The top two picks in the NBA draft went as expected. The Philadelphia 76ers won the draft on Monday when they traded for the No. 1 pick to take Markelle Fultz. The Lakers followed suit by selecting Lonzo Ball at No. 2.
The 2017 draft, therefore, began at No. 3. But as the Boston Celtics went on the clock, the biggest news of draft night broke, and it had nothing to do with Danny Ainge or the third selection. The Minnesota Timberwolves acquired Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls for a package that included the No. 7 overall pick — and it’s there that we begin our winners and losers of the 2017 NBA draft:
The Wolves sent 2016 first-round pick Kris Dunn, shooting guard Zach LaVine and the No. 7 pick to Chicago for Butler and the No. 16 pick. Given rumored asking prices, and given Butler’s status as an All-Star with two years left on his contract, this is a steal for Minnesota. Butler, a two-way destroyer, joins his old coach, Tom Thibodeau, and joins a core of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins that should rank among the best in the league in two years, if not right now. To reel in the final piece of that core, all the Wolves had to do was move down nine spots and relinquish a decent two-guard coming off an ACL tear, plus a second-year point guard who really struggled as a rookie. This trade is an A+.
Underscoring that A+: Minnesota used the No. 16 pick to take lanky-but-skilled Creighton big man Justin Patton, while Chicago used No. 7 on Arizona big Lauri Markkanen. The gap between those two players in no way makes up for the gap between Butler and the players the Wolves dealt to get him.
The weeks leading up to the draft were littered with rumors about Josh Jackson. At one point, the Lakers reportedly loved him at No. 2. Then a host of teams wanted to trade up to No. 3 for the Kansas freshman. Ultimately, none of that materialized; the Suns stood pat at No. 4, and took Jackson, an uber-athletic wing who is a perfect fit alongside Devin Booker. Jackson could be a superstar if he develops his jump shot — which is a big question mark. But even if he doesn’t, he has a high floor, and will make a big impact in Phoenix.
The Kings, by their very low standards, had a not totally awful evening! Actually, they had a very good evening! They got the player they had reportedly targeted all along, De’Aaron Fox, at No. 5. They could have had his Kentucky backcourt mate, Malik Monk, at 10, but instead traded down to turn one top-20 pick into two. They got No. 15 and No. 20 from Portland in return, and used them to take Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. While Jackson is a relatively uninspiring selection, Giles, the top recruit in the country a year ago, has all kinds of upside if he can re-find access to his pre-knee injury talent. At 20, the minimal risk is well worth the potentially massive reward.
Sacramento also picked up college basketball’s national player of the year, Frank Mason III, in the second round. The Kings needed a big night, and, for the first time in a while, they came through in a big way.
No matter how he fares in March, Calipari can always count on winning draft night. The Kentucky coach landed three players in this year’s lottery as Fox went fifth to Sacramento, Monk went 11th to Charlotte and Bam Adebayo went 14th to Miami. That means Calipari has produced 24 first-round picks since he arrived at Kentucky in 2010, easily the most of any college coach during that span. Calipari received plenty of airtime on ESPN after flying from Colorado Springs to New York in time for the draft. He also had to be smiling when Adebayo told viewers — and starry-eyed future recruits — that he sees the Kentucky coach as a father figure.
Most mock drafts had the Hornets taking either Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell or Duke’s Luke Kennard. Both would have been solid, even if unspectacular, backcourt partners for Kemba Walker. Both would have been acceptable picks. On draft night, however, the dream scenario played out: Monk fell all the way to 11, right into Charlotte’s lap, and the Hornets didn’t get cute. They nabbed Monk, and might just have nabbed the best scorer in the draft.
The Jazz, who had two late first-rounders, packaged one with reserve forward Trey Lyles to trade up to No. 13 and take Donovan Mitchell. The move makes all kinds of sense. Facing the potential departures of both George Hill — who is aging and injury-prone anyway — and Gordon Hayward in free agency, Utah jumped at the chance to take a guard who can play both on and off the ball, and who could replace either one of Hill or Hayward if necessary.
Later in the first round, Utah again moved up a few spots to grab North Carolina center Tony Bradley, another savvy move. The Jazz made the most out of limited draft night resources.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors didn’t even have a pick in the 2017 NBA draft. No first-rounders. No second-rounders. So how are they a winner? They bought their way into the second round, reportedly paying $3.5 million — the maximum amount of cash that a team can use in trades in a single season — for the rights to the No. 38 overall selection, originally in the hands of Chicago.
Golden State used the pick to take Jordan Bell, a bouncy big man from Oregon who was slipping further than expected. Bell is undersized, can’t shoot and carries health concerns; but on the defensive end of the floor, he could hardly be better suited for the modern NBA. He can rebound and block shots. He can defend all over the floor. He can switch onto guards and handle pick-and-rolls. He’s exactly the type of player teams need to slow down the Warriors; instead, the Warriors swooped in for him themselves. It would not be at all surprising to see Bell getting real playing time in the 2018 NBA Finals.
Although their haul in the trade might have seemed meager, the deal wasn’t a complete disaster for the Bulls. They weren’t going anywhere with their roster as it was previously constructed. They had to move Butler, and it’s not like they got nothing for him. But they did get a lot less than many expected them to. And they became a loser when they used the second most valuable of the three assets — or arguably the most valuable, considering LaVine is on the final year of his rookie deal — to select Lauri Markkanen, a one-dimensional player who doesn’t really have the star potential of Malik Monk or Dennis Smith Jr., both of whom were still on the board.
Chicago’s rough night continued when they were ripped to shreds by Jimmy Butler’s trainer on Twitter…
And then by their own fans when they decided to stream their post-draft news conference via Facebook Live. This screenshot — floating angry face emojis and all — just about sums up the state of the Chicago Bulls:
Within an hour of the video going live, over 4,500 people had responded with an angry face. There were over 5,500 comments. Many of them were, uh, not exceedingly nice! The losing will soon commence in Chicago.
On Wednesday, Wade opted in to year two of his contract in Chicago. On Thursday, he lost his top running mate, and is now stuck on a team that is building for the future, not the present — a team that won’t come close to last year’s win total of 41. Wade, 35, almost surely won’t be around to be a part of that future, and must ride out a full season that will likely be a wasted one — unless, of course, he can negotiate some sort of buyout.
To make matters worse, Wade found out about the trade while in Paris. And you know who he’d been hanging out with in Paris earlier in the day?
New York Knicks
The Knicks passed on Monk and Smith to take Frank Ntilikina, an extremely raw point guard from France. Ntilikina could validate that decision. As in, there’s a non-zero chance that he turns out to be better than both Monk and Smith. But who would you rather side with: The vast majority of experts (and probably most NBA scouts) who had both Monk and Smith ahead of Ntilikina? Or the most dysfunctional front office in the NBA? The Knicks are a mess, and Thursday night did nothing to clean up that mess.
In fact, the second round might have exacerbated it. At 44, New York took Damyean Dotson, who was expelled by Oregon after being a suspect in a forcible rape investigation that resulted in no charges being filed due to a “lack of evidence.”
Prospects who don’t delete old tweets
The first thing an NBA prospect should do after officially entering his name in the draft is delete all his old tweets. Or hire somebody to scrub all the bad ones. There is literally no reason not to. None. But so many players don’t do it, and the worst of the old tweets will inevitably be dug up.
The most embarrassing of the bunch this year is probably one from Dennis Smith in 2012. It has since been deleted, but only after the damage was done by muckraking Twitter users:
The reason to delete ALL tweets and not just potentially inappropriate ones is that you never know what could come back to haunt you. That’s because you never know which team will select you. Case in point: The Thunder took Terrance Ferguson at 21. Thunder fans soon found out — via old tweets — that Ferguson is a Warriors fan:
Case in point, part two: Bell went to the Warriors. But around this time last year, he didn’t seem to fond of the Warriors excuses after they blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals:
This happens every year. And it is so very avoidable. For some reason, it never gets avoided.
More NBA draft coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Process pays off: Sixers take Fultz No. 1 overall
• Fashion statements aplenty at 2017 NBA draft
• Troubling new report about Phil Jackson, Knicks
• The mocking draft: Ranking picks by quirks
• Knicks owner to spend draft … playing the blues