Coming off one of the craziest offseason weeks in recent memory, the NBA draft lived up to expectations with surprises and twists, even if every rumour didn’t come to fruition.
Paul George and Kristaps Porzingis stayed put – for now – but we finally saw one star on the move as Jimmy Butler landed in Minnesota of all places.
Add in the actual draft selections and there multiple winners and losers on the night:
As it turned out, Lonzo Ball and his controversial father LaVar got exactly what they wanted in the end.
After banking on being selected by the Los Angeles Lakers at second overall, Ball got his wish to stay home on the West Coast.
There were murmurs ahead of the draft that the Lakers weren’t as enamoured with Ball as everyone assumed, but when push came to shove, the Lakers gleefully scooped up a point guard prospect who has the potential to be a special player.
For all the criticism LaVar has received, with much of it deserved, you have to admit he was right. As for his proclamation that his son will lead the Lakers to the playoffs in his rookie season? Good luck with that.
LaVar Ball's got a big prediction for Lonzo's rookie year: https://t.co/IwnAS4CE8b— ESPN (@espn) June 23, 2017
Don’t look now but the Kings made some smart moves and seem like they know what they’re doing.
At No5, they scooped up Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, whose deadly speed and athleticism at point guard made him both the best player available and best fit for Sacramento.
The Kings then shipped No10 to Portland for No15 and No20, a move which in a vacuum is forward-thinking to capitalise on the draft’s variability. But with those picks, they went safe with wing Justin Jackson before taking a home run swing with injury-riddled big man Harry Giles. In the second round, they rounded out their draft with Frank Mason, a very productive guard from Kansas.
It’s as well as Sacramento could have possibly done and the haul gives them a foundation on which to construct a full rebuild.
The only reason they’re on this list is because Porzingis wasn’t sent packing.
That doesn’t mean they’re not losers in general, but it’s gotten so bad for Knicks fans that not trading a 21-year-old phenom, aptly nicknamed the ‘Unicorn’, is something to solace in.
Of course, as long as Phil Jackson is at the helm of the franchise, no one in New York should feel safe.
Unfortunately for the Boston Celtics general manager, perception is often reality and after another draft night in which he stood pat, Ainge is getting heat.
He already had a reputation as being an asset-hoarder and gun-shy in unloading his treasure trove of picks for proven stars, but it was exacerbated on Thursday when Boston didn’t pick up Butler for what should have been a bargain.
Minnesota’s package of Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and No7 for Butler and No16 surely could have been topped by Ainge. It would have finally given the Celtics a blue chip player at a fraction of the cost, but it’s apparent Ainge didn’t want Butler that badly.
Whether or not that’s related to a pursuit of Paul George, it (unfairly) doesn’t look great for Ainge.
It’s hard to imagine what the Blazers were thinking, considering they failed to accomplish what should have been their two clear goals: shedding salary and adding wings.
Portland couldn’t pull off either, but it’s difficult to be too harsh on them for not getting rid of bad contracts, something that’s easier said than done.
However, they didn’t help their cause by drafting two big men in Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan, creating a logjam at the centre position, where they already had Jusuf Nurkic and Meyers Leonard.
Their roster, as it stands right now, has little flexibility and too much money owed for a team that is stuck in the middle between contending and bottoming out.