NBA Draft Breakdown: Key Storylines and Grades for Top Picks

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Thursday's NBA Draft was filled with wild rumors, big trades and fascinating selections. Below are 10 of the most intriguing storylines from a crazy night in the NBA. 

76ers amp up rebuilding by adding Markelle Fultz – Fultz was the best pick to go first overall. And he is going to a 76ers team that has added so many good, young players. He joins Joel Embiid, JahlilOkafor, Dario Saric, and Ben Simmons as some of the developing stars. Fultz is the point guard that the 76ers needed to finish the core since all of the other players are forwards or centers. GRADE: A

Lonzo Ball stays near home and joins the Los Angeles Lakers – Coming off a great season with UCLA, Ball will be added to a team that is trying to return to the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. He can be mentored by Magic Johnson, who joined the team in February as President of Basketball Operations. His father, LaVar Ball, has been very supportive of his son, but has made some very controversial remarks including, “he’s better than Steph Curry,” and “my son will only play for the Lakers.” Despite that, Ball is a great player on the floor and although his shooting form is very unusual, he shot 55.1% at UCLA, so he’s still reliable from the floor. GRADE: A

Celtics choose Jayson Tatum from Duke instead of Josh Jackson from Kansas (selected by the Suns fourth overall) – Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge said that the Celtics would have taken Jayson Tatum at the first overall slot if they hadn’t traded it away to the 76ers. However, they got their guy at third overall. Many analysts projected that former Kansas forward Josh Jackson was the player that the Celtics would choose, but Jackson did not work out with the Celtics because of scheduling difficulties. Tatum will give Boston a forward with great scoring ability. GRADE: A-

Ex-Kansas forward Josh Jackson is selected fourth overall by the Phoenix Suns – Jackson is a player that has strengths in offense and defense, and was the focal point at Kansas. He is physical and has a great passing ability but his jump shot is something that really needs work. However, he does have the potential to replace T.J. Warren as the starting small forward for the Suns. If he does, he will need to be able to work well with their guards Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker as well as starting power forward and center Jared Dudley and Tyson Chandler. After doing that, Jackson has the potential to take a starring role for the Suns.  GRADE: B

Versatile and fast guard De’Aaron Fox picked fifth overall by the Sacramento Kings – Fox, a former Kentucky Wildcat, will bring his skill and agility to the Kings. On the team is ex-Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield, entering his second season, and two former Kentucky players in Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere. Fox is also being compared to Wizards guard John Wall, since they both have outstanding speed. On the Kings, Fox and Hield will work well together since they are both young and have similar abilities. GRADE: A+


 Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker of the Suns and Jamal Murray of the Nuggets. Monk is also considered one of the better shooters in this year’s draft, shooting 45% and averaging 19.8 points per game in his one season as a Wildcat. For Charlotte, Monk will be a weapon that can hit three-point shots, but his defense will need improvement.

Jimmy Butler traded to Minnesota Timberwolves – The Chicago Bulls traded Jimmy Butler and the sixteenth overall pick this year (draft rights to Justin Patton from Creighton) to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for guards Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn and the seventh overall pick (draft rights to Lauri Markkanen from Arizona). Although it is a massive trade, it didn't come as a surprise. It seemed as if the Timberwolves and the Cleveland Cavaliers were the most viable candidates to make a run at a deal for Butler, who had been the subject of trade rumors for weeks. He will fit with Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, and the other Timberwolves players with his tremendous scoring ability, averaging 23.9 points per game to show for it. Also, Butler is a veteran player who can be a leader and mentor to the younger players.

NBA record is broken with sixteen freshman players, and an all-time low with only two seniors selected in the first round – Eleven of the fourteen lottery picks were freshmen, including all five players of the top five. The first round seniors, guards Derrick White from Colorado and Josh Hart from Villanova, also happened to be the last picks in the first round (selections 29 and 30). This was the least amount of seniors selected in the first round in NBA Draft history as well as the most freshmen selected ever. For the NBA, they are getting a boatload of new, young players. The league may consider it a situation where they are getting too many players and forcing the veterans off teams, or they can view it as something where players from college take their fans with them and the league gets more viewers. However, this is a strong disadvantage for colleges since their stars are playing for them for only one season before going off into the NBA. They recruit these players to only have them leave after a year, which hurts teams and players alike.

NCAA Tournament stars drafted in second round – Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks (from Oregon), Nigel Williams-Goss (from Gonzaga), and Sindarius Thornwell (from South Carolina) all found new homes on Thursday. Dorsey, a shooting guard, was selected with the 41st pick by the Atlanta Hawks. The Houston Rockets held the 45th pick, and they used it on Brooks. Thornwell was originally drafted at 48 by the Milwaukee Bucks, but they traded his draft rights to the Los Angeles Clippers. Finally, Williams-Goss will play for the Utah Jazz after being selected by them at pick number 55. It’s interesting that these players who were stars for the teams that made it to the Final Four are getting drafted later than some who were on losing teams. MarkelleFultz was on a Washington Huskies team that struggled last season, finishing with only nine wins and twenty-two losses.

Decreased amount of international players from this last year’s draft to this year’s – Only ten international players were selected in the draft this year, down from 16 last year. Frank Ntilikina from France was the first one drafted this year, eighth overall by the New York Knicks. Over the past two years, thirteen international countries developed players who were drafted (Eight players from France, three from Australia, two each from Croatia, Spain, Serbia, and China, and one each from Greece, Turkey, Bosnia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia). Of the eight French players selected over the last two years, Ntilikina​ was picked the highest. 

Photographs by Mike Strobe/Getty Images