The 2019 NBA Draft went nothing like we thought it would. Every year teams take players earlier than projected, and every year players fall, but this year it seemed more extreme than usual. It was almost like we were in some parallel universe where the college basketball season went completely differently. Players who should’ve gone in the lottery fell behind players that weren’t even locks for the first round, and players that could’ve gone in round 1, didn’t even get drafted. Here are the 6 most unexpected picks in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Honorable Mention – Luguentz Dort
The day before the draft, there were rumors that the Portland Trail Blazers gave Luguentz Dort a promise that if he was available at 25, they’d take him. Not only did they not take him, but no other teams did either. He didn’t have a great freshman season at Arizona State, but he did show flashes of greatness. He didn’t have great efficiency, and was very turnover prone, but he’s a tank of a shooting guard, who gives it his all on every play, so every single team passing on him was very unexpected. He recently signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder (who keep up the trend of signing freak athletes), so he’ll get an opportunity to prove himself in the NBA next season.
#1 – Brandon Clarke
Brandon Clarke was one of the best defenders in college basketball last season; averaging 3.2 blocks and 1.2 steals in his one season at Gonzaga. He had one of the best defensive ratings in the country with an 84, better than players like Jarrett Culver, Zion Williamson, and Jaxson Hayes. He fell to the Thunder at number 21 overall, which was later traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. He was also, one of, if not the most all around efficient players in country, with only Zion Williamson having a higher PER than him. On paper, he was an obvious lottery selection, but clearly that’s not what happened. He doesn’t have a 3 point shot, he’s slightly undersized for the 4 slot, and he’s an older than most teams would like, but his fall was unexpected nonetheless.
#2 – Darius Garland
Darius Garland was projected to go in the top 7 of the draft, so getting picked number 5 isn’t too surprising, but the team that picked him was the surprising part. In last years draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected the 6’2 point guard out of Alabama, Collin Sexton. In this years draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Darius Garland, the 6’2 point guard out of Vanderbilt. Obviously, Darius Garland has a lot of potential, and could be a great player in this league, nobody is questioning that, but they are questioning his fit next to Collin Sexton. They’re both undersized point guards who both aren’t great defenders, so the fit is incredibly awkward. They passed on players like Jarrett Culver, Cameron Reddish, and Jaxson Hayes, for a point guard, the one position that they were already set at. They could’ve drafted Coby White, at least he’s more of a combo guard, but neither Sexton nor Garland can play the 2. Obviously we’ll see how the pairing works out, but it was a very surprising selection for the Cavaliers.
#3 – Chuma Okeke
Chuma was one of the biggest risers of the draft, going number 16 when most people didn’t expect him to even go round 1. He’s a very talented player, but after tearing his ACL in the Sweet Sixteen against North Carolina, people didn’t expect him to get drafted this early. Orlando must’ve seen something in him that they loved, because they look a big leap to get him. He’s by no means a bad player, but there were plenty of safer options. He has very high defensive potential, averaging 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks, with a defensive rating of 95.2, and he was efficient on offense shooting 50% from the field and 39% from 3, but he’s not a great fit with Orlando. They have plenty of talented wings, and most everyone expected them to take a guard to aid with their limited shot creation, but they decided to go with yet another wing. If he didn’t tear his ACL in March, then maybe this pick would make more sense, but it just seems like quite the stretch.
#4 – Nassir Little
It’s been well documented how disappointing Nassir Little’s season was, but he still has potential. Yes, it may take quite a while before Little reaches his potential, but you’d think a team like Oklahoma City, Boston, or San Antonio would take a chance on his potential (Boston and San Antonio are great at developing talent, and Oklahoma City loves athletic players who play great defense.) He’s a hard worker, who wants to win, so those teams mentioned earlier all seemed like perfect fits, but he fell to Portland at number 25. He’s not a terrific shooter, and he didn’t show a lot of offensive consistency in his one season at North Carolina, but his defense (while at times inconsistent,) looked very promising. He’s going to take a couple years to develop, but it’s still incredibly surprising that so many teams passed up on his potential.
#5 – Bol Bol
Everyone knew Bol Bol had a ton of red flags going into the draft, but with how high his ceiling is, nobody expected him to fall to number 44. He has plenty of injury concerns, is incredibly frail, and didn’t have a large sample size in college, but he’s such an intriguing player, and everyone expected a team to take risk on him. Teams like Atlanta, New Orleans, and Boston all had plenty of 1st and 2nd round picks, and they were expected to take chance on him, but they didn’t. When we heard that he was being invited to the green room, it basically eliminated the thought of him not going round 1 (since the teams decide who gets invited to the green room,) but he slipped halfway through the 2nd round. There’s a whole list of reasons to not pick him, but there’s just as many reasons to take the risk. He fits perfectly in with the Nuggets. He has 0 pressure to contribute right away, so he can take his time, get healthy, and fix the flaws that exist in his game.
#6 – Cameron Johnson
Cameron Johnson is the best shooter in the draft, and as close to a finished product as you can get, which is why he was projected to go In the 20’s. He won’t get much better in the NBA, so the Phoenix Suns using the 11th overall pick was ludicrous. They have failed on plenty of draft picks over the years (Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, and Josh Jackson for example,) so they probably wanted to take a player that is more of a guarantee, but they could’ve easily traded back 10 picks and he more than likely would’ve still been on the board. He can step in and start right away (now that TJ Warren is in Indiana,) so at least they’ll be getting in immediate return on this pick. He’s far more talented than people give him credit for, but with his age, and his injury concerns, it was very surprising to see him get drafted where he did.
Who surprised you guys the most? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!