Roughly one hour before the start of the 2019 NBA Draft, a blockbuster trade set the wheels in motion for what turned out to be a crazy draft.
Atlanta has acquired New Orleans No. 4 pick in the draft for No. 8 and 17 and 35, league sources tell ESPN. Pelicans are sending Solomon Hill, No. 57 pick and a future second-round pick.- Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 20, 2019
And with that, we were off.
Here's a look into biggest storylines from Thursday's draft.
Zion Williamson is officially a Pelican
There's no other place to consider starting than with Williamson who is now officially a member of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Though he's known for a month that the Pelicans would ultimately select him with the first overall pick ever since they won the draft lottery back in May, Zion Williamson was still overcome with emotion in the moments immediately after hearing his name called.
An emotional @Zionwilliamson discusses his journey to becoming the #1 overall pick in the #NBADraft! pic.twitter.com/J9zpyqE4HN- NBA (@NBA) June 21, 2019
It's impossible to overstate just how dominant Williamson looked in his one year at college and while he's certainly the crown jewel, he's not the only piece that the Pelicans added on Thursday.
MORE: Zion offers unprecedented promise to the city of New Orleans
In addition to Williamson, New Orleans also had the No. 8, No. 17 and No. 35 picks which they acquired in exchange for the No. 4 overall pick. They used those to acquire C Jaxson Hayes, Canadian PG Nickeil Alexander-Walker and F Marcos Louzada Silva. All three have the potential to develop into important players for New Orleans. Hayes has immense potential as a shot blocker and rim runner while Alexander-Walker is a 6'6" point guard very similar to his cousin, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who starred as a rookie last year for the Clippers. Silva is a 6'6" wing from Brazil that projects as a 3-and-D project.
Big night for the Grizzlies
Most expected that Memphis would take explosive point guard Ja Morant, which they did. He immediately becomes the successor at point guard to long-time franchise icon Mike Conley who was traded earlier in the week to the Utah Jazz. Immediately after being taken, Morant was greeted by Jaren Jackson Jr. who is coming off an impressive debut season in which he was named All-Rookie First Team.
Ja x Jaren 🔥- Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) June 20, 2019
It's real. It's really real. #GrizzDraft2019 pic.twitter.com/yj9qm8MvC3
What made it a slam dunk of a draft for the Grizzlies was that they also managed to trade up to No. 21 and snag Canadian Brandon Clarke. Perhaps the best athlete in the draft outside of Williamson and Morant, Clarke is a big-time leaper and could develop into an excellent defender. He's also an analytics darling with many draft model projecting him as one of the best five prospects in the entire draft.
These two players, combined with Jaren Jackson Jr., give the Grizzlies an uber-athletic young core moving forward.
RJ Barrett is thrilled to be on the Knicks
RJ Barrett wanted to play for the Knicks and he got his wish, fist pumping the moment he heard his name called by Adam Silver.
Perhaps the best pure scorer in the draft, Barrett exudes confidence and gives the Knicks a true centerpiece to build around. Fans in the stands, including Spike Lee, were chanting his name and he did nothing but flash a million dollar smile when asked after the fact about what it means to play for the Knicks.
MORE: The best comparisons for RJ Barrett
On a banner night for Canada (more on that later!), the most promising of all of them goes to one of the league's iconic franchises.
Watch out for the Atlanta Hawks
They may have paid a hefty price, but the Hawks moved up to No. 4 and drafted De'Andre Hunter who might be the best perimeter defender in the draft and is already a knockdown 3-point shooter. The Hawks badly needed a small forward and Hunter fits in perfectly. There are some who think he could become a Kawhi Leonard-esque player which given what we just saw in the postseason, would eventually make the Hawks a title contender.
MORE: Is Hunter the next Kawhi?
The good vibes didn't end there as the Hawks also drafted Cam Reddish with the No. 10 overall pick. Though he struggled to find his stroke in his lone season at Duke playing alongside Williamson and Barrett, Reddish is another big wing that has the reputation as a skilled scorer and dangerous shooter. With this pick, the Hawks put a bow on their draft-day blockbuster from a year ago in which they traded the rights to Luka Doncic to the Dallas Mavericks for Trae Young and the pick that became Reddish.
LETSSSSS GOOOOOOOO!!! Welcome To The Fam @camreddish !! Let's Work😤❄️- Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) June 21, 2019
With Hunter and Reddish now joining a core of Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter, the Hawks have an immensely bright future with pieces that not only fit together, but carry high ceilings.
Historic draft for Canada
It's all Canada, all the time!
One week after the Toronto Raptors won the NBA title, a record four Canadians were taken in the first round with Barrett (3), Alexander-Walker (17), Clarke (21) and Mfiondu Kabengele (27) all hearing their names called. That broke the previous Canadian record of three players taken in the first round from back in 2014 when Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis were each drafted.
MORE: Canada's historic draft
The fun continued into the second round with Mississauga's Ignas Brazdeikis going 47th to the New York Knicks where he'll be teammates with Barrett. When Marial Shayok came off the board at No. 54, the six Canadians drafted broke the record for the most draft picks from a single country outside of the United States. The previous record was five set by France in 2016.
A mysterious draft for the Boston Celtics
It was somewhat of a confusing event for the Boston Celtics who entered the draft with the 14th, 20th and 22nd picks.
They took Romeo Langford with the 14th pick and then traded the 20th pick (Matisse Thybulle) to the Philadelphia 76ers for the 24th and 33rd picks. After selecting Grant Williams with the 22nd pick, the Celtics made another trade, this time sending the 24th pick and Aron Baynes to the Phoenix Suns for a 2020 1st-round pick which they originally acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Baynes trade in particular caught many by surprise given that he just opted into his contract for 2019-20 and the team could potentially lose starting centre Al Horford.
Upon further examination, it appears that Boston may be angling ahead of free agency as it attempts to open up enough cap space to potentially sign a max free agent.
Boston is now sitting at $25.8M in room (factoring in the Terry Rozier hold) after trade with Phoenix. Could increase to $34M without Rozier.- Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) June 21, 2019
Even moreso than normal, how the Celtics fared in this draft is yet to be determined. If these moves ultimately lead to Boston landing a major free agent, it will likely be viewed as another stroke of genius by Danny Ainge.
If it felt like there were a ton of trades, it's because there were!
15 of the 30 players taken in the first round are not actually going to the team who drafted them as a result of either draft-day trades or previously agreed upon trades.
Aside from the blockbuster trade between the Hawks and Pelicans, perhaps the biggest trade of the draft also happened within an hour of it starting when the Minnesota Timberwolves sent the No. 11 pick and Dario Saric to the Phoenix Suns for the No. 6 pick. The Timberwolves moved up to select Jarrett Culver while the Suns ended up with Cameron Johnson in what was the first true shock of the first round.
Though Johnson is widely considered one of the best pure shooters in the draft, most projected him to be taken somewhere in the 20s with the potential to fall into the second round. Johnson was not among the 24 players invited to the green room and his selection led to a great moment with his college teammate Coby White who was in the middle of addressing reporters when he found out about his teammate unexpectedly going in the lottery.
Coby White's reaction to Cam Johnson getting drafted No. 11 overall to Phoenix is priceless. pic.twitter.com/W2Oe6BSvkR- CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) June 21, 2019
One of the under-the-radar trades was made by the Brooklyn Nets who traded the 27th pick to the LA Clippers which was used on Canadian Mfiondu Kabengele. This was a cost-cutting move for the Nets who are trying to open up enough cap space for two max contracts in free agency. This trade got them closer to that goal and if they land two big-time players, this trade will have played an important part.
Bol Bol and Nassir Little drop
Some prospects rise, some prospects fall. That's just the way the NBA draft works.
The two players who unexpectedly dropped on Thursday were Bol Bol and Nassir Little. Both were among players invited to the green room and figured to be in the mix for teams drafting in the lottery.
Little was the first to finally come off the board as he ultimately landed with the Portland Trail Blazers who had the 27th overall pick. He entered last season considered by many to be among the top five players in his high school class and despite some inconsistent play at UNC, was still on radars as a high-ceiling player with elite athleticism.
The 7'2" Bol Bol, the son of former NBA centre Manute Bol, had his college career cut short with a foot injury back in December, but not before flashing some serious shot blocking and offensive skill. He eventually was taken by the Denver Nuggets with the 44th overall pick where he'll get to learn behind All-NBA centre Nikola Jokic.
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