Eight players from North Carolina schools had their dreams fulfilled and their futures secured by being selected in the NBA draft last Thursday in Brooklyn. That makes them all winners no matter where or by which team they were selected. At the same time, however, some members of the in-state contingent clearly fared better than others in the annual lottery of amateur basketball talent, primarily because of the respective landing spots they found once the player-selection process was over. Here is a look at which of them, at least initially, were the biggest “winners” and which may have come up short on the proverbial draft night scoreboard:WINNERS â¼ Jayson Tatum: The former Blue Devil couldn’t have asked for a better draft scenario. The Celtics had the top overall pick, but knowing that Tatum would still be there at No. 3 with Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball all but slotted in as the first two players to go, they traded down with Philadelphia to get him. The sleek 6-foot-8 forward figures to be a perfect fit for a Boston team with designs on dethroning Cleveland as the beast of the NBA East. He gives the Celtics some badly needed wing scoring and offensive creativity, along with some toughness that was lacking in this year’s playoff series against the Cavaliers. Tatum should also benefit from playing under Brad Stevens, a respected leader with many of the same qualities and philosophies as his coach at Duke, Mike Krzyzewski. â¼ Tony Bradley: The young big man had the potential to be a breakout star and a possible lottery pick had he returned to UNC for his sophomore season, Instead, he took a leap of faith by staying in the draft despite marginal first-round projections. It’s a gamble that paid off when the Los Angeles Lakers selected him with the third-to-last pick of the only round that comes with a guaranteed contract (28th overall). Bradley’s situation got even better shortly after his name was announced when the Lakers traded him to the Utah Jazz in exchange for the rights to 30th pick Josh Hart and 42nd pick Thomas Bryant. Instead of playing for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2013 and can’t seem to get out of its own way in its rebuilding process, the 6-10 forward is going to a Utah team that won 51 games and a playoff series last season and could use an injection of size and athleticism up front. â¼ One-and-done freshmen: Sixteen of the 30 first-round picks this year were college freshmen, surpassing the 13 that were taken in the 2015 draft as the most in NBA history. This year’s draft also marked the first time ever in which the first five players selected after just one season of college experience. In addition to the four members of that group from the ACC Tatum, Smith, Giles and Bradley the others were Washington’s Fultz, UCLA’s Ball and T.J. Leaf, Kansas’ Josh Jackson, Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk (who went to the Charlotte Hornets at No. 12 overall) and Bam Adebayo, Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac, Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen, Gonzaga’s Zach Collins, Creighton’s Justin Patton and Texas’ Jarrett Allen.LOSERS â¼ Justin Jackson and Harry Giles: Neither player is actually a loser. Both went about where they were expected, Jackson at No. 15 overall and Giles at No. 20. The latter is actually something of a victory considering his history of knee injuries and the less-than-impressive numbers he put up in his only season at Duke. The reason they’re in this category is because they both ended up getting sent to the NBA’s version of Siberia the Sacramento Kings. The Kings got both picks in a trade with the Portland Trailblazers. Both players along with fellow first-round pick Collins of Gonzaga will get the opportunity to contribute right away and improve a team in desperate need of improvement. The problem is that even if they succeed, few if anyone will notice. Sacramento, which has suffered through 11 straight losing seasons and hasn’t been to the playoffs since Vlade Divac was turning the flop into an art form, is a place in which NBA players go and are never heard from again. â¼ Ted Kapita: No one really blinked when the NC State freshman submitted his name for the draft. It’s actually to an underclassman’s benefit to go through the process and get feedback on how to improve his game. But unlike most in his situation, the 6-9 forward didn’t withdraw his name at the deadline and return to school. Despite barely playing for the Wolfpack, averaging just 4.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in just under 13 minutes per game, he signed with an agent and stayed in the draft. To no one’s surprise, he was not selected in either round, meaning that instead of returning to State or transferring to another school, he’s going to have to try to make a living in either the NBA’s development league or somewhere overseas. â¼ Seniors: The flip side of the record number of freshmen taken in this year’s draft is the record low number of seniors that heard their names called. In fact, there were only two — Colorado point guard Derek White and Villanova shooting guard Josh Hart — and they were the last two players chosen in the first round. While several more upperclassmen went in the second round, the lack of love for college seniors helped leave UNC national champions Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks out in the cold. Both players will get an opportunity to play their way into the league after signing free agent deals, Meeks with the Toronto Raptors and Hicks with the Los Angeles Clippers. But the odds are stacked squarely against them. WILD CARD â¼ Frank Jackson: Jackson could easily have been listed among the “losers,” since as the first selection of the second round (31st overall), he missed out on a guaranteed multi-year contract by just one pick. But upon further inspection, maybe the former Duke point guard didn’t fare so badly after all. For one thing, he was traded by the team that drafted him, the Hornets, to a New Orleans Pelicans team that didn’t have a first round pick and clearly wanted him. The second is that despite a somewhat pedestrian rookie season with the Blue Devils, his draft stock could potentially never be as high as it was this year because of the arrival at Duke of blue chip recruit Trevon Duval. It was definitely a gamble for Jackson to come out when he did, especially since Duval may not have chosen Duke had he decided to stay. Only time will tell whether the gamble pays off or not.
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