Part 2: Eastern Conference
The Eastern Conference is as wide open as it has ever been. Teams are optimistic that they can make it into the playoffs and beyond. Especially with the possibility to participate in a play in tournament. The 2020–21 NBA season format provides no shortage of opportunity for any franchise to make it out of the Eastern Conference.
Draft night is the first step to the future for many of these teams.
Here are my thoughts on which teams won draft night and those who lost in a tightly contested Eastern Conference.
WINNERS: Eastern Conference
The Wizards landed the best international prospect in this draft. Deni Avdija was supposed to land in the top 5 but fell into Washington’s lap at #9. They did not hesitate to select him when the opportunity arose. A major win for this franchise. Washington did not have to trade up to get a Avdija who very well could turn out to be the best player from this draft.
They did not stop there. Washington went out and traded for Cassius Winston. The Michigan State guard who played 4 solid years in Lansing should benefit greatly under the tutelage of Bradley Beal provided he is still on the roster come December. While it is being reported that John Wall is likely on his way out, that will provide even more opportunity to Avdija and Winston to develop in their rookie seasons. All in all, a great draft night for Washington lands them on the Winners list out of the East.
The Celtics are always busy on draft night. This year was no different. They landed the best pure shooter in the draft with Aaron Nesmith out of Vanderbilt. He will be an immediate positive impact on this offense. With his shooting ability alone, he will be able spread the defense out which will open driving lanes for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Later in the first round the Celtics took Payton Pritchard. The Senior point guard out of Oregon. A tough, relentless defender who will have no problem doing the dirty work necessary to shut down opposing guards. He should bring plenty of energy and intensity off the Celtics bench this season.
The only problem I had with the Celtics draft night moves was their trade of Desmond Bane. Bane is another sharpshooting guard that should have an immediate impact for the Grizzlies. If you can hit the open shot consistently, there will be a spot for you on an NBA roster.
Philadelphia stuck with their pick at #21 and it paid off. Tyrese Maxey out of Kentucky slipped a bit compared to his projections. He is an electric guard who can run the floor in transition with the best of them. Should fit nicely next to Simmons and Embiid. Also, players drafted out of Kentucky seem to pan out. Look at Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Jamal Murray, Demarcus Cousins, the list goes on. I think Maxey will be another name we can add to that growing list of talent that John Calipari breeds in Kentucky.
However, drafting Tyrese Maxey was not the draft day move that lands them on this list. The 76ers stole Seth Curry from the Mavericks. Seth looked amazing in the NBA Bubble. He has improved his overall game year over year and now he gets the chance to play for his Father-In-Law, Doc Rivers.
The 76ers also got rid of Al Horford’s contract. All great moves by the new Front Office in Philadelphia. Things are looking up for the 76ers going into the 2020–21 season.
Only downside to the 76ers moves is that they acquired Danny Green…. Goodluck with that.
LOSERS: Eastern Conference
Brooklyn is going to be a completely new team when the 2020–21 NBA season tips off in December. They will finally have a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant after Irving played sparingly and Durant was out the entire season due to injury.
The Nets must feel comfortable with their team moving forward because they traded away their first and second round picks. The only player they came away with on draft night was Reggie Perry out of Mississippi State in the ladder stages of the 2nd round.
Brooklyn was a team that was expected to be busy on draft night with buzz surrounding them and James Harden. However, they laid low and look to be content moving forward with the way their roster is currently constructed.
It will be exciting to see what first year head coach, Steve Nash can do with this Brooklyn team and if he can lead them to an NBA Finals appearance.
It will also be exciting to see if they do end up landing James Harden and what assets it will cost them.
Toronto kept both of their picks in the 1st and 2nd round. No trades. No funny business. While the Raptors do not necessarily need a player that can contribute right away, I thought they would make a splash. They played it safe and wound up with Malachi Flynn out of San Diego State in the 1st and Jalen Harris out of Nevada with the second to last pick in this draft.
The moves they made are not what landed them on this list. What landed Toronto on this list was the moves they DID NOT make.
This is a team that is 1 or 2 pieces away from another Championship. They showed how they can win games and make a run at a title without Kawhi. However, they fell a bit short. They simply did not have enough offensive firepower. This is why I thought they might make a draft day trade to add another weapon on the offensive end. Someone that can take the load off Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam.
Obivously, they played it safe and stuck with their guns. The conservitive nature of their draft night lands them on the losers list.
Milwaukee traded away their future for Jrue Holiday prior to the draft. That alone landed them on this list and the draft had not even happened yet. Their sole focus is making Giannis happy so that he stays in Milwaukee… While they think they are succeeding, I can assure you they are not.
After they traded away 3 future picks and 2 more pick swaps, they went out on draft night and managed to mess that up also.
It looked like they were going to turn things around when they drafted RJ Hampton… then they went ahead and traded him away because… WHY NOT?!?
When all was said and done, the Bucks would up with Jordan Nwora out of Louisville at #45 and capped off the night by trading for the last pick in the draft… AKA ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ who turned out to be Sam Merrill, a Senior out of Utah State.
All bad for the Bucks on draft night lands them on the loser list.
The Cavaliers were candidates to trade up into the top 3 of this draft. They were also in line to get rid of Kevin Love who is rotting his career away in Cleveland. When the night was over, they still had Kevin Love on their roster and stuck with their pick at #5. With the #5 pick, they selected a guard for the 3rd straight year. They wound up selecting Isaac Okoro out of Auburn.
I am skeptical about Okoro as are many NBA analysts. There is no denying his elite athleticism, but that may be all he is… simply just an athlete. His whole basketball career leading up to the NBA he was the most athletic guy on the floor. That will not be the case in the NBA. However, he does have potential to mold himself into a solid two-way player if his shot develops. He only shot 28% from the 3-point line in college. This development does not seem imminent coming on a team like the Cavaliers. Unfortunately, I think he fell into a bad situation and it could be a huge detriment to his career.
The Cavs had plenty of better suited options at #5… I was thinking they would go with Onyeka Okongwu since it looks like they will part ways with current center, Andre Drummond. If they really wanted a guard for the 3rd straight year, they should have taken Haliburton or Deni Avdija. With that being said, the Cavaliers are the biggest losers of the 2020 NBA Draft.