[It can be easy to forget that there are actually 30 teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Yes, it is true. There are more than two teams. You can look it up. They also haven’t given up on the idea that they can be competitive with the Warriors and the Cavs. If they are going to make any kind of run at relevance, the Draft has to be an essential part of their approach. Fortunately, Ezra and Roey give us a great look at the winners and losers as we begin to think aloud about what growing NBA parity might look like in the years ahead.]
Minnesota Timberwolves: The Wolves were able to find both a star and a player to mentor their young core, one of the best in the league, by giving up a relatively unremarkable package for Jimmy Butler, easily a top 15 player. He can help the Wolves by vastly improving their weakest point, defense, as well as giving the Wolves a big three (Butler, Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins) and improving on one of the best young rosters on the league. This move will immediately vault the T-Wolves into playoff contention and give them a shot to knock of the Warriors in the coming years as their many young assets continue to grow and mature.
Charlotte Hornets: While the Hornets made a kind of risky move by trading for Dwight Howard pre-draft, they got the biggest steal of the draft when projected top-seven pick Malik Monk fell to them at eleven, giving them one of the most athletic players in the draft to compliment their star point guard, Kemba Walker.
Los Angeles Lakers and Lavar Ball: Of course Lavar Ball and his basketball family stole the show at the draft with their flashy outfits, bold statements and Big Baller Brand merchandise. The Lakers drafted the first of the Ball sons, Lonzo, in a move to try to finish up their rebuilding process. This move, ostensibly to get them their point guard of the future, comes in addition to the salary dump of Timofey Mozgov designed to open up enough cap room next summer to sign Paul George and another max free agent to finish their rebuilding process and bring back the Lakers glory days.
Philadelphia 76’ers: Years of “trusting the process” looks like it finally paid off for this Philly organization. Markelle Fultz at number 1 represents the present for this team which could be good for a very long time. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Fultz look to start the Sixers dynasty to complete the process started by Sam Hinkie all those years ago.
Golden State Warriors: The Warriors entered the draft with no picks but when they saw Jordan Bell had fallen out of the first round and was available, they quickly made a deal with Chicago, sending 3.5 million in cash in exchange for the pick used to select Jordan Bell. Bell, a freakishly athletic player with enormous defensive upside, should find a spot on this already stacked team and contribute right away and attempt to help the Golden State dynasty reach their fourth consecutive finals appearance next season.
Sacramento Kings: Sacramento began their rebuild by trading away Demarcus Cousins this year. The Kings entered the draft hoping to add to their young core of Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley Stein with selections number five and ten in this year’s draft. At number five Sacramento took De’Aaron Fox, who has the potential to be a franchise PG and is being compared to John Wall. Sacramento then traded away the 10th pick for for the 15th and 20th selections, used to take ACC player of the year Justin Jackson and Harry Giles, respectively. Giles, the number one recruit out of high school, never really got a chance to show his skills as his college career was derailed by injuries (look up his high school mixtape and you will see what a steal Sacramento got at 20). If Giles can return to pre-injury form, the Kings may have found the dominant center who can play alongside Cauley-Stein and replace Demarcus Cousins.
Bulls: The Bulls have been getting offers for Jimmy Butler since last year’s draft, but they finally felt this was the right package – a mediocre frequently injured shooting guard, a former lottery pick whose college talent hasn’t translated into talent in the NBA yet and the seventh overall pick, which was used on sharpshooting power forward, Lauri Menarken, who might have been the best thing they got from this terrible trade. Not only did they give up Jimmy Butler for this underwhelming package, but they also gave up their first round pick this year! Although this was the right move, the Bulls started off their rebuild in the completely wrong way by getting a terrible return for one of the league’s best players.
Phil Jackson: Since he took over the Knicks four years ago, the Knicks have posted an 80-166 record. Leading up to the draft, there were rumors swirling that he would trade the one good player he has picked up since taking over this franchise – Kristaps Porzingis. Luckily, he didn’t pull the trigger on a trade, but he did pull the trigger on a questionable pick in the draft. With an explosive PG with major upside improbably still on the board (Dennis Smith Jr), Phil passed and instead took the more risky, selection and selected the 18 year old French phenom, point guard Frank Ntilikina . Phil, this may not be a terrible pick, but you are still running this franchise into the ground with your other awful drafts, terrible contracts and obsession with the triangle, and you are heading into Isaiah Thomas territory with your poor GM’ing. As a Knicks fan, I will be overjoyed when you leave.
Jarrett Allen and Aleksandar Vezenkov: Allen, drafted 22nd overall and Vezenkov, drafted 57th, will soon join the laughing stock of the NBA, the Brooklyn Nets. Being drafted to the NBA is a dream come true for these young players who have been working up to this their entire lives. But Allen and Vezenkov come out as losers as they are joining a team who is unlikely to compete for a while, thanks to the worst trade in NBA history, which is still affecting them five years later and will most likely affect them for the next five years as well.
Ezra Troy and Roey Herzfeld