Winners & Losers: Recapping a Very Unpredictable, Exciting NBA Draft
Via Sports Illustrated’s Point Forward:
Canadian basketball. Any time history is made, that’s a good place to start. When the Cavaliers shocked the basketball world by drafting UNLV forward Anthony Bennett, our neighbors to the north registered their first No. 1 pick. Canada’s program has been on the rise for a number of years, highlighted by the first-round selections of Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph in 2011. Joining Bennett in the lottery was Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk, who was born in Toronto and raised in Kamloops.
This growing youth movement could well pay off in full if Andrew Wiggins, arguably the best wing prospect since Kevin Durant, is selected first in the 2014 draft, as expected. Imagine if someone had told you as recently as 2010 that Canadians would go No. 1 back-to-back in 2013 and 2014. Kaboom — mind blown.
The only disappointment for Canada? Texas’ Myck Kabongo, a high school teammate of Thompson’s, went undrafted.
Anthony Bennett. There will be plenty of time for the pressure and expectations to sink in and the doubters to crow at full volume. In this moment, it surely must be an amazing feeling to have shocked the world.
“I’m just as surprised as everybody else,” Bennett admitted.
It’s not yet clear how he will function in the same frontcourt as Thompson or if the roster will get a freshening up now that Mike Brown is back in the saddle. Before worrying about those questions, Bennett need only concern himself with savoring the most pleasant of surprises before getting himself 100 percent healthy.
Kings fans. It’s hard to imagine a greater joy than the one Sacramento’s diehards felt when the Kings were saved from relocation, seemingly at the last possible moment. Getting a top-three talent and a possible future All-Star in Ben McLemore at No. 7 should rank right up there, too.
Dispose of any concerns about positional logjams. Changes in ownership, management and a new coach will always bring new ideas to a roster. With McLemore, the new Kings’ brain trust gets a scoring guard with traditional size and significant upside. This train is no longer veering off the rails and McLemore could become the type of player whose talent can carry an organization in the right direction.
Steven Adams. There are plenty of reasons to be cautious — or even skeptical — about the Kiwi teen’s ability to develop into an impact player. But if, before the draft, you had to imagine the single best situation for him in the NBA, wouldn’t you have circled Oklahoma City? Playing for a perennial contender is a solid perk in and of itself, but the Thunder, thanks to the depth and untapped youth already on hand, have the ability to be patient with Adams and diligent in massaging his development. Being thrown into a major role on a bad team could have had crippling consequences; in Oklahoma City, Adams gets exactly the opposite. The hit rate on big-men projects is never great, but this looks like a pairing that will maximize the odds for success.
Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards. As chaos broke out above them on the draft board, the Magic and Wizards did what smart teams should do: They stuck to their plans. Both teams had been linked repeatedly in rumors to their eventual picks — Victor Oladipo and Otto Porter, respectively — and both went ahead despite the availability of Nerlens Noel and Alex Len. Although McLemore also seemed like a viable option for Orlando at No. 2, the Magic get more of a “sure thing” and an insane workaholic who can contribute to the rebuilding plan immediately. As for the Wizards, Porter’s fit alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal is so logical it barely warrants further comment. Washington is essentially set at the 1-2-3 positions going forward and ready to proceed with its goal of making the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
C.J. McCollum. You couldn’t miss the Lehigh guard’s busting a move at his draft table once he realized he was headed to Portland. His relationship with Damian Lillard was likely the key driver behind his excitement. A friendship off the court doesn’t have all that much lasting value in and of itself, though, and it’s really McCollum’s projected role with the Blazers that will have him headed cross-country feeling like a happy camper.
This is just a logical fit: The Blazers need a lead guard off the bench who can handle the ball, create a shot and attract enough attention to find open shooters. They also need a player who can help take a little pressure off the reigning Rookie of the Year when they opt to go to a lineup with two point guards. McCollum is well-equipped to handle all of those responsibilities, and he doesn’t have to bear the “face of the franchise” pressures that are on Lillard’s shoulders. If he emerges as a solid sixth or seventh man for coach Terry Stotts, that will do just fine.