5 biggest takeaways from the 2017 NBA Draft
The NBA Draft is quite possibly the most high stakes and dramatic non-competitive event in American sports. One pick can change the fortunes of an entire franchise. Nail a pick in the lottery and your team could be a contender for years to come. Just ask Spurs fans what Tim Duncan meant to them.
On the other hand, a whiffed pick could hurt for several seasons. It took Portland years to dig out from Greg Oden’s injury-riddled lack of success. The Sixers decided to completely obliterate their roster not long after choosing Evan Turner over DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors.
Making matters more perilous, every team is poised to make trades or position themselves for free agency.
This year was no exception with a ton of talent available near the top of the draft and plenty of teams eager to wheel and deal. Here are the biggest takeaways from the 2017 NBA Draft:
1. The Sixers got their guard
We’ve known for a few days now that the Sixers traded up to the top spot in the draft to acquire Washington freshman point guard Markelle Fultz. Throughout the much maligned “Process” era in Philadelphia, the Sixers have prioritized talent and potential over players who fit together. This has led to a team that doesn’t make sense on paper or on the court.
The Sixers drafted three centers (Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor) in consecutive drafts and also drafted forwards Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. Noel is gone, traded at the deadline, and Simmons should be more of a factor on the perimeter, but the team still desperately needed to fill out the backcourt.
Fultz figures to be both a high potential, highly talented prospect who also fits with what Philadelphia already has built. That’s why the Philadelphia front office gave up assets to get Fultz and why the future appears so bright in the City of Brotherly Love.
2. The Lonzo Ball story enters its next chapter
After hearing for months from LaVar Ball that his son was destined to play for his hometown team, the Los Angeles Lakers, that proclamation came true at the NBA Draft.
The Lakers selected Lonzo Ball with the second overall selection, bringing another young potential star to Los Angeles. The team had a clear hole in their backcourt after trading D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn earlier this week. Ball was the third consecutive second overall pick by the Lakers, joining Russell and rookie Brandon Ingram.
And, of course, LaVar Ball was there loud and proud to praise his son and himself.
3. Jimmy Butler heads to Minnesota
Just as Fultz was taken off the board as the top overall pick in the draft, the Timberwolves made waves by trading for Bulls star Jimmy Butler. The Wolves sent Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the 7th overall pick to Chicago in exchange for Butler and the 16th pick.
Butler had long been rumored to be on the move, with Chicago stuck between contention and re-building. With only Butler offering real value to other teams, the Bulls chose to send him out for future assets in the interest of competing further down the road.
For a player worth as much as Butler, the haul returning to Chicago is fairly paltry. Dunn and LaVine are promising young talents, but are both very flawed and leave something to be desired. On top of that, the Bulls received a top ten pick, though they sent back their pick in the mid-first round. Essentially Butler was traded to move up nine spots in the draft and two question mark players.
One has to wonder what the Bulls were offered by the Celtics, Cavaliers, and other Butler suitors.
4. Malik Monk slides to Charlotte
With so many talented players, covering the gamut of skills and sizes, expected to be picked in the lottery, it was inevitable that one player would surprisingly slip into the 11th pick. Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets promptly scooped up the best player available and added Monk to their roster.
Monk would seem to fit in with Charlotte, playing alongside another hot scorer in Kemba Walker. They’ll need both of those players to make shots, with non-shooters Dwight Howard and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on the court beside them.
With Nic Batum under a max contract already, Charlotte was in need of another player capable of making a leap to stardom. They were lucky that Monk fell to them and will need to put him in a position to succeed in order to help him blossom as a young player.
5. Sacramento makes the smart choices
The Kings have been muddled in mediocrity, or worse, for years now and were eager for a productive draft to re-set their franchise.
In past years, people would have expected the Kings to package their two first round picks together and try to make a big swing to make a big change. Instead, they did just the opposite. Sacramento took De’Aaron Fox with the fifth pick, widely believed as the best player left on the board.
Later when Sacramento came up with the tenth pick, the Kings chose to trade down and collect two picks. Portland sent the 15th and 20th picks to Sacramento for the right to draft Zach Collins.
The Kings then grabbed two smart picks later on, with two very different backgrounds. Justin Jackson is a shooting small forward with the length and IQ to be a positive defender after three successful seasons at North Carolina. With the 20th pick, the Kings took more of a roll of the dice with Duke freshman Harry Giles. He came to Duke as the top recruit in the nation, but knee injuries took their toll and he never looked right in college.
The Kings swapped one pick for two, and took one relatively safe pick and one more dangerous player. That is smart team building for a team at the bottom of the standings.
Shane McNichol covers college basketball and the NBA for Larry Brown Sports. He also blogs about basketball at Palestra Back and has contributed to Rush The Court, ESPN.com, and USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.