The concept of the NBA’s Draft Night is simple. Every year, as a group of veteran basketball players retire or “graduate” from the league, the NBA welcomes a new, younger generation of “freshers” into basketball’s most-elite professional level. The excitement about the new influx of talent is palpable within the league’s team managements, senior players, and fanbases; even before the young talent gets a chance to log a single minute of NBA action, everything about his basketball past — whether it is college, international tournaments and leagues, or high school — is digested, criticised, celebrated, and over-analysed.
This year however, even before the first name was called out at the 2017 NBA Draft at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York, the biggest stories of the night came from transactions that happened before the event itself.
While teams like the 76ers, Lakers, Celtics, Suns, Kings, and more added more youth firepower on draft night, the biggest winner of the draft was a team outside the top five. The Minnesota Timberwolves, initially scheduled to pick seventh, traded their pick along with guards Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine to the Chicago Bulls. In return, they got superstar Jimmy Butler to join their ranks along with the 16th pick of the night. Butler now joins his former head coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota and a nucleus of exciting young talent in Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Ricky Rubio.
A few days earlier, the Boston Celtics made a bold move that had its ramifications on draft night. The Celtics, winners of the lottery for the number one pick via an old trade from the Brooklyn Nets, then in turn traded away that number 1 to the Philadelphia 76ers for their number 3 pick and a future first rounder. With potential franchise-changing talent Markelle Fultz on the clock as everyone’s favourite first pick, the move to trade down by Boston could be the topic of many revisionist history conversations long into the future.
The 76ers had won the luxury to be the first team calling out a name on the draft. Here is my analysis of the top 10 picks, as well as more faces to watch out for in the new class of the NBA.
1. Philadelphia 76ers: Markelle Fultz – No surprises here. Fultz, an athletic point guard from the University of Washington, was touted to be the best player in this class, and Philadelphia solidified that claim by making him the first pick of the night. Fultz joins a team that already features Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Dario Saric. If this roster can stay healthy (a conditional statement that will forever haunt these 76ers) they could become a force in the Eastern Conference in a few years.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball – Ball’s father, LaVar, is a prophet of sorts, who predicted long ago that his son will one day play for his hometown Lakers. When Lonzo’s name was called, this prophecy was fulfilled. Days before the draft, the Lakers traded away their young point guard D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn to make space for Ball. Forget the outspoken father and off-court noise: Ball is the real deal, a game-changing talent with elite court-vision, who will bring some ‘Showtime’ back to the Lakers.
3. Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum – Only time will tell if the Celtics’ gamble to “settle” for the third pick – Taytum instead of Fultz – was a wise decision. The 6-8 combo-forward is an explosive scorer and is sure to boost Boston’s offence. With so many more assets left in their pocket, it is likely that there are a few more moves left in Boston’s retooling arsenal before the next season.
4. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson – Probably the best athlete in the draft, and likely to be a Slam Dunk contest winner one day, Jackson brings his talents to a young Suns squad. He will become the franchise’s future cornerstone next to sharp-shooter Devin Booker. Don’t expect them to win many games yet, but this was a solid pick for Phoenix to build for the future.
5. Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox – This is a big win for the long-suffering Kings’ franchise. Fox, from the University of Kentucky, is an energetic point guard, with extra tenacity on the defensive end. He will bring much-needed leadership to the Kings’ rebuilding plans after they traded DeMarcus Cousins last season, and will make for a fun backcourt combination alongside Buddy Hield.
6. Orlando Magic: Jonathan Isaac – The Magic have been on stunted growth ever since they traded Dwight Howard five years ago. A collection of lottery picks in recent years including Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, and Mario Hezonja haven’t yet been able to accelerate the young squad’s development. Enter Isaac, a 6’11 forward with the ability to play and defend multiple positions in the modern NBA.
7. Chicago Bulls: Lauri Markkanen – The Bulls got bumped early into the first round thanks to the aforementioned trade with the Timberwolves, and they picked the first foreigner in the draft, Finland’s sweet-shooting big man Lauri Markkanen. There are doubts if Markkanen, despite his size and range, will return on the heavy price that Chicago paid for this pick. For now, he joins a team that finally seems to be a choosing a direction – rebuild – for the future.
8. New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina – The Knicks survived the night without trading away their future centrepiece, the Latvian ‘unicorn’ Kristaps Porzingis. Now, they add a long and intelligent French point guard Ntilikina to the mix with hopes that the young man will be able to excel in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense. For now, the Knicks are juggling the future and the past between Porzingis, Ntilikina, Carmelo Anthony, and Derrick Rose.
9. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr – The Mavericks have been consistently good for so long that it is rare for them to find themselves picking in the top 10. In Smith, they have made a wise decision, picking perhaps the most physically explosive point guard in a deep draft for the position.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Zach Collins – This was originally Sacramento’s pick, which they traded to Portland in return for Nos 15 and 20 in the same draft. The Trail Blazers invested their pick on seven-footer Zach Collins from Gonzaga, who might struggle to break into Portland’s big man rotation behind Jusuf Nurkic and Meyers Leonard.
Bonus 11th pick — Malik Monk to the Charlotte Hornets — It was a surprise to many NBA analysts that Monk, the best shooter in the draft, fell to 11. He will provide a much-needed offensive boost to Charlotte alongside Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, and newly acquired Dwight Howard. With an ability to score in big bunches, Monk could end up being the steal of the night.
Other names to watch out for:
- Harry Giles, who was a high school superstar but fell to the Sacramento Kings at 20 at the draft because of serious past injuries, could be a game-changer if he can recover his past health and form.
- OG Anunoby, an England-born Nigerian-American forward, who missed his sophomore year at Indiana due to a season-ending knee surgery, fell to the Raptors at 23rd and has star potential if healthy.
- Caleb Swanigan, one of the best feel-good stories of the draft, picked by the Trail Blazers at 26. Swanigan spent much of his youth in homeless shelters before basketball helped him win college scholarships and on Draft Night, his NBA dream came true.
- Jordan Bell: The rich got richer as the reigning champs Golden State Warriors paid cash for the Bulls’ 38th pick, Bell. The forward will be an important defensive presence and is expected to slide perfectly into the Warriors’ rotation next season.
Updated Date: Jun 26, 2017 17:50:38 IST