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Winners Of The 2017 NBA Draft

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On the night of the draft, there are few things better than a healthy debate over the selections – was that a good pick? Was that a reach? Is that player a steal? Will your new prospect fit with the culture, coach and strategy that already exists? And while every team will currently believe that they improved in the 2017 NBA Draft, they can’t all be winning lottery tickets.

With that in mind, here are the biggest winners from Thursday’s 60-pick extravaganza in Brooklyn.

Sacramento Kings

In terms of undeniable draft winners, there’s no need to look further than the Sacramento Kings. As one of the most often maligned franchises in recent memory, the Kings partially redeemed themselves by drafting an incredible haul of prospects. After adding one of the class’ most electric guards in De’Aaron Fox at No. 5, the Kings shrewdly moved down for two more selections in the first round. There, the Kings would grab Justin Jackson, the reigning ACC Player of the Year, Harry Giles, a former top-rated high school prospect, and then topped it off with Frank Mason III, the current National Player of the Year, in the early second round.

The Kings have caught heat for their less-than-conventional choices in past drafts, but they more than made up for any missteps last night. The Kings are still far from competing in the ultra-intense Western Conference, but the light at the end of the tunnel may finally be nearing. For a Sacramento franchise that’s still adjusting to life after DeMarcus Cousins, their new set of rookies should provide plenty of contagious optimism throughout the remainder of their rebuild.

At the end of the day, these sneaky-good selections from the Kings, alongside the much-improved Buddy Hield, should put them on the path toward success once again – and what else could you reasonably wish for in Sacramento?

Jordan Bell

Despite entering last night as a projected late first rounder, Jordan Bell’s slide out of the first 30 picks was eventually well worth the wait. The Golden State Warriors, winners of two of the last three titles, were so enamored with Bell that they ponied up $3.5 million just to buy him off of the Chicago Bulls. Of course, as the top-heavy Warriors look to successfully defend their crown, they’ll need to find creative ways to fill out the roster. Although veterans will always want to join the ring chase, it never hurts to have a few youngsters waiting in the wings – just ask Patrick McCaw.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Much of the league anticipated a blockbuster trade for Paul George or Kristaps Porzingis to go down, but it was actually the Minnesota Timberwolves’ acquisition of Jimmy Butler that would shape the remainder of the draft. As a long-time favorite of head coach Tom Thibodeau – who led the Bulls from 2010-15 – Butler helps the Timberwolves cash on some of their biggest assets. Sure, the Wolves had to part with the No. 7 overall selection (Lauri Markkanen), Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, but Butler should help make this team a playoff contender in their crowded conference.

While certainly talented, Dunn never quite settled down after a rocky start to his rookie campaign and there are no guarantees that LaVine will entirely return to his explosive self after tearing his ACL in February. For Minnesota, who seemed stuck between a rock and a hard place – not good enough to reach the postseason, but not bad enough to bottom out for any given draft’s can’t-miss prospect – a change in approach was needed.

Butler averaged 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game in 2016-17, easily the best statistical output in his six-year career. Even better, Butler has two more seasons under contract before he’s faced with a player option in the summer of 2019. Furthermore, the Timberwolves still wound up with center Justin Patton at No. 16 – a 7-footer with all the tools to be just as good as Markkanen. So, then, can it get any better for Minnesota? Well, actually, on top of all that, the Timberwolves still have plenty of cap space to chase down another top free agent this summer – is this the year they finally make their big jump?

Los Angeles Clippers

For a franchise that entered the draft without a pick of any kind, their second round snags are worth celebrating. As the Clippers gently prepare for a potential life without Chris Paul, J.J. Redick or Blake Griffin, the Western Conference powerhouse did well to grab guards Juwan Evans (No. 39) and Sindarius Thornwell (No. 48) after trading into the round twice. Obviously, neither could outright replace Paul should he leave for greener pastures in July, but Evans was a projected first rounder and Thornwell’s gritty, heroic performances fueled the seventh-seeded University of South Carolina to the Final Four back in March.

While the Clippers are still confident that they can retain Paul, acquiring two young, talented guards in the mid-to-late second round at little-to-no-cost can only be considered a solid victory.

Two-Way Contracts

Last week, Basketball Insiders noted that the new two-way contracts would add a unique wrinkle to the post-draft process – even now, those results are already being felt. In most years, those that went undrafted would quickly work to find summer league deals, but the league has already seen the first of many two-way contracts handed out.

Just minutes after the draft ended, the Warriors signed Oregon’s Chris Boucher to a nifty two-way deal as he continues to recover from that nasty ACL injury he suffered in March. Now Boucher can slowly work his way back to full strength, spend time with the G-League affiliate in Santa Cruz and earn valuable experience alongside tenacious defenders like Draymond Green and Kevin Durant. Until two-way contracts were created, this type of immediate relationship between prospects and franchises just wasn’t possible – that’s a win-win any way you slice it.

Another early adopter of the two-way contract includes the New York Knicks and Luke Kornet – but as teams ramp up ahead of the summer months, expect to see more deals emerge soon.

Los Angeles Lakers

After flirting with a potential move up for the No. 1 overall selection, the Lakers happily grabbed cornerstone Lonzo Ball before selecting two other intriguing first round prospects. While most will agree that dumping the promising D’Angelo Russell just to get out from under Timofey Mozgov’s contract wasn’t ideal, the Lakers made their extra picks count. As our own Eric Pincus reported, the Lakers ultimately landed the two prospects they wanted the most: Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma.

The Lakers’ recent picks and trades may not be as flashy as fans are accustomed to, but this is a step in the right direction under new management. At the end of the day, the Lakers remain in pole position to land superstar Paul George after freeing up some much-needed cap space, but they’ve also done well by landing three worthy assets for the future as well.

Ball, baggage and all, has the potential to be an incredibly special professional and his elite court vision could quickly improve Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr. and the rest of the Lakers’ young roster. Ready to contribute immediately, Hart is a proven winner that’s fresh off of four strong years at Villanova. At No. 27, Kuzma is an athletic, versatile prospect that should fit in seamlessly in head coach Luke Walton’s uptempo offense. What’s not to like about the Lakers’ newest additions?

Of course, the success of these moves will hinge on Magic Johnson’s ability to lure a superstar to Los Angeles, but this week – whether via trade or the draft – has set the foundation for a bright future once again.

New York Knicks

Congratulations are in order for not arbitrarily trading Kristaps Porzingis – that’s one potential crisis averted for now.

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About Benny Nadeau

Benny Nadeau

Benny Nadeau is a Boston-based writer in his first year with Basketball Insiders. For the last five seasons, he covered the Brooklyn Nets for The Brooklyn Game.