It took me a while to get these draft grades out because I went on vacation for a week the day after the draft occurred and I obviously wasn't going to be doing any writing while on vacation. Anyway, so I came back, blah, blah, blah nobody cares and I'm just getting around to doing the grades now. I didn't do grades for the NFL Draft because I don't know all of the players, but the NBA Draft creates a different problem. I know most of the players and have seen them play, so I feel comfortable grading most team's draft, but it's nearly impossible to find one source (that I could find) which has EXACTLY where each player went. For example, some draft recaps have the Charlotte Hornets with Dwight Powell on the roster, when he's now a Cav. Other recaps have Semaj Christon on the Hornets with Dwight Powell, while others have neither Powell nor Christon on the Hornets. Other recaps have Christon on the Heat team, while others don't even have Christon as being drafted by any NBA team. So it's not always easy to see where each player went. Regardless here are my grades on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest and 1 the lowest of course). I like to do these grades partly so when Bill Simmons looks back in 2-3 years and says "we" didn't know Player X would be so good I can possibly point out the fallacy in his assumption. Or I may be part of the "we" that didn't know Player X would be good.
This is a hard draft for me because I like Adreian Payne, but I also wanted the Hawks to pick a wing player. Who cares what I want, I guess? I'm not quite as high on Payne as others might be, at least in terms of future development. I think he's there. He's what he will be. That's not a bad thing because he is going to make a difference in the Hawks team now and is the kind of stretch-four coming off the bench behind Horford/Millsap that the Hawks needed. This grade reflects that the Hawks are a better team right now because of this draft. I know very little about Walter Tavares, but he's a 22 year old project, then the Hawks traded Lucas Nogueira. Tavares was a second round pick though, so it's hard to be cruel to the Hawks taking a chance on him. Lamar Patterson isn't an NBA player.
The Celtics took a crap all over the goodwill I had for them by donating $32 million over 4 years to the "Avery Bradley gets overpaid" fund. That's inexcusable to pay Bradley that much money. I would have liked the Celtics to have drafted Julius Randle because I believe he is Zach Randolph Jr., but perhaps his injury scared them away. Randle is everything Kelly Olynyk is not, and yes, I still hate Kelly Olynyk. He's a soft big man, sort of a wimpier Brook Lopez. Oh yeah, their draft...Smart isn't a great shooter, but is super-competitive and is an underrated leader. I can't wait to see what he does with an actual head coach, something he didn't have at Oklahoma State. I like James Young as well and he's one of those players who has a 14-6-4 line by the end of a game and you aren't sure how he did that. I think he's a quality starter. My problem with Smart is he has terrible shot selection and can't shoot (call it the Josh Smith Combo), but I blame a lot of that on his coaching in college. I wanted Randle though.
I'm a sucker for taking chances on second round picks with players who were in college for three or four years. It's nice to have money to acquire three 2nd round picks. I think Xavier Thames has a great chance of making the Nets roster and under the theory that Travis Ford can't coach for shit, which isn't a bad theory, I'm interested to see what Markel Brown will do in the NBA. It's hard to grade a team who had zero picks and then got three 2nd round picks, but the Nets did a good job spending money and taking chances. Of course, was it really worth spending the money on these three players who may not even make the roster?
Welp, Noah Vonleh fell to the Hornets and they snatched him up. It's a good thing they haven't drafted any power forwards in the first round over the past couple of years. I'm not sure what to think about him since he played for Tom Crean, who is a fantastic recruiter and I will say nothing further. The Hornets needed a shooter more than anything, but Vonleh has so much potential it's impossible to pass on him. This isn't fake "9.0 points 3.8 rebounds and he looks like he would be good at basketball" potential, but Vonleh has potential to be special and he produced in college. P.J. Hairston is either the smartest pick in the draft because he can straight shoot or the dumbest pick because he may desperately need to get away from North Carolina. If the Hornets needed a guy who can shoot I could see him going #9, because he can shoot. He can also drive drunk, punch people, and hang out with shady characters. They traded Dwight Powell for Alonzo Gee, so I like that move for both teams.
Hairston is a good boy grade: 10
Hairston is not a good boy grade: 5
I didn't get it. Other than being cheap, I don't get why the Bulls took on Anthony Randolph's contract, gave up both first round picks, and then drafted a fantastic college shooter who is going to have trouble defending at the Celebrity All-Star Game. This grade isn't entirely a reflection of how I feel about McDermott, because he's a great shooter, but that's it. I don't see much more out of him. I wish the Bulls had not made the moves they did make. McDermott is not P.J. Hairston or Nik Stauskas, both guys who have the potential to be more than just a shooter. So the Bulls took on a bigger contract, gave up two first round picks and then took a guy who I don't like as much as two players they could have had with those two first round picks. Cameron Bairstow is going to be very good in the D-league. I would have kept the picks and then chosen from Ennis, Hood, Young, Gary Harris, Hairston or even Kyle Anderson. Hell, take Mitch McGary. Just don't take on more salary and turn two first round picks into one first round pick. At least Randolph's contract is expiring and maybe this was an attempt to open up cap room to sign a big free agent. I just would have kept the two first round picks.
Grade: 2 (Only because McDermott really can shoot)
Wiggins was the right choice. I'm a huge fan of Jabari Parker, but Wiggins is the guy who needed to go #1. There's just too much superstar potential to not draft him. I also like the addition of Dwight Powell. I had him going to the Spurs in my mock. He's soft-ish, but he also brings unique skills that many teams couldn't find in a 9th/10th man off the bench. As for Joe Harris, he's a great defender and I'm surprised there are doubts about that. I think at #33 the Cavs needed to find a player who either (a) has potential to develop into more than he currently is or (b) a definite rotation guy and I'm not sure Joe Harris is either. He was the #1 option for Virginia and I think that overstated his offensive abilities a bit.
I know very, very little about Nurkic nor do I know much about Jokic. I'd be lying if I said I did. It will be a while before they are in the NBA, if they ever are. I do know about Gary Harris and I was surprised the Nuggets drafted him after re-acquiring Aaron Afflalo. Harris was a premium prospect coming out of high school and had injuries with Michigan State. He was probably the best value in this draft. He doesn't really do anything excellent, but he does everything well. He can score off the dribble, defend, and is a very smart player. I do wonder if the fact he doesn't do anything well is a positive or a negative. For his role on the Nuggets, it's a positive.
Read any draft grade for the Pistons and you will read that Spencer Dinwiddie would have been a first round pick if he had not torn his ACL. I will spare you that. I see no reason Dinwiddie can't come back from his ACL injury, and when he does, he can sort of be Rodney Stuckey Lite. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or bad thing. A very good value pick for the Pistons, especially since they are building around Drummond and Dinwiddie can hit the three-point shot.
The Rockets sort of punted on this draft while still drafting two players. Nick Johnson probably isn't going to be an NBA player. He wasn't a bad pick by any means, but he's a smaller two-guard. Clint Capela may be a great player one day in America and he's tall (which is very important in these foreign prospects...being tall is great even if the talent isn't there), but most of all, he isn't going to take up salary room for this upcoming year and that's what's important to the Rockets and Daryl Morey. Gotta have that money to give Chris Bosh $22 million per year.
Grade: Punt (hey, if the Rockets can punt then so can I)
Los Angeles Clippers
It's hard to separate the player from the pick. I think C.J. Wilcox would have been a great pick for a team in need of scoring from the two-guard spot. The Clippers are not that team. This pick sort of reminds me of an NFL team just picking the best guy on their draft board. The Clippers needed another big man and so rather than reach for one, they just took the best guy on their board, fully knowing they would trade Dudley/Bullock, and maybe Redick to create salary cap room or in a sign-and-trade. So I sort of like the pick, but the Clippers had much bigger needs, yet Wilcox could be a great pick if the Clippers do trade some of the shooting guard depth. Just a lot of balls in the air here.
Grade for the pick: 5
Grade for the pick if the Clippers don't make a trade: 2
Grade for the pick if the Clippers do make a trade: 7
Los Angeles Lakers
I loved Julius Randle in this draft. He's a double-double guy in the NBA. Like nearly every other college player, he has to work on his defense but he has a great touch around the rim and really was the best player on a loaded Kentucky team. It's not a coincidence the Wildcats lost as he struggled against the Huskies in the title game. What I love about Randle is he has room to grow as well. He can shoot, but he's still not a great shooter from mid-range. Jordan Clarkson could have gone in the first round and I had read teams were looking at him as a mid-to-late first round pick. Then he went 46th. We'll see if that further motivates him.
Grade: 10 (I unequivocally love Randle and may regret this grade in two years)
I would have been pleased if the Grizzlies had switched their first and second round picks around and taken Stokes in the first round and Adams in the second round. Stokes is the type of guy who doesn't have the exact size a team wants at the power forward position, but will find a way to get minutes in the NBA. The Grizzlies didn't really have a need for a shooting guard in my opinion. I do like Stokes for the Grizzlies, but I thought Rodney Hood was a better option in the first round.
The part of me that likes to watch the world burn hopes LeBron doesn't come back to the Heat and then they are stuck taking a point guard (which was a spot of need) they took so they could make LeBron happy. I like Napier as a player. He's a WINNER! A true winner. Winning is his thing. We'll see if he can win without LeBron and Bosh on the team. I'm not sure he's a huge upgrade from Mario Chalmers, but he certainly has intangibles and will be a hell of a lot cheaper. I don't see the upside that a few other available players may have had, but Napier also doesn't have the floor those players have either.
I love Jabari Parker and the fact remains he can play offensively all over the floor for the Bucks, so having the Greek Freak and Parker together isn't going to hurt anything. Parker does need to work on conditioning, being focused, and his defense, but otherwise he is a great building block player for the Bucks who can score and has a very high basketball IQ. I know very little about Ingels, but I'm intrigued by Johnny O'Bryant. For me, he reminds me of Andre Drummond in that if the mental side catches up with the physical side then he can make an impact in the NBA. O'Bryant won't make the impact on the scale that Drummond has made, but if he mentally catches up with what he can do physically then the Bucks have a nice inside rotation of Sanders, O'Bryant, Henson, Ilyasova.
So...I hate this draft for the Timberwolves. Zach LaVine didn't get the minutes a #13 selection should get in college and he was drafted based mostly on "Look how athletic he is!" I don't think he's going to be a very good basketball player in the NBA. I dare you to find a discussion of LaVine's game without mentioning his incredible athleticism. You probably can somewhere, but the point remains he is an athlete who plays basketball, not a basketball player. Glenn Robinson III took a step back this year without Trey Burke around and with more of a defensive focus on him. He's not a great shooter and isn't great at creating his own shot. In that aspect he fits, because this wasn't a great draft.
New Orleans Pelicans
Russ Smith is very small, but he's also very quick. I can easily see him being an energy point guard off the bench. Smith really matured in terms of his shot selection during his senior year and if there is a place in the NBA for a guy like Aaron Brooks or Isiah Thomas (not that one), then I can see a place for Smith as well. The Pelicans used their first round pick to get Omar Asik, which is a move I like for them.
New York Knicks
There's no reason Cleanthony Early should have lasted until the second round. That's a great pick for the Knicks. I know so very little about the Greek Freak's brother or the French guy named Louis. Early is a power forward in a small forward's body, but I think the game against Kentucky took care of any questions about whether Early could match up with NBA talent. I don't know, maybe he just had a good game. Either way, I'm not sure the Knicks could have done better at #34 than they did.
Oklahoma City Thunder
It's clear Sam Presti and I had completely different ideas on what the needs for the Thunder may be. I thought the Thunder needed scoring off the bench so that Durant/Westbrook wouldn't be shouldering such a load on offense and the Thunder had someone other than Reggie Jackson who could score. Presti thought the Thunder needed an offensively limited center who is already 22 years old and is coming off a back injury. McGary isn't a bad shooter, but he has no low post game and seems more like an energy guy off the bench. I thought the Thunder had that already in Steven Adams. I honestly didn't expect Josh Huestis to go anywhere near where he did. That was a reach and he's a very good defender, which is nice I guess. I didn't like the Adams selection last year, so I could be wrong. McGary is in a good situation where he doesn't have to worry about scoring. Still, I thought the Thunder would want another scorer or a shooting guard. There were decent ones available.
I fail to see the Aaron Gordon thing. I would be all on the Aaron Gordon train if he were taken around #10 or slightly higher. Otherwise, he's an incredible athlete who relies on his ability to out-athlete everyone else on the court. Don't get me wrong, he's a fantastic athlete, but how long can he get by on that in the NBA? By the way, the comparisons to Shawn Marion are bullshit. Both are players who can defend multiple positions well, but coming out of college I think they were two different players. Gordon is a great defender and rebounder, but at #4 should a team take a player who isn't going to do more than be a defensive stopper and rebounder? I prefer the Elfrid Payton pick. I compared him in some ways to Damion Lillard in that he is the small college guy who may make a big impact in the NBA immediately and still feel that way. He needs to work on his shot, but he's a big point guard and will fit in well beside Oladipo. They did give up a lot for him though. Roy Marble? Eh, okay. It could be worse at #56.
Man, if there are 76ers fans who have bought into the plan then they are happy right now. If there are 76ers fans who aren't buying the plan, then they are very, very unhappy. The 76ers basically picked up assets for the future in this draft. I don't buy they have pushed rebuilding back another year, because it's not like they were going to be a playoff team this year. They just inserted more uncertainty into the rebuilding process. I have real concerns about Embiid's health and ability to be a star in the NBA, but if he and Noel are healthy no teams are going to score in the paint on them. I think my favorite pick is K.J. McDaniels, simply because he's a good defender and I'm convinced there's no way he doesn't find a spot on this team. I'm not as high on Jerami Grant. He's a small power forward who I'm not sure has the skill set to succeed in the NBA. It's hard to grade this draft since their top two picks probably won't play for the team this year. I'm simply not convinced by Embiid and know very little about Saric. Embiid was the #1 overall pick at one point though.
Grade: Can I do a range? How about an 7, because I like McDaniels and believe in the rebuilding plan.
This is another draft that intrigued me...well, except for Alec Brown. He will be playing overseas or in the D-league come November. T.J. Warren is a flat-out scorer. I know I said that about Shabazz Muhammad, but I mean it this time. He's the wing player the Suns needed and he put up points on an N.C. State team that didn't really have much around him. Tyler Ennis doesn't seem to have the athleticism to make it in the NBA, but he still seems to have that "it" factor which I can't put my finger on. He made plays when Syracuse needed him to make plays last year. I don't know much about Bogdan, but others who know more than I do seem to like him. This was a good draft for the Suns to pick up contributing players. I like it, but I also don't know if I can grade it high since I'm not sure any of these guys are starters in 2-3 years.
Nope. Not happy. I liked Nik Stauskas prior to the draft and I still like him. I hate him for Sacramento for a variety of reasons. First, he plays the same spot as Ben McLemore, second, because the Kings are working hard to find a big man who can alter shots and Noah Vonleh was there for the taking. Third, because I don't have a problem with Stauskas pushing McLemore for playing time, but this strikes me as another example of the Kings accumulating talent at one position at the expense of talent at another position. Stauskas is a great pick for the Hornets, because fit in with what they are doing. In Sacramento he gets added to the bench or thrown in the lineup as the Kings try to find the power forward to pair with Cousins they could have had if they had just taken Noah Vonleh.
San Antonio Spurs
What is it with the Spurs? How do they do this? I don't think Kyle Anderson is a game-changing player, but he's much better than the 30th pick in this draft. A guy his size who can pass and makes great decisions, why is he still available to the NBA Champions? I'm calling bullshit. At worst, the Spurs have drafted a guy who can contribute at multiple positions and make his teammates better coming off the bench. Anderson is a tweener in a bunch of good ways. He can do so much for a player his size and didn't play to his potential at UCLA. Dangubic has a name I can barely spell and I know even less about him.
Grade: 9 (I feel like I have to give them credit for not being stupid and just making a smart pick even if it doesn't work out...plus the Spurs are geniuses and everything they do is smart. I'm a loser if I don't jump on that group think bandwagon)
I had never heard of their first round pick. He's the Brazilian Kevin Durant supposedly. I don't know what that means. If a guy is the French Tim Duncan does that mean he's anything close to Tim Duncan in the NBA? I think the Raptors could have gotten him later in the draft, especially since another scorer off the bench wouldn't have been a terrible option and those type guys were available. DeAndre Daniels is a wing guy off the bench, but not the wing guy they could have gotten at #20. He's not a bad pick at all in that spot.
So Dante Exum goes from Australia to Utah. It's interesting transition and probably would have made Crocodile Dundee 3 a much better movie if it had been set in Utah rather than Los Angeles. What's interesting about Exum is he's been drafted #5 by basically being entirely unknown. He didn't play college ball, he didn't play a high level of competition in Australia, and he's basically a high school guy coming straight to the NBA. Part of me can't help but wonder if the hype machine around Exum has elevated him to a status he isn't currently worthy of. Regardless, I liked the Rodney Hood pick. He's a really good shooter and a better rebounder than given credit for. He plays passive at times, which obviously isn't a good thing. If he turns into a spot-up shooter and a scorer off the bench then he is worth the pick at #23.
Grade: 8 (I'm buying the Exum hype...possibly being stupid in doing so)
So there we go. I didn't grade the drafts for teams that didn't actually select and keep players. It was an interesting draft. The Brazilian Kevin Durant was drafted before the best player on the best college basketball team was taken.