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The biggest winners and losers from the 2017 NBA Draft

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver officially welcomes No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz to the NBA at the draft on Thursday night. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — The 2017 NBA Draft was supposed to be wild and unpredictable. Instead, it turned out to go almost exactly according to plan.

There was one big trade — with all-star forward Jimmy Butler going from the Chicago Bulls to the Minnesota Timberwolves — but otherwise the draft played out very much like it was supposed to according to most prior prognostications. The evening was largely drama-free after an insane few days of pre-draft buildup involving nonstop trade rumors surrounding Paul George and Kristaps Porzingis and several actual deals, including Dwight Howard being shipped from Atlanta to Charlotte and D’Angelo Russell being moved by the Los Angeles Lakers.

So, with that in mind, here’s a quick look at the winners and losers from the NBA’s annual selection show — from this writer’s perspective, at least.

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Philadelphia 76ers

General Manager Bryan Colangelo didn’t mess around, sending the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft and the rights to either the Lakers’ 2018 first-round pick or the Sacramento Kings’ 2019 first-rounder to the Boston Celtics for the right to move up two spots to the top overall selection. Doing so allowed the 76ers to select former DeMatha star Markelle Fultz, who instantly will become a starter for them and a perfect fit for their burgeoning core.

Joel Embiid asks Ben Simmons to dunk all over Lonzo Ball

Playing alongside Ben Simmons, Fultz should give Philadelphia another creative player off the dribble, as well as a shooter and athlete to pair with Simmons, who is expected to do a lot of ballhandling despite being 6-foot-10. The 76ers now need to keep both Simmons and Joel Embiid healthy and on the court, but if they do they should be set for years to come.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Word on the street coming into the draft was that Tom Thibodeau wanted to get a veteran to help Minnesota speed up its rebuilding process. He certainly did that, sending Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the No. 7 pick (which turned into Lauri Markkanen) to the Bulls to be reunited with Butler, who is coming off his first all-NBA season.

Now Minnesota has Butler to go along with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, which should allow the Timberwolves to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2004 — and the first time, period, without Kevin Garnett. The fact that Minnesota was able to get Butler and remain in the first round, allowing them to take Creighton center Justin Patton, makes this a huge win.

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New York Knicks

Wait, the Knicks? How is this possible? Well, because they didn’t do anything stupid. This is where the bar has been set for a franchise that is constantly trying to get in its own way. But by not trading Kristaps Porzingis, as many thought they might, this is a win for the Knicks.

But then they drafted a point guard, Frank Ntilikina, who should be able to play for them long-term. Drawing comparisons to Utah Jazz guard George Hill, Ntilikina could finally be the long-term solution at point guard the Knicks have spent years trying to find.

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Los Angeles Lakers

Drafting Lonzo Ball is obviously a good thing for the Lakers, as was opening up significant cap room for next summer by moving on from Russell and Timofey Mozgov. But an underrated part of the Lakers’ draft night was getting Josh Hart, the Villanova and Sidwell Friends star who rated well by statistical translations. He should be able to step in and give them minutes right away in the backcourt.

Joel Embiid mocks Lonzo and LaVar Ball, asks Ben Simmons to dunk all over Lakers pick

The fact that Paul George wasn’t traded is also a win for the Lakers, as it further enhances the chance of George joining the Lakers sometime between now and next July, when he will be a free agent. George has already said he plans to sign with them, but a trade to a winning franchise Thursday could’ve changed that.

Sacramento Kings

The Kings have had, shall we say, a checkered draft history over the past few seasons. But it’s hard not to look at the way this night played out for them in any way other than a win.

Not only did the Kings get the man they targeted the whole time — Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox — with the fifth pick, but they turned around and slid a few spots back from the 10th pick to get North Carolina forward Justin Jackson, a good shooter, at 15 and Harry Giles, a former top prospect who has been slow to recover from knee injuries, with the 20th selection. It was the kind of smart, solid drafting the Kings haven’t done enough of in recent seasons.

Luke Walton: LaVar Ball made Lonzo’s rookie year ‘more challenging’ with playoff boast

NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum

Announcing the second round of the NBA draft is a thankless job because no one is paying much attention. This is why Commissioner Adam Silver turns the job over to Tatum.

But because of the prevalence of Twitter, all the picks come out ahead of time, leading nearly everyone left in the arena already knowing what Tatum was going to say before he came out. This led to a hilarious sequence of events were a group of vocal fans all wearing Knicks paraphernalia were screaming out picks just as Tatum was about to — leading Tatum to, at one point, laugh as he announced the 52nd pick, Xavier’s Edmond Sumner. He then turned and saluted the fans.

Good on Tatum for taking all of it in stride.

Frank Ntilikina

Not only was Ntilikina drafted eighth overall by the Knicks, but he came prepared with the best suit game of the night.


Chicago Bulls

The Bulls have spent more than a year debating whether to trade Butler. Thursday, they finally pulled the trigger, and they got what can only be described as a middling package in return. Dunn was a total flop as a rookie. LaVine has impressed early in his career, but is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. And then Chicago took Markkanen, who has potential but will need to prove he is a high-level, long-term performer.

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But the biggest hang-up in this trade was the fact Chicago had to swap first-round picks with Minnesota to get the deal done. Perhaps Dunn will develop, perhaps LaVine will turn into an all-star guard, and perhaps Markkanen will become an elite stretch four. That is a lot of maybes in exchange for a three-time all-star and 2017 all-NBA player.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics entered this year’s draft with the potential to do plenty — including land a star player such as Butler, George or Porzingis. Instead, the Celtics stood pat, taking Jayson Tatum with the third pick. This isn’t a knock on Tatum, or the pre-draft pick swap with Philadelphia.

But, at some point, Boston will need to stop flirting with potential trades and make one. And with Butler going off the board for what looks like a less than appealing package, it’s fair to wonder if Boston’s unwillingness to part with any of its significant assets may have cost it a chance to add the bona fide star it really needs.

Paul George

When George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, went to the Indiana Pacers and said his star client was going to leave after next season and sign as a free agent with the Lakers, the goal wasn’t for him to actually play out his existing contract. Instead, it was leverage to prompt a trade to Los Angeles now — allowing him to get a full five-year contract with bigger raises next summer, and make the most money possible.

But the Pacers held onto George, failing to move him to the Lakers or anywhere, and General Manager Kevin Pritchard made it clear he wasn’t happy with George, or his camp, for how things have played out. Barring a deal, it’s going to be a very awkward year in Indianapolis.

Portland Trail Blazers

Armed with three first-round picks, Portland could have added some wing depth or dropped some of its bad contracts. Instead, Portland did neither, trading two picks to move up and get Zach Collins, a center from Gonzaga, and Caleb Swanigan, a center from Purdue. Now the Blazers have four centers — including starter Jusuf Nurkic and Meyers Leonard — and 14 players under contract for a team that was the eighth seed last year and is already more than $15 million over the luxury tax line.

Perhaps the Blazers can again make themselves contenders for a top four seed in the Western Conference, but if not, they are just a very expensive team with little flexibility and little way to improve.

Ike Anigbogu

The freshman from UCLA was supposed to be a first-round pick like Ball and T.J. Leaf, his fellow freshman teammates. Instead, Anigbogu wound up falling all the way to No. 47, where he was drafted by the Pacers.

Coincidentally, that will allow him to remain teammates with Leaf, who was drafted 18th by Indiana. But that was not what was supposed to happen to Anigbogu, who fell because of concerns about his right knee. If he can stay healthy he’s a talent, but there’s plenty of work to be done.

Melo Trimble

The former Maryland star flirted with going pro after each of his first two years in school, and then took the plunge this spring after his junior year. It’s unclear where he’ll land.

Trimble was never likely to be drafted, and he wasn’t. He’ll get a chance to play in the summer leagues with the Sixers, but it’s very likely he’ll spend next year either in the NBA’s G-League or in Europe — not quite the path he was expected to take when he left the Terrapins.

Markelle Fultz

Overall it was a great night for the DeMatha product, who was the top pick in the draft and found himself landing in a great situation with Philadelphia.

This, though? This was not so great.