Last night, 60 college and international prospects were selected in the NBA Draft where they will start the next chapter of their basketball careers. Despite not even playing an NBA game yet, one can project the winners and losers from the draft by evaluating the pick in which certain players were drafted and whether that player will fit in with the current roster. With the draft officially over, I see several winners and losers from around the NBA.
The Timberwolves entered the draft with the seventh pick and no other selections. By the night’s end, the Timberwolves left with the 16th pick in the draft and superstar small forward Jimmy Butler. The Timberwolves shocked the NBA world by trading the seventh overall pick (Lauri Markkanen), Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine to the Chicago Bulls for the 16th pick in the draft (center Justin Patton) and Jimmy Butler.
Butler rejoins his former coach Tom Thibodeau who helped Butler take his talents to the next level in Chicago. Butler will join a very talented and young roster where he will provide much needed leadership and experience to help these Timberwolves become more formidable contenders in the Western Conference. The Timberwolves also acquired a new center with the 16th pick in the draft in Justin Patton out of Creighton University. Patton is a very athletic center who will become a great compliment to Karl-Anthony Towns in a potentially elite NBA front court. Minnesota entered the night as a potential playoff team and are now almost guaranteed a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Golden State Warriors
The 2017 NBA champion Golden State Warriors entered the draft with no picks. By night’s end, they ended up with Jordan Bell from the University of Oregon. According to reports, the Warriors paid the Bulls $3.5 million in exchange for the 38th pick in the draft. At first look, that seems expensive. However, that amount of money is completely worth it considering the quality of player the Warriors were able to acquire. Despite winning the championship this past season, the Warriors were not perfect. Their defense was practically non-existent in the NBA Finals and they had to rely on elite shot making in order to beat the Cavaliers in five games. Now, the Warriors have another rim protector with a ridiculous motor. Bell, in my opinion, was the best defensive player in the entire draft. He was a monster in the NCAA tournament and will provide valuable minutes off the bench for the Warriors. Prior to the draft, I thought the Warriors were going to win the NBA Championship again this upcoming season anyway but it now looks like a lock barring any injuries.
In terms of draft selections, the Kings’ organization was the biggest winner of the NBA draft. The Kings entered the draft with the fifth pick, the 10th pick and the 34th pick. After selecting De’Aaron Fox, a potentially elite point guard from the University of Kentucky with the fifth pick in the draft, the Kings fleeced the Trail Blazers in a trade for the 10th pick. By trading the 10th pick, The Kings were able to acquire the 15th and the 20th picks in the NBA Draft. The Kings then used those newly acquired picks to select Justin Jackson and Harry Giles who should be able to contribute to the franchise immediately. Jackson is a perfect replacement for Rudy Gay who already announced that he was opting out of his contract. Jackson is an athletic wing out of the University of North Carolina who can shoot from the three point line pretty well and is also a great defender. Giles, despite being a huge underachiever at Duke University, has tremendous upside and can help form a nice front court with Willie Cauley-Stein.
The Kings even managed to hit a home run in the second round with their selection of Frank Mason, the 2017 Naismith College Player of the Year award winner from the University of Kansas, with the 34th pick. Mason will be a solid point guard off the bench who can score and assist at a consistent level. Despite being undersized, Mason is a crafty player who will find multiple ways to contribute at the next level. Props to GM Vlade Divac and Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadivé for a relatively perfect draft.
The Bulls entered the draft with one superstar player and ended it with zero. The Bulls acquired point guard Kris Dunn despite already having Rajon Rondo and Cameron Payne under contract. Dunn has also been a bust so far in his NBA career and will need to play a lot better with the Bulls in order for this trade to work out well for Chicago. The Bulls also acquired guard Zach LaVine, a two-time Slam Dunk Contest winner, despite his currently torn ACL. LaVine, when healthy, is a phenomenal talent who can shoot the ball from deep and finish strong around the rim. However, one has to wonder how LaVine’s ACL injury will impact his style of play in the future.
The Bulls also made a questionable draft selection by taking Lauri Markkanen from the University of Arizona with the seventh overall pick. The Bulls already have big men Bobby Portis and Robin Lopez under contract who will spend most of their time in the paint. They also plan on keeping power forward Nikola Mirotic who will spend most of his time behind the three point line. Where is Markannen going to play? I am not claiming that Markannen will be a bust. I just do not see a spot for him to contribute heavily on the current roster. He is too slow to play small forward and too skinny to play power forward. Overall, the Bulls lost badly last night and their fans will be feeling the effects of last night for years to come.
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland entered the draft with three first-round picks and a very talented roster. However, it decided to trade the 15th and 20th picks to Sacramento in exchange for the 10th pick in the draft where the Trail Blazers selected center Zach Collins from Gonzaga University. First off, the Trail Blazers gave up way too much in order to move up five spots. I can understand the move if Collins was in danger of getting drafted by the Kings. However, the Kings have multiple centers on the roster and there was no chance that they were drafting another one with the 10th overall pick. The Blazers do not necessarily need Collins. They already have multiple big men under contract including Nurkic, Ezeli and Leonard. They did not need another center. The Trail Blazers basically traded Justin Jackson and Harry Giles for Zach Collins which means that they got completely ripped off.
To make matters worse, the Trail Blazers selected another big man with the 26th pick in the draft. They selected Caleb Swanigan out of Purdue University despite the fact that he was projected to be a second-round pick. Why would you draft two big men when you already have three on the current roster? The Trail Blazers had the opportunity to draft talented players to improve at multiple positions. Instead, the organization’s front office decided to draft two players who will be competing with each other for playing time.