In a draft lottery that stayed to form — the only shift was New Orleans from fourth to first — there are still winners. And there are still losers. The only difference is it is based more on what you did going into the draft then the luck of the ping-pong balls. If you gambled on a good result, you got snake eyes.
So who won and who lost. Lets take a look.
Winner: New Orleans Hornets. They get the top pick. They get Anthony Davis, the franchise changing big man to go up front. They can market the unibrow. This is a franchise that was in such bad shape a couple years ago that the league had to buy it to keep it in the city. Now they have a new, committed owner in Tom Benson, a great young coach in Monty Williams, and don’t forget they got maybe the best young two-guard in the league in Eric Gordon as part of the Chris Paul trade. There’s a lot of work to do, but the Hornets are now officially a team on the rise.
Loser: Brooklyn Nets. They traded their first round pick in this draft to get Gerald Wallace and the only way they got to keep it is if it was top three. No dice, Portland gets the pick. Wallace, by the way, is a free agent who could leave the Nets this summer. Remember the Nets also gave up a couple lottery picks to get Deron Williams from the Jazz last year. Deron Williams who also is a free agent and could leave the team. And now they don’t have any first round picks this year to throw in for Orlando if they want to try and trade for Dwight Howard.
The Nets could strike out this summer and have nothing to sell when they move into their new Brooklyn arena. Except for Jay-Z.
Winner: Golden State Warriors. They had a deal with Utah — if the pick was in the top 7 Golden State got to keep it, if it was 8 or lower it went to Utah. The Warriors tanked at the end of the season (finished 1-11) to get into that spot, they just couldn’t have anybody leapfrog them at the lottery. There was a 28 percent chance someone could cost the team it’s first round pick. They got lucky.
Loser: Charlotte Bobcats. Not a huge loss, but they go from having the sure-fire Davis at No. 1 to having to make a more difficult choice at No. 2. Do they take Andre Drummond, the talented UConn big man who has a high ceiling but didn’t always show a lot of passion and fire in college? Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will bring it hard every night and defend, but he doesn’t have the same ceiling. No easy call for them now, no sure thing.
Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.
Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.
Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.
“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”
He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.
The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.
Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.
He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.
“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”
All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.
New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.
JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.
He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.
But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.
I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.
At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.
But not right now. He remains silent.
This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.
In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.