This draft was tame with inconsequential trades and no substantively controversial picks. The only minor interruptions in the first round were the storylines of Porter Jr. sliding to #14, and the Timberwolves forcing all who were watching to leaf around and reread their draft-lists with the Okogie pick.
In the first four picks everybody did well. Ayton and Bagley were right and just. Doncic certainly could have gone higher based on his talent, but considering what Phoenix and Sacramento needs, along with Atlanta and Dallas, the results seemed balanced. For the record damn it, I’m really glad Doncic didn’t go to Atlanta.
Atlanta drafting Young at #5 is going to be a spiritually punishing and financially costly mistake for the franchise. The empty promise that keeps on giving. Along with picking up Huerter and Spellman, conventional wisdom would say the Hawks had a good night, but I’m not buying it. Young will not pan out. Spellman could have used one more year, but it’s hard to fault his decision given that most of the Villanova team left and was drafted in the first round. Huerter intrigues me the most.
Sexton going to Cleveland at #8 was a really good pick for Cleveland. He is going to be memorable – and the Cavs now have some leverage, besides needing a good guard.
Porter Jr. sliding to #14 is telling. 13 teams before Denver were aware of Porter’s prospective talent. There are questions besides his health which people want to discuss at length and in public. They want to know how selfish of a guy he really is. Porter had a good interview after walking across the stage, played it off really well. But is that one of the questions? How and why can he pull off not seeming entitled so well while always instinctually spotting a camera to lunge in front of? Of course, toughness is a question with him. It must also be said though: a year ago he looked like he could be the #1 pick. It could still work out for him, big, but my sense is it won’t. He’ll get sniffed out for being dainty on the requisite work ethic, intangibles, and onions.
The Okogie pick at #20 really shivered me. I projected him as a second rounder or, if you really wanted to, you could package a little something and get him later. But they took him, and his highlight reel looked weird. Bilas seemed to get choked up and muttered something like “look – the only way he’ll see the floor next year is if he can defend.” Maybe he’s in the Jimmy Butler mold. A guy who gets grungy on the boards and can body-check cutters with and without the ball…Not that Butler does that per se, but Okogie seems like he went a little high.
Four of the ten players I had on my “watchlist” went within #’s 23-28. Aaron Holiday went to Indiana at #23, which will likely be a very good starting place for him. Not a bad team, he can set their pieces into a more harmonious order. I didn’t realize he put up the numbers he did at UCLA until tonight when they flashed them.
The Wagner pick at #25 felt like a planned intervention. Most thought he would go in the second round. I like that pick a lot for the Lakers. A skilled big who can stretch the floor and has been coached well. He probably has the right personality for LA too. I’ve gotten over all of the things about Wagner I didn’t like – like how he always has his mouth gaping wide open when he’s yelling or licking his big lips or pulling his saliva-yoked mouth-piece out all the time. The Ukrainian kid Mykhailiuk from Kansas, who the Lakers took the in second round, felt similarly interventionist. They took him off the board with assurance. I have a connection to that kid from u16 European basketball in 2013. They were playing qualifiers against Denmark. Back then his athleticism is what set him apart, but he’s now a deceiving 6-8. As they said tonight though, he has confusingly short arms. He really shoots it well from college three and likely, NBA three.
The Landry Shamet pick at #26 for Philadelphia is maybe my favorite pick of the draft. A similar intervention type of feel. Philly knew exactly what they wanted. This puts the pressure on Fultz. Shamet is going to be able to play. I love that fit for him. Shamet is musical. He can shoot it, he’s got good size at the point, and he plays to a really steady metronome. Always in control of his tempo. I think he’s a competitor who really cares about winning and is capable of handling tough coaching and critics.
Just as a side-note – the Boston pick felt a bit strange at #27. They took the best physical asset off the board in Williams, but he comes with a big bag full of question marks which I’m not sure I’ve seen Danny Ainge volunteer to sort out. Maybe he was misused at A + M – but hearing all this talk about his “motor” and “desire” and “work ethic” make me surprised about the pick. Some of his highlights look insane though. He’s an NBA athlete in the flesh baby.
Golden State taking Evans off the board at #28 was great pick. Evans might be the most musical player in the draft. He was the single reason I had Cincinnati in the Final Four this year. He plays with such great feel, always looking to connect, is aggressive but in a very chill way. He’s going to need to shoot it much better than he does, and he’s a bit undersized, although he plays bigger than 6-5. I love this guy. He can get gritty and play D and rebound. If I’m McCaw I’m wondering about it.
The guy who I really had my eye on in this draft slipped probably more than any player, Keita Bates-Diop, from Ohio State. I saw him projected as Jay Bilas did, in the 20’s. I read an article last night from a Washington D.C newspaper musing about the Wizards taking him with the #15 pick. He slid to #48 and was swooped up by Minnesota. Hmm…
Did Minnesota score a coup on the low? Maybe not? Diop is a slow footed mid-range craftsman with a penchant for filling it up a bit. I think he’s a better three-point shooter than advertised. In his clips he really did look slow though.
Either way, I’ve got to stick with him now for better or worse. In the end, I might have to talk myself into knowing that Minnesota did some serious things tonight on the low…. But, talk about a big bag full of question marks…Minnesota is chocked full of riddles…I mean you got Wiggins still on the roster… coupled with the unusual concept of everybody still not actually quite sure how exactly Karl Anthony Townes should play or what he is…and the last thing anybody wants to think about is what it’s like to have Jeff Teague run the point for your team…
A couple players in free agency I like are Rawle-Alkins – the beefy off-guard from Arizona. I think he’s musical and a winner and I hope the Warriors do the right thing and bring him to summer league or something. Another guy is Malik Newman from Kansas. I think he played his way into an NBA situation with that post-season run he had. I hope he has a good summer league.