There was no reason to overthink this. In my eyes, Ayton has been the top prospect in this draft dating back to October, and his clean fit in Phoenix, freakish athletic traits and developing skill level make him more than worthy for this selection. He will be one of the most athletic 7-footers in the league from the outset, and the key for him will be settling in as a defender to access his full potential. Ayton has all the talent necessary to become a star. The Suns made the easiest choice here, and can begin to build firmly around Ayton and Devin Booker, hoping they form a killer inside-out tandem to lift the franchise back to relevance.
The Kings made a relatively safe choice here with Bagley, who many in their front office coveted him all along. There was debate about Luka Doncic and trading down for Michael Porter, but ultimately Bagley’s athleticism and production won the day, given the Kings have a greater need for a frontcourt scorer than a playmaker in the backcourt with De’Aaron Fox in place. Sacramento may come to rue passing on Doncic, the most accomplished international prospect ever to enter the draft, but Bagley will give them production early and still has room to grow as a scorer and on the defensive end. Bagley wasn’t the sexy pick, but as many around the league expected earlier in the week, the Kings ultimately stayed put.
The Hawks are making this pick on behalf of the Mavericks, who traded down to land Doncic in a major coup. Dallas has coveted him all season, and he will essentially take the torch from Dirk Nowitzki as the Mavs push back toward competing for a playoff spot, and pair with Dennis Smith to give the Mavericks a dynamic pair of young playmakers. Many feel Doncic will be at his best with an athletic, slashing guard to help put pressure on opposing defenses, and he will have a chance to do that in Dallas. The Mavericks will give up a future first to get this done, but given the way they valued Doncic, it’s worth it.
Many around the league feel that Jackson may end up as one of the three best players in this draft long-term, and he was the right move for the Grizzlies at No. 4 given the circumstances. While he is not a prospect that will make an immediate impact for Memphis and needs time to mature physically and mentally, he has the makings of an outstanding center that can protect the rim and become a versatile stretch big that can anchor a playoff-caliber team on both ends. His ability to shoot from the perimeter and defend in space are an ideal fit for where the league is headed.
The Mavericks are making this pick for the Hawks after trading down from No. 3. There was a case to be made for Atlanta going with Luka Doncic going forward, but ultimately they placed greater value on adding a future asset and landing Young, a player they have come to value heavily throughout the process, as I understand it. They view Young as the player that can lead their rebuild, and now have the advantage of being able to build around him each step of the way. The next step for the Hawks will be moving Dennis Schroder, who is unsettled, but locked into a burdensome contract that has made him difficult to deal. Atlanta may come to regret not drafting Doncic or Jackson, but you have to respect the guts it takes to roll with Young, who was the most exciting player in college basketball last season.
Bamba has always been the perfect fit for the Magic, and Orlando will be thrilled to see him fall to their pick after league-wide trade posturing for picks No. 3 and 4. Bamba’s length, athleticism and All-NBA defensive potential are the perfect anchor for new head coach Steve Clifford’s defense, and the Magic will hope to pair Bamba and Jonathan Isaac to form a long, versatile frontline that can stifle all but the most potent offenses. Bamba is more skilled than he showed at Texas and may yet become an impactful piece on that end of the floor as well. The team-player synergy here is perfect.
Given the health concerns surrounding Michael Porter Jr., Carter was the clear best option on the board for Chicago and is one of the safest players in the entire draft to become a longtime, productive pro. I’ve viewed him as an ideal partner for Lauri Markkanen all along — if you’re going to play big and win in the NBA, your bigs need to be skilled and capable of shooting the three. Carter is as well-rounded a player as there is in the draft, and while he’s not an explosive leaper, it won’t inhibit him from reaching his potential. The Bulls get a quality player that should become a starter early in his career and contribute directly to winning games, and has more long-term potential than some perceive.
There was no easy route for the Cavaliers here given that the top seven prospects in the draft were off the board, but the talk had been that Cleveland wanted a point guard here, and that if Trae Young came off the board it would be Sexton. Cleveland likes Sexton’s toughness and ability to put pressure on the rim, and he will be a useful scorer and ballhandler for them whether or not LeBron James decides to return next season. While there is some split opinion in front offices as to whether Sexton will be enough of a playmaker to become a starting-caliber guard, the Cavs are betting on him to expand his game and work hard to reach his ceiling.
Knox won’t be an immediate-impact player for the Knicks, but at just 18 years of age, he will have time to blossom into a starting-caliber forward down the line. Knox has desirable athleticism, a strong build and natural talent as a scorer that can play both forward spots as he matures. He makes sense for the Knicks, who can take their time and work to build out a quality core of players around Kristaps Porzingis. New York may have rolled with Sexton or Trae Young if they fell here, but given their need for a wing, Knox was a strong route, although there is some risk involved here as he has a bit further to go than some.
The 76ers picked for the Suns here after moving Bridges to Phoenix in exchange for Zhaire Smith. At the time, with Philadelphia being thrust into Eastern Conference contention ahead of schedule, going with an NBA-ready player like Bridges here was a sensible decision. Bridges doesn’t have star upside, but at this point in the draft, netting a guy who can shoot the three, defend on the perimeter and immediately provide support for star talent is a good play. This is a sensible, intelligent choice.
This pick went to the Clippers, who added Gilgeous-Alexander at No. 11 while giving up future second rounders. L.A. has been high on Gilgeous-Alexander all along, and worked him out privately in Los Angeles before the draft. They chose to move aggressively here for their guy, and get a player who many teams coveted and had a case as the top point guard prospect in the draft. Gilgeous-Alexander transformed into a terrific player by the end of his one year at Kentucky, and can help anchor the Los Angeles backcourt in the long-term.
The Clippers made this pick for the Hornets, who chose to move down a spot, deal Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and extract additional draft picks in the process. It’s a shrewd decision by Charlotte, and they get a more NBA-ready player in Bridges, but Gilgeous-Alexander would have been a better fit next to Malik Monk long-term and Bridges joins a roster already full of combo-forward types. He should become a useful rotation player for them, and this was opportunistic, but they passed on the chance to select a guy with a bit more upside.
Robinson this high is a little rich for my taste, but the Clippers are ensuring they get value out of this selection and it’s a respectable choice given they are not interested in a full rebuild, and added a higher-ceiling guy in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander two picks earlier. Robinson will bolster their backcourt as a scorer and complimentary player early on in his career, and teams love his intangibles. He may end up playing in the NBA for a long time.
This is a serious risk that comes with real reward at this spot for Denver, who get a potential top-five talent at a late lottery price. Porter, if he can stay healthy, could evolve into the type of scorer that may elevate the Nuggets’ other core pieces. How much he plays this season and how slow they roll him out as he recovers will be a topic to follow in the coming weeks. You can’t hate the value here, and some teams were less concerned than others about the state of his long-term health.
The Wizards opted for Brown here, with his versatility and fit alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal serving as key selling points. He can play on the ball, can defend multiple positions, and is still young for this draft class, suggesting there is untapped upside. Brown isn’t a great shooter and will require some refinement as a scorer, but won’t have to shoulder much of that load in Washington. Adding a young wing who has a variety of pathways to being successful is a sensible decision.
This pick is going to the Sixers with Miami’s 2021 first-rounder for Mikal Bridges, so Smith is headed to Philly. We’ll grade this decision for the Sixers, which is a little bit baffling given how strong a fit Bridges was, but does build in more long-term upside for Philadelphia and adds a future first. For the Sixers, who can afford to bring Smith along slowly, it’s an admirably bold move, and while Smith folds in a lot of risk, he will benefit from being able to play off of the established stars already there. It’s a good pickup for the Suns, who sorely needed a defensive-minded wing player to add to their core, and have assembled an appealing collection of young talent.
This is a pretty nice fit for Milwaukee, who have preferred to surround Giannis Antetokounmpo with combo guards that can shoot the three. DiVincenzo is a terrific athlete and tough-minded player who will be able to supply their lineups with a little bit of everything, whether it’s on or off the ball. While DiVincenzo’s value may be somewhat inflated by recency bias, there’s a sense among evaluators that he can offer a level of safety given his skill set.
This is terrific value for San Antonio, who land a potential starting-caliber shooting guard who wasn’t expected to be available at their selection. He’s a fantastic athlete with real upside as a scorer and will be in a great situation for his development with the Spurs. According to league sources, some teams were concerned with Walker’s medical, which played a small role in this situation, but the issues had to do more with his long-term durability than any immediate injury risk. Walker’s athletic, slashing style of play could eventually give the Spurs a dangerous offensive dimension.
This is about where we valued Huerter, and his shooting ability will pair with new teammate Trae Young to give the Hawks an extremely potent pair of three-point threats. My concern with this fit comes on the defensive side, as Huerter is not a terrific option at this stage, and Atlanta will need to build out the roster to compensate for Young’s shortcomings on that end of the floor. Time and how these players develop will determine how we view this pick, perhaps more than some of the others in this part of the draft.
Minnesota, and Tom Thibodeau in particular, loves tough, athletic perimeter players, and that’s exactly what Okogie is. He offers a lot more upside than some of the guys in this part of the draft. Although he will require some polish to reach his full potential, given the Wolves’ need for a defensive-minded player to take some pressure off their stars, he fits that bill nicely. It’s possible he can evolve into a starting-caliber guard as he continues to slow the game down and tap into his talent.
Utah was looking for a shooter at this spot to help compliment Donovan Mitchell, and they get one here with Allen, who has deep range, plays hard, and can operate on or off the ball. That’s a pretty clean backcourt fit, and he should be able to settle into the back of the Jazz rotation immediately. It’s a very defensible move and fits a need.
As we have reported dating back to the combine, the Bulls were the team that shut Hutchison down early in the pre-draft process. He’s a talented scorer and versatile offensive player that should fit in well with the skilled core group of players Chicago is assembling. It’s been a strong draft for Chicago, nabbing two guys who can contribute early in their careers in Hutchison and Wendell Carter.
The Pacers were holding out hope that Holiday would fall here, and they get their man. While he doesn’t have great upside, Indiana needs a point guard that fits in long-term, and his no-nonsense approach should vibe with the others on the roster. The Pacers should continue to be competitive, and Holiday can help early in his career. It’s a safe choice at a good value point in the draft, as many thought he could be drafted in the teens.
While Simons is certainly talented and is a worthwhile stash for the Trail Blazers, this pick comes as a surprise and perhaps an attempt to preserve roster flexibility given that Portland’s cap situation is so tight. He will be a long-term project and needs to spend time in the G League. Given that the Blazers have no G League affiliate, he will need to be sent to another team’s development program and be carefully placed into a situation that makes sense for him to gain seasoning. This could prove to be shrewd by the time Simons is 23, but also may wind up as an unnecessary risk given the others on the board.
The Lakers could have gone in a number of directions given the available talent at this spot. Wagner has fans around the league and should be able to provide shooting and some rotational value down the line, but his defensive struggles could prove concerning on an L.A. roster that—presently, at least—lacks a defensive edge. Wagner is a solid player who should give them a return, but there were better options on the board from my vantage point.
I don’t love this pick for the Sixers, given the breadth of guards still on the board, but I can understand the thinking behind it—Philadelphia needs to put consistent shooting next to Ben Simmons in order to keep the floor spaced and optimize their stars. That said, not everyone viewed Shamet as a first-round caliber talent because of his average athletic ability and defensive shortcomings. Given his experience level the hope has to be that he’ll help the team immediately in a role capacity. J.J. Redick’s free agency could also be a factor here.
This is great value for the Celtics, who might be getting a starting-caliber talent and do a good job developing players. Many teams were scared off by Williams due to concerns about his maturity and the interview process—there was a sense he’d fall, but perhaps not this far. Someone else’s risky investment is now a terrific flier for Boston here, and the Celtics will give him a strong environment in which to succeed.
The Warriors do a good job identifying quality role players, and while Evans doesn’t have great upside, he’s exactly what they need as a no-frills, defensive-minded wing player that can make open threes. He’s not a terrific scorer, but as we saw with Jordan Bell a year ago, Golden State tends to be a place where non-scorers flourish. Evans should be a natural fit here.
The Nets are making an interesting play here, and Musa is a talented scorer at just 18 years old who has lots of room to develop. He can really put the ball in the basket and will go to a place where he’ll be needed to score, which is a positive fit. The concerns stem from his defensive shortcomings. The Bosnian forward aims to come over to the NBA next season and will be an interesting experiment for Brooklyn.
This is a surprise pick for the Hawks, but there was some chatter Spellman might sneak into the first round and Atlanta ultimately got their guy here. He’s a perfectly reasonable talent and smart, ball-moving rebounder who fits nicely with the Hawks’ other picks in Trae Young and Kevin Huerter. It’s an intriguing choice and may prove extremely prudent down the road given his high IQ game and versatile skill set.