Winner: Dallas Mavericks
When we look back at this draft 20 years later, Dallas could be looked at as being absolute geniuses.
Luka Dončić is the most accomplished European player to ever make his way across the pond to the states. The Slovenian international was recognized as the MVP of Liga ACB. Many consider this to be the second-best league in the world behind the NBA. He also was the recipient of the EuroLeague Most Valuable Player Award. These accomplishments are fantastic for anyone — let alone a 19-year-old.
Dončić has already proven to be an excellent player against grown men. Blessed with a tremendous feel for the game, he’s adept at using his 6’8″ frame to control the run of play. Dončić is gritty, tough, immensely smart, and can involve his teammates in a variety of ways. By trading to get him, Dallas instantly added a culture-changing player.
Remember, Dallas did well to select another European prospect in the first round roughly 20 years ago. That player (Dirk Nowitzki) will now pass the baton to Dončić for one last year before retiring. Simply put, this was a monster evening for the Mavericks.
Loser: Atlanta Hawks
The franchise has to hope it ‘got it right’ by trading the rights to Dončić for the highly entertaining yet polarizing guard, Trae Young.
This pick can’t come as too much of a surprise. New general manager Travis Schlenk had previously been the assistant general manager with the Golden State Warriors. Renowned for his evaluation skills, Schlenk had a big hand in the orchestration of the current Warriors’ roster.
After seeing Steph Curry light up the NBA, Schlenk opted to nab the player from this draft most commonly compared to Curry. Also possessing a slight frame and unlimited range, Young is now the face of the franchise. We’ve seen a lack of support from the fan base in recent years. There simply hasn’t been too much to get excited about.
With Young now in tow, there’s at least some semblance of interest. However, Young’s tiny frame — and apparent allergic reactions to the defensive side of the floor — makes him a huge gamble. Young doesn’t appear to be a natural fit alongside Dennis Schröder. Additionally, Young will now forever be compared to the player many are calling a sure-fire star.
It will be interesting to see how both of these players develop down the line.
Winner: Phoenix Suns
Phoenix had to be pleased with how things developed.
It nabbed the player (DeAndre Ayton) with the highest ceiling in this draft. A perfect archetype for the modern NBA big man, Ayton can dominate the game both inside the paint as well as from the perimeter. The Arizona product also filled a glaring hole at the center position. He’ll instantly slot into the starting lineup — where he’ll be provided the opportunity to play a bunch right away.
Initially slotted with the No. 16 pick, Phoenix took springy guard/forward Zhaire Smith. This appeared to be a quality pick. However, it changed rather quickly — as Smith instead was shipped to Philadelphia.
For Smith and a future 2021 first-round pick (originally belong to Miami), the Suns’ front office brass was then able to land forward Mikal Bridges. From a fit standpoint, Bridges makes a ton of sense. He’s a high character individual — the type of the guy you want in your locker room as you build up a young team. Additionally, Bridges has proven to be a winner at the highest level in college.
Stylistically, he’s the quintessential 3-and-D player. Bridges offers positional versatility, and is very capable as a guy that can defend multiple positions on the floor.
Phoenix got its franchise piece, and came away with what appears to be one of the best glue guys in this draft. All in all, it was a brilliant evening.
Loser: Philadelphia 76ers
In the wake of the Bryan Colangelo scandal, head coach Brett Brown has been making the personnel decisions for the franchise. Equipped with the 10th Overall pick, it made all the sense in the world to select Bridges. A local kid from Villanova, he appeared to be exactly the type of player the 76ers need. Bridges is a shooter, and can defend multiple positions on the perimeter.
It made even more sense when considering that his mother is employed by the franchise. However, in the span of a few moments, this real life fairy tale quickly turned into a nightmare for Bridges and his mother. Philadelphia opted to jettison Bridges in order to pick up a far-less polished prospect (Smith) and a pick.
This pick is unprotected — and it will be available when high school seniors are able to enter the NBA Draft without any college obligation. It could be used as an asset for another player (Kawhi Leonard?) or simply held onto.
Smith may end up developing into a very good player. He’s a supremely gifted athlete, and competes very hard on the defensive end. However, he’s considerably shorter than Bridges is, and isn’t nearly the same proven threat from the perimeter.
This just seemed like a very weird move — and one which could elicit some bad karma down the line.
Winner: San Antonio Spurs
With Danny Green and Tony Parker on their way out of San Antonio, the Spurs could use a jolt of talent in their backcourt. Lonnie Walker out of Miami is one of the most gifted shooters in this class.
The Pennsylvania native averaged 11.5 PPG on 48.7-percent from the field during his only collegiate season. Big and physical, Walker can get his shot whenever he wants. In a sense, he’s a different sort of player than the one San Antonio is accustomed to having in its backcourt. Walker was beset by a roster with not much in the way of talent. Now with the Spurs, he’ll have a chance to be polished by one of the best developmental teams in the sport.
Additionally, San Antonio got great value with its second-round pick in USC big man Chimezie Metu. A long, active athlete, Metu is excellent at both running the floor in transition as well blocking shots at the rim. He’s still rail thin — and could use some improvement on his perimeter shot. With that said, Metu has a chance to turn into a very nice role player down the line.
For where San Antonio picked in the draft, each selection offered value beyond the players’ respective draft slots. Walker in particular has a chance to make a real impact alongside Dejounte Murray.
Loser: Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets have been a mediocre-to-bad team for quite some time. Based upon this draft, the narrative doesn’t appear likely to change anytime soon.
At No. 11, Charlotte had the possibility of drafting Michael Porter Jr. Back concerns had Porter Jr. dropping like a rock. Despite this, Porter Jr. had at one time been considered a lock for the top-five — if not the No. 1 Overall spot. His talent level is immense — and he has the upside to be a future All-Star if things pan out health-wise.
Instead, new general manager Mitch Kupchak opted to trade the pick to the Clippers in order to drop back one spot. Willowy guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander went to Los Angeles, and the Hornets proceeded to select Michigan State forward Miles Bridges.
We have a hard time seeing Bridges develop into anything more than an energy guy off the bench. His skill level isn’t great — nor is the consistency on his somewhat shaky perimeter shot. While he is a freak athlete, Bridges is also a tweener. He’s too thick to chase wings on screens around the perimeter, and he’s rather short (6’7″) to defend conventional power forwards.
Charlotte isn’t a free agent destination by any stretch. It’s also a roster cluttered with bad contracts. It’s the type of team that must take a gamble on a guy that could potentially turn into a franchise player. That would’ve been Porter Jr. Instead, Bridges gets selected — and has a skill-set which is somewhat repeated by the likes of Marvin Williams in an already crowded frontcourt.
Aside from that, the team appears to have reached on Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham early in the second round. The likes of Melvin Frazier, Khyri Thomas, Bruce Brown Jr., De’Anthony Melton, and Gary Trent Jr. were all still on the board when Graham was selected.
We won’t know how this draft will shake out long-term for a few years. However, it appears in the current climate to be a head-scratching one for the Hornets.
Image Sources: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports, The Arizona Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK