We've now had a few days to digest the NBA Draft. What teams are the winners and losers?
The Mavericks end up with Luka Doncic, after trading the draft rights to Trae Young and a 2019 first-round, top-five-protected pick to the Atlanta Hawks. It seems they have another European player to build their franchise around, just in time for Dirk Nowitzki to retire. Doncic, still a teenager, has proved himself in EuroLeague the last three years, which is better competition than most draft picks faced in Division 1. He can shoot. He can pass. His defense is serviceable. And he knows how to win. Trading for Doncic puts the Mavs on course for the playoffs in a couple years. Adding a polished point guard in Jalen Brunson in the second round, possibly to back up Dennis Young Jr., will certainly help too.
The offense-heavy Nuggets are already basically a playoff team, at least they should’ve been with 46 wins. And now they’ve added another scorer. Michael Porter Jr., at one point a top-three talent, fell all the way to 14th, where Denver picked him to fill a need at forward. Other teams were obviously concerned about Porter’s back and hip issues, and the Nuggets should be too. But they’ve added a potentially elite scorer, and didn’t have to give up anything to get him.
The Suns selected Deandre Ayton, the player everyone assumed they would. He has the size and talent to start on first day. Whether he can be the Shaq half of Shaq-Kobe 2.0 remains to be seen. (Shaq played defense, after all.) But, Ayton does have enough athleticism to become a better defender and to be a strong presence at both ends of the court. The Suns also ended up with Mikal Bridges, who many saw as the most NBA-ready player in the draft, after trading their 16th pick, Zhaire Smith, to the 76ers.
The Blazers drafted Anfernee Simons, an athletic shooting guard, with the 24th pick in the NBA Draft. Simons skipped college and will probably need some time to mature into an NBA contributor. He could be great in a couple seasons. But the Blazers, with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum firing on all cylinders, need help now. They were the third seed in the West and were swept out of the playoffs in the first round. Adding Simons doesn’t make them any better next season. They should’ve picked an immediate contributor in this draft.
The Wizards took 6’7″ swing-man Troy Brown out of Oregon with the 15th pick. The athletic Brown was a top recruit coming out of high school but didn’t do much in college. While the 18-year-old could become a solid two-way player in an NBA that’s becoming more fluid and position-less, he’s a project whose ceiling isn’t that high. He will add some depth to a so-so Wiz bench that improved last season but is far from where it needs to be for the team to make a run. However, with Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre in front of him, it’s not clear where those minutes will come from. Also, consider that many more NBA-ready players were still on the board at 15, among them Zhaire Smith, Donte DiVincenzo and even Lonnie Walker. Brown may ultimately work out, but he wasn’t the player for the Wizards to take at 15.