Conference boasts 5 of the top 10 picks
Last week on my morning radio show I guaranteed that at least five ACC players would be selected in the Top 10 of the NBA Draft. I even thought that Nassir Little or Nickeil Alexander-Walker could possibly sneak into the Top 10 to 13, giving the conference six or seven selections in the lottery.
Well, my guarantee of five in the Top 10 did come to fruition. There was also a sixth player from the league who managed to get picked in the lottery, though it was UNC's Cam Johnson and not Little or Alexander-Walker, even though they both did end up going in the first round. When all was said and done, a whopping nine players from the country's best basketball conference ended up getting plucked in the first round.
It began, as we all knew it would, with Duke's Zion Williamson hearing his name called first by the New Orleans Pelicans. Following a college season in which the man-child from Spartanburg Day School stole the show, there was no doubt about who Pelicans GM David Griffin would take. We also suspected that his college teammate RJ Barrett would go third overall to the New York Knicks, which he did.
When the Lakers owned the fourth pick, I was certain that Virginia’s De'Andre Hunter would be their selection. Once that pick was traded to New Orleans, I became convinced that the Pelicans would trade back and, that whoever ended up with the fourth pick would select Darius Garland. That is until the Atlanta Hawks ended up being the team that New Orleans struck a deal with. With Trae Young already on the roster, surely they wouldn't take Garland, which could only mean that Hunter was headed to Atlanta, which was the ultimate selection.
Next up was North Carolina’s Coby White. I must admit that I just missed this one. I had previously guaranteed that White would go No. 6 overall to the Phoenix Suns. Instead, he ended up going 7th to the Chicago Bulls. I still maintain that Phoenix should've listened to me and taken White instead of trading down to #11 (more on that in a minute).
After swinging and just missing on the White pick, I was getting nervous about my next guarantee that Duke’s Cam Reddish would be taken by the Atlanta Hawks. While Reddish did go to Atlanta, it was with the 10th overall pick, not with the 8th overall pick as I had predicted. Reddish would become the fifth player in the Top 10 from the ACC.
Next up were the Phoenix Suns, who held the No. 11 pick as part of the trade we mentioned earlier. While they missed out on Coby White, they would end up with his college teammate, North Carolina’s Cam Johnson. While I love Johnson, I did not see this one coming. I had him pegged for the 18-25 range and really though that Philly at No. 24 would be the perfect landing spot for him.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker from Virginia Tech would be drafted by the Pelicans 17th overall. While the 76ers did not get the chance to take Cam Johnson, they did select Virginia guard Ty Jerome 24th overall, only to trade him to the Suns. While he may now have to battle Johnson for playing time, his ball-handling ability is something that Phoenix desperately needs.
This year's biggest draft day slide belonged to UNC's Nassir Little. After having been projected to go anywhere from No. 9 to 16, Little fell all the way to Portland at No. 25. I am not as high on Little as I am fellow Tar Heels White and Johnson, but his upside was a good get for the Blazers in that spot.
While I usually spend the days and weeks following the draft putting together grades of each NBA team, I decided to grade myself instead. I nailed the landing spots of Zion and Barrett, but let's be honest, everyone did. I had Hunter, White and Reddish all in the vicinity of where they were drafted. I missed on Cam Johnson going so high, and Nassir Little going so low, while correctly assessing the general value of Ty Jerome and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
I don't how all of the NBA general managers fared, and only time will tell. I do, however, give myself a B- for my performance. If only I hadn't been so adamant about guaranteeing Coby White to Phoenix at No. 6, I'd be looking at a solid A. If only I knew as much about all the other players who were drafted as I do the ones who hail from the ACC.