BROOKLYN, NY – JUNE 22: Front Row (L-R) – OG Anunoby, Dennis Smith, Malik Monk, Luke Kennard, Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, De’aaron Fox, Frank Ntilikina, Justin Jackson, Back Row (L-R) Bam Adebayo, Jonathan Isaac, Justin Patton, Lauri Markkanen, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, Zach Collins, Donovan Mitchell and TJ Leaf pose for a portrait prior to the 2017 NBA Draft on June 22, 2017 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler /NBAE via Getty Images)
Here’s what stood out to me in an entertaining NBA Draft.
1. The Minnesota Timberwolves basically robbed the Chicago Bulls
A year ago at the 2016 NBA Draft, it was rumored that then-newly-hired head coach and team president Tom Thibodeau wanted to open his stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves with a big bang. As such, there was plenty of intense discussions about a trade for his former Bulls player Jimmy Butler, involving Zach LaVine, and the number five pick, who later turned out to be Kris Dunn.
Fast-forward to the 2017 NBA Draft and hey look! The T-Wolves acquired Jimmy Butler (and the #16 pick, Justin Patton) for Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn (plus the #7 pick). Sound familiar?
But there’s plenty of differences between now and then. For one, LaVine is coming off an ACL injury, which, all advances in medicine aside, is pretty scary, considering how much of his game was built around his athleticism. During the 2016 Draft the idea of getting Dunn, who was supposed to be extremely polished and NBA-ready, was a great one, but after his freshman year in the Association, it’s pretty clear that wasn’t true. Despite giving multiple opportunities to take the lead floor general duties way from Ricky Rubio, Dunn averaged just 3.8 points, 2.4 assists, and 1.0 steals in 17.1 minutes.
Butler on the other hand is coming off career-bests in points, free throw attempts, rebounds, assists, and steals, while playing nearly two minutes less than he did in Thibs’ last stint with Chicago. What. A. Steal.
2. The Chicago Bulls couldn’t get a better deal than what the Wolves offered?
Welcome to the Chicago Bulls security agency. The team has stocked up on guards who need the ball in their hands to be effective, starting with the aforementioned Dunn, and going through postseason hero Rajon Rondo (partially guaranteed 2017-18 contract), 2016 trade acquisition and former Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, 2017 trade deadline acquisition Cameron Payne, Jerian Grant, and Isaiah Canaan. Dwyane Wade also handles the ball a lot, and the Wolves have in the past tried LaVine at the point as well.
That’s a heck of a logjam in the backcourt.
The team also landed Lauri Markkanen in the deal, via the seventh overall pick. A big stretch forward, at his worst, he might draw comparisons to another Bulls soon-to-be free agent, Nikola Mirotic. For the sake of Bulls fans, hopefully he’s a lot better than that.
That’s why this trade is so frustrating for fans of the Windy City. It’s hard to argue that the Bulls could use a fresh start, but they failed to get any young talent to really get excited about. And oh yeah, odds are Dwyane Wade will still exercise his player option to stay one more year, making it so that the team will likely have to buy him out mid-season when it’s clear the Playoffs are not a realistic proposition.
3. Golden State’s owners showed off their willingness to spend (again) and bought Chicago’s second-rounder
This is fast becoming a signature move of the Joe Lacob-era. The Warriors entered this draft without any picks, but no problem, they just spent a whopping $3.5 million to buy one. And it just so happened that it was the Bulls’ selection, allowing the defending NBA champs to pick up forward Jordan Bell, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year of the Pac-12 conference, behind averages of 8.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.
Buying a second rounder to add a dynamic young defense-first player? The Warriors did that last year too when they bought the pick that became Patrick McCaw. Talk about light years ahead.
4. The Sacramento Kings had a good draft. I’m serious.
Recent drafts under GM Vlade Divac have not…gone well, to put it nicely. There were awkward fits, head-scratching reaches, and the duplication of player types that led to bad attempts at clearing cap space via one-sided trades with the 76ers.
That was not the case here though.
The Kings got the point guard they wanted in De’Aaron Fox at #5, giving them a possible franchise guy at that position. They then split their #10 pick into two more selections, via a deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, and used those to add gunner Justin Jackson at #15, and project center Harry Giles at #20. Finally, with their second-round pick, they further solidified their backcourt with Frank Mason III.
While Sacramento will likely still struggle next season, especially since they could have as many as eight players on rookie deals in their line-up, the Kings are rebuilding the smart way. They’re getting plenty of talent with upside, and will keep their fingers crossed that one or more of them will blossom into dynamic building blocks for the future.
5. The Boston Celtics couldn’t get a trade done. Again.
There was plenty of buzz during the draft that the Celtics and Pacers were working on a Paul George trade. With the T-Wolves snagging Butler, it made sense that the Celtics would double down and try to work something out to get PG13.
Except nothing happened. Talks eventually petered out without a deal being agreed to.
While the Celtics shouldn’t make a trade just for the sake of making one to appease their fanbase, Danny Ainge and company have constantly been punting on and on, turning assets into more assets, all for a trade that hasn’t come yet. Once upon a time, they were supposed to get DeMarcus Cousins…only the New Orleans Pelicans did. Once upon a time, they were supposed to get Jimmy Butler…only the Minnesota Timberwolves did. Will they lose out on Paul George too? And isn’t it very telling that some fans are already trying to talk themselves into these green and white assets being earmarked for Anthony Davis, who won’t be a free agent until 2021?
6. Oklahoma City fans going through draft pick Terrance Ferguson’s Twitter account and finding these:
Lol where the thunder fans at👀 pic.twitter.com/wn5fmICIHR
— Terrance Ferguson (@the2kferguson) May 29, 2016
— Terrance Ferguson (@the2kferguson) November 4, 2016
7. Markelle Fultz was so excited to join the Philadelphia 76ers, he forgot to fill in the blanks
“Excited to head to (City) and join the (team name).”—Markelle Fultz pic.twitter.com/eUzTf7fs46
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger_sherman) June 23, 2017
8. The Blazers stocking up on big men is prime zagging while everyone else zigs
Maybe it’s because they’re so set in the backcourt with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, but the Blazers for some reason decided to add to their big man positions, and it will be very interesting to see if the moves pay off.
Portland moved up to take center Zach Collins at #10, and then landed small-ball center Caleb Swanigan at #29. This despite having Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis, and Meyers Leonard already on their roster, plus Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu, whom they can also deploy in small line-ups.
Oh yeah, don’t forget Jusuf Nurkic, who looked dominant down low for them after coming over in a trade.
Maybe this is all insurance for Nurkic, whose right leg fracture caused him to miss the end of the regular season, and three of their four postseason games. Perhaps head coach Terry Stotts is going to go big while everyone else is embracing small ball. Whatever they do though, they’ll have to strike the right balance between Dame and CJ dropping buckets from downtown, and getting all of these bigs post touches. And that could be very tricky.
9. Guards going to places where they fit in well
The New York Knicks needed a tall point guard capable of running the triangle, and got Frank Ntilikina.
The Dallas Mavericks needed a dynamic scoring threat at the one and landed Dennis Smith Jr.
The Charlotte Hornets needed to boost their scoring, preferably someone who could light it up from deep to complement recent acquisition Dwight Howard, and so they brought in Malik Monk.
Sometimes, things just work out.
10. The Celtics and the Lakers stayed true to themselves.
Boston drafted a Bird, Jabari Bird, at 56.
LA added a Bryant, Thomas Bryant, at 42.
Some things never change.
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