The NBA draft didn’t even start and there was a blockbuster trade. The move of Russell Westbrook had the league talking about the Los Angeles Lakers before Cade Cunningham was taken with the No. 1 overall pick. Once again, draft night never didn’t disappoint.
As we evaluate the talent and fans hope for the best, there were some winners and losers of the draft. Let’s get to those right now.
The Cities of Detroit and Cleveland
As expected, the Detroit Pistons selected Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Cunningham is one of the most poised players in this draft. He was rated No. 1 by analysts and will immediately be the face of the franchise for the Pistons. Not to mention, scooping up National College Player of the Year Luka Garza at No. 52 overall could be a steal too.
As for the Cavaliers, getting Evan Mobley was also expected. If the Cavs can re-sign Jarrett Allen, the frontcourt of Allen and Mobley could be one of the best in the league. It will be interesting to see what happens with Collin Sexton and Darius Garland in the future. With that said, this team is starting to look young, fresh, and competitive. All it needs is a few veterans, but that is a talk for next year.
The Kuminga Family
The Warriors might have secured a steal with this pick as one has to respect the man who played for the G-League Ignite last season. The Congo native moved to America when he was 13 years old. He was passionate about soccer, but he kept growing. Eventually, he was too big for soccer and made the switch to basketball.
In high school, Kuminga played for three different high schools. He could have been the No. 1 rated prospect in 2021, but he was reclassified. The draft was the first time he saw his parents since he made the move from Congo. No matter what, the Kuminga family were winners.
Three different reports surfaced Thursday night regarding the status of Kyle Kuzma. Reports were suggesting the Lakers acquired Buddy Hield. Then, there were reports that DeMar DeRozan was going to be acquired via sign and trade. Before tonight, there were talks that Chris Paul was considering opting out of his contract and potentially signing in L.A.
However, just before the draft, the final report speculated that the Lakers had pulled off the biggest move of the summer. The Lakers acquired Westbrook, a 2024 second-round pick, and a 2028 second-round pick in exchange for Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the No. 22 overall pick. The Lakers acquired their third superstar and allowed Westbrook to win his first championship.
What if we told you that the Wizards were able to get rid of the contract of John Wall, Russell Westbrook, replenish their depth on the team, and get a first-round draft pick in return? The Wizards were able to get younger with Kuzma, who led the Lakers in three-pointers. Caldwell-Pope was the second-leading three-point shooter. They secured a former Sixth Man of the Year, who was a bad fit with the Lakers. To top it off, the Wizards secured the draft rights to Isaiah Jackson out of Kentucky, who has promise as an excellent defender.
The jury is still out on what happens with Bradley Beal, but for now, the Wizards are in such a better position than they were a week ago. The Wizards might have gotten better by subtracting Westbrook from the team.
This is how a dynasty gets built. When a team is coming off a successful season, you look to build off the momentum. That is what the Hawks did in the draft by stealing Jalen Johnson with the No. 20 overall pick. The Hawks, coming off a season that ended in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, picked up a prospect that was once considered to be a potential No. 1 overall pick.
Johnson’s decision to leave Duke impacted his draft stock. Regardless, only a few players share his 6-foot-9 frame, ball-handling skills as a point-forward, and his defensive instincts. Assuming the Hawks can resign their key free agents, this team could run it back next year.
The City of Chicago
The Bulls didn’t make a selection until No. 38, but their pick might have been the loudest in the draft. Ayo Dosunmu will be hailed as the first hometown hero since the days of Derrick Rose. Dosunmu played at Morgan Park High School and then stayed in-state to play for the University of Illinois, where he led the team to a Big 10 Conference Tournament championship.
Dosunmu was projected as a late first-round pick, but settling for his hometown Bulls is a nice consolation prize. Keeping Dosunmu in Illinois is great for the state, but returning back home to Chicago is an all-around win for all parties.
Green was selected with the No. 2 overall pick by the Houston Rockets. This is a great pick for the Rockets, but Green is coming into a very tough situation. The Rockets’ firesale James Harden, Victor Oladipo, and PJ Tucker last season. Outside of Christian Wood, this Rockets team is struggling to find NBA-ready talent.
If anybody is ready for the league, it’s Green. After skipping college and playing for the G-League Ignite, Green averaged 17.9 points per game and 4.1 rebounds. Analysts believe Green could lead the league in scoring one day. However, their new version of James Harden is going to need a few years to develop first.
The Raptors overreached at No. 4 with their pick of Scottie Barnes. The All-ACC Third Team selection is going to be a decent role player in this league for his defense alone. With that said, the Raptors could have drafted their point guard of the future in Jalen Suggs, who was still on the board.
If Kyle Lowry comes back, the Raptors are still not a playoff team. Since the Raptors are on the verge of a rebuild, why wouldn’t they build for the future? Instead, they chose a lackluster offensive player when they could have paired Suggs with Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet.
The No First-Round Club
Seven teams didn’t own a first-round draft pick in this year’s draft. That included the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, and Portland Trail Blazers.
The Bulls (No. 38) and Celtics (No. 45) did own second-round picks, while the other five teams had zero picks. The biggest loser might have been the Timberwolves, who saw their draft pick go to the Warriors.
Golden State Warriors
Speaking of the Warriors, how do you not find a trade partner for the No. 7 and No. 14 picks? Better yet, how do the Warriors not get creative and move up in the draft. While Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody have the potential to be future impact players, the Warriors are trying to move now.
This core has maybe a two or three-year window. Talks were surrounding the Warriors about making a trade for Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard. While those might be a stretch, the Warriors go another year of building through the draft. Remember when the team elected to keep No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman? This feels like the Warriors dynasty is coming to an end sooner than we thought.
We could have talked about this in the winner’s circle, but the Hawks might have found a diamond in the rough in the second round. Cooper was rated the No. 3 point guard and the No. 17 overall prospect according to ESPN. However, Cooper dropped all the way down to No. 48 overall.
Cooper’s 23% shooting from three-point range might have scared some teams off, but this is a kid that scored 20.2 points per game and added 8.1 assists in 12 games. Cooper has a lot of raw skills, but he definitely thought he was going in the first round.