he survive as an undersized 5?”
Clarke has a 6-foot-10 wingspan and a 40-inch vertical jump, making him a defensive stalwart who told NBA.com that he believes he can guard both forward positions and centers. In fact, he likened his game to Golden State Warriors power forward Draymond Green.
Another name to keep an eye on during the draft is Kentucky shooting guard Tyler Herro, whose final pre-draft workout was with the Wolves over the weekend, according to The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski.
The anonymous scout on Herro:
“He surprised me. You know he can shoot, but in the games I saw I was very impressed with his ability to go off the bounce, get to a spot and make a shot. Defensively he doesn’t wow you but he’s where he needs to be. He’s way bigger than I thought. He shot 94 percent from the foul line. That’s insane. He’s not overly athletic; he’s got short arms. If a team needs a shooter, he’ll be a hired gun off the bench. He’s gotta be the fittest player on the floor every night, like J.J. Redick. I worry, is he Nik Stauskas? Who’s he going to guard? Is he going to be able to create his shot against NBA-level athletes?”
Another draft night possibility is the Wolves trading the 11th overall pick. Could it be included in a package deal with the Nets to bring 6-foot-5 point guard D'Angelo Russell to Minnesota?
Anything is possible, and the Wolves have been linked to Russell in recent weeks, but any deal that brings Russell to the Twin Cities would likely require a sign-and-trade. Is Jeff Teague's expiring contract and the 11th pick in a weak draft, for example, enough to convince the Nets to send a 23-year-old All-Star packing?
Russell is a restricted free agent who will command a big contract, and because the Wolves are already about $7 million over the salary cap, trading Teague (1 year, $19 million remaining), Gorgui Dieng (2 years, $33.5 million remaining) or Andrew Wiggins (4 years, $122 million remaining) is probably a must.