2017 NBA Draft Winners and Losers
The 2017 NBA Draft is officially over after years of methodical analysis of each player since their high school days. After the dust settled of what was the beginning of a chaotic NBA offseason, it is time to dive into who came out as the winners and losers this year.
The Philadelphia 76ers, Sam Hinkie, and The Process:
4 years ago, Sam Hinkie and the Philadelphia 76ers did the unthinkable and began “The Process.” By trading all-star point guard Jrue Holiday, Hinkie had a vision of having losing seasons in order to collect top-tier, elite talent through the draft and build a timeline that will give Philadelphia a competitive team for years to come. Fast-forward to today, Hinkie is now fired and Bryan Colangelo is overseeing all basketball operations instead. But until now, the 76ers have been able to accrue multiple assets and young pieces in order to truly show how much success “The Process” has yielded in five years. Franchise cornerstones Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Ben Simmons, and now Markelle Fultz have been drafted. This team oozes potential and I can say that this core of young talent is very close to being a threat in the Eastern Conference. The assets that Hinkie was able to accrue over his tenure allowed the team to go after Markelle Fultz and finally get the point guard it desperately needed to kick start the franchise’s potential as perennial playoff contenders of the future.
The 76ers were also drafted Latvian big man Anzejs Pasecniks, who can look to be a great insurance policy depending on Embiid’s health. Pasecniks fits the bill for how NBA teams are advancing towards floor spacing, shooting, and defensive versatility. Jonah Bolden was also a great pick in the second round, giving the 76ers more depth into their youth movement. Overall, the 76ers come out of this draft as winners with their acquisitions of players who will help provide depth, stability, and eventual star power. Hinkie died for “The Process” and remains the gift that keeps on giving.
Breaking news came in the midst of the draft as the Minnesota Timberwolves announced that they will be trading Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn, and the number 7 pick in the lottery for Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler and the 16th overall pick in the draft. Minnesota was an immediate winner on draft night, as it was the sleeper team that successfully grabbed Butler from the directionless Chicago Bulls. Butler reunited with his former coach Tom Thibodeau and Minnesota may finally be able to break its playoff drought. Butler’s familiarity with Thibodeau’s system is especially important, as he almost averaged 40 minutes per game under him while in Chicago, while providing loads of defensive intensity against opposing offenses. Minnesota was also able to add Justin Patton with the 16th pick, who can fit in between Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns. Patton is a great two-way big man that has especially great potential on the defensive end, something the Timberwolves would love to have under Thibodeau.
The Phoenix Suns were the definite losers of the draft lottery, projecting to have the best odds at the second pick and potentially being able to draft a transcendent point guard like Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball. Unfortunately, lady luck was not with the desert that night. After resting the team’s veterans in the second half of the season in order to stack up more losses and increase their odds to gain a top-3 pick, the Suns were the only team to fall more than 1 spot from their projected odds and eventually wound up with the fourth overall pick. General manager Ryan McDonough needed to save his job by making power moves in this draft. Throughout draft day, rumblings around the league had teams later in the first round trying to trade up and get Kansas forward Josh Jackson.
I had Jackson number 2 on my NBA Draft big board. He is a physical specimen who is seen as having an immediate impact on the defensive end on the floor. Jackson also has the potential to be a great two-way wing player, relying on his defensive abilities to create offense. With the Celtics unable to get Jackson for a scheduled workout or meeting, Danny Ainge decided to go with Duke forward, Jayson Tatum, opening the door up for the Suns to draft Jackson. Ryan McDonough called the league office with no hesitation, selecting Jackson fourth overall, after he was projected by many to go in the top-3. He could very well be the best pick in the draft. Jackson fits on the Suns roster seamlessly. Phoenix will foster Jackson’s growth, as they desperately need some defensive charisma and someone who can come in and contribute immediately with rising star, Devin Booker. Jackson’s competitive spirit will also mesh seamlessly with Booker and Marquese Chriss, as they begin to develop together on the court. Ryan McDonough can hopefully sleep well now knowing that his job security is safe. And maybe Josh Jackson will also prove to everyone why he should have gone number 1 in this draft.
Lavar Ball’s expectations for the Lakers next season :
“Lonzo Ball is gonna take the Lakers to the playoffs his first year. Come see me when he does. I’ll have another hat on that say ‘I told you so.’” Those were the exact words of one Lavar Ball minutes after his son Lonzo was drafted second overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. Any words that come out of Lavar Ball’s mouth should be taken with a grain of salt, but he is in for a massive let down if he truly believes his son will help catapult the Lakers to the NBA Playoffs in the brutal Western Conference next season. Although there is a general consensus around the league that the Lakers are trending in the right direction, their roster still lacks the veteran leadership and playmaking required of championship caliber teams. Fast forward three seasons and the Lakers will almost certainly be poised to be a consistent playoff threat, but to expect them to compete for a playoff berth next season is asinine. However, if we’ve learned one thing about Lavar Ball, it’s that he is the king of asinine comments. His comments even irked the 76ers’ Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Danny Ainge and the Celtics front office:
The Celtics selected Jayson Tatum, the versatile forward out of Duke, with the third overall pick. Many speculated that Ainge would try to include the third pick in a package deal to acquire a superstar, but he opted to keep Tatum — for now anyway. There were several reports during the draft that Boston was in serious talks with Indiana about a blockbuster trade that centered around Pacers star Paul George but talks eventually stalled between the two teams. Other reports indicated that Ainge and the Celtics refused to include the third pick in a trade to acquire Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls, who eventually shipped Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Celtics have been trying to land a superstar to be the leader of a young and feisty team poised to be a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference for years to come, but their refusal to include the third pick in any deal probably cost them an opportunity at landing a marquee name. Tatum may very well play an important role for the Celtics, but Ainge’s inability to turn assets to superstars for the second consecutive season makes him a loser on draft night.
New York Knicks
This should come as no surprise, but Phil Jackson managed to botch another decision as the team’s president. With names like Malik Monk and Dennis Smith still on the board, the Knicks instead opted to draft 18-year-old French point guard Frank Ntilikina. Either Phil and the Knicks know something we don’t or they whiffed on this selection in a major way. While Ntilikina still has plenty of developing to do, his upside is considered by scouts to be lower than that of more athletic guys like Monk or Smith. Considering Jackson still insists on the operating in the triangle offense, it makes sense that he opted to draft the better team player in Ntilikina as opposed to drafting better individual talent. However, Ntilikina remains completely unproven, averaging just 5.2 points in 18.3 minutes with his club team Strasbourg last season. The most exciting part of draft night for Knicks fans must have been keeping Kristaps Porzingis despite rampant trade rumors surrounding the Latvian star.