The 2023 NBA Draft is in the books, which means it’s time to decide the winner and the losers of the annual event. Because draft night is supposed to be about positive vibes and hope for the future, let’s start with the NBA draft winners. These teams (and one coach) crushed draft night and came away better for it. So, without further ado, here is why San Antonio Spur head coach Gregg Popovich, the Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, and Orlando Magic are the four biggest winners of the 2023 NBA Draft.

Gregg Popovich

Let’s get this out of the way because, as obvious as it is, the sheer magnitude of the situation needs to be recognized.

Gregg Popovich started his NBA career as an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs in 1988-89. The next year (after two years of military service), the No. 1 pick of the 1987 NBA Draft, David Robinson showed up. “Pop” then left for a few seasons and came back to take over as head coach of the Spurs in 1996. In 1997, the team took Tim Duncan with the No. 1 pick.

This is why Popovich has five NBA championship rings.

Now, as the 74-year-old approaches the end of his career, he got the No. 1 pick in a year with probably the best big man prospect since Duncan and took Victor Wembanyama. That is a game-changer for Popovich and the Spurs, but you’d expect nothing less from a coach and a franchise with that kind of luck.

Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets had two first-round picks in the 2023 NBA Draft, but only one (No. 4) was in the top 10. However, new head coach Ime Udoka somehow walked away with two top-10 (or even top-five) prospects at Nos. 4 and 20.

With the fourth pick, the Rockets got one of the most athletic players in the draft, Amen Thompson, from Overtime Elite. The (slightly) more highly regarded Thompson twin has tons of NBA-level talent but is a little raw after choosing the new Overtime Elite system over college or the G League.

Plus, he and his brother seem like amazing young men who only care about basketball. As the draft broadcast pointed out, they had iPhone 5’s (the ones with the button on the bottom) until very recently.

On the flip side, there is Cam Whitmore. The Villanova forward has the most NBA-ready body in the draft, but bad interviews and workouts reportedly killed his draft stock, sending him sliding out of the lottery.

The Rockets were there to stop his fall, and in doing so, they got more young talent to add to their already impressive stable of highly-drafted youngsters in Jabari Smith Jr., Jalen Green, and Alperen Sengun. That makes them NBA draft winners.

Now it’s up to Udoka to pull all this young talent together, just like he did in Boston.

Indiana Pacers

The draft is an imperfect science. All the scouts, and analytics, and insiders in the world can’t accurately predict how a prospect will turn out. That’s why conventional wisdom (among smart teams) these days is that taking more bites of the apple and acquiring more future picks is the shrewdest thing to do.

And that’s exactly what the Pacers did on Thursday night.

Indiana traded back one spot with the Washington Wizards and got the guy they likely wanted — Houston forward Jarace Walker — and picked up two 2028 second-round picks in the process. They also got an intriguing small-school sharpshooter in Belmont’s Ben Sheppard at No. 26.

Then, in the later first and second rounds, the Pacers got involved in a three-way trade with the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers that got them G League Ignite guard from New Zealand, Mojave King, and a 2024 first-round pick.

Finally, they picked Miami guard Isaiah Wong to walk away with four prospects and three additional picks. Nice.

Orlando Magic

The Magic has the Nos. 6 and 11 picks in the first round and needed to get a point guard and a shooter with those picks. They took Arkansas PG Anthony Black at No. 6 and Michigan sharpshooter Jett Howard at No. 11.

Mission accomplished.

These two players will fit nicely with Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner and launch the Magic into at least playoff contention in the next year or two. It’s a little questionable that they took Howard over Kansas freshman Gradey Dick, but overall the team did what it needed to do.

The Magic are NBA draft winners mostly because of how their picks fell and how the draft board played out. Still, they got what they needed, and they are better because of it. That’s a win.