Winners and Losers of the NBA Draft

Featured Image By Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE via Getty Images

By Andrew Lawlor

Winner – Oklahoma City Thunder

Sam Presti is a shark on the trade market. In the past couple days he has traded:

  • Chris Paul and Abdel Nader to the Suns for Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque, and a 2022 first-rounder
  • Dennis Schroder to the Lakers for the 28th pick and Danny Green, who was promptly rerouted to the 76ers for the 21st pick, Al Horford, and a 2025 first-rounder
  • Rubio to the Timberwolves, along with the 25th and 28th picks, for the 17th pick

With draft night finally over, they’ve supplemented their rebuild with 17(!!!!) future first-rounders between now and 2026, a potential unicorn in Aleksej Pokusevski, and two European prospects in Theo Maledon and Vit Krejci. On top of that, Horford could be a good piece for the Thunder; he was good two seasons ago in Boston and looked bad with a roster where he did not fit in Philadelphia. Don’t be surprised if Presti is able to get assets for Horford at draft-time next year. Admittedly, we sometimes overvalue future picks in NBA internet communities, but it looks like Presti nailed it. Now we’ll see if he does something other than take a million wings who can’t shoot with all those picks.

Winner – Draft Party Settings

Without the opportunity to gather in person this year, we got to see players live from their homes. Speaking of Pokusevski, he got the squad to turn out (and turn up!) at 4:45 AM for his draft party. As the clock on the wall says, Live, Laugh, Love!

And Bruce Pearl was interviewed on Isaac Okoro’s selection from…a parking lot?

Loser – Phoenix Suns

The Suns had the 10th pick, giving them a great opportunity to add a contributor to their core, and they reached on Jalen Smith. He’s got some skills, but he was consistently getting mocked to picks far lower, and does not look like good value for a top-10 pick. This is especially true when the board still included good wings like Saddiq Bey, Devin Vassell, and Aaron Nesmith and guards Kira Lewis Jr. and Tyrese Haliburton. Adding Chris Paul was a big win, but Phoenix missed an opportunity in the draft. With the team about to get a lot better, they may not get another chance like this for a while.

Winner – Philadelphia 76ers

The flip side of that Green-Horford trade makes a lot of sense to me as well. Horford never fit in Philadelphia, and now they get to clear up cap room while picking up a solid three-and-D (if the three part of that comes back, anyway) wing in Danny Green, the exact kind of player they were missing. Plus, they later switched out Josh Richardson for Seth Curry, one of the best shooters in the league, in another win-win deal. Then, with their remaining picks, they took advantage of Tyrese Maxey’s fall in the first round, and added a knockdown shooter in Isaiah Joe and a tenacious defender in Paul Reed in the second round. Now, they have a much better-fitting roster around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Daryl Morey is coming out of the gates hot in Philadelphia.

Loser – Houston Rockets

Meanwhile, in Morey’s old stomping grounds, the Rockets are in trouble. They traded Robert Covington for Trevor Ariza and two picks, then shipped one of those picks with Ariza to Detroit for a protected pick that won’t convey for a couple of years. Covington is a good player, and it seems like their goal in these trades was mostly to dump salary; Tilman Fertitta has been loath to pay the luxury tax in his two years as owner, even when the Rockets were a real contender. Daryl Morey is already working his magic in Philadelphia, and James Harden and Russell Westbrook want out, and it seems like Fertitta (or, if you ask Kendrick Perkins, Fertito) is the cause for a lot of it. It is a tough time to be a Rockets fan.

Winner – Charlotte Hornets

If you take my favorite prospect in the draft, you are a winner in my book. LaMelo is polarizing, sure, but he is an incredible passer, the kind that does not come around very often. He is also a more aggressive scorer than his brother, with better size too. The hardest thing to find is a guy who can run an offense, and LaMelo can be that for Charlotte. They took advantage of his small slide and got him at three. Hopefully LaVar doesn’t challenge Michael Jordan to a one-on-one game again.

Loser – Utah Jazz

It may not get much attention since these were lower-profile moves, but Utah really struck out here. First they traded down from the 23rd pick, picking up the 27th and 38th picks from the Knicks. The Knicks promptly turned around and traded that same exact pick to Minnesota for the 25th and 33rd picks; it is not a good sign when you are getting fleeced by the Knicks. On top of that, Utah sent one of those picks (38th) out to dump Tony Bradley, their first-round pick from two years ago, and reached for Udoka Azubuike in the first-round. Not great! At least I like Elijah Hughes in the second round.

Winner – Detroit Pistons

Killian Hayes was a great pick, and especially for a team that is about to enter a rebuild. They can hand him the keys to the offense and let him make mistakes this year without worrying so much about wins and losses. Hayes was Kevin O’Connor’s top prospect, and can become a visionary playmaker (this is my type for prospects, see LaMelo Ball above). I also liked the Saddiq Bey pick later in the night, and while I didn’t love the value for Isaiah Stewart at 16, it was smart for them to trade for picks later in the draft. This roster was not going anywhere, and now they can rebuild.

Loser – Boston Celtics

Sorry, Matt. The Celtics entered the draft with picks 14, 26 and 30, and everyone in the world knew they were trying to trade up. But Danny Ainge was not able to make it work. Perhaps it’ll get leaked down the road that they offered all three for a chance at (insert player from the top ten who turns out to be a star). Instead, the Celtics came out of this draft with a shooter with questions around his defense (Aaron Nesmith), a backup guard who lacks upside (Payton Pritchard), a draft-and-stash guy in the second round (Yam Madar), and two more future picks for Ainge to almost trade for a star player.

Loser – Vanderbilt Commodores

When the Celtics selected Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt’s men’s basketball program tweeted this graphic:

This might lead you to think they’ve been good over the last couple years. Nope! They only have one more SEC win (3) than lottery picks (2) over the last two seasons. Yikes!

Winner – Dallas Mavericks

Dallas got a great wing defender in Josh Green and a sharpshooting point guard in Tyrell Terry, two perfect fits. They also got Josh Richardson from Philadelphia, who provides yet another defender they sorely need. They will miss Seth Curry’s shooting, but Richardson is a better all-around player, and Terry can replace some of Curry’s production. These moves should help them move up the standings in the Western Conference.

Winner – Memphis Grizzlies

Draft Twitter’s favorite team, the Grizzlies traded into the first round for sharpshooter Desmond Bane, picked up Xavier Tillman in the second round, and signed Killian Tillie as a free agent. All three players profile as contributors. For a team that came into the night with no first-rounders, this is a real coup.

Bonus Winner – This dude on Reddit who has the funniest made-up stories

“I didn’t know Dr. Doolitle was in this motherfucker” deserves a Pulitzer. Long live NBA Reddit!

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