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Denver Nuggets 2017-18 Season Preview

After an eventful offseason with a big addition, Basketball Insiders previews the Denver Nuggets.

Basketball Insiders

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The Denver Nuggets go into the 2017-2018 season hoping that their continued investment in a few talented young players surrounded by capable veterans is an effective recipe to make the playoffs. The team is coming off a year in which they went 40-42, placing them 9th place in the western conference and just outside the playoff picture. Add in a key offseason acquisition in power forward Paul Millsap and the team should be poised to break into the top eight this season.

FIVE GUYS THINK…

One of my favorite offseason acquisitions was the Denver Nuggets’ signing of Paul Millsap. From the terms of the deal (three-years, $90 million, team option on the final season) to Millsap’s fit alongside center Nikola Jokic, this was simply a homerun deal for Denver. Millsap alone can’t turn the Nuggets into an above average defensive team, but he will certainly have a tangible effect on the team. Denver will also have to rely on the continued development of young studs like Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Jokic, who is quickly establishing himself as a superstar level talent. The Northwest Division is hard to get a full grasp on at this point, but with more internal development and the addition of Millsap, Denver could turn some heads this upcoming season.

2nd Place – Northwest Division

— Jesse Blancarte

The Denver Nuggets are smack dab in the middle of possibly the NBA’s toughest conference.

Nearly every team in the Northwest Division will have playoff aspirations this upcoming season. So, with a budding star player in Nikola Jokic already at their disposal, the Nuggets made a move to position themselves equally among their division counterparts by signing free agent forward Paul Millsap.

Placing Millsap alongside Jokic provides Denver a nice frontcourt combo that can stretch the floor on opposing defenses. With Jokic’s above-average passing ability and Millsap’s catch-and-shoot ability, the Nuggets should have a nice one-two punch down low to accompany their cast of young, promising guards.

However, the road to the playoffs won’t be easy for Denver. The West only got stronger this offseason and that includes their division. Should the Nuggets find themselves playoff bound, it will be a result of a best case scenario regular season.

4th place — Northwest Division

— Dennis Chambers

If we liked the Nuggets last season, we sort of have no choice but to love them this year. Golden State owns the Western Conference, obviously, but much of the talk this summer has been about the ground made up by Houston. Denver, though, certainly made their own splashy acquisition in Paul Millsap. He and Nikola Jokic should be one of the most entertaining frontcourts in the league this year, and with further emergence from young studs like Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, it’s really hard not to have these guys as up-and-comers in the West. Unfortunately they play in the league’s most miserable division, but while I’ve got them ranked fourth there, I also don’t see there being a whole lot of space between any two teams in the Northwest.

4th Place – Northwest Division

— Joel Brigham

In an NBA Sunday column, I wrote about the 2014 draft class and how, in some ways, they have already been surpassed by the 2015 draft class. Nikola Jokic could help to turn the tide, though.

After the February 11 trade that saw Jusuf Nurkic land in Portland, Jokic’s number shot up across the board. His usage, minutes and repetitions all increased dramatically and the results had most people that follow the Association gasping. After the trade, in 28 games, Jokic averaged 18.7 points, 12 rebounds, 6.1 assists on about 57 percent shooting from the field. His per-36 numbers were even more impressive: 21.9 points, 14 rebounds and 7.1 assists. He also recorded five triple-doubles.

In other words, Jokic has gotten a lot of people wondering whether or not he is a special player, and if he is the star that the Nuggets have been searching for since trading Carmelo Anthony, they have a few pieces around him that can prove to be helpful. The addition of Paul Millsap helps improve their fortunes, as well, but it’s with Jokic’s proving that last season’s numbers weren’t an aberration that the Nuggets’ postseason hopes lay. It’s also worth noting that in those final 28 games, they were a respectable 17-11.

With all the changes that have taken place in the Northwest, it’s difficult to predict where the division’s teams will ultimately land. I’d probably pick the Nuggets to finish fourth or fifth, but wouldn’t be surprised to see the top four teams from the Northwest make the playoffs. It’s safe to say they are one of my top five teams to watch this season.

5th Place — Northwest Division

— Moke Hamilton

Outside the world champion Warriors, maybe no offense in the NBA should inspire as much excitement as the Nuggets heading into next season. A group that shined offensively down the stretch last year then went out and added even more firepower in the form of star Paul Millsap, leaving Denver with a fearsome scoring machine. In Millsap and rising star Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets boast an incredible combination of skill and playmaking in their frontcourt – they can run the entire offense through it. They retain strong wing options like Gary Harris and Wilson Chandler, along with second-year spark plug Jamal Murray. They’ll push the pace in transition, and when they have to play in the halfcourt, Millsap and Jokic will create a huge number of issues for defenses with their passing and creativity from the elbows. This group will have some real questions to answer on defense, but Millsap also provides a real boon on that end. Look for them to be right there in the Northwest Division.

2nd place — Northwest Division

— Ben Dowsett

TOP OF THE LIST

Top Offensive Player: Paul Millsap

The 2016-2017 NBA Offseason will go down as one of the busiest in recent history. Players such as Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Isaiah Thomas, Gordon Hayward and Jimmy Butler all moved teams and did so in surprising fashion. In comparison, the offseason signing of power forward Paul Millsap was, in comparison, less talked about and, for longtime Nuggets fans, not as much of a surprise. However overlooked, this is the perfect acquisition for the team.

Millsap brings savvy passing, intelligent defense and the ability to score one-on-one, both from the outside and in the post. Although other teams didn’t make aggressive overtures to Millsap and the Hawks apparently never tendered an offer, the Nuggets got just the player they wanted in Millsap.

Top Defensive Player: Wilson Chandler

Look for the Nuggets to rely on Wilson Chandler as a primary defensive player. Chandler has both the skill and experience to lead the Nuggets on defense, though his health has been a concern in recent seasons. Building around Jokic is great for the Nuggets’ offense but deprives the team of possibly using a more athletic, defensive minded player to anchor the team’s defense. Chandler, with his length, strength and size is best suited to guard the elite small forwards in the league, which makes him very valuable defensively. Chandler is in a contract year also, so don’t be surprised to see a boost in his overall performance this season.

Top Playmaker: Nikola Jokic

After narrowly being edged out for Top Offensive Player by new addition Paul Millsap, Jokic holds the crown decisively for the Nuggets as the team’s Top Playmaker. The Nuggets are now built around Jokic and his rapidly developing game. There was a point last season where the Nuggets tried in earnest to make the pairing of Jokic and center Jusuf Nurkic work. Since trading Nurkic, Jokic has emerged as a star whose combination of excellent court vision, deft passing and high IQ gives the Nuggets a unique and talented base to build around. Running the offense through Jokic alleviates pressure on point guard Jameer Nelson, who finished last season as the team’s primary point guard but whose best days in the NBA are behind him.

Top Clutch Player: Paul Millsap

Again, this is a team built around multi-skilled big men with a knack for nifty passing. The incumbent top clutch player is Jokic as he was the only player with a positive net rating (1.9) in clutch minutes (in a minimum 20 games according to NBA.com), to go with the highest shooting numbers of any Nuggets player and passing numbers comparable to point guard Jameer Nelson.

However, under the same criteria, Millsap comes to the team with a much higher net rating (16.4) than Jokic, higher usage percentage (30.8) than Jokic (23.8) and similar passing numbers. Look for the team run the offense through Jokic late in the game and give the ball to Millsap to utilize his ability to score the ball on final possessions. It’s a close call here, but Millsap gets the nod.

The Unheralded Player: Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray. Both Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay came to the Nuggets as the seventh pick in their respective drafts. Despite the attention having been on Mudiay for the past two years, all eyes should be on Murray going forward. Murray played point guard in high school and when drafted by the Nuggets expressed his interest in returning to the position. Murray received his wish, playing in and starting a few games at point guard at the end of last season. Expect the Nuggets to continue to explore how viable Murray can be in this position. If Murray builds on his brief but successful run at the point, this could pay huge dividends for a team fretting whether Mudiay will ever transition into the player they hoped he would become.

Best New Addition: Paul Millsap

The nod again goes to Millsap. Nuggets fans are aware of the team’s past interest in Millsap, so this move comes as no surprise. The ability of the Nuggets to acquire Millsap to less than a maximum deal and retaining a team option in year three is a credit to the team’s front office. In the past the Nuggets have signaled their interest and attempted to acquire big name post players such as Blake Griffin but came up short. The offense, led by Head Coach Mike Malone, will hum with Millsap at the power forward spot.

— James Blancarte

WHO WE LIKE

1. Mike Malone

Mike Malone’s desire for balanced offense with free-flowing ball movement caught fire with the discovery of Jokic’s full skillset. Credit Malone for his part in the free agent pitch that helped to secure the services of Millsap. Jokic playing as a full time starter only began in December. How successful the offense can be with a full season of Jokic and the addition of Millsap is now directly tied to Malone’s ability to make maximize the pairing. He’s the right man for the job and should find plenty of interesting ways to utilize each player’s significant talent.

 2. Juan Hernangomez

Hernangomez has received a lot of attention recently. He and his brother Willy Hernangomez of the New York Knicks are playing together in the Eurobasket. While the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc, receive more attention, look for the Henangomez brothers to continue to garner increasing amounts of attention from the international audience. On his native Spanish team, Juan Hernangomez is thriving at the small forward spot, using a combination of cuts, ball movement and spot up shooting to make an impact. After not much playing time to start his rookie year, Hernangomez played well for a rookie in the second half of last season. Look for him to have a chance as an impact player off the bench for the Nuggets behind Wilson Chandler.

 3. Gary Harris

Gary Harris has been on an upward trend in his first three years in the league. In addition to Jokic and Millsap, Harris is arguably in position to be the third-most important player on the team. With a full season featuring Jokic as the team’s star player and the addition of Millsap, expect Harris to continue his improvement and creep closer to being a 16-18 point a game player. With more experience and talented teammates in the frontcourt, Harris should have plenty of opportunities to knock down open jumpers on a nightly basis.

4. Kenneth Faried

Kenneth Faried has had an up and down tenure in Denver. While experiencing stints of success and notoriety over the years, he has also chaffed at the prospect of remaining with the Nuggets and even asked for a trade last season. Look for Faried to be the first featured big off the bench as the Nuggets will certainly look to dangle him in trades during the season. Faried may not be the player the Nuggets hoped he would develop into a few years ago, but he has value and, if featured in a positive role, could land Denver something of value in a trade.

— James Blancarte

SALARY CAP 101

The Nuggets used most of their cap space to sign Paul Millsap. While they’re currently about $2.8 million under the league’s $99.1 million cap, that number could grow to $8.6 million if restricted free agent Mason Plumlee leaves for another team. Denver cannot withdraw their $4.6 million qualifying offer to Plumlee without his approval.

The Nuggets have until the end of October to take options on Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, Trey Lyles, Juancho Hernangomez and Malik Beasley for the 2018-19 season. Gary Harris is extension eligible before the start of the season. Next summer, Denver could reach at least $36 million in cap space, provided Wilson Chandler ($12.8 million) and Darrell Arthur ($7.5 million) opt out of their contracts.

— Eric Pincus

STRENGTHS

The offense. As mentioned above, Malone has the team in position to improve and potentially explode on the offensive end. The team’s purest playmaker is Jokic. With Millsap now in the fold, the ball should move freely and efficiently. How well the team can stagger the minutes of Jokic and Millsap will help determine how successful the offense is. The second unit should be aided by one of the starting big men staying on the floor to help keep the ball movement going as the back-ups simply cannot mimic either player’s considerable skill set. If the Nuggets are really aggressive, they may try to use Millsap as a backup center to give more room to other more traditional power forwards in the rotation like Trey Lyles or Darrel Arthur. There are plenty of options here for Malone – expect him to make the most of it.

— James Blancarte

WEAKNESSES

As good as the offense was last year, the defense held the team back just as much. Expect the defense to continue to struggle but for the team to trend upwards a few spots overall. This year’s team, like last year’s, is built around a lot of younger players, which means there will be plenty of mistakes on defense throughout the season. The addition of Millsap as an experienced veteran who plays smart defense is a plus, but he cannot turn things around on defense by himself.

The Nuggets have some capable wing defenders in Chandler and Harris, but players like Murray, Mudiay and Nelson often struggle on defense. This roster simply isn’t built to be a top defensive squad, which means the offense is going to have to be extremely efficient.

— James Blancarte

THE BURNING QUESTION

Can the team improve enough to make the playoffs?

Yes. With only a few weeks left until the start of training camp, the Nuggets are running out of time to make a move and free up the logjam at power forward and bring better balance to their roster. Even if the team elects to not make a move or at least waits until the trade deadline, the team is already in a great position. Millsap and Jokic will lead a balanced attack based on ball movement and generate open looks for their teammates. The team’s offense should rank in the top five, assuming the team stays healthy for the most part. If the defense can come close to league average, that should be good enough for the team to make the playoffs.

— James Blancarte

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NBA Daily: Kevin Knox and Kristaps Porzingis Already Have One Thing In Common

Kevin Knox’s experience on draft night was eerily similar to that of Kristaps Porzingis.

Moke Hamilton

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Michael Porter, Jr. might be the next Kevin Durant, but he could just as easily be the next Greg Oden.

And if you’re searching for comfort in the wake of the decision of the Knicks to pass on the opportunity to draft the young man who was widely regarded as being the top prospect in the class of 2018, it is pretty easy to find in the fact that of all people, Jerry West decided that Porter wasn’t worth the risk, either.

While Porter might end up being a Hall of Famer, when it comes to drafting prospects, we might as well be shooting in the dark. We all knew that Markelle Fultz was the best option for the Sixers in last year’s draft, and 12 other teams clearly had no idea what Donovan Mitchell had in store for the league.

Heck, two years ago, as I was recently reminded by someone on Twitter, I predicted that the Knicks would select Emmanuel Mudiay with their fourth pick. Instead, they walked away with Kristaps Porzingis.

If I were the man making the call back then, with the information I had, I certainly would have drafted Mudiay. And you know what? That decision probably would have gotten me fired, and rightfully so.

The true moral of the story is that we simply can’t see into the future and all the analytics in the world won’t able to measure things like guts and heart. So as the Knicks pin their hopes on Kevin Knox, it truly will be interesting to see how the career arcs of he and Porter compare.

As for why we would single out the Knicks and make the franchise’s decision to draft Knox over him a personal one, quite a few people in the know relayed the same information on the Knicks and Porter going back to their date at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago in May—they loved each other.

Thereafter, there were reports that the Knicks were looking to move up in the draft, and Porter was on their minds. On Thursday night in Barclays Center, with the Knicks on the clock, their fans in attendance cheered for Porter, as they were hopeful that he would be selected to be the franchise’s next stud.

They were disappointed, and now, they’ll hope that Scott Perry’s decision to go with Knox ends up being the right one. It might be, just like Porzingis was the right pick over Mudiay, and it might not be, just like selecting Frank Ntilikina over Mitchell wasn’t.

Like it or not, though, the two young men will forever be linked, both in my mind and in the minds of plenty of other Knicks fans.

“That’s just motivation,” Knox said of the Knicks fans in attendance chanting Porter’s name.

“A lot of people want him to get to the Knicks, but I mean, it’s all good with me. I’m ready to get to work. I’m ready to get to work and ready to prove people in Summer League and prove people in the NBA.”

Knox’s experience on draft night was remarkably similar to that of Porzingis, and now, if you even so much as suggest trading the Latvian unicorn for a player such as Kyrie Irving, Knicks fans just might call for your head.

It’s strange how quickly things can change for you in New York City. At the end of the day, it comes down to working hard and earning the adoration of the faithful in Gotham City. Porzingis succeeded there, and there’s every reason to believe that Knox will, as well.

“They booed Porzingis (on draft night) and look where he is now,” the rookie remarked.

“They can chant Michael Porter all they want, but they got Kevin Knox, and I’m willing to work and I’m willing to get better.”

When asked, Knox would tell you that he and Jayson Tatum happen to have something in common. According to him, neither of the two really got an opportunity to show what they could do at the collegiate level.

With more opportunities and more repetitions, the sky truly is the limit for the 18-year-old.

“I think I can pretty much play all around the floor,” Knox said.

“I can handle the ball, pick-and-roll situations, make plays, make passes. I can stretch the floor, shoot the ball, get rebounds, push it coast to coast. So I think that versatility in the league is something that a lot of teams really need, and I think that’s something I can bring to the Knicks right now.”

Privately, to members of the Knicks organization, Knox has spoken highly of the spotlight that he’s bound to face in New York and believes that playing at Kentucky helped to prepare him for the type of demanding environment that he’ll be introduced to once the season gets underway in New York. And even without a bad back, the crushing expectations and heavy burden could cause a weaker minded player to crumble.

A FaceTime call with Porzingis on draft night went a long way toward giving the rookie the confidence that he’ll need to thrive in New York.

That the franchise’s pride and joy immediately reached out to his new running mate to congratulate him, welcome him to the team and give him some insight is a good sign. At the very least, it shows that Porzingis takes his responsibility as being the team’s lead man seriously.

At most, it could signal K.P.’s being pleased with the selection.

We’re about to embark upon the story of Kevin Knox. We’ve only seen the preamble.

You can’t judge a book by its cover, and you certainly can’t know how the final chapter will end based on what you’ve read in the first chapter. So no, the Knicks fans that wanted Michael Porter on their squad didn’t get their wish, but in the long run, they may end up being better for it.

Just like Kristaps Porzingis, Knox wasn’t received warmly by Knicks fans on draft night.

Hopefully, for the rookie, it’s not the last thing he and the beloved Porzingis will have in common.

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NBA Daily: Lessons From The 2018 NBA Draft

After a wild 2018 NBA Draft, here are four lessons and storylines worth watching over the next few years.

Ben Nadeau

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Now that the dust has settled on an unpredictable NBA Draft — what exactly have we learned? In amongst the unrelenting rumors, refused workouts and surprise reaches, there are a few key takeaways from Brooklyn. Of course, some of these are one-off instances, but others are definitely part of modern-day draft patterns. While draft night may sometimes seem like complete chaos or chance, each scenario on this rundown has been boiling over for weeks. Between passing on a talented prospect to letting an injured one slide, here are four important lessons from the 2018 NBA Draft.

Luka Dončić… Not The No. 1?

For months and months, it appeared as if Luka Dončić was poised to become the No. 1 overall pick in this draft. Even today, it’s hard to believe that somebody with Dončić’s age and resume wasn’t the top selection. In 2017-18 alone, the Slovenian took home EuroLeague MVP and Finals MVP plus ACB MVP, with championships in both leagues to boot — but here we are. Dončić averaged 14.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals over just 25 minutes per game, quickly transforming into the most well-rounded overseas prospect of all-time. But as impressive as Dončić was throughout the spring, the potential ceilings of both DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III eventually won out.

At 7-foot-1, Ayton’s 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game were undeniably worthy of a top selection too, pairing well alongside Devin Booker and Josh Jackson for the foreseeable future. While the jury is still out on Bagley III — his defense needs some major fine-tuning — he won’t take key touches away from De’Aaron Fox either. More or less, nobody wants to be the organization to miss on such a franchise-altering pick. The Suns, Kings and even the Hawks may eventually regret passing on Dončić, but when general managers’ entire careers can depend on making the right choice at the right time, it’s not difficult to understand why the top of the draft unfolded as it did.

Playing Hard To Get Doesn’t Always Work Out…

As draft boards began to take shape, there was one particularly interesting situation sitting at No. 4 overall. Jaren Jackson Jr., solidly leading the second tier of prospects, was looking like a lock at the Memphis Grizzlies’ pick — but with one major caveat: Jackson Jr. reportedly didn’t work out or give his medical information to the franchise. After he was drafted, Jackson Jr. called those rumors “a tad out of context” — but, obviously, those are some massive red flags. Either way, Memphis went with their gut and selected the talented forward anyway.

But beyond all that, Memphis absolutely made the right move by sticking to their guns. Putting a modern three-point shooting, defensive-minded athlete next to Marc Gasol should prove to be an absolute nightmare for years to come. Naturally, Jackson Jr. will get plenty of easy looks from the stellar Mike Conley Jr. too — so if the draftee was once apprehensive, surely that will pass soon. Still, it reflects on a larger NBA pattern, wherein which prospective athletes sensibly look to mold their own path out of college. With players trying to control their draft narratives more than ever, it’s reassuring to see that some franchises will take their target first and then figure out the rest.

We may never know Jackson Jr.’s full thought process behind not working out for the Grizzlies, but there’s a great chance that the former Spartan was made for Memphis’ tough brand of basketball — and we should all be glad we’ll get to see it.

…But Injuries Will Lead To A Slide

Michael Porter Jr. — what a year for him, huh?

After missing out on much of his only collegiate season due to back surgery, Porter Jr. promised that he was feeling better than ever. But over the last month, scouts and front offices were treated to canceled workouts and hazy uncertainty. And, at the end of the day, it probably scared a handful of franchises away from the talented scorer. Just this week, the Kings heavily considered Porter Jr. at No. 2 overall — but even with that sudden unlikelihood passing by, few thought he’d drop out of the top ten altogether. Outside of the guaranteed money that Porter Jr. will miss out on, redshirting his rookie year may also be on the table as well.

The inherent upside with Porter Jr. is obvious, but — similarly to the Dončić issue — it’s tough to ask franchise officials to stake their livelihood on the prospect’s health. If Porter Jr.’s lingering issues stay with him and he never reaches his mountain of potential, that’s a tough pill to swallow. The 19-year-old would fall all the way down to No. 14, where the Denver Nuggets gladly scooped him up. During the combine in May, Porter Jr. called himself the best player in the draft — but it’s now up to him to prove them all wrong.

The Mysterious Men Nearly Miss Out

Let’s rewind to early April. Villanova had been just crowned NCAA champions for the second time in three years, the NBA playoffs were soundly on the horizon and mock drafts had begun to consistently pour out. Early on, there were two athletic big men that looked like shoo-ins as first-rounders: Robert Williams and Mitchell Robinson. Despite their undercooked skill-sets, both players pulled out of the combine and then waited for the hype to build — except, well, it didn’t. Williams, who was typically projected in the early teens, slipped out of the lottery entirely, only to be rescued by the Boston Celtics at No. 27. Williams is a booming, powerful prospect, but he could’ve really benefited from competing against the other top prospects in May.

Although he’s now landed in an ideal situation with Brad Stevens, Al Horford and a process-driven Celtics squad, Williams likely cost himself a whole load of money over the last 30-plus days as well.

In Robinson’s case, many believed his floor was the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 25 — rumors swirling that the 7-foot-1 center even received a promise from the illustrious franchise. Instead, Robinson dropped to the New York Knicks at No. 36 overall. Robinson had originally committed to Western Kentucky in July of 2017 before dropping out to prepare for the draft. After skipping the combine last month, Robinson indeed exhibited the potential to be both a steady shot-blocker and three-point maker during his individual evaluations. But with little to go off of but high school highlight reels and small session workout tapes, he understandably fell.

Sometimes the hype is impossible to ignore, but not participating in the combine and staying as mysterious as possible hurt these ultra-talented prospects.

While the 2018 NBA Draft wasn’t quite the trade-heavy, drama-laden extravaganza much of the world expected, there are plenty of narratives to reflect upon. At the end of the day, the ink is barely dry on this year’s festivities and it’ll be some time before there’s any indication of these successes or failures. Still, there are lessons to be learned from every draft, workout or injury process and these are four conversations worth considering as the NBA quickly rolls into the summer league season.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

NBA Daily: The Losers of the NBA Draft

Shane Rhodes breaks down the losers of the 2018 NBA Draft.

Shane Rhodes

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The 2018 NBA Draft season has come to a close. And, while the actual draft wasn’t the fireworks show that it could have been, there was still plenty of surprises, both good and bad.

While Basketball Insiders’ Simon Hannig discussed the winners of the draft, not everyone was so fortunate. And, while the draft can come down to chance, some teams were worse off than others.

Let’s take a look at some of the bigger losers from draft night

Mikal Bridges

Talk about heartbreak.

Mikal Bridges was going home. The Philadelphia 76ers selected the Villanova standout with the No. 10 pick. Bridges did an entire press conference, talking about what it was like to be staying in Philadelphia. His mother, Tyneeha Rivers, is even the Global VP of Human Resources for Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the team. It was perfect.

And then it wasn’t.

It’s hard to not feel bad for Bridges, who was dropped into a dream scenario and then had it all ripped away. Going to the Phoenix Suns, an organization heading in a new direction, to play alongside plenty of young, high upside talent, including No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton as well as former lottery picks Josh Jackson and Devin Booker, isn’t the worst thing in the world for the rookie forward. Bridges could even flourish in Phoenix.

But it certainly won’t compare to playing under the bright lights in Philadelphia alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid come next April and for years to come.

Michael Porter Jr.

One year ago, Michael Porter Jr. was a top three draft prospect projected to go as high as No. 1 overall. However, with rumors of questionable medicals swirling throughout the draft process, he dropped all the way to the Denver Nuggets at No. 14 overall.

While Porter will certainly welcome the chip on his shoulder, the lost earnings will definitely hurt him and his pocket. Porter is missing out on millions on his first NBA contract. Plus, the sheer amount of teams that balked at his medicals doesn’t bode well for his long-term future in the NBA.

It isn’t all bad for Porter; Denver has a young, talented roster and was one win away from a postseason birth last year. They can afford to be patient with Porter’s back, should he need to miss some time, as well. Standing 6-foot-11, 211 pounds and with a smooth jumper, Porter still has a great chance to be a star in this league.

Still, it was an inauspicious beginning to what, hopefully, is a long NBA career.

Sacramento Kings

This could apply to the Sacramento Kings roster as well as their fanbase.

The Kings got “their guy” in No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III. And, while Bagley is still an amazing talent, the pick just seems like more of the same for the Kings, who have a glut of bigs — Willie-Cauley Stein, Harry Giles III, Skal Labissiere, Kostas Koufos — on the roster and a distinct lack of high-quality guard or wing depth.

In steps Luka Dončić, the 19-year-old Slovenian phenom. With the Suns taking Ayton with the top pick, the Kings had their chance to shore up their backcourt for the foreseeable future alongside De’Aaron Fox and move another step closer to relevancy.

And they whiffed.

Dončić could very well end up as the best player in the class. While he isn’t the most athletic, Dončić is exactly where the NBA is going; he is a multipositional defender and playmaker that can shoot the three. Meanwhile, Bagley, who is a questionable fit in the modern game, will be hardpressed to find playing time early on in his Kings tenure. Even worse, with their hearts set on Bagley, the Kings likely could have traded down a la the Atlanta Hawks and picked up another asset for their troubles.

While it’s much too early to call it either way, this is a pick that could come back to haunt Sacramento down the line.

Cleveland Cavaliers

It was not a great night for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers missed out on one point-guard prospect, Trae Young, and another, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, flat out said he didn’t want to play for the franchise. And, even though they got a guard they liked in Alabama’s Collin Sexton, the Cavaliers are still in the unenviable position of dealing with LeBron James’ third iteration of The Decision.

Sexton’s selection doesn’t exactly help them retain James’ services either.

Since acquiring the pick from the Boston Celtics in the Kyrie Irving trade last summer, it had been speculated as to whether Cleveland would use the pick or trade it to get James help. With the team opting for the former, it’s difficult to imagine the Cavaliers getting any significant help for James, in free agency or otherwise, which could push him closer to leaving than he already may be. Meanwhile, Sexton, who dominated the ball during his time at Alabama, isn’t exactly the best fit alongside James in the event that he stays.

Either way, there appears to be a bumpy road ahead for the Cavaliers.

Washington Wizards

Troy Brown Jr. is a great pickup for the Washington Wizards. That still doesn’t mean he wasn’t a reach.

Brown is a twitchy wing that can defend multiple positions. But there were multiple wings that Washington could have taken ahead of Brown (e.g., Lonnie Walker II) that would have made this a better pick. Brown struggled as a shooter during his lone season at Oregon — he shot just 29.1 percent from three and has some iffy mechanics — and is a strange fit on the Wizards roster that already has a surplus of wing depth in John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre.

With the team looking to move Marcin Gortat, a big would have been a better fit for Washington at 15. Or, if management was deadset on Brown, dropping back a few spots would have made more sense.

Brown certainly has the talent to make an impact, but it’s hard to like a pick that may not crack the rotation in year one, according to the Wizards own General Manager.

Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors took a big step earlier this offseason, moving on from Dwane Casey and placing Nick Nurse at the helm in early June.

But, with zero picks in a loaded draft, the Raptors have to be considered losers.

There were plenty of difference makers available up-and-down the draft board, but the Raptors didn’t end up with any of them. While management could improve the team via trade or free agency come July, they still feature the same roster that got manhandled in the Eastern Conference Semifinals by James and the Cavaliers and that isn’t good.

Not everyone can come out a winner in a crapshoot like the NBA Draft. Still, some teams found themselves worse off than others when all was said and done. Luckily, those teams still have a chance to improve themselves with free agency right around the corner.

 

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