The 2018-19 NBA season has come to a close with the Raptors winning their first NBA championship, but in the blink of an eye, the NBA offseason has come in like a lion.
With the draft on Thursday night and free agency right around the corner, front offices are working overtime to get plans together to add talent to the roster, while also working the phones to see what may be available on the trade market. Anthony Davis’ trade to the Lakers opened up the NBA’s transaction period with a bang, and thanks to the names on the free agent market and teams with copious amounts of cap space, many around the league are expecting this summer to be one of the biggest in recent memory.
To look ahead at all the craziness that could be coming our way in the next few weeks and to get an executive’s perspective on this time of year, we chatted with Wes Wilcox, former GM of the Atlanta Hawks who will do TV work with NBATV during the draft and free agency. Wilcox offers his thoughts on this draft, his favorite players outside of the consensus top-3, the Anthony Davis trade being a win-win, teams to watch in free agency, how front offices structure their offseason plans, and why even the GMs knew they were giving out contracts that would likely look bad in the future back in the crazy summer of 2016.
Where do you see the value at in this draft, either positionally or guys you like outside of what seems to be the consensus top-3 of Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and R.J. Barrett?
It does seem that there’s a consensus as you lay out. One thing we know about the NBA Draft is we’re going to be surprised somewhere along the lines, and in general, there’s opportunity in every draft. We love to evaluate the draft from a distance and say, “This is a strong draft, this is a weak draft,” and what people mean by that is different to everybody. Oftentimes, that means there’s only one or two great players, or maybe two or three great players, and that’s a strong draft. Or maybe it’s a deep draft with rotation players and people would define that as a strong draft.
This draft seems to be, the consensus at this point, is that it’s a deeper rotation level player draft, but lacking the elite, franchise-altering players outside of Zion at the top. But that’s consensus, and no one thought a guy like Giannis at 15 or Donovan Mitchell at 13 were going to be the elite level player they are now, and one would think a player like that is going to be somewhere within this draft that nobody’s really talking about right now.
Everyone seems to have someone they like in that group right after the top-3. If you were picking fourth, or looking to trade into the fourth pick, who is that guy you like in that next group of players?
A player that I really like in this draft is Coby White. Great size, great competitor, the background on the kid is very, very strong, and he can score the basketball in a bunch of ways. Every player has questions. Some question if he’s a true point guard. I don’t know, but I think Coby White is going to be a very good NBA player. I’ve watched a ton this year, watched him live, and when the background comes back as positive and the measurables come out what they are, and you add that to what he did as a freshman, how he improved over the course of the year, and then going back to high school where he’s the all-time leading scorer in North Carolina high school state history. I’m very intrigued by Coby, so much so that I’d consider him, outside of Zion, as a guy that should be considered amongst that second tier after Zion.