Here are five predictions for Thursday night’s 2019 NBA Draft, which is anticipated to spark the traditionally eventful NBA offseason.
With the 2019 NBA Draft rapidly following the end of the NBA Finals, it’s incredible to think that the NBA Draft Lottery was over a month ago. Just last month, teams were nervously awaiting the lottery results that would bring the honor of welcoming Zion Williamson to their city.
Once the New Orleans Pelicans won the rights to draft and possibly the most coveted prospect since Anthony Davis, the attention shifted to the rest of the lottery. With most of this year’s coverage focused on the mystery box nature of the draft, let’s try to nail down a few predictions for the 2019 NBA Draft.
1. There will be numerous trades in the first round of the NBA Draft
Widely expected to be a lower-end draft in terms of star potential, many high lottery teams will look to move down. Whether it’s to attract additional draft capital or a key veteran presence for an inexperienced team, franchises like the New Orleans Pelicans, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns will look to entice eager clubs looking to make a splash.
After acquiring the fourth overall pick in the draft, the Pelicans are expected to shop the pick for additional assets, according to ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski. While the Cavaliers were certainly disappointed with their slide to the fifth overall pick, they may be in the perfect spot to get multiple picks out of a team like the Atlanta Hawks. With the Suns — currently possessing the sixth overall pick — in the market for a veteran floor general, it would make sense for them to move down to attract a steadying point guard.
In fact, both Wojnarowski and Jonathan Givony of ESPN hinted at the possibility of a record-breaking number of draft-day transactions.
2. The Minnesota Timberwolves will trade up
Currently, the Minnesota Timberwolves have the 11th pick in the draft, but they could be looking to make a move. Coming from the analytics-driven front office of the Houston Rockets, new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas knows all about building through the trade market. According to the Star Tribune‘s Chris Hine, Rosas cited a “flat” draft for the reasoning behind potential moves in the draft during a recent presser:
"“It’s flat, in a good way. There’s a lot of good depth to it,” Rosas said. “So a lot of it is the different values that teams place on talent. There’s a lot of communication. I think it’s part of our strategy. We have to examine every opportunity — moving forward, moving back, moving out. But we’ve reached out to every team in this league to see what our options are, and we’ll be prepared here on Thursday to make the right decisions for the organization.”"
New York Times insider Marc Stein reported on overtures made by the Wolves in a potential trade with the Pelicans for the fourth overall pick.
3. The Los Angeles Lakers will buy a second round pick
After the completion of the Anthony Davis trade, the Los Angeles Lakers will have five players on their roster: Davis, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga. They will have, depending on the final terms of the deal, cap space to fill out the rest of the roster with either a max free agent or a number of veteran role players.
Either way, the Lakers will need young prospects as a medium to both develop talent and field a complete roster on opening day. For instance, the Lakers could strike a deal with teams occupying multiple second round draft slots, like the Hawks, Sacramento Kings and Philadelphia 76ers.
To accomplish this, the Lakers have already started to contact teams interested in parting with a second round pick, per ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski:
4. The Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics will not keep all of their draft picks
The Hawks and Boston Celtics enter the draft in a unique position as they each have three picks in the first round. After the Hawks drafted Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and Omari Spellman in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft, I’d be genuinely shocked to see such an infant roster supported by three more rookies. I’d look for the Hawks to package two of their three picks to move up, or trade one of their picks for a contributing veteran presence on their roster.
The Celtics are in the odd spot of possibly having to rebuild following reports that Kyrie Irving and Al Horford may be saying farewell to Boston, per Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. With that being said, the team should seek more established role pieces to support the budding talent of players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Otherwise, the team would be smart, similar to the Hawks, to package a few of their picks to move up in an effort to find a true difference-maker.
5. The Chicago Bulls will draft Sekou Doumbouya
Chalk this one up as my bold prediction. Historically, the Chicago Bulls have drafted safe prospects with polished college resumés. In this draft, if he were available, I typically would have mocked De’Andre Hunter as the safe 3-and-D prospect that the Bulls generally covet. However, after receiving the seventh overall pick for the third consecutive year, it’s time for the Bulls to take a swing.
While Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. still have untapped potential, they don’t project to be the two best players on a title contending team. Enter Doumbouya, a raw French talent that has supposedly impressed the Bulls front office in workouts, according to beat writer K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
While the Bulls still need to find a talented point guard, they also need to take a risk to further the ceiling of this youthful core. After all, the 2017 Jimmy Butler trade was made to prevent the Bulls from maintaining their spot as a fringe playoff team.