The 2019 NBA Draft has come and gone, and the grades are in.
It’s important to remember, though: What we know to be true on draft night is far from a sure thing to stay that way even three years out.
Take, for example, the 2016 NBA Draft. The No. 1–overall pick of that draft turned out to be advertised, but he didn’t play in his first season and the rookie of the year ended up coming out of the second round. Multiple lottery picks went bust, and multiple players drafted outside the lottery or pulled off the post-draft waiver wire — including a couple of prominent Toronto Raptors — became major contributors.
So it begs the question: How would this draft go if it were re-done today?
Let’s take a look at the lottery — the first 14 picks — to see how it’d play out:
Original pick: Ben Simmons
Re-draft pick: Ben Simmons
Nothing to see here. He missed his would-be rookie season due to injury, and still leads everyone from this draft class with 17.5 win shares. He won rookie of the year when he finally did debut in 2017–18, and he’s also the only player from this class to appear in an all-star game. Even without a jump shot (or a foul shot), he’s a fantastic player. If he develops one (or both), he’s got all-NBA written all over him.
Original pick: Brandon Ingram
Re-draft pick: Pascal Siakam
Everyone knows by now that Siakam was drafted a comically low-in-hindsight 27th in this draft. What’s been lost is that at the time that was a bit of a surprise. None of the mock drafts I could dig up had him as a first rounder at all.
NBAdraft.net had him going 38th to the Golden State Warriors.
NBA.com had him going 42nd to the Utah Jazz.
CBSSports.com had him off the board completely (though they had Fred VanVleet going late in the second round).
Even on draft night after Adam Silver had called Siakam’s name, SI.com’s Jeremy Woo awarded the Raptors a C+ grade for the pick and said it felt like “somewhat of a reach.”
Today, however, Spicy P is the second-leading scorer on an NBA champion. He’s a positive contributor on both ends of the floor, boasting all-world rim-running abilities and a rapidly improving jump shot. He’s also second in the class in total win shares to Simmons despite playing the eighth-most minutes to date.
He’s a franchise building block, and the Raptors got him by reaching at 27th.
Original pick: Jaylen Brown
Re-draft pick: Jamal Murray
The pride of both Kitchener, Ont., and Orangeville Prep, Murray averaged career highs in points (18.2), assists (4.8), rebounds (3.4) and minutes (32.6) in his third year in the league, and has become part of the core of an exciting young Nuggets team. He also took his game to another level in the playoffs as that team reached the Western Conference Semifinals, averaging 21.3 points per over 14 games.
Jamal Murray is drawing Steph comparisons from Steve Kerr pic.twitter.com/utNzxVOlvW
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 5, 2019
And at just 22 years old, he’s more than four years younger than the next player on this list.
4. Phoenix Suns
Original pick: Dragan Bender
Re-draft pick: Buddy Hield
Sacramento made this draft’s biggest gaffe by drafting Georgios Papagiannis 13th overall. But they made up for it — partly, anyway — by getting Hield when they shipped DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans at the 2017 trade deadline.
Since joining the Kings, Hield’s hitting a sizzling 42.9 per cent of his threes and he — like Murray — enjoyed career highs across the board in 2018–19. He’s also part of one of the NBA’s best young backcourts alongside De’Aaron Fox, and one of the main reasons there’s finally cause for optimism in Sactown.
Original pick: Kris Dunn
Re-draft pick: Domantas Sabonis
Another player who struggled on his original team but skyrocketed after a trade, Sabonis has been fantastic since arriving in Indianapolis along with Victor Oladipo.
This past season, he averaged 14.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in just 24.8 minutes coming off the bench. If the Pacers can find ways to up his minutes and play him more alongside their other big-man building block, Myles Turner, his reputation will only continue to grow.
Original pick: Buddy Hield
Re-draft pick: Brandon Ingram
Note: I had Ingram here even before L.A. agreed to send him to New Orleans as part of a package for Anthony Davis. So maybe this was always just meant to be.
In any case, you look at his age (still just 21) and the basic counting stats (18.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists; even his FG% looks all right at .497), and this seems low for a re-draft spot. But a look at the advanced metrics gives the opposite impression. His PER is below league average. Box Plus Minus and Value Over Replacement Player have him as a minus. By career win shares per 48 minutes, he’s ranked lower than the aforementioned Papagiannis, who is no longer even in the league.
All that said, it’s unclear how much of any struggles he’s had are a product of dysfunction within the Lakers. Now that he’s set to become a member of the Pelicans, he’ll get every chance to prove just how valuable he is.
Original pick: Jamal Murray
Re-draft pick: Malcolm Brogdon
Ladies and gentleman, your 2016–17 rookie of the year. This would constitute a major leap for a guy initially drafted 36th overall, but it’s been earned.
Most recently, Brogdon looked phenomenal at points in the Eastern Conference Finals. He’s a crafty offensive player who can shoot and get to the hoop while also defending ones and twos on the other end. He is a free agent this off-season, and should earn himself a nice payday.
8. Phoenix Suns
Original pick: Marquese Chriss
Re-draft pick: Jaylen Brown
Brown had a massive coming-out party in the 2018 playoffs on a scrappy Celtics club that punched way above its weight. He scored 18 points per game as Boston got all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before bowing out to LeBron James in seven games. Last year, however, he took a reduced role with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back in the fold, and his numbers sank across the board. After showing signs of pointing upwards, his three-point percentage sank to 34 per cent, and even his defensive metrics took a dip.
Like Ingram, he’s way too young to be written off. But at this point — outside of the 2018 playoff run — he hasn’t been worthy of his original draft slot.
Original pick: Jakob Poeltl
Re-draft pick: Fred VanVleet
Look at what VanVleet has done since going undrafted: He turned a training-camp invite into a roster spot and forced his way into the rotation by the end of his first season. He currently ranks eighth in his would-be draft class in both total win shares with 9.2 (Jaylen Brown is ninth with 9.0) and win shares per 48 with .124 (Brown is 19th with .080).
No, he doesn’t have prototypical size or athleticism, and the Philadelphia 76ers made things incredibly difficult for him in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. But he played an immense role in the Raptors’ first-ever title.
VanVleet put together the hottest three-game stretch of three-point shooting in playoffs history to launch the Raptors into the NBA Finals, and then earned a Finals MVP vote both for providing crucial supplemental scoring and massive defence on the basically unguardable Steph Curry.
— ESPN (@espn) June 14, 2019
10. Milwaukee Bucks
Original pick: Thon Maker
Re-draft pick: Caris Levert
Had Levert 1) not gotten injured in November, and 2) finished the way he started, he could easily be a couple of spots higher on this list. Because he was on fire. Through the first 14 games of the season, Levert was establishing himself as the Brooklyn Nets’ unquestioned leader with 18.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.2 steals in under 30 minutes per game.
After a layoff of more than two and a half months, he struggled to reintegrate himself alongside breakout star De’Angelo Russell, but busted out again in the playoffs. He’ll hope that continues in 2018–19, no matter who he’s sharing a backcourt with.
11. Indiana Pacers
Original pick: Domantas Sabonis
Re-draft pick: Dejounte Murray
After a solid 2017–18, Murray looked poised to take over the Spurs’ point guard spot alongside DeMar DeRozan but a pre-season injury kept him out all year. But he’s still just 22 and has already earned Gregg Popovich’s faith — not an easy feat for a player his age.
12. Atlanta Hawks
Original pick: Taurean Prince
Re-draft pick: Ivica Zubac
Initially a second rounder, Zubac seemed to be a low-cost contributor for a Lakers team seemingly desperate for them. But they traded him to the Clippers at the deadline along with Michael Beasley for Mike Muscala.
Their loss is their cross-town rivals gain. Zubac started 25 games for the Clippers after the trade, averaging 9.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in 20.2 minutes. He’s also a restricted free agent, and the Clippers should be able to get themselves a bargain.
13. Sacramento Kings
Original pick: Georgios Papagiannis
Re-draft pick: Jakob Poeltl
This may be controversial. You can question Poeltl’s fit in a modern NBA system (and absolutely be underwhelmed by his counting stats based on limited minutes), but he’s been productive. In fact, he’s been far better than that, according to advanced numbers. Despite those limited minutes mentioned in the parenthetical above, he’s fifth in this class in win shares. That’s because his win shares per 48 mark is first by a wide margin at .173.
He may never be a big scorer, and absolutely needs to work on the foul shooting. But he’s an offensive-rating darling all the same and a big-time contributor on the offensive glass, grabbing five offensive boards per 36 minutes in 2018–19 — a figure that put him eighth in the entire league.
14. Chicago Bulls
Original pick: Denzel Valentine
Re-draft pick: Malik Beasley
Forced into a larger role when Isaiah Thomas wasn’t able to fulfill the role laid out for him in Denver, Beasley came through with a low-key breakout season. The now-22-year-old shooting guard scored 11.5 points per game over the course of the season on 47.4 per cent shooting from the field and 40.2 per cent from three, and was even better as a mid-season spot starter.