Despite no in-game action, the NBA draft is one of the most exciting times on the NBA calendar. It is full of suspense, anxiety, and unpredictability. The 2018 NBA Draft provided all that and more.
With all these factors considered, there were bound to be winners and losers from the draft. Let us check on which among the top players selected won and lost on draft day.
Winner: DeAndre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
Although he was pegged as a virtual lock coming into the draft, there was still a slight chance that the Phoenix Suns would pull off a Cleveland Cavaliers circa 2013 move and select an Anthony Bennett-sized surprise. Alas, there were no surprises this time around, and one of the most dominant center prospects to enter the NBA in recent years will continue his stay in Arizona, this time playing for the Suns and with its promising young core.
Loser: Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Young was selected fifth overall by the Mavs, but was then traded to the Hawks for third overall pick Luka Doncic and a 2019 first-round pick. As it was, the fifth pick already seemed too high for the under-sized Young, who was projected by most to get selected outside the top five. Not only does he now have the added pressure of being the virtual third overall pick, he now also has the stigma of being the player traded for Luka Doncic, the European sensation that many consider to have the potential to be the best player in this draft.
Atalanta Hawks fans are hoping that Young can exceed expectations once again like he did in his lone season in Oklahoma.
Winner: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic, the 2018 EuroLeague MVP (who just turned 19 years old) and most decorated European prospect ever, is going to team up with the greatest European NBA player in history, Dirk Nowitzki. That in itself already warrants a win.
Thank you Legend!! https://t.co/mv7fNZyJ9K
— Luka Doncic (@luka7doncic) June 22, 2018
Doncic will also have the benefit of coming into a Mavericks organization used to having a winning culture, with a great coach in Rick Carlisle, and should form a dynamic young tandem with Dennis Smith. Jr., last year’s 9th overall pick. Having Doncic and Smith lead the resurgence of the Mavs should be the perfect swan song for Nowitzki
Loser: Colin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James reportedly likes Colin Sexton, and with the hope that granting The King’s wish will make him stay in The Land, the Cavaliers did indeed select him with the eighth overall pick. But following James’ preferences hasn’t always bode well for his teams. Remember when he expressed his affinity for Shabazz Napier in 2014? His then-team, the Miami Heat even traded up to select Napier, only for James to announce his return to Cleveland a few weeks after. The thing is, Sexton seems to be entering a lose-lose situation with the Cavs.
Should LeBron stay, Sexton projects to be a poor fit alongside him. The Alabama product does is at his best when the ball is in his hands, and the ball will most definitely not be in his hands a lot with LeBron on the same team. Sexton also doesn’t have a consistent three-point shooting stroke to make him a passable off-ball option.
Should LeBron leave, Sexton will be expected by many to carry the franchise onto the next era and will undoubtedly be compared to Kyrie Irving, Cleveland’s last post-LeBron top point guard draft pick. While Sexton is a fiery competitor who can be a very good NBA player, he does not really project to be a franchise-player type of talent, and that may lead some to think that he is a disappointment.
Loser/Winner: Michael Porter, Jr., Denver Nuggets
On one hand, it must be difficult for someone who was in contention as the best prospect in the whole world just a year ago to barely make it as a lottery pick and see so many players get selected ahead of you. On the other hand, being selected 14th overall lessens the pressure on Michael Porter Jr. and puts him in a ready-to-win situation surrounded by a good mix of vets and up and coming players with the Nuggets.
It might also be difficult for Porter, who has supreme confidence in himself, to accept not being given heavy minutes right away. But, if he keeps his head on straight, slowly working his way into the rotation may be his best bet as he tries to prove that he is healthy enough to belong in the NBA.
We’ve seen this story many times before. Many top prospects have unfortunately fallen from grace even before their NBA journeys can begin due to injuries. Porter may very well be one of them, but at least he gets the opportunity to reverse the script.