The first two picks of the 2016 NBA draft went exactly according to plan. And that was pretty much it. It’s been a crazy night that saw trades, surprise picks, and JCPenney shout-outs. Here are the winners and losers from draft night.
Winner: Wingspan Enthusiasts
At least the Bucks have a plan: find the guys with the longest limbs and get them on the court all at once.
And look, it’s not a bad idea! The Warriors seemed like they had already defined the future, and then their small-ball machine got gummed up by the wild arms of Oklahoma City. With teams stretching the floor with more purpose than ever, one way to shrink it back down is to fill it with moving body parts.
If 7-foot-1 Thon Maker’s production ever matches up with his measurables, he’ll be … the best player the league has ever seen? That, of course, likely won’t happen, but just imagine him next to point Giannis, Khris Middleton, and Jabari Parker. Would they even need a fifth defender? Could Milwaukee realize Vivek Ranadivé’s fever dream? The NBA’s distant future is filled with lanky, skilled, multi-positional athletes — but Jason Kidd doesn’t want to wait. — Ryan O’Hanlon
Winner: Bryan Colangelo
The new Philly general manager walked away with Ben Simmons, the very highly rated Timothe Luwawu, AND A DUDE WHO WON A DUNK CONTEST WHILE DRESSED AS DARTH VADER.
Almost 10 years to the day that the then-Toronto GM selected Andrea Bargnani with the first overall pick, Colangelo played every card right. He didn’t give up all of his assets for Boston’s pick. He wasn’t too conservative. He wasn’t too cute. He just nailed it.
The Process lives? — Chris Ryan
Winner: Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn, who was selected fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, came from a raw place. There’s a profile about the road Dunn took to get where he is now over at USA Today that’s well worth your time, but to put things in perspective: He and his older brother once had to fend for themselves for two and a half months while their mother was in prison. Dunn was only nine years old at the time.
So, in the short interview he gave after shaking Adam Silver’s hand, Dunn’s voice quivered as he talked about how far he’s come. Then Lisa Salters asked him about his bedazzled shoes and Dunn’s voice turned solid and dropped an octave, like when Pharrell asked Karolina Kurkova on the Gangsta Grillz mixtape if she liked riding in the back of Phantoms: “These is Gucci,” he said. He shouted out JCPenney, too.
I’m officially rooting for this kid. — Micah Peters
Winner: Wyc Grousbeck
Danny Ainge is so closely associated with being the mind of the Celtics, it’s easy to forget that he’s spending someone else’s money. Ainge controls the basketball side of the franchise, but Wyc Grousbeck writes the checks. This gave Grousbeck every right to get hot around the collar in the press conference he held immediately after Boston’s selection of Cal’s Jaylen Brown. The Celtics were rumored to be involved in several trades, but Grousbeck HAS BEEN DOING DEALS SINCE 1986, and the offers on the table weren’t even close.
Shots at Bryan Colangelo, shots at the Bulls, shots at Gordon Gekko, shots at Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross. In an age of GM technocrats, it’s kind of fun to see an owner off the leash like this. After all, he can afford it. — C.R.
Winner: Bow ties
Yes, bow ties were winners at the 2016 NBA draft. They were everywhere. But the eager draftees wearing the bow ties? I’m sorry to tag you with this on your first day of work, guys, but: losers, all. The NBA is more stylish than ever; “buy six pairs of biker jeans” comes right after “put on 15 pounds of muscle” on every rookie’s summer checklist. Which is great! The league is more fun when guys are trying to outdress each other. So, I’m not asking Brandon Ingram to show up to training camp in Vetements. (Ok, fine. I am.) But we really need these earnest young men to steer clear, at all costs, of J. Crew-boat-shoe-summer-wedding vibes. You’re in the NBA, rooks. Time to start dressing like it. — Sam Schube
Loser: DeMarcus Cousins
The Kings always need point guard help. Always. They’ve needed point guard help since before they drafted Tyreke Evans seven years ago. They’ve needed point guard help since the beginning of time.
So, of course, when you desperately need a shooter and a ball-handler to pair with your All-Star center, what do you do? Add another center.
I don’t know what the hell the Kings — who added centers Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein last offseason — were thinking when they took Georgios Papagiannis with the 13th pick. All I know is DeMarcus Cousins has two years left on his deal, and once it runs out, he might never step foot in Sacramento again. Who could blame him? — Riley McAtee
Postseasons are a time for folk heroes. It’s when a role player like Matthew Dellavedova turns into DELLY, Dion Waiters becomes a vacation destination, and Evan Turner is crowned the king of the locker room interview quip. But as the postseason makes way for the offseason, romance makes way for pragmatism. And what we saw on Wednesday and Thursday was the changing of those seasons. Big names like Derrick Rose and Serge Ibaka were traded, and folk heroes like Dion and Turner found out they were likely being replaced by shinier, newer versions of themselves. Fans can get caught up in their feelings. General managers? Not so much. They tore down Waiters Island and put up a parking lot. — C.R.
Winner: Karl-Anthony Towns
I motion to make Karl-Anthony Towns the official mayor of the NBA draft. He appeared on ESPN’s broadcast shortly after the Memphis Grizzlies drafted his high school teammate Wade Baldwin IV, and he seemed utterly comfortable. It was a remarkable display of poise on a night that is usually characterized by nervousness. Just one year removed from his own draft and he’s already unflappable. And why shouldn’t he be? Life is looking good for him. He has a dynamite new coach, his team has a solid young core, and, as far as I know, he’s never been less than charming in an interview. Everyone may be predicting historic feats from him, but no one is expecting a championship next season. It doesn’t matter if the Wolves keep Kris Dunn, who they selected with the fifth pick. Karl-Anthony Towns just can’t lose. — Juliet Litman
Loser: Toronto Raptors
Someone should’ve told the Raptors that even though they owned New York’s pick, they didn’t actually have to draft like the Knicks. One of the classic James Dolan–era transactions is acquiring a player who was really good five years ago (hey, Derrick Rose!), and the Raptors might’ve just one-upped the Cablevision scion: They drafted a guy who would’ve been a nice centerpiece … in 1996. Now, there was plenty of draft-night chatter about how Utah’s Jakob Poeltl was the safest pick, but when a top-tier NBA team lands a lottery pick, does it really need a likely bench guy who can be legitimately described as Tyler Zelleresque? Unlike most franchises in the top 10, an already-good team like Toronto can afford to take a high-variance player. After winning 56 games, you almost never get chances like this, and the Raptors cashed in their ticket on a back-to-the-basket center with athleticism issues. — R.O.
Winner: Anyone Who Wants Kevin Durant to Stay in Oklahoma City
I think we can safely say that Thunder GM Sam Presti is the bravest man on the face of the planet.
Presti dealt Serge Ibaka to Orlando for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and the rights to Domantas Sabonis in a head-spinning trade. This is the NBA equivalent of hitting on 19 in blackjack and winning. Ibaka is a three-time All-Defensive Team honoree, but he spent most of last season being underutilized as a “fake 4,” waiting in the wings for a skip pass or an offensive rebound. They’ll miss him, but in return, they get one of the league’s best perimeter defenders and a combo guard to pair with Russell Westbrook in Oladipo, and they’ve freed up cap space just as Kevin Durant becomes a free agent next week, all of which are pretty good incentives for him to stay put. By my count, that’s a win-win-win. — M.P.
Loser: Tyson Chandler
The Suns took Dragan Bender with the no. 4 pick, and later dealt the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic and two mid-to-late first-rounders to Sacramento to take stretch-4 Marquese Chriss at no. 8.
Criss will pair nicely in the frontcourt with Alex Len, and Bender could come off of the bench and contribute, but where does that leave Tyson Chandler? He’s injury prone, has 10 years on his next-youngest replacement, and will be paid $12.4 million by the Suns next year to essentially be a life coach.
It’s all good, though: the chips are falling into place for Chandler to be traded to the Dallas Mavericks for the third (and maybe final?) time. — M.P.