The 2019 NBA draft was headlined by two young men — Zion Williamson and Ja Morant — who were expected to change the face of the two franchises that secured them. At the time, it was a little harder to accurately predict who else was capable of strong and sustained success, but hopes were bright for the strong class of rookies.
Four years on, the Class of 2019 has not disappointed, yielding a collection of good-to-great role players who have carved out roles across the league. Today we’re going to look at where the draftees ended up, then re-draft the class based on their performances so far.
First, let’s take a look at the three members of that draft class who ended up in Portland.
Blazers from 2019
The Portland Trail Blazers entered the draft that year with the 25th pick. They spent it to acquire Nassir Little, whom they extended on a four year, $28 million contract last season.
Portland dove back into the 2019 class at this year’s trade deadline, picking up Cam Reddish and Mattisse Thybulle, both set to hit restricted free agency in July.
Back in 2019, Reddish was taken with the 10th pick by the Atlanta Hawks. He was the third selection from Duke that particular year, behind Williamson and RJ Barrett.
If we had it to do over again, what order would the 2019 picks go in?
Re-selecting a draft is tricky. For the purposes of this piece we’re using five criteria.
Each player was ranked out of 10 against each with the five scores added together.
Production until this point
Highest level of team achievement
Level of importance on their respective rosters
Based on those criteria, here’s how the class would fall out.
1. Ja Morant (45 points) — New Orleans Pelicans
Games: 248 Points: 22.4 3pt%: 32.1% Rebounds: 4.8 Assists: 7.4 Steals: 1.0 Blocks: 0.3
(Original pick — Zion Williamson)
2. Zion Williamson (43) — Memphis Grizzlies
Games: 114 Points: 25.8 3pt%: 34.3% Rebounds: 7.0 Assists: 3.6 Steals: 0.9 Blocks: 0.6
(Original pick — Ja Morant)
3. Darius Garland (43) — New York Knicks
Games: 250 Points: 18.5 3pt%: 38.7% Rebounds: 2.6 Assists: 6.7 Steals: 1.1 Blocks: 0.1
(Original pick — RJ Barrett)
4. Keldon Johnson (39) — Atlanta Hawks
Games: 224 Points: 16.5 3pt%: 36.3% Rebounds: 5.6 Assists: 2.1 Steals: 0.7 Blocks: 0.2
(Original pick — De’Andre Hunter)
5. Tyler Herro (39) — Cleveland Cavaliers
Games: 242 Points: 17.7 3pt%: 38.3% Rebounds: 4.9 Assists: 3.5 Steals: 0.7 Blocks: 0.2
(Original pick — Darius Garland)
6. RJ Barrett (39) — Minnesota Timberwolves
Games: 271 Points: 18.1 3pt%: 34.3% Rebounds: 5.4 Assists: 2.8 Steals: 0.7 Blocks: 0.3
(Original pick — Jarrett Culver)
7. Cam Johnson (38) — Chicago Bulls
Games: 225 Points: 11.3 3pt%: 39.3% Rebounds: 3.8 Assists: 1.5 Steals: 0.8 Blocks: 0.3
(Original pick — Coby White)
8. Jordan Poole (38) — New Orleans Pelicans
Games: 266 Points: 15.8 3pt%: 33.9% Rebounds: 2.6 Assists: 3.4 Steals: 0.7 Blocks: 0.2
(Original pick — Jaxson Hayes)
9. De’Andre Hunter (38) — Washington Wizards
Games: 206 Points: 13.9 3pt%: 35.6% Rebounds: 4.2 Assists: 1.5 Steals: 0.7 Blocks: 0.3
(Original pick — Rui Hachimura)
10. Nic Claxton (35) — Atlanta Hawks
Games: 170 Points: 9.7 Rebounds: 6.9 Assists: 1.4 Steals: 0.7 Blocks: 1.7
(Original pick — Cam Reddish)
11. Terance Mann (35) — Phoenix Suns
Games: 270 Points: 8.0 3pt%: 38.3% Rebounds: 3.7 Assists: 2.0 Steals: 0.5 Blocks: 0.2
(Original pick — Cameron Johnson)
12. Matisse Thybulle (34) — Charlotte Hornets
Games: 267 Points: 4.4 3pt%: 33.4% Rebounds: 2.0 Assists: 1.0 Steals: 1.5 Blocks: 0.8
(Original pick — PJ Washington)
13. PJ Washington (33) — Miami Heat
Games: 260 Points: 12.9 3pt%: 36.6% Rebounds: 5.5 Assists: 2.3 Steals: 0.9 Blocks: 1.0
(Original pick — Tyler Herro)
14. Caleb Martin (33) — Boston Celtics
Games: 202 Points: 8.0 3pt%: 36.0% Rebounds: 3.7 Assists: 1.3 Steals: 0.9 Blocks: 0.4
(Original pick — Romeo Langford)
15. Grant Williams (32) —Detroit Pistons
Games: 288 Points: 6.2 3pt%: 37.9% Rebounds: 3.4 Assists: 1.2 Steals: 0.5 Blocks: 0.5
(Original pick — Sekou Dembouya)
16. Lu Dort (32) — Orlando Magic
Games: 213 Points: 13.4 3pt%: 33.2% Rebounds: 3.9 Assists: 1.7 Steals: 0.9 Blocks: 0.3
(Original pick — Chuma Okeke)
17. Rui Hachimura (31) — New Orleans Pelicans
Games: 210 Points: 12.5 3pt%: 34.7% Rebounds: 5.0 Assists: 1.3 Steals: 0.6 Blocks: 0.2
(Original pick — Nickeil Alexander-Walker)
18. Brandon Clarke (31) — Indiana Pacers
Games: 237 Points: 10.7 3pt%: 29.0% Rebounds: 5.6 Assists: 1.4 Steals: 0.7 Blocks: 0.9
(Original pick — Goga Bitadze)
19. Coby White (30) — San Antonio Spurs
Games: 269 Points: 12.6 3pt%: 36.7% Rebounds: 3.4 Assists: 3.3 Steals: 0.6 Blocks: 0.1
(Original pick — Luka Samanic)
20. Daniel Gafford (30) — Philadelphia 76ers
Games: 247 Points: 8.0 Rebounds: 4.8 Assists: 0.8 Steals: 0.4 Blocks: 1.3
(Original pick — Matisse Thybulle)
21. Kevin Porter Jr. (30) — Memphis Grizzlies
Games: 196 Points: 15.3 3pt%: 35.7% Rebounds: 4.3 Assists: 5.0 Steals: 1.1 Blocks: 0.3
(Original pick — Brandon Clarke)
22. Nassir Little (28) — Boston Celtics
Games: 192 Points: 6.0 3pt%: 33.5% Rebounds: 3.2 Assists: 0.8 Steals: 0.3 Blocks: 0.4
(Original pick — Grant Williams)
23. Naz Reid (28) — Oklahoma City Thunder
Games: 245 Points: 10.1 3pt%: 34.4% Rebounds: 4.4 Assists: 1.0 Steals: 0.6 Blocks: 0.9
(Original pick — Darius Bazley)
24 Cam Reddish (27) — Phoenix Suns
Games: 173 Points: 10.3 3pt%: 32.2% Rebounds: 3.0 Assists: 1.3 Steals: 1.0 Blocks: 0.4
(Original pick — Ty Jerome)
25. Max Strus (26) — Portland Trail Blazers
Games: 189 Points: 10.0 3pt%: 37.1% Rebounds: 2.7 Assists: 1.5 Steals: 0.4 Blocks: 0.2
(Original pick — Nassir Little)
26. Jalen McDaniels (24) — Cleveland Cavaliers
Games: 198 Points: 7.7 3pt%: 34.5% Rebounds: 3.8 Assists: 1.3 Steals: 0.7 Blocks: 0.4
(Original pick — Dylan Windler)
27. Nickeil Alexander-Walker (24) — Los Angeles Clippers
Games: 217 Points: 8.4 3pt%: 33.9% Rebounds: 2.4 Assists: 2.1 Steals: 0.7 Blocks: 0.3
(Original pick — Mfiondu Kabengele)
28. Talen Horton-Tucker (23) — Golden State Warriors
Games: 196 Points: 9.8 3pt%: 28.0% Rebounds: 3.0 Assists: 3.0 Steals: 0.9 Blocks: 0.4
(Original pick — Jordan Poole)
29. Jaxson Hayes (22) — San Antonio Spurs
Games: 241 Points: 7.5 3pt%: 28.8% Rebounds: 4.0 Assists: 0.7 Steals: 0.4 Blocks: 0.7
(Original pick — Keldon Johnson)
30. John Konchar (22) — Cleveland Cavaliers
Games: 206 Points: 4.6 3pt%: 37.4% Rebounds: 4.0 Assists: 1.3 Steals: 0.8 Blocks: 0.3
(Original pick — Kevin Porter Jr.)
Bol Bol, Cody Martin, Goga Bitadze, Darius Bazely, Oshae Brissett, Terence Davis, Jaylen Nowell
Interestingly, six lottery picks (Culver, White, Hayes, Hachimura, Reddish and Langford) drop down or out of the first round. Conversely, four undrafted names (Martin, Dort, Reid, Strus) hop into the first round. And not one re-drafted player was picked in their original spot.
As for the picks themselves, there’s the obvious switcheroo at the top two spots between Williamson and Morant, potentially altering the current face of the Western Conference.
All Star point guard Garland earns the bronze medal after playing a leading role reinvigorating the Cleveland Cavaliers following the departure of LeBron James.
Keldon Johnson is probably one of the more controversial promotions here, making the top four. For me, he’s not getting his deserved praise on a Spurs team mired at the bottom of the standings but Johnson is a two-way 6’5 small forward who can match it with some of the league’s bigger wings.
2022 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro jumps eight spots to fifth. He has shown out on the biggest stage, namely the 2020 NBA Finals.
Cam Johnson was initially considered a reach for the Suns at pick 11. In reality, he was far better than that, becoming one of two key pieces—next to Mikal Bridges—getting a mid-season deal for Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant done. He’s taken seventh.
Jordan Poole penned a massive contract extension last offseason, reflecting on his scoring potential and contribution to last season’s championship Warriors. His efforts also helped him jump 20 places to eighth in this re-draft.
Pending Blazers restricted free agent Matisse Thybulle jumps into the lottery while fellow Portland wing Reddish falls to the back of the first round.
Instead of announcing Little’s name on draft night, the Blazers would take a chance on the originally undrafted Strus in this re-draft.
A Morant/McCollum backcourt in New Orleans would pose similar issues to that of a Damian Lillard/McCollum combination, so it’s entirely possible the Pelicans wouldn’t go after McCollum in this scenario.
Williamson would joins Jaren Jackson Jr. in Memphis, creating an incredibly formidable, but injury-prone, frontcourt.
Garland heading to Madison Square Garden would make it unlikely for the Knicks to engage in last year’s play for Jaylen Brunson. Garland is still a better building block than Barrett.
The Hawks bringing in Keldon Johnson would offer more offensive versatility while maintaining a decent defensive presence. Atlanta would probably still acquire Johnson’s former Spurs teammate Dejounte Murray, creating an interesting starting unit also including Clint Capela.
Offense-first guard Herro starts his career in Cleveland and still makes sense alongside Donovan Mitchell, but the Cavaliers would definitely need the defensive wall that is Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen behind them.
Barrett would be a phenomenal upgrade over Culver in Minnesota but would subsequently cost the franchise a shot at the number one pick Anthony Edwards the following year.
Cam Johnson heading to the Bulls means they probably wouldn’t select Patrick Williams the following year. Johnson offers an intriguing frontcourt partner next to Nikola Vucevic, arriving from Orlando in 2021.
Assuming the Pelicans went after Morant, I doubt they’d take Poole with the eighth pick.
Hunter is an upgrade over Hachimura in Washington, joining Bradley Beal as a decent enough wing tandem.
Claxton goes to Atlanta to play understudy to Capela. Onyeka Okongwu might not join the Georgia franchise in 2020.
Mann would make a lot of sense in Phoenix either backing up Devin Booker or playing pinch small forward minutes in between Booker, Paul, Durant and Ayton. That is, assuming he wasn’t sent to Brooklyn for Durant at the trade deadline.
Of the Portland trio (Thybulle, Little and Reddish), the first two moved up to 12th and 22nd respectively. Thybulle would help complement LaMelo Ball in the Charlotte backcourt while Little adds to the Celtics’ impressive wing depth.
Reddish drops out of the lottery to pick 23 and the Suns, where he strives for minutes next Booker.
Finally, the Blazers go with the undrafted Miami Heat sharpshooter Strus, who helps boost the team’s search for wing scoring.
No doubt, every team hopes they are making the best selection on draft night. But if the 2019 class is any indication those intentions can often be wrong, with not one player taken in their original spot in the re-draft.
Luckily for all those involved in 2019, there was enough depth, even into the second round and beyond.
How would you change the draft order if you had perfect hindsight? Anyone (besides the obvious) you’d particularly covet in Portland? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!