NBA AM: The NBA’s Season Of Change

We independently review everything we recommend based on our strict editorial guidelines. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn More

For many, what fascinates about the NBA is how it grows and changes over time. Change comes slowly sometimes, like when the league was long in building a consensus on the value of the three-pointer. The NBA Draft is always a quick fix of change, with the draft followed swiftly by NBA Summer League.

Some fans and observers follow the offseason more closely than the NBA playoffs. The days following the draft are like the holidays, if you knew what presents you were getting but had to wait for Summer League to unwrap them. To illustrate why that anticipation is amped to ridiculous levels this year, we’ll look at two of the big winners from the draft: Tom Thibodeau of the Timberwolves and Bob Myers of the Warriors.

Of all the franchises that copied the Spurs model of having the coach have final say in personnel decisions, none made it out of the first round of the playoffs. Thibodeau’s Wolves failed to qualify for the playoffs. But he was the clear winner of the NBA Draft as he turned Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and a pick swap into Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton, an intriguing frontcourt prospect.

If Thibodeau traded all the way back to 16 and still got the third big man Minnesota needs, he’ll cement his status as early frontrunner for 2018 NBA Executive of the Year. The man he’ll try to succeed in that honor is Bob Myers, newly decorated at the league’s inaugural awards show on Monday night.

Myers was another obvious winner. As a second round pick, Jordan Bell might never make a significant impact at the next level. But joining the Warriors gives him the absolute best chance to succeed. As with JaVale McGee last season, the fit is perfect for Bell because Golden State doesn’t need him to take shots. If he simply brings the hustle, rebounding and defense that helped lead Oregon to the Final Four, he’ll fit right in with a defending champion squad that needs nothing more. Assuming Patton and Bell play in NBA Summer League, we’ll get our first glimpse of them as pros. Summer League stardom isn’t always predictive, but we’ll know a lot about the NBA’s newest players by the conclusion.

While Thibodeau moved to the head of the class of Gregg Popovich emulators and Myers continues to school anyone inside a rather large radius, new Atlanta Hawks GM Travis Schlenk learned a lot about the cutthroat world he’s entered in his first days on the job. Schlenk helped assemble the Warriors roster that has won two NBA titles in three seasons as Myers’ right-hand man.

One of the first lessons for Schlenk was how shark-infested the waters are. Schlenk paid a steep price for a culture reset in Atlanta, taking on three seasons of Miles Plumlee and surrendering the first pick of the second round to Rich Cho and the Charlotte Hornets to move Dwight Howard. The real kick in the gut came when Charlotte sold the pick — according to Basketball Insiders’ Eric Pincus — for $1.8 million to the New Orleans Pelicans, which used it to draft former Duke guard Frank Jackson. Charlotte apparently didn’t even want the pick, but Cho must have made it clear to Schlenk that his bargaining position was poor. That, or this was Michael Jordan’s way of telling Schlenk, “Welcome to the Southeast Division.”

NBA Summer League may tell us if Schlenk made a big mistake by trading the 31st. In a very deep draft, a number of fascinating prospects were drafted from 31 to the 41st pick the Hawks received from Charlotte and used to select Oregon shooting guard Tyler Dorsey. In addition to Bell, Boston GM Danny Ainge snatched 3-and-D wing prospect Semi Ojeleye from SMU. Those first ten picks of the second round present multiple opportunities for Schlenk to experience seller’s remorse.

It’s the constant introduction of puzzles and conundrums these executives must face at this time of the year that makes the offseason as fun as the real season for many. Stay tuned to Basketball Insiders starting this weekend for the most comprehensive NBA Summer League coverage you’ll find anywhere, with boots on the ground in Orlando and Las Vegas. This, of course, coincides with the July 1st opening of free agency, another of the craziest dates on the NBA calendar. Please remain strapped in for your safety. These next two weeks will be a wild ride.