Winner – Sacramento Kings
After months of being scrutinized following the DeMarcus Cousins trade, the Kings’ front office finally got something right. Sacramento had virtually every spot to fill on the roster, and they used their bevy of picks on young, talented, promising players. First, they addressed the point guard spot by grabbing the explosive De’Aaron Fox. Fox projects to be a John Wall-type clone, with a quick first step and strong finisher at the rim.
Holding the 10th pick as well, the Kings made a savvy move by executing a trade with the Blazers to acquire the 15th and 20th selections – using those picks to draft Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. Jackson was a three-year starter for the National Champion North Carolina Tar Heels, and will be a great defender at the next level. Giles was a McDonald’s All-American that struggled in his lone year at Duke after recovering from surgery, but is oozing with talent. With one last pick on the day, the Kings picked up Naismith Award winner Frank Mason to sure up their backcourt. Quite the coup for Sacramento, and an excellent way to start their rebuild.
Loser – Chicago Bulls
Our hearts go out to Bulls fans everywhere. Chicago made the first big move of the day when they sent All-Star/All-NBA guard Jimmy Butler and the 16th pick to the T’Wolves. In exchange, the Bulls received an underwhelming haul featuring Zach LaVine (fresh off ACL surgery), Kris Dunn, and the 7th pick in Thursday’s draft. The T’Wolves made out like bandits in this deal, giving away a recovering LaVine, a perceived bust in Dunn and a middling lottery pick – and were still able to grab Chicago’s first-round pick as well.
For comparisons sake, the Celtics received three (!) first round picks and the right to a pick swap in 2017 – which gave the C’s the first overall pick this year – when they sent away a 36-year old Kevin Garnett and a 35-year old Paul Pierce to Brooklyn in 2013. Butler is 27 and coming off the best season of his career. This couldn’t have possibly been the best deal on the table.
Loser – Boston Celtics
Speaking of the Celtics, their draft day left something to be desired as well. It wasn’t about what they did do – the trade to move down ended up working out and Jayson Tatum will be a fine player for them – it was about what they didn’t do. How in the world could the Celtics have not at least matched what the T’Wolves gave for Butler?
Stacked with assets, Danny Ainge failed to pull the trigger on a move that could have greatly bolstered their starting lineup moving forward. Even if the C’s are banking on Gordon Hayward signing in free agency, getting a player like Butler – for two first-round picks, Jae Crowder and Terry Rozier/Kelly Olynyk? – is a move you make now and figure out things later. Ainge dropped the ball here.
Winner – Minnesota Timberwolves
Wiggins, Towns and now Butler – that’s a trio to be reckoned with. Minnesota has continued their recent success of winning trades – dating back to the Kevin Love deal – grabbing an in-his-prime star for pennies on the dollar. Butler is the perfect fit for this crew, as he will fit in as the primary scorer offensively. Defensively, Minnesota has a chance to be the best squad in the league while being led by defensive mastermind Tom Thibodeau. Watch out Warriors, the Wolves are coming.
Winner – Dennis Smith Jr.
This is the classic scenario where a prospect and a team are the perfect match for each other. Smith Jr. is an explosive guard that the Mavs have lacked in the past, and learning from one of the best coaches in Rick Carlisle will do wonders for his development. He’ll instantly be a fixture in the starting line-up, allowing Harrison Barnes and Nerlens Noel to relax into their natural roles. It’s a match made in heaven.
Loser – Bam Adebayo
The Heat are typically on the money with their draft picks in recent years, but this was a bit of a head-scratcher. Heading into Thursday, if you were to evaluate every team’s least pressing need, the Heat’s would be a rim-protecting big man that can’t shoot outside of three feet. Naturally, the Heat drafted a rim-protecting big man that can’t shoot outside of three feet. Adebayo has plenty of potential, but won’t be able to share the floor with the Heat’s best player – Hassan Whiteside – as they are such incredibly similar players. Swing and a miss.
Winner – Brandon Ingram
Nobody was happier about the selection of Lonzo Ball than the Lakers’ 2016 lottery pick. Ingram struggled out of the gates last season, shooting the ball poorly and generally looking unready to produce at the NBA level. By the end of year, Ingram looked a bit more comfortable, and now he trades in the inconsistent D’Angelo Russell for the passing genius of Ball. Ball made everybody better on the floor during his time at UCLA, and will do wonders for Ingram’s efficiency moving forward.
Loser – Aaron Gordon
Poor “Power Forward” Aaron Gordon, we hardly knew ye. The Magic love making things harder than it should be. The selection of Jonathan Isaac brings even more confusion to the frontcourt. Isaac is a talented player that has enough versatility for scouts to believe he could play a wing spot. In all likelihood though, Isaac’s best position will be as a stretch 4 in the NBA. The league saw what happened when the Magic tried to play Gordon on the wing last season, and it wasn’t pretty. We can already imagine Frank Vogel’s puzzled facial expressions as he tries lineups with the two promising youngsters alongside Nikola Vucevic, wondering why the floor spacing is so awful.