For all the build up heading into this year’s NBA Draft, it was a rather quiet night. But despite the lack of blockbuster trades or outrageous selections that defied people’s mock drafts, several winners and losers emerged from the 2023 NBA Draft.
Winner: The Thompson Twins
Amen and Ausar Thompson made history this year becoming the first pair of brothers to be drafted in the top five of the same draft since 1976. With Amen going No. 4 to the Houston Rockets and Ausar going No. 5 to the Detroit Pistons, it was a heartwarming night for the twins as well as their parents. The Thompson twins also landed in situations that fit their playstyles and potential. With the Rockets, Amen brings the playmaking and floor general facilitation they desperately need. With the Pistons, Ausar’s 3-and-D potential and uber-athleticism enhances a young team trying to find their footing.
Loser: Cam Whitmore
The Villanova forward fell from a projected top ten selection all the way back to the Rockets at No. 20. What concerned teams was Whitmore’s medicals.
“There were issues regarding the cartilage in his knee. It could potentially be an issue for him down the road towards the back end of his career,” said ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony on Sportscenter to Scott Van Pelt.
Knee cartilage injuries are no joke. Lonzo Ball will miss his second consecutive season due to cartilage issues in his knee despite undergoing multiple surgeries to alleviate the injury. It was especially concerning when Whitmore fell to the late teens of the draft, especially considering it was presumed that one of the Lakers, Warriors or Heat would take a chance on the falling prospect. But each team passed up the opportunity to take safer prospects with higher floors. The Rockets must feel great that they netted two lottery caliber talents but it will be up to Whitmore to prove he didn’t deserve to fall to No. 20.
Winner: The Sacramento Kings
How many times in the last 20 years can we say that the Sacramento Kings emerged from the draft as winners? Despite not picking in the lottery for the first time since 2006, the Kings improved their situation marginally by trading Richaun Holmes and the No. 24 pick to the Dallas Mavericks in a salary dump move. The trade gives the Kings a projected $33.5 million in cap space to go big game hunting in free agency. Kyle Kuzma, Jermi Grant and even Draymond Green are now on the table for the Kings to build on their first playoff appearance since 2006.
Loser: Shams Charania
In the leadup to Draft night, the reporting from multiple sources around the league was that the Charlotte Hornets would be selecting Brandon Miller second overall. However, Thursday morning Shams Charania tweeted that there was momentum from the front office to potentially select Scoot Henderson instead, which subsequently shifted the draft odds on FanDuel and other sports gambling sites. The issue with this reporting is that Charania is a partner with FanDuel leading many to be concerned that he used his status as one of the most reliable sources in the NBA to juice the odds for one of his partners. FanDuel denied collaboration, but the whole situation reminds us that sport journalism walks a tightrope at the intersection of gambling and reporting.
To Be Determined: The Portland Trail Blazers
Henderson might have fallen into the Blazers’ lap at No. 3 overall, but they still have some big decisions to think about in terms of direction. Damian Lillard is not interested in waiting for Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe to get good enough to chase a ring. The Blazers have to think about whether or not they want to reset their timeline or try to win now by dealing their young assets. Until then, they remain in NBA purgatory: not bad enough to justify tanking and not good enough to try winning.