The Crossover’s NBA draft expert Jeremy Woo hands out his grades for every first-round pick.
1. Orlando Magic: Paolo Banchero
The Magic just pulled off some all-time draft shenanigans, for which I’m slightly upgrading their grade here at No. 1. Orlando successfully kept this close to the vest and had much of the NBA fooled, including Banchero himself, who as I understand it wasn’t even sure he was the guy here. I had Banchero at No. 2 and Jabari Smith Jr. at No. 1 on my board, and I would have taken Smith, but this is a defensible decision by the Magic, who badly need the type of playmaking and offensive imagination Banchero offers and don’t have a true offensive focal point on the roster. I’m not giving them full credit, purely because I would have done it differently, but it’s going to be particularly fascinating to see how the careers of the top three picks play out after this curveball. If this is any indicator, it’s going to be a long night.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Chet Holmgren
Sam Presti gets his man here, as Holmgren was widely projected to land with the Thunder at No. 2, and was thought to be hoping for that outcome. Again, I would have taken Smith, so I’m slightly downgrading this selection (Holmgren was No. 4 on my board), but this was the type of draft that could have been argued any which way at the top, and it would be unfair to come at this overly negative purely because of disagreement. Holmgren’s upside as a two-way force who protects the rim and can play all over the floor on offense is an ideal fit in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder can give him plenty of time to get comfortable with the physicality of the league. He’ll immediately be one of the most unique players in the league, and a player worth following just for the sheer curiosity. There’s never been anyone quite like him.
3. Houston Rockets: Jabari Smith
Smith was the top prospect on my big board and is a player I firmly believe in, so this is a massive win for the Rockets, who will be pleased that he was surprisingly available at No. 3. He’s one of the best jump shooters I’ve ever scouted at his size, he’s incredibly competitive and unselfish, particularly for an elite scorer, and he’s a switchable defender who plays with intent. This is a very good pick, and I don’t think I really need to gush any more. I think Smith ultimately makes Orlando and Oklahoma City regret passing on him.
4. Sacramento Kings: Keegan Murray
While Jaden Ivey in a vacuum is the higher upside play here, the Kings fielded a host of trade offers, ultimately weren’t moved, and loved Murray enough to feel comfortable simply taking their guy here. I’m not going to bash the Kings for what I felt was objectively a very difficult choice: fitting Ivey in a backcourt with De’Aaron Fox and trying to share the ball and win games would have been difficult, and Sacramento is trying to make the playoffs. It’s hard to accurately grade this without knowing what trade offers were on the board, but Murray is a really, really good player, and was ultimately the best match for the Kings. It won’t surprise me if Ivey, who I had at No. 2, has the better career, but I also think that starting out in Sacramento would have been less than ideal for him. The Kings ultimately did well in navigating a situation that was pretty difficult, and Murray should help them in a big way from day one.
5. Detroit Pistons: Jaden Ivey
Ivey is an excellent fit for the Pistons and as I understand it was Plan A for them here. The pairing of Ivey and Cade Cunningham could become one of the league’s most dynamic backcourts in due time, and there were some around the league who viewed Ivey as a true No. 1 pick candidate in a vacuum. His blazing speed and ability to put pressure on the rim will make him a devastating transition player, and complements Cunningham’s cerebral play extremely well. Detroit should become an exciting watch pretty quickly, and their rebuild is in a pretty good place.
6. Indiana Pacers: Bennedict Mathurin
The Pacers were hoping for Keegan Murray, but were known to be content with Mathurin falling to them here, and they’re hoping he’ll become the dynamic perimeter scorer they need alongside Tyrese Haliburton. Mathurin rose in the predraft process as he showcased his athleticism and shooting ability, and while I had other players higher on my board here, he’s a really good fit in Indiana. This is a part of the draft where you can argue the wings any which way, and if Mathurin develops his on-ball game and taps into his potential as an on-ball creator, this will look pretty good in time. I have no major qualms and can see this working out quite well.
7. Portland Trail Blazers: Shaedon Sharpe
I found this pick a tad bit surprising from Portland, considering the Blazers seem to want to make a run at the playoffs in the short-term and Sharpe (who sat out at Kentucky this season) doesn’t quite fall in concert with that, but his capacity to score the ball and unusual athletic gifts are pretty remarkable. The Blazers are clearly taking the long view with this pick, recognizing an opportunity to take a swing on their next potential star. I liked Dyson Daniels as a fit here better, and I don’t think this was necessarily what I would have done, but Sharpe is talented enough to make us all look stupid. He has a long way to go, but he’s so physically gifted that his path to being a difference-maker could be shorter than we expect.
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8. Pelicans: Dyson Daniels
This was one of my favorite potential fits in the draft, mostly because the notion of gigantic backcourts built around Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones and Daniels blows my mind. A gigantic, versatile, transition-oriented and defensive-minded trio like that is pretty much a perfect way to maximize Zion Williamson. Daniels is an unusually smart and well-rounded player, and his biggest swing skill is his jumper—something New Orleans has a terrific history of helping players improve. I genuinely think Daniels might be a missing piece for the Pelicans, and he’ll be able to bolster their rotation immediately next season. He was No. 5 on my big board for a reason.
9. San Antonio Spurs: Jeremy Sochan
This is another fit I genuinely love: Sochan was No. 7 on my big board and is a quintessentially Spurs prospect. He’s an active, intelligent forward who can defend several positions and plays with a ton of personality, and San Antonio has long needed some help up front. I’d expect him to help the Spurs pretty quickly, and nabbing him here was an ideal scenario for San Antonio. As Sochan continues to develop his offensive skills—particularly his shooting—he could be much more than a role player, but all the things he already does well makes him a good bet to help the Spurs even if he doesn’t become a star. This one feels like it’s going to work out.
10. Washington Wizards: Johnny Davis
If it feels like I’m just randomly handing out great grades right now, it’s because I genuinely like all of these players. While Washington ended up keeping this pick after attempts to find a veteran to pair with Bradley Beal, Davis pretty much addresses what the Wizards need, as a big guard who can play with and without the ball and step in immediately. He has a lot more to his game than what we saw at Wisconsin, which plays a very structured style of offense, and I think he’ll wind up surprising people. Davis is also one of the toughest and most competitive prospects in this draft, so sign me up for that.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (acquired from Knicks): Ousmane Dieng
The Thunder’s interest in Dieng was well-known in league circles, and it appears the Knicks knew it too, as they grabbed him here, then rerouted him to Oklahoma City. I’m only grading the pick and not the trade here: Dieng is a big swing by Oklahoma City, but a measured one, and he’d gathered steam as a high-upside prospect over the past couple months. Oklahoma City will deploy him alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and Chet Holmgren on the perimeter, giving them a lot of size, skill and versatility (along with Jalen Williams, who they picked at No. 12). Dieng has a wide range of outcomes, but the Thunder are equipped to take him and find out.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Clippers): Jalen Williams
While this might seem like a reach for Williams, who only recently attained status as a lottery-caliber prospect, he had quite a few fans behind the scenes and should be a useful plug-and-play option for the Thunder. Oklahoma City saw fit to take a big swing with Dieng, then make a safer choice with Williams, who should fill out their rotation and give them more size and versatility on the perimeter. He’s not super flashy, but he’s arriving in a terrific situation, and you can kind of start to see the vision the Thunder have for their team moving forward. I don’t know that either of these picks are home runs, but I do think Dieng and Williams fit the criteria pretty well.
13. Detroit Pistons (from Hornets): Jalen Duren
Duren was known to be a player Detroit GM Troy Weaver coveted, but it was clear that the Pistons would need another first-round pick to get him. The details of this trade are still becoming public, but Detroit worked with the Knicks to facilitate Duren’s acquisition from Charlotte. I had Mark Williams as my personal favorite center on the board, but Duren is actually a better fit in Detroit, with more potential to develop ball skills and where he’ll get to clean up the paint for Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey. I have my own concerns about where Duren actually maxes out, but this is a good fit for him, and this gives him a great opportunity to realize his own potential.
14. Cleveland Cavaliers: Ochai Agbaji
Agbaji is one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft and gives the Cavaliers the type of wing shooter they’ve been looking for. Cleveland could have taken a bigger swing with A.J. Griffin on the board, but with quality young players already in place, there wasn’t really a need to inherit risk. Agbaji is as reliable as they come, fresh off a national title at Kansas, and it’s easy to see why he fits. I personally think this is a little bit high for him, but I can’t knock the Cavs for prioritizing his skill set.
15. Charlotte Hornets (from Pelicans): Mark Williams
As expected, Charlotte only kept one of these two picks in the teens and walked away with a center, with Williams being the best value proposition here and an incredible lob target for LaMelo Ball. I personally prefer him to Jalen Duren, and he should be a real stabilizing force for the Hornets on both ends of the floor. Williams is gigantic, plays hard, knows his role, and will give Charlotte a real presence defending the rim, while still allowing them to play uptempo. It won’t shock me if he ultimately has a better career than Duren, who went two picks prior.
16. Atlanta Hawks: AJ Griffin
As some around the NBA suspected, Griffin wound up being the player who slid out of the lottery, and considering the fact he’s only 18 years old and one of the best shooters in the draft, this is a good value play for the Hawks. He doesn’t necessarily address a need for them, and he’s going to need to prove he can stay healthy, but this is certainly a pick that could provide major returns, and there are some who viewed him as a lottery talent. I wouldn’t go as far as to call this a no-brainer, as there’s some risk built in, but a lot of that is negated by getting him here at No. 16.
17. Rockets (from Nets): Tari Eason
Eason is a pretty perfect fit for Houston, a team that strongly values his analytical profile and has time and again proven willing to take big swings on talent. He’s a versatile defender with a ton of physical ability, and he’ll fit nicely with the Rockets in theory, where he won’t have to create a ton of offense and can be optimized as a high-energy forward next to Jabari Smith and Jalen Green. While I have some skepticism about where his upside really lies, Eason made more sense in Houston than anywhere else in his range, and this makes a lot of sense.
18. Bulls: Dalen Terry
This is a big upside play from Chicago, who had a lot of trade interest here but opted to keep the pick and take Terry, whose passing skills and energy make him a pretty unique player at 6’ 7”. He was a riser in the predraft process and gradually worked his way into the Top 20, and his ability to move the ball and facilitate team play is a nice fit with the Bulls, who have scorers in place already. There’s some risk here, as Terry has some maturing to do and there were more reliable players on the board, but I like this as a gamble for Chicago.
19. Grizzlies (traded from Timberwolves): Jake LaRavia
The Grizzlies feared the possibility of LaRavia coming off the board ahead of them and moved the No. 22 and No. 29 picks to the Timberwolves to get their guy. LaRavia was a favorite amongst analytically-minded teams like Memphis who valued his ability on both ends of the ball, and he should fit quite nicely as a potential replacement for Kyle Anderson. He’s a good shooter and ball-mover and steady defender, and should be another young, quality complementary player for Memphis.
20. Spurs (from Raptors): Malaki Branham
There were some teams that viewed Branham as a potential late lottery pick, and this is nice value for the Spurs, who nab another intriguing young perimeter player here at a pretty nice spot in the draft. He’s slightly undersized for a scorer and was leapfrogged by more well-rounded players ahead of him, but this is a good fit for him from a development perspective and he should have a chance to become part of San Antonio’s rotation as they rebuild. This could wind up as a steal here.
21. Nuggets: Christian Braun
I didn’t have a first-round grade on Braun, so I’m obligated to critique this pick, but I do understand the fit here in Denver and why the Nuggets prioritized his toughness and intangibles. He should fit in well alongside their stars as someone who doesn’t need the ball to be effective, but the upside here is a bit limited, particularly if his shooting doesn’t become more consistent. This isn’t what I would have done, but I get it.
22. Timberwolves (traded from Grizzlies): Walker Kessler
Minnesota traded back to grab Kessler and the 29th pick, and while this was a tad higher than I would have taken him there’s a chance this pays off for the Wolves, who have been seeking a rim protector to help anchor bench lineups and deploy alongside Karl-Anthony Towns. Kessler was the best shot-blocker in college basketball last season and has terrific instincts contesting drivers and making life difficult for opponents. He’s not going to defend well in space, but in the right scheme, it’s easy to see him being pretty valuable. We’ll see how this experiment works in lineups where Towns slides over to power forward.
23. Grizzlies (from 76ers): David Roddy
This pick might seem out of left field—I certainly wasn’t expecting it—but the Grizzlies traded in here to grab Roddy, who I had graded as a first-rounder on the big board and is one of the more unique potential role players in the draft. He has a solid pass-dribble-shoot skill set tied up in a football body, and could wind up as a feasible replacement for Dillon Brooks in Memphis. I think he’s going to work out just fine, and it’s hard to nitpick the Grizzlies’ approach of simply finding ways to grab the guys they want—particularly when they seem to frequently work out.
24. Bucks: MarJon Beauchamp
This is an upside swing for the Bucks, who value size and athleticism on the wing and are a good fit for Beauchamp, who won’t have to do much but play hard and fit in here. I had a second-round grade on him in the end and am slightly concerned about his feel and advanced age, but he’s had an unusual career trajectory and has developed pretty rapidly over the past year. This could certainly pay off for Milwaukee, but I’m not as confident as some.
25. Spurs (from Celtics): Blake Wesley
San Antonio had Wesley in play as an option at No. 20, and due to some movement around the board, wound up with a second guard they liked here at No. 25. Wesley was in play for teams drafting in the teens and gives the Spurs another nice value pick: although he’s pretty raw and San Antonio now has a ton of young guards, he’s got the type of athletic ability and scoring instincts that are well worth developing. The Spurs continue to accumulate young talent on the roster, and it’s a good type of problem to figure out.
26. Timberwolves (from Rockets): Wendell Moore
As I understand the situation, Minnesota had heavy interest in Moore at No. 19, but saw an opportunity for a value play and converted on that gamble here. They successfully traded back to No. 29, then back up, to grab their guy. Moore is one of my favorite players in this class and someone I’m confident will wind up delivering value as a long-term role player for the Timberwolves, where he should be a nice fit as a swiss-army-knife wing alongside Anthony Edwards.
27. Heat: Nikola Jovic
Jovic is kind of a weird fit in Miami, which makes me suspect whether this is for a trade, but he’s got a terrific combination of size and ball skills to work with. The catch is that he’s not all that athletic, but he’s a pretty interesting project, and he’s also quite young for this draft, having recently turned 19. It’s going to take some time, but the Heat tend to maximize their players’ physical potential, and they’ve been so successful with development that I generally trust that this works out for them. It’s a good value play, if not a thrilling decision at face value.
28. Warriors: Patrick Baldwin Jr.
Baldwin is a player I believe in more than most, and he lands in an extremely favorable context with the Warriors, who will be able to give him plenty of time and leeway to develop, and strongly value their G League team as a development platform. There really aren’t that many 6-10 guys who shoot the ball like Baldwin, and while he had an incredibly difficult year in college, this is a prospect who was once viewed as a Top 10 talent. Whether or not he can stay healthy is a fair question, but Golden State really just needs him to make shots, put the work in and see where it goes. This could pay off in a big way.
29. Rockets (traded from Timberwolves and Grizzlies): TyTy Washington
I’m admittedly a Washington skeptic, but he’s a player the Rockets always liked, and they’re getting him much later than people expected. Where his playing time comes from in a crowded Houston backcourt is a fair question, but better times are probably ahead for him after a freshman year where he battled injuries and struggled to stay in shape. He’s a nice option at this point in the draft, particularly as someone who was pegged by some as a lottery talent at various points in the season.
30. Nuggets (from Suns): Peyton Watson
This is a big swing for the Nuggets, but a pretty good dart throw on a player who was in a bad context in college and once pegged as a lottery pick. (See a trend here with the last few picks?) Watson is a rangy defender and athlete who lands in a good situation in Denver, which has done a good job bringing along young talent and won’t have to rush him. He didn’t do much at UCLA this year, but he bet on himself by staying in the draft and wound up as a first-rounder after all. He’s a player the Nuggets loved and weren’t sure would be on the board at this spot.
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