As the draft is now under wraps, here are my NBA Draft grades for every first-round pick.

  1. Orlando Magic: Paolo Banchero

Paolo was the best player in college basketball last year, but he wasn’t my top prospect. I liked Jabari Smith’s projection to the NBA more, but his playmaking at 6’10” makes him lethal alongside his scoring versatility. Now this is a little odd fit with the core now. I think perimeter shooting and defense are two concerns still, but Paolo has the brightest future on this roster and will find a way to build around him.

Grade: A

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder: Chet Holmgren

Chet comes into a great situation playing next to Shae and Giddey. I thought Holmgren was limited to an extent because he doesn’t move great. The lack of shot-creation limits his upside. I see him as the third guy on a championship team down the road. It’s likely he reaches that ceiling as an intelligent player, rim protector, and shooter. That’s not necessarily what you need at the second overall pick though.

Grade: A-

  1. Houston Rockets: Jabari Smith Jr

Jabari Smith is my top prospect. The Rockets are getting a great shooter who has great length. It will be difficult to deter his shots and he has plenty of upside. He will add some defense to this roster, but there might be some struggles for Smith until the Rockets find their point guard of the future.

Grade: A

  1. Sacramento Kings: Keegan Murray

The Kings stay consistent with their recent draft approaches, following the analytics and that’s Keegan Murray. At number four, this isn’t great value though. Murray’s upside is limited. I believe he’ll be a starter for a long time in this league, but it was disappointing that the Kings couldn’t trade back and collect more assets.

Grade: B-

  1. Detroit Pistons: Jaden Ivey

The Pistons win out here and take the Purdue guard. Ivey is an ultra-athlete who can get to the rim with ease. He will be able to score all three levels. It will benefit him greatly to play next to Cade Cunningham and they will both benefit and take the pressure off of each other.

Grade: A+

  1. Indiana Pacers: Bennedict Mathurin

The Pacers take a safer route here, taking Mathurin. The Pacers don’t want to restart completely and swing for the fences. They want to get back to being relevant so Mathurin makes sense as he will be able to come in and shoot the lights out. It will be interesting to see the rotation as the Pacers have Brogdon, Haliburton, Duarte, Hield, and Warren, which makes it difficult to picture where he fits in immediately. I still like Mathurin a lot as a prospect though and was a decent value and could potentially be a nice starter next to Haliburton.

Grade: B-

  1. Portland Trail Blazers: Shaedon Sharpe

Sharpe’s bet pays off here as the Blazers do the opposite of the Pacers here and take the risk. Shaedon’s athleticism is remarkable and has potential as a three-level scorer. He practiced with Kentucky the latter half of last season and supposedly played well. I like this move a lot, trying to get a running mate that has size next to Damian Lillard.

Grade: A-

  1. New Orleans Pelicans: Dyson Daniels

The Pelicans have few needs – playmaking, defense, and spot-up shooting. Daniels checks two of those boxes and was the best player available. Daniels can come in and be the starting point guard right out of the gate. His IQ, length, and passing will allow Daniels to play off of New Orlean’s shot-creators.

Grade: A

  1. San Antonio Spurs: Jeremy Sochan (Baylor)

Jeremy Sochan has risen up my board lately as he is possibly the best defender in this class, competent passer, and shown improvement as a shooter. He shot the ball respectively off the catch and supposedly shot the ball well in workouts. Sochan fits this new, fast-paced, read-and-react system the Spurs are implementing. 

Grade: A-

  1. Washington Wizards: Johnny Davis

Davis is a solid player who was in a high usage role at Wisconsin. He will need to adjust his game, but I have confidence he will. Davis is a competitor and will fight his way onto the court. I would’ve liked them to explore trade options here for veteran point guards. I find this to be an awkward fit assuming Beal is here.

Grade: C+

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder: Ousmane Dieng

The Thunder take Dieng who they have been linked to for some time. I am lower on Dieng than most. I have major concerns for his shooting mechanics and he is thin. Normally thin isn’t a big deal, but for his game to thrive, he will need that strength to take contact in the half-court. He can be a good secondary-playmaker, but until he finds a way to score the ball, it’s going to be difficult for him to be productive. The one good part is that the Thunder can give him time to figure it out.

Grade: D+

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jalen Williams

Jalen Williams was one of my sleepers, but he went higher than even I expected. Regardless, the Thunder are getting someone who can play make out of P&Rs. He also has a nice jump shot and the Thunder need some shooting on the wings. Then factor in the 7’2” wingspan, I’m a fan of the fit.

Grade: B+

  1. Detroit Pistons: Jalen Duren

The Pistons get themselves a versatile big man that is very different from Isaiah Stewart. Duren will add some rim protection and versatility to switch potentially. I think it will take time until Duren is a starter because Stewart is a solid player. This is an intriguing situation though. He will play next to Cade Cunningham who makes everyone better.

Grade: B+

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Ochai Agbaji 

Ochai Agbaji was a champion at Kansas. He is a high-character guy and fits the Cavs culture. He can spread the floor and defend at a competent level. Despite this, he’s very limited once he has to attack a closeout or play out of the pick and roll. He could be a rotation player immediately though on a team that wasn’t going to solve many needs at this point in the draft.

Grade: C

  1. Charlotte Hornets: Mark Williams

The Duke center is staying local. He will be going to a team that has been looking for a franchise center for some time. Williams could be that guy because he is an elite rim protector and can be a lob threat. Mark will be disruptive at his 7’2” frame with his ridiculous standing reach. This was a good situation for both the player and the team.

Grade: A-

  1. Atlanta Hawks: A.J. Griffin 

Griffin was the top player on my board, but the Hawks have a plethora of wings that fill similar roles. Griffin was limited to being a three and D player for Duke and did well. I think he has better handles than we got to see, but turning that into shot-creating isn’t easy. His instincts as a first option seem limited. At the very least, this might allow Atlanta more flexibility to move off some role players to grab another star for Trae Young to work with.

Grade: C+

  1. Houston Rockets: Tari Eason

Eason is a strong defender, but is limited as a shooter. Will most likely come off the bench and play a similar role to what he was in college. An energizing roll man that will attack the rim and be able to switch defensively. This is another player though on the Rockets that isn’t an intelligent playmaker and Eason is fairly limited to the PF position.

Grade: B-

  1. Chicago Bulls: Dalen Terry

This was a consistent pick from the Bulls’ new regime. Terry gives the Bulls length on the perimeter and doesn’t take plays off. Was a strong glue guy and can play three positions. Shooting will be the key as he showed signs the second half of the season. Overall, the Bulls need guys who will fit alongside ball-dominant players and Terry did that to perfection last year at Arizona.

Grade: B+

  1. Memphis Grizzlies: Jake LaRavia

In my final mock draft I mocked LaRavia at 19, just not to this team. I love this situation though because with Kyle Anderson likely on his way out, LaRavia gives them more shooting and is an intelligent player. He can also defend at a high level, despite limited athleticism. This was very much a Grizzlies pick. LaRavia fits this culture to perfection.

Grade: A

  1. San Antonio Spurs: Malaki Branham

This was the highest player on my board and does fill a need as a scorer off the bench with Lonnie Walker pending free agency. Branham has a great mid-range jumper, which they will allow him to utilize. I think it will take time though to see Branham getting real minutes with the roster as is.

Grade: B

  1. Denver Nuggets: Christian Braun

Braun is going to be an awesome fit for the Nuggets. He was not the highest available on my board, but Braun will fit. He will add a lot of energy off their bench, thrive as a cutter, and be able to spot-up. I expect him to have a similar impact as Austin Reaves had early on. This also allows the Nuggets to maybe explore trades for Monte Morris if they want to slide Bones to the backup point guard so their backcourt isn’t quite as small.

Grade: B+

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Walker Kessler

Kessler had an insane block percentage last year and the Timberwolves sound like they want to start playing bigger by sliding KAT to the four. Kessler will add great rim protection, but offensively, he will struggle. I think Kessler can do enough in a minimized role and fills a need.

Grade: B-

  1. Memphis Grizzlies: David Roddy

This was a reach. Roddy can play as he is effective with his back to the basket and is a physical defender, but this is too early. He’s only 6’5” so he will be asked to guard wings while weighing 255 pounds. The Grizzlies butchered this one.

Grade: F

  1. Milwaukee Bucks: Marjon Beauchamp

Beauchamp gives the Bucks something they don’t have. An athletic, long wing who is a force on the defensive end. He is also incredibly impressive in transition. It will take time for him to get the jump shot, but Milwaukee is in a good situation where they don’t need him to produce immediately.

Grade: A-

  1. San Antonio Spurs: Blake Wesley

Wesley is an athlete. He’s got a quick first step and can put pressure on the rim. He also was impressive on the defensive end at times. Blake is still very raw though. Now the Spurs have a plethora of young perimeter players. Expect Wesley to spend a year or two in the G-League. I’m not as sold on his upside as others but he is going to the Spurs who have a nice farm system.

Grade: C-

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Wendell Moore Jr

Moore is a very mature player who is a two-way player. Finding ways to score might be a little bit of an issue, but he did operate the Duke offense often. He may not be the most talented player available, but he will play any role he’s asked. On a rejuvenated Timberwolves team, Wendell will be a nice culture piece and give them nice depth for injuries.

Grade: B

  1. Miami Heat: Nikola Jovic

Jovic was the top player on my board at this point, but I don’t love it. It’s a high upside pick, but the Heat could use some help now after losing P.J. Tucker. Also, I have concerns on how he fits the Heat culture. Jovic would take plays off defensively, and I never got the sense he was a grinder. Maybe there’s something I’m missing, but you have to have that mindset in Miami. At the very least though, he is 6’11” and can shoot the ball very well. There’s always a place for guys like that.

Grade: B-

  1. Golden State Warriors: Patrick Baldwin Jr

The Warriors really didn’t need this pick with all their hits in the draft recently. PBJ shot the ball poorly when he’s a sharpshooter, but it is fair to say, he’s the guy on scouting reports teams were going to lock on to at Milwaukee. I don’t think he moves very well for his size or offers a ton outside of potentially shooting, but like Jovic, there’s always a place for tall shooters in this league and he is going to a great system.

Grade: C+

  1. Houston Rockets: TyTy Washington

I like this pick for the Rockets. While TyTy is a solid player, smart decision maker, and can spot-up, he fills a glaring need at point guard. The Rockets have a lot of minutes to spare at point guard so getting one in the first round, they can develop him to become a strong backup down the road when they’re competing. That is no slight, but at this point in this draft and you’re getting a player who will have an opportunity to help his teammates and play through mistakes, this is a good move for the Rockets.

Grade: B+

  1. Denver Nuggets: Peyton Watson

Watson was much further down on my board. Had a disappointing freshman season and while he showed some defensive upside, he left a lot to be desired on the offensive end. He shot 32.2 percent from the court and 22.2 percent from three. He needs to develop his overall IQ. Watson will spend time in the G League and will need to put in plenty of work before having a chance to compete for the Nuggets.

Grade: F

Thank You for Reading

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About Author

Bradley Patten

I played basketball growing up, and always prided myself on being a student of the game. In highschool, I got a concussion that ended my career. Little did I know that it would change my life forever. During this time, I found a new passion related to basketball. I started scouting incoming prospects and fell in love with it. I also love coaching as I am a basketball coach at a local highschool. Belly Up Sports is a way for me to share my love for the game with others and get my opinions out there. My overall goal is to work in the basketball industry as a coach or scout. “To be successful, you must be willing to do the things today others won’t do in order to have the things tomorrow other’s won’t have” (Les Brown). I am well aware this is a competitive field, but I have all the determination to be one of the ones fortunate enough to make it.

2 Comments

    Excellent read

    Great read and very thorough!

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