Redrafting the 2019 NBA Draft: Ja Morant vs. Zion Williamson for No. 1, Knicks take Darius Garland over RJ Barrett

The 2019 NBA Draft is an interesting one to revisit. It features two of the best young players in the league in Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, but it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for either one to this point.

Availability has been the biggest issue for Williamson and Morant has been suspended by the league not once, but twice this year for off-court incidents. When healthy, they have both flashed superstar potential.

Williamson and Morant are two of three players from this class to earn an All-Star selection to date, the other being Darius Garland. There’s a decent dropoff between those three and the next-best player, but that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of talent. The 2019 NBA Draft has produced a number of quality role players, from Luguentz Dort and Cameron Johnson to Terance Mann and Rui Hachimura.

In order to see how much this draft would have changed had it been conducted today, two of our writers — Steph Noh and Scott Rafferty — put on their GM hats and redrafted the lottery. Noh won the very official coin toss for first-pick honors. Noh and Rafferty then alternated picks and made their selections based on who they thought most deserved to go in the spot rather than what the team needed most.

Got it? Great. On to the first pick…

NBA REDRAFTS: 2001 | 2009 | 2011 | 2012 | 2014 | 2016 | 2018 | 20202021

Redrafting the 2019 NBA Draft

1. Zion Williamson, Pelicans

  • Original pick: Zion Williamson
  • Williamson’s original draft position: 1st (Pelicans)

It is totally fair to question Zion’s availability. What is not up for debate is that he has been really good when he has been on the floor. His career 25.3 points per game leads this class by a healthy margin. He’s also second behind Nic Claxton with 6.8 career rebounds per game. 

We’re drafting based on potential here, and Zion has yet to hit his. When he’s been in peak conditioning, he has been a top-10 player in the league. That hasn’t happened enough, but he’s still young enough to learn better habits. 

— Noh

2. Ja Morant, Grizzlies

  • Original pick: Ja Morant
  • Morant’s original draft position: 2nd (Grizzlies)

Morant’s talent is undeniable. He hit the ground running in his first season and earned Rookie of the Year honors. He then earned his first All-Star and All-NBA selections in 2021-22 while taking home Most Improved Player honors. His speed and athleticism make him almost impossible to keep out of the paint, and he’s one of the most electrifying players we’ve seen in a long time.

The concerns with Morant have come off the court. Hopefully, he can get back on track because he has the potential to be one of the faces of the NBA.

— Rafferty

WATCH: Stream Ja Morant’s return in Grizzlies vs. Pelicans on Sling TV

3. Darius Garland, Knicks

  • Original pick: RJ Barrett
  • Garland’s original draft position: 5th (Cavaliers)

Garland was a big risk in this original draft after only having played in five games at Vanderbilt. He’s come pretty close to his top outcome, proving that his 47.8 percent shooting in college on only 23 3-point attempts was no fluke. 

Garland’s career 38.4 percent shooting from deep is the first bullet point on his resume, but it’s far from the only one. He’s a much better facilitator than he’s given credit for, averaging 6.7 assists for his career. He has great court vision and an uncanny ability to keep his dribble alive patiently until openings appear. 

Garland is never going to be mistaken for an All-Defensive player, but he does compete hard on that end of the floor. He’s already earned one All-Star appearance, and more could be coming down the pipeline for him. 

— Noh

4. Tyler Herro, Hawks (via Lakers and Pelicans)

  • Original pick: De’Andre Hunter
  • Herro’s original draft position: 13th (Heat)

Herro has his flaws, particularly on the defensive end, but he’s a talented scorer and lights-out shooter. He was named Sixth Man of the Year in his third season and he’s since transitioned into a starting role with the Heat.

Don’t let the fact that he’s constantly mentioned in trade rumors fool you. There are a lot of teams out there that would benefit from having Herro on their roster, whether it’s as a starter or reserve.

— Rafferty

Tyler Herro 04162023

5. Nicolas Claxton, Cavaliers

  • Original pick: Darius Garland
  • Claxton’s original draft position: 31st (Nets)

Claxton hasn’t been named to an All-Defensive team yet, but it’s a possibility and he did receive some votes last year. He’s a wonderfully versatile big man who can guard on the perimeter and give great rim protection. 

Claxton is a limited offensive player — he almost never takes jump shots — but he’s a strong finisher, rim roller and offensive rebounder. He’s one of the better starting centers in the league. 

— Noh

6. RJ Barrett, Timberwolves (via Suns)

  • Original pick: Jarrett Culver
  • Barret’s original draft position: 3rd (Knicks)

While I’ve never been particularly high on Barrett, he’s a big wing who, when everything is clicking, can get downhill, keep defenses honest from 3 and guard multiple positions. I flirted with taking Luguentz Dort here (more on him below), but there’s no denying that Barrett has some of the best potential in this class.

— Rafferty

7. Cameron Johnson, Bulls

  • Original pick: Coby White
  • Johnson’s original draft position: 11th (Timberwolves)

Johnson got the bag last summer, inking a four-year, $94.5 million contract. He earned that deal because of the skill set that he provides to any team that he’s on. 

Johnson is a knockdown movement 3-point shooter, hitting 39.2 percent of his tries for his career. He also has good positional size at 6-foot-8 and plus feel on the defensive end of the floor. He’s a prototypical 3-and-D starting wing, which is always in demand. 

— Noh

8. Luguentz Dort, Pelicans (via Hawks)

  • Original pick: Jaxson Hayes
  • Dort’s original draft position: Undrafted

Dort isn’t just a good defender. He’s an elite one.

“I think [Dort] has the perfect balance of strength, quickness, speed and desire to do it,” Damian Lillard said in 2023 when asked who he thinks is the best defender in the NBA. “And he’s young. So I just think he is the best at it.”

The question with Dort is if he could improve enough as a shooter to not be a liability on offense. It’s been a slow development, but he’s up to almost 40 percent this season. If that’s the type of shooter he is now, he’s the sort of 3-and-D wing every team is looking for.

— Rafferty

Luguentz Dort 101622

9. Coby White, Wizards

  • Original pick: Rui Hachimura
  • White’s original draft position: 7th (Bulls)

White has exploded in his fifth season, averaging 17.3 points and 4.7 assists per game. He’s a knockdown 3-point shooter, hitting 42.6 percent this year. And he’s improved drastically as a decision-maker, learning how to manipulate his extremely fast North-South speed. 

White is always going to be a liability defensively due to his 6-foot-5 wingspan, but he does compete on that end. He leads the Bulls in charges drawn and is generally in the right position as a help defender. 

— Noh

10. Brandon Clarke, Hawks

  • Original pick: Cam Reddish
  • Clarke’s original draft position: 21st (Thunder)

It’s hard to know where to place Clarke since he’s yet to return from a torn Achilles, a tough injury for a springy big man to return from, but he’s been one of the better reserves at his position since being drafted. When healthy, he is a tough defender, dynamic roller and smart cutter. He improves any bench and is a dream power forward to pair with any pick-and-roll guard.

— Rafferty

11. Grant Williams, Suns (via Timberwolves)

  • Original pick: Cameron Johnson
  • Williams’ original draft position: 22nd (Celtics)

Williams has turned himself into a great 3-point shooter, hitting 38.1 percent of his career attempts. While he’s not an advantage creator and can get himself into trouble if he tries to do too much, he’s a very good role player who isn’t afraid to get shots up. 

Williams also brings a ton of value defensively. He has the frame to guard bigger players and slot in as a small ball 5, as well as the versatility to guard out on the perimeter. He is one of the better options in the league to take on the ultra-talented wings like Giannis Antetokounmpo or Jayson Tatum. 

— Noh

12. Naz Reid, Hornets

  • Original pick: P.J. Washington
  • Reid’s original draft position: Undrafted

Reid has been an NBA Twitter favorite for a few seasons now, but he’s breaking out in a big way in 2023-24.

The Timberwolves are zigging while everyone else is zagging, but Reid complements both Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns because he can space the floor (40.0 percent on 4.8 3-point attempts per game this season) and put pressure on teams going downhill, whether it’s as a roller or driver.

It’s wild to think that, like Dort and the next player in this redraft, Reid went undrafted. He’s been one of the best players in this class.

— Rafferty

Caleb Martin / Miami Heat

13. Caleb Martin, Heat

  • Original pick: Tyler Herro
  • Martin’s original draft position: Undrafted

Martin showed his value during the Heat’s most recent Finals run, playing like the second-best player on that roster. He can play both on and off the ball capably, creating some offense for himself, cutting well and hitting 36.1 percent of his career 3s. 

Martin has good size at 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, allowing him to guard multiple positions capably and be a plus rebounder. He’s not a star but he’s a very solid player.  

— Noh

14. Jordan Poole, Celtics

  • Original pick: Romeo Langford
  • Poole’s original draft position: 28th (Warriors)

There are a number of players who deserve consideration for the final pick in the lottery. For now, I’ll go with Poole.

Yes, Poole’s time with the Wizards is off to a rough start, but he was a difference-maker on the Warriors for a couple of seasons and played an important role in Golden State’s championship in 2022. I’m still holding out hope that he can get back to being that player. 

— Rafferty

Best players still available: Keldon Johnson, Max Strus, P.J. Washington, Matisse Thybulle, Terance Mann, Rui Hachimura, D’Andre Hunter, Daniel Gafford, Goga Bitadze

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