The NBA draft is less than 24 hours away, with a never-ending cycle of rumors and speculation revolving around what we may see. We’ve seen two blockbuster deals in the past few days — last weekend the Washington Wizards shipped All-Star guard Bradley Beal to the Phoenix Suns, while on Wednesday night they sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Boston Celtics in a deal that saw Marcus Smart to the Memphis Grizzlies and Tyus Jones to Washington.
The Wizards have been the league’s most active player in the early offseason, reconstructing their roster in preparation for a full rebuild. They previously set the NBA world ablaze after they dealt Beal to the Suns in exchange for what many around the league view as pennies on the dollar, and with Porzingis on the move as well, all eyes will be monitoring the free agency situation of Kyle Kuzma.
While the Washington Wizards’ firesale has dominated headlines, the Golden State Warriors could be one of many actives teams on what projects as a busy draft night.
The Golden State Warriors currently hold the 19th pick in Thursday’s draft, but intertwined within that is speculation regarding the futures of Jordan Poole and Jonathan Kuminga. The Warriors could become active buyers on draft night should they seek a win-now move to top up their experienced core.
However, many teams that were forecasted to be especially big ‘sellers’ this summer, namely the Toronto Raptors, Atlanta Hawks, and Minnesota Timberwolves, have been reluctant to move on from their top talent.
Earlier this week, Michael Grange of Sportsnet reported that Raptors GM Masai Ujiri believes that the Raptors’ current roster stacks up against the Miami Heat’s Eastern Conference Champion squad from this past season.
"“The Raptors don’t see themselves as all that inferior, if at all, to the Miami Heat, who have made the NBA Finals two of the last four seasons,” said Grange. “The ‘lowly’ Knicks made the second round this year, and the Sixers, Bucks — and even the Celtics — have proven themselves beatable in the right circumstances.”"
The Miami Heat’s ‘against all odds’ fairytale Finals run has seemingly inspired league-wide confidence that you don’t need a star-studded roster to win anymore, but those naive GMs may need a reminder that the eventual Champion, the Denver Nuggets, featured the consensus best player in basketball in Nikola Jokic, a top-five point-guard in the NBA in Jamal Murray, a borderline All-Star in Aaron Gordon, and the perfect supporting cast that featured premier 3-and-D/high IQ role players.
That Denver Nuggets team was no different than any other champion in the history of the NBA. They enjoyed an embarrassment of riches, and that’s still what’s required to win at the highest level in today’s NBA.
As middling teams try to take the next step toward contention this summer, the speculation is at an all-time high, but there hasn’t been nearly as much activity. With the limited movement, the market hasn’t really had any definition, as no standards have been set. But on draft night, when these NBA franchises are on the clock and their team’s immediate trajectory is on the line, all the measured assessment and detailed financial calculations fly out the window, and general managers are forced to act on instinct alone, which is why draft night trades tend to look so one-sided sometimes.
That’s why Thursday could get a little crazy. There is so much suspicion surrounding the draft that it’s virtually impossible to make a mock draft — and the draft is… today. After the San Antonio Spurs who are a lock to take Victor Wembanyama at #1, everything is up in the air, and teams throughout the lottery have discussed moving their pick for win-now pieces.
The Blazers are still fielding calls about the third overall pick, while teams like the Jazz, Magic, and Raptors are considering moving out of the late lottery for future draft compensation.
There is an unprecedented amount of uncertainty this year, and it looks like it could all culminate in a wild draft night.