If you love spectacle, the 2023 NBA draft delivered spectacularly—from the impossible tallness of Victor Wembanyama to the bejeweled smile of Scoot Henderson to the blinding shimmer of Gradey Dick’s blazer. If you relish suspense, you got the mysterious, agonizing plummet of Cam Whitmore, from presumptive top-10 pick to 20th overall selection. If you’re in it for raw, human emotion, the night provided enough hugs, tears and gasps to last all summer.
And for the history-minded hoopheads, there were lots of fun footnotes: Wembanyama, the first Frenchman to go No. 1 overall (to San Antonio); twins Amen and Ausar Thompson, the first siblings taken in the top five (Amen to Houston, Ausar to Detroit); and, in the clearest sign yet of a rapidly changing landscape, five of the first seven draftees came either from overseas or a U.S. development league, rather than the college route.
But if you’re a transaction-binging, rumor-chasing, Twitter-obsessed drama fiend, well, you probably came away sadder than the Hornets mascot. To wit: Damian Lillard was not traded. Neither was Zion Williamson. Nor Paul George, nor Pascal Siakam, nor any of the much-speculated-about picks in the top part of the lottery. Nearly every team stood pat—and mostly took the players they were expected to, in more or less the order the experts predicted.
It was, in many respects, a surprisingly ho-hum draft night—but perhaps just a momentary calm before the summer storm. This is the modern NBA, after all, where disillusioned superstars are forever seeking better teams and bigger stages, and the next blockbuster is forever looming.
“It’s going to be an active summer,” one Eastern Conference team executive confidently assured me over the weekend. Fireworks are coming. Not Fourth-of-July level fireworks, but maybe a notch below. “Like Memorial Day,” he said.
The pyrotechnics began in the days leading up to the draft, with the Washington Wizards shipping star guard Bradley Beal to Phoenix, in exchange for Chris Paul, who was later re-routed to the Golden State Warriors, who in turn sent Jordan Poole to Washington. The Wizards also sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Boston Celtics in a three-team deal that saw defensive ace Marcus Smart move from Boston to Memphis. And if you believe the rumors, there’s much more ahead, possibly involving luminaries like Lillard, Williamson, Paul George, Karl-Anthony Towns and Pascal Siakam, among others.
Of course, the NBA rumor mill nearly always outpaces the actual number of marquee trades and signings. But a frenzied offseason—which officially begins Friday at 6 p.m. ET, with the opening of free agency—feels inevitable. We just witnessed one of the tightest seasons in modern history, followed by one of the wildest postseasons ever, punctuated by a Finals in which a perpetually underestimated underdog beat an eighth seed.
More parity means more belief, and more belief means more teams striving to win now. Few teams are sacrificing wins for draft positioning anymore. Some team executives suggest that dynamic might make it harder to make trades. But it also amps up the urgency to keep up wi
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Let the NBA’s Silly Season Begin