2019 NBA Draft Storylines to Watch (Fantasy Basketball)
The NBA Draft gets underway soon, and there are plenty of interesting storylines to monitor on the big night. There has been plenty of movement and rumors in the league already, highlighted by a blockbuster Lakers trade for Anthony Davis. This year’s draft class is wide open after the top three picks, but trades (particularly involving high-level players) and unexpected picks should make for an interesting night. Here are some of the top storylines to watch during the NBA Draft.
Will any stars be traded on draft night?
Many players, including some big names, have been linked to trade rumors Two stand out: Bradley Beal and Mike Conley. Beal is part of an extremely expensive backcourt in Washington with John Wall, and Washington needs to start a rebuild through current talent and draft assets. Possible trade partners include the Suns and Pelicans, who both hold top-six picks in this year’s draft and have valuable players to trade. Conley was rumored to be out the door before the February trade deadline, but only Marc Gasol was traded. The Grizzlies will surely take Ja Morant at No. 2, making Conley expendable for the right price. Possible trade partners include the Jazz and Suns.
How will the lottery round out?
The top three picks in this draft seem all but assured in Zion Williamson, Morant, and R.J. Barrett, but what about the other 11 lottery picks? There’s a lot of talent on the board, but there is also a lot of disagreement among analysts on which players will be taken inside the lottery or in what order they will be selected. Sekou Doumbouya, widely considered the best international prospect in the draft, has a variety of projections — most of which fall inside the top-14 selections. Former Gonzaga teammates Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura, former Kentucky teammates P.J. Washington and Tyler Herro, Indiana guard Romeo Langford, and Florida State big man Mfiondu Kabengele all have a chance to land in the lottery, but their projections vary.
Aside from the players towing the lottery line, consensus top-10 picks could fall in a variety of different orders, too. Vanderbilt guard Darius Garland, North Carolina guard Coby White, Duke combo guard Cameron Reddish, Texas center Jaxson Hayes, North Carolina forward Nassir Little, Texas Tech guard Jarrett Culver, and Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter all round out this group who project to be drafted in no discernible order.
Which international players will be drafted?
This year’s draft class offers some great international prospects, but there are a lot more unknowns and question marks associated with them than the international players of years’ past. Doumbouya is a consensus top-20 selection, and some mocks have him going inside the top 10. Goga Bitadze is another first-round talent, but like Doumbouya, is still raw and needs some coaching. Arguably just as talented as Doumbouya and Bitadze, Luka Samanic could be a first or second-round pick due to his need for improvement in several areas. Those three players are locks to be drafted. The second round holds many questions as to which other international players will be selected, so it’s a storyline worth checking out from picks 30-60.
What will the Pelicans do?
After trading Davis to the Lakers, the Pelicans suddenly have a lot of options. They have the No. 1 and 4 picks in this year’s draft, young players, and a savvy GM in David Griffin who is willing to make deals. The No. 4 pick is a likely trade asset. Holiday and Ingram could also be on the block in the right deal. The Pelicans have expressed serious interest in Beal, but there are certainly other teams interested in what New Orleans has to offer.
The Pelicans could also stay pat with the No. 4 pick and select Culver, Hunter, or White, with Lonzo Ball as the starting point guard. The options are plentiful in the Big Easy, and one more deal involving the Pelicans seems imminent.
Which players can rise to the first round?
A common theme of this year’s draft is unpredictability beyond the first three selections. That unpredictability extends all the way though the first round. Some players of note, such as talented international forward Samanic and under-the-radar Belmont combo guard Dylan Windler, could sneak into the back-end of the opening round. Some other names to keep in mind are Darius Bazley, Louis King, Eric Paschall, Ty Jerome, and Chuma Okeke. These guys have the potential to go within the first 30 picks.
What will the Hawks do?
Atlanta owns six — that’s right, six — picks in this year’s draft, and it would be shocking if they don’t deal at least one of them in a draft-day deal. The Hawks reportedly like Culver, but whether they like him enough to move up is worth watching. Culver will almost certainly be gone by the time the Hawks make their first pick at No. 8, so they would have to trade up to get him. The Cavaliers seem to be likely trade partners, as they should be willing to move down and load up on assets. The Hawks own picks No. 8, 10, 17, 35, 41, and 44, providing them a lot of flexibility. Trading two of their first-round picks and possibly a second-rounder should allow them to move to No. 5.
The Pelicans (pick No. 4) and Suns (pick No. 6) could also be in the mix as trade partners for Atlanta. If the Hawks indeed trade up to land Culver or another elite player, they will likely still have pick No. 8 or 10. It will be interesting to see what they do with it. The smartest move would be to take a center, the position where they are the weakest.
Which teams will be motivated to trade picks?
As mentioned above, Atlanta owns six picks — the most in the draft. The Hawks are followed by the 76ers (five) and Celtics (four), and both of those teams could also be motivated to complete trades using draft assets. The Celtics will likely be without Kyrie Irving next season, and they struck out in the Davis sweepstakes. They could look to acquire another star — possibly Beal — using players and picks. There is reportedly a lot of trade talk going on behind closed doors in preparation for the draft, and there could be crazy movement on draft night from teams looking to move back (Cleveland, Oklahoma City) and teams looking to move up (Atlanta, Boston). A flurry of trades involving lottery picks wouldn’t be shocking, and the same is true of the picks at the back-end of the first round. Keep an eye out for new information leading up to the draft, as some fascinating moves will surely take place.
Could Darius Garland be a top-three selection?
As mentioned above, this draft has long seemed to be about three guys: Williamson, Morant, and Barrett. Now, according to ESPN draft expert Jonathan Givony, the Knicks are giving Garland “serious consideration” for the No. 3 pick.
A Garland selection at No. 3 would throw a complete wrench into many NBA Draft scenarios. It would also create a situation in which the Pelicans would be highly motivated to keep the No. 4 pick, which they could then use on Barrett. It would be an enormous win if the Pelicans land Williamson’s former Duke teammate along with the haul they received from the Davis trade. That team could be formidable right away. Garland going to the Knicks over Barrett seems unlikely, but it would be a very exciting scenario.