Minnesota Timberwolves – Tom Thibodeaux absolutely fleeced his former team in the trade to acquire Jimmy Butler. In what amounted to a swap of first round picks (sending #7 to the Bulls for #16) along with sending Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine to the Windy City, Minnesota absolutely got better, while the Bulls…well, we can talk more about them later…
The Timberwolves also made a solid long-term choice in big man Justin Patton. While he is still raw and needs to add muscle to his frame, the physical tools are there, and could eventually develop into another nice young piece for Minnesota. It would be a major upset if this team doesn’t reach the postseason next year.
Lonzo Ball – It looks like LaVar Ball got exactly what he wanted, as the Lakers selected the UCLA product Lonzo Ball at #2. The team traded away DeAngelo Russell just a day before the draft, so Ball should immediately play a key role in trying to return the Lakers to prominence.
While I’m not sold that he is the second-best player in the draft, he will have every opportunity to prove me wrong with what will likely be a revamped Lakers roster heading into next season. Both expectations and the spotlight will be squarely on Lonzo, so he will have every opportunity to prove both his father and the Lakers’ brass right.
Sacramento Kings – Vlade Divac and the rest of the front office for Sacramento has (rightfully) been given poor reviews for some of their decision-making. At least for a day, however, it really seems they knocked the draft out of the park. They got the best two-way point guard of the draft in De’Aaron Fox, and were able to trade the 10th overall pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for the 15th and 20th selections.
At 15, the Kings took North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson, who should be a 3-and-D plug-and-play starter from day one. At 20, Sacramento took a calculated risk by taking freshman Duke center Harry Giles. Only just a year removed from being the #1 prep player in the country, Giles’ knees are a definite concern, as he has torn ACLs in both of them, and missed a chunk of time at Duke due to injuries as well. If Giles can stay healthy, he has arguably the highest upside of any big man in the draft. While that’s a big ‘IF’, the rewards far outweigh the risk at that point in the draft.
In the second round, I loved the choice of point guard Frank Mason out of Kansas. While there isn’t a lot of room for growth in a 23-year old prospect, he slots in as a nice backup to 5th overall pick DeAa’ron Fox. Any time you can land a potential rotation player in the 2nd round, you’re doing a good job. Kudos to Vlade and the Sacramento scouting department. The potential starting lineup of Fox/Hield/Jackson/Labassiere/Cauley-Stein gives the team a nice young core to build around.
Chicago Bulls – I don’t have the Bulls as a ‘loser’ of the draft because they traded Jimmy Butler…they are on this list because of what they got for him. I have a hard time believing swapping 1st round picks this year, along with Zach LaVine (who is coming off a torn ACL) and Kris Dunn, was the best package that Gar Forman and the front office could have received.
If the Bulls truly are rebuilding, then I do not understand why they traded the draft rights to Jordan Bell (39th overall) to the Warriors for cash considerations. While reports have indicated the Warriors paid the maximum allowable under the CBA to acquire the pick ($3.5 million), Bell could have provided them with a defensive-minded big man who has the potential to be able to guard all five positions on the court.
I do like the selection of Lauri Markkanen, as he does give the team a combination of rebounding and floor-stretching. I have concerns about Markkanen’s ability to defend at the next level, as he seems too slow-footed to guard power forwards, and lacks strength to defend traditional centers. A guy like Jordan Bell would have been a perfect compliment to Markkanen’s skill-set.
Ivan Rabb and Ike Anigbogu – Two of the more prominent players to slip out of the first round of the draft, both could have benefitted from returning to school. Rabb, a sophomore power forward from Cal seemed to declare a year too late, as he was widely believed to be a lottery selection in last year’s draft. He surprised a lot of folks by returning to school, but ended up going 35th overall to the Grizzlies, due in large part to this year’s talent pool being very deep.
Anigbogu was apparently red-flagged with knee issues by several teams, causing him to slide all the way to 47th overall. He is also very raw, but has the size (6’10”, 252 lbs) and length (7’6″) to be a defensive difference-maker off the bench until his offense develops more. At just 18 years old, Anigbogu has a TON of upside, but likely will struggle to see the court in his rookie season, as both Myles Turner and Al Jefferson are going to be ahead of him in the playing rotation.
Boston Celtics – It’s hard to fault the Celtics for how they drafted, as Jayson Tatum, Semi Ojeleye and Jabari Bird all have the potential to contribute to the team as rookies. With what Chicago ended up taking in exchange for Jimmy Butler, general manager Danny Ainge must have made a pretty terrible offer (if he offered anything at all) for Butler.
If the Celtics truly want to compete with the Cavaliers and Warriors to be a true title contender, they need to start using their abundant draft capital towards more immediate help. The team has a combined six first round picks in the next two drafts, and need to start consolidating talent and taking a chance on acquiring an All-Star-caliber player to push them to the next level.
With free agency fast approaching, there is still time for Boston to make a high-impact move (Kristaps Porzingis and Paul George are still readily available). I just believe that the front office missed a giant opportunity to improve the roster by not making a move on Jimmy Butler. Unlike George, Butler still has two more seasons of team-control on his contract before his player option after the 2018-2019 season.