Bets Fantasy

2024 NBA Draft Winners and Losers


The NBA concluded its two-day draft event Thursday evening. After multiple mock drafts, player profiles and our rolling live blog that provided instant reactions from Mike Randle, Noops Christenson and Walter Waddell and me, it’s time to put a bow on our draft coverage and talk about who did well and which teams left us scratching our heads. Let’s jump into my “winners and losers” of the 2024 NBA Draft.

2024 NBA Draft Winners

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Wolves get the top spot, and I’m not sure it’s particularly close. Up against the cap with their current roster, they grabbed two rotation-ready players in the first round Wednesday night by trading up with San Antonio for Rob Dillingham at eight and drafting Terrence Shannon Jr. with their own pick at 27. Then Thursday they traded Wendell Moore Jr. and out of the second round not once, not twice, but three times to avoid potentially adding more to their luxury tax bill.

Dillingham could hit the ground running with the Wolves. The biggest concern I have about him at the pro level is his perceived defensive shortcomings. What better place to land than with the best defensive team in the league from a season ago. If they can get real production out of Shannon, who is on the older end of this draft class, that feels like house money. Minnesota made their intentions for next season clear. All in.

Utah Jazz

Although the Jazz are near the opposite end of the contender spectrum compared to Minnesota, they had an extremely strong draft given what they were working with. After the Pistons and Hornets shook up the top 10 with their selections, Utah was able to snap up Cody Williams at 10. At one point the top-rated prospect in his high school class and the younger brother of Oklahoma City’s Jalen, Cody Williams is one of a handful of picks that I could see ending up as the “steal of the draft” when looking back on this class in a few years.

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 11: Kyle Filipowski (30) of the Duke Blue Devils dunks the ball during the ACC Championship against the Virginia Cavaliers on March 11, 2023 at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC. (Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire)
GREENSBORO, NC – MARCH 11: Kyle Filipowski (30) of the Duke Blue Devils dunks the ball during the ACC Championship against the Virginia Cavaliers on March 11, 2023 at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC. (Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire)

Then they were able to grab Isaiah Collier with the penultimate pick of the first round Wednesday night. Collier, a point guard who spent one season at USC, was a consensus top-five option in this class coming into the season. He fell short of individual expectations and USC struggled to string together wins, causing his stock to drop. Given his recruiting pedigree from less than 12 months ago, this is another high-upside option, especially relative to where Utah was able to draft him. The same could be said for 32nd pick Kyle Filipowski. While the Duke product didn’t have the same fanfare around him as a guy like Collier, he’s a player that was expected to go in the first round. Filipowski’s ability to handle the ball and be a reliable shooter for his position makes this another great value for a team that isn’t likely to become a free agent destination anytime soon. Having a draft like this is essential for a club like the Jazz and adding these three prospects to their budding core of young players like Keyonte George, Walker Kessler and Taylor Hendricks is a win in my book.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Breaking down why the Thunder’s draft was a big positive for them is quite simple. This is a team that doesn’t need to do much this offseason to remain one of, if not the, favorite in the Western Conference next year. They made a big trade prior to the draft, sending Josh Giddey to Chicago in exchange for Alex Caruso, who has been All-Defense each of the last two seasons and shot a career-high 40.8% from deep last season with the Bulls. They weren’t going to be able to draft someone at 12 that would be a significant difference maker for them next season so what did GM Sam Presti do? Take advantage of a pre-draft ACL injury to Nikola Topić, who I had as the best guard in this class and pick the Serbian guard with the expectation that he’ll sit this next year out and come back fully healthy for the 2025-26 season where he’ll join the backcourt depth chart alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Alex Caruso and Cason Wallace.

It’s tough not to be jealous of the Thunder’s embarrassment of riches. They didn’t just grab Topić near the end of the lottery. They were able to slap five future second rounders down on the negotiating table and pry the 26th pick away from the Knicks. With that, they went and got who I can only deem as “their guy” in Dillon Jones out of Weber State. Jones was a consensus second round talent and with this move the Thunder signaled, “we think the rest of you messed up.” Jones, a 6-foot-5 237-pound wing, will have the chance to carve out a role in the deep OKC bench mob. If his three-point shot develops quickly, that could be sooner rather than later. They also rounded out their class by scooping up Ajay Mitchell, who profiles to me like a guy who will spend the majority of next season with the OKC Blue in the G-League. Ultimately, it’s the two first -round selections that have the Thunder in this list for me.

Los Angeles Lakers

This isn’t so much that the Lakers went out and made a bunch of smart moves this week. Instead, they benefitted from some unexpected luck with the way the first round fell and then were able to execute on a long-term plan to bring the first ever NBA father-son duo to Los Angeles. From a win-now point of view, it couldn’t have gone much better for the purple and gold at pick 17. As I forecasted in every mock draft here at FTN this draft season, Dalton Knecht didn’t strike me as a player that NBA teams would get too excited about to draft in the top 10. However, I didn’t expect him to drop in the lap of the Lakers. Rob Pelinka, JJ Redick and the rest of that draft room have to be counting their lucky stars that things played out the way they did, considering their second pick of the draft was already locked in for months.

Knecht is one of the most polished players in this draft class, playing his fifth and final collegiate season with Tennessee last year and taking home SEC Player of the Year honors. His floor spacing on offense could do wonders for the Lakers, but he’ll need to be up for the defensive end at this level to have a significant impact on the “title or bust” nature of this club. Either way, this is a guy who will play a role for LA this season, unlike some of their recent first-round swings and misses. Then of course, they get Bronny with the 55th pick. I’m not quite as low on the kid’s NBA ceiling as some, but this isn’t anything but a cool story coming into next season. The first father-son duo to be teammates in NBA history, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think it was really cool. But I don’t expect the younger James to impact the Lakers chances of winning for many seasons, much less 2024-25. That could certainly come down the road. Grabbing an actual rotation guy at 17 and then no curveballs being thrown at them in their quest to unite LeBron and his son feels like a win to me.

2024 NBA Draft Losers

Memphis Grizzlies

Easily the most polarizing pick of the draft, I am not in on Zach Edey at the NBA level. The Grizzlies appeared dead set on drafting a center, no matter which one. There were rumors that they were getting a deal done with Charlotte to swap the ninth pick for the sixth to jump up and draft Donovan Clingan and that would have been a much nicer outcome for Memphis. Now look, I understand that Edey been more durable than the typical oversized, slow big. I get that he’s a two-time national player of the year and is what some might call a “cheat code” in the half court on offense. He’s a great screener and is extremely efficient scoring the ball around the rim. That hook shot is oh so sweet. But this is not how the NBA works.  I do not see Edey being able to stay on the court defensively for long stretches, certainly in any sort of playoff scenario, and Memphis is a team that envisions themselves as a playoff team this coming season. Opposing coaching staffs and players are too smart and talented, in my opinion, to let a lineup with Zach Edey out there beat them in a playoff series. Can he become a better version of Jonas Valanciunas at this level? I think so. But one thing about JVal, he can’t really stay on the floor in the postseason!

That said, I really only have Memphis here because of that single pick. They also secured Jaylen Wells and Cam Spencer in the second round. The shooting profile from Wells, who I also have a soft spot for as he spent his first two seasons as a Division II stud, is extremely promising. And while I have concerns about Cam Spencer on the defensive end at the NBA level, there’s little doubt that his shot is NBA ready. Spencer is also someone I would just classify as a “winner,” and it’s nice to have guys from winning cultures in your organization. So the sky is not falling for Memphis, far from it. I just dislike the Edey pick at nine so much that they earn the top spot for me here.

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons aren’t far behind in my list of “losers” from this week’s draft. They took Ron Holland fifth overall, and while I don’t hate the player (far from it), it’s a “we have Ron Holland at home” situation for me. Ausar Thompson does many of the things that Holland does well. They also share some similar shortcomings, especially when it comes to their inability to space the floor with their lack of shooting. I don’t necessarily hate just amassing the most talent possible and figuring it out from there, but I do think they could have picked up another asset or two by trading back a few slots. We know the Grizzlies were trying everything they could to get up to draft Clingan. I’ll give Detroit the benefit of the doubt and say they probably had some intel that they weren’t likely to get Holland if they moved back to nine, because if that wasn’t the case … oof.

Detroit also picked up Wendell Moore Jr. and the 37th pick in a salary dump trade from Minnesota. With that pick they selected Bobi Klintman, who many including myself had as a first-round talent. He’s certainly got upside to him with the size/shooting combo that was on display in the NBL with Cairns Taipans last season. I don’t have any issue with the pick, but the perceived lack of fit between recent lottery picks and Holland combined with the idea that they could have probably traded back and still got their guy leaves them squarely in the list of “losers.”

Milwaukee Bucks

Projected by many to be a lottery pick last fall, AJ Johnson just simply didn’t play much with Illawarra in the NBL last season and when he did, it wasn’t great! He shot 36/28/54 as a rotation player for a mid-table team. But the physical profile is there, standing 6-foot-5 and lighting quick for his size. As a bet for the future in the late first round, I don’t hate it. But the future isn’t what Milwaukee is (or at least, should be) planning for. Giannis Antetokounmpo is still in his prime. They have multiple years of Damian Lillard left to try to squeeze another championship out of this window. Grabbing a guy that most thought would be available in the late second round doesn’t feel like a win now move. I’d be disappointed if I were a Bucks fan.

In fact, I actually like the fit of their second-round pick, Tyler Smith, more than Johnson. Smith was a member of the G-League Ignite last season and is a very intriguing fit with the Bucks especially considering the whispers that they’re shopping some of their frontcourt mainstays like Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis. Smith is 6-foot-9 with a 7-1 wingspan. He shot 36.4% from three in the G-League on four attempts per game and averaged 13/5/1 in 22 minutes per game. Like with the previous two teams listed, it’s not all doom and gloom for this club. But the Bucks could have certainly done better (especially with their first selection) to try to add pieces that look like stronger options to contribute in the near term.

Previous Best MLB Bets Today – Free (Friday 6/28) Next Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2024 Cincinnati Bengals