The NBA draft came and went, with more of the pomp and circumstance we are accustomed to prior to last years pandemic. Adam Silver was back up front, the players were back at the table, and Knicks fans were back to bemoaning their team’s decisions. I enjoyed my evening with a glass full of water and joy as my beloved Orlando Magic ignored everything I said they would do (mostly as a taunt to motivate them ;) and took two players I rated very highly in my draft preview. Let’s take a look at the winners and losers.
Winner: The Orlando Magic
The Magic had looked to be the big loser coming out of the draft lottery, as their ping pong balls proved to be unworthy of a top four pick in what was viewed as a four player draft. The presumption of everyone (including me) was that the Raptors would take Suggs fourth. They threw a curveball, however, taking Scottie Barnes, leaving the extremely talented Suggs for the Magic, who desperately needed a star player. Getting glue guy Franz Wagner was icing on the cake as well, giving Suggs a partner who will share the ball and balance with him. Wagner may not have been the most talented player at 8, but it’s Suggs’ team now, and Wagner will understand that and pair nicely.
Jay Bilas, longtime NBA Draft commentator, has a fondness for certain phrases. For years, that fondness was targeted at the word “length”. NBA teams had grown weary, he reported, of short, squat players, and were looking for longer players. He proved this by describing 75 percent of the players taken as “long”. It became such a recognized phrase, it spawned a drinking game, where you had to take a sip/shot every time Bilas said long. In 2021, however, Length is dead (and our previous team might have been the one who killed it, since they drafted nothing but long players who couldn’t shoot and went nowhere).
In place of length, we now have versatility. Two out of every three prospects was viewed as “versatile”. What that means is up for debate however, as versatility was applied to a players overall game (they shoot, score, play defense), an aspect of their game (they can shoot inside, outside, upside, downside), their position on the floor (they can play the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 c’mon everybody let’s…), or their ability to wear a suit (ok, I made that up, but some of those pants were so tight they required some real versatility to get in and out of, and possibly a shoehorn). Even Corey Kispert, a player with virtually no versatility, since he is almost exclusively an outside shooter, wing, and Abercrombie model, was deigned worthy of the phrase.
Loser: The New York Knicks
The Knicks had two picks in the late middle first round, and… did nothing with them. They traded one for a future first, and the other to move back and take Quentin Grimes, a fine player, but not a difference maker. Poor Spike Lee drove all they way there just to see them dump their picks. So why did they do this? Depth and scoring is an issue for them. It’s because they have 50 million in cap space, and wanted to save every cent for… I don’t know. Kawhi Leonard is a free agent, but he won’t go to the Knicks. I don’t see Chris Paul re-signing outside of Phoenix after last year. Mike Conley? Every year the Knicks do this where they think they are going to attract a star player, and every year they don’t. Maybe try something different. Maybe try draft and developing a good player yourselves.
Winner: Whoever ends up trading with the Golden State Warriors
The Warriors took Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, two players widely viewed as being worthy of higher selection then they ended up getting. Paired with last year’s number 2 pick, James Wiseman, those three make up the core of an eventual trade that will be more beneficial to the team receiving it than would be expected. An interesting trend with these picks, however, is that the Warriors keep making them. A team on the cusp like they are should have already moved them for solid young player which makes me wonder, have picks slipped in value? In the past, a number 2, 7 and 14 pick would have been worth quite a bit. Now, teams seem less interested. It’s not a lack of talent in the draft, last year’s rookie class was one of the most impactful in history. I wonder if teams are feeling less confident with projections on players, or if the true value of picks exists before they are assigned a number. Time will tell, as the Thunder have about 20 first round picks coming, and I will be curious what they will be able to get with them.
Loser: Davion Mitchell
At nearly 23 years old, Mitchell was one of the oldest players in the draft (by contrast, there was a player taken who will be 18 for the next 6 months), but that didn’t stop him from getting right to a rookie mistake when he revealed his level of excitement over being drafted by the worst franchise in the sport. Davion fell to tenth, was drafted by a team with at least two guards ahead of him on the depth chart, and pretty much guaranteed to miss the playoffs from now till the end of time. This is a tough break for him, as no one wants to go to Sacramento, be drafted by Sacramento, have to play in Sacramento, or play for Luke Walton. On the bright side, it’s California so he will lose a ton of money in taxes, which the state desperately needs (I didn’t say it was HIS bright side).
Winner: Princess Bride aficionados
Listening to Adrian Wojnarowski break down possible/completed trades with just enough of a hint of Wallace Shawn was a delight and made me feel that what was happening was funny but just serious enough that the reference was inconceivable to the average viewer.
Loser: Moses Moody (the name)
Oof. That’s rough.
Winner: Sheer awkwardness
Whether it was the weird banter from Kendrick Perkins and Richard Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins talking on his own, the presence of Rachel Nichols after the controversy with her and Maria Taylor, teenagers trying to talk on camera, the family of Terrence Clarke being brought up (I found that less touching and more exploitative), Adrian Wojnarowski breaking all the big events before the draft picks, conversations about picks that were just traded still being about whatever was going to happen prior to the trade, or that weird guy who’s name I legitimately never caught who looked like a friendly Shia LeBouf sitting next to Kendrick Perkins who said absolutely nothing interesting all night, to Davion Mitchell failing to pretend he wanted to go to Sacramento, this draft was all about awkwardness. Even Jalen Suggs amazing suit couldn’t save it.
No significant trades happened. Bradley Beal, Ben Simmons, and Buddy Hield all stayed put. The Lakers traded for Russell Westbrook I suppose, but that doesn’t move the needle much for me. He is in what feels like a rapid decline now, and I am not 100 percent sure they even won that trade, let alone added a major piece. His complete lack of shooting, declining athleticism and struggle to stay healthy would concern me tremendously if I was a Laker fan. Kyle Kuzma is no big deal at this point either, but after they made so much about how great he was going to be, to trade him for a player who is basically a salary dump at this point from the Wizards perspective is shocking.