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NBA Draft

Kelly Oubre is Prepared to Take Flight

As the 2015 NBA Draft approaches, former Kansas Jayhawk Kelly Oubre works to improve his stock.

Moke Hamilton

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Depending on who you ask, Kelly Oubre may lack polish. But in his own right, the former Kansas Jayhawk still shines.

Traditionally, the Chicago-based NBA Draft Combine has been where the roads begin to diverge. A marginal prospect takes a wrong turn and suddenly, he may find himself off course of being a first round pick.

For many, after the combine, the dream of playing in the NBA remains just that—a dream. But for a special few, the combine is an epic opportunity. Seize the eyes, attention and imagination of the basketball watching public, and the future may belong to you.

With his impressive marks in both the vertical leap (37.5”) and standing vertical (34.5”), his combination of height, range and gliding agility have him firmly as a middle of the pack first-round player. At this point, the southpaw believes that effort and intensity is what he will contribute most immediately on the pro level, but his soft touch and ideal physical tools are what’s most intriguing about the 19-year-old.

“My length is definitely something that can cause problems, and I’m still growing,” Oubre said. “I’m a student of the game and definitely working on my offensive game is something that I take pride in. I want to be a two-way player, and that’s the wave of players, teams need a guy that can be a two-way player, score the ball and play defense. That’s something I bring to the table.”

Another thing he brings to the table, according to him, is his versatility on the defensive end. When asked how many positions he could see himself defending on the NBA level, Oubre’s response displayed his confidence.

“I feel like I can guard four,” Oubre answered.

“One through four,” he said certainly, before pausing and thinking about it.

“Even if I need to, guard the five,” he finished.

Having to replace the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins in Bill Self’s rotation was not an easy void for Oubre to fill, but once he began to learn the college game, he absolutely showed the flashes and potential of a lottery pick. According to the small forward, he met with 10 NBA teams to discuss his attributes and what he sees for himself as a professional.

“I met with ten teams so far, a lot of great teams,” Oubre said. “Off the top of the dome, I can’t tell you all 10, but teams like Denver, Toronto, Boston, Knicks, Oklahoma City.”

For the most part, for NBA teams, the combine is about doing due diligence and getting a feel for the mental makeup of a young prospect. But if there is one thing that a prospect can get out of the entire process, it’s knowing that there are at least a few teams that are interested in their services. And best believe, when a team is interested, there will be eyeballs watching.

As Oubre begins scheduling individual workouts with teams, he knows that well, just like he knows about the areas of his game that need to improve.

“Becoming a more consistent shooter,” he said, obviously aware of the fact that as a freshman one of his biggest faults—despite his soft touch—was allowing charging defenders or his posture to affect his release points. “I’ve tweaked a couple things in my shot that pretty much have showed drastic change.”

“Attacking the rim, getting to the lane, and getting to the free-throw line is something that I’m pretty good at and will continue to get better at,” he added.

Paul Pierce immediately comes to mind as a former Jayhawks small forward whose offensive repertoire, even early in his career, was something that consistently kept defenders guessing. Oubre is not regarded as an offensive dynamo or the second coming of Pierce, but he certainly has confidence in his offensive game.

Modeling his game after the likes of James Harden, Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard, he seems certain that the key for him finding success in the NBA will be to impact both ends of the basketball court.

“I look at James Harden a lot,” he said. “I like his game… I love his game actually. I watch a lot of things that he does on the offensive end, and guys like Kawhi Leanord and Jimmy Butler, I look at them as being two-way players because that’s the new wave of guards and I want to be something like that.”

When asked if he could see himself scoring 50 points in an NBA game like Harden, he confidently responded, “Yeah, I have that in me.”

Another thing he wouldn’t necessarily mind being? A player for either Phil Jackson’s Knicks or Pat Riley’s Miami HEAT. Oubre met with each of the two executives and, for a moment, sounded like a junior high schooler whose crush just told him that they liked him, too.

“Coach Phil…” Oubre said. “He’s definitely a legend and it was an honor to sit in front of that group of people,” he said, citing the other members of the Knicks front office that made the trip to Chicago (including assistant general manager Allan Houston and general manager Steve Mills).

“He’s another legend who’s coached greats in the past,” Oubre said of Riley. “Just seeing what he knows about the game of basketball is something that I would never take for granted and I listened to every little thing that he said. I asked him a couple questions also to see if I could pick his brain about some things and about some things I may need to know about my future.”

And for Oubre, that is what his entire experience at the combine was like—the future.

“Any situation in this draft would be great for me,” Oubre said. “God has a plan for me and I feel like he’s going to land me in the best place possible for me and my career. I can thrive in a lot of systems because I bring the intangibles to the game of basketball. I’m still growing, but I feel like I’m going to get better as time goes.”

As for the doubters and the misconceptions, Oubre seemed mature beyond his years when asked to address them. Without getting defensive, his candor and tone were both indicative of a young player who’s not only hoping for an opportunity to play in the NBA, but one who feels his true calling is fulfilling his potential.

“Some people say I’m lazy and some people say that I don’t work hard all the time,” he admitted. “That’s not true. This year at Kansas I may have come off lazy because I really didn’t understand some of things that I was doing, so it kind of caused me to slow down.”

These were sentiments that Self, his former coach, would certainly agree. Despite being touted as a somewhat adequate replacement for the departed Wiggins, Oubre saw his minutes and role diminish mightily during the early part of the 2014-15 Jayhawks season.

But what is more noteworthy than the early speed bump is the marked improvement that the freshman showed as the season progressed.

“I want to be a perfectionist,” Oubre said about what he is striving for on the NBA level.

Perfection may not be attainable, but with his size, athleticism, positive demeanor and confidence, rising up the draft boards and cracking the top 10 is certainly within the realm of possibility.

As the eyes of the basketball watching public converge on the Combine, some prospects depart with a defeated reality of knowing that they have failed to make a mark and will continue an upward climb toward achieving their dream.

Others walk away, tall and proud, knowing that their names will continue to be mentioned quite often as we inch closer toward the 2015 NBA Draft. Oubre is among the latter. And as we approach the night where dreams will come true, remember: hawks fly.

Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders.

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Mock Drafts

2020 NBA Mock Draft – First Round – 08/21/2020

The 2020 NBA Draft order is now locked in, however, there are tons of additional questions to be answered in the coming weeks. Here is a look at the first round, in this Basketball Insiders Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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To say the 2020 NBA Draft has been chaotic is an understatement, however with last night’s NBA Draft Lottery out of the way, things are starting to at least trend in a positive direction.

That doesn’t mean there are not challenges ahead, namely when the actual NBA Draft will take place.

There is a growing sense that the NBA and the players are going to push back the start of the next cap year, which will likely impact when and how the NBA Draft plays out.

Typically, the Draft is a major transaction window for NBA teams, and with so much unknown surrounding how the salary cap will be set, and when trades and transactions typically consummated around the draft would become official, there is a lot of uncertainty, making the 2020 NBA draft wide open on many fronts.

The hope among teams is that some clarity on all of this will surface in the coming weeks, but for now most teams are operating in uncharted waters.

With all of that in mind, here is a look at the 2020 NBA Draft First round, which will be the first of many weekly Mock Drafts we’ll be dropping all the way up to the draft, whenever that finally gets set.

The Basketball Insiders Annual Consensus Mock Drafts will begin in September, as will full 60-pick mocks starting next week, so stay tuned.

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NBA Draft

NBA ANNOUNCES EARLY ENTRY CANDIDATES FOR 2020 NBA DRAFT

The National Basketball Association announced today that 205 players — 163 players from colleges and other educational institutions and 42 international players — have filed as early entry candidates for the 2020 NBA Draft

Basketball Insiders

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NEW YORK, April 28, 2020 – The National Basketball Association announced today that 205 players — 163 players from colleges and other educational institutions and 42 international players — have filed as early entry candidates for the 2020 NBA Draft presented by State Farm.

Players who have applied for early entry have the right to withdraw their names from consideration for the Draft by notifying the NBA of their decision in writing 10 days prior to the 2020 NBA Draft.

Following is the list of players from colleges and other educational institutions who have applied for early entry into the 2020 NBA Draft.

EARLY ENTRY CANDIDATES FOR 2020 NBA DRAFT

Player

School

Height

Status

Precious Achiuwa

Memphis

6-9

Freshman

Milan Acquaah

California Baptist

6-3

Junior

Jordyn Adams

Austin Peay

6-3

Freshman

Abdul Ado

Mississippi State

6-11

Junior

Ty-Shon Alexander

Creighton

6-4

Junior

Timmy Allen

Utah

6-6

Sophomore

Derrick Alston Jr.

Boise State

6-9

Junior

Cole Anthony

North Carolina

6-3

Freshman

Joel Ayayi

Gonzaga

6-5

Sophomore

Brendan Bailey

Marquette

6-8

Sophomore

Saddiq Bey

Villanova

6-8

Sophomore

Tyler Bey

Colorado

6-7

Junior

Jermaine Bishop

Norfolk State

6-1

Junior

Jomaru Brown

Eastern Kentucky

6-2

Sophomore

Marcus Burk

IUPUI

6-3

Junior

Dachon Burke Jr.

Nebraska

6-4

Junior

Jordan Burns

Colgate

6-0

Junior

Jared Butler

Baylor

6-3

Sophomore

Manny Camper

Siena

6-7

Junior

Vernon Carey Jr.

Duke

6-10

Freshman

Marcus Carr

Minnesota

6-2

Sophomore

Tamenang Choh

Brown

6-5

Junior

Kofi Cockburn

Illinois

7-0

Freshman

David Collins

South Florida

6-3

Junior

Zach Cooks

NJIT

5-9

Junior

Jalen Crutcher

Dayton

6-1

Junior

Ryan Daly

St. Joseph’s

6-5

Junior

Nate Darling

Delaware

6-5

Junior

Darius Days

LSU

6-6

Sophomore

Dexter Dennis

Wichita State

6-5

Sophomore

Lamine Diane

CSUN

6-7

Sophomore

Ayo Dosunmu

Illinois

6-5

Sophomore

Devon Dotson

Kansas

6-2

Sophomore

Nojel Eastern

Purdue

6-7

Junior

Anthony Edwards

Georgia

6-5

Freshman

CJ Elleby

Washington State

6-6

Sophomore

Mason Faulkner

Western Carolina

6-1

Junior

LJ Figueroa

St. John’s

6-6

Junior

Malik Fitts

St. Mary’s

6-8

Junior

Malachi Flynn

San Diego State

6-1

Junior

Blake Francis

Richmond

6-0

Junior

Hasahn French

St. Louis

6-7

Junior

DJ Funderburk

NC State

6-10

Junior

Both Gach

Utah

6-6

Sophomore

Alonzo Gaffney

Ohio State

6-9

Freshman

Luka Garza

Iowa

6-11

Junior

Jacob Gilyard

Richmond

5-9

Junior

Grant Golden

Richmond

6-10

Junior

Jordan Goodwin

St. Louis

6-3

Junior

Tony Goodwin II

Redemption Academy (MA)

6-6

Post-Graduate

Jayvon Graves

Buffalo

6-3

Junior

AJ Green

Northern Iowa

6-4

Sophomore

Darin Green Jr.

UCF

6-4

Freshman

Josh Green

Arizona

6-6

Freshman

Ashton Hagans

Kentucky

6-3

Sophomore

Tyrese Haliburton

Iowa State

6-5

Sophomore

Josh Hall

Moravian Prep (NC)

6-8

Post-Graduate

Rayshaun Hammonds

Georgia

6-9

Junior

Jalen Harris

Nevada

6-5

Junior

Niven Hart

Fresno State

6-5

Freshman

Aaron Henry

Michigan State

6-6

Sophomore

Jalen Hill

UCLA

6-10

Sophomore

Nate Hinton

Houston

6-5

Sophomore

Jay Huff

Virginia

7-1

Junior

Elijah Hughes

Syracuse

6-6

Junior

Feron Hunt

SMU

6-8

Sophomore

Chance Hunter

Long Beach State

6-6

Sophomore

DeJon Jarreau

Houston

6-5

Junior

Damien Jefferson

Creighton

6-5

Junior

Isaiah Joe

Arkansas

6-5

Sophomore

Dakari Johnson

Cape Fear CC (NC)

6-0

Freshman

Jalen Johnson

Louisiana

6-7

Junior

Andre Jones

Nicholls State

6-4

Junior

C.J. Jones

MTSU

6-5

Junior

Herbert Jones

Alabama

6-7

Junior

Mason Jones

Arkansas

6-5

Junior

Tre Jones

Duke

6-3

Sophomore

Corey Kispert

Gonzaga

6-7

Junior

Kameron Langley

NC A&T

6-2

Junior

AJ Lawson

South Carolina

6-6

Sophomore

Saben Lee

Vanderbilt

6-2

Junior

Kira Lewis Jr.

Alabama

6-3

Sophomore

Matt Lewis

James Madison

6-5

Junior

Isaiah Livers

Michigan

6-7

Junior

Denzel Mahoney

Creighton

6-5

Junior

Makur Maker

Pacific Academy (CA)

7-0

Post-Graduate

Sandro Mamukelashvili

Seton Hall

6-11

Junior

Tre Mann

Florida

6-4

Freshman

Nico Mannion

Arizona

6-3

Freshman

Naji Marshall

Xavier

6-7

Junior

Kenyon Martin Jr.

IMG Academy (FL)

6-7

Post-Graduate

Remy Martin

Arizona State

6-0

Junior

Tyrese Maxey

Kentucky

6-3

Freshman

Mac McClung

Georgetown

6-2

Sophomore

Jaden McDaniels

Washington

6-9

Freshman

Isiaha Mike

SMU

6-8

Junior

Isaiah Miller

UNCG

6-0

Junior

Matt Mitchell

San Diego State

6-6

Junior

EJ Montgomery

Kentucky

6-10

Sophomore

Andrew Nembhard

Florida

6-5

Sophomore

Aaron Nesmith

Vanderbilt

6-6

Sophomore

Zeke Nnaji

Arizona

6-11

Freshman

Obadiah Noel

Massachusetts-Lowell

6-4

Junior

Jordan Nwora

Louisville

6-7

Junior

Onyeka Okongwu

USC

6-9

Freshman

Isaac Okoro

Auburn

6-6

Freshman

Elijah Olaniyi

Stony Brook

6-5

Junior

Daniel Oturu

Minnesota

6-10

Sophomore

Reggie Perry

Mississippi State

6-10

Sophomore

Filip Petrusev

Gonzaga

6-11

Sophomore

John Petty Jr.

Alabama

6-5

Junior

Nate Pierre-Louis

Temple

6-4

Junior

Xavier Pinson

Missouri

6-2

Sophomore

Yves Pons

Tennessee

6-6

Junior

Immanuel Quickley

Kentucky

6-3

Sophomore

Darius Quisenberry

Youngstown State

6-1

Sophomore

Jahmi’us Ramsey

Texas Tech

6-4

Freshman

Paul Reed Jr.

DePaul

6-9

Junior

Nick Richards

Kentucky

6-11

Junior

Colbey Ross

Pepperdine

6-1

Junior

Fatts Russell

Rhode Island

5-10

Junior

Joe Saterfield

Ranger CC (TX)

6-4

Freshman

Jayden Scrubb

John A. Logan College (IL)

6-6

Sophomore

Aamir Simms

Clemson

6-9

Junior

Ja’Vonte Smart

LSU

6-4

Sophomore

Chris Smith

UCLA

6-9

Junior

Collin Smith

UCF

6-11

Junior

Jalen Smith

Maryland

6-10

Sophomore

Justin Smith

Indiana

6-7

Junior

Mitchell Smith

Missouri

6-10

Junior

Stef Smith

Vermont

6-1

Junior

Ben Stanley

Hampton

6-6

Sophomore

Cassius Stanley

Duke

6-6

Freshman

Isaiah Stewart

Washington

6-9

Freshman

Parker Stewart

UT-Martin

6-5

Sophomore

Terry Taylor

Austin Peay

6-5

Junior

MaCio Teague

Baylor

6-3

Junior

Tyrell Terry

Stanford

6-1

Freshman

Justin Thomas

Morehead State

5-11

Junior

Ethan Thompson

Oregon State

6-5

Junior

Xavier Tillman Sr.

Michigan State

6-8

Junior

Jeremiah Tilmon

Missouri

6-10

Junior

Obi Toppin

Dayton

6-9

Sophomore

Jordan Tucker

Butler

6-7

Junior

Devin Vassell

Florida State

6-6

Sophomore

Alonzo Verge Jr.

Arizona State

6-3

Junior

Chris Vogt

Cincinnati

7-1

Junior

CJ Walker

Ohio State

6-1

Junior

Trendon Watford

LSU

6-9

Freshman

Ibi Watson

Dayton

6-5

Junior

Nick Weatherspoon

Mississippi State

6-2

Junior

Kaleb Wesson

Ohio State

6-9

Junior

Jarrod West

Marshall

5-11

Junior

Romello White

Arizona State

6-8

Junior

Kahlil Whitney

Kentucky

6-6

Freshman

DeAndre Williams

Evansville

6-9

Sophomore

Emmitt Williams

LSU

6-6

Sophomore

Keith Williams

Cincinnati

6-5

Junior

Patrick Williams

Florida State

6-8

Freshman

James Wiseman

Memphis

7-1

Freshman

Robert Woodard II

Mississippi State

6-7

Sophomore

McKinley Wright IV

Colorado

6-0

Junior

Omer Yurtseven

Georgetown

7-0

Junior

The following is the list of international players who have applied for early entry into the 2020 NBA Draft:

Player

Team/Country of Team

Height

Status

Berke Atar

MZT Skopje (Macedonia)

6-11

1999 DOB

Deni Avdija

Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)

6-8

2001 DOB

Brancou Badio

Barcelona (Spain)

6-3

1999 DOB

Darko Bajo

Split (Croatia)

6-10

1999 DOB

Philippe Bayehe

Roseto (Italy)

6-9

1999 DOB

Marek Blazevic

Rytas (Lithuania)

6-10

2001 DOB

Adrian Bogucki

Radom (Poland)

7-1

1999 DOB

Leandro Bolmaro

Barcelona (Spain)

6-6

2000 DOB

Vinicius Da Silva

Prat (Spain)

7-0

2001 DOB

Henri Drell

Pesaro (Italy)

6-9

2000 DOB

Imru Duke

Zentro Basket (Spain)

6-8

1999 DOB

Michele Ebeling

Kleb Ferrara (Italy)

6-9

1999 DOB

Paul Eboua

Pesaro (Italy)

6-8

2000 DOB

Osas Ehigiator

Fuenlabrada (Spain)

6-10

1999 DOB

Joel Ekamba

Limoges (France)

6-5

2001 DOB

Selim Fofana

Neuchatel (Switzerland)

6-3

1999 DOB

Miguel Gonzalez

Baskonia (Spain)

6-7

1999 DOB

Killian Hayes

Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany)

6-5

2001 DOB

Sehmus Hazer

Bandirma (Turkey)

6-3

1999 DOB

Rokas Jokubaitis

Zalgiris (Lithuania)

6-4

2000 DOB

Georgios Kalaitzakis

Nevezis (Lithuania)

6-8

1999 DOB

Vit Krejci

Zaragoza (Spain)

6-8

2000 DOB

Arturs Kurucs

VEF Riga (Latvia)

6-3

2000 DOB

Dut Mabor

Roseto (Italy)

7-1

2001 DOB

Yam Madar

Hapoel Tel Aviv (Israel)

6-2

2000 DOB

Theo Maledon

ASVEL (France)

6-4

2001 DOB

Karim Mane

Vanier (Canada)

6-5

2000 DOB

Sergi Martinez

Barcelona (Spain)

6-8

1999 DOB

Nikola Miskovic

Mega Bemax (Serbia)

6-10

1999 DOB

Aristide Mouaha

Roseto (Italy)

6-3

2000 DOB

Caio Pacheco

Bahia Basket (Argentina)

6-3

1999 DOB

Joel Parra

Joventut (Spain)

6-8

2000 DOB

Aleksej Pokusevski

Olympiacos (Greece)

7-0

2001 DOB

Sander Raieste

Kalev/Cramo (Estonia)

6-9

1999 DOB

Nikolaos Rogkavopoulos

AEK (Greece)

6-8

2001 DOB

Yigitcan Saybir

Anadolu Efes (Turkey)

6-7

1999 DOB

Njegos Sikiras

Fuenlabrada (Spain)

6-9

1999 DOB

Marko Simonovic

Mega Bemax (Serbia)

6-11

1999 DOB

Mouhamed Thiam

Nanterre (France)

6-9

2001 DOB

Uros Trifunovic

Partizan (Serbia)

6-7

2000 DOB

Arnas Velicka

Prienai (Lithuania)

6-4

1999 DOB

Andrii Voinalovych

Khimik (Ukraine)

6-10

1999 DOB

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NBA

NBA Daily: Biggest Winners On Draft Night

With another year in the books, Ben Nadeau looks at the 2019 NBA Draft’s biggest winners — go get that money, Cam!

Ben Nadeau

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As usual, chaos reigned supreme during Thursday’s NBA Draft, an annual tradition like no other. Spearheaded by pre-draft trades involving Anthony Davis, Mike Conley Jr. and a number of smaller-sided deals, a rambunctious amount of league-wide movement went down in Brooklyn this week. After the all-but-announced business involving Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett had been decided, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Pheonix Suns helped to push the draft into an early frenzy — so, from there on out, matters only continued to rise. The New Orleans Pelicans used their freshly-replenished haul of draft picks to add even more depth to a young, athletic roster, while multiple surprises kept much of first 30 choices shrouded in mystery.

But when the dust settled at the Barclays Center, a few teams had notably come out on top. Whether by sticking to their front office guns or just simply reading the room, there can be no doubt that these franchises bettered themselves for both the present and the oncoming future.

New Orleans Pelicans

Now That’s What I Call Rebuilding A Franchise, Vol. 19! David Griffin, the recently-hired Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Pelicans, has absolutely smashed his opening months in charge. Anthony Davis’ trade deadline value had been torpedoed by that infamous public trade request — and doubled-down upon in June by Rich Paul’s insistence that his client would end up in Los Angeles — but that didn’t stop Griffin from squeezing every possible ounce of profit from the desperate Lakers. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram were quality centerpieces, but Josh Hart, Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker will factor in for years to come too. Naturally, that list doesn’t even include the trove of future draft picks that they received too

Billy King, unofficially, you are off the hook.

If that weren’t enough, Griffin also ditched the final year of Solomon Hill’s contract, a move that’ll put the Pelicans in prime position to chase a key free agent. For a franchise that looked stuck between a rock and hard place four months ago, it’s far more likely that New Orleans reaches the playoffs instead of the lottery next season. In short, even if the Pelicans weren’t your secret second favorite team, they probably are now.

Cleveland Cavaliers

There were no insane deals for Cleveland this year, nor did they have to worry about placating a nearly decided-upon LeBron James either. Now firmly entrenched in year two of their unanticipated rebuild, a palpable shape is starting to take form for the Cavaliers. Sure, Darius Garland and Collin Sexton play the same position — but that’s something for John Beilein, Cleveland’s shiny, new hire at head coach — to figure out. Joined by the excellent 1-2 scoring punch of Dylan Windler and Kevin Porter Jr. to finish out the night, the Cavaliers snagged plenty of ceilingless shooting potential. Although they’re likely to see at least one more lottery appearance, there’s plenty to be excited about in the Midwest — with or without a deep postseason run ahead of them.

Brooklyn Nets

Since Sean Marks was hired as the Nets’ general manager, he’s drafted exceptionally well — particularly for a franchise that didn’t hold their own first round pick for half a decade. Caris LeVert (No. 20), Jarrett Allen (No. 22) and Rodions Kurucs (No. 40) all seem like tent-pole contributors for Brooklyn — so the Nets, who once had two first-rounders in 2019, believe it or not, traded both of them away. With the Kyrie Irving gaining serious steam lately, Marks and the front office needed to keep the roster lean for a second max free agent — unfortunately, that came at the expense of those pesky guaranteed first-round deals. Brooklyn didn’t come away empty-handed, however, as the green room-invited Nic Claxton and late-round draftee Jaylen Hands are intriguing in their own ways — but their biggest prize remains that flexibility.

If the league has learned anything over the last four years, it should be that the Nets don’t willingly toss aside draft picks, especially with their sturdy track record. Whether or not Brooklyn lands some combination of Kevin Durant or Irving in July remains to be seen — but this marked a warning shot to the other 29 franchises: The Nets are back.

Atlanta Hawks

While the Luka Dončić-Trae Young debate is set to rage on until the end of time, it’s safe to say that the Hawks have crucially navigated their rebuild nonetheless. Flipping Nos. 8 and 17 — the former coming via the Allen Crabbe deal — with New Orleans to move up for De’Andre Hunter was shrewd business, but using the No. 10 overall selection, the extra asset from the aforementioned Mavericks trade, to collect Cam Reddish might be the cherry on top. Very suddenly, the Hawks have collected an entirely new starting five in just under three years. Additionally armed with Kevin Heurter, John Collins and Young — three of the league’s brightest breakout stars in 2018-19 — that core, somehow, got even better.

At No. 4, Hunter is a versatile, two-way standout that’ll protect Young on defense and shoulder some offensive millage for Heurter as well. In an alternative collegiate dimension, Reddish could’ve been a bonafide star — instead, he falls perfectly into the lap of Atlanta. Any franchise thinking about hitting the reset button should carefully study the Hawks — it’s early, but the signs are extremely positive.

New York Knicks

The Knicks are included on this list of winners precisely for Not Messing That Up™ — at long last, RJ Barrett is the new king of New York. Throughout the springtime, Barrett was merely considered a consolation prize compared to the real-deal main courses in Zion Williamson and Ja Morant — same, consequently, for whichever team ended up at No. 3 overall. Even if that many-times-rebuffed draft narrative comes true, Barrett was still the easy call for the Knicks to make. As if a sight for sore eyes, New York-area fans actually celebrated their latest first-round selection — a facet that hasn’t happened frequently as of late. But for everybody else, it was just refreshing not to see the always-struggling franchise not outthink itself for once.

The former Blue Devil averaged 22.6 points and 7.6 rebounds on 52.9 percent from the field and, in all likelihood, this will be his team from day one.  Now paired with Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Dennis Smith Jr., the newly-drafted Barrett and the Knicks may finally be on the path to something bigger and brighter.

Cameron Johnson

One of the most-puzzling moves of the night came at the expense of the Phoenix Suns, a team so badly in need of above-average defense that they moved down from No. 6 to No. 11 in exchange for Dario Saric. To slightly compound matters, the Suns then grabbed Cameron Johnson, an excellent shooter that was projected as a mid-to-late pick in the first round. Pundits have since crushed the choice — Jarrett Culver, a solid two-way player, slid to their original selection — but the Suns clearly saw something they loved in Johnson.

All that aside, the former Tar Heel just got much, much richer on behalf of the Suns.

If Johnson had fallen a little closer to his mocked-out range — let’s say to the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 24 overall, just as an example — his initial salary would’ve been a paltry downgrade. Of course, salary cap numbers differ year-to-year but the Trail Blazers’ Anfernee Simons went No. 24 in 2018 and was paid about $1.8 million during his rookie season. Simons will earn $2.1 million in 2019-20, plus $2.2 and $3.9 million over the following two years should Portland continue to pick up his team options ahead of restricted free agency.

So, across his first four NBA seasons, Simons will earn roughly $10.2 million — whereas Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, last year’s No. 11 overall pick, will take home close to $17 million on the same type of structured deal. For a 23-year-old like Johnson that was supposed to land closer to the second round than the lottery a week ago, that’s a significant financial windfall. Even if he doesn’t end up proving all his doubters wrong, he will, at the very least, be paid far more handsomely for his efforts.

From franchises that are looking to stockpile talented youngsters to those readying themselves for the hectic free agency period, most did fairly well during the 2019 NBA Draft. But in this world, there are always winners and losers — and, in this iteration, Cameron Johnson may be the biggest victor of them all.

So congratulations to Johnson on the major pay raise and best wishes to the rest of this promising class as well — October can’t come soon enough.

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