With many NBA teams beginning the process of finding their next head coach, or making a decision on replacing their current head coach, we asked of some our senior NBA writers and editors to take a stab at who they think would be the best choice for the job and why:
Jeff Van Gundy
The Wolves have hired a search firm to land not only a head coach but also a new head of basketball operations. Given that owner Glen Taylor seems ready to hand over the franchise to new leadership, this may be where Jeff Van Gundy finally finds his ideal situation. Like his brother, Stan, the younger Van Gundy has been sniffing around for a situation like the Wolves could be offering and he might be the best fit the long-term to build the Wolves into a serious contender.
– Steve Kyler
Jeff Van Gundy
Van Gundy has sort of become the Jon Gruden of the NBA. Both are constantly mentioned when coaching jobs open up, but they can afford to be picky since they have an excellent gig at ESPN. With Stan Van Gundy getting personnel control over the Detroit Pistons, I believe Jeff will pursue a similar situation. The Timberwolves are arguably the most attractive job available right now with their terrific young core led by Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Reports have indicated that Minnesota may be willing to turn their franchise over to Van Gundy, which could be the terrific offer that Jeff has been waiting for all these years. If the Timberwolves can land him, they will be in even better shape moving forward.
– Alex Kennedy
The Timberwolves have arguably the best core of young players in the NBA. With explosive athletes and scorers and an offense orchestrated by Ricky Rubio, the Timberwolves could be a competitive team as soon as next season under the right head coach. But what would really make this collection of talent dangerous would be a coach that could turn them into a polished defensive team. Tom Thibodeau is on the market and is one of the top defensive coaches throughout the entire league. In addition, he runs a more creative offense than is credited for and has a track record for getting players to buy into his philosophies. As long as he doesn’t burn out his players and can sustain a better working relationship with management, he would be a great hire for Minnesota.
– Jesse Blancarte
The Wizards tried the gruff, tough-love approach with Randy Wittman and that did not work this year. Brooks is not only a heck of a basketball coach, he has a track record of getting young guys to meet their potential. With the Wizards looking toward free agency and having so many underachieving young guys, even if the Wizards don’t get the free agent fish they covet in Kevin Durant, Brooks might have the right mix of experience, demeanor and coaching style to get the Wizards on track.
– Steve Kyler
There are plenty of teams pursuing Brooks this offseason, but I think the Wizards job remains very attractive since they have a star (John Wall), a very good second option (Bradley Beal) and quality supporting cast members who are under contract (Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, etc.). This team was a huge disappointment this season, but their best basketball is almost certainly still ahead of them. And Washington has a ton of cap space to work with this summer, with just $45,091,855 in guaranteed salaries for next season. Brooks is very good at developing talent, creating a winning culture and helping a team become a contender – as he displayed in Oklahoma City. He makes a lot of sense for the Wizards, if they can land him. They are reportedly set to seriously pursue him.
– Alex Kennedy
The Wizards have made it no secret that they will pursue Kevin Durant this upcoming offseason. The best coach they could bring in to help with that recruiting process is Durant’s former head coach, Scott Brooks. However, even if Durant doesn’t sign with the Wizards, Brooks is still a solid hiring for the Wizards. He connected with his players in Oklahoma City, helped turn Russell Westbrook into one of the most dominant players in the NBA and created a strong team chemistry. The Wizards have talent, but need to create an identity and culture in which everyone is on the same page, working toward the same goals together. There is arguably no better coaching candidate to do this than Brooks.
– Jesse Blancarte
While it seems the Suns might be giving serious consideration to hanging on to Earl Watson as their head coach, the right hire might be Thibodeau. With so much talent already in place and a ton of cap space to add to it, the Suns might be the best fit for Thibodeau, who is seeking a win-right-now situation. His defensive-minded style suits the construct of the roster and his track record in Chicago of getting the most out of his players could do wonders for the Suns.
– Steve Kyler
The players have campaigned for Watson to keep the job and the front office has said that Watson will get the first interview when they start weighing their coaching options. I think Phoenix still has a ways to go before they can make significant noise in the Western Conference, so sticking with Watson makes sense. He can grow as a coach alongside Phoenix’s young players and potentially become a very good leader in the long run.
– Alex Kennedy
The Phoenix Suns have a nice collection of talent that could thrive under an experienced, creative head coach. David Blatt had a tough run with the Cleveland Cavaliers and lost some of the luster he had before coming over to the NBA. However, his coaching was undermined basically from the start with Cleveland and he never got a chance to implement his schemes and playbook. With young talent that may buy into his philosophies, Blatt may be able to create the pass-friendly, space-based offensive attack he wanted to with Cleveland, which could be explosive with guards like Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Devin Booker in the backcourt.
– Jesse Blancarte
The Kings job is going to be a tough sell because of all the chaos the organization has undergone. The super serious coaches likely won’t consider the job, which leaves them with the next tier. That might not cut it in the eyes of Kings star DeMarcus Cousins. This is why Ewing becomes an interesting fit – namely because he has the swagger, experience and credibility to demand more from Cousins and likely receive it. Ewing has not been considered a serious head coaching candidate but given Kings GM Vlade Divac’s history with Ewing when they both played, he fit might be too ideal not to consider seriously.
– Steve Kyler
This organization has been through nine coaches in the last 10 seasons, so they may have trouble attracting top candidates. But if they can get Jackson, he would make sense for them since he’s a players’ coach who gets his team to buy in. He could be a good fit with DeMarcus Cousins, and may help this team take the next step in their development (and break their 10-year postseason drought). Jackson is also a notable name, which lines up with the Kings’ desire to make a splashy hire that generates headlines. Hopefully Jackson learned from some of the mistakes he made with the Golden State Warriors and can do a better job in Sacramento.
– Alex Kennedy
The Sacramento Kings need a coach who first and foremost can connect with DeMarcus Cousins. McHale is one of the NBA’s great former big men and may be able to get Cousins to buy in to his coaching. Once that happens, the rest of the players may fall into line, which would allow this team to finally focus on playing the right way and not on the drama behind the scenes. It isn’t a perfect fit, but it could be a pretty solid hiring when you consider the difficulty the Kings will likely face in luring in a top-level head coach.
– Jesse Blancarte
Assuming Thibodeau comes off the board, the Rockets might be better suited sticking with current coach J.B. Bickerstaff. However, if it’s decided J.B. isn’t the guy, wouldn’t Jeff Hornacek be an interesting fit? Hornacek took a very guard-heavy Suns team and got them to be competitive for a stretch. If the Rockets are indeed moving away from Dwight Howard in free agency, Hornacek, who was said to be a big part of the appeal for LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency, might be the coach who helps sway a free agent or two Houston’s way. Hornacek may not be the ideal candidate, but if there is change, getting Hornacek would be better than an unproven assistant.
– Steve Kyler
Thibodeau may want nothing to do with the Rockets given all of the behind-the-scenes drama the team has dealt with and the uncertain future of players like Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones (restricted), Donatas Motiejunas (restricted) and Josh Smith among others. But if he’s willing to take this job, he would be a terrific hire for Houston. He should get the most out of the players and improve the Rockets’ defense, which ranked 20th in the NBA this season (allowing 105.6 points per 100 possessions). Houston wants to win now and Thibodeau has shown he can do that. If Thibs wants personnel control, he may go elsewhere.
– Alex Kennedy
It wasn’t so long ago that Jeff Hornacek was orchestrating one of the NBA’s most unique offenses, powered by lead guards like Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. It was a delicate balance to manage, especially when Isaiah Thomas was added into the mix. However, Hornacek made it work initially, which led to a surprisingly high level of success for the Suns. In Houston, James Harden handles the ball as a scorer and playmaker more than just about any other guard in the league. Hornacek may be as qualified as any coaching candidate to find a way to get Harden to share the playmaking responsibilities, creating a more pass-oriented offensive approach, which could be a big boost for the Rockets.
– Jesse Blancarte
New York Knicks
While it seems that Knicks president Phil Jackson (between piano solos) is leaning toward Kurt Rambis as his head coach going forward, there is a sense that retaining Rambis might not be the move Knicks star Carmelo Anthony was hoping for. If the goal is to turn the Knicks into a playoff contender next year, wouldn’t someone like Mark Jackson be a better fit? Jackson has some luggage around his name; namely that he did not like to develop young guys and that he was not easy to work with outside the locker room. Jackson as head coach would be more credible to free agents than Rambis and even with his flaws, Jackson would at least give the Knicks some identity. The question is would Phil Jackson hire a coach who’s not all about the Triangle Offense?
– Steve Kyler
This is the best-case scenario for the Knicks, as Walton is going to be one of the most coveted coaches of this offseason after doing a terrific job leading the Golden State Warriors during Steve Kerr’s leave of absence. Walton played for Phil Jackson and is very familiar with the Triangle Offense. During Walton’s final season playing with the Lakers, he was injured for much of the year and Jackson treated him like an assistant coach. New York previously tried to sign Walton as an assistant. It remains to be seen if he would leave the Warriors’ coaching staff for the struggling Knicks, but he may want to take on the challenge.
– Alex Kennedy
So long as Phil Jackson is running the New York Knicks, the Triangle Offense will be implemented. Luke Walton played in the Triangle with the Lakers and continues to use it, under head coach Steve Kerr, as part of the Golden State Warriors’ lethal offensive attack. Walton is a young coach who can connect with players and now has the coaching experience and reputation to command a team’s respect. Add in his familiarity with Jackson, the Triangle and the concepts he has learned in Golden State and it’s hard to imagine who would be a better fit for this position. The Triangle has its place in the modern NBA, it just needs to be integrated within the modern pace-and-space approach that is pervasive across the league. Walton has as good of a shot as anyone to make that happen in New York.
– Jesse Blancarte
The Lakers might have a serious shot at Tom Thibodeau or Scott Brooks, but assuming both take jobs before the Lakers get a final decision on Byron Scott, Boston assistant Jay Larranaga could be an interesting under-the-radar hire. As the Lakers look to invent the next generation of Lakers stars, bringing in a hot young assistant who can be something of a task master wouldn’t be a bad idea, especially if the plan is to rebuild through the draft. Larranaga has played a big role in turning the Celtics into a defense-focused team and doing it with young guys. Instead of swinging for a named guy, getting the best guy for the long-term development of the young players might make more sense.
– Steve Kyler
Messina would be a terrific hire for the Lakers, as he has been considered one of the best available coaches for quite some time. After experiencing a ton of success overseas, Messina’s first NBA gig was as an assistant on Mike Brown’s coaching staff with the Lakers in 2011. That means Mitch Kupchak and company are familiar with the 56-year-old, and he’s familiar with the franchise and city. Messina is now with the San Antonio Spurs, and he has stepped in for Gregg Popovich as head coach for three games this year (two in the regular season, one in the preseason) when Popovich had to leave due to a family emergency. Messina seems ready for a head coaching job, and the Lakers would be smart to bring him in to replace Byron Scott, who has left a lot to be desired. Another good option would be Jay Larranaga, who could develop this young core they have assembled.
– Alex Kennedy
The Kobe Bryant era is officially over in Los Angeles, which means the Lakers need to start building up a new approach to sustained success. The days of luring in superstars and outspending other teams are over. It’s time to develop the team’s young talent internally, draft responsibly, but creatively, and create sustainable offensive and defensive systems that players can plug into; an approach that has carried the Spurs to multiple championships over the last two decades. Ettore Messina is currently an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs and is one of the best coaches most fans have never heard of. His experience in San Antonio could be invaluable to a team like the Lakers, who are going to have to start looking toward team-building the way the rest of league does after years of getting by with transcendent talent in guys like Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
– Jesse Blancarte
The Brooklyn Nets already filled their open coaching job by hiring current Atlanta Hawks assistant Kenny Atkinson. With so many jobs open or likely to be open, there is a sense that many teams are not going to waste time in a prolonged search so some of these jobs could get filled fairly quickly.
NBA Daily: The Losers of the NBA Draft
Shane Rhodes breaks down the losers of the 2018 NBA Draft.
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
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.
Mikal Bridges just did an entire press conference talking about staying in Philly. He was traded as it ended. He had no idea.
— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) June 22, 2018
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
NBA Daily: The Winners Of The NBA Draft
Simon Hannig breaks down the winners from Thursday’s 2018 NBA Draft.
The 2018 NBA Draft has come and gone, and although many teams have improved coming out of this loaded draft, five teams seemed to have walked away as the biggest winners.
The Phoenix Suns Got Their Guy
The Suns made a couple of splashes in the draft, selecting DeAndre Ayton with the first overall pick.
The Suns then drafted Zhaire Smith, but later traded his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for Mikal Bridges.
In the second round of the draft, Phoenix selected Frenchman Elie Okobo and George King from Colorado, each of whom should be able to contribute right away. Ayton should be the starting center come opening night and Bridges could also start for the team immediately. If not, Bridges will be a valuable weapon coming off the bench for a team who is trying to win games and get back into the playoffs.
Does Mo Bamba Have The (Orlando) Magic?
The Orlando Magic got a stud in Mo Bamba, whom they surprisingly selected with the sixth overall pick in the draft. They later drafted Melvin Frazier in the second round. It was a bit surprising that the Tulane product lasted that long, but the Magic benefitted.
Orlando got a player who can contribute right away and could compete for a starting job. Frazier is a great rebounder and defender and could change the team’s defense all by himself. The club now has two young core pieces they can build around in Jonathan Isaac and Bamba and a young contributor in Frazier.
Although the team’s offense will likely be work in progress, they can be very scary on the defensive end.
Now, we’ll all wait to see if Bamba, the New York product, can carry the Magic back to respectability.
Atlanta Hawks Will Let It Fly
After drafting Luka Doncic with the third overall pick, the Hawks ended up sending him to Dallas in exchange for Trae Young and a future protected first round pick. The pick is top-five protected the next two years, top-three protected in 2021 and 2022 and unprotected in 2023, according to Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.
With their second first round pick, the Hawks took sharpshooter Kevin Huerter from Maryland and, with the 30th overall pick, selected Omari Spellman from Villanova.
Atlanta appears to building themselves in the way of the Warriors, getting sharpshooters in Young and Huerter. It is no surprise they are doing this as their current general manager, Travis Schlenk, worked with Golden State before taking the job with the Hawks.
The Rich Got Richer In Boston
The Celtics once again got a steal in the draft, as they were the beneficiaries as it relates to Robert Williams from Texas A&M. He is an athletic big man who plays great defense and rebounds the ball very well. Williams has lottery talent but ended up falling to the Celtics, who selected him with the 27th pick of the draft.
Williams averaged 2.5 blocks per game at Texas and should also be able to provide second chance opportunities for the team. Williams, as he averaged three offensive rebounds per game in college.
Luka Doncic Found A Good Home
The Dallas Mavericks walked away from the 2018 NBA Draft with two foundational pieces in tow, Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic. Their other moves were also tremendous, as they drafted Jalen Brunson from Villanova, acquired Ray Spalding from Louisville in a trade with the Sixers and drafted Kostas Antetokounmpo (Giannis’ younger brother) with the last piece in the draft.
For Mark Cuban, it may take time to develop the pieces, but if things could go well, the Mavs might have some productive years ahead.
Doncic was thought to be one of, if not the best player available in the draft, so getting him at the expense of a protected future first round pick seems like a fair trade. Depending on how ready he is to contribute at the NBA level, the sky could be the limit.
Of course, every year, there are surprises. Some good, and some bad. However, walking away from the 2018 NBA Draft, these five teams all appear to have improved themselves immensely.
NBA Draft Night Trades
David Yapkowitz breaks down the trades that took place during the 2018 NBA Draft.
Another NBA Draft has come and gone. With rumors swirling all week about possible pick/player movement, the night remained relatively uneventful. There were a few trades that occurred, however. Here’s a quick breakdown of the movement that happened on draft night.
1. Atlanta Hawks/Dallas Mavericks
The Hawks and Mavericks completed the first trade of the night early on in the draft. Leading up to the draft, there were questions about how high Luka Doncic was going to be drafted. It was widely assumed that he wouldn’t slip past Dallas at No. 5. The Mavericks weren’t going to take that chance as the Hawks drafted Doncic with the intention of trading him to Dallas for Trae Young.
Both teams ultimately get what they need. It’s been reported that the Hawks might move on from Dennis Schroder this summer and they’ll need a point guard to replace him. Young is an explosive scorer who will fit in nicely with Atlanta’s rebuild. He can score from anywhere on the court and he’s a great playmaker as well.
For the Mavericks, they get a guy to add to their own young core with Dennis Smith Jr. and Harrison Barnes. Doncic has the size to play next to Smith in the backcourt. He’s quite possibly the best playmaker in the draft with a solid offensive game as well.
2. Charlotte Hornets/Los Angeles Clippers
The Hornets and Clippers consummated the second move the night by swapping their own draft picks. The Hornets took Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with the 11th pick and then immediately traded him to the Clippers for Miles Bridges, whom Los Angeles selected at No. 12.
For the Hornets, they get a guy who can play both forward positions. Bridges is more of a small forward but in small ball lineups, he can slide over to the four. Offensively he is at his best when he puts the ball on the floor and attacks the rim. He’s a decent shooter too.
The Clippers get a point guard who was rumored to climbing up many draft boards as the night approached. Gilgeous-Alexander is a solid pick for them provided both Patrick Beverly and Milos Teodosic’ injury history. He can also play off the ball if need be. He’s got the physical tools to be a very good defender at the NBA level. It’s not at all far-fetched to imagine him as the future long-term starting point guard for the Clippers.
The Hornets also got two future second-round picks from the Clippers.
3. Philadelphia 76ers/Phoenix Suns
The Sixers and the Suns had the next move of draft night, also swapping their picks. The Sixers selected hometown hero Mikal Bridges with the No. 10 pick and later traded him to the Suns for the No. 16 pick, Zhaire Smith.
Bridges made a lot of sense for the Sixers. Not only is he a local guy, but his mother works for the team as well. He was a talented player who fit their team. He gave a post-draft press conference raving about being a Sixer all the while he had been traded already. But such is life in the NBA. Instead, Phoenix gets a guy that’s ready to contribute in the NBA right away. He’s the prototypical 3&D type guy.
For the Sixers, Zhaire Smith is another guy who was steadily climbing the boards in the days leading up to the draft. He’s a very athletic prospect with good defensive instincts. He probably won’t play much right away, but he does have the potential to end up being one of the better rotation players in this draft.
The Sixers also get a 2021 first-round pick from the Suns via the Miami Heat. It’s highly likely this ends up being a lottery pick and thus giving the Sixers the chance to add a high-end talent to an already potent group.
4. Second-Round moves
There are a few second-round moves that were made as well.
For one, the Hawks selected Devonte Graham with the 34th pick and traded him to the Hornets for two future second-round picks. Graham is another NBA ready guy who can come in and immediately contend for backup point guard minutes behind Kemba Walker.
The Sixers were involved in another deal sending the No. 38 pick Khyri Thomas to the Detroit Pistons for two future second-round picks. Thomas is a player that many projected to go in the first round. For a team that didn’t have a first-round pick coming into the night, the Pistons essentially picked one up. It’s possible he turns out better than Detroit’s most recent first-rounders Henry Ellenson and Luke Kennard.
The Sacramento Kings drafted Gary Trent Jr. with the 37th pick only to trade him to the Portland Trail Blazers for two future second-round picks. Trent was one of the better shooters in the draft and that’s what he projects to the be in the NBA. He’s probably a few years away from earning a spot in the rotation but he was also a possible first-round pick. He’s more NBA ready than Anfernee Simons who the Blazers took in the first-round.
The Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets swapped second-round picks with the Magic sending the No. 41 pick Jarred Vanderbilt to the Nuggets for the No. 43 pick Justin Jackson and a future second-round pick. Vanderbilt is a project in every sense of the word. He’s extremely raw and probably needed more time in college. But he’s got long-term potential and could pay off in the future. Jackson, on the other hand, was possibly a first-round talent had he entered the draft last year. He’s going to have to make the roster but could be a 3&D guy.
In the final move of the night, the Hornets traded the No. 45 pick Hamidou Diallo to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Diallo is a guy that had he come out last year, probably would’ve been a first-round guy. In any case, he is also very raw and will need seasoning in the G-League. He’s got all the physical tools and skill to be a good rotation NBA player.