Detroit News 2019 NBA Draft grades: Zion, Ja slam dunks, but who failed the first round?

By Matt Schoch
The Detroit News
Duke's Zion Williamson, right, poses for photographs with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being selected by the New Orleans Pelicans with the first pick in the NBA Draft Thursday.

The Pistons traded into the 30th pick, then out of it, and ended up with one pick in Thursday's first round.

They took a mighty swing with it, drafting a relative unknown to casual basketball fans with the 15th pick.

Let’s go around the league and see who passed the draft test and who failed the first round on Thursday:

1. New Orleans: Zion Williamson, F, Duke: In a tier of his own, Zion has the opportunity to be a pantheon star in the league. There was nothing savvy about this pick, but it was perfect nonetheless. Grade: A

2. Memphis: Ja Morant, G, Murray State: Well, they didn’t get Zion, but there’s no one arguing Morant isn’t the second-best player in this crop. Memphis has a solid point guard for the future that Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. will love pairing with. Grade: A

3. New York: R.J. Barrett, F, Duke: He came to campus as the consensus No. 1 prospect in this class, but left Durham with question marks. Playing in the three-ring circus at Madison Square Garden might not help matters. Grade: B

4. Atlanta: De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia: The Hawks targeted Hunter and traded up with New Orleans to get him. Many of the experts love Hunter, but athleticism, shooting and consistency concerns nudge him toward the bottom of my top 10. Grade: C+

5. Cleveland: Darius Garland, G, Vanderbilt: His limited college experience is surpassed by his talent, but there are questions about his playmaking, which doesn’t sound like a winning combination for a point guard. Plus, they just drafted a point guard last year. Grade: C+

6. Minnesota: Jarrett Culver, G, Texas Tech: Culver really struggled at times during the NCAA Tournament run, but was the Big 12 Player of the Year and has perfect size and skills for today’s NBA. Grade: B+

North Carolina's Coby White walks onstage after the Chicago Bulls selected him as the seventh overall pick.

7. Chicago: Coby White, G, North Carolina: This feels like a stretch. A lack of great point guards in the lottery means teams reach on White, a speedy guy with questions about his shooting consistency and decision making. Grade: C+

8. New Orleans: Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas: Hayes didn’t produce much in one season at Texas. He’s raw and is an upside gamble for David Griffin and the Pelicans to pair with Zion Williamson. Grade: C

9. Washington: Rui Hachimura, F. Gonzaga: This was a safe pick by a team that needed to take a swing. Sekou Doumbouya would’ve been a perfect gamble, but Hachimura should be solid. Grade: C

10. Atlanta: Cam Reddish, F, Duke: Reddish was a huge disappointment at Duke but still projects as a knockdown shooter with immense potential to live up to his original top-5 pick profile. Grade: A

11. Phoenix: Cameron Johnson, F, North Carolina: When was the last time a fifth-year senior was picked this high? Johnson is a fine player and should be able to contribute right away. But at 23, he’s nearing his prime and ceiling already. Grade: D+

12. Charlotte: PJ Washington, F, Kentucky: This is a very Michael Jordan pick, as Washington is an accomplished college player from a blue blood. But Washington should be a very good pro as a versatile big man who meant business as a sophomore at UK. Grade: A-

13. Miami: Tyler Herro, G, Kentucky: Herro has the potential to be a great shooter in the league, but showed he can do more at Kentucky. He's a fearless player and not afraid of the moment. Grade: B

Indiana's Romeo Langford shows off his jacket lining, with Indiana colors, after the Boston Celtics selected him as the 14th pick overall.

14. Boston: Romeo Langford, G, Indiana: Langford was a disappointment in his only season at Indiana, but an injured thumb was explanation for that. But still, there’s no evidence he can be a capable shooter from deep. Grade: C-

15. Detroit: Sekou Doumbouya, F, France: He’s raw and a bit of an unknown, but has the athleticism, youth and potential to be an impact player down the line. The perfect gamble for a team like the Pistons who need to develop for the long haul. Grade: A

16. Orlando: Chuma Okeke, F, Auburn: Another upside play for a team that needs a jolt, Okeke tore his ACL in March and might not be playing for months. It’s a reach, but I like Orlando taking a chance. Grade: B-

17. New Orleans: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G-F, Virginia Tech: Alexander-Walker is above average at everything offensively and competes on defense. He has a chance to be an impact player in the league. Grade: A

18. Indiana: Goga Bitadze: C, Republic of Georgia: A slow-footed center that is skilled and can protect the rim, maybe this was a pick in honor of former Indiana center Rik Smits. Grade: B

19. San Antonio: Luka Samanic, F, Croatia: Samanic came to the combine and proved that he can hang in 5-on-5 scrimmages. This pick is right out of the tried-and-true Spurs' draft playbook, which has proven success. Grade: B

20. Philadelphia: Matisse Thybulle, G/F, Washington: Thybulle is a great pickup for Philly, perhaps the best defensive player in the draft. For all the offensive talent they have in Philly, this is a nice filling of a hole. Grade: A-

21. Memphis: Brandon Clarke, F, Gonzaga: This might be my favorite pick of the draft with a team that made huge strides on draft night for the second year in a row. Hat tip to Tayshaun Prince and the front office for finding a player who will do everything but shoot. Grade: A

22. Boston: Grant Williams, F, Tennessee: Boston's nightmare offseason continues with a pick I don’t see panning out. A very productive college player, he’ll have to do a lot of little things to make up for his lack of length and athleticism. Grade: D+

23. Oklahoma City: Darius Bazely, F, New Balance intern: Another project pick for Oklahoma City, which has to find ways to find impact players with no cap room anytime soon. Bazely flew up boards in recent days. Grade: B+

24. Phoenix: Ty Jerome, G, Virginia: A very steady floor manager that should help the young Phoenix backcourt, provided he can defend NBA guards. Grade: B-

25. Portland: Nassir Little, F, North Carolina: One of the furthest falls in the draft, a horrendous freshman season with the Tar Heels made him fall from a possible spot in the top five. Good value here. Grade: B+

26. Cleveland: Dylan Windler, F. Belmont: Great shooter with length for for former Michigan John Beilein. Makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Grade: B

27. L.A. Clippers: Mfiondu Kabengele, F/C, Florida State: He’s Dikembe Mutombo’s nephew and a good developmental piece for a team that is racking up great young assets. Still getting better and already blocking shots at a high level. Grade: B+

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, left, poses for photographs with Michigan's Jordan Poole after the Golden State Warriors selected him as the 28th pick.

28. Golden State: Jordan Poole, G, Michigan: With Klay Thompson out… well, maybe that’s a bit too much to put on Michigan’s Poole, but the Warriors need impact bench players right away with a wild summer ahead. Grade: C+

29. San Antonio: Keldon Johnson, G/F, Kentucky: A do-everything player who can shoot, Johnson had been tied to the Pistons at 15. Instead, the Spurs get another quality player. Grade: A-

30. Cleveland: Kevin Porter Jr., G/F, USC: The Pistons traded out of this spot and Beilein went with Porter, who was a headache at times at USC. He’s a lottery talent, but Beilein will have to coach him up. Grade: B

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.