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By: Justin Rivers
As an avid NBA fan, it may be slightly hyperbolic to say that it feels as if we’ve “endured blistering winds and scorching deserts” and needed to climb to “the highest bloody room in the tallest bloody tower” just to finally – at long last – receive a 2020 NBA Draft. (Yes, I worked Jennifer Saunders and Shrek 2 into this article.) Albeit sans the usual splendors, pomp, circumstance, and drip that we’ve come to expect with drafts, the latest chapter in this hilariously short and cramped, COVID-induced 2020 NBA offseason has come and gone. After much anticipation, we finally know the teams for which LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and the rest of this year’s crop of top prospects will suit up come December. Nevertheless, now that the draft is finally over and the draft-night trades have been made, we can break down some of the 2020 NBA Draft’s winners and losers!
In no particular order, here are my winners from last night:
It’s not often that you get a mulligan in the NBA, but – man – the 76ers certainly got one last night. It did not take long for the Daryl Morey hire to pay dividends. It was long thought that Al Horford’s contract was untradable. It was certainly up there as one of the worst contracts in the league; however, the 76ers somehow managed to get off of the three years remaining on Horford’s 4-year, $109 million contract.
Before the commencement of the draft, Philly made a trade with OKC, in which the 76ers sent Horford, the rights to Vasilije Micic, the 34th overall pick in last night’s draft, and a 2025 first-round pick to the Thunder for Danny Green and Terrance Ferguson. On its own, getting out of the remaining $81 million in guaranteed money is a win; however, in adding Green and Ferguson, the 76ers were also able to add some much needed shooting, defense, and athleticism on the perimeter to their roster. When you add the fact that Philly was also able to snag Tyrese Maxey, a tough, prolific scoring guard, out of the University of Kentucky in the first round, Isaiah Joe, perhaps the best pure shooter in the draft, out of Arkansas in the second round, and Seth Curry via trade, it’s hard to argue that the Sixers did not come out of last night a winner.
Oklahoma City Thunder
While the Thunder cannot win a title or retain top-tier talent to save their lives, nobody can say that Sam Presti and OKC are not exceptional at drafting and player development. At one point, they did have three future MVP-winners on their roster the last time they made it to the Finals in 2012. Chris Paul was huge in the development of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander; as such, this made his gigantic and ridiculous contract bearable. With Darius Bazely and, now, Aleksej Pokusevski on the roster, the newly acquired Al Horford could potentially help in their development in the same way Paul helped Gilgeous-Alexander. The Thunder are not a free-agent destination and can thus take the remaining $81 million left on Horford’s contract in stride.
Plus, they picked Theo Maledon to develop into the void left by the departures of Chris Paul and Dennis Schröder in the backcourt with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Now, with a log cabin full of future draft capital to hopefully draft the next James Harden or Kevin Durant, the Thunder are perfectly positioned with something like seventeen future first-round picks through 2026 to simultaneously be competitive while also rebuilding. They undoubtedly came out of yesterday a winner.
It pains me to say this, and the dearth a note-worthy moves last night doesn’t help, but the Pistons came out of the draft actually looking competent – undoubtedly thanks to their new GM Troy Weaver. For the first time in a long time – most likely my lifetime, the Pistons appear to be taking the term “rebuild” seriously. Last night, they finessed their way into three top-20 picks in Killian Hayes (No. 7), Isaiah Stewart (No. 16), and Saddiq Bey (No. 19). Now, if they can bring back Christian Wood, Detroit has the making of a nice core, young four with lots of upside and potential. Albeit you do not reward a fish for knowing how to swim, the simple fact that the Pistons are acting like a competent organization with a brain cell makes them winners.
Now, in no particular order, here are my losers:
Golden State Warriors
After much anticipation of a potential blockbuster trade that could bring another superstar to Golden State and jump start the Warriors dynastic run all over again, the Dubs stayed put at the second pick and selected James Wiseman. At 7-foot-1, the 250-pound Wiseman boasts an exceptional 7-foot-5 wingspan and the kind of top-notch quickness and athleticism that makes him the kind of rim-running, two-way lob-threat that fits perfectly into Golden States’ lineup. He certainly has a bright future.
Given the fact that we all expected the Warriors to pick up where the last left off when fully healthy and make another run at a title this season, reports of Klay Thompson potentially having a significant achilles injury certainly throws a gigantic season-altering wrench in those expectations. Plus, the team’s core of Klay, Dray, and Steph are on the wrong side of thirty, and they cannot afford another lost season if they want to contend at a high level. They drafted Nico Mannion and Justinian Jessup in the second round; however, unless either is an incredibly serviceable sharpshooting guard that can immediately play next to Steph, it’s hard to hear the Klay news and not come out of last night thinking the Warriors aren’t losers right now.
Without a first-round pick, the Rockets did manage to trade into the late second round to draft Kenyon Martin Jr.. Martin Jr. is one of the best athletes in the draft; however, after trading away Robert Covington to the Blazers, the Rockets had a first-round pick that they then proceeded to trade away. If both of my stars requested trades, and there’s clearly a rebuild on the quickly approaching horizon, I would have taken acquiring draft capital and using it more seriously than Houston did last night. For this reason, they end up as one of my losers.
What do you think? Do you disagree or have other teams as your winners and losers from last night’s draft? Tweet or reply back to the Blitz and let us know!
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