Kawhi Leonard is your 2019 NBA Finals MVP and Giannis Antetokounmpo is your 2019 regular season MVP.
Quick, what do they have in common?
They were both selected 15th overall from their respected draft classes.
A consistent refrain heard in the past few weeks has been that the 2019 NBA Draft is “only a three-player draft,” referencing future New Orleans Pelican Zion Williamson, his former Duke teammate RJ Barrett and Murray State point guard Ja Morant (still love you Ja). With draft week upon us, this has begun to evolve somewhat and include Vanderbilt guard Darius Garland as the potential fourth major name with star potential, with many hand waving the rest of the lottery and draft as a whole.
I am dead tired of this continual failure to plainly observe basketball history, and recent history at that.
The NBA Draft is an inexact science that relies on scouts to evaluate players against their peers, but project their abilities against seasoned professionals. I’ll be the first basketball observer to gladly admit that I have had plenty of misfires when it comes to evaluating prospects I’ve watched over the years. I was convinced Jerryd Bayless was the second coming of peak Stephon Marbury out of high school. Thomas Robinson was a surefire NBA double double machine out of Kansas in my eyes. And going way back to my playing days, I was certain with every fiber of my being Josh McRoberts was an NBA Hall of Famer in waiting while dominating the AAU Circuit for the Spiece Indy Heat.
The point here is to illustrate how challenging this process is for NBA executives and scouts to pinpoint the top talent each year as it translates to an NBA level. How much does nature vs nurture play a role? What value does international competition success factor in? Should small school prospects be graded on a curve due to their collegiate competition? Every piece of information is dynamic and relative to each situation. For every Bayless, Robinson or McRoberts there’s a Kawhi, Giannis or Donovan Mitchell.
With the Pelicans acquisition of the Lakers #4 pick in Thursday night’s draft, the rumors are flying that they’re shopping it for younger established players, covered previously here, and also trading back in the draft to simply gather more assets while targeting a preferred player. It’s the latter selection that becomes appealing with the recent hire of former Nets Assistant General Manager Trajan Langdon.
Langdon has not only had tremendous success scouting and drafting talented prospects during his time in Brooklyn, he’s played at every level across the globe and has connnections with scouts, trainers and coaches that he can leverage for the best insight on a given prospect. If Langdon loves Brandon Clarke because of his intangibles, Romeo Langford for his isolation scoring and talent, or even Darius Garland for his Lillard-like shotmaking, then that’s the choice the Pelicans should make. David Griffin hired this man to help push this franchise to the future and using his clearly keen ability as a draft evaluator right away should be at the top of Griffin’s to do list.
Once the Pelicans draft Zion, the entire culture in New Orleans will undergo a seismic shift even more so than it has to this point. The visage of Williamson donning the Navy New Era snapback with “NEW ORLEANS BASKETBALL” emblazoned across the front will signal a new era for the franchise, city and league. But beyond that it’s massively important that Zion is flanked by a bevy of talented and complementary players to help lift the Pelicans to the vaunted heights we all see possible.
And that’s very attainable through any selection in the draft. Just ask the Raptors.
Draft Position...— Adam Stanco (@NaismithLives) June 14, 2019
Good luck to all the GM’s next week