On Thursday night, both rounds of the 2023 NBA draft took place. This, along with free agency, is one of the pinnacles of the off-season. It’s a sign of hope for teams that lack it, and it shows of a glimpse of some players who may develop into household names. With that in mind, let’s take a look at everything that happened on draft night.
NBA Draft Winners
The Spurs won the draft as soon as the lottery took place, when they secured the first overall pick. That allowed them to take Victor Wembanyama, who is easily the most talented player in the draft. San Antonio will now build their future around the young phenom.
Aside from San Antonio, Portland could be considered the biggest winner for both the lottery and the draft as a whole. Landing the third pick was massive for the franchise, but it seemed all for naught in what looked like a draft with two prospects who were above the rest of the field.
That is until Charlotte, holding the second pick, passed on Scoot Henderson in favor or Brandon Miller. Miller might turn out to be an excellent player, and this is not a slight on him. However, Portland had a gem of a player in Henderson fall right into their hands. Starting with Henderson, and the core they already have in Portland, things might finally be looking up in the Pacific Northwest.
Although Dallas didn’t make as many waves as the previous two, they had an excellent night. Most importantly, they opened up some cap space by getting rid of Davis Bertans’ $80 million contract, and only dropped two spots in the process.
With the 12th pick, they landed Dereck Lively, who, according to reports, was their target all along. Then, they made another trade, with Sacramento, taking over the 24th pick and grabbing Richaun Holmes in the process. With that pick, they selected Olivier-Maxence Prosper. Dallas did an excellent job of navigating out of a tricky situation here.
NBA Draft Losers
This seems like an easy pick. Brandon Miller should turn into a very good, possibly even very great player. He might be so good that the NBA world forgets about this whole draft-night saga.
However, passing on Scoot Henderson seems like a bad decision. Instead of taking the best player available at the second spot, Charlotte drafted for fit, which just isn’t smart this high in the draft. The Hornets will have to hope Miller turns out well, or this might be an infamous miss for Charlotte.
Almost Every Team Besides the Rockets
Truth be told, the Rockets were a good candidate to find themselves in the “winners” section of this piece. Every year, there seems to be one player that drops off the face of the map on draft night. This year it was Cam Whitmore.
The Rockets were likely stunned, and they could not believe their luck when he fell to them at the 20th pick. Whitmore has his reported health concerns, and he didn’t have the best season at Villanova. Still, his upside is tremendous, and he seems like a great fit with Ime Udoka in Houston. The Rockets got unbelievably good value here with the 20th selection.
In the sense regarding Lillard’s future in Portland, he’s a loser in this scenario. Dame has been patiently waiting for the Blazers to build a contender around him, and when they landed the third pick, myriad things could have been done to do just that.
Portland made great use of their selection; don’t get it twisted. However, it doesn’t seem like Lillard and the Blazers interests are perfectly aligned. Dame wants to contend, and the franchise used their best asset on a player who could very well be his replacement. If Henderson doesn’t make an immediate impact in Portland, this move might mark the end of the Lillard era.
NBA Draft Biggest Surprises
The Fall of Cam Whitmore
As was mentioned earlier, one of the biggest surprises from draft night was the fall of Cam Whitmore. Whitmore, up until just a few weeks ago, was found in the top-5 in mock drafts. His drop to 20th surprised the NBA world.
The Rise of Bilal Coulibaly
On the flip side, Bilal Coulibaly being selected with the 7th pick was a surprise, as well. Coulibaly is obviously a very talented player, but most didn’t expect him to go that high. His draft stock has been on the come-up over the past couple of weeks, and that proved to be true on NBA draft night.
No Trades, but a lot of Guards
Finally, there was a lack of two things during this draft: trades and centers. This draft was almost entirely guards and wing players, and besides a couple trades late in the first round, the trade market was barren.
Storylines Heading Into 2023 Season
Did the Hornets Make the Right Decision?
As Brandon Miller begins his time in Charlotte, he’ll be faced with immense pressure as the guy picked ahead of Scoot. This will be a lot for him to take, and only time will tell which of these would have been the better choice. A good first year would be a great start for Miller.
The NBA Debut of Victor Wembanyama
Following that up, eyes from around the basketball universe will be all over the first pick of the NBA draft, Victor Wembanyama, in his rookie season. Talk about pressure. Wembanyama is the most talked-about prospect in recent memory, and most fans will be watching him live for the first time this coming season.
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