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Team-By-Team Analysis Of The 2014 NBA Draft

With the new CBA magnifying the importance of the draft and one of the most talented groups of prospects in recent years, what happened on Thursday night will have significant ramifications on the balance of power in the NBA for the next decade. Who made the right picks will take a long time to figure out - how the draft is perceived today will differ a lot from how it is perceived next year, three years and five years from now. There’s a lot to get too, so let’s get to it.

Cleveland Cavaliers 

- Andrew Wiggins (No. 1)

- Joe Harris (No. 33)

- Dwight Powell (No. 45)

I wasn’t as high on Wiggins as most people, but in and of itself, I don’t have a huge problem with the pick. At the very least, he will be a two-way wing who contributes at a high level on both sides of the ball. He is still a young player and if he can develop his offensive game, as both a shot-creator and a distributor, he has as much upside as anyone not named Joel Embiid. He can slide between either wing position, although the Cavs said they view him as a big SG.

Given his somewhat raw offensive game, I can see the idea that he will be more effective as a SG. He has the athleticism to pull it off and he would tower over the vast majority of guards at 6’8 200 with a 7’0 wingspan. At the same time, it’s hard to picture a scenario where Wiggins doesn’t draw the bigger of the other team’s two wings. Unless the Cavs play him with another 6’8+ guy who can create his own shot at SF, the other team can afford to cross-switch on defense.

My concern with the pick comes from the drafts of Christmas past and the young core that is being built in Cleveland. If you commit to Wiggins as a SG, there doesn’t seem to be enough minutes and touches for Dion Waiters, a guy who is just starting to turn the corner in terms of becoming an effective pro. More broadly, the Cavs have made five Top-4 picks in the last four years and they still don’t have a rim protector on their roster. That doesn’t make any sense.

You could make a justification for why they didn’t go with a center at the time each pick was made, but whether it was Jonas Valanciunas in 2011, Andre Drummond in 2012, Nerlens Noel or Alex Len in 2013 or Embiid in 2014, at some point they needed to bite the bullet and not take the flashiest perimeter player who scored a lot of points in college. That’s how you build a roster and any roster with Kyrie and Anthony Bennett on it is going to need some interior defense.

In the second round, they grabbed a shooter (Joe Harris) and a versatile big man (Powell) who should round out their bench. Harris is pretty much a pure specialist, but he should be able to stretch the floor in a limited role. I’m not sure whether Powell will get the chance to play right away in Cleveland, but a 6’11 guy with his athleticism and skill should be able to find a spot for himself in the league. He’s a better player than Huestis, his Stanford teammate.

Milwaukee Bucks 

- Jabari Parker (No. 2)

- Damien Inglis (No. 31)

- Johnny O’Bryant III (No. 36)

- Lamar Patterson (No. 48)

The Bucks went with the player who could help them right away in Jabari Parker, as their owner had said they would do earlier in the week. He doesn’t have the upside of Embiid, but it’s a good fit of player and roster, as Milwaukee has the athletes upfront to hide Parker on defense, and they desperately needed a frontcourt player who could create his own shot and stretch the floor. The combination of Jabari at the 4 and Giannis at the 3 should be a great one-two punch. 

The big question with Jabari is whether he can make his teammates better. Brandon Knight is a SG in a PG’s body and they don’t have a ton of passing on their roster. He’s probably going to draw double teams early in his career, so he will need to be willing to make the extra pass and look to set everyone else up, which is not something he did too often at Duke. If he can get guys like John Henson and Larry Sanders easy shots, Milwaukee could improve quickly. 

The Henson/Sanders frontcourt duo was probably dead on arrival due to their complete lack of floor spacing, so it will be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out over the next few seasons. If Chris Bosh can survive as a small-ball center in the East, I’m not sure Henson can’t either, which would give Milwaukee a really interesting frontcourt on both sides of the ball. They still need a two-way guard who can pass and shoot, but their rebuilding effort is going well.

They’ve been a pretty ahead of the curve team when it comes to finding talent in the draft, so I’m curious to see whether anything comes of their three second round picks. Damien Inglis, as a 240-pound wing with a 7’3 wingspan, is an interesting long-term play while Lamar Patterson could provide value as an all-around player who do a little bit of everything. Johnny O’Bryant will need to be able to shoot, as there won’t be much room around the basket for him to operate. 

Philadelphia 76ers 

- Joel Embiid (No. 3)

- Dario Saric (No. 10)

- KJ McDaniels (No. 33)

- Jerami Grant (No. 39)

- Vasilije Micic (No. 52)

- Nemanja Dangubic (No. 54)

Philadelphia has dominated the headlines with their no-holds barred effort to rebuild through the draft and take the very, very long view when it comes to accumulating assets, which is a polite way of saying they’ve been tanking pretty egregiously. The good news for is if that there’s a player in this draft whose worth gutting your franchise and waiting several years for, it’s Joel Embiid. He’s a guy who makes a team instantly credible on both sides of the ball.

Just like with Nerlens Noel, the 76ers can afford to take their time with Embiid’s health. His upside is off the charts - at 7’0 250 with a 7’5 wingspan, he has the chance to be an elite offensive player and defensive player. He’s by far the best player in this draft and if you’re going to go down, you might as well go down with the guy who has the most talent and hope for the best. It’s unclear whether Embiid and Noel can fit together, but you can always trade a 7’0 who can play.

Saric is an interesting guy in that he’s got a lot of the same skill-set as Michael Carter-Williams, as big ball-handlers (6’9 230) with a good feel for the game and questions about their outside shot. The 76ers clearly don’t place a huge priority on outside shooting - McDaniels (30%), Grant (0%) and Micic (29%) are all subpar shooters from the perimeter. They’ll need to be in transition as much as possible, which fits with the style they played this season. 

Of their second-round picks, I think McDaniels is the one to watch. He can defend multiple positions on the perimeter and he’s a freak athlete who averaged 3 blocks a game from the small forward position, which doesn’t really happen at any level of the game. He should get all the minutes he can handle next season and he should be a great finisher in transition next to Carter-Williams. Let’s just hope some of Chip Engelland’s magic rubbed off on Brett Brown. 

Orlando Magic 

- Aaron Gordon (No. 4)

- Elfrid Payton (No. 10)

- Roy Devyn Marble (No. 56) 

After two years as the Orlando GM, it’s pretty clear that Rob Hennigan has a type - uber-athletic prospects who can do a little bit of everything, even if they can’t shoot. Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton are all smart players who can fly around the court, crash the glass and defend multiple positions, but I’m not sure whether you can build a whole roster of players like that. There’s not going to be any floor spacing when those guys are in the game.

I’m on board with the Gordon pick because he fills so many holes on their interior defense, a must for a team with a frontcourt that features Nik Vucevic and Tobias Harris. But while you can get away with a poor shooter at one of the forward positions, there are not many examples in the modern NBA of a successful backcourt with two subpar shooters. Instead of the Splash Brothers, the Magic have the Clank Brothers - you can legitimately zone this team. 

Payton is a Rajon Rondo level shooter - college teams were playing 4-5 feet off him when he had the ball in his hands and he really couldn’t make them pay. He shot 26% from 3 and 61% from the free-throw line. It’s no coincidence that Rondo was most effective playing next to two knock down shooters in Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. His game is drawing defenders and kicking to the shooter, but you really can’t run plays for Oladipo (33% from 3) on the perimeter.

Orlando is going to have to play uptempo and try to force TO’s as much as possible, because they are going to have a real hard time scoring in the half-court. My worry is that Oladipo and Payton end up making each other worse, since the other guy’s defender can sit in the paint on defense and cut off their driving lanes. To me it all goes back to the Oladipo pick - you can’t draft a 6’4 guard at No. 2 overall if he can’t shoot 3’s or run point. He needs to hit the gym this summer. 

Utah Jazz 

- Dante Exum (No. 5)

- Rodney Hood (No. 23)

Combo forward was the biggest area of need on the Utah roster, but when Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon were both off the board, they made the adjustment and took the best player available in Dante Exum. It’s hard to knock their choice, even if it extends the rebuilding period, since the draft is the only way the Jazz are going to be able to grab a star-caliber player. Outside of Embiid, I think Exum has the best chance of any player in the draft of being a two-way star.

The big storyline about Exum coming into the draft was about him benefitting from being an unknown, but that really wasn’t fair. Everyone saw him in play in the Hoop Summit and the U19 world championships and you don’t have to watch him play for very long to see that he is a special player. He’s a big guard (6’6 190 with a 6’9 wingspan) who is super-fast, very skilled and has a very good feel for the game. He has the tools that jump off the screen in one viewing.

Even though Utah picked behind Orlando in the last two drafts, I’d much rather have an Exum/Burke backcourt than Oladipo/Payton. The Jazz draft pretty well - Hood was another solid pick at No. 24. He’s not going to be a star, but he can eat a lot of minutes on the perimeter as a two-way wing. This draft does seem to make Alec Burks expendable and he could be an interesting buy low guy. He’s still only 22 and his per-36 minute numbers are solid. 

They are pretty set with Derrick Favors upfront and the perimeter trio of Burke/Exum/Hayward so the question becomes what they do at PF. They moved away from Enes Kanter and the two-post offense last season - do they shop him around this summer? Do they keep Marvin Williams? If the Jazz want to accelerate the rebuilding process, they might want to think about Channing Frye, who would give their young players a lot of space to operate. 

Boston Celtics 

- Marcus Smart (No. 6)

- James Young (No. 17)

I’m a Marcus Smart fan, but I think this pick is closer to the start of a rebuilding process for the Celtics than it is for the end of one. You can play him with Rajon Rondo, but Smart’s ideal scenario is to have the ball in his hands next to perimeter guys who can space the floor for him. At this point, it looks like the move is to trade Rondo and begin a 3+ year process of building a contender through the draft because there aren’t too many other assets on this roster.

The problem starts in their frontcourt, where they’ve got absolutely nothing at the C position, two question marks at PF and Jeff Green at SF. Green is a solid NBA player, but he has a career 13.1 PER and if he’s a starter on a playoff team, he’s going to have to be the 4rth-5th option. Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk both have the skills to put up some empty statistics on offense, but neither guy has the foot-speed or the athleticism to be much of a defensive player.

Even if they traded for Kevin Love, they would be still 2-3 pieces away from being a contender - the supporting cast in Minnesota is much better than the one he would have in Boston.

James Young should be able to stick in the league, but I’d throw water on the idea that he was one of the steals of the draft. Take a closer look at his statistics and nothing really stands out at you - shooting is the strength of his game and he shot 35% from 3 and 41% from the field. 

Los Angeles Lakers 

- Julius Randle (No. 7)

- Jordan Clarkson (No. 46)

Given the lack of talent on their roster, the Lakers could get the most immediate impact from their draft than just about any team in the NBA. For all the concerns about Randle, no one has ever doubted his ability to put up numbers if he’s given the ball enough. He may not shoot the ball at a terribly high percentage as a rookie, but he will work his way into double-doubles on a nightly basis if given the minutes and there’s no reason he won’t get 35+ right away.

Kobe Bryant is the ultimate high-usage player, but I’m a little skeptical he’s going to be able to play 39 minutes a game with a usage rating of 32 and miss only four games, which is what he did in his last healthy season two years ago. He’s going to have to take it easy and have his minutes managed more carefully so there should be plenty of opportunities for Randle as well as Clarkson, who could be one of the steals of the draft in the middle of the second round.

At 6’5 190, Clarkson is a talented scorer who can get to the rim and shoot off the dribble, so if he’s given the chance to play in space with the ball in his hands, he should be able to put up some statistics too. The Lakers are rebuilding, so they need to figure out some way to keep their 2015 pick, which is owed to the Phoenix Suns if it falls outside of the Top 5. A team with Kobe and Randle is going to need someone, possibly multiple someones, who can play defense.

Sacramento Kings 

- Nik Stauskas (No. 8)

Stauskas has the chance to be a pretty good NBA player, but this is still a fairly questionable pick since it blocks the development of last year’s lottery pick (Ben McLemore) and it doesn’t really address any of the needs the Kings have on their current roster. Stauskas is a guy with a lot of defensive question marks who needs the ball in his hands, which is the exact same thing you can say about DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay.

As McLemore found out last year, it’s hard to develop as a young SG when you are playing with three guys who absolutely dominate the ball. McLemore and Stauskas could become a low-rent version of DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross, two guys who didn’t get a chance to show what they could do until Gay left town. Even in a best case scenario for Stauskas early in his career, he’s going to be playing off the ball, getting 6-8 shots and not playing much defense.

That’s how you end up staying in the lottery for an extended period of time - by taking a bunch of guys whose skills replicate, rather than complement, each other. McLemore had a very difficult rookie season, but he’s still only 21 years old and you have to trust the process you made in scouting him the year before. Neither Stauskas nor McLemore has the size to play as a SF or the skill-set to be a PG, so you are essentially choosing between one or the other.

Charlotte Hornets 

- Noah Vonleh (No. 9)

- PJ Hairston (No. 26)

I thought the Hornets were one of the real winners in this year’s draft, making the long-term upside pick and stopping Vonleh’s slide at No. 9 and then picking up an older shooter who can help them right away in Hairston. Vonleh didn’t put up big statistics at Indiana, but I thought he had one of the best all-around skill-sets in this year’s draft. He’s a big man who can shoot the ball, rebound, post up and who has the physical tools to defend either interior position.

Vonleh’s versatility makes him a great fit next to any type of big man - he should be able to play right away with Al Jefferson and he should be a long-term complement to Cody Zeller. Zeller was a forgotten man after a tough start to his rookie campaign, but he started to come around as the season went on. Zeller and Vonleh could play high-low and serve as versatile weapons in a two-post offense while still having the athleticism to defend and get out in transition.

Hairston is a 21-year-old who put up huge numbers in the D-League after washing out of UNC and his skill-set could immediately improve the Hornets. They desperately need three-point shooting and he’s a knock-down shooter who shot 36% from 3 on 7 attempts a game for the Texas Legends. At 6’5 230, he’s already got an NBA body, so he should be able to step into their rotation away and at least hold his own from a physical standpoint on the defensive side of the ball.

Chicago Bulls 

- Doug McDermott (No. 11)

- Cameron Bairstow (No. 49)

The Bulls went all-in on McDermott, sending three picks (No. 16, No. 19 and a future 2nd) to the Nuggets to move up five spots. If you were looking for an ideal landing spot for McDermott, it would have to be a team like Chicago, which needs scoring and has the team defense to hide him on that side of the ball. But while he should be a great weapon off their bench, I’m skeptical that he can ever be a starter on a good team, which isn’t a high ceiling for a lottery pick.

Combo forwards are some of the toughest players to project because the defensive responsibilities at the SF and PF position are so different. Just to give a few examples - if the Bulls faced the Indiana Pacers in a playoff series, can McDermott guard Paul George or David? If they played the Raptors, could he defend Amir Johnson or DeMar DeRozan? He’s not big enough to match up with PF’s around the basket and he’s not quick enough to defend SF’s on the perimeter.

If there’s anyone who should be able to hide a guy on defense it’s Tom Thibodeau, but the transition from being a small-ball 4 in the Mountain Valley Conference and the new Big East (which was essentially a mid-major) to playing as a 3 in the NBA will not be easy. Bairstow is a bruising PF with a well-rounded offensive game, but he can’t shoot 3’s, he’s not much of a shot-blocker and he’s not a very good athlete, so it’s unclear whether his game will translate.

Minnesota Timberwolves 

- Zach LaVine (No. 13)

- Glenn Robinson III (No. 40)

- Alessandro Gentile (No. 53)

The Wolves went full YOLO with their pick, which is exactly what a team in their situation needed to do. There doesn’t appear to be much chance that Kevin Love stays in Minnesota for much longer and they have too much peripheral talent on their roster to sink to the bottom of the lottery, so they could end up in the dreaded middle for many years to come, forever making picks in the 10-15 range. As a result, it makes all the sense in the world to take an upside guy like LaVine. 

Even though he didn’t do all that much in college, I’m firmly in the LaVine camp and I think he will be a very interesting player running the break with Ricky Rubio and spotting up off him in the half-court. Those two could quickly form the ultimate League Pass duo on the perimeter. And while LaVine is not a guy whose ready to play a big role on a playoff team and help convince Love to say, the reality is that ship has sailed regardless of who they picked at No. 13.

Phoenix Suns 

- TJ Warren (No. 14)

- Tyler Ennis (No. 18)

- Bogdan Bogdanovic (No. 27)

- Alec Brown (No. 50)

Warren has the potential to be one of the best picks in this year’s draft, from a fit and upside perspective. He’s an elite scorer who can run the floor and get buckets without having plays drawn up for him, so he should be a perfect in the Suns uptempo system. He’ll come off the bench as a rookie, but I could see him taking over for PJ Tucker at the SF spot long-term and his ability to fill it up while playing off the ball could make the Phoenix offense go nuclear. 

Ennis doesn’t have the next level gear of either Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe, but he’s a solid player who can step in and give them good minutes at the backup PG position right away. Bogdanovic is a draft-and-stash player who can do a little bit of everything - there’s some Marco Belinelli in his game. The Suns have made a remarkably quick turnaround under Ryan McDonough due to their ability to evaluate talent and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. 

Atlanta Hawks 

- Adreian Payne (No. 15)

- Walter Tavares (No. 43)

Payne is an absolutely perfect fit for the Hawks system - he’s an athletic big man who can stretch the floor at a high level (42% from 3 as a senior) while also providing more interior defense than a lot of the guys on their roster now. Long-term, the combination of Payne and Al Horford could be absolutely lethal on both sides of the ball. Playing with those two will make all their perimeter players better and allow the Hawks to be better than the sum of their parts.

Atlanta pushed Indiana to the breaking point with the combination of Paul Millsapp and Pero Antic upfront and neither player is as good a shooter or interior defender as Payne and Horford. There’s something to be said for drafting players to fit a system, especially when that system is max floor spacing at all five positions. The Hawks also picked up a really interesting second round flyer in Walter Tavares, who I could see being a better player than Lucas Noguiera.

Denver Nuggets 

- Jusuf Nurkic (No. 16)

- Gary Harris (No. 19)

- Nikola Jokic (No. 41)

Trading back is almost never a good idea in the NBA draft, but the Nuggets worked it too perfection on Thursday, winding up with two players - Nurkic and Harris - whom they could have easily taken at No. 11 with no one blinking an eye. Nurkic is the best low-post scorer in this year’s draft and he represents a sea change from the George Karl era - he’s a mix of Nikola Pekovic and Tiago Splitter and he’s a guy Brian Shaw can run offense through in the post.

It’s unclear how many minutes there will be for Harris early in his career, but he’s a solid two-way player with a very high floor, which is excellent value in the latter half of the first round. Harris can defend either guard position, stretch the floor and serve as a secondary ball-handler and he’s still only 20 years old. Jokic is an interesting pick, as he’s another massive European big man who can score with his back to the basket, although he will likely stay overseas for awhile.

Toronto Raptors 

- Bruno Caboclo (No. 20)

- DeAndre Daniels (No. 37)

There’s not much I can say about the Brazilian Kevin Durant, but just from his physical measurements, it doesn’t seem like an insane gamble at this stage in the first round. There were plenty of good players still on the board, but a lot of the teams after the Raptors went with low ceiling guys who weren’t going to make an immediate impact on the Toronto roster anyway. In terms of talent, Daniels is right up there with most of the guys taken 21-36.

Oklahoma City Thunder 

- Mitch McGary (No. 21)

- Josh Huestis (No. 29)

- Semaj Christon (No. 55)

Oklahoma City seemed to take a bit of a change in philosophy with this year’s first-round picks. Instead of taking a swing for the fences and going with the high upside pick, like they did with Steven Adams, Reggie Jackson and Perry Jones III, they went for safe picks on older players from big schools who could fill a small role in their rotation right away. McGary is the bigger name than Huestis, but neither guy is ever likely to be a starter in the NBA.

The good news is for the Thunder is they don’t really that type of player, given that every position in their starting line-up is already spoken for with guys they’ve already drafted. McGary and Huestis seem like guys who max out as 15-20 minute players on a title contender - McGary as an energy big man and Huestis as a 3-and-D player. Keep an eye out for Christon, a talented guard who should have stayed in school and will likely head to the D-League.

Memphis Grizzlies 

- Jordan Adams (No. 22)

- Jarnell Stokes (No. 35)

Whatever shake-ups have occurred in the Memphis front office, it’s pretty clear that John Hollinger still has a very strong voice, as they picked two analytics favorites - Adams and Stokes - who raise red flags from a scouting perspective. Adams is an incredibly unathletic SG while Stokes is an undersized PF who can’t stretch the floor. They were both really good college players so it will be interesting to see how well these analytic poster boys end up doing.

Miami Heat 

- Shabazz Napier (No. 24)

No free agent comes to Miami without LeBron James' say so and that apparently extends to the draft as well. If LeBron is going to serve as their de facto GM, he should probably stop tweeting his scouting reports, as it allows other teams to extort them for the players they want. Napier is a fine player who should have a long career in the NBA as a PG, but the Heat could have grabbed a player like that in the second round.  The world isn’t running low on Mario Chalmers types.

Houston Rockets 

- Clint Capela (No. 25)

- Nick Johnson (No. 42)

With the Rockets trying to clear cap space and make a run at a max free agent, a draft and stash player like Capela was their only real option. I haven’t watched him play much, but from what I saw of him at the Hoop Summit, his skill level on anything but catching alley oops was pretty minimal. Given his size and athleticism at 6’11 220, he might one day replace Omer Asik as a backup C, but I’m not sure the Serge Ibaka comparisons are warranted at all.

Los Angeles Clippers 

- CJ Wilcox (No. 28)

Wilcox is a 23-year-old with an NBA body (6’5 200 with a 6’10 wingspan) and an NBA skill (39% from 3), so it makes sense why a contender would draft him, but his fit with the Clippers roster is questionable. He’ll be behind last year’s first-round pick (Reggie Bullock) in the pecking order and there aren’t many minutes available on the wings as is. LA doesn’t just need a third big man, they need a fourth and a fifth too, so taking another guard is a head scratcher.

San Antonio Spurs 

- Kyle Anderson (No. 30)

- Jordan McRae (No. 58)

One of the benefits of having the last pick in the first round is that you just let the draft come to you without having to over-think things. I was a big Kyle Anderson guy regardless, so him ending up in San Antonio is just a cherry on top - he’s going to be one of the big steals of the draft. A 6’9 guy with his skill-set, length (7’3 wingspan) and feel for the game is going to figure it out and carve out a niche for himself in the NBA, which is great value from the No. 30 pick.

New York Knicks 

- Cleanthony Early (No. 34)

- Thanasis Antetokounmpo (No. 51)

- Louis Labiyre (No. 57)

Cleanthony became the darling of draft night based almost entirely off his performance against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, but I’m not sure he’s going to be anything special at the next level. He’s a 6’8 combo forward who was pretty one-dimensional at Wichita State and will need to transition to playing solely as a SF in the NBA. He’s already 23 and he doesn’t offer much value as a passer or a defensive player. Their other two picks are Hail Mary passes.

Detroit Pistons 

- Spencer Dinwiddie (No. 38)

If I could have only one player from this year’s second round, it would be Dinwiddie. At 6’6 205, he’s a complete guard who can do everything - score, shoot, pass, rebound and defend - well. He can fit with almost any type of player in the backcourt, which will give him the chance to be a 10-year NBA player. Were it not for an ACL injury he suffered in college, he would have been a first-rounder. This was a strong start in the draft for the Stan Van Gundy regime. 

Brooklyn Nets 

- Markel Brown (No. 44)

- Xavier Thames (No. 59)

- Cory Jefferson (No. 60)

Buying second round picks is an excellent way for a cash-rich but pick-starved franchise like the Nets to get some youth on their roster. More importantly, Billy King made some excellent choices. He clearly was watching Big 12 basketball this season, as he took two guys - Brown and Jefferson - who were NCAA role players but have NBA athleticism and tools. The odds are against them as late second rounders, but I like their chances of sticking in the league.

New Orleans Pelicans 

- Russ Smith (No. 47)

I’m not sure he’s any better than Pierre Jackson, but Smith is an intriguing player whose definitely worth a gamble in the latter half of the second round. A guy taken at this stage in the draft needs a bit if he’s going to earn a spot on a roster and Smith has one - he’s an electric athlete who can impact the game as a scorer and a defensive player. Like Jackson, he’ll probably need to prove himself in the D-League, but he has a decent chance of making it back.

Leroux's 2014 NBA Draft Review

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. 

Great Drafts

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.

Good Drafts

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.

Enh Drafts

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.

Bad Drafts

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.

The Kevin Love Q+A

While working through the many twists and turns related to Kevin Love reportedly being on the market for the first time, it made sense to put together an article formatted as a Q+A to address some of the bigger questions and misconceptions surrounding what has and will go on.

Q: So what is Kevin Love’s contract situation, anyway?

A: Love has a guaranteed salary of $15,719,062 for the 2014-15 season and a player option worth $16,744,218 for the 2015-16 season. He has until June 30, 2015 to accept or decline that option, though he can choose to do so earlier if he likes.

Q: I’ve heard that teams have advantages to retain their own players. How would that work here?

A: Whenever he hits the market, Love will be an Unrestricted Free Agent. That means the team that controls his rights when his contract ends does not have the opportunity to match a contract Love signs with any other franchise.

That said, the league has developed a system using what are commonly called Bird rights (after Larry Bird) that gives teams some added flexibility to keep their own players. In this case, there are two advantages: the potential for a five year contract and greater maximum raises per season.

Under the current system, the maximum salary Love can sign for in the first year of his new contract would be the same whether it is with a new team or his old one. For someone with Love’s years of NBA experience, that number is the larger of 30% of the salary cap (not calculated the same as the actual salary cap because where would the fun be if it were easy?) and 105% of his salary from the previous season. While we do not know the first figure for sure without the Basketball-Related Income for the previous season which has not happened yet, in Love’s case these numbers should be pretty similar. If he declines his player option for 2015-16, 105% of Love’s previous salary (2014-15) would put him at $16,505,015 for the first year of his new deal.

From there, we can figure out what the difference in raises could mean in actual dollars. The team holding Love’s Bird rights can offer max raises of 7.5% of that first year salary each future year while all other teams can only offer 4.5% increases off that same salary. In Love’s case, this works out to a difference of $3,214,033 over a four-year contract. Not a small number but clearly not insurmountable either.

The larger difference comes from the potential for a fifth season. In Love's case, this makes the comparison between a four-year deal worth approximately $70,611,609 with a new team (likely with the fourth season coming as a player option like Dwight Howard) compared to a five-year deal with a similar final year player option worth a total of $95,867,581. While that difference seems large at the moment, we should remember that Love will be 30 years old when that fifth-year likely comes into play and 29 if he declines the fifth-year player option, so with clean health and quality play he can fairly expect to get close to that value on his fourth contract. It reduces a risk to be sure but may not make a huge long-term difference if things go well.

Q: So, what assurances could Love give his new team that he will stick around?

A: Shockingly little when it comes down to it. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement reacted to the Carmelo Anthony trade and extension by making it much harder to extend contracts. This explains the shockingly few we have seen outside of players coming off rookie contracts which do not have the same restrictions.

Love could choose to pick up his player option, like Chris Paul did with the Clippers as a part of the blockbuster deal that sent him from New Orleans to Los Angeles. While that adds another year of production for the new team, it does nothing to secure Love’s long-term future with the franchise and actually pushes the clock back for that kind of resolution.

Q: So Love has some leverage in this situation?

A: Yes, he does.

While some teams may pursue Love without any assurances that he will stay long-term, we have to expect that the uncertainty would decrease the amount a franchise would be willing to offer. Since Minnesota has no obligation to trade Love at all and would be prudent to take the best offer (even though Kevin McHale did not do that the last time Minnesota traded a star player), it seems unlikely that a diminished offer would be the best on the table.

As such, Love can play a role in his own immediate future by indicating teams that he would be more willing to commit to either by picking up that option season or by being acting more open to a longer-term contract.

Q: Can he sign a longer term contract now to get rid of that risk?

A: No.

Under the current CBA, many contracts are not eligible to be extended. Even those that are eligible cannot be extended earlier than three years after the active contract was signed. Since Love signed his current extension January 25, 2012 partially due to the lockout, he cannot agree to any extension earlier than January 25, 2015. While the current system makes it unlikely Love would agree to an extension in the first place, the fact that he cannot under any circumstances makes it a little clearer.

Q: What about some sort of “wink, wink” agreement?

A: Well, it could not have any binding authority because that would violate the circumvention clauses in the CBA. Love and his agent could give a team their word but it would be wholly unenforceable should he change his mind in the interim.

Q: So what does all this mean for Minnesota?

A: To me, it means that they should not trade Love unless he makes it clear and unconditional that he will not return to the franchise for the 2015-16 season and beyond. While there certainly could be some interesting offers on the table, they will likely come in the form of quantity over quality. It appears wholly unlikely that any Love trade will yield a player as good or better than Love and since we know that star players are of the utmost importance in today’s NBA, that changes the value for Minnesota. A package involving picks and/or young players would be nice but would it be enough to even make the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference?

The Wolves have a tough decision in front of them both in weighing offers and the downside risk of losing their elite player. After all, we can see how long it has taken them to recover from trading Kevin Garnett, though obviously there are other factors that hindered their progress.

Q: If Minnesota decides now is the time to move Love, what would they want in return?

A: While they will certainly have good offers on the table, we do not know what kind of assets they value most highly. While players that are good, young, and cheap will always be in demand, the rubber will meet the road with guys who are not all three of those things. Teams value draft picks differently too and that consideration has a dramatic effect on what offers are the most enticing for Minnesota President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders and company.

Q: What about unloading contracts?

A: Moving high-end talent also can provide an opportunity to shed contracts as another benefit to the trading team. This gets hard to figure out for Minnesota because most of their deals that I would consider less desirable were signed recently by their current President of Basketball Operations. Since he signed Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger and Nikola Pekovic to their contracts less than a year ago, it would stand to reason that Saunders does not see them as albatrosses worth sacrificing assets to shed.

Q: Are there any complications in terms of draft picks?

A: Absolutely. One of the more interesting and misunderstood parts of the CBA is the Stepien rule named after former Cavs owner Ted Stepien. It says that no team can be without any first round picks in consecutive drafts looking forward. For example, the Lakers cannot trade their 2014 first round selection before the draft since they have already committed to the possibility of sending their 2015 first rounder to the Suns as a part of the Steve Nash trade. Once this draft finishes, it does not count towards the Stepien rule, which means the Wolves could come to an agreement with the Lakers where LA takes a player of Minnesota’s choosing and then consummates the trade after the draft concludes to stay in the clear.

In some relevant situations, the rules make deals more possible after the draft without involving 2014 selections. For example, right now the Warriors cannot trade a first round pick in the near future because they owe their 2014 and 2017 picks to the Utah Jazz. Unless they acquire someone else’s pick between now and then in a relevant year, Golden State cannot move a selection in 2015 or 2016 now because it would violate the Stepien rule. Once this draft ends, they could move their 2015 first round pick without limitation since the Stepien rule only looks forward.

The Lakers, Warriors, Heat, Knicks, Kings, Blazers, and the Timberwolves themselves have limitations stemming from the Stepien rule that may come into play.

Q: So, which teams do you consider the most reasonable suitors?

A: While we do not know exactly what Love wants in his next team, there are four general factors that high-end players look for and prioritize in their own way: current team quality, desirability of location, future outlook, and ownership/front office/coaching (what Steve Kerr called “The Troika” at his press conference with the Warriors).

By definition, teams trading for Love would be sacrificing assets for their future and possibly their present as opposed to signing him outright. This explains why I do not see the Lakers and Celtics as viable trade partners for Minnesota right now- the assets necessary to acquire Love now are the same pieces required to make the team good enough to retain him once free agency rolls around. In fact, I would argue that the Lakers trading for Love in 2014 actually makes him less likely to remain with the Lakers in 2016-17 since it would gut the team of useful players who should comprise the rest of their core.

That leaves teams that have talent already and can put together a package that leaves them with a winning team. The two frontrunners under this rationale have to be Chicago and Golden State in no order. Both teams have young players on cheap contracts and can make offers that give Minnesota plenty of talent while still retaining rosters that should be good moving forward. Phoenix gets into some trouble here because some of their best assets (Eric Bledsoe in particular) cannot be traded this summer in a Love deal without some seriously surprising developments.

Shifting towards the trade deadline could produce some interesting possibilities including the aforementioned Suns and Miami if they extend Chris Bosh this summer and would be willing to include him to acquire Love in a supremely cold blooded move.

Q: Should Kevin Love just bite the bullet and wait one more year for free agency?

A: It depends on where he would like to go. The Bulls and Warriors are available now, but may actually be harder to get to in 2015, especially if Chicago can acquire Carmelo Anthony a little over a month from now. Furthermore, getting all the way to free agency allows Minnesota to play hardball with those teams that would need to acquire Love by sign and trade because they do not have the cap space to sign him outright. We saw this in action last summer with Denver and Andre Iguodala after he agreed to terms with the Warriors but their subsequent relent into a sign and trade could be a relevant precedent here.

If Love wants to head to a team that should have cap space in 2015 like the Lakers or Knicks, free agency would be the way to go. Waiting allows the teams to keep their assets and the new CBA makes the difference in money less substantial than used to be. The fact that signing an extension does not make practical sense takes some of the incentive out of moving earlier, which is exactly what the owners wanted after Carmelo’s extend and trade to the Knicks.

Lottery Lowdown (Late-May Edition)

With the lottery out of the way, we can begin to examine which teams represent good and bad fits for the teams in a position to draft them.

Only The Elite Survive To Late May

While the apparently parity of the first round was a refreshing and encouraging development for the NBA, we saw the teams ranked first, third, fourth and sixth in net efficiency during the regular season advance to the Conference Finals.

10-Year NBA Win Rank Snapshot

A 10-year season-by-season Win Rank snapshot for an NBA franchise creates an insightful visual narrative.

Breaking Down The Rookie Seasons Of The 2013 Lottery Class

In a society where patience has gone out the window and only instant gratification matters, the poor play of the 2013 rookie class has many ready to write them off entirely. But while there isn’t an Anthony Davis in the bunch, this year’s draft had plenty of good young players who, for a variety of reasons, were simply not ready for the NBA.

2014 First Round Picks (Which Teams Own The Picks?)

While RealGM has an excellent database of the draft picks that have been traded between teams, we wanted to put together a summary more focused on the upcoming draft.

Leandro Barbosa Overcame Doubts He'd Play Again Before Speedy ACL Comeback

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Grading The Deal: Warriors Upgrade Bench, Heat Save Money, Celtics Sell Low

The Warriors upgraded their bench with the addition of Joe Crawford and MarShon Brooks while not giving up any valued assets, while the Heat save a ton in luxury tax payments. The Celtics, however, may have sold low on both Crawford.

Tanks But No Tanks: Danny Ainge’s (Nearly) Impossible Mission

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Avery Bradley Heeds Direction From Garnett, Pierce In Rise To A Celtics' Leader

Out of Boston and onto Brooklyn, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett understood leaders would be newly cultivated. As much as anything, Avery Bradley heard from them that being a foundational part of the Celtics’ rebuild wouldn’t be easy – that there’s a preciousness to patience, to discipline.

Top-60 Players In NBA Today (Considering Everything)

The goal here is look at overall long-term value of players by considering age, contract, positional scarcity and of course overall quality, without factors like a player’s connection with a franchise or fit within a specific system.

2013-14 NBA Season Preview

While the Western Conference has six teams (Clippers, Thunder, Rockets, Grizzlies, Warriors) in its first tier, the Eastern Conference is a tier of one (Heat) with the Bulls, Pacers and Nets vying for the second tier.

The NBA's Mediocrity Treadmill Since 84-85

The treadmill is somehow both more and less common than some might think. While teams tend to fall within the 30-49 win range, as would be expected in such a competitive league, the dreaded never-ending stream of late lottery picks is uncommon.

Celtics Turn Page Painfully, Quickly

A pair of Kevin Garnett trades will highlight the Danny Ainge era with the Celtics, but what he does with the relative flexibility and windfall of first-round draft picks he now has will cement his legacy as an executive. The teardown may not be finished, but the blueprint has been revealed.

2013 NBA Mock Draft (Final Edition)

Draft day has finally arrived and while everyone pines for the 2014 class already, this one has the chance to be sneaky good in the 'many quality starters' variety.

2013 NBA Mock Draft (Wednesday/Quality Of Opp. Edition)

In this mock, we include the PER of each player based on the quality of opponent. Even statistics in this context can only go so far, but helps move beyond the possibility of inflation against competition that isn't even close to being NBA caliber.

2013 NBA Mock Draft (Draft Week Edition)

Entering draft week in a draft universally labeled as weak preceding the best draft of the decade, few people are talking themselves into falling in love with any specific player as fervently as usual.

2013 NBA Draft Board

Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams, Rudy Gobert, Otto Porter and Alex Len join Nerlens Noel at the top of our draft board.

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