Barely a month after the 2020 NBA Finals wrapped up, the league is once again back in action on Thursday, November 19, Philippine time, with a historic NBA Draft.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, this year’s 60 elite draft prospects watched their dreams come true from the comfort of their homes with their families instead of hearing the crowd roar from the usual Barclays Center venue in Brooklyn, New York.
Of course, every single draftee became a winner the moment their names were announced, but the same cannot be said for all the teams who participated in the selection process.
Here are this year’s winners and losers as the shortened NBA preseason kicks off.
It was a bittersweet draft day for the Golden State Warriors as one of their top team pillars, Klay Thompson, again went down with a leg injury on the same day they added new blood to their organization.
If it’s any consolation, the retooling NBA dynasty once again got it right, and drafted 7-foot-1 big man James Wiseman from the University of Memphis.
Much like the Miami Heat dynasty before them, the Warriors’ lone, so-called “weakness” was always at the center spot, and Wiseman may just be the answer they have been looking for.
Before he was controversially ruled ineligible to play in the NCAA, Wiseman was a two-way force in a three-game stretch with the team.
In just 23 minutes per game, he averaged 19.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks on an elite 77% shooting clip.
Golden State made a no-brainer pick to fill some needs, and Wiseman can certainly help in those departments.
It was supposed to be a simple choice for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
After winning the first overall pick in the lottery, the much-maligned team immediately set their sights on the well-built, 6-foot-5 guard Anthony Edwards.
While nothing changed on draft day, and the Wolves picked Edwards as planned, there is now a cloud of doubt hanging over the heads of the team and its fans after the talented youngster made some puzzling comments mere hours before being selected.
"I'm still not really into [basketball]," Edwards said in an ESPN interview. "I love basketball, yeah ... basketball is my heart, but football is where I started, so I'll never forget about that.”
The 19-year-old then went on to say that he will still pursue basketball as “a job,” and that it can get him “through a lot of the stuff” he needs to get through, while also saying that it’s still more fun to do “disrespectful stuff” in the NFL.
Many fans and analysts online quickly thought Edwards’ comments were red flags showing a lack of commitment to playing and improving in basketball, which may cause trouble down the line for a Wolves franchise desperate to create a winning culture.
With college averages of 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.3 steals, Edwards definitely has the talent to warrant a top pick. Unfortunately for Wolves fans, passion is something no basketball metric can ever measure correctly.
As is often the case with contending teams, their concerns with draft picks are often secondary to their current goals, and the Philadelphia 76ers is one team that pulled off such a move on draft day.
At the cost of their 2025 first-round pick, and this year’s 34th pick, the Sixers were able to ship Al Horford’s massive contract to the Oklahoma City Thunder for champion shooter Danny Green and high-flyer Terrance Ferguson.
As the team and its fans learned last season, Horford’s fit alongside fellow big man Joel Embiid, and non-shooter point guard Ben Simmons was a horrific one in terms of floor spacing.
The perimeter offense got so bad that the team was eventually forced to have Horford, a man with an $80 million contract, to come off the bench just to give Embiid and Simmons some more breathing room in the paint.
In one day, the Sixers fixed that shooting problem by adding Green, Ferguson, and even Seth Curry from a separate trade with the Dallas Mavericks, who got Josh Richardson in return.
It seems that Philadelphia’s hiring of former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is already paying off.
One would think that when a team sends a player to another squad through a sign-and-trade mechanic, the first order of business would be to actually sign that player first.
However, the Sacramento Kings somehow missed that first, and most important part, when swingman Bogdan Bogdanovic revealed that he did not agree to any deal, and has entered free agency instead.
This means that his pending trade to the Milwaukee Bucks for a package surrounding Donte DiVincenzo is now in jeopardy as the Kings no longer have control over Bogdanovic’s rights until they match a new offer from another suitor.
Both teams come out as losers in this mix-up, as the Kings’ carelessness has been exposed, while the Bucks, through no fault of their own, needlessly complicated their retooling around two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But if the trade indeed falls apart, then the Bucks have more to lose down the line as they have yet to secure the Greek Freak’s lucrative supermax contract extension. Meanwhile, the Kings already have a reputation as a messily handled franchise anyway.
Mix-ups like this are certainly not going to help Milwaukee’s cause, and the clock is still ticking on their hopes of a secured future.
Other winners and losers include:
They finally got a safe choice with the hyper-efficient hometown kid Obi Toppin coming in with the 8th pick.
They just need to free up their clogged power forward rotation with some more trades, preferably shipping the isolation-heavy Julius Randle for more wings or guards.
They just traded for big man Clint Capela last season, and their second-best player is John Collins, another big man.
Unless they trade one of those two for a wing or a guard, then drafting Onyeka Okongwu, yet another big man, with the 6th overall pick makes little sense.
Israeli prospect Deni Avdija was pegged to be selected around the 4-6 range in the draft, but he somehow fell to the Wizards’ lap with the 9th pick.
Did the first 8 picking teams see something off with the 19-year-old Israeli League MVP, or did the Wizards just get a draft steal to convince Bradley Beal to stay put?
Patrick Williams was projected to be picked around the 7-10 range, and even as low as 15 in some mock drafts. With the 4th pick, Chicago could have selected Obi Toppin or Isaac Okoro to fill their apparent need at the forward spot.
Why they chose to put their faith in a kid who didn’t start a single game in college is puzzling, but maybe the Bulls were impressed with something most analysts did not see.
Just one season removed from getting former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz basically for free, Orlando is again feeling magical after drafting former top 5 recruit Cole Anthony with the 15th pick.
Like Fultz, Anthony is a low-risk, high-reward get. Orlando may have gotten a draft steal of its own.
Aleksej Pokusevski is a lanky, 7-foot big man/point guard hybrid who averaged 0.3 points and 0.7 rebounds in 3 EuroLeague games.
However, he did average 10.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.0 blocks, 3.7 assists, and 2.7 steals for the Serbian Under-18 national team.
Is he a steal? Is he a bust? It’s way too early to tell, but the Thunder have around 15 more first-round picks to burn in the next 5 years anyway. They can afford a miss or two.