2017 NBA Draft: Biggest winners and losers
After a jam-packed and trade heavy 2017 NBA Draft, several teams emerged as clear winners, while many franchises took major steps back.
After months of speculation and weeks of trade rumors, 2017 NBA Draft night is finally over.
The dreams of so many outstanding young men have come true. Their hard work has paid off, though it’s only beginning now.
We had a plethora of trades, including a star that wasn’t Paul George. Perhaps the only disappointment of the draft from a pure excitement standpoint was that Kristraps Porzingis remains in New York.
The lottery went more or less as expected. Malik Monk was the only real player to fall and he still went 11th to the Charlotte Hornets. With such a deep lottery, most teams picking in the top-10 were winners on draft night so it’s not easy to pick just five. Still, here’s an attempt at the five biggest winners and losers from draft night.
Biggest Loser #5: Portland Trail Blazers
While he’s wearing a Sacramento Kings hat in the photo above, Zach Collins won’t be heading to California’s capitol. In what was a great trade, at first, for a team with three picks in the first round, the Portland Trail Blazers could have done a lot better with this selection.
The biggest word out of Portland was that they were looking to move up to find help for Damian Lillard, per the point guard’s request. Collins projects to be a good pro, but he’s going to be a project. Sure he dominated large parts of games, but all in limited minutes. It’s hard to see him contributing right away and it’s harder to swallow the Blazers skipping on the chance to draft Malik Monk.
Monk was still on the board at No. 10 and his shooting would have been at least one skill Lillard could have utilized next season. In addition to not drafting Monk, or even Donovan Mitchell‘s bulldog defending, the Blazers took Caleb Swanigan with their 26th pick.
I’ll happily eat my words here, but given his lack of mobility and inability to play both sides of the ball, this pick leaves a lot to be desired. The Blazers are mostly this low because not that many teams had bad nights. However, when you trade into the top-10 and leave Monk on the board, that’s a bad call by the front office.
Biggest Winner #5: Jordan Bell and the Golden State Warriors
I guess they really are light years ahead. Jordan Bell was a borderline first round talent where fit really mattered. As a small-ball 5 with no shooting and very little offensive scoring, he needed a team that could take advantage of his skill set.
When you think of an elite defensive prospect who needs spacing to thrive, is there really any team better for him than the Golden State Warriors?
The Warriors could theoretically play Bell instead of Zaza Pachulia, David West and when Draymond Green sits. They might have two elite small-ball 5s now. It’s so unfair (and also great) that the Warriors got Bell. Of course they did.
Let’s also not let the Chicago Bulls off the hook on this one (more on them later). The Bulls were the ones who made this all happen. Granted, the Warriors coughed up a reported $3.5 million, but what exactly do the Bulls need that money for?
Warriors paid $3.5 million for the rights to No. 38 pick Jordan Bell
— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) June 23, 2017
Sure, the Warriors’ potential dynasty over the next five years won’t hurt the Bulls’ ambitions, but man, this decision falls in line with their whole night.
Bell’s ability to defend multiple positions, make plays offensively, and readiness to contribute right away probably helps the Warriors’ ability to keep their core together and have a strong bench. Get ready to see Bell in the NBA Finals next year.
Biggest Loser #4: Miami Heat
When the dominos started falling early in the first round, it was clear the Miami Heat weren’t going to have an easy choice at No. 14. No one really slid. Donovan Mitchell and Luke Kennard went right before them, taking the near-consensus top-13 players off the table.
This was the part of the draft heavy with big men and the Heat, as everyone knows, have Hassan Whiteside on a massive deal. While he is their only major productive center, the Heat could have tried to acquire any of the bigs that fell into the second round or gone after someone cheap in free agency.
Instead they took Bam Adebayo. Adebayo is not a lottery pick-level talent. He has a tremendous motor and could turn into a good defensive center, but that’s about it. Other than crashing the offensive glass, he has next to no skill. There’s certainly a place for him in the NBA and he likely deserved a first round pick, but not in the lottery. Not for Miami. The fit is just not great here.
Pat Riley could have taken a gamble on either Harry Giles or OG Anunoby, or a player who could play with Whiteside. This pick was really puzzling and what was more disappointing is it was their only pick of the night. Even despite a really solid second round of talent, the Heat decided to stand pat.
Biggest Winner #4: Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings were huge winners on Thursday night and could easily be higher on this list. Choosing between them and the next three was really difficult. The top four winners were really close and all had amazing nights.
As for the Kings, they got their franchise centerpiece in Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox. Fox’s fire, speed and demeanor should lead this team to a much brighter future in the post-DeMarcus Cousins era.
Part of the reason why the Kings are lower here is because while Fox is outstanding, he’s a bit of a safe pick. There’s nothing wrong with that, but he doesn’t have the ceiling of someone like Jonathan Isaac or Dennis Smith Jr. This selection is totally justifiable, but you wonder if they left better players on the board.
That’s the negative side of things. Here’s the positive: the Kings killed the rest of the draft. While we’re all sad Malik Monk and Fox aren’t reunited in California’s capitol, getting two picks for No. 10 was good value. With Fox, Buddy Hield, and a very young roster, it makes sense to give Hield room to play rather than bringing in competition.
Justin Jackson isn’t a sexy pick, but he should be at worst a solid bench player who can shoot the ball and play the right way. Harry Giles at No. 20 could prove to be the steal of the draft if he ever gets his confidence back. And finally, Frank Mason III was a nice pick in the second round, who could be their long-term backup point guard behind Fox. This may be the day that the Kangz became the Kings again. Good job Vivek.
Biggest Loser #3: The 2017 International Class
After a record-breaking number of foreign-born players taken in 2016, the 2017 international class was a let down in more than one way. Only two players who played outside the United States were taken in the first round.
Anzejs Pasecniks landing to the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 25 seemed like a bit of a reach with the full intention of keeping him overseas with a loaded roster. T.J. Leaf and OG Anunoby were born abroad, but grew up in the United States. Lauri Markkanen from Finland could help that reputation as the seventh pick heading to Chicago.
Between the five foreign-born first-rounders, two grew up in the United States and one played college here. Not exactly the same as the eight players taken in the first round last year who grew up and played overseas.
Among the international class, aside from Isaiah Hartenstein‘s slide due to injury, the biggest loser might be Frank Ntilikina. This statement has absolutely nothing to do with his game. Ntilikina was a legit top-10 pick and deserved to be selected there, but man, having to go play for the New York Knicks right now is like being banished to Hades.
The second round did produce nine foreign-born players, including college athletes Tyler Dorsey, Jonah Bolden and Dillon Brooks. Nonetheless, the quality of the players is significantly down from the norm. Luckily, the 2018 class has a lot of potential and this group could always prove us wrong.
Biggest Winner #3: Los Angeles Lakers and Big Baller Brand
After weeks of speculation, Lonzo Ball is a Los Angeles Laker, just like LaVar Ball said all along. In a week where the front office shipped away D’Angelo Russell to clear cap room, the Lakers needed a good draft. Instead, they had a great one.
The Lakers were neck-and-neck with the top-2 for who had the best draft. When it comes to a successful night, the conversation of course starts with Lonzo Ball. Ball looks to be the new face of the franchise and should elevate the games of all the Lakers’ young players. Ball is a win for his teammates, a win for the future, a win for Summer League and a win for tickets at Staples Center.
His selection is also a win for Big Baller Brand. Staying close to home is good for Ball to see his family and vice versa. Get ready for a lot more LaVar, though don’t expect him to be anywhere near to the bench or locker room. This is the day we get to really enjoy the Lonzo experience, not the Ball one.
In addition, the Lakers might have had the biggest steal of the night with Villanova’s Josh Hart. Adding an interesting combo forward in Kyle Kuzma and Thomas Bryant‘s stretch-5 potential gives the Lakers a lot of versatility heading into training camp. They definitely left some good players on the board in the second round, but no one can be displeased because of Ball and Hart.
Biggest Loser #2: Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics
We joke about how Danny Ainge loves to flaunt about all the assets he has and then never makes a deal. Looking at what Minnesota gave up to get Jimmy Butler, a top-10 or top-15 player in the league, should be a punch in the gut to the Boston Celtics.
Ainge said they were never really close to the deal, but judging on the trade that went down, how exactly did the Celtics not get Butler? There are certainly a lot of moving pieces right now, as the team looks to add both Gordon Hayward and Paul George, but this is a big risk to walk away from the draft without a star who was available for a low price.
While the Celtics did a good job of balking on the asking price for Kristaps Porzingis, they shouldn’t feel good about taking Jayson Tatum No. 3 overall. It appears from this selection that Ainge didn’t see much of a difference between Tatum and Markelle Fultz, which is a mistake.
In addition to that, Tatum is a terrible fit as a player who needs the ball to be most effective. Passing on talent like Jonathan Isaac and Josh Jackson, who don’t need the ball, could come back to haunt him. So might skipping out on Fultz.
If Tatum becomes the centerpiece of a deal for Paul George or someone else, we can look at this selection differently. Could Ainge have selected Tatum because that’s what another suitor preferred for a big trade? That would’ve been very risky. On the positive side, Kadeem Allen and Semi Ojeleye were nice second picks.
Biggest Winner #2: Philadelphia 76ers and the Process
The Philadelphia 76ers, Lakers and Kings arguably had as good a night as one another. With Philadelphia nearly being the biggest winner on draft night, it’s hard to overlook the power of the No. 1 pick and the fit of Markelle Fultz.
For the second straight year, the Sixers had the No. 1 pick and took a prospect with one of the highest ceilings of the past decade. Fultz has James Harden written all over his game with a little more finesse and less power. That’s the perfect guard to put around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
We’re looking at perhaps the best young trio in the league. The Process was all about accumulating assets to draft transcendent players. Sam Hinkie looks like a very smart man right now.
In addition to Fultz, the Sixers had a solid draft. Anzejs Pasecniks was a bit of a reach at No. 25, but could turn into a great trade chip or backup center a year or two from now. With Richaun Holmes and Jahlil Okafor on the roster for now, there doesn’t seem a place from the 7’2″ big from Latvia.
The Sixers stayed international with Jonah Bolden and Mathias Lessort, with Bolden the likeliest to contribute right away.
Biggest Loser: The Chicago Bulls and John Paxson
Look above and you’ll see Justin Patton walking past the Chicago Bulls logo. This will likely be how Bulls fans react to what happened on draft night: walking away from their franchise and United Center.
The Bulls got absolutely fleeced in trading Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In the deal for Butler, they got Kris Dunn, an injured Zach LaVine and the seventh overall pick, which they used to take Arizona’s one-and-done sniper Lauri Markkanen. They also had to give up the 16th overall pick, which Minnesota took Justin Patton with. Giving up your own pick in addition to Butler is a borderline fireable offense.
Dunn had an awful rookie year and is 23, LaVine may never get his athleticism back and Markkanen had the lowest ceiling in the top-10. Passing on Dennis Smith Jr. seems like a bad idea, even with Dunn in the package.
Even if Dunn was in the deal, they could have walked away with a legit scorer and franchise player in Smith. Instead they have a plethora of role players, none of which seem fit to run a franchise.
This move by John Paxson continues his legacy of making bad decisions in the front office and could set the Bulls back a decade. Fred Hoiberg may want to jump ship immediately.
Biggest Winner: Minnesota Timberwolves
With the Chicago Bulls as the biggest loser on draft night, it’s only fitting to crown the Minnesota Timberwolves as the night’s biggest winner. While it may not be on the same level as some of the deals Danny Ainge and Sam Hinkie pulled off over the years, this was nothing short of a heist.
Minnesota keeps its core of Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Ricky Rubio, who is on a great contract, and adds arguably a top-10 player in the league. Additionally, they convinced Chicago to throw in the 16th pick and took Justin Patton. Patton has one of the highest upsides of anyone that late in the first round. He needs to get tougher and more consistent which seems a good project for his new coach.
Now, don’t get too carried away here, the Wolves are far from contention. In fact, they could easily miss the playoffs next year. That’s just the nature of the Western Conference.
But Butler and Towns is one of rhe great one-two punches in the league. Wiggins’ improvement is a necessity for them to take a jump, but they may be a free agent destination now.
The only danger for Minnesota is Butler did not want to leave and will need convincing of staying. Unlike Paul George, the Wolves have two years to persuade him and Butler doesn’t have his eyes set on a future destination like George. Reuniting with Tom Thibodeau certainly won’t hurt either.