NBA Draft Winners and Losers: Anthony Edwards, Deni Avdija’s wine cellar won big

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After a couple of days of huge trades leading up to it — Chris Paul to Phoenix, Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee — the 2020 NBA Draft was set up to be a wild night full of surprises and bold trades.

Then it pretty much followed form. It wasn’t dull, but it lacked the kind of “I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING” moments we have come to expect from the NBA.

Still, there were winners and losers — we think. It’s far, far to early know, but it is fun to speculate. Let’s break it all down.

Winner: Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte needed a star player, an alpha, a north star by which to set their direction. The one player in this draft most capable of reaching that level? LaMelo Ball — and he fell to the Hornets at No. 3.

Ball is a 6’7″ point guard with impressive handles, a true gift for seeing the floor and passing, plus some deep (if inconsistent) shooting range. If he puts in the work on his shot, if he improves defensively, if he adjusts to making better decisions when confronted with NBA defenses, Ball could be an All-NBA player. There are a lot of people around the league who don’t believe he can reach that potential, but if he does, if this pick hits, the Hornets got their star.

Taking the gamble makes the Hornets winners on draft night, even if Ball doesn’t quite pan out.

Winner: Anthony Edwards

If you get drafted No. 1, you are a winner. No matter how much basketball you watch.

He also should be a good fit on the wing offensively between D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota. If this team can get stops, they are in a good spot.

Loser: NBA Fans looking for the adrenalin rush of big trades

Minnesota was on the phone until the final minute before they had to decide with the No. 1 pick, and then they took Anthony Edwards. Golden State was more than willing to trade the No. 2 pick for the right offer, but they ended up taking James Wiseman.

And so it went all night. In a draft where every player had concerning flaws and teams were all over the board on prospects, nobody was willing to pay the price to make a serious move up the board. Teams largely stayed put. There were a handful of trades, but the most interesting one was not about the draft but about Josh Richardson going to Dallas and Seth Curry going east to Philadelphia.

Winner: Deni Avdija and the Washington Wizards

Everyone is a winner here. The Wizards are winners because they didn’t think the 6’9″ point forward would fall to them at No. 9 (a lot of mock drafts had him going at No. 4). Avdija is the kind of ball-moving secondary playmaker on the wing who could fit well with the explosiveness of John Wall and Bradley Beal (or Russell Westbrook, if you want to play that game).

Avdija won the Zoom meeting that was the draft because he had by far the best backdrop — a restaurant loaded with wine bottles. Or his wine cellar. Wherever that was, we all wanted to be there.

Winner: Sacramento Kings

Sacramento is the winner of this year’s “I can’t believe he fell to us” award, but they took advantage of it and drafted Tyrese Haliburton at No. 12. This is a polished guard who can play off the ball next to De'Aaron Fox and also back him up at the point. He should fit well with Buddy Hield at the two as well. For a team trying to leap up into the playoffs, this was a strong pick.

The Kings did well in the second round as well. Robert Woodard, the 6’7″ swingman out of Mississippi State, is a good athlete with NBA wing size and the potential to to play either forward spot if he can develop. Guard Jahmius Ramsey out of Texas Tech is another strong second-round pick. Overall, the Kings did well on the night.

Winner: Patrick Williams

Nobody rocketed up draft boards in the final weeks like Patrick Williams, the 6’8″ forward out of Florida State. There were pre-draft reports the Bulls might take him at No. 4, and they did exactly that.

We’ll see in a few years if it’s a win for the Bulls. Williams has the physical tools to be one of the best players in this draft, but he’s also raw and Chicago is going to have to trust its player development program. But Williams himself is a winner, picking up a quality payday and landing on a team with other promising young players and an interesting future. Things could not have worked out much better for Williams.

Loser: Phoenix Suns

The Suns have made so many good moves this offseason, particularly trading for Chris Paul, but their draft-night moves were perplexing.

They could have drafted Haliburton but instead made a very early reach for Maryland big man Jalen Smith at 10. It’s an odd fit for a team that already has Deandre Ayton at the five (unless Ayton wants to be a four, or they picture Smith as a four, which he is not). Most teams saw Smith as a late first/early second-round pick; the Suns could have traded back 10 spots, still gotten him, and picked up a second-rounder.

The thing is, the Suns did this exact same thing last year with Cameron Johnson. Those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Warriors GM Myers reiterates he would like to extend Green, Poole, Wiggins

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Andrew Wiggins is entering the final year of his contract and the Warriors want to extend him. Jordan Poole is up for a contract extension and if it isn’t worked out by the start of the season he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. Draymond Green is eligible — and wants — a four years, $138.4 million extension (the max they can give him).

Bob Myers said again this week that he wants to keep all three of those players — all critical parts of the Warriors run to a title last season — but financial reality could intrude upon that dream. Here’s what Myers said Thursday, via Kendra Andrews of ESPN:

“We want all of those guys,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said at a news conference Thursday. “Can we get all of them? I don’t know.

“It depends on what the money ends up being. What the ask is what we can end up doing. We’re not at a point to make those decisions yet. Some of these decisions may be made in the next two weeks, some might be made in the next seven, eight months.”

The Warriors turned heads around the league paying more than $350 million in player salaries and luxury tax last season — and this season they will be in the same ballpark. Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob has said even with the cash cow that is the new Chase Center, this is not a team that can spend $400 million. Some expenses are locked in, such as Stephen Curry and his $215.4 max contract extension. Klay Thompson is at the max for a couple of more years.

Poole is part of the future in Golden State — along with Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and maybe Jonathan Wiseman — and they can’t let him go. Wiggins was the Warriors’ second-best player in the postseason last year. That has led to some speculation Green could be the odd man out — something Myers has denied. Green will make $25.8 million this season but is  expected to opt out of the $27.6 million player option he has next season. It leaves the Warriors and Green with a choice.

Something’s got to give, but the Myers and the Warriors seem ready to kick that financial can down the road until next summer, and for this season get the band back together and chase another ring.

Poole would be the first up (there is an Oct. 17 deadline to extend him). Whatever happens, this will be an undercurrent of a story all season long in the Bay Area.

C.J. McCollum inks two-year, $64 million extension with Pelicans

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After helping New Orleans return to the playoffs for the first time since Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers, C.J. McCollum earned a two-year, $64 million extension with the Pelicans. He will remain under contract with the team through the 2025-26 season, and there isn’t a player or team option in the deal. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news Saturday afternoon.

New Orleans traded Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, a 2022 protected first-round pick (turns into 2025 first-round pick that is top-4 protected), and two future second-round picks for McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Tony Snell.

New Orleans now has their core of McCollum, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram under contract for the next three seasons.

The expectations will be high for the Pelicans for the next few years. After starting last season 1-12, first-year head coach Willie Green helped turn the team around, and they finished 36-46 before beating the Spurs and Clippers in the play-in tournament. Their season ended after losing to the Suns 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

McCollum averaged 24.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.7 triples per game after the trade to New Orleans.

The return of Zion this season, along with the success of last year’s team, has the team expecting a return to the playoffs. Locking up their star guard in McCollum emphasizes that their rebuild is over. After missing the playoffs during their first three seasons in the post-AD era, they don’t expect to return to the lottery for a long time. The big question surrounding their potential success will be Zion’s health.

Reports: Suns push for Jarred Vanderbilt derailed Bojan Bogdanovic trade

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Utah traded Bojan Bogdanovic not to one of the contenders pushing for him — Phoenix, Miami, even the Lakers — but to rebuilding Detroit. It’s a move that caught the NBA off guard.

News has come out now that part of what hung up the Suns’ effort to land Bogdanovic was their push to make promising young forward Jarred Vanderbilt — who the Jazz got from the Timberwolves in the Rudy Gobert trade — as part of the deal. The well-connected John Gambardoro first had the report.

If the Suns had not pushed for Vanderbilt it doesn’t mean they would have landed Bogdanovic using a Jae Crowder-based package ( with another player, maybe Landry Shamet, and some picks). Reports have also suggested the draft package that was part of the Suns offer was not impressing the Jazz, so Utah moved on to a cost-cutting move rather than one where they took back more salary than they preferred.

The Pistons may decide to trade Bogdanovic again closer to the February deadline and maybe the Suns can get in the mix then. But for now, the Phoenix target is in the Motor City to start the season.

 

 

Knicks’ Leon Rose plays it safe with media, Mitchell trade: ‘We’re thrilled with where we are’

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Leon Rose continues to play it safe.

He’s played it safe with the New York media since he arrived — he doesn’t meet with them. Instead, he again turned this week to the MSG Network — owned by Knicks governor James Dolan — so he doesn’t have to face hard questions or defend decisions.

He also played it safe in the Donovan Mitchell trade talks, not going all-in to get the All-Star out of Utah. Mitchell is now in Cleveland and we will see over the course f the next 12-24 months if playing it safe was the right call. Here’s Rose’s explanation of the situation in that MSG interview (hat tip Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News).

“We went through that process and at the end of the day we made a decision to stay put. And we’re thrilled with where we are. Taking a look at the summer, we feel great about what transpired.”

As every GM does this time of year, Rose said he likes his team and its chances this season.

“One of our main goals has been to create internal stability. Signed RJ Barrett, first extension of a player since Charlie Ward. We retained Mitchell Robinson. He’s a player who has developed the last few years and we feel very fortunate that we were able to keep him. We got the No.1 point guard in free agency this summer in Jalen Brunson. So we feel really good about the summer.”

In the interview, Rose also defended Tom Thibodeau and his decisions as coach, despite rumors of him being on the hot seat. Rose said Thibs is not under pressure.

The Knicks should be better this season with Brunson, plus Barrett should take another step forward. New York’s problem is much of the East got better — Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington and others — and this roster likely still leaves the Knicks fighting to make the play-in.

Rose deserves credit for being patient, trying to build culture and foundation, and not just throwing Dolan’s money at an aging superstar. He hasn’t done anything stupid, which is a step forward in New York. But he also hasn’t done anything bold yet, he’s just played it safe.

At some point, Rose and the Knicks will have to push their chips in and make a bold, all-in move. But for now, they are playing it safe.