Now that Keegan Murray has declared for the NBA Draft, let’s take a moment to examine some landing spots.
A few things to keep in mind. First, we don’t have the NBA lottery order yet, and won’t until the lottery is set on May 17 during the conference finals.
Second, we don’t know who will be in the lottery for another two weeks, as the NBA still has 11 days left in the regular season plus the play-in tournament immediately after the season concludes. So there are a lot of moving parts in who could be a potential suitor.
Third, some organizations don’t own their draft pick. The Lakers, for instance, don’t own their pick as they shipped it to New Orleans in the Anthony Davis deal, so I’m not including them in this exercise. For a primer on who owns draft rights, check this link here. Prepare to be confused!
So with a degree of uncertainty involved, that leaves us with Washington, New York, Orlando, Houston, Detroit, Oklahoma City, Indiana, Sacramento, Portland, San Antonio,
Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Charlotte as the teams to examine as of right now. If a 9 or 10 makes the playoffs, the list will change. I’ve divided them into a few categories, starting with...
PLEASE GOD NO
These are the teams that I just don’t want Keegan having any part of. These are organizations with either a bad roster, a bad culture, or (gulp) both.
The leader of the pack. I mean...no. Not at all. Please, I hope Keegan doesn’t get stuck there. The roster is bad outside of two or three guys. Bradley Beal had a pretty poor season - perhaps it was the injury dictating that, but it was a bad year; his trade value isn’t what it was 2 years ago. Kristaps Porzingis impresses no one anymore and he’s fragile. Kyle Kuzma is a good player but he’s probably in the way here when it comes to playing time.
Here’s their starting lineup from Tuesday’s game against the Bulls - Tomas Satoransky, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Corey Kispert, Rui Hachimura, and Porzingis. I know a couple of those guys because I follow the NBA and Kispert just got up into the league this year. The rest of the depth is summed up thusly:
That, plus this being a terrible franchise overall makes this a hard pass for me. Did you know they have not won 50 games in a season since 1978-79, when they made the Finals for the second-straight year but lost the rematch of the previous finals to the Seattle Supersonics starring Fred Brown and John Johnson (I worked that in here only to say, Go Hawks)? NO. Bad roster, bad franchise, bad culture. At least their coach is highly thought of (Wes Unseld, Jr.). I’d rather he slide out of the lottery and land in a winning situation than go here.
They have a couple of fun players in De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. But this franchise is also terrible - they haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006. They should’ve moved to Seattle, frankly.
It’s such a poorly run team they traded Tyrese Haliburton. “So what?” you say. Haliburton showed real flashes, and, most importantly, he wanted to be in Sacramento. He was all in on that town. And they traded him. Read that again - someone wanted to be with this vagabond organization, and they traded him. Also pass.
In a vacuum I’m sure it’d be fun to play for them. It’s a lot of pressure, but when they’re good the city is electric. The whole city is on the same page with this team. I mean fans were closing in on riot status after Game 2 of the first round last year, when they beat the Hawks in the Garden for their first win in a playoff series since 2013.
(They lost that series, 4-1, then they all got so mad at Trae Young that they allowed him to live rent free in their heads for 10 months and counting. So things aren’t great for the New York Knickerbockers)
James Dolan will throw money around. It’s always on the wrong guys, and it’s always in a panic, but he’ll pay. So there are a few positives. But that’s all overwhelmed, in the extreme, by Dolan, the roster is just so meh, Dolan, they blew their cap space, and more James Dolan. All the cap space they had went to guys like Julius Randle (ok, he’s not a bad player at all, but he’s making too much for a guy that’s at 20-10 and he doesn’t move the needle that much) and Evan Fournier (not ok; next year he’s on $18,000,000, per Spotrac. I wrote the number out instead of saying “18 million” so we can see all of those zeros involved. That’s a lot of zeroes for Evan Fournier). Then you have the Dolan issues. Which...yeah. It’s not a good franchise right now. Passssssss.
THESE MOSTLY AREN’T BAD BUT BE READY FOR A LOT OF LOSSES EARLY
This is a big group of teams - Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers. They’re all mostly in the same boat - cupcakes for the big boys but some of these situations aren’t bad and could improve rapidly.
Houston had a horrendous start to this season, but they’ve been frisky since. It’s not a ton of wins, but far more than I thought they’d get. I thought they’d be well under 20, and they’re right at that number today. Something’s there, but you may not see it for 2-3 years. Same with Detroit. In both situations, you’re playing with some young up-and-coming players like Cade Cunningham or Jalen Green. Orlando has some good young pieces like Franz Wagner (maybe a bit of overlap there for PT) and Jalen Suggs. OKC also has some young building blocks - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, and Josh Giddey - and a TON of draft picks. Their draft haul is immense and confusing to keep up with and could also mean Keegan gets drafted there and he’s switching hats on draft night. I don’t want that, as I like what OKC has going, even if it’s the same as Houston - might not see it for another year or two.
The Pacers have a great mix of young guys and veterans - Haliburton, Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, Buddy Hield, TJ Warner, Chris Duarte who you remember from last year’s NCAA Tournament hellscape - that could make them a fun team if they added someone like Keegan, though some of these guys overlap and could eat some playing time. I kind of like this team though, despite approximately 50,000 injuries this year.
Portland is last on this list - playing with Damian Lillard would be fun as hell, but he could also be traded and then you’re dropping out of this group into the PLEASE GOD NO group (the league is always more fun when Portland is competitive, but they blew the window with Dame).
All of these teams have intrigue, good and bad. They all have either a superstar like Dame or a bunch of really good young players (like OKC and Orlando), or a huge draft bounty like OKC, or are seemingly closer than others (like Indiana). Orlando, Houston, Detroit, OKC, and Indiana are the five worst records in the league so they’ll have the best lottery odds. That means some of these teams are likely out of the race - they’ll draft too high. They seem on the right track and the right move or two gets them back in the picture (Indiana especially; the others are longer rebuilds), but short-term, Keegan could be in for a lot of losses and a difficult couple of years while the team rebuilds with everyone else in this section. Then the Blazers look like a difficult situation and they’re awfully close to the bad group. They either have to go all-in with Dame or blow the whole thing up. That would stink for Keegan. Whatever the case - if he’s in this group, there might be long-term upside, but next season, you’re probably below .500 and back in the lottery.
This team also had a bad start to the year and looked certain for the lottery. The roster was just...blah. Nothing there. Then Dejounte Murray started rocking out - he’s a potential superstar. The core, which is pretty young, started figuring it out. Keldon Johnson turned into an intriguing piece. Jakob Poeltl is fine, and Zach Collins is a great bench guy. Even our former man Joe Wieskamp has been playing of late. It’s a young roster that’s a half game out of a play-in spot - only one player is 30 or older, and that’s Doug McDermott who’s exactly 30 years old.
It’s typical Spurs stuff - Pop, young roster that’s clicking at the right time, amazing culture. We’d want Keegan to end up there.
This team made the Eastern Conference Finals last year, pushed the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks to a Game 6 before bowing out...then acted like they won the title. They’re in a play-in spot right now. But the roster is good and despite the slip-up this year the culture is better than it’s been in a decade. Of course he’d want to play with Trae Young. The only worry is a few guys that overlap positions so they could block his way to playing time, and Hawks probably draft too low to get Keegan.
I think this would be the most fun of the group. You get to play with LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridge, Gordon Hayward, Scary Terry Rozier, and the culture keeps getting better, the best it’s ever been under Michael Jordan. Plus MJ signs your checks! Yes to this. Maybe understudy with Hayward for a bit then take the reins? I’d take that. Same issue here though that Atlanta has - they probably don’t get in a spot to draft him unless the lottery order gets funky.
This would also be fun - Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, CJ McCollum. That’s so much fun. They started the year in terrible shape as well, had real questions about their direction and what was happening with Zion, but since a 3-16 start they’ve been over .500 and they’re in the play-in tournament right now. They should have Zion back next year, and hopefully in good shape. Ingram and Zion suck up a lot of the oxygen at his preferred spots, but this would still be a ton of fun and some Zion insurance wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
The YES PLEASE group looks like a ton of fun to me - situations that are fringe playoff teams right now and with good players on all of those teams. Those teams are unlikely to be in a position to draft Keegan, unfortunately. On the flip side, it’s a positive that of the PLEASE GOD NO teams, the Knicks and Wizards are probably too far back in terms of draft odds. Washington and New York are at 32 and 34 wins respectively so I think they’ll be out of range. They won too much, and the Knicks continue to win games for some reason.
My worry is Portland and Sacramento being in that 5-7 sweet spot to pick Keegan, and I just don’t want him ending up in a bad organization or with a team that’s blowing it up by trading Lillard as soon as Keegan walks through the door.
I really like the potential of Oklahoma City, Indiana, and San Antonio would be a great landing spot with Pop plus a Wieskamp reunion tour. I’m feeling generous, so Orlando might be a good spot too.