That’s not to say the 2017 talent pool was as wide (the suits are certainly thinner), but the hype was real. As pre-draft coverage reached a crescendo, it seemed draft pundits and league executives were singing the same tune: for this year’s class of prospects, the ceiling is the roof.
Generally, there are one or two guys in a draft class whom experts suspect could become a franchise player—Karl-Anthony Towns in 2015, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid in 2014. Sometimes scouts aren’t sure if there are any (in 2013, the Anthony Bennett year, the best player—Giannis Antetokounmpo—fell to No. 15). In 2017, depending on whom you asked, there were as many as four or five potential franchise guys.
It was not only the talent of the players, however, that made Thursday such an exciting night. The NBA itself has never been this popular.
With an ahead-of-its-time international expansion strategy and shrewd use of media—coupled with compelling storylines like the Warriors-Cavs rivalry and Russell Westbrook’s mission to destroy the earth—the league has the NFL looking over its shoulder. The NBA draft and free agency period are now just as looked forward to as the league’s biggest playoff games. Fans are glued to their phones in June and July.
This is me. pic.twitter.com/R3X9o20PmM— Alexis Morgan (@alexiskmorgan) June 19, 2017
Draft night is like Christmas for avid hoops fans, and on this special evening, Twitter is your best friend. Woj and his wunderkind, Shams Charania, tweet every pick before it’s announced. Trades fly with reckless disregard like J.R. Smith hoisting 40-footers. People freak out. The GIFs appear seemingly the second after the footage airs on TV.
It’s sports entertainment at its finest.
Get your popcorn ready because, in association with Axe Hair, we’ve compiled the ultimate NBA Draft Timeline, furnished with the most entertaining, informational, and hilarious reactions to everything that popped off Thursday night.
Before the draft, as ESPN’s coverage focused on LaVar Ball, NBA players made their opinion of him clear. LOL @ Jo Jo Embiid.
Crazy pills— Ben Simmons (@BenSimmons25) June 22, 2017
Please dunk on him so hard that his daddy runs on the court to save him.. https://t.co/cMvt5RYiSQ— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) June 22, 2017
Every year, prospects show up to the event dressed to the nines. This year was no exception. They spent the cash and brought the heat.
De'Aaron Fox with custom made "LOVE" shoes for his night at the NBA Draft. pic.twitter.com/mOoxIeO4UT— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 22, 2017
Don't put anything past the Balls. Lonzo Ball wearing a bow tie with the Big Baller Brand logo on it. pic.twitter.com/ecxmJmrB7n— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 22, 2017
Markelle Fultz wearing shoes tonight that are made out of basketballs. pic.twitter.com/jCjzommlvM— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 22, 2017
Gonzaga's Zach Collins making sure his hometown of Las Vegas is part of his outfit tonight. pic.twitter.com/oKP8hsNG4v— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 22, 2017
Wake Forest's John Collins wearing Christian Louboutin hi-tops to tonight's draft ($1,295) pic.twitter.com/sBFj7sHwXf— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 22, 2017
Josh Jackson's Rolex spotted at tonight's NBA Draft pic.twitter.com/aKkc8yhoKA— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 22, 2017
Naturally, having strong hair game was a priority for the prospects on their big night. The biggest hair drew the most attention.
"I've been alive for 68 years and I've never seen hair like De'Aaron Fox's!" -- my father— Sam Shapiro (@sam_shaps) June 22, 2017
With the hair and the suit, Josh Jackson could either be in the 2017 draft or the 1977 draft pic.twitter.com/HwIMNRdtmp— Andy Pollin (@andypollin1) June 22, 2017
Surprising no one, Philadelphia took smooth, crafty Washington guard Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 pick. Philly is starting to look dangerous. #TrustTheProcess
👏🏼👏🏼— Ben Simmons (@BenSimmons25) June 22, 2017
oh you think markelle fultz is good? name three songs on his first album— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) June 22, 2017
Congrats bro! @MarkelleF ✊🏾✊🏾now let's show out !— Shareef O'Neal (@cynreef) June 22, 2017
Markelle Fultz is the 4th major-conference freshman in last 25 seasons to average 22+ PPG.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 22, 2017
All 4 went in the top 3. pic.twitter.com/DJEIZbFWss
Then LaVar’s prophecy came true. He really spoke it into existence. The Lakers took Lonzo Ball No. 2.
lavar ball is a genius— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) June 22, 2017
new logo? pic.twitter.com/kcUAvgnSWN— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) June 22, 2017
"I must be a genius to plan it this well. His # has always been No. 2. And guess where he's going? #2." -- LaVar Ball after draft lottery.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 22, 2017
Less than a minute after his son gets drafted by the Lakers, LaVar Ball put on the Big Baller hat in Lakers colors pic.twitter.com/v0U2OHUaEh— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 22, 2017
Big Baller Brand promising tonight that anyone who buys Lonzo's new ZO2's in Lakers colors ($495) will get them in second week of February pic.twitter.com/S0fGcDyKd3— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 23, 2017
LaVar Ball says he's been saying Lonzo was going to be drafted by the Lakers for the past 19-20 years pic.twitter.com/v9kfmiwCD2— NBA RETWEET (@RTNBA) June 22, 2017
Though the early picks went as expected, the NBA world was shocked as the Timberwolves pulled off a big-time trade for Jimmy Butler, who was a sought-after target for a number of teams. Twitter certainly didn’t think Chicago got enough in return for the third-team All-Pro.
Chicago is finalizing a deal to send Jimmy Butler to Minnesota for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and No. 7 pick, league source says.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 22, 2017
Bulls draft recap: pic.twitter.com/0iNsieQPf1— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 23, 2017
when you find out about about minneapolis' budding restaurant scene pic.twitter.com/KL6pqO73JS— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) June 23, 2017
The Bulls did not get enough for Jimmy Butler, who is better than Paul George - mentally/physically tougher, far more clutch.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) June 22, 2017
When Jimmy thought he escaped Thibs but he's back to playing 80 minutes a night with 2 broken legs in Minnesota pic.twitter.com/UR71OiaJNi— SAMUELITO (@SamCaminiti) June 23, 2017
"That is a good haul for Jimmy Butler" pic.twitter.com/WoITYpAaPP— Chris Vernon (@ChrisVernonShow) June 22, 2017
Jimmy Butler trade is the worst trade I have ever seen in my entire life— Kyle Horton (@KrhKyle) June 22, 2017
Timberwolves first round by getting Jimmy Butler from Bulls for spare parts. loaded deck with Towns, Wiggins and Butler. Playoff team.— Ben Maller (@benmaller) June 22, 2017
So y'all gonna sit on this app and act like Jimmy Butler didn't get traded to the Timberwolves for Zach Lavine and Kris Dunn— killyourselfthx (@JulioPina5) June 22, 2017
The T'Wolves just got Jimmy Butler for Lavigne & Dunn and only had to move down 9 spots in the draft. That's amazing.— nick wright (@getnickwright) June 22, 2017
The Suns stole dunk machine Josh Jackson at No. 4, adding to their super-talented young core.
Josh Jackson will make teams that passed on him regret not taking him !— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) June 23, 2017
Josh Jackson will help the Suns more than he would've the Celtics. Will provide toughness, backbone, leadership to a finesse team.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) June 23, 2017
Suns young core:*— Doug Haller (@DougHaller) June 23, 2017
-Josh Jackson, age 20
-Devin Booker, age 20
-Dragan Bender, age 19
-Marquese Chriss, age 19
The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski had every pick and transaction ahead of the TV coverage—par for the course.
The draft is 20 minutes behind Woj.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) June 23, 2017
Funny that Woj is halfway through the lottery and the broadcast still is at No. 5.— Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) June 23, 2017
*Refreshes twitter*— Clutch (@ClutchHatTrick) June 23, 2017
Woj: The Heat will take Justin Jackson with the 14th pick.
*Looks at TV*
Adam Silver: "With the 5th pick" pic.twitter.com/Yrrkgblf0Q
Trying to keep up with all the Woj bombs and Paul George rumors like pic.twitter.com/Yg8Vo1uyZw— Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) June 23, 2017
WOJ HASN'T TWEETED FOR 7 MINUTES EVERYBODY PANIC— Serge Ibloga (@KofieYeboah) June 23, 2017
Going to be weird with Woj at ESPN next year #NBADraft17— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) June 22, 2017
Woj is already live-tweeting the 2018 NBA Draft— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) June 22, 2017
The Bulls took Arizona big man Lauri Markkanen No. 7. Jay Bilas made the astute observation that Markkanen has to be careful when he drives in Finland now, because speeding ticket rates there are determined based on income.
@JayBilas speeding tickets....In Finland....pure genius— Brent Barry (@Barryathree) June 23, 2017
Speeding tickets determined by income in Finland, I would never slow down then 😂😂— Bon Bon (@LilBDiggitty) June 23, 2017
Freshman after freshman went off the board. The top seven picks were freshmen. The previous record was four.
Five freshmen in the first five picks. Thank God they went to college, huh?— Bob Kravitz (@bkravitz) June 23, 2017
All these freshmen first picks making me feel under accomplished af #NBADraft17— Kara (@hiiikara) June 23, 2017
This NBA Draft is gonna be compared to the Lebron melo bosh draft class in 8 years a bunch of great freshmen #NBAdraft2017— #ETOU (@DEEZVS) June 23, 2017
First 7 draft picks are all Freshmen that C/O of 2016 something serious‼️😎😏— Jeán Lámót III (@JohnLamot35) June 23, 2017
7 pick, 7 freshmen in the #NBADraft. It's become a system of ingredients, not cooked meals.— Nick Gryniewicz (@ESPN580Nick) June 23, 2017
Knicks fans had a mixed response to their selection of French point guard Frank Ntilikina at No. 8.
New York 🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾— Frank Ntilikina (@FrankNtiIikina) June 23, 2017
I knew Frank Ntilikina was serious about his interest in the Knicks when he started following Lance Thomas on Instagram pic.twitter.com/Lz8vazG90o— Joseph Flynn (@ChinaJoeFlynn) June 21, 2017
Poor Frank Ntilikina is gonna have a hard transition to NYC ahead if he thinks the Knicks are a great organization...— Kami Mattioli (@kmattio) June 23, 2017
Everyone seemed to think NC State’s Dennis Smith, Jr., whom the Mavericks took at No. 9, was a steal.
"Dennis Smith, Jr. is gonna sh*t on half the dudes drafted before him."— mauriice (@tallmaurice) June 23, 2017
—me, a guy who has never watched a full Dennis Smith, Jr. game
Dennis smith jr got that Steve Francis comparison tho— Evan Turner (@thekidet) June 23, 2017
Rick Carlisle says Mavs believe Dennis Smith Jr. is as good as any PG in the draft. "We're getting a guy that's an instant-impact guy."— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) June 23, 2017
LET'S GOO !! It's Lit @Dennis4Smith welcome to the family !!— Nerlens Noel (@NerlensNoel3) June 23, 2017
And Kentucky sharp-shooter Malik Monk, who was once considered one of the top prospects in the draft, somehow slipped all the way to Charlotte at No. 11.
Jalen just compared the last 2 picks to Channing Frye and George Hill. Meanwhile my man Malik Monk is still on the board...— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) June 23, 2017
This Malik Monk right now pic.twitter.com/epSkEtAkpA— Goldie (@radrahmel) June 23, 2017
Malik Monk still available at #10? That seems foolish.— nick wright (@getnickwright) June 23, 2017
Malik Monk is the best player in the draft. Why he's still on the board is confusing to me— Smoke DZA (@smokedza) June 23, 2017
Decent chance that the most impactful player in this draft is still available. Yup, I'm proudly a Malik Monk mark.— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) June 23, 2017
As usual, NBA commissioner Adam Silver was the emcee for the night. He drew his fair share of praise and roasts.
I love Adam Silver because he seems genuinely excited by the minutiae of being commissioner. Like he spent years dreaming of this job.— Nathaniel Friedman (@freedarko) June 22, 2017
Adam Silver really looks like a middle finger and I'll never be able to unsee it and LeBatard's show is to blame— Larry Beyince (@DragonflyJonez) June 23, 2017
Adam Silver is the only commissioner in sports who gets cheered when he comes out for the draft.— Dave Schilling (@dave_schilling) June 22, 2017
Excuse me Adam Silver if you're not busy can you run the NHL for awhile and the NFL if you can thanks— Matthew Coller (@MatthewColler) June 22, 2017
And, of course, what’s an NBA Draft without plenty of talk of “wingspan?”
Blilas told Davis to stay in his lane when he mentioned Adebayo's wingspan 😂😂😂 I love the NBA— James Tompsett (@jamesatompsett) June 23, 2017
Don't draft basketball players with short arms, is my life advice— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) June 23, 2017