Draft night in any sport is a carnival. The NBA Draft is a carnival crossed with a frat party crossed with J.R. Smith not putting on a shirt for two weeks after the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2016 championship. Things get a little nuts.
The buildup to this year’s affair has been even crazier than usual. We’ve had trade rumors left and right, even for guys previously thought untouchable such as Kristaps Porzingis.
Paul George and Porzingis weren’t traded, but Jimmy Butler was. Then, Malik Monk fell out of the top 10. Utah traded up. Sacramento traded down. OG Anunoby fell to No. 23. It wasn’t the most shocking draft we’ve ever had, but it was still filled with surprises.
Here are the six biggest.
1. Minnesota fleeced Chicago for Jimmy Butler
We knew that Butler may be traded tonight, but few expected it to be to the Timberwolves. Butler himself was shocked to find out about it while relaxing in bed while in Paris.
When the tweets started flowing in that Butler could be headed for a reunion with Tom Thibodeau, it felt like a repeat of a year ago when a Butler trade between Minnesota and the Chicago Bulls fell apart.
And then, the trade itself. In trading Butler, the Bulls had a chance to get a head start on a rebuild, help transition into the future and gain draft assets both tonight and in 2018. They did not do that.
Instead, Tom Thibodeau robbed his former employers John Paxson and Gar Forman blind. It was almost mean.
All he gave up for one of the best 20 players in the league, a legitimate superstar, was Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and the No. 7 pick (which turned into Lauri Markkanen). Oh, and the Bulls tossed in the No. 16 pick, which became Justin Patton.
To recap, that’s a a point guard who struggled badly in Dunn, a shooting guard coming off a major injury whose stats have never matched his athletic ability in LaVine and a swap of first-round picks in an extremely deep draft. For one of the best players in the league. Suffice it to say, Minnesota fans should be happy tonight.
2. Malik Monk falling out of the top-10
Many thought that Malik Monk would go to the New York Knicks at No. 8 overall, but the Knicks instead took French point guard Frank Ntilikina.
At that point, it was clear that someone was going to get a steal. The Dallas Mavericks passed, taking Dennis Smith, defensible given their need for a point guard.
Then, the Portland Trail Blazers passed, also understandable given their backcourt consists of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets finally pounced at eleven, a gift having fallen into their lap.
Monk was a 39.7 percent 3-point shooter at Kentucky and was one of the best scorers in the country to boot. Charlotte can slot him right next to Kemba Walker and expect immediate results. Moreover, they can move Nicolas Batum back to small forward, where he had great success in 2015-16.
This is a great fit and a steal to boot.
3. Sacramento trading down instead of up
In the weeks leading up to the draft, we heard continuously that the Kings were going to try and package the fifth and tenth picks to move up. This would have been typical of Sacramento — an organization which has a tendency to act before it thinks.
That hypothetical trade up would have been to select De’Aaron Fox. Of course, it never happened and Fox was available at the No. 5 anyway.
Instead of trading up, the Kings moved the tenth pick to Portland (who selected Zach Collins) for picks 15 and 20, where they took Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. This was the right move for a team that is in full-on rebuild mode. Take as many bites at the apple as possible, because even a stopped clock is right twice a day and eventually, you’ll hit on one.
Justin Jackson seemed like a bit of an overdraft at 15, but this is still a player who led UNC to the national championship last season. At 20, Harry Giles was a great pick. Sure, there’s a high risk in Giles, whose injuries were a major factor in him dropping to 20, but this was someone who was a top recruit just a year ago. Getting him — with all that upside — at 20 is a great play.
4. Utah trading up to take Donovan Mitchell
In the grand scheme of the big night, this move won’t get a ton of attention. If Utah and Denver make a trade, it’s like a tree falling in the woods with nobody around to hear it given the size of their respective markets.
But this deal was out of nowhere and the Jazz didn’t play a small price, giving up Trey Lyles (the 12th pick in the draft just two years ago) and the 24th pick.
Unlike the Butler deal, this isn’t one we can grade right away. Lyles is still very much developing, and as for Mitchell, we have to see how the rest of the Jazz’s offseason (particularly Gordon Hayward’s free agency) shakes out before knowing how he’ll fit into their roster.
However, if Mitchell ends up turning into a solid 3-and-D player, the Jazz will end up being happy with this deal.
After trading with the Nuggets…
Jazz take Louisville SG Donovan Mitchell with the No. 13 pick pic.twitter.com/9sOp0nB2wJ
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 23, 2017
Lyles still has potential, but trading him is understandable given that he struggled to find minutes in the postseason. That indicates Utah’s feelings about him more than anything else. If they end up swapping him and Tyler Lydon, who Denver took at 24, for a 3-and-D stalwart, it’ll be a good deal.
5. D.J. Wilson going 17th to Milwaukee
Most mock drafts had Wilson, a Michigan product, going in the late-20’s to the Brooklyn Nets or Los Angeles Lakers. Instead, the former Michigan Wolverine took a bullet train up the board to 17.
The fit with Milwaukee is intriguing because the Bucks already have an abundance of long big men. Wilson, however, can stretch the floor — an important skill for Milwaukee especially as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thon Maker continue to develop their outside shots.
Whether the Bucks needed another big man enough to take Wilson this high instead of trading down is a different story. But the fact of the matter is that Wilson will contribute if he gets minutes.
Maybe Milwaukee overdrafted, but they’ve done that in the past. Remember the reactions when they took Maker with the tenth pick last season? A year out, that looks pretty good. A year from now, don’t be surprised if this does as well.
6. OG Anunoby falling to 23
— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 23, 2017
This was a classic case of injuries doing irreparable damage to a player’s draft stock. Anunoby suffered an ACL tear in January, and though we knew it would affect his draft position, we didn’t know he would plummet all the way to 23 before being picked up by the Toronto Raptors.
Despite the injury, Anunoby still has great potential, especially on the defensive end. There’s work to do, especially when it comes to passing and dribbling, but he’s only 19. Of course there’s work to do.
The fact remains that Anunoby can be an immediate impact guy on the defensive end. This is more than you can say for most players in the entire draft, let alone players picked in the 20’s.
Plenty of players have come back from an ACL tear and been fine. Sure, it’s a risk, but after a certain point in the draft, that gets outweighed by the reward. By the 23rd pick, the scales have tipped in a big way.