BROOKLYN — Another NBA Draft night is in the books, which means it’s time for the instant reactions to what we witnessed in New York on Thursday night and a look ahead to how these players fit with their respective teams while thinking about the upcoming free agent frenzy in The Association.
When we look at the winners and losers of draft night, I’m not going to take the easy way out. There was no way the Spurs, Hornets or Blazers could have messed up on Thursday. The trio of Victor Wembanyama, Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson going 1-2-3 was pretty much a foregone conclusion entering the draft in some way shape or form, with the only slight question being who exactly Charlotte would take.
The draft really revved up at No. 4 and delivered some surprises, what I would call reaches, some sleepers who emerged and more. Without further ado, let’s look at some winners and losers from the evening that was.
Winner: Golden State Warriors, Brandin Podziemski
The Warriors need complementary shot-making and the Santa Clara Broncos product can do that and so much more. For Golden State to get arguably the biggest riser in this class, a kid who can stay out West and join a winning organization, feels like a home run. Podziemski is pretty valuable in any level of basketball: he’s a sensational shotmaker with great touch. Averaging 20 points per game this past year for Santa Clara and shooting 44% from 3, Podziemski is strong both in catch-and-shoot situations and being able to relocate and knock down those shots off the dribble.
There’s not enough that can be said about how good of a shooter he is, and he averaged 8.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game in the WCC. He rebounds well for a guy at his size and has shown an ability to use all the pressure defenses are putting on him because of his shot to find an open man.
Golden State reportedly traded away Jordan Poole and brought in Chris Paul in a deal that is one of the most talked about of the offseason thus far, and while the Warriors have guards, having a catch-and-shoot option like Podziemski coming in should bode very well. He’s both a short-term and longt-term option for the organization. This is a nice pick
Winner: Miami Heat, Jaime Jaquez Jr.
There may not be a player in the draft who fits an organization’s culture more than Jaime Jaquez Jr. fits the Miami Heat. Coming off a run to the NBA Finals, the Heat aren’t planning on doing anything but making another run towards a championship next season. Jaquez epitomizes a winning player, and his length and toughness are in a place where the UCLA product should help Miami in a variety of ways next season.
Jaquez is a throwback player in a way, successfully playing with his back to the basket as a wing and using his body to impose his will for high percentage shots. He has a great understanding of what the right play is offensively and is a really solid defender. His feel for the game on the defensive end and the intensity that he plays with are what scouts love about him.
The perimeter shot is the question mark, having shot just 32% from deep this past season. His lack of quickness is also a bit concerning in the transition from the college to the NBA level, but I’m bullish on Jaquez’s IQ, what he can add to a team and his understanding of making winning plays.
Loser: Orlando Magic
Orlando had two of the top 11 picks in the draft, but to be candidly honest, I felt both selections were a reach for the Magic. I do like Anthony Black, the one-and-done 6-foot-6 Arkansas product who is a great passer and possesses high-leve feel for the game. That being said, the shot mechanics are a major question mark and that’s an area that Orlando needs to improve in. As for Jett Howard, while he is a productive 3-point shooter at 6-foot-8, he doesn’t possess a ton of explosiveness and has plenty of work to do on the defensive end of the floor. The pick felt like a bit of a reach at 11 when Gradey Dick, Jordan Hawkins and even Cam Whitmore were still on the board.
Loser: Cam Whitmore’s Stock BUT; Winner: Houston Rockets
It was the shocking fall of the night. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound wing out of Villanova was getting buzz at one point to be selected in the top-four of the NBA Draft. But conflicting reports emerged about Whitmore’s medicals creating concerns with rumors swirling about a knee issue.
After getting picked by the Rockets at No. 20, Whitmore stated that he is just fine.
t will be interesting to see how Jalen Green works with some new weapons on the perimeter as Houston ended up with the versatile ball handler, Amen Thompson, and a guy who still had high value in Whitmore, who now has a chip on his shoulder.
Winner: Los Angeles Lakers
After mixed results in the backcourt between Russell Westbrook, which led to the D’Angelo Russell trade, the thought was that Rob Pelinka would target ball-handling ability in the draft. I think Indiana product Jalen Hood-Schifino is a quality pick at #17.
Hood-Schifino’s feel for the game and ability to execute in pick-and-roll situations are major strengths, as he took over the Hoosiers as a freshman point guard when Xavier Johnson went down and was critical in leading IU back to the NCAA Tournament. The perimeter shot is an area that must continue to grow but to average 14 points, 4 assists and as many rebounds as a freshman in the Big Ten is really impressive. Mike Woodson gave him a lot of responsibilities and he took them. I’ll be curious to see how he grows with LeBron James in his ear.
The Lakers follower up the Hood-Schifino pick by selecting Maxwell Lewis with the 40th choice, a good move by LA in my opinion. Lewis, is an exceptional athlete, standing at 6-foot-6 with a 7-foot wingspan. But Lewis’ best offensive skill is his catch-and-shoot ability. He knocked down 35% of his shots from beyond the arc this past year while also displaying that he can score it off the dribble from time to time as well. He averaged 17.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG and 2.8 APG in his sophomore season.
Losers: Traditional bigs
Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis wasn’t selected until the second-to-last pick in the draft by the lowly Wizards at No. 57. Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, Gonzaga’s Drew Timme and UConn’s Adama Sanogo all went undrafted. NBA evaluators want the blend of size and offensive versatility to buy the bigs — hence, why Zach Edey is running it back at Purdue.
Winner: Metropolitans 92
For the French club to produce not one, but two of the top-seven picks in the NBA Draft is absolutely absurd. The Wizards wanted Bilal Coulibaly so much that they swapped with the Pacers to ensure they got the 6-foot-6 wing with a 7-foot-2 wingspan. His defensive capabilities and quickness are what really intrigued teams in the evaluation process, but he is raw offensively. Luckily for him, he can work on those things because Washington is in no rush to win.
Winner: Overtime Elite
For a league that just completed its second season ever to produce two of the top five NBA Draft picks is massive for publicity and success rate. OTE entered the national spotlight for the casual fan on Thursday night with Amen and Ausar Thompson going No. 4 to the Rockets and No. 5 to the Pistons respectively in the draft. Both players had a great pre-draft process and OTE coaches said they spent 10-plus hours in the gym per day in the last year, with the staff having to tell the twins to try to take a break. Amen’s passing ability is something that evaluators rave about while Ausar as a defender is as good as anyone in this class.
What a night for the Thompson family.
2023 NBA Draft