Every basketball season teams “tank” so they will have a better chance at getting a higher draft choice. In the NBA if you do not qualify for the playoffs you are in the draft lottery. If a team has the lowest number of wins they will have the highest chance at winning the lottery. However, this year a true long shot won the lottery. The New Orleans Pelicans jumped numerous spots to claim the first pick. Memphis and the Lakers also jumped numerous spots to claim the second pick and fourth pick. All of those slots should have went to teams with a lesser record, but it did not happen. The NBA recently made some changes to the lottery so teams that “tank” are not necessarily rewarded and it seems to have worked. Regardless of the order, the draft is a great time for teams. They have a shot at drafting a blue-chip player, finding the diamond in the rough, or using the picks as currency to acquire established talent from other teams. I wanted to take a look at the selections from this year’s draft and possibly forecast the future.
New Orleans had the first pick and it was not a surprise that they selected Zion Williamson from Duke. Zion is being viewed as more than just a talented player. He has a certain appeal to the masses that make him a huge name before he has played a minute in the NBA. I do not think he will end up being one of the greatest players of all-time, but that will not matter. He brings hope to the team and fan base. At the very least, the Pelicans will be able sell tickets and merchandise during the rebuild.
As expected, the Grizzlies drafted JA Morant with the second pick. He exploded onto the scene this season and dominated his competition. The New York Knicks selected RJ Barrett with third overall pick. I am sure they had their sites set on Zion as he alone could have changed the course of the franchise. However, he might have been enough to lure a couple of marquee free agents to the team. The Lakers had the 4th pick and selected De’Andre Hunter. He will not play for the Lakers because the pick was traded, more on that later. The top five was rounded out with the Cavs selecting Darius Garland from Vanderbilt. He only played a handful of games this year because of injury, but scouts believe his potential is immense.
Another part of the draft is trying to follow the trades. I would argue that the NBA draft has more picks being traded than any other sport. I would also say these trades are more significant than other leagues. A few examples from this year are as follows, the Lakers received the 4th pick, instead of using that pick to pair a young player with LeBron they used it as a trade chip to acquire Anthony Davis from New Orleans. New Orleans received the 4th pick this year, a first rounder next year, and a few players in the deal. They turned around and dealt the 4th pick for more picks this year and next. The Pelicans have been able to arm themselves with plenty of chances at acquiring young talent. That is just one team making those waves, you do not see that happen in the other leagues.
The NBA Draft is always a great time for fans. If your team was not very good and did not make a run in the playoffs, it can signify hope for the future. Hope could be in the form of the best college players or it can also be found in the form of established veteran players like Anthony Davis. It can be harder to follow the NBA than in previous generations based on the movement of free agents, but some would argue that is what appeals to many now. I think it builds excitement during the off season and it bridges the gap to the start of the next season.