As the 2018 NBA Draft concluded late Thursday night in Brooklyn, many organizations and fan bases were ecstatic about the players who picked up their team’s hat and made their way up the stage to shake the commissioner’s hand. Here is a look at the winners and losers from the draft:
Winner: Phoenix Suns
Perhaps the Phoenix Suns won the draft more so when they won the NBA lottery last month, and not as much when they made the actual first overall selection. Regardless, receiving Deandre Ayton was a slam dunk. A modern day big man, Ayton is a match-up nightmare and will give opposing head coaches many sleepless nights fiddling over how to defend him.
In addition to Ayton, the Suns traded for Villanova captain and two-time national champion Mikal Bridges, who can attack at the rim, as well as shoot it from outside the arc. They also selected Elie Okobo with the 31st overall pick, a promising young French point guard that many had slotted in the first round. Take all this and add a second-year Josh Jackson, as well as a lethal shooter who is ready to breakout in Devin Booker, and things could get real hot for many years to come in Phoenix.
Loser: Washington Wizards
The Wizards, labeled as a somewhat mediocre postseason team in the East, did not improve their team any more on draft night. Troy Brown Jr. at the 15th overall selection left many scratching their heads. The Wizards already have one of the best back courts in the league in John Wall and Bradley Beal, and instead could have used more help on the wings and inside. Even if they wanted to add back court depth, Lonnie Walker, Donte Divencenzo, or even Kevin Huerter would have made more sense there.
As for their second round pick at #44, the Wizards took another guard by the name of Issuf Sanon from the Ukraine, and did not exactly redeem themselves with this selection. While he is still only 18-years old, Sanon is a somewhat poor shooter, has a high turnover rate, commits a lot of fouls, and barely even played for a team in the Ukraine. If people were concerned about Luka Doncic because he played overseas, having Sanon on their team would give them a heart attack.
Winner: Denver Nuggets
When it’s all said and done, Michael Porter Jr. being selected 14th overall could be one of the biggest steals in NBA history. In what could have been a top two selection, an unfortunate and blaring history of back problems costed Porter Jr millions of dollars as he watched his name slide all the way down to #14. There were talks of him going as high as #2 to Sacramento, even with the medical reports, and there were also rumors of the Philadelphia 76ers trading Markelle Fultz, and the 10th and 26th overall picks to try and get Porter Jr. When all the rumors fizzled, the Denver Nuggets had one of the more talented players in the draft fall right into their hands.
In addition to Porter Jr., the Nuggets also got a young and dynamic forward from Kentucky by the name of Jarrad Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt showed flashes of brilliance late in the season, and could be a force to be reckoned with sooner rather than later. With the third-to-last pick in the entire draft, Denver got Thomas Welsh, a big man from UCLA who has a lethal baseline jumper and plays very efficient basketball. The Nuggets were likely going to make the playoffs next season regardless of what happened in the draft, but now they could make some serious noise out in a very competitive West.
Loser: Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers had the ammunition to trade into the top eight, or even top five with the 12th and 13th picks, but left with the 11th and 13th overall picks; one slot higher than what they entered with. While I approve of the trade for Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, it did not make up for one of the worst picks of the entire night when they selected Boston College guard Jerome Robinson with the 13th selection.
While Robinson was runner-up to #2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III for ACC Player of the Year, he does not have a lot of upside and it will take him awhile before he can reach his true potential as a player. A team with virtually no cap space and a lot of middle-aged, mediocre talent outside of Deandre Jordan, the Clippers needed to make some fireworks happen at the draft, and instead only lit a match as bright as the organization’s future.
Winner: Boston Celtics
The Celtics only had a late first round pick in this draft, and that’s all they needed to make every GM regret their previous decisions. With the 27th overall pick, Boston got big man Robert Williams out of Texas A&M. Pegged as a tremendous talent and a top 15-20 pick in most mock drafts, a history of knee injuries and off-the-court issues forced him to slide all the way to the back of the first round. This is just what Boston needed, an athletic and long big man that can come off the bench, give solid minutes, and protect the rim. Aron Baynes and Amir Johnson have not been the answer to this role over the last couple years, but the Celtics now have one of the most complete and dangerous rosters heading into 2018, and free agency has not even begun yet.
Loser: Portland Trail Blazers
With one of the premiere back courts in the NBA, coming off a 49-win season and a #3 seed in a tough western conference, with a win-now mentality, the Trail Blazers selected two young guards that need time to develop. The disrespect just seems to keep coming for Damian Lillard, who can now add First Team All-NBA alongside his other accolades.
The Blazers already have lots of young and promising talent filled at each position throughout their roster, so if I were calling the shots, I would have packaged the 24th and 37th picks to try and get a Lonnie Walker or Donte DiVincenzo- someone who can make an immediate impact, but fill a specific role at the same time. For now, Lillard and C.J. McCollum will just have to keep rolling their eyes and find ways to combine for 60+ points each night.