Programming note: We’ll continue with something positive about the remaining 20 NBA teams next week. Check out part 1 here!
I’m not a college basketball guy, so I don’t have a ton to say about the individual players picked last night. But draft night is always one of the most exciting nights of the year, and there are always fun storylines that pop unexpectedly. While we didn’t see any world-shaking trades, a decent amount of movement clarified what the rest of the offseason will look like (plenty more on that to come in future days).
1) Orlando tricked everyone
Yep, that’s what everyone was saying. Note that this was the morning of the draft.
Uh oh. This news broke in the late AM.
RIP information brokers.
Firstly, this all is extremely shady. Some iffy, well-connected people out there took the sportsbooks to the cleaners for big money. The new prevalence of sports gambling is guaranteed to cause problems with the integrity of American sports leagues in ways we haven’t seen in a century, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
That said, it’s hard in organizations consisting of dozens of people to keep a secret. It’s especially difficult when that secret answers the question, “Who is going to be the number one pick in the NBA draft?” And the Magic pulled it off until the very last minute.
All the league’s premier reporters were widely saying that Jabari Smith would be the #1 pick until hours before the draft — a rare wrong consensus.
NBA teams rely upon guys like Woj, Shams, and others just like the general public does. To completely trick the entire NBA and its reporting apparatuses is very impressive on a technical level. We’ve come a long way from the days when the Magic accidentally leaked their entire trade-target whiteboard to the world.
Shout out to Blue Devil and #1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft Paolo Banchero for this fit. I can’t remember the last draftee whose suit had so much dimensionality:
2) I don’t love what the Knicks did, but I don’t hate it either
The Internet is in an uproar over New York’s moves. They were involved in several trades, but here’s a concise summary:
Is this that bad?
If a team isn’t in love with the players left when it is their turn to choose (NY had the 11th selection), why wouldn’t they want to trade out for more draft picks in the future AND clear out cap space to make a run at a premier free agent like Jalen Brunson?
This isn’t some amazing windfall that will irrevocably change the course of the franchise. I’m not sure I even like it. But I also think that the downside here (the incoming picks are bad/turn into second-rounders) has been overplayed, while the upside (three choices in the middle-ish of the first round, including two next year in a loaded draft class) has been ignored. It’ll probably end up being about neutral.
We can’t give this trade even a preliminary grade until we see what happens with the Knicks’ cap space this offseason. If they can land a big-ish fish, this will go down as a win, but if they whiff on their targets (like they have so many times in the past), this will look worse in the rearview mirror.
3) Philadelphia had a nice pick-up
Philly traded the 23rd pick in the draft and Danny Green (who sadly tore every ligament in his body during the playoffs) to Memphis for De’Anthony Melton, a solid two-way guard who is only 24 years old and gives Philly some much-needed youth and depth.
A late first-round pick rarely turns into a guy as good as Melton. He is the exact player GM Daryl Morey likes: he can play defense, hit threes, and run out in transition. Philly, in general, was a slow, unathletic team last year outside of human go-kart Tyrese Maxey. Melton helps with that problem.
De’Anthony was somewhat lost in the shuffle in Memphis, surrounded by similar players. His playing time yo-yo’d around, and he couldn’t be sure if he’d play 30 or 10 minutes on any given night. He should have a much more comfortable and secure spot on a Philly team with little bench depth to threaten him.
4) Good job, Detroit
As I mentioned, I don’t follow college close enough to have any unique insight into the players. But in every post-draft analysis I’ve read, the Pistons consistently grade out as the biggest winners.
They were lucky that Jaden Ivey, the most highly touted guard available, fell to them at five (thanks, Sacramento). He was highly sought after in the trade market last night, but Detroit seems content to keep him. Then, they maneuvered to get one of the best defensive centers available, Jalen Duren, as well (sorry, DeAndre Ayton; it seems like Detroit has filled their hole at center).
A core of Cade Cunningham running point, Ivey zipping through defenders and scoring at will, and Duren locking down the rim will make Detroit must-watch basketball as soon as next year. It’ll likely take a few years (and a few more moves) before we know what the ceiling on this core is, but Detroit fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming seasons.
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