So much for all those mock drafts. To the surprise of everyone outside of the Magic war room, Orlando took Paolo Banchero no. 1, after weeks and weeks of reports suggesting Jabari Smith Jr. was the surefire top pick. Plenty of ripple effects erupted from there. Who ended up on top? Our NBA staff runs through all of the biggest movers and shakers of the night with another edition of NBA draft Winners and Losers:
Winner: Detroit Pistons
Chris Ryan: One of the joys of the second half of the last NBA season was watching how Cade Cunningham never let any defense speed him up. So what did Detroit do in the 2022 draft? Grab a guy who can’t be slowed down. Cade is going to win Detroit some playoff games, eventually. But Jaden Ivey is going to put some asses in seats and kick the Pistons up any League Pass ranking.
Ivey spent the past year weaving around Purdue’s cave troll big men, but his game is tailor-made for modern NBA offense—think Ja Morant 2.0 or, as KOC described him, “jumbo Darius Garland.” If Ivey slipping to five (always a thrill, Sacramento!) was a bit of luck, the acquisition of Memphis rim protector/lob flusher Jalen Duren was a fine piece of drafting skill on the part of Detroit GM Troy Weaver. There was a ton of “Deandre Ayton contract offer coming” talk after the Pistons moved Jerami Grant to Portland earlier in the week, but … they might have drafted the next version of him, all while bouncing the Knicks and Hornets off of one another.
Detroit hasn’t finished better than eighth in the Eastern Conference since 2008. Who knows when they will get back into conference contention, but if they do, I bet tonight will have a lot to do with it.
Loser: Kevin Durant
Logan Murdock: Three years ago, Durant left a dynasty in Golden State to team up with Kyrie Irving, setting plans to bring multiple titles to Brooklyn. But over the past seven months, that arrangement has been systematically destroyed. Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated shelved him for nearly two-thirds of the Nets’ games last season, and pushed James Harden out of town. Irving’s absence irked the Nets front office, including general manager Sean Marks, who recently wondered aloud whether Irving was the “right fit” for the organization. Now, amid an “impasse” on a new contract, Kyrie is reportedly considering forcing his way to another team. Which would leave Durant to either lead a roster made up of fringe players and Ben Simmons, an All-Star who hasn’t played a game in a calendar year, or seek out a new team himself.
It’s hard not to feel for Durant. Harden, with whom he worked hard to reconcile after the two stopped talking a few years back, deemed the Nets an untenable environment, and Irving, who said he wanted to play with Durant at 50, might be days away from departing. Durant left the Bay to be with his homies, win titles, and enjoy a new start. Now, that vision is on the verge of crumbling.
Winner: Jalen Brunson
Rob Mahoney: If you can see your way to any definitive winner in the Knicks’ labyrinth of draft-night moves—which included the coming or going of what appears to be 11 different draft picks—it would probably be the man New York desperately hopes to pay this summer. The Knicks’ interest in Brunson has been thoroughly reported and entirely predictable, with their latest overtures a few miles short of subtle. Among those gestures: Tom Thibodeau added Brunson’s NBA journeyman father, Rick, to his coaching staff earlier this month. That’s not quite on the level of a college program tiptoeing around a recruiting violation, given that Brunson at least worked on Thibodeau’s staff previously and has a long-standing relationship with Knicks president Leon Rose. But it’s not far off.
Now the Knicks…
Read More: The Winners and Losers of the 2022 NBA Draft