Pelicans appear to have found their way back to relevancy, while Celtics may have missed window

Dan Woike, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

NEW YORK -- Before the NBA draft stage in Brooklyn could be dismantled, the first wave of draft reactions came flowing in. Phoenix moving up to draft Cameron Johnson? What are they thinking? Portland waiting to get Nassir Little, what a steal. Darius Garland and Collin Sexton on the same team in Cleveland, that'll never work.

The Pelicans were near-perfect, the Warriors were reaching, the Heat messed up, the Hawks got their guys and so on and so on.

All of these takes are premature -- we don't know who found the next Draymond Green or Nikola Jokic in the second round this year (if that level of player even exists). We don't know if there's a late first-round pick that'll affect a team like Jimmy Butler or if a future champion added multiple starters like the Chicago Bulls did when they took Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant in the same draft.

But that doesn't mean that there weren't clear winners and losers at the NBA draft. There were.

Winner: Asset accumulation

By the time last season ended, the New Orleans Pelicans had reached the end of the rope with their front office. Dell Demps wasn't the man to get an Anthony Davis deal done, the turmoil turning the franchise into a "dumpster fire" by coach Alvin Gentry's own admission.

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Now, as we move into free agency, it's hard to find a team that people are suddenly more optimistic about than the Pelicans. They got virtually all of the Lakers' young players, they got virtually all of the Lakers' draft assets and they got the best prospect since Davis, Zion Williamson, with the No. 1 pick.

They turned the No. 4 pick into three picks in the top 35 while shedding their worst contract and picking up future draft considerations as well.

Outside of Williamson, it's hard to know whether new executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin made the right picks Thursday, but he did get a lot of bites of the apple -- and he has a lot more left to come. For a team that was recently in a dire position, it's hard to see how things could've turned out better.

Loser: Asset depreciation


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