The whirlwind known as the NBA offseason is finally underway, having started with the 2020 NBA Draft. One of the most talked about nights of the entire year for basketball nerds around the world, fans have lots of questions about how teams around the league performed. Below are my winners and losers from Wednesday evening’s Draft.
Winner: Philadelphia 76ers
You don’t have to look very far to see who came out of draft night as the biggest winner. The Sixers were mired with tons of questions about just how they’d reshape a team that obviously could not succeed in the current landscape of the league. Daryl Morey was brought in this offseason to answer those questions and he did a terrific job at undoing a lot of mistakes over the past year. Moves were executed before the draft actually commenced when he traded Al Horford and his albatross contract to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Danny Green and Terrance Ferguson. Many thought the team would have to give up their first round pick this year to move off Horford’s contract but Morey was able to give up just the 34th pick and a protected 2025 protected first rounder. Danny Green could be a solid contributor this year but just by getting of Horford’s contract the trade should be considered a win.
The Sixers later used the 21st overall pick on Tyrese Maxey, arguably a lottery-level talent who fell right into the laps of Philadelphia. Despite low percantages at Kentucky, Maxey brings a shooting touch the Sixers desperately need and can also handle himself on the defensive side of the ball. Daryl Morey went back to the trade well once again and shipped Josh Richardson off to the Dallas Mavericks along with the 36th pick for sharpshooter Seth Curry. With the two trades, the Sixers went from a team with spacing issues to one that has surrounded it’s two superstars with players that should take their talents to the next level. They wrapped up the night taking Isaiah Joe, a fringe first round prospect at 49th overall to add even more shooting, and Paul Reed, a developmental big at 58th overall. Calling this draft a resounding success might still be underselling what Daryl Morey did for the Sixers — they look ready for an improved playoff run.
Winner: Memphis Grizzlies
If the Sixers won this draft the Memphis Grizzlies were a close second. They went into this draft with only the 40th pick in their possession and through two trades ended up with two prospects that look like they can play an immediate role. The Celtics traded the 30th pick to the Grizzlies for two future second round picks, that pick was used to draft sharpshooter Desmond Bane who inexplicably fell throughout the draft. Next they traded the 40th pick and a future second rounder to the Kings to move up and take center Xavier Tillman at 35th overall. Tillman has the looks of a future starting center in the league based off of his mix of physical stature and incredible basketball IQ. The Grizzlies turned one second round pick into two NBA Draft Twitter darlings to add to their growing roster of elite youngsters, solid work to say the least.
Winner: San Antonio Spurs
It seems like every single year the San Antonio Spurs come out of the draft looking like winners. After their first non playoff season in 23 years San Antonio looked to be on the verge of a retooling. They went into the draft with the 11th pick and ended up with one of the steals of the draft, taking Florida State shooting guard Devin Vassell who seemed like a lock to be taken in the top ten. Vassell looks like he’ll fit right in with other highly athletic wings on the Spurs roster in DeMar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker and Keldon Johnson. The Spurs then used their only second round pick on Duke point guard Tre Jones, adding another high IQ point guard to the mix. Jones might not have significant minutes right out of the gate but he’s just another rock solid option for coach Gregg Popovich to pick from. Nothing the Spurs did was flashy but they still ended with two of the best players available for them to pick from which is just about the most Spurs thing to do in a situation like this.
Winner: Sacramento Kings
The Kings really aren’t in a position to compete right now, but in the coming years when they are, it’s going to be because of nights like the 2020 NBA Draft. Iowa State point guard Tyrese Halliburton, projected to be gone before the Kings were on the clock, was still there and Sacramento picked him up. Even though he’ll be starting next to another point guard in DeAron Fox I do believe both of their games mesh well together and they should both be able to find success. When a player of Halliburton’s talent is still available you take him.
In the second round the Kings picked up a future second round pick by trading down with the Grizzlies and still got an interesting prospect in Robert Woodard who has shown a improving three point shot for such a prototypical big man. Their final pick of the night is someone I am very high on in Jah’mius Ramsey, a shooting guard from Texas Tech. Ramsey is still very raw but he has the athletic ability and shooting touch to become a really nice role player. Halliburton can step in and play a major role right now but the other two picks look to be guys who can help put the Kings over the top when they are ready to push for a title.
Loser: Boston Celtics
For the first time in years it seems like the Sixers finally got one over on the Boston Celtics. Twitter seemed to blow up with each of the Celtics picks and honestly it’s a pretty reasonable reaction. Boston started their night by taking Aaron Nesmith 14th overall, and while this isn’t necessarily a bad pick there several red flags surrounding the player. Already battling injuries it’s questionable just how much Nesmith can help the Celtics rotation this year. With so many other seemingly better fitting options who can contribute from the jump the pick was a bit surprising. Next the Celtics took Oregon point guard Peyton Prichard with the 26th overall pick, a player many thought wouldn’t be taken until late in the second round. Once again it looked as if the Celtics reached for a player who’s production this year seems to be capped. The cherry on top of this poor draft for Boston fans was the team trading out of the 30th pick just for the Grizzlies to take Desmond Bane, a player that could immensely help the Celtics right now. They received two future second round picks in return, but when a player of Bane’s caliber falls the first reaction should immediately be to draft him. Just a poor draft overall for a team with championship aspirations.
Loser: Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets aren’t losers for anything they did during the draft, but actually for what they didn’t do. In an offseason of uncertainty the Rockets traded Robert Covington for the 16th overall pick and Trevor Ariza, both of which were quickly flipped to the Detroit Pistons for....cash considerations. A team so close to winning a championship just last year traded an All-NBA caliber defender in Covington in what amounted to be a roundabout salary dump. With both James Harden and Russell Westbrook looking for ways out this move tells you all you need to know about how Houston views the future of the team. Selling off a first round pick for cash is unacceptable in any situation, this was a terrible look for the Houston Rockets.
Loser: Phoenix Suns
After making a major trade for Chris Paul that shook up the core of their roster, the Suns were looking to back that move up with a solid pick in the first round. Sadly for many Suns fans they didn’t come away from draft night feeling super confident in their newest player. Maryland big man Jalen Smith, a player many had going at the very end of the first round, was the pick at 10th overall. Aron Baynes seems to be leaving Phoenix so there was a need for a backup center but drafting Smith so early was a head scratcher. If Smith was their pick all along it’s surprising Phoenix didn’t look to move down and pick up some extra assets considering this was the only pick in their possession. It’s not the end of the world, Smith could end up being a valuable player for a team looking to compete, but I don’t see that happening right away. The Suns seemed to have taken the long term approach when they need someone right now, an interesting decision for a team ready to make some noise in the Western Conference.