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Thoughts on 2018 NBA Draft
06.22.18

1. Ayton to the Suns
I would've taken Doncic here. Here's my larger issue about Ayton -- who is obviously a tremendously skilled big man who certainly looks the part of a franchise center -- I particularly watch the playoffs closely and guys who don't play defense well enough get relentlessly attacked. Relentlessly. Kevin Love is a great example of a fantastic player who tries and is a shade below where he needs to be and boy is that guy a liability against a team that wants to take advantage of a mismatch. Ayton certainly has the base skills to turn into at least a solid defender, but he's not that now.

2. Bagley to the Kings
I don't know how true it is, but it's bizarre to me that Bagley actually wanting to go to the Kings was supposedly a serious consideration for the Kings. Just take the best guy! They're going to come to your franchise. I heard somewhere that Steph Curry refused to work out for the Warriors before his draft because he was hoping to go to the Knicks. Bagley's awesome -- but also, not good at defense. Perhaps these teams don't care how their top guys (and that's what you're hoping for at the top of the draft) -- how they perform against the elite teams of the NBA, particularly in the West. But if you don't play D -- and it's not just about effort, it's complicated playing D at the NBA level -- you will get roasted. Also, effort is a skill in and of itself. So these players both need to learn to care about playing D and then also get good at doing it. Possible, but it's not like you're discounting their draft position at all if you're taking someone with this disadvantage at #2.

My other issue is -- and I get that they like Bagley -- but it doesn't seem like they explored what the Hawks did at all. They like a player, see if they could slide down a little and still get him and pick up some extra compensation. Now, granted, these types of trades in the NBA are a little trickier than, say, in the NFL where you have more discrete forms of compensation (7 draft rounds) -- but it seems like they weren't even looking into this road at all.

3. Doncic to the Mavs (trade via Hawks) / 5. Trae Young to the Hawks (trade via Dallas)
I think this is a fantastic trade for the Mavs (and maybe for the Hawks; more on that in a sec). I suppose this depends on your eval -- but Doncic is fantastic and to give up a top 5 protected, future 1st to get him is well worth the price. Especially for a team like the Mavs who are starved for top end talent. My only quibble is that supposedly they were discussing a deal where they would take on Bazemore's contract in exchange for Wes Matthews' contract (in additional to the pick swap) -- Bazemore's deal has an extra year. But they were unwilling to do that. Personally, I would much rather do that and keep a future 1st (which could be a meaty lottery pick). I imagine Dallas fashions themselves, now or in the future, a good FA destination which is why they want to preserve cap room -- but take this year for example. If you have the #10 overall pick -- who is that? SGA? Miles Bridges? Lots of good players in that range for building blocks (and on a rookie contract to boot).

For the Hawks, I would've just taken Doncic -- but let's take player eval off the table for a second. Let's just say that the Hawks really like Trae Young or found the gap between Young and Doncic to either be negligible or maybe they even like Young better. Fine. In that scenario, to still get Young and pick up a future 1st -- that's really good work. Not enough gets made about these types of moves but the accumulation of assets -- bit by bit (see Morey with the Rockets or Ainge with the Celtics) -- is incredibly meaningful both in terms of your ability to draft players for your roster and also have incredible trade chips (Harden to the Rockets? Kyrie to the Celtics?)

7. Wendell Carter Jr. to the Bulls
He looks like a really good player. But once again, the concern is that he's going to be played out of the game b/c of his lack of perimeter defense (or lateral quickness). Not a problem most of the time, but against elite teams -- it'll be a problem. He's often compared to Horford but that's someplace Horford excels -- he can stay out on perimeter guys. I don't think I'd take guys like this off my board -- but I'd definitely only take them with a significant discount. 

9. Knox to the Knicks
I don't know what to make of this pick. I would've taken Miles Bridges or maybe SGA. Maybe even Porter. But I like Knox and find him intriguing. I don't agree with the comparisons to Tatum who I found to be a much more skilled offensive player (and frankly, one of the most skilled offensive players I had seen in college in a long time.) The type of player Knox is is the type of player I often have trouble evaluating. Kind of unconventional in terms of size and game. I think Billups compared him to Batum which is an interesting comparison and also a player I had trouble evaluating. The highlights of Knox are terrific and when you see him shoot or cut to the basket -- it's like woah. But then when he gets lost -- you start to wonder where he fits. I don't think it's a bad pick, but I would've gone another way. I probably would feel more comfortable if he was going to a team like, the Celtics -- but we'll see what Fizdale does with him.

10. Mikal Bridges to the Suns (via the Sixers)
I was really bummed for Mikal Bridges and his mom, especially. That would've been a terrific story -- but frankly, if I was the Sixers, the second the Suns put the unprotected 2021 Miami 1st on the table, I would've shipped him off too. That is an unbelievable deal for them. They still get Zhaire Smith who looks to be a really good prospect, but to get a future unprotected 1st from a team that may be in flux that year? Wow. I do like Bridges a lot as a prospect and would've been fine with the Knicks taking him (though I prefer Miles Bridges to Mikal) -- but for Phoenix? This is insane. I'm not saying it's a fireable offense -- but boy would I be worried if I was the Suns ownership / Robert Sarver and this is the type of deal my GM is making. Giving up a future unprotected 1st to move up 6 slots mid-draft? Wow.

11. SGA to the Clips (by paying 2 2nd rounders to Charlotte to move up 1 slot) /  Miles Bridges to the Hornets
I like SGA a lot. He's a really smooth, smart player -- very switchable on D. 2 2nd rounders is a lot to move up 1 slot so kudos to Mitch Kupchak for pulling off a very good trade -- and still getting Miles Bridges to boot. I have to imagine there were multiple suitors for SGA which is why he was able to pull of this type of trade (e.g. Toronto trying to move up?) If I was the Clips, I probably would've just taken Miles Bridges -- though if this was the deal on the table, I would've considered it. In retrospect, knowing Jerry West is involved, I mean, hey -- I don't bet against Jerry West.

14. Porter to Denver
LOVE. Porter, in many ways, embodies so many things that I don't like in a prospect -- questionable attitude, bad locker room intel, injury history. But at 14? I think this is a pick you have to make. Some commentary has focused on Denver's ability to give Porter a redshirt year... what team couldn't afford him to have a redshirt year? Do the Clips really need SGA to produce this year? The Bulls with Wendell Carter? Come on. I'm not going to compare him to Durant, but there's no doubt his ceiling is very high. I hope he figures it out -- maybe a guy like Millsap will show him the ropes. I should note that some guys (particularly with criminal history, etc.) -- I would take off the board completely. But Porter's stuff? I'd give it a go -- but at a discount. No way I take him at #2 or even, say, #7. But starting around #9 or so? I'd think about it.

17. DiVincenzo ot the Bucks
I don't have a ton of thoughts about this -- but I just remember early in the draft process when he was projected to be a 2nd round pick (I think) or going to the Warriors late in the 1st. I was always surprised that people thought he would be available so late (same with Grayson Allen). Well, this range makes much more sense to me.

21. Grayson Allen to the Jazz
I really like Grayson Allen as a prospect. I personally find his tripping incidents to be quite offensive and not nothing -- but he's a good player. Plays hard, smart, can shoot (though he has a little too much hero ball in him). A really good sign that one of the best front offices in the league picked him up too.

27. Robert Williams to the Celtics.
LOVE. The tape on this guy is fantastic and he's going to be the best situation possible. It's unbelievable to me that he fell this far, but in the range Williams was being bandied about (starting with the Clips at 13 or so) -- a ton of wings went off the board. Is his main issue his motor? Not my favorite issue but it seems like he's aware of it, will be only playing limited minutes anyway on a stacked Boston team, and is going to one of the top coaches / organizations in the NBA. Unbelievable.

28. Jacob Evans to the Warriors.
LOVE. If you asked me before the draft who the Warriors needed, I would've said they needed a perimeter guy who could switch / good on D, was a plus athlete, and could shoot at least some. That's... Jacob Evans. Frankly, watching his tape, I have no idea how he both fell this far but also wasn't talked about going earlier. By and large, the Warriors have done a very good to excellent job drafting. But if I had a quibble -- some of their picks are a bit constrained. The Warriors do need *some* shooting on their second unit -- or at least it's not enough to simply depend on a unit with only one of their big three to have enough offense. Nick Young was supposed to fill that role but didn't really. Jordan Bell was/is fantastic -- but not an outside shooter at all so he constrains them a little in terms of that. So Evans can shoot -- great.

They also need more wing players who can switch (see what happened when Iggy went down). Check.

Some of their previous picks were good -- smart players who worked hard -- e.g. Looney, McCaw. But neither of those guys I would say are a plus athlete (unlike, say, Jordan Bell). Looney really stepped it up this year, but I think in past years, those types of players are a little exposed in terms of their athleticism against elite teams. It's one of the things that worries me about Quinn Cook (who otherwise is fantastic). Evans seems like a terrific athlete.

I wasn't particularly aware of Evans before the pick, but again, if you told me this guy was projected to be in the 10-14 range, I totally would've believed you. Total steal by the Warriors.

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