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Magic the big winners in NBA Draft and Knicks, Nets were the big losers

Duke's Paolo Banchero was the surprise No. 1 pick in Thursday's NBA Draft.John Minchillo/Associated Press

In a draft night stunner on Thursday, the Orlando Magic defied conventional wisdom by taking Duke’s Paolo Banchero over Auburn’s Jabari Smith and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren with the No. 1 pick. Fierce debates over the top selection are fairly common, but usually they get sorted out — and leaked — well before the prospects hit the Barclays Center stage.

The last-minute surprise made for an entertaining start to a night that saw two lottery picks traded. With all 58 picks officially in the books, let’s run down the biggest winners and losers.

1. Winners: Rockets and Magic

A sharp change of plans can often cause anxiety or disappointment, but the Houston Rockets should be elated that Smith fell into their lap at the No. 3 pick. While there seemed to be real excitement at the prospect of pairing 2021 No. 2 pick Jalen Green with Banchero, Smith could easily prove to be the better long-term fit.

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A similar argument can be made on the Magic side. Banchero will be cast as the alpha scorer in Orlando with 2021 lottery pick Jalen Suggs expected to be a more distribution-minded point guard. Meanwhile, the Magic have several promising frontcourt defenders who can help cover for Banchero’s limitations on that end.

2. Losers: Knicks

The Knicks wanted no part of this year’s festivities. First, New York traded away the No. 11 pick, Ousmane Dieng, to the Thunder for future picks. Then, the Knicks rerouted the No. 13 pick, Jalen Duren, from the Hornets to the Pistons in a three-way trade that allowed them to shed Kemba Walker’s salary.

Rather than add a lottery prospect or two to their unfinished roster, New York decided to clear cap space for its free-agency pursuits. Given that there are few stars available on this summer's market, the Knicks' short-term thinking is likely to end with a whimper.

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3. Winner: Chet Holmgren

Banchero’s surprise selection at No. 1 threatened to upend Holmgren’s night by sending him sliding down the board. Instead, Oklahoma City stayed the course and selected the 7-foot Gonzaga freshman rather than taking Smith. Holmgren couldn’t have asked for a better home than the small-market Thunder, who are fully committed to a patient developmental approach and can help shield him from questions about his physique early in his career. Oklahoma City reinforced its plans to build slowly by adding two other lottery picks: Dieng and Jalen Williams.

4. Losers: Kings

Thursday felt like a missed opportunity for the Kings, who held the fourth pick in a draft where there was significant interest in Jaden Ivey, an explosive guard from Purdue. Although Ivey seemed disinclined to play for Sacramento, taking him anyway was an option. De’Aaron Fox and Ivey would have given the Kings an attack-minded backcourt capable of eventually snapping the franchise’s streak of 16 straight lottery trips. Even if the Kings concluded that Fox and Ivey overlapped too much in skills, Ivey arguably has the more promising future.

But Sacramento didn’t select Ivey or even cash out the fourth pick in a trade. Instead, the Kings took Keegan Murray, and one can’t help but wonder how many other teams would have selected the 21-year-old Iowa forward over Ivey if given the chance.

5. Winners: Pistons

The Pistons are still early in the rebuilding process, but their lottery luck has been extraordinary for the last two years. In 2021, they won the right to draft Cade Cunningham, a high-level playmaker and defender, with the top overall selection. This year, Ivey, a potential All-Star who should complement Cunningham, was unexpectedly available at No. 5.

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Detroit general manager Troy Weaver has turned his roster upside down since arriving in 2020, and he now has the cap flexibility to chase high-profile free agents such as Deandre Ayton this summer.

6. Losers: Nets

The Nets should have been a nonfactor on draft night, but another round of rumors about their ongoing saga with Kyrie Irving played out on national television for all to see. As Irving struggles to regain leverage in contract negotiations, Brooklyn suddenly faces talk that Kevin Durant might want out if his sidekick doesn’t return.

Worst of all, the Rockets own the Nets’ 2024 and 2026 first-round picks and pick swaps in 2023, 2025, and 2027 courtesy of the James Harden trade. A misstep this summer could have disastrous consequences for the next half-decade.

Grizzlies, 76ers complete trade

The Grizzlies sent guard De’Anthony Melton to the 76ers for the draft rights to forward David Roddy and wing Danny Green.


Clifford to coach Hornets again

Steve Clifford agreed to a multiyear contract to return as head coach of the Hornets, a person familiar with the situation said.

The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team had yet to announce the move.

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Charlotte previously agreed to terms on a four-year contract with Golden State assistant Kenny Atkinson to become head coach, but Atkinson later informed the team he was not taking the job.

The 60-year-old Clifford spent five seasons coaching the Hornets, compiling a 196-214 record.