The NBA Draft has come and gone, and the virtual format was a winning formula, though it certainly seemed to fly by quickly. That and all of the trades that had us wondering which team was picking each of the players.
I personally preferred when teams could make trades on draft night so we could know who is going where when they get drafted. Two of the greatest draft memories were the swaps of Chris Webber for Penny Hardaway in 1993 and Antawn Jamison for Vince Carter in 1998. Both happened soon after both players were picked on draft night, not a couple of days later.
This year’s class isn’t going to have a lot of time to get acclimated to their new teams, as the season is just around the corner. No summer league. No time to work with coaches before the full team arrives. It’s go time in a very short time for all of this year’s rookies.
Let’s take a look at a few of the winners and losers I saw in Wednesday night’s draft.
Winners – Minnesota Timberwolves
When your two stars are a ball-dominant guard and a big man, and two of the three potential No. 1 picks are a ball-dominant guard and a big man, it’s best to shy away from those. Yes, sometimes it doesn’t matter what you have, you just take the best available. But with a scoring guard like Anthony Edwards available with the top pick, Minnesota did the right thing to take him rather than James Wiseman or LaMelo Ball.
Edwards is explosive as a scorer but doesn’t need to have his ball in his hands at all times, allowing D’Angelo Russell to make plays for him and Karl-Anthony Towns in the offense. Now the question is, can these three find the fire to forge themselves into a playoff contender in the deep Western Conference?
Winners – Memphis Grizzlies
Even without a first-round pick, the Grizzlies helped their young corps with the second-round selection of Xavier Tillman out of Michigan State. Tillman is a solid big man who can play tough defense as well as hit from the outside, but the biggest positive is what he’ll bring off the court.
Tillman was a freshman with the Spartans the same year that Jaren Jackson Jr. was with Michigan State, and the two forged a close bond, so much that Jackson was a groomsman when Tillman got married in the summer of 2019. Now the duo is reunited in Memphis, giving Jackson — a first-team All-Rookie pick in 2018-19 — a teammate that can push him as well as another reason to stick around the team when his rookie contract is up.
Winners – New York Knicks
How many players want to go to a franchise that doesn’t have much of an identity and hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2013? Sure, a rookie is always excited about joining the NBA ranks, but the emotion of Dayton’s Obi Toppin on draft night was because he was going to the New York franchise he’d been a fan of as a youngster.
And, it’s not just Toppin’s enthusiasm that makes the Knicks a winner with the pick. The team was prepared to move up to get Toppin if they had to, but instead, they were able to stay at No. 8 and still get their man. Toppin brings not just gaudy scoring stats but also flash with his highlight dunks, giving the Knicks a chance to be an exciting watch for New York fans even if they don’t win right away.
Losers – Chicago Bulls
On a night when it seemed like every pick was being traded or made for someone else, the Bulls stayed at No. 4 and picked Florida State’s Patrick Williams. Now, Williams might end up being a very good player in the league, but the Bulls could have traded down, picked up an asset, and still selected Williams at least four or five picks later.
Instead, Chicago stood firm to pick a player who didn’t start a single game at the collegiate level with the fourth overall pick. A guy that some project as just a 3-and-D guy. Not exactly the kind of pick that is going to turn around a franchise that has struggled in recent years.
Winners – Sacramento Kings
Sometimes, luck is just with a team. Sacramento has not had that kind of luck for a long time, but on draft night, it seemed to return. Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton was considered by some to be a potential top four pick, or at least in the top 10. Instead, Haliburton slid down the board to the Kings at No. 12, giving Sacramento an easy choice when it was time for its pick.
Haliburton is a player who will be able to step in right away and contribute, able to handle the ball if need be, shoot the ball from long range and just be a good glue guy next to D’Aaron Fox in the backcourt.
Losers – New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have a lot of ball-handlers on their squad, from Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart to even Brandon Ingram, and there is a rumored trade that will bring both Eric Bledsoe and George Hill to the team (though the particulars still aren’t set as the trade continues to get bigger). So why would the Pelicans go for a point guard with their first-round selection in Alabama’s Kira Lewis?
The very young Lewis is going to find playing time hard to get at the point, and the Pelicans likely could have gone big to get some depth behind Zion Williamson. But, with the deal that will send Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee continuing to change (Steven Adams is now rumored to be headed to the Pelicans in the swap as well), Lewis’ stay in New Orleans may be short.
Winners – Phoenix Suns
While Phoenix had the chance to take a player like Haliburton, it instead selected Maryland big man Jalen Smith, who is a great shot-blocker and developing shooter. The move makes sense considering the Suns just traded for Chris Paul to go with Devin Booker, so having a player who can hit a long jump shot as well as cover up for defensive mistakes on the other end is certainly a good pick.