It was hard to think the 2017 NBA draft could live up to the craziness leading up to the event.
Like Kevin Durant living up to the hype with the Golden State Warriors, though, the draft didn’t have any problems matching the drama of the top pick getting traded and countless rumors surrounding names such as Paul George.
Thank a variety of reasons, including Jimmy Butler getting traded and endless prospect drama as the league worked through 60 selections sure to impact how a wild free-agency ride pans out over the summer.
Before looking ahead to the surefire chaos in the sweltering heat, let’s look back and review the draft.
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)
Celtics Fail to Make a Splash
Shocker alert—the Boston Celtics played it safe.
It’d be funny if it wasn’t so disappointing to see a team with so many assets sit on its hands instead of making entertaining splashes. Team president Danny Ainge is the king of acquiring assets for a forward-looking approach, but patience only goes so far from a fanbase hungry for a title.
Boston dealing the No. 1 pick to the Philadelphia 76ers reeked of a conservative move along the same lines as not making a splash in last year’s draft and the safe signing of Al Horford in free agency.
This year? Ainge and the front office took Duke’s Jayson Tatum at No. 3, an offensive-minded player who will need a few years to become a complete two-way player. Interestingly enough, some would argue Kansas’ Josh Jackson was the better two-way prospect, but according to ESPN’s Chris Forsberg, a canceled workout seemed to push the Celtics away from Jackson, who went one pick later to Phoenix.
Ainge, at least, smoothed things over in pressers, as captured by the team’s Twitter account:
But seeing the Celtics linked to major moves isn’t anything new. And it’s easy to think Ainge keeps the team in a holding pattern because, after all, it just made the Eastern Conference Finals and landed a top-three prospect.
Then again, some might argue it’s better to take a conservative approach than get reckless.
The Chicago Bulls did just that during the draft, perhaps having one of the worst outings in modern draft history. It wasn’t so much the Bulls traded Butler, a top-15 player.
It’s more about the Bulls trading Butler—and getting back a pair of unproven talents and the seventh pick while somehow giving up a first-round pick in the process. It’s about Butler himself seeming as blindsided by the move as fans were:
Neither do fans, Jimmy. The Bulls took Lauri Markkanen at No. 7, a silky-smooth shooter standing at 7’0″ and 230 pounds who has an offensive game capable of helping the team for a long time.
And to be fair, Kris Dunn is a second-year point guard and 2016 No. 5 pick who might just be a star. Zach LaVine was flirting with almost 20 points per game before a knee injury capable of keeping him off the floor well into next season.
But here’s perhaps the biggest problem of all—if the Bulls are embracing rebuilding mode, why in the world is the team selling a draft pick to the Warriors for cash? Why is the team skipping on a 22-year-old prospect like Jordan Bell who has experience in the Final Four and is a high-motor player who could have a strong role off the bench as soon as next year?
Don’t ask the Bulls. It’s hard for a team to admit defeat and rebuild. Look how long it took the Los Angeles Lakers to start, how long it’s taking and the upside the roster has now. Maybe hindsight smiles on Chicago’s actions eventually, but right now, it’s understandable if fans have a hard time getting excited.
Kings Seize the Grades Crown
Time to get used to praising the Sacramento Kings.
The Kings had the right idea by finally trading DeMarcus Cousins last year, even if it came out of nowhere and the immediate value of the move looked iffy.
Fast forward a little and the Kings now have incredible upside on the roster thanks to Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson and Duke’s Harry Giles.
Fox is the point guard of the future for the Kings and in most years doesn’t fall to the fifth pick. He’s of the John Wall mold, and some teams liked him more than Lonzo Ball, according to an ESPN.com scouting report: “Fox’s stock continues to rise as teams dig into his video. His superior quickness and toughness have a handful of scouts ranking him ahead of Ball on their boards.”
Sacramento would’ve looked great grabbing Fox and calling it a day. Instead, the front office made a trade to acquire two more first-round picks, securing Jackson and Giles with the selections.
Jackson is a pro-ready player in some respects, though the real win here is Giles at No. 20. He might have the most upside of any player in the draft after being hyped as a future star since high school. A pair of big knee injuries dampened the hype, yet Giles still has the talent to emerge as one of the best players from the class:
Now keep in mind the Kings already have quality prospects such as Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein on the roster.
Meaning, the strong draft helps the Kings craft a roster no longer looking like a wasteland where the team needs to overspend on mid-tier free agents. There’s a direction now, and while every pick isn’t guaranteed to pan out, the same approach to free agency and future drafts could help the Kings turn into playoff contenders, with hindsight viewing this draft as the turning point for the franchise.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
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