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Nothing beats the NBA Draft. Nothing. On top of finding out which 60 players will have their lives changed, we’re annually treated to a flurry of trades and rumors. I’ll try to incorporate both as we take a look at the biggest winners and losers of the night!
Detroit Pistons: This one is obvious. Is Cade Cunningham a prospect on the level of Luka Doncic or Zion Williamson? I have my doubts, but he was an easy selection for the Pistons, a team in desperate need of talent as they embark on their rebuild. I’m also not sure if Cade has the highest ceiling in this class, but what he definitely has is the highest floor as his shot-making ability combined with his skill in the pick-and-roll makes him perfect for the modern NBA. At 6-8 with a 7-1 wingspan, Cade can score at all three levels and should step in as the focal point of Detroit’s offense right out of the gate.
Cleveland Cavaliers: When I said that Cade may not have the highest ceiling in this class, it’s because of a guy like Evan Mobley. A 7-footer with a 7-4 wingspan, Mobley moves like a wing and is tremendously skilled for his position. He’s creative around the basket, he has really good vision as a playmaker and his handles are quite rare for a player his size. He’s also a superstar on the defensive end, blocking 2.9 shots per game and anchoring one of the top defenses in the NCAA. The Cavaliers are “intrigued” with the potential fit of Mobley next to Jarrett Allen, though one of them will have to develop a reliable jumper if that partnership is going to work.
Houston Rockets: The Rockets are convinced that Jalen Green is a star and it’s easy to see why. Perhaps the most explosive guard in the draft, Green has drawn comparisons to Zach LaVine in that regard -- he’s not as good of a shooter, but his handles are probably a tier above. It’s not out of the question that he becomes a 30 PPG scorer someday, and while the Rockets aren’t going to step into the playoff conversation just yet, their offense is going to be lethal with Green, Kevin Porter Jr. and Christian Wood firing away.
On top of those three, Houston added one of my favorite prospects in the draft in Alperen Sengun, trading away two protected future firsts (via DET and WAS) to get the 16th pick. As an 18-year-old, Sengun was the Turkish League MVP and put up 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.7 blocks. He has an old-fashioned post game, can pass extremely well for his size and offers All-Star upside. Usman Garuba at pick 23 is a steal and while he is raw offensively, he could be a nightmare on the defensive end for opposing teams. Finally, the Rockets also took Josh Christopher at pick 24, a player that didn’t live up to the hype in the NCAA but has some very intriguing tools on offense. Overall, I think the Rockets are the clear winners of the night.
Orlando Magic- Nobody expected Jalen Suggs to fall into their lap at pick No. 5 and no one will be happier than their front office. Markelle Fultz is coming off an ACL tear and Cole Anthony hasn’t shown that he can become a high-level starter, so Suggs could be Orlando’s long-term answer at the position. He’s ready to compete right away, and while efficiency will be a concern early on, his athleticism and motor are very impressive and he can make any pass on the court.
Golden State Warriors- The Warriors came into the draft open to several different options, including making a splash for Ben Simmons and Bradley Beal, but walked away with two wings in Jonathan Kuminga (No. 7) and Moses Moody (No. 14). There’s been a lot of talk about Steph Curry’s “window” to win another title, but the Warriors are building a sustainable roster that helps them address their needs on the wing now and sets them up for future success. I think they knocked it out of the park with these picks, even if neither player averages more than 20 minutes this season. Kuminga is more of a project but has one of the highest ceilings in this class, and his athleticism and defense should transition smoothly. As for Moody, he’s going to be a shot-maker from day one and will instantly bolster a second unit in desperate need of firepower -- the Warriors were CRUSHED whenever Curry took a breather last season.
Charlotte Hornets- James Bouknight was in the top 10 of a lot of big boards so the Hornets were surprised to see him fall to No. 11. It’s a concern that he only shot 29% from deep as a sophomore, but he’s got good size for a wing and put up 18.7 points per game. With the Hornets possibly losing Malik Monk and Devonte Graham, this was a safe pick. I personally wanted a bit more upside with a guy like Alperen Sengun, but that’s not Jordan’s style. As for their other selection, grabbing Kai Jones at pick 19th fills an obvious need at center (they also acquired Mason Plumlee). An incredible athlete, Kai shot up draft boards at the combine and his combination of rim running and shot blocking is a great get for Charlotte. And he couldn’t be in a better situation with LaMelo tossing him lobs.
Atlanta- They took some risks that I absolutely loved, they held onto Cam Reddish and it sounds like John Collins is staying put. Talk about a great night for the Hawks. Jalen Johnson is working to rebuild his reputation and has some durability concerns, but he’s a lottery talent without a doubt so grabbing him at 20 was a huge get. The Hawks also got one of the biggest steals in the second round, selecting Sharife Cooper at pick 48. One of the best ball-handlers and playmakers in the class, he was also electric as a scorer with 20.2 points per game. He should step in as Trae Young’s backup right away.
Washington- The Wizards are pretty clearly the biggest losers of the night. They salary dumped the two years and $90M that were left on Russell Westbrook’s deal, accepting a measly return of Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and 1.22. The silver lining is that Bradley Beal reportedly told the team that he’s staying, but what’s the point? He says his main goal is to win, but that roster is looking pretty bleak at the moment.
As for their draft, they took one of the best shooters in the country with Corey Kispert at No. 15, but how much does that move the needle in the long run? Kispert projects to be a role player at best, so I wish they would’ve swung for the fences and took a flier on some upside like Alperen Sengun or Duke’s Jalen Johnson. They also flipped 1.22 for Aaron Holiday with their glaring hole at PG, but he has a lot to prove after a disastrous season with the Pacers. They did take Isaiah Todd 31st overall and he could have a bright future, but man, what a brutal day for the Wizards.
Indiana Pacers- Chris Duarte is a solid player, but using the 13th pick on a guy that is already 24 years old is egregious. The Pacers are stuck in mediocrity right now and I don’t see this moving the needle for a franchise that projects to be in the middle of the pack out East. The Pacers also acquired the 22nd overall pick after trading away Aaron Holiday to the Wizards, selecting Kentucky big man Isaiah Jackson. In a vacuum he’s a good pick, but the Pacers already have Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner and Goga Bitadze. Unless a Myles trade is coming, this one makes no sense.
Sacramento- The Kings don’t exactly have a glaring need at guard with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton on the roster, so this one was a head-scratcher. Maybe a Fox trade is on the horizon? I actually like Davion Mitchell as a player, but this felt too high and it would’ve made more sense to grab a wing like a Moses Moody or a big man with Richaun Holmes likely jetting in free agency and Marvin Bagley playing so poorly. Sacramento's track record in drafts speaks for itself.
San Antonio- The Spurs took a flier on Josh Primo at pick 12, and while I have nothing against the kid, this was way too soon. I get it when teams have to grab their guy, but why not trade back? Primo likely would’ve fallen to the end of the first round so I’m not loving the reach. At only 18 years old, I don’t expect Primo to get much run as a rookie but I don’t doubt that the developmental staff will turn him into a nice player.
Toronto- The Raptors tried to trade up to No. 3 to grab Evan Mobley but had no luck, and with Jalen Suggs sitting there at No. 4 as a potential Kyle Lowry replacement, they took Scottie Barnes instead. That one made no sense to me unless Pascal Siakam is heading out the door.