Unlike last year, where Zion Williamson was the consensus #1 pick, last week saw one of the most unpredictable NBA drafts in recent memory. With a the COVID-19 pandemic shortening offseason, players drafted last week will be suiting up for NBA games in less than a month. Let’s take a look at some of my winners and losers from draft night.
Winners: Charlotte and LaMelo Ball.
The Charlotte Hornets, stuck at the bottom of the league, needed to inject some talent in their squad. LaMelo Ball was an absolute steal as the #3 pick and comes into the league already as one of its best passers. With professional experience in the Australian NBL (where he was Rookie of the Year last season), I wouldn’t be surprised if he went back-to-back and won it again this season. Are there questions about his defense and shooting abilities? Certainly. Is he going to be able to lift Charlotte into playoff contention? Certainly not yet. But at the end of the day, he was in many people’s opinion (including my own) the best player in this draft and that counts for something. For LaMelo, Charlotte provides a chance to succeed and grow into a star.
Winner: New York Knicks
The Knicks picked the best player still on the board at #8. Obi Toppin, the National College Player of the Year and a New Yorker, brings an NBA-ready game to the Knicks’ frontcourt. The Knicks still have issues in their backcourt to solve and a long way to go before they contend in the East, but as an organization under immense scrutiny in recent years for its poor decision making, they took the right route here.
Loser: Minnesota Timberwolves
With the #1 pick, they selected Anthony Edwards, a ball-dominant Shooting Guard with inefficient shooting on a losing college team. I don’t see this as a good fit. They already have a ball-dominant guard in D’Angelo Russell and a center in Karl-Anthony Towns who also likes the ball in his hands. This is going to be a problem. Apparently, none of the trade offers given to Minnesota for the #1 pick were up to the standards they wanted. However, at the end of the day, that excuse isn’t good enough for a team who is in ‘win now’ mode and needs a few more pieces to get there.
Loser: Chicago Bulls
The Bulls claim to be on the fringe of contending, but went rogue with their pick of Patrick Williams at #4. Williams’ profile, a 6th man averaging less than 10 points and 5 rebounds per game with inefficient shooting beyond the arc, doesn’t look particularly NBA-ready. Maybe the Bulls front office knows something the rest of the world does not, but there were other players available at #4 who slot much better into the needs of their organization. The Bulls need playmaking as well as defense and overlooked the players best positioned to provide them with these needs. As a result, do not expect much this season from the Chicago team.
Best Second Round Steal: Cassius Winston
Listen, I am a Wizards fan, but I am not always a fan of their acquisitions. With the 53rd pick, they drafted an NBA-ready point guard with a high basketball IQ and efficient shooting. Rarely does a player like this remain available until the second round.
Best First Round Fits: James Wiseman and Killian Hayes
Golden State needs a starting center. Wiseman provides more than adequate rim protection and offense while also boasting a low-key smooth free throw stroke which could develop into some range (especially now that he’s teammates with the Splash Bros).
Detroit needs talent and upside. Killian Hayes provides both, with some seeing him as having the highest ceiling in this draft. For an organization looking for a new face and new direction, Hayes provides talent, playmaking, and flexibility with his 6-5 frame.
If you disagree with my analysis, leave a comment or feel free to reach out (I’m always discussing basketball). Next week, we will be taking a look at the NBA Free Agency this offseason.