The first round of the 2017 NBA Draft was relatively uneventful after weeks of hype and rumors. Everything sort of fell in place as it was expected to with the Philadelphia 76ers using the pick they acquired from the Boston Celtics to take Markelle Fultz out of Washington. Then, after about a month of they will, they won’t, the Los Angeles Lakers used the second pick to take Lonzo Ball out of UCLA.
Here’s where I was hoping things would get interesting. Talks have been swirling all week about the New York Knicks being ready and willing to part ways with Kristaps Porzingis. Team president Phil Jackson had a very public feud with superstar Carmelo Anthony, Melo wants a trade, and Jackson doesn’t believe KP is ready to lead a team (especially one playing in New York City) by himself.
That, combined with the fact that Porzingis skipped his exit interview and nothing the Knicks do makes sense made a trade seem inevitable. So, draft day was the clear marker. The Knicks wanted a pick high enough to select Kansas star Josh Jackson and an established starter. Not a high ask for one of the top budding young talents in the NBA right now. The Boston Celtics, who traded down to the No. 3 overall selection, emerged immediately as a potential trading partner.
That reasonable request is not what they asked the Boston Celtics for, however. In exchange for the 7’3 Latvian star, the Knicks wanted the C’s No. 3 overall pick, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder, and the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick next year (which is almost guaranteed to be top three).
The Celtics aren’t into mortgaging away their future. That’s what the Nets are for. So, instead of a blockbuster Porzingis deal, the Celtics selected Jayson Tatum from Duke with the pick, indicating that they don’t have any intentions of dealing with the Knicks (who wanted Josh Jackson) in the near future.
So, no excitement there. While that pick was being made, however, the biggest trade of the night was announced. After lengthy debates over where Chicago Bulls superstar Jimmy Butler would end up, the team dealt him to the Minnesota Timberwolves, along with their 16th overall pick (Justin Patton), in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the No. 7 overall pick (Lauri Markkanen).
I don’t have a ton of faith in Markkanen as an NBA prospect, and so I think it’s pretty clear that the T’Wolves made a terrific deal here. Sure, they have to let go of a young talent like LaVine, but they’re bringing in an All-NBA talent who is ready to lead a team with loads of potential. Additionally, the Wolves were able to squeeze the No. 16 overall pick out of the deal as well.
The bottom line is, the Timberwolves are much better next season than they were this season, and Butler is a large reason why. With Dwayne Wade aging and LaVine’s health still iffy, the Bulls may struggle to make it back to the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference in 2018.
So, finally, that leaves us with the New York Knicks who were stuck with their No. 8 overall pick after failing to move up and snag Jackson. So, trying to copy their success from Porzingis, the Knicks went international, grabbing French basketball star Frank Ntilikina.
The 6’5 defensive, pass-happy point guard will work perfectly in the triangle offense that Phil Jackson continues to ram down everyone’s throat.
The Knicks former European scout, Tim Shea, put out a scouting report of Ntilikina.
“First thing you see is the long limbs and sleek, proportioned physique. Well-coordinated, smooth operator. Good hops; quick hops. Nice stroke and an Isaiah Thomas / Bradley Beal similarity as the arc is high and the release is beautiful to watch. Very quick hands. PG at 6’5 and still growing. His value should be seen in the comparative light of his competing on a daily basis against professional men, while NCAA players compete against teenagers and young men. We have a PG that can score and not a scoring PG. If I compare, I must say: ‘Walt Frazier-like’ as a player with the Thomas / Beal shooting style.”
Very promising, of course, if he can properly translate his talents here in the United States. And then there’s the huge wild card of whether or not Porzingis is going to be on the team come the beginning of the 2017-2018. Also, Carmelo Anthony almost certainly won’t be on the team, and with a low trade value, there won’t be much star power coming in return.
Overall, a relatively boring NBA Draft, especially after a fun-filled week leading up to the event. At least the Knicks didn’t do something overly stupid.