2019 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: De’Andre Hunter is a near-certainty, which may hurt him on draft night

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Over the course of the next two weeks, as the 2019 NBA Draft draws closer and closer, we at Pro Basketball Talk will be taking deep dives into some of the best and most intriguing prospects that will be making their way to the NBA.

Today, we are looking at De'Andre Hunter.

Previous draft profiles:

What is the value of a draft pick?

When you are picking early in the lottery, what, exactly, are you looking for out of that pick?

How much are you willing to change the way that you answer those first two questions based on the crop of players available?

Those are the things that are going to determine where De’Andre Hunter ends up starting his professional basketball career.

Generally speaking, teams that are picking in the top five are bad basketball teams. That’s why they are given those early picks, to try and spread talent and superstars around the league. Competitive balance and all that. The entire philosophy behind tanking is that the only way for certain organizations to attract franchise-changing talents is to draft them, so you lose on purpose to pick earlier and end up with a better chance of landing a future Hall of Famer.

That is where the conundrum of drafting De’Andre Hunter lies.

There may not be a safer pick in this year’s draft outside of Zion Williamson. There may not be a player in the entire draft that is better prepared to immediately impact an NBA game or an NBA playoff series than Hunter. He turns 22 years old in December — remember, he’s a sophomore, but he spent his first year in Charlottesville redshirting — and, at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, is a ready-made, multi-positional defensive menace right now. He is the perfect blend of big-enough-to-guard-fours and quick-enough-to-switch-onto-guards while also shooting 43.8 percent from three this past season and just under 42 percent from three on 160 attempts in his two-year career with the Wahoos. He’s stiff, and he’s more or less limited to being a straight-line driver, but playing as a small-ball four in a league where the three-point line is pushed back and the space created offensively makes the college game look as muddled as a mojito, he should be able to attack close-outs just fine.

In a worst-case scenario, you’re getting the healthy version of O.G. Anunoby. What’s more likely is that you end up with DeMarre Carroll.

I don’t say this lightly — if you put Hunter on the Warriors last night, their chances of beating the Raptors in Game 3 of the Finals would have increased rather significantly. He’s big enough and dominant enough defensively to get thrown on Kawhi Leonard or Pascal Siakam and do as well as anyone would in slowing them down, and he has good enough feet that can can be switched onto Toronto’s guards — either Kyle Lowry or Fred VanVleet — and do a job on them, too, all while helping keep the floor spaced due to his shooting.

Simply put, I do not think there is a better defensive prospect in this draft, and I would not be surprised if Hunter ends up making NBA All-Defensive teams during his career.

The fact that he can do all of that while, in theory, being able to knockdown threes and attack closeouts makes him a valuable and in-demand player in the modern NBA.

The problem, however, is that Hunter’s ceiling isn’t all that much higher than his floor.

Which is where the question about the value of a draft pick and what a team is looking for when picking in the first half of the lottery comes into play.

Hunter, at this point, is something of a finished product. There are things that he can improve on — his handle can be loose, there are some folks that aren’t fully convinced that his stroke will translate to the NBA three-point line, being more aggressive offensively would make him more dangerous — but whoever ends up drafting him knows exactly what they are getting. He’s going to be an elite defender that has the upside of being one of the more useful 3-and-D role players in the NBA.

Is that enough to pick him in the top five?

If you are the Lakers, it might make some sense. LeBron is not getting any younger, meaning that their window to win now is closing. Hunter fits there, just like he would make some sense on New Orleans if the Pelicans end up getting the No. 4 pick as compensation for a trade involving Anthony Davis.

But how does drafting a guy whose career arc screams “role player for the next decade” help Cleveland? Would John Beilein rather draft a guy that needs good players around him to thrive when he doesn’t actually have those good players yet, or would it make more sense to take a swing on someone like Cam Reddish, a player with inherently more risk but whose ceiling is much, much higher than Hunter’s?

It seems unlikely that either Phoenix or Chicago would draft anything other than a point guard, which means that there is a real chance Hunter could end up dropping all the way to eighth, if not further.

Which is wild, when you think about it.

The top three in this draft is set. We all know that. But things get murky once you get to the fourth pick and murkier once you get to pick No. 8. There is no clear-cut fourth-best prospect in this draft, which puts these organizations into a tough spot.

Do you take Hunter, a guy that will spend the next decade helping you matchup with the very best teams in the NBA while you still need to find the stars that will allow you to compete with those teams, or do you draft Cam Reddish or Darius Garland, betting on the 10 percent chance that they eventually develop into, say, Joe Johnson or C.J. McCollum, respectively?

It’s not an easy question to answer.

Report: Suns signing Cheick Diallo to two-year contract

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The Suns went old in the draft, picking 23-year-old Cameron Johnson at No. 11.

Phoenix will go younger in free agency with 22-year-old Cheick Diallo.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Barring another move, the Suns have only the minimum available. Diallo will get $1,678,854 next season and $1,824,003 the following season.

The No. 33 pick in the 2016 draft, Diallo worked his way into the low end of the rotation during his three years with the Pelicans. He’s a hustle big, committed rebounder and athletic player. But at 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, he’s not strong enough to bang with most centers. His skill level is low for power forward.

Phoenix will stick him behind Deandre Ayton, Dario Saric, Aron Baynes and Frank Kaminsky in the frontcourt. Diallo might receive situation minutes, but he must develop further to hold staying power.

Report: Chris Paul increasingly expected to start season with Thunder

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Last week, the Thunder had an expensive point guard who’s into his 30s and didn’t fit a team shifting into rebuilding without Paul George.

Same story now.

Oklahoma City traded Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul to acquire draft picks and shed long-term salary. Getting Paul as a player was of minimal concern. That’s why the Thunder worked with him to flip him. But a team like the Heat wanted draft picks just for taking the three years and $124,076,442 remaining on Paul’s contract.

So, Oklahoma City might hold onto Paul, after all.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The 34-year-old Paul is past his prime. But he’s still good. It’d be interesting to see him once again as his team’s best player after he spent so much time stuck in the corner watching James Harden.

Paul, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams could form the core of a solid team this season. Paul can run an offense, and Adams (pick-and-roll) and Gallinari (pick-and-pop) offer nice complementary skills. If Andre Roberson is healthy or if a young player like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nerlens Noel, Terrence Ferguson or Hamidou Diallo takes the next step, Oklahoma City could make real noise.

The Thunder’s biggest challenge: They play in the loaded Western Conference. That makes it far more difficult to make the playoffs. But in terms of team quality, Oklahoma City could be in the thick of competitiveness.

If Paul and Gallinari stay healthy. That can’t be assumed, though Adams can do some dirty work to keep those two clean.

The Thunder have tremendous draft capital – so much of which is tied to the fates of the Clippers, Rockets, Heat and Nuggets. Oklahoma City could tank and improve its draft position further and sooner. But owning so many picks from other teams allows the Thunder to try to win now while simultaneously rebuilding. They don’t necessarily have to waste seasons in the basement just to build themselves back up.

It will probably be easier to trade Paul on Dec. 15. That’s when most free agents who signed this summer become eligible to be traded. Right now, too many teams have untradable players, making it difficult to match Paul’s high salary. Generally, the more of Paul’s contract the Thunder pay out, the easier it’ll be to trade him.

But if Paul declines sharply or gets hurt, his value could diminish even further. There’s risk in waiting, though an injured Paul might allow Oklahoma City to tank anyway.

The Thunder must also cut a few million of salary before the final day of the regular season to avoid the luxury tax. That’s a priority.

So, Oklahoma City will make some move – Paul or otherwise.

But it appears likely we’ll see Paul play for the Thunder. It’ll be a return to Oklahoma City after he played home games there with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets following Hurricane Katrina.

This isn’t the reunion Paul or the Thunder appeared to desire when the Westbrook trade was agreed upon. I still think it could be pretty cool.

Ben Simmons reverses course, withdraws from Australia’s Word Cup squad

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ben Simmons‘ new contract extension with the Philadelphia 76ers came with bad news for Australian basketball fans: The Melbourne-born NBA All-star won’t play for the Boomers at the World Cup.

Hours after Simmons and the 76ers agreed to a $170 million, five-year contract extension on Tuesday, Simmons said he preferred to spend time with his new teammates in September instead of travelling to China for the Aug. 31-Sept. 15 World Cup.

“I wanted to let everyone know that after consulting with my representation, I’ve made the difficult decision to forego playing in the World Cup in China,” Simmons said in a statement.

“Ultimately, we decided it was best that I use the time in September to return to Philadelphia to acquaint myself with my new teammates and prepare for the upcoming NBA season.”

Simmons had been selected for Australia’s World Cup squad and had earlier indicated he planned to play the tournament in China.

He now plans to play only for the Boomers in two exhibition games against the United States in Melbourne on Aug. 22 and 24 at a stadium that is expected to be sold out – 50,000 fans – for each game. He also said the Olympics next year in Tokyo remain on his schedule.

“I will still be heading back home to Australia to host my camps as well as train and play with the Boomers in the upcoming exhibition games,” Simmons said. “I’m really excited about the talent we have on the Boomers squad, especially moving closer to 2020 where I will be honored and humbled to represent my country on the world’s biggest sporting stage at the Olympics in Tokyo.”

Simmons was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2016. He made his NBA debut in the 2017-18 season and was the Rookie of the Year. He was an All-Star for the first time last season. He has averaged 16.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.9 assists in his two seasons.

Australia’s World Cup lineup is set to feature San Antonio’s Patty Mills, Joe Ingles of Utah Jazz, Phoenix center Aron Baynes, Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova, former No. 1 draft pick Andrew Bogut, Detroit center-forward Thon Maker and Simmons’ 76ers teammate Jonah Bolden.

 

Just a reminder, after draft and free agency Wizards have still not named official GM

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When Wizards owner Ted Leonsis finally ended Ernie Grunfeld’s run as team GM back in April — to the joy of Wizards fans everywhere — it was expected they would have a new head of basketball operations in place by the draft.

Nope.

So by the start of free agency, to guide the Wizards through this tumultuous summer?

Nope.

Tommy Sheppard has been doing the job on an interim basis, and as Jeff Zillgit of the USA Today points out a lot of league talk in Las Vegas was about why Leonsis just hasn’t given Shepard the job.

Team executive after executive had the same question when the Washington Wizards’ unresolved top front-office job opening came up. “Why not just give Tommy the job?”

Tommy is Tommy Sheppard, the Wizards’ longtime exec, who has been running basketball operations since owner Ted Leonsis decided not to bring Ernie Grunfeld back. Sheppard ran the draft, free agency and the Wizards’ Summer League team, but he doesn’t have the full-time job.

A couple of more prominent names were linked to the Wizards job at points. There were reportedly talks with Tim Conley, who built Denver into a real threat, but he decided to stay in the Rockies. There were rumors of Masai Ujiri, but he has chosen to stay in Toronto after winning a title.

At this point, after Sheppard has built the team for this coming season, is Leonsis really going to bring in someone else?

The Wizards have decisions to make. This is a young roster not ready to be a threat in the East, but with Bradley Beal and the injured John Wall (likely out for the season after tearing his Achilles), they also are capped out. So far they have turned away calls from other teams about a Beal trade (nobody is calling about a Wall trade with his max contract extension just kicking in).

Come July 26 the Wizards can offer Beal a three-year, $111 million extension, both sides are talking and the offer is expected to be made. That’s when the big decision comes — if Beal doesn’t sign that offer the Wizards have to look at trading him. Beal has spoken numerous times in the past about wanting to stay with the Wizards, but there was plenty of informed league speculation at Summer League that he is frustrated with the franchise and may not sign the extension, essentially forcing his way out. It’s something to watch in the coming weeks.

It probably would be nice to have a locked-in head of basketball operations by then, but who knows what Leonsis will do.