Similar to past years, I grade drafts based on the opportunities available to that front office on draft night and a short time before it. A franchise hampered by a years-old trade or previous mistake do not get further penalized for it while teams that squander resources now absolutely do.
The NBA: I’ll try not to make this overly mushy but the gesture by Adam Silver and the NBA to show appreciation for Isaiah Austin was one of the most meaningful I have ever seen from a league. While gestures are not the only thing that matters, they sure help. Well done.
Nuggets: A shockingly strong showing for the Nuggets. They traded down and picked up Jusuf Nurkic, who was the No. 7 player on my board and could be a monster in the paint and a true center, and Gary Harris, a useful guard that fell too far. On top of that, they added Arron Afflalo for a trade exception, which was a very nice depth move considering all they gave up was Evan Fournier and a late second rounder. In the second round, they selected another darling of the stats community with another Adriatic League player: Nikola Jokic.
Jazz: They took the No. 1 player on my final draft board with the fifth pick, so job well done there. Dante Exum could work with Trey Burke and then change roles with another rotation guard. Rodney Hood should be at least a rotation player in the league long-term and I like him better defending SG’s than SF’s, which could happen with the Jazz.
Rockets: Clint Capela was No. 5 on my board and went 25th, which is absolutely incredible. He could be a nice fit with this core long-term. He can block shots and rebound and did so already in Europe. In a draft piece that did not run, I chose Houston as the best fit for Nick Johnson because his ideal role is defending opposing point guards next to a ballhandling wing in an uptempo sysyem. The Rockets have tons of point guards, but Johnson could be there long-term.
76ers: In terms of talent, Joel Embiid was the top player in this draft class. A nice value play by the Sixers to get him, especially with the top two players gone. In a few years, Philly fans might be happy they fell and got Embiid instead of Wiggins. Dario Saric should be a nice piece when he eventually plays in the NBA and it’s not like the Sixers want an immediate contribution from guys. Not a big fan of Jeremi Grant but taking an athlete in the late thirties is very different than doing it in the twenties. The Sixers also did a nice job picking up little dynamo Pierre Jackson for a second round pick. I really like the Vasilije Micic pick for the Sixers- he should be able to contribute as one of the best passers in the entire draft.
Spurs: I tweeted during the draft that their pick of Kyle Anderson was one of my favorites of the last decade and will not walk it back. Anderson is a highly intelligent player who needs a coaching staff that understands what he can do to succeed. Guess what? He got it.
Pistons: Unfortunately for the Pistons, their pick fell just out of the negotiated protection and thus went to Charlotte to complete the Ben Gordon / Corey Maggette trade from 2012. Fortunately, they got a first round talent in the second, as Spencer Dinwiddie fell to them after missing a large portion of the season due to an ACL injury. Dinwiddie has the size and skill to succeed in the league.
Hornets: I would normally rip a team for taking a player at the same non-premium position two years in a row, but Noah Vonleh was a quality choice after he fell a little further than expected even a few days before the draft. He makes sense with Al Jefferson on both ends and could eventually log some minutes at center once he fills out. PJ Hairston works as a shooting guard that should come off the bench for now but could eventually become a fringe starter. Plus, having two team options on him gives Charlotte some leverage in case character issues flare up again.
Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins makes a ton of sense next to Kyrie Irving since the Cavs already have a straw that stirs the drink on offense. Joel Embiid would have been fun, but Wiggins is a completely justifiable selection at No. 1 overall. Joe Harris was an alright choice in the thirties, especially if they want to be competitive sooner. He should be able to play rotation minutes fairly soon even if I’m skeptical that he will grow beyond that.
Hawks: While there were other good players on the board, Adreian Payne could be a beautiful fit for their team as a big who can shoot and rebound. A big man rotation of Horford, Millsap, Payne and Bebe Nogueira could be one of the best in the league next season. Atlanta took another large human being in Walter Tavares who rebounded at a high level last season in Spain.
Bucks: I am truly fascinated by the forward combination of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. Their skills could fit well together and Jabari gives Milwaukee an offensive piece that can carry their scoring until they get the point guard of the future. Damien Inglis works well as a second rounder because of his physical potential- I would have gone with a guard since they need a ton of them but he could work as a rotation player with this core eventually. Not a huge fan of the Johnny O’Bryant pick (especially with their big man depth) but that doesn’t move the grade too much. Doing research on swingmen, I grew to appreciate Lamar Patterson more because he was asked to do substantially more his final season at Pitt and handled the challenge pretty well.
Lakers: Julius Randle is an old school power forward and a talent for a team that can use a foundational piece. Jordan Clarkson could be an interesting piece as well and I always like when teams acquire assets for nothing more than money.
Timberwolves: Who knows if we will ever see them play together, but I have been writing that Zach LaVine would be perfect catching outlet passes from Kevin Love for months now. They got another upside guy in Glenn Robinson III- a player with the athleticism to stick in the NBA if he can grow offensively.
Knicks: After starting the week without any picks, New York added two second rounders through the trade with Dallas that also swapped Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton for Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin. Using one of those picks on Cleanthony Early helps things even more because he should be able to contribute even as the team sees tons of roster changes around him.
Heat: Assuming they keep Miami Thrice together, Shabazz Napier makes a ton of sense as a secondary creator and open shot killer for that team. He can be an interesting defender for them too even though he does not fit their current switching system perfectly.
Suns: I am intrigued by the fit of T.J. Warren because his inside the three point line game works best with a stretch four. Phoenix has a few of those in the Morris twins and possibly Channing Frye. Tyler Ennis was a value pick at #18- I don’t love him as a starter, but it seems unlikely that the Suns will have a need for him to take on that role. Bogdan Bogdanovic is a good player who will benefit greatly from not having to shoulder the burden of being the linchpin for his team’s offense.
Mavericks: Dallas made an impact on the draft despite trading their first round pick. While they added salary for this year in Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton, they solidified their focus on succeeding in shifting their focus to the present and the final years with Dirk Nowitzki.
Celtics: I understand why they like Marcus Smart- he can provide the Celtics with an identity on defense and has shown an excellent competitive streak in the years I’ve followed him as a prospect. My worry is that he will not be able to run an NBA offense, partially due to his shaky jumper. James Young makes a ton of sense for a team looking for an identity in terms of swingmen- he should be able to defend both SG’s and SF’s while hitting open shots.
Grizzlies: Jordan Adams scored efficiently at UCLA, but he will have trouble translating that success to the NBA. Another numbers darling, Jarnell Stokes was getting hype in some circles before the draft but fell too far and became an excellent value as a rotation level PF who could outplay his draft position.
Bulls: While they gave up too much to make it happen based on who fell, the Bulls needed shooting in the worst way and got it in the form of Doug McDermott. Joakim Noah will have substantially more messes to clean up but if Dougie McBuckets is going to work anywhere, it’s Chicago.
Kings: Nik Stauskas could be a nice basketball player, but he will need the right players surrounding him to have a maximum impact in the NBA. I’m not sure Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins are those players. The Kings still need an interior defender in the worst way and could have a gaping need at PG if they lose Isaiah Thomas.
Trail Blazers: Their first round pick completes the 2011 Gerald Wallace trade with Charlotte, which feels like a lifetime ago. Pretty sure the Blazers are happy with how that turned out since they flipped him for the pick that became Damian Lillard…
Wizards: Washington’s pick went to the Suns after they acquired Marcin Gortat right before the start of the regular season.
Nets: Having sent their first round pick to Boston in last year’s blockbuster trade and trading their second back in 2011, the Nets got on the board by purchasing a second round pick from the Timberwolves. They took Markel Brown who has strong athleticism but will need more than that to make an NBA roster.
Warriors: Golden State moved their first to Utah in order to clear cap space for Andre Iguodala last summer, and shipped their second to Minnesota during the 2013 Draft.
Pacers: Indiana moved their first round pick to Phoenix as a part of their big trade last summer.
Clippers: C.J. Wilcox should end up as a rotation player in the league but a stronger defensive wing would have made more sense with this team’s needs since they are so close to championship caliber.
Thunder: Mitch McGary is a huge risk for a team that is looking to win now but I love his potential. He could work with Serge Ibaka too, which would be fun. Josh Huestis was a strange pick in a different direction because he will have to battle hard to stick in the league. Great story but weird first round pick.
Magic: Orlando appears to still be in the asset acquisition phase of their development because they have assembled a squad of players who do not make a ton of sense with each other. Aaron Gordon has a high ceiling but they are asking a ton of Victor Oladipo offensively in the short term and will need offensive dynamos at PG and the other forward position in the long term. Unfortunately, Elfrid Payton is not a pick I particularly love because he had trouble scoring and running an offense against inferior competition in college.
Pelicans: Without a pick due to the major deal with Philly last year, New Orleans made their 2014 splash by giving up ANOTHER first round pick (this time 2015’s) for big man Omer Asik. While he will help them this season, Asik will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Another short-term move for a team that should be focusing on having a competitive team two or three years down the road. Cutting bait on Pierre Jackson (who should have played for them last year) was disappointing as well even though I enjoy Russ Smith.
Raptors: Bruno Caboclo may be the most surprising pick in my entire time following the NBA Draft. With so many talented players on the board, selecting a guy that raw is strange. They surprised a little with DeAndre Daniels as well- I’m not sure where he fits in with Toronto’s talent.