Five months after it was originally supposed to take place, the NBA had its draft last night. Many dreams were finally realized as well as the relief that this particular part of the journey is finally over. There were many tears as we got a glimpse of just how much of an impact these added months had on the different prospects. Although this draft was different due to the global pandemic, it still ended up being quite enjoyable. That being said, just like in every other sporting event, there are some winners, and some losers, so let’s get to it.
Winner #1 ESPN and the NBA
As we all know by now, the pandemic has dramatically changed how we do things now. The draft was no different. There wasn’t an audience to add to the atmosphere of the event. There weren’t even prospects walking up to shake hands with the commissioner after hearing their names called. That being said, the NBA and ESPN did a great job of handling that problem by using live footage of players reacting to hearing their names being called. These players, being surrounded by celebrating family members, was a nice touch. Interviews and instant analysis really helped to make this draft coverage feel just like all the previous ones. It wasn’t easy, but the NBA managed to pull off a successfully entertaining draft.
Loser #1 Lottery Chaos
For months we’ve heard rumors about the T-Wolves and Warriors potentially trading the top two picks. Other rumors suggested a whole wave of teams either looking to trade down in the draft or trade up. Then all 14 lottery selections came and went without a single trade. While each and every team is within their right to stand pat, it was a bit disappointing to not see someone take a leap of faith and make a move.
Winner #2 Trade lovers
Just because the first 14 picks didn’t involve any trades doesn’t mean there weren’t any. After the 15th pick was selected, a whopping 19 trades were performed. Some trades involving several picks this year and a few second-rounders for next year. It was a bit difficult to keep track of in the moment. But it was the type of chaos that we were hoping for at the beginning of the draft, but better late than never.
Loser #2 Washington Wizards
Now I must admit this is slightly cheating as I had them down as one of my losers before the draft even started, but that’s because they suffered their loss two months ago. As we all know, the Wizards received the 9th pick in this draft due to the NBA lottery. What a lot of people don’t know is that the Wizards tanked their way out of a top 3 pick. When the NBA suspended the season, the Wizards had the 9th best record in the east. This allowed them to have a spot in the bubble when the NBA resumed.
But because the Wizards went 0-10 while in the bubble, the Charlotte Hornets ended up with the 9th best record in the east while the Wizards slipped back to the 10th spot. This, in theory, would’ve given them better lottery luck. Unfortunately, that plan backfired as the Hornets leapfrogged their way into the third pick, which had the Wizards won even one game, would’ve belonged to Washington. Only the Wizards can manage to lose their way out of a top 3 pick.
Winner #3 Sacramento Kings
I bet Sacramento couldn’t believe their luck when 6 foot 5 point guard Tyrese Haliburton was still available when it was the Kings turn to pick. Had this been a normal draft with everyone in attendance, you probably would’ve seen someone from the Kings organization running to the podium to hand in their draft pick. Out of everyone in this draft, Haliburton was probably the best fit alongside De’Aaron Fox. The fact that the Kings got him without having to move up in the draft is a win. Haliburton’s size and intelligence on both sides of the court should help him hit the ground running.
Loser #3 Phoenix Suns
The Suns used the 10th overall pick on big man Jalen Smith, and while he should be a solid depth player, it is a bit curious. This is a franchise that just traded for Chris Paul to signify that they are in win-now mode. Getting someone like Haliburton or a Devin Vassell would’ve made more sense in terms of competing this year. While Smith does project to be a useful piece, it does feel like a wasted pick, especially considering one of the easiest assets to acquire in the NBA is a backup big man.
Winner #4 LaVar Ball
Despite all the antics and seemingly the never-ending circus LaVar Ball has just accomplished something no other father has ever done. He now has two sons who ended up being top 3 picks (Lamelo this year to Charlotte at #3 and Lonzo to the Lakers at #2 in 2017). As much criticism as he has endured over the last couple of years, last night, he had to have felt vindicated. As a bonus, Lamelo went to the franchise owned by MJ, so we might even get to see that one on one game that LaVar Ball has wanted so much.
Loser #4 Golden State Warriors
Taking James Wiseman #2 isn’t the reason the Warriors find themselves on the losers list, although it didn’t help their case either. No, the reason why the Warriors, unfortunately, end up on this list is the injury to Klay Thompson. Late last night Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that the Warriors feared their shooting guard suffered a torn Achilles during an afternoon workout. With the season less than a month away, that would effectively end his season before it started. The Warriors already had a wasted year last season due to injuries, and to have yet another major injury derail their season hurts.
Winner #5 Denver Nuggets
Two years ago, the Nuggets snagged Michael Porter Jr. as he fell down in the draft. Last year the Nuggets did the same with Bol Bol. This year was no different as they grabbed arguably one of the most NBA ready players in RJ Hampton. RJ, who, instead of going to college, spent the previous year playing professionally in New Zealand. Playing in New Zealand, where he wasn’t the focal point, should’ve helped him learn some lessons that should help him adapt to the NBA lifestyle quicker than other rookies. He gives Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic yet another weapon to use as the Nuggets look to improve on their surprisingly deep playoff run from a year ago.
Loser #5 Draft Prospects
I know I said earlier how ESPN and the NBA did a tremendous job with their coverage of the draft. That, however, doesn’t change the fact that the players who spent years dreaming of walking on that stage and shaking the commissioner’s hand didn’t get a chance to do so. I understand that due to the pandemic that it simply wasn’t possible, and it’s just bad luck. That still doesn’t change the fact that many prospects missed out on a once in a lifetime opportunity. Hopefully, next year’s draft class doesn’t suffer a similar fate.