The NBA Draft was arguably more exciting than most of the NBA Finals. This was a really deep draft, and the top of it featured a ton of players who are expected to be stars. There were some big trades and there are now some teams who will immediately become must-watch next season with their new assets. Here are some of my biggest takeaways from the draft.
- The Sixers predictably took Markelle Fultz with the #1 pick, and “the process” is officially coming to fruition. They now poise a serious starting five that features Fultz, Ben Simmons (who will be playing his first year), and Joel Embiid. There’s no more tanking for them. It’s time to compete, grow and maybe even fight for a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference. 76ers fans should be excited, but we can’t completely overreact; they still need to stay healthy – Simmons and Embiid have both missed a ton of time already. But it’s at least encouraging for their fans that have been waiting for this exact moment for years. There’s no more waiting in Philly, the Sixers are ready to compete.
- The Lakers also took their guy(s) that everybody expected, Lonzo and LaVar Ball. The Lakers still play in the West and have a lot of work to do, but Ball is a guy that all eyes will be on, whether it’s because of his father’s outlandish personality or because of his son’s elite potential. Ball is an unselfish player who will make his teammates better, and if his unconventional shooting style translates to the league, his ceiling is sky high. Either way, the Lakers will be must-watch television next season; everyone’s going to want to see how Ball responds to all of the noise. Side note: LaVar Ball is a winner. He got what he and his family wanted, and honestly, Lonzo and the rest of the Ball’s seem like genuinely good kids. That has to be a testament to his parenting, and kudos to him for sticking to his game and garnering a ton of the attention for his son and their brand. It doesn’t seem to bother the quiet Lonzo, but he’ll of course have to perform on the court, where he’ll likely have a bullseye on his back all season long.
- Knicks had a chance to grab Malik Monk at #8, and despite a lot of trade rumors involving Kristaps Porzingis, they stayed put and took their player. It just wasn’t Monk, it was France Guard Frank Ntilikina. He’s now the highest-drafted French player in NBA history. He’ll face a ton of pressure being in New York, but fans have to be patient; he’s 18 and probably has a long way to go. It’s tough to tell how overseas players will adjust to NBA style of play, but he has the measurables (6’5, 7-foot wingspan) and athletic build to be a really good guard in the league. The Knicks are a team to watch this offseason with Carmelo Anthony, but fans should at least be happy that Phil Jackson didn’t get rid of their best player in Porzingis (yet), and they now have a defensive guard who has a chance to step in and gel with Porzingis for years to come. It’s a step in the right direction.
- The Bulls traded Jimmy Butler for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the no. 7 pick (Lauri Markkanen). The Bulls also sent their 16th pick to the Wolves, who chose Center Justin Patton out of Creighton.
- This was an awesome trade for the Wolves. I think they wanted to keep Dunn, but Rubio will be a good facilitator on a team where he won’t have to really score; it’s the perfect situation for him. The Wolves now have Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler, and Karl Anthony-Towns, and the very respected coach Tom Thibodeau is reuniting with Butler. That’s a really solid, young core that will be fun to watch for years to come. Like I said, they’re still really young; it will take some time for them to mature and gel together. But they should be able to compete for a solid playoff spot in the West, and while they probably won’t poise a serious threat to the top teams of the West right off the bat, they won’t be an easy out by any means. If anything, they will be an amazing league-pass team that will be in a bunch of fun games.
- This was a pretty awful trade for the Bulls. Butler’s personal trainer, Travelle Gaines, tweeted that General Manager Gar Forman is a “liar.” “0-82.worst culture in the league.I met drug dealers with better morals then their GM. He is a liar and everyone knows,” he tweeted. Sheesh. I bet Bulls fans feel similar; they probably could have got a lot more for their star player. Butler is a legit top 10-15 player in the league, and he’s just entering his prime. The Bulls better have a plan for the future or this will come back to eat at them for years, especially if LaVine doesn’t fully recover from his ACL tear and is only a shadow of his former self (he was playing really well until the injury last year). The book is also still open on Dunn, who was drafted only last year. I’m not ready to call it the worst trade ever, only time will tell, but it doesn’t look good for the Bulls early who traded their top player for not much star power in return. It seems like the Bulls are going to enter rebuild mode, and it may be a couple of long years.
- The Kings are dysfunctional organization, but they had a pretty solid draft (ducks). They selected Kentucky Guard De’Aaron Fox with their fifth pick, who a lot of people believe will end up as one of the best players out of this draft. I agree; he is as explosive as anyone in the draft and has a lot of John Wall/Russell Westbrook attributes. Plus, he seems like a genuine guy who just wants to get better every day. He’s just a baller, as we saw all NCAA season in big games.
- They then traded out of #10 for picks 15 and 20, where they selected UNC’s Justin Jackson and Duke’s Harry Giles. I wanted to see Monk stay alongside Fox with the 10 pick, but they chose to get the extra pick in a deep draft. That’s a solid move, and I like both picks. Both Jackson and Giles are probably a little far away from contributing in the NBA, but they have potential to be really good (especially Giles, who was just starting to regain confidence after returning from serious injury last season). The Kings are far away from competing, but they took a shot with these two later picks and only time will tell if it was the right decision.
- The Celtics traded out of the #1 pick and took Duke’s Jayson Tatum at #3. Danny Ainge claims the Celtics would have taken Tatum with the #1 pick, so from that perspective, it was a good move. But it’s tough to confidently say this was the most they could for the #1 pick, which was very coveted for Markelle Fultz. Boston got the #3 pick, plus either a first-rounder in 2018 and 2019 depending on what pick the Lakers hold next season.
- There was a lot of noise about the Celtics making a big trade for either Porzingis, Paul George or Jimmy Butler. There’s been rumors for a while about them getting one of these star players. But they stayed put and seem to be sticking to a larger plan for the future. I just feel like, being that they were already in the Eastern Conference Finals, they are closer to winning the East than not. I’m interested to see if any further moves get made and if they trade some serious assets for a big star player like George.