Well, another NBA Draft is now complete. After all the talk of height, weight, wingspan and player projections – we now know who is playing where. Well, sort of…considering how many hats change heads throughout the day!
Who had the strongest draft? What was the best Draft day trade? Who stuffed up? Who is going to be fun to watch? Who surprised us? Who was a steal? So many questions!
Luckily, I have the answers.
OK, partly this goes without saying. You get the top pick, you’re likely to have the strongest draft. However, the 76ers didn’t actually win the Draft lottery. They made a savvy move to swap picks with Boston in the days prior to the Draft – ensuring they got the biggest Draft prize in Markelle Fultz.
Fultz projects to be the perfect accompaniment to pass-first Ben Simmons and post presence Embiid. Fultz’s scoring ability will be put on immediate display for a Philly team desperate for buckets from the Guard spot, and his ability to attack the paint, hit the pull up, and finish in traffic will be mandatory viewing.
The Sixers got good value at their other picks with a couple of draft and stash players in Pasecniks and Lessort. Jonah Bolden was long rumoured to join fellow Aussie Simmons in Philly, and he may also be stashed overseas for a year or two.
The process is well and truly underway. With a few quality Free Agent signings and a bit of veteran leadership, don’t be surprised if the Sixers are pushing for the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference.
Runner up: Sacramento. I thought they did really well trading back with Portland from #10 to get #15 and #20, but they also hit on all their picks. De’Aaron Fox (#5) is a perfect foil to Buddy Hield – a true ball hawking defender at the Point with elite speed and athleticism. Justin Jackson (#15) gives them a mature, ready to go SF option and they took the Draft’s biggest gamble at #20 on Harry Giles, the former #1 rated prospect. Finally, they picked up the reigning NCAA Player of the Year in Frank Mason (#34). The start to the Kings rebuild is looking promising.
Yikes, this was ugly. The Nuggets were involved in quite a few trade rumours throughout the day – particularly with high level players like Jimmy Butler and Eric Bledsoe – however were unable to execute. Instead, they moved out of the lottery in a trade with Utah for Trey Lyles and pick #24, which looked like a dubious return on the surface.
It was looking like the move could be salvaged as OG Anunoby kept slipping through the first round, a player that would fit perfectly next to Nikola Jokic as a potential elite defender and shot blocker. And it almost paid off – Anunoby was scooped up gleefully by the Raptors at pick #23, one before Denver’s pick. The Nuggets were rocked by this, and panicked into selecting Tyler Lydon – another Power Forward on a roster that already features Faried, Hernangomez, Arthur and Lyles – not to mention Wilson Chandler spends a fair bit of time there too.
The Nuggets picked Vlatko Cancar at #48, a draft and stash from Mega Bemax, and then drafted PG Monte Morris, who was decent value at #51.
GM Tim Connelly appeared rattled after the Draft, admitting that they had a deal fall over at the last minute. He’s certainly going to have his work cut out for him in the coming months to rectify the roster glut at the forward spot.
Runner up: Portland. Not that I necessarily dislike their moves, but some of the fits are a little odd. Zach Collins is a genuine talent, but the Blazers have a ton of bodies (and tough to move contracts) at the 4/5 spots. Then at pick #26 they picked up one of my draft favourites in Caleb Swanigan, but he’s also a 4/5. Either there is a trade happening very soon, or there are going to be some unhappy players riding pine over in Portland.
Wow. The NBA’s first real blockbuster move of the summer (with all due respect to Brook Lopez and D’Angelo Russell), Minnesota certainly made a splash with this one. Adding a player of Jimmy Butler’s calibre to the young core of Towns and Wiggins fast tracks the Wolves rebuild, and should ensure they push hard for the playoffs next season.
The Wolves needed to get tougher and more defensive, and they just added one of the toughest SF’s in the league, on a good value deal for 2 more seasons in his prime. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that this is a guy that just averaged 24/6/5 in season 2016/17. HUGE numbers. The East loses another star talent to the West, and it feels like a move Boston may regret not making, as the East is looking like it could be there for the taking.
The gravy on top for Minny? Pick #16. How they got Chicago to add that in, I have no idea. Does Thibs have compromising pictures of GarPax or something!?
The Wolves used pick #16 on Justin Patton, the young big man from Creighton. He will be able to learn the NBA game behind young superstar Karl-Anthony Towns and has a high ceiling himself.
If the Wolves hit on Patton, this deal just looks worse and worse for Chicago. They acquired a guy with a ruptured ACL (LaVine), a 2016 Top 5 pick who was extremely underwhelming in his rookie year (Dunn), and a player who projects very similar to Nikola Mirotic (Lauri Markannen). It was another head scratching moment from a team that has become quite accustomed to them.
Runner up: Utah. Trey Lyles never really got going in Utah, and moving him and pick #24 for a lottery pick was a smart move. At #13 they secured arguably the Drafts most athletic player in combo guard Donovan Mitchell, a great defender to join an already great defensive team.
BEST ROOKIE TO WATCH ON LEAGUE PASS – LONZO BALL
Picked #2 by the Los Angeles Lakers
Say what you will about Lonzo, LaVar, LaMelo and LiAngelo (is he even real?)…but the Big Baller Brand got their wish. Lonzo Ball will be given the keys to the Lakers ignition right out of the gate, with full confidence from President Magic Johnson (a player he has been occasionally compared to) and Luke Walton (who knows a thing or two about working with great guards).
Ball should make the Lakers fun again, with the ability to push the pace and make his teammates better – a rare trait. I’m looking forward to seeing what having a PG like Ball does for Brandon Ingram, who will be looking to improve on a so-so Rookie season. Ball is not without his flaws, as an underwhelming defender and with a weird form on his jump shot, but he’s hugely entertaining to watch. Plus, you know you can’t wait to see LaVar losing his mind in the stands in a BBB hat – the perfect replacement for an aging Jack Nicholson at the Staples Center.
If the Lakers can somehow acquire Paul George over the coming weeks, they’ll be really fun viewing next season. Get your popcorn ready, people.
Runner up: Josh Jackson. I absolutely LOVE the fit here for Jackson and Phoenix. He should be force fed minutes at the SF spot early, as the Suns have had a gaping hole at the Small Forward slot for years. Best potential nickname? Matrix Reloaded.
BIGGEST SURPRISE PICK – BAM ADEBAYO
Picked at #14 by Miami Heat
As a Heat fan, I definitely did not see this one coming.
We had Bam Adebayo mocked at #22 in our final mock draft, so to see him end up in the lottery was a huge surprise. While the Heat were definitely hoping one of Luke Kennard or Donovan Mitchell would fall to them, they decided to go big with Bam who should immediately fill Willie Reed’s shoes as the backup 5 to Hassan Whiteside. With Justin Jackson and a number of solid PF’s still available, it was a curious choice to go with Adebayo when a number of other better fits were on the board.
Here’s hoping the Heat were right, because when you have so little in the Draft pick cupboard, you really need to hit on every one. The jury is definitely out.
Runner up: DJ Wilson. The Michigan sophomore flew up Draft boards over the last week or two. The Bucks passed on some bigger names (Harry Giles, TJ Leaf, John Collins, Jarrett Allen) to go with the versatile Wilson, who was a very Milwaukee choice (huge wingspan). With Jabari Parker likely to miss most of the 17/18 season, it’ll be interesting to see whether Wilson can become a rotational player next year for Coach Kidd.
SECOND ROUNDER TO WATCH – JORDAN BELL
Picked at #38 by Chicago Bulls (traded to Golden State)
I wrote about Jordan Bell just prior to the Draft as one of my potential steals. One of the best rebounders and defenders in this draft, Bell has less than ideal height for a PF/C in the big leagues – but does have a huge 6’11” wingspan that makes up for it. The Warriors, kings of the Draft over the past several seasons, recognised his talent and bought into the 2nd round to get him (Gee, thanks Chicago). If anyone knows how to foster unconventional players, it’s the Dubs. Draymond Green was so pumped he shot an expletive laden text to his own GM – vintage Dray.
With a roster burgeoning with talent and a salary cap that is about to be bursting at the seams, getting a talent like Bell on a cheap 2nd rounder salary in a position of need was a classic Myers move, who did similarly well out of Patrick McCaw last season. Well played, again.
Runner up: Ivan Rabb. Despite the fact Rabb would’ve been a lottery pick if he left California as a Freshman, he’s a steal in the 2nd round of this Draft. The Grizzlies need young talent in the worst way – and probably aren’t far away from a full rebuild. If he can add a bit of weight, he may be able to carve out a rotation role next season.
Now that the Draftees all have new homes, we finally get to see them in action this weekend – as the NBA’s annual Summer League kicks off in Orlando on the 1st July. With Free Agency also about to commence, now is when the ‘real’ NBA season begins!