It’s only fitting the 2017 NBA draft offered a reality in which the Sacramento Kings emerged the biggest winners of all.
The ride to the draft itself took more twists and turns than usual, with the No. 1 pick subjected to a trade, the Lonzo Ball drama and a handful of major names such as Paul George and Jimmy Butler, to name a few notables, coming up in endless speculation.
Interestingly enough, the draft order based on the prospect stock market didn’t shock. But actions (or inaction) by teams produced a clear cut list of winners and losers when it comes time to dole out grades. Let’s do so below.
2017 NBA Draft Results and Grades
Atlanta Hawks (C): Atlanta didn’t make any major splashes, playing it safe as a rebuild begins.
Boston Celtics (B): Jayson Tatum was the right way to go for a team still looking to perhaps make a major splash.
Brooklyn Nets (B): Jarrett Allen has incredible upside in the wake of losing Brook Lopez.
Charlotte Hornets (A): Malik Monk is one of the draft’s best scorers, so slapping him next to Kemba Walker should be fun.
Chicago Bulls (D): It’s hard to get excited for Chicago’s pick after the Jimmy Butler deal.
Cleveland Cavaliers (n/a)
Dallas Mavericks (A): Is there anything wrong with making the most predictable pick of the draft with Dennis Smith Jr.?
Denver Nuggets (D): Denver had a legitimate chance to take a big step forward, yet the Tyler Lydon fit is strange.
Detroit Pistons (B): Luke Kennard provides some obvious shooting, though he’s not the most exciting pick for a team seeking a boost.
Golden State Warriors (A): Why does the NBA keep selling the Warriors second-round picks? Jordan Bell is a steal.
Houston Rockets (D): Houston had one pick in the second round and took a gamble.
Indiana Pacers (C): Indiana didn’t have a terrible draft. But the Paul George drama makes it rougher.
L.A. Clippers (A): Los Angeles looked toward the future in the first round and took great rotational depth with Sindarius Thornwell in the second.
L.A. Lakers (A): Again, is making the obvious pick bad? Not here.
Memphis Grizzlies (C): Memphis settled for bench role players in this class.
Miami Heat (C): Miami went for a big capable of shooting, yet did so at questionable value.
Milwaukee Bucks (B): D.J. Wilson might be the most underrated prospect in the class and fits well in Milwaukee.
Minnesota Timberwolves (A): Justin Patton is the backstory after Thursday, but he’s a great pick.
New Orleans Pelicans (C): New Orleans didn’t really hit a position of need with Frank Jackson.
New York Knicks (C): Maybe Frank Ntilikina pans out, but the uncertainty around the rest of the roster tempers the hype.
Oklahoma City Thunder (B): More two-way talent to run with Russell Westbrook isn’t a bad thing.
Orlando Magic (A): The long-term rebuild with Jonathan Isaac is now underway.
Philadelphia 76ers (A): Though it took quite a bit to move up, Markelle Fultz is worth the asking price.
Phoenix Suns (A): Josh Jackson next to Devin Booker could give Phoenix one of the league’s better one-two punches.
Portland Trail Blazers (C): Portland didn’t inspire by addressing needs in the paint twice.
Sacramento Kings (A+): The Kings did everything right Thursday, nailing down a class dripping with upside.
San Antonio Spurs (C): It’s hard to distrust San Antonio, this time taking lesser-known guys again.
Toronto Raptors (A): Toronto gets incredibly more athletic and versatile with OG Anunoby.
Utah Jazz (B): Donovan Mitchell is a great fit regardless of Gordon Hayward’s future.
Washington Wizards (n/a)
Notable Winners and Losers
Winner: Minnesota Timberwolves
It’s impossible to ignore the Minnesota Timberwolves in the wake of the draft—trading for one of the top 15 players currently in the NBA does that.
While it’d be easy to pick the low-hanging fruit that is the Chicago Bulls surrendering Butler in an odd deal, let’s focus on the positive instead. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein first reported the two sides were talking trade before it went official, with Minnesota later confirming it.
This isn’t just getting Butler out of the deal—it’s shipping away two prospects who haven’t shown much yet and only moving from No. 7 to No. 16 to make it happen.
Make no mistake, losing Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn hurts. The former is injured but is a sheer shooter in the utmost sense, and the latter could blossom into one of the league’s best guards.
But Butler is Butler.
The 27-year-old guard moves to Minneapolis coming off the best year of his career, when he averaged highs of 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists on 45.5 percent shooting from the floor. He’ll join a rotation featuring Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, forming a triple-headed monster perhaps ready to one day compete in the Western Conference.
And in a world ruled by superteams like the Golden State Warriors, this is how it’s done.
Loser: Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers weren’t as fortunate as the Bulls.
Meaning, the Bulls shipped away their superstar, as misguided as it will be if the front office doesn’t buckle down and rebuild well. Indiana didn’t even get a chance.
The Pacers are stuck in a serious rut with Paul George, a man with his mind set on free agency in 2018 after the franchise failed to surround him with contending talent.
Even so, USA Today‘s Nate Taylor reported before the draft the Pacers might be patient in moving their star. This turned out quite true, as team president Kevin Pritchard said after:
“We have a lot of things still ongoing. Multiple things came up tonight that we looked at, including draft picks, but at the end of the day, there’s so much other stuff that don’t include draft picks that we decided to stay put and look at everything that is on the board in the future,” Pritchard said, according to Fox 59 in Indianapolis.
It’s good the Pacers want proper value in a deal for a superstar. But it’s a risky game to play—every team in the league understands George is on his way out. Now the Pacers have to cross fingers in the hopes a contender is willing to offer a blockbuster for a rental at the deadline next season, as that is where the team might get the best return.
Thursday night, the Pacers drafted UCLA’s TJ Leaf in the first round while dealing with this drama. While a fine stretch-4 shooter who can space the floor for Myles Turner, it’s hard to get excited about the draft right now with the franchise’s fate still swinging in the balance.
Winner: Sacramento Kings
The Kings just wrote a blueprint for moving on from the loss of a superstar.
The front office then turned around and traded back to secure pick Nos. 15 and 20, gaining North Carolina’s Justin Jackson and Duke’s Harry Giles in the process. Far from done, the Kings then grabbed Kansas point guard Frank Mason in the second round.
Where to start? Here’s a nail-on-the-head comment from Dime’s Oliver Maroney:
Fox is a superathletic point guard of the future, and the team couldn’t ask for a better rotational and depth presence than Mason. The latter also applies to Jackson coming off an NCAA title win given his pro-ready game.
Then there’s Giles, the guy with perhaps more upside than any other prospect in the class. Coveted by the NBA since high school, the superstar forward prospect saw a pair of knee issues derail his stock, pushing him to the Kings at a value buy.
Combine the draft picks with guys like Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein and it’s safe to say these Kings are going places, first and foremost simply being on a proper rebuilding path.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
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