Thursday’s NBA Draft was surprising to say the least. The Celtics tried to trade the 3rd pick for a veteran such as Jimmy Butler, Nerlens Noel or Khris Middleton, but Danny Ainge decided not to pull the trigger and take Cal SF Jaylen Brown. The Suns were picking between Washington’s Marquese Chriss and the Croatian stretch 4 Dragan Bender, but ended up with both. Milwaukee got even longer and lankier with the mystery man Thon Maker at #10. There were clear winners of this draft, a few teams made moves that will significantly impact their present and future of their franchise for the better.
1st Round picks: Ben Simmons (1), Timothe Luwawu (24), Furkan Korkmaz (26)
The Sixers fans have been forced to trust their team’s process for a long 3 years, and this was the payoff. Ben Simmons is going to be a star. Maybe not a superstar like LeBron James, but he will make All NBA teams for a long time.
The needs Philly had going into the draft were depth at the SG position, and a starting PG. They almost got the Point they needed with Kris Dunn, but Boston decided to keep the 3rd selection and spend it elsewhere. Korkmaz and Luwawu are two players who were expected to go earlier, and they give Philly that depth on the wing. Philly now has to turn either Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor into a starting Point Guard by the end of the summer, whether it’s Kris Dunn, Eric Bledsoe or somebody unexpected.
1st Round picks: Kris Dunn (5)
Just when you thought the Timberwolves had an incredible amount of young talent and potential, now they have a Kris Dunn. A product of Providence University, this kid is going to be a very good player for a very long time. Now the Wolves need to unload Ricky Rubio and his contract, and maybe get rid of Nikola Pekovic as well. The trio of Dunn, Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns with Zach Lavine alongside them is going to wreak havoc for quite a while.
Oklahoma City Thunder
1st Round picks: Domantas Sabonis (11) via Orlando
Sam Presti might have finally put his Thunder over the top on Thursday. The trade they pulled off with Orlando was more lopsided than I could imagine. They gave up Serge Ibaka, who was outshined in the playoffs by Enes Kanter and Steven Adams and was starting to lose prominence in OKC’s offense. They were right to trade him away as his contract expires, and the Thunder got much more value for Ibaka than they probably should have.
Victor Oladipo is the ultimate energy player, and he’s the 3 & D player they needed on the wing. Sabonis is a rookie who will be ready to play in whatever role he’s assigned, whether they decide to start him with Steven Adams, or opt to start Kanter and have Sabonis come off of the bench. The Thunder now have all of the talent, and flexibility, they need.
San Antonio Spurs
1st Round picks: Dejounte Murray (29)
Every year, Gregg Popovich somehow ends up getting the steal of the draft, and he might have done it again, possibly finding Tony Parker’s eventual replacement. Murray was one of the most underrated prospects in this draft, expected to go in the 15-20 range. Popovich and company obviously can’t get credit for Murray falling farther than he should have, but the Spurs have been doing this every year.
Each of the 4 teams who “won” the draft did it in a different way. Philly got the best player, OKC made a great trade, San Antonio got a steal, late in the first round, and Minnesota landed a player at #5 who should have been picked a few spots earlier. That’s how you build teams. Look at current superstars. Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook were both taken high, but still should have gone higher. LeBron James and Kevin Durant were both easily the best players going into the draft. Tony Parker got taken at #27. The Lakers traded Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for the 13th pick, who became a SG coming out of high school that went by the name of Kobe Bean Bryant.
Every team needs to draft well to become a dynasty, and to draft well you have to try to do what these 4 teams did on Thursday.