After the draft concluded, many were left with a bunch of questions regarding players taken too early, falling too far, or being traded before they were even selected. Allow me to break down what happened on draft night, and let’s take a look at those winners and losers.
Sacramento Kings– I was very impressed with the Kings to say the least. With a need at every position, they managed to stretch their resources and acquire 4 big name players. Their 2017 class is highlighted by superstar De’Aaron Fox, who is capable of earning rookie of the year. Alongside Fox is fellow point guard Frank Mason, who exhibited maturity and leadership throughout his 4 years at Kansas. Furthermore, the Kings traded their 10th pick for an underrated small forward in Justin Jackson, and a natural scorer in Harry Giles. Overall, the Kings just needed a bunch of players to step into roles all over their depth chart, and they did that on Thursday night. I hope the management can continue to make more decisions like these.
Minnesota Timberwolves– Obviously, the T-wolves are not just winners because of their draft pick, but because they were able to trade for one of my favorite players in the league. Jimmy Butler is the superstar Minnesota was missing, and he’s a huge upgrade from a guard recovering from an ACL tear. Furthermore, despite dropping 9 spots in the draft, the Timberwolves were still able to get Justin Patton and provide depth at center. Patton is a big body that can make space for Karl Anthony Towns and pick up some rebounds, too. With Rubio being a pass-first point guard, the T-Wolves are set to break into the postseason.
Portland Trailblazers– A genius move by the GM to trade up gives the Trailblazers a huge boost in 2018. Last year, the Blazers were unfortunate enough to draw the Warriors in Round 1, but with Zach Collins and my man Caleb Swanigan on board, they are in position to win their division and lock up home-court advantage next year. Before I get too ahead of myself, I want to take a look at this starting 5. First, one of the best back courts in basketball, Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Allen Crabbe unleash 3-point barrages every night. Also, Jusuf Nurkic really came into his own last year and proved he can be a key role player in the Blazers’ success. Now, two big men with experience in college are fully prepared for the pressure of the next level. Collins was a vital part of Gonzaga’s runner-up finish in the tournament, and Swanigan helped Purdue coast to the regular season Big Ten title and collected some personal hardware. I still don’t think anyone compares to the Warriors, but it doesn’t get much closer than Portland.
Los Angeles Lakers– I’m really loving this new-look Lakers team. Starting with Brooks Lopez and Brandon Ingram, the Lakers picked up a stellar point guard with pick #2. Lonzo Ball has proven he can play despite some questions on his shooting touch. Then, with the #27 pick the Lakers got Kyle Kuzma. I really didn’t care for this because he is undersized, unproven, and just not a great fit for the organization. But then I thought, he might be a good fit in Indiana… So, I hope L.A. can redeem themselves by shipping Kuzma, Julius Randle, and perhaps a draft pick to the Pacers for Paul George. Lastly, the Lakers traded their 28th pick for Josh Hart and Thomas Bryant. Bryant is a great talent from the University of Indiana, so it would be a nice story to see him traded too, but he’s a solid backup if Lopez needs rest. But the cherry on top, the icing on the cake, the ribbon to tie this package together- Josh Hart. An NCAA Champion groomed by some of the best coaches in college basketball, Hart is a stable leader with maturity L.A. can lean on when times get tough. If they get George- you’re looking at a serious contender in 2018.
Orlando Magic– The Magic got some nice talent, but it just didn’t fit their draft needs. While Elfrid Payton is a lock at point guard, I feel they really need depth there, and a good shooting guard with the 6th pick. Instead, they went for Jonathan Isaac who is admittedly a very versatile player, but just not the right fit for Orlando. His style is a lot like Terrance Ross, and if you add on Aaron Gordon, it appears as though they’ve created a log jam in the forward position. So the next pick will surely be a guard, right? No. Seven-footer Anzejs Pasecniks. He’s a great international player don’t get me wrong, but I don’t know why the Magic felt they needed him to challenge Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo in the 5-spot. Now the Magic have no stability in the front court, and no depth in the back court. Yikes.
Chicago Bulls Fans– No, not the Chicago Bulls, but the fans. I don’t hate the trade as much as everyone seems to. Yes, the Bulls traded away a superstar and any chance they had at making the Divisional Round, but check this out: On Tuesday night they offered to give the Celtics Jimmy Butler for the #3 pick straight up, and luckily for Chicago, the Celtics somehow declined. So on Thursday, they get pick #7, a budding two-guard with lots of energy, and last year’s #5 overall pick. That doesn’t sound to bad to me when you consider the position the Bulls are in. Torn between going all-in or rebuilding, I think this is a great way to hit the reset button. Sorry Bulls fans, you’ll have to wait a couple of years to contend again, but take solace in the fact that this trade isn’t as bad as everyone is making it seem. Also, Lauri Markkanen is an absolute stud, so maybe you’ll make it back to the playoffs before you know it.
Utah Jazz– This was not a good night for Utah. It started off well with a trade up to draft the athletic Donovan Mitchell. I thought, “Great! He’s a solid backup if Gordon Hayward stays, and a good replacement of he leaves.” Well, then comes Tony Bradley and Nigel Williams-Goss. A national champion and the guy he beat. Unfortunately, neither player has the body for the NBA. Bradley is a raw prospect who needs a lot of conditioning, and Goss is a workhorse on defense but struggles on the offensive end. With that I realized, if Hayward leaves, the Jazz are screwed. And by drafting two guards, it appears the Jazz might be preparing for just that. It was fun while it lasted Utah…
Miami Heat– The Heat only had one pick and they blew it. Bam Adebayo was completely out of my 2017 NBA Mock Draft, and cannot be a difference maker for a team that missed the playoffs by one game. And fine, it’s one game, they can make that up, right? Well maybe, but look at all the talent that got scooped up in this draft by the teams behind the Heat. While Miami stays stagnant, teams like the 76ers and Hornets are making moves to pass them. Had they drafted Justin Jackson or Justin Patton, I would have put them in the Winners column for finding someone to work with Whiteside and prove the difference to breaking into the playoffs. Instead, the Heat will be stuck in limbo again in 2018.
So there you have it. Do you think I nailed it? Or did I get it all wrong? Let me know in the comments and be sure to check out my 2017 NBA Draft Grades for in-depth analysis of every first round pick.