NBA draft winners and losers: 76ers overhaul was an excellent night for the franchise
After a five-month delay, the NBA draft finally happened Wednesday night, and with it came some surprises — good and bad. The Minnesota Timberwolves ended up drafting Anthony Edwards despite him saying he’s “not really into basketball” earlier this week, while the Golden State Warriors drafted James Wiseman with questions surrounding Klay Thompson’s health after he suffered a lower leg injury.
We take a look at the winners and losers of the 2020 NBA draft.
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton and Memphis coach Penny Hardaway
Hamilton had two players go in the lottery, while Hardaway was the former coach to Wiseman at No. 2 and Precious Achiuwa at No. 20. Florida State and Memphis are far from blue blood options for young talent but recruits watching the draft tonight better start taking notes.
It’s all about fit and what Hamilton and his coaching staff did for Patrick Williams and Devin Vassell in one to two years is incredible. Williams came off the bench at Florida State and is one of the highest non-starters to get drafted in the last 20 years, landing in Chicago at No. 4. Vassell was an under-the-radar recruit who only held two offers before assistant coach Charlton Young discovered him on the AAU circuit.
A year ago, Penny Hardaway had the No. 1 recruiting class led by Wiseman and Achiuwa. After Wiseman left the school early due to a recruiting violation, Hardaway predicted he would be Rookie of the Year this season. Achiuwa became the first option following Wiseman’s departure on offense and averaged a double-double (15.8 points and 10.8 rebounds), leading the American Athletic Conference in rebounds. Achiuwa had some issues with shot selection in high school but Hardaway helped him improve in that area which is why the Miami Heat couldn’t pass on him with pick No. 20.
The 76ers had five picks in this draft which, at the beginning of the night, wasn’t necessarily a good thing. It actually ended up being an excellent night for the franchise. No one expected Tyrese Maxey to fall to No. 21 and if the 76ers would have passed on Maxey, they would be in the loser column. Maxey has improved his jump shot since his college season at Kentucky and is a guard that can score at all three levels. Then late in the second round, the 76ers selected Arkansas sharpshooter Isaiah Joe and finally at No. 58 drafted possibly the biggest sleeper of the night in Paul Reed. Reed played at DePaul and is a 6-foot-9 forward who averaged 10.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. The Sixers also offloaded a ton of cap space when they traded Al Horford to Oklahoma City and Josh Richardson to Dallas. It was a good night for new president Daryl Morey and Philly fans.
The Grizzlies quietly had a great night snatching up Jaren Jackson Jr.’s former teammate, Xavier Tillman, and under-the-radar lead guard Desmond Bane from TCU. Jackson Jr. shared his excitement on Twitter with Ja Morant joining in and welcoming his new teammates. The Grizzlies also signed the undrafted Killian Tillie from Gonzaga, who has huge upside at 6-foot-10, 220 pounds. The Grizzlies are young and very athletic and just added a few pieces to the team to complement that. They could be a very dangerous team in a couple of years.
Golden State Warriors
The loss of Klay Thompson for the season to an Achilles injury overshadowed the night even with the excitement of landing James Wiseman at No. 2. It was encouraging to see the Warriors front office not panic and trade down for a mediocre shooting guard later in the draft, but the news of Thompson hit the NBA world hard with numerous NBA players tweeting out well wishes to Thompson and even his newest teammate showing him support on the biggest night of his career. Wiseman told Yahoo Sports, “It weighed on my mind a lot. All my thoughts and prayers are with my teammate Klay Thompson and we will get through this.”
The Detroit Pistons had a top-10 pick and that’s great news if you're a Pistons fan. It’s not great news when you look at the player Troy Weaver passed on. At No. 7 they picked the shifty, left-handed guard out of France, Killian Hayes. The better fit would have been 6-foot-6 guard Tyrese Haliburton, a great facilitator and passer who could end up being the best prospect in this draft class. Haliburton is ready to prove himself saying, “I just want to win Rookie of the Year. One of my biggest goals is proving I’m the best player in this draft.” This could end up being a Donovan Mitchell moment for the Pistons in a couple of years.
The Celtics are trying to be the best team in the Eastern Conference and need a few pieces to add to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to get there. It’s questionable if they did that. The Celtics had three first-round picks and surprised a lot of draft analysts when they drafted Oregon point guard Payton Pritchard at No. 26. It’s nothing against what Pritchard did at the college level but he’s a four-year lead guard with limited upside. They did add the best shooter in college basketball, Aaron Nesmith, who shot 52% from three and averaged 23 points per game. However, he averaged fewer than one assist per game and you need to be able to pass and create for others at the NBA level.
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