The teams that win the NBA are the ones that fish well, making the draft the lifeblood of the league. And on Thursday night at the Barclays Center, The Post took a look at who specifically left the building as a winner and who left as a loser.
The Magic earned Shaquille O’Neal with the top pick in 1992, and Dwight Howard twelve years later. They went with the oldest of them ready this time as well. Paulo Banchero has the defense and the intangibles of a team desperately need both. 6-foot-10, 250-pounder he could pass, imagine Ben Simmons with a jacket.
GM Troy Weaver just killed this draft. After Sacramento inexplicably passed on Jaden Ivey for Keegan Murray, Detroit pounced on the Ivy open court threat. The Bordeaux star has drawn comparisons to Ja Morant and he should be the perfect athletic supplement for Kid Cunningham’s size and intelligence. The addition of a 6-11 ball-blocking athlete from Jalen Duren in a three-way deal was a bonus; But creating enough cover space to chase Deandre Ayton or Miles Bridges hangs over the edge.
New Orleans Pelicans
Dyson Daniels at No. 8 is a perfect fit. Brandon Ingram, C.J. McCollum and Zion Williamson (finally) will make the shots; Daniels will take over the defense and the dirty work. He has a shaky jacket, but his assistant Fred Vinson has worked miracles with Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Herb Jones. Daniels is his next student.
San Antonio Spurs
One time later, Spurs took 6-foot-9 defensive Jeremy Suchan on two turns. But like New Orleans in one spot earlier, they pick a little rookie with an Achilles’ heel they were long convinced Doctor Chip England could fix. Then came Ohio State guard Malaki Branham who improved a lot in 20th and Notre Dame’s Blake Wesley 25th, three sporting picks. Who will bet against the development of the Tottenham player?
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It’s not just that the Nets didn’t have a single option on Thursday in their building. Not only do they make their #23 chase next year hoping for Philadelphia’s regression, only to watch the 76ers improve by acquiring De’Anthony Melton. They owe their choice of Houston to James Harden, and we see how that worked out. Oh, and the ghost of Kyrie Irving looms all night long.
They were played by Ivy. After the hype of not wanting to play in Sacramento, they freaked out about the best player available and went to Murray. Yes, it fills a need, but it will almost certainly be available later. The Kings could have had a good return to go from fourth, especially with Ivy on the board. But hey, they passed Luka Doncic for Marvin Bagley, so Ivey probably had a point.
New York Knicks
Yes, they turned the one pick into three and made room for the hood. But they sacrificed lottery talent, while the poorly selected Bucks and the other two are likely to be heavily protected. Seems a steep price to pay to clear Kemba Walker’s unbelievable $9.2 million deal that’s expiring, all in order to shoot free agent Jalen Brunson (unless Irving is the end game, which raises a whole different set of concerns).
In the Wings League, not only was Memphis enviably deep, it already had a glut in the wings. They traded Milton to Philadelphia for the 23rd pick, taking David Rudy along with 19th seed Jake Lafia. They’ve crafted well under Zach Kleiman, but why would he give up a solid defender and a legit piece for a few limited rookie novices who could be hard-pressed to break that spin? For a team this young, experience should be a priority.