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Thoughts and recriminations from the NBA Draft

Well that went exactly as planned...

Getty Images/USA Today/Peter Rogers Illustrations

Well, that went exactly as expected! Let’s reflect on what happened:

  • The Phoenix Suns drafted the player who played nearest to their arena.
  • The Sacramento Kings drafted the (only?) player who told them he would play for them.
  • The Hawks drafted the best player in the draft...but for another team.
  • The 76ers drafted a player just to break his heart.
  • The Nuggets drafted a player with the largest upside of anyone in the draft.

Sound about right? Other significant decisions were made, but I think that’s the top of the list.

The Cavs drafted a point guard, Collin Sexton. To replace Kyrie. Who they traded. When they didn’t have to. Sexton is 6’2”, by the way.

The Knicks drafted another tall guy who can shoot, Kevin Fort(unate) Knox. (I imagine he’ll get a buncha playing time with Porzingis out for the season.) Are the Knicks acting un-Knicksy lately? If Knox is good, and Frank Ntili continues to improve, will this team be pretty good when Porzingis returns next season? The Knicks’ bad contracts will eventually become valuable expiring contracts, just in time for some big free agent classes.

The Clippers drafted, I swear to God, another goddamn guard. Another guard! To go with the six trillion guards they already have! Where is SGA going to play, exactly? The G League? (Nothing wrong with that, BTW, and I think it’s a pretty smart thing to do if you’re not going to start him.) SGA won’t start over Austin Haunted Rivers, so will he supplant Milos Teodosic AND Pat Beverly AND Lou Williams? (UPDATE: Rivers got traded to the Washington Wizards for Marcin Gortat. OH NO! WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR TOMAS SATORANSKY???) Also, the Clippers spent 2 second-rounders in order to move up one spot? Why? They thought Charlotte would take SGA as Kemba’s replacement, I guess? I don’t really get it. Unless, they’re going to try and offload their other guards in trades...

(They took another guard with their next pick, too.)

Here’s the Clippers cap sitch in 2018-19 (courtesy of spotrac.com):

  • Deandre Jordan, $24 million (player option)
  • Danilo Cincinnatus Gallinari, $21.5 million
  • Tobias Harris, $14.8 million
  • Marcin Gortat, $13.5 million
  • Lou Williams, $8 million
  • The Boban Marjanovic, $7 million (an absolute steal!)
  • Milos Teodosic (who I still like), $6.3 million
  • Wesley Johnson, $6.1 million
  • Patrick Beverley, $5 million
  • Sam Dekker, $2.7 million
  • Jawun Evans, $1.4 million
  • Sindarius Thornwell, $1.4 million
  • C.J. Williams, $1.4 million
  • Shai Gilgeous Alexander, $3.3 million
  • Jerome Robinson, $3.3 million

That’s around $120 million. The cap is $101 million. They’ll be shedding some dudes, fer sher (unless DJ doesn’t opt in). I don’t hate that roster, even sans Deandre Jordan. I love Pat Bev, I really like Teodosic, I really like SGA, I really like Lou Williams, and I really like Tobias Harris. But, while I do like the players, I’m not sure I think the Clippers will be good. Something’s missing. (Not LeBron, even though this Clippers team is better than the team he had in Cleveland this playoffs.) Pat Bev, Lou Williams, Toby, Gallo, and DJ: is that a closing 5? Maybe I’m just being biased, and letting my memories of Clippers past cloud my judgment about their future. If Gallinari stays healthy (big if), then is that team good enough to make the playoffs? Hmmm. Would Popovich’s antipathy towards the Lakers nudge him towards accepting a Clippers trade for Kawhi Leonard? As a kinda spite thing? “Kawhi, you could become the best Clipper in history, you could OWN THIS TEAM! Will you let us pay you??” That’s how the sales pitch would go, if he took a Clippers meeting. Stranger things have happened, I guess (including the fact that Kawhi Leonard will be leaving the Spurs).

The Nuggets made the strongest play of the night, taking a guy who has health issues but could be the best overall player. Honestly, they had to make this pick. The fact that they can redshirt Michael Porter Jr. for a year, and help him heal and get stronger, is just better for everyone involved. Denver doesn’t really need a rookie this year. They’re primed to reach the playoffs, and they don’t need a rookie getting in their way. I imagine they’ll strengthen their wing, and maybe try to get a stud interior defender, either by trade or by signing them. But, Denver doesn’t want to tie their cap up in old guys because their youth is getting closer to some massive deals. Great, great (lucky) pick. Also, in fantasy basketball you’ll want to draft Porter Jr. and stash him for the future.

Philly getting Zhaire Smith is a great move. The manner in which they acquired him sucks, and I don’t understand sending a 1st round pick (Phoenix, WTF), but whatever, this trade had to be accepted when Phoenix put the pick in. They basically bought Mikal Bridges, which is fine, but he really better be good, man. You spent two first round picks on him. Philly comes away with a guy who will be great in a few seasons. He needs to get stronger, but he’s going to be a member of the new solid tier of B/B+ guys: great athletes who can defend four positions, shoot from outside at a capable clip, and pass. OG Anunoby, Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow, etc., and now Zhaire. These guys are going to become the backbones upon which many teams build their squads: guys who can “capably” defend LeBron and Klay Thompson and James Harden. They won’t succeed at it, but they’ll be able to run with them, at least, and that will mean the elite guys will have to work harder on offense. And, really, that’s all you can hope for against today’s best NBA players. (I wonder if the bigger-stronger-faster evolution of the NBA will play out similarly to the same in the NFL, wherein these guys might just become too big and too strong for their own good.)

I really wanted Milwaukee to trade their pick and a player for someone else. That team didn’t gel last year, and I don’t like the idea of running it back exactly the same. DiVincenzo gives you shooting, which the Bucks need, for sure. Still, I wonder if they called both LA teams and asked about Kuzma and Tobias Harris. I think everyone on the Bucks is available other than Giannis. Unclear if the Bucks will actually improve this year. Wsup with Jabari, too?

People need to chill out on the Hawks, though. “Baby Warriors?” Give me a break. The odds are that Taurean Prince remains the best player on this team. I understand taking assets over players, but Doncic was the player to take in this draft. Those aren’t people you should trade. Doncic and Prince would’ve been incredible. Sigh.

Washington has a bit of a wing factory going on. Drafting Troy Brown could be enormous for them, because if he’s good, then Otto Porter, Jr., is expendable (by the way, he’s the highest paid player on the DC Wizards; isn’t that INCREDIBLE?!). Current Ian Mahinmi, who is the ghost that haunts the ghost of Past Ian Mahinmi, may he rest in peace, is the 4th highest paid player on the Wiz, and he’s now, maybe, their starting center? Really?

DC’s cap sucks, surprise surprise:

  • Otto Porter, Jr., $26 MILLION AMERICAN DOLLARS! AND, THERE’S A TRADE KICKER! This is awesome, I hope everyone starts getting paid this well. I like Otto a lot, but...it’s tough to be paid more than Dr. John Wall and Bradley Kind of a Big Beal.
  • Brad Beal, $25 million
  • Dr. Wall, …$19 million?
  • Ian Mahinmi, BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!, $16 million
  • Austin Homesick Already Rivers, $12.7 million
  • Markieff Morris, $8.6 million
  • Jason Smith has a $5.5 million player option? Really?
  • Jodie Meeks, $3.5 million
  • Kelly Oubre, Jr., $3.2 million (VALUABLE)
  • Tomas Satoransky, $3.1 million (VALUABLE)
  • Troy Brown, $2.7 million

They’re $25 million over the cap, according to spotrac. They have the 5th highest payroll in the NBA. They almost HAVE to trade Otto, don’tcha think? Trading him gets you under the cap, and opens up all sortsa possibilities. Rather than buying Dwight Howard out, could Brooklyn trade him to DC for Otto (other stuff would be included, of course)? You literally CANNOT have Mahinmi as your starting center if you expect to make the playoffs. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Now, you don’t need to have your team all the way constructed in October. Obviously, the Cavs turn their team over all the time, every year. The Wiz could be patient, not make any dumb moves in the offseason, and hope they can make a good trade during the regular season. You know what really, really sucks, though? Ian Mahinmi is signed through 2020. I’m a Tigers fan. I think that Mahinmi for two more years is scarier to me than always-injured Miguel Cabrera for 10 more years, or however the hell long we have him for. God Bless You, Miggie! I still love you!

I still can’t believe what Philly did to Mikal Bridges, man. How can his mom continue to work there? I feel like that’s what we’ll remember from this draft. Cold-blooded Brett Brown obliterating a family’s dream come true on national television, in front of everyone. I hope Phoenix beats the hell outta Philly this year. (They, uh, won’t.)

For as much as I really didn’t like the Ayton pick, and the haul Phoenix sent for Mikal Bridges...I really like Elie Okobo. I think that dude is money. Unless Brandon Knight is fully healthy and has improved since we last saw him, I kinda feel like Okobo will be the starting point guard for Phoenix. Maybe even to start the season.

I liked what Detroit did. I can’t believe Khyri Thomas was still available at pick 38! Bruce Brown will be a good defender (dude’s strong AF!), and if he develops his outside shot, then he’ll turn into one of those physical wings that we’ve all been talking so much about. Khyri Thomas is 6’3” with a 6’10” wingspan, by the way.

Utah kinda bugged me. They drafted Grayson Allen, and fine, fine, who cares. But, they could’ve drafted Robert Williams. Wouldn’t you rather have Big Bob than Grayson Allen? Williams could’ve learned under Rudy Gobert, and been a fine backup center, just like Boston’s hoping. Dunno. Didn’t really like this pick. Big Bob has big potential; Grayson Allen sounds like a men’s clothing catalog, or a couch store chain.

I’m not going to hate on the rest of the draft. Honestly, the numbers tell us that most of these players are crapshoots, and there’s just no telling who will end up being the best player, especially if it’s not one of the top 3 or 5. Steph Curry went 7th, y’know? Draymond Green went in the second round! So, everyone should be hopeful, I think. If second rounders can become Hall of Famers, and if Steph Curry can be passed over in the draft (twice by Minnesota; #NeverForget), then anything’s possible. Be excited about the player(s) your team drafted! Maybe they’ll surprise you, like Kawhi (Indiana traded him to the Spurs after they drafted him. Whoops.).

Drafts may also represent how a franchise views itself. Orlando took another big man in part because they knew they could develop him, as they’ve done with bigs before. Dallas knows they can develop young Europeans because, hello, they have Dirk Nowitzki. If Dirk isn’t there, do they make that trade? Who knows. (Dallas also drafted Giannis’s brother!)

The LA Lakers drafted Mo Wagner (Go Blue!). Teams do weird things. But, the draft is weird. Crazy things happen.

I do have a question, though. Would you rather see the players draft the teams? Let’s say that all 30 teams can nominate 4 or 5 college/high school/international players to be in the draft, and the top 60 nominated dudes are chosen. Then those 60 eligible rookies are chosen by the lottery balls; whoever’s picked first gets to pick out of the 30 teams. The second player chosen by the magic balls would have his pick of the 29 other teams, and so on, until all 30 teams had a player; then, round 2 would begin, and go ditto as the first. Would that be more enjoyable or less? I imagine the good teams and the popular cities would go first, but then the small market teams might get lucky with a really good player who has no choice but to pick them because he got a bad lottery spot. Just an idea. I kinda like the draft the way it is. It’s absolutely bonkers. The team with the first pick did NOT draft the #1 overall prospect. Respect, Phoenix. I hope Ayton becomes legend and writes his name in the sky. Then, you can rub it in the doubters’ faces (me included).

(Doncic will end up being better.)