Little suspense at top, but surprises later in NBA draft

Kris Dunn walks on stage after being drafted fifth overall by the Timberwolves in the 2016 NBA draft.
(Mike Stobe / Getty Images)

It was the night drama at the top of the NBA draft went to die, as well as the Oklahoma City Thunder as we knew them and the perception that budget department stores can’t outfit millionaires.

There was zero suspense when it came to the top two picks. Power forward Ben Simmons went No. 1 to the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night before forward Brandon Ingram was immediately snapped up by the Lakers.

Simmons had tipped his hand by working out only for the 76ers, erasing any doubt about what the Lakers would do upon their third consecutive foray into the draft lottery.


“It honestly feels like all this pressure just has hopped off me,” Simmons told reporters after his selection. “Now I can relax, but now I know where I’m going to be. More importantly, I know where I’m headed and know I can really start working on what I need to work on for the team.”

The only intrigue regarding the top picks came when a 76ers fan held up a sign reading “Hinkie 3:16” on one side and “He died for your sins” on the other, a sacrilegious nod to Sam Hinkie, the draft pick-hoarding general manager who was ousted after failing to revive the franchise. An usher inside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., took the sign from the fan.

The snooze factor ebbed a bit from there, with the Boston Celtics picking guard-forward Jaylen Brown third in something of a surprise. Point guard Kris Dunn, widely expected to go in that spot, went fifth instead to the Minnesota Timberwolves and proceeded to generate the most viral video of the first round when he gave shout-outs during his ESPN interview to Gucci for his sparkly shoes and J.C. Penney for his custom burgundy suit. It was believed to be the first time that the luxury fashion brand and the discount department store had been uttered in the same sentence.

Oklahoma City potentially changed the fabric of the Western Conference by trading veteran power forward Serge Ibaka as part of a massive deal with the Orlando Magic, stirring reminders of the widely panned James Harden trade. Did the Thunder once again give up on a top player too early, wrecking their championship hopes?

Ibaka does have only one more season and $12.2 million left on his contract, but he was part of a Thunder core that reached the NBA Finals in 2012 and was one victory away from a return trip last month. Now the Magic must hope he’s not just a one-season rental and can be a sustained part of their rebuilding efforts.

Oklahoma City received point guard Victor Oladipo in the trade as well as forward Ersan Ilyasova and the draft rights to Domantas Sabonis, a Lithuanian big man taken by the Magic with the 11th pick. Conspiracy theorists might note that Oladipo is friends with Thunder forward Kevin Durant and hails from the same hometown of Washington, D.C., a potential lure in the Thunder’s efforts to retain the superstar free agent.

The Phoenix Suns hoarded the most high-end talent in the first round after consummating a trade with the Sacramento Kings that gave the Suns the No. 8 pick to go with their selection at No. 4. They hope they landed their frontcourt of the future after using the former pick on Croatian 7-footer Dragan Bender and the latter on Washington power forward Marquese Chriss.

A lesser trade involved forward Thaddeus Young going from the Brooklyn Nets to the Indiana Pacers for the rights to the No. 20 pick. The selection was used on Michigan point guard Caris LeVert, whose multiple foot surgeries apparently don’t frighten the Nets.

Young joins a retooled Pacers lineup that will also include point guard Jeff Teague, acquired for the rights to the No. 12 pick that became Baylor forward Taurean Prince, who will head to the Atlanta Hawks.

Twitter: @latbbolch