Everyone was expecting something major to happen in the NBA on Thursday night, yet it was a little surprising when something actually did. Heading into the 2017 NBA draft there was plenty of talk of a team pulling off a big deal. Insiders threw out names like Paul George, Kristaps Porzingis and LaMacus Aldridge. Yet nobody had the Minnesota Timberwolves trading for the Chicago Bulls’ Jimmy Butler until the deal was nearly completed, after the draft has already begun. The blockbuster deal overshadowed a draft night that otherwise went pretty much as expected.
Let’s discuss this Thursdays’s winners and losers.
It wasn’t even the unexpectedness of the move; it was the price tag that made the Timberwolves Thursday night’s big winners. For the price tag of Zach LaVine, still recovering from an ACL injury, Kris Dunn and the No7 pick, they managed to get one of the best players available during this offseason while still snagging Chicago’s 16th pick, which they used to pick up the rights for Creighton big man Justin Patton.
The addition of JimmyButler to a team that already had Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins should see Minnesota break their playoff drought sooner rather than later.
For the second straight year, the 76ers had the No1 overall pick, this time thanks to the Boston Celtics’ still baffling decision to trade down. They did was what they supposed to do, making the easy play by picking Washington point guard Markelle Fultz.
Golden State Warriors
They didn’t have any draft picks last night, so they went and got Jordan Bell for straight cash, spending a NBA maximum $3.5m for the Bulls’ No 38 pick.
The Mavs were openly thrilled to get North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr with the No 9 pick.
Sixteen first-year players were picked last night, including the first seven selected, were first-year players, a NBA record. A new trend for one-and-done players? Or a sign of an impending end?
With the No7 pick, the Bulls picked Arizona big man Lauri Markkanen. Now there’s a chance that Markkanen, a bit of a project, could end up being a good player at some point. You know who he will never be as good as? Jimmy Butler.
New York Knicks
In a way, Thursday felt like a win for Knicks fans. Despite the threats, if only because team president Phil Jackson ended up not trading away 21-year-old face of the franchise Kristaps Porzingis (aka the only hope remaining for much of this beleaguered fanbase). Talks to remain the Latvian big man stalled and instead they picked France’s Frank Ntilikina with the No 8 pick.
It was a disappointingly reasonable draft last night. The first real reach of the night could have been the Pistons selecting Duke guard Luke Kennard at No 12, who projects to be a poor man’s JJ Redick, a pick who received muted reaction thanks to his questionable defense.
Most of Thursday’s moves will be better judged in how they work out in the grander scheme of things.
For the Celtics, it will all come down to how good Fultz ends up being in comparison to Jayson Tatum, the Duke forward who ended up going to Boston at No 3. GM Danny Ainge’s curious decision to trade down after securing the No 1 spot could end up haunting the franchise. They remain in talks with the Indiana Pacers for Paul George.
Los Angeles Lakers
If they learn to tune out LaVar, Lonzo Ball should be a perfect fit in LA. Earlier they gave away 21-year-old D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th pick (who ended up being Utah forward Kyle Kuzma), mostly to shed Timofey Mozgov’s contract. This may open up a spot for a star player, or two, next summer, but it’s not a move without some risk.
San Antonio Spurs
They failed to trade up, and didn’t find a home for a disgruntled LaMarcus Aldridge, but time has taught us to never accuse the Spurs on faltering on draft night. Knowing them, Colorado’s Derrick White will end up working out better for them than a healthy chuck of the 28 players ahead of them.
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