I think I got three picks in my mock draft correctly. As usual, I failed to achieve the goal I set for myself in terms of getting the picks correct. Sorry this is a little late, but I went on vacation and blah, blah, blah...I'm just getting around to writing this. I enjoy doing the NBA Draft grades because I know most of the players, except for most of the foreign-born players who I don't pay attention to because (adopts deep Southern accent) I'm an American and that ain't real basketball they play overseas.
As I usually do, I'll grade the teams on a scale of 1-10 with "10" being the best and "1" being the worst, or as I may call it from now on "The Ainge." Here we go and I'm going to ignore what the teams have done in free agency because I still can't wrap my head around the money being thrown around. I recognize it's market value for these players, plus THE CAP IS GOING UP SO IT'S OKAY TO SPEND MONEY IN FREE AGENCY, but I still struggle a bit with some of the money that was handed out in free agency. The cap is going up, but I still think a lot of these teams are going to be looking to unload the contracts they recently handed out over the next two or three years.
Of course the first team is hard to judge because they took two European guys that I've never heard of and traded Kelly Oubre for Tim Hardaway Jr. I thought Oubre should have stayed in school for another year and the Hawks needed another scorer. So the trade sounds good on paper. Yet, Hardaway Jr. is a chucker who didn't manage to shoot 40% from the field last year. Short term it might be a good move, especially if Hardaway Jr. is able to find a role with the Hawks. The role being "don't shoot 11 times per game and stand in the corner to wait for your chance to shoot." It was sort of a punt-type of draft for the Hawks.
To say I hated this draft would probably not fully describe how much I hated this draft. Terry Rozier is a volume-scorer who isn't a point guard and is much too small to be a shooting guard. I don't see what he adds to the team. He's not as good as Marcus Smart, he isn't a good scorer like Isaiah Thomas, and he can't play defense like Avery Bradley. I despise R.J. Hunter as a first round pick. The fact he was taken more towards the second round mitigates the choice a bit, but wow, he is a shooter who isn't a good shooter. I wouldn't have drafted him even close to the beginning of the second round. Jordan Mickey is the only pick I think that can save this draft for the Celtics and only because I think he'll give the Celtics a guy who actually has the ability to block shots. Overall, I didn't like the Celtics going with two guards in the first round and I didn't like the guards they picked.
The Nets basically got Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the #23 pick. They had to give up Mason Plumlee to do it, but in terms of value, I like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. At worst, he will be a good defender and that will keep him on the floor. He won't be a starter, but can be a Tony Allen-type off the bench. I mocked Cliff Alexander to the Nets because I thought they needed a young power forward on the roster and there would be one available at the end of the first round. I chose the wrong one. I hope the Nets are patient with Chris McCullough, because I think he has the chance to be a contributor in the NBA. He's like 155 pounds soaking wet though and he's coming off major surgery. The Nets weren't in a position to get a great talent who will help immediately, but I think they showed themselves fairly well.
Where to start?
1. I thought with Justise Winslow being available here, they Hornets should have taken him instead of Frank Kaminsky.
2. Fine, choose Kaminsky. If the Celtics offer of four 1st round picks (and change) to the Hornets is true (which I believe it was) then why not make the trade and offer two first round picks to the Heat just to move up to #10 and select Frank Kaminsky? Winslow will be gone at that point, so the Heat could be open to the trade.
3. Fine, the Heat aren't open to the trade. Some team between spot #11 and #16 will be open to this trade, because the value of two first round picks to move back just a few spots has to be tempting. Some team, somewhere would take this trade. They would have to.
4. Fine, no teams wanted to make a trade and the Hornets wanted Kaminsky that badly. Tell the Heat you are making a trade with the Celtics who want Winslow, do the Heat want Winslow? If so, make the Hornets an offer to move up one spot. Then the Heat get Winslow and the Hornets get SOMETHING and still get Kaminsky at #10. Everyone can then laugh at Danny Ainge about how he got played by Michael Jordan and the Hornets.
5. Fine, the Heat think this is absurd and the Celtics are angry the Hornets are going behind their back to cut another deal and refusing four 1st round picks. Everyone hates the Hornets now and no one wants to do a deal with them ever again. Draft Kaminsky and know you tried to get more value out of a pick you were making anyway. My point, is the Hornets had so many options to get Frank Kaminsky, along with something else in a trade, and they didn't seem to want to do it.
I think Frank Kaminsky wasn't a terrible pick. In terms of execution, the Hornets get a big fat "1" from me in terms of a draft grade. The pick isn't going to be terrible, but it could have been so much better. Kaminsky can shoot well, which the Hornets need, but the Hornets also dangled their last two first round picks in trades prior to the draft, so I do have to wonder if they know what the hell they are doing overall. A team that tries to trade their last two lottery picks isn't suddenly going to start making savvy moves. I like Kaminsky as a role player, but I hated how this all went down for the Hornets.
I like Bobby Portis. I don't know if he will be a star, but he really works hard to improve his game (as seen by his improvement from freshman to sophomore year at Arkansas) and he will fit in well with the Bulls. He's not going to be asked to start and he'll learn from Pau Gasol while trying to out-effort Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah in practice. This is a great spot for Portis, which of course means he will fail miserably with the Bulls. The Bulls just sat there and let Portis fall to them though. That's always a winning strategy when it works.
I hate Syracuse centers. It's just a thing for me. Syracuse centers play in the zone defense and aren't always ready for the NBA game if you ask me. Maybe I'm just thinking of Fab Melo. It's hard to fault the Cavs for drafting Rakeem Christmas in the second round though. He did improve at Syracuse and really did block shots. It's not like the Cavs don't have a need for a shot blocker or anything. I know very little about Cedi Osman, but hey, he's a foreign-born player so I'm sure Chad Ford loved him. Indeed, he did:
Osman is a terrific point guard with great size for his position putting
up solid numbers for his age. He needs to get stronger and his shot is
pretty ugly, but there's a lot of talent there. He's No. 43 in our Top
100 and could easily sneak into the late first round as international
players tend to do.
Ford loves Osman so much that he can't even decide if Osman is a point guard or a small forward:
Osman has the most upside of anyone left. He's a playmaking three who,
while he can't really shoot, does just about everything else well. He's a
likely draft-and-stash for the Lakers though his play for Efes this
season suggests he may be more ready than some.
Osman can play multiple positions well, and even though he can't shoot (why would he need to shoot to play basketball anyway?), he's a terrific point guard/small forward/he can do it all.
The best thing about Sir'Dominic Pointer is his name. Mockery of Syracuse centers and international players aside, not a horrible draft for the Cavs. Besides, they aren't exactly looking for guys to come in and play big minutes this year anyway.
I like Justin Anderson a lot. He's an excellent defender whose offensive skills got lost on a Virginia team where offense means not scoring too many points in order to finally play a game where they win despite scoring less than 30 points. His value to the team could be seen in how they struggled once he got injured. Anderson isn't the type of scorer like Monta Ellis was, but I'm not sure he will need to be when coming off the bench. This was one of the very few picks I got correct and I think it was a nice choice. The Mavericks then selected a guy from India in the second round who is tall. This has never been done before. So Mark Cuban is looking to sell t-shirts in India.
I'm probably going to shade this grade lower than I should because (a) I'm not a huge Mudiay fan and (b) I can't figure out why the Nuggets are running one point guard of town just to draft another one. Money, I guess. Happiness, I guess. Rebuilding, most likely. It's horrible analysis, but there is something about Mudiay I just don't like. I feel like he's not a great shooter, but of course he's still young. I don't find him to be the dynamic point guard that I feel like he's being touted as. Maybe that's it. So the Nuggets did a good job to fill the point guard position that seems like it will be open soon. I'm not a fan of the pick, even if I understand the need.
I'm very "blah" on Stanley Johnson. For me, he's another one of those small forwards coming out of college that has all of the physical skills necessary to succeed, but I feel like he over-relies on those skills at times. An over-reliance on being more athletic and natural ability can only take him so far. Not that Johnson didn't work at Arizona, but he was inconsistent in his effort. Most of what could make Johnson succeed in the NBA isn't entirely what he showed at Arizona, but what his body and ability makes it seem like he could do. That causes me to be nervous. I would have drafted Justise Winslow here, but the Pistons clearly felt differently. They needed a small forward, so not a bad pick, and he's probably worth the risk. Darrun Hilliard is a pick I didn't understand. I know it's the second round where anything goes, but there were better options at #38 than Hilliard. At least I thought so.
Golden State Warriors
I generally hate drafting guys on potential in the first round. It seems to me how busts often happen. It's easier to draft a guy on potential when it's the last pick of the first round though. I had Looney going to Boston in the middle of the first round and he almost lasted until the second round. The Warriors ran an interesting defense this year with Draymond Green at center and they could do that because they had athletic, tall guys who can guard multiple positions at the other spots. Well, Kevin Looney is an athletic, tall guy as well. He's not going to contribute much this year and possibly not the year after that, but I think he's going to eventually crack the Warriors rotation. He doesn't really have a position (he's a forward, but not really a power or small forward), which is normally a bad thing, but for the Warriors I think it works. I like this pick even if Looney busts, only because his talent has him going in the late lottery if he stayed in school one more year.
I love making snide comments about Daryl Morey, the smartest GM in the history of the NBA. See? I did it again. I think he did a good job in this draft. Sam Dekker can be a more athletic Kyle Korver and I love Montrezl Harrell, even if he went to Louisville. I don't think either of these players are going to help the Rockets win the NBA title this year, but Harrell is a tough rebounder and isn't ever going to short the Rockets on effort. Dekker can be one of the guys off the bench (like Ariza) who can benefit from James Harden driving to the basket and kicking it out for a three-point shot. I know the Rockets had a point guard mocked to them in a lot of mock drafts since it was an area of need, but I think this draft is going to help the Rockets' bench this upcoming season.
Myles Turner runs so funny though. Plus, he voluntarily played for Rick Barnes, without a gun to his head forcing him to make this decision. Of course, so did Kevin Durant. I wasn't a fan of Myles Turner for most of the college basketball season. He too often wanted to shoot three-point shots and couldn't take minutes away from the ever-ballooning Cameron Ridley. He was the #2 center in the class behind Jahlil Okafor and only played 22 minutes per game. He shot 2 three-pointers a game, despite the fact he's almost seven feet tall and only made 27% of those three-point shots. He can block shots though. He's a taller, more awkward Josh Smith. That's how I saw him and I'm not sure my opinion has changed much. It's softened, probably beaten down by nearly every draft reviewer who thinks Turner has a high ceiling and not much of a floor. I didn't like Andre Drummond either, so keep that in mind. I idiotically killed Drummond. BUT, I did say this:
7. Golden State- Andre Drummond, C
a rule, I tend to dislike the Warriors draft picks. I hated the Klay
Thompson pick last year and I didn't like Anthony Randolph or Epke Udoh
that much either when they were drafted. So I know I will hate this
pick. The Warriors need a big man, even if they have Andrew Bogut on the
roster, you can't have too much size. Mark Jackson wants to turn the
Warriors into a defensive team and I think they try to start this
progression by drafting Andre Drummond. He could be special
He COULD be special, so I wasn't wrong...right? Actually, very wrong. Here's the best part:
or he could also be the reason Mark Jackson is back in the booth with Jeff Van Gundy in two years.
Two years later, Mark Jackson was back in the booth with Jeff Van Gundy. Why? Not because of Andre Drummond. So perhaps Myles Turner is the guy I am going to be very wrong about in this draft, but I think he has some bad habits he picked up at Texas and I don't know if he even wants to break them. He seems like a stretch-four in a center's body. Not sure that works for him in the NBA.
Grade: 2 (For Pacers fans, this is good news)
Los Angeles Lakers
I would have taken Okafor if I were the Lakers. They liked D'Angelo Russell more so that's good for them. I think they made a mistake, but I don't hate Russell. My concern with Russell is that he came from an Ohio State team where his deficiencies were masked by the fact the team didn't have a ton of other options. He's not a great defender, though he was a freshman so I can excuse that, but the fact he was one of the few scorers on the OSU team covered up for the fact his decision-making can be a bit questionable at times and his shot selection isn't always great. So it's hard for me to judge how he'll transition to the NBA, because the issues that are going to plague him in the NBA weren't issues at OSU, simply out of necessity. I'll say that Russell could be fun to watch and his upside is that he could be the best player in the draft. If he matures as he is capable then that's a definite possibility. He wouldn't have been my choice in this spot. Larry Nance Jr. wasn't a bad pick, but he was a bad first round pick. His game is limited and I thought there were better options available to the Lakers at the #27 spot. He's not worth a first round pick, though I could just pretend he and Anthony Brown (the Lakers second round pick) are flipped. Brown has a skill, three-point shooting, that could keep him in the NBA and I think he may end up being one of those guys who is better in the NBA than he was in college.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers originally had no pick. So having a pick is better than not having a pick, right? Especially when their bench needed a major infusion of talent. So they bought Branden Dawson from the Pelicans. I've heard lazy analysts say he could be this year's Draymond Green, which is lazy because they both went to Michigan State and both stayed four years and both don't have a definite pro position. I'm not sure how to grade this pick since I don't see Dawson as an NBA player, but the Clippers needed a pick to at least have some infusion of young talent. What Dawson does well is that the fills up a stat sheet, which is going to be his ticket to receiving playing time. It's not easy finding a player who has a diverse skill set like Dawson has late in the second round. Dawson will at least be a competitive practice player. I'll give them credit for that.
Grade: 5 for effort, though I doubt Dawson sticks.
I don't know who promises Jarell Martin a first round spot, but I guess that's what the Grizzlies did. He's just not a good enough offensive player for me to take in the first round. I wouldn't have made this pick if I were the Grizzlies. He's not a great shot blocker either. So for me, he's a long, athletic player who isn't an offensive threat and isn't that interested in playing defense. I don't see him in the league in three years. Andrew Harrison wasn't a bad pick, given his size and the fact he has played a lot of big time college basketball games, but I can't see him making an impact in the NBA. Of course, he was a second round pick, so perhaps I'm being hard on him.
The Heat did great by doing nothing and landing Justise Winslow. I don't think Winslow is going to be a top-five player at his position or anything, but he's a talented player who is capable of doing a lot of things well on offense, is super-competitive and willing to play defense. I think he was a better choice for the Pistons, but he has that knock of his ceiling being lower than other players taken before him. Josh Richardson could stick in the NBA based on his defensive ability and the development of his shooting. If he doesn't get better at both, he won't make it. I didn't hate the pick for the Heat though.
Man, I'm going negative a lot here. Rashad Vaughn. I like how he shoots the basketball and he is so young (not that he is the only one in the draft who is young of course), that he can grow out of some of the deficiencies he has. How do I put this politely...he would have benefited from some better coaching in college and if Jason Kidd and his staff can coach Vaughn up then he can be a scorer coming off the bench. The Bucks also traded for Greivis Vasquez, as there is a mandate from the NBA that the Bucks trade for, or trade to another team, at least one point guard every six months.
I would have chosen Okafor personally, but again, Towns wasn't the wrong choice. I'm excited to watch him play beside Andrew Wiggins. He's only touched his potential and he's definitely going to be a much better defender than Okafor. For Towns, my biggest question is whether he is ready to be "the guy" for an NBA team. Though I guess that may not be answered since Wiggins will be "the guy" for the foreseeable future. Still, how's he going to handle the nightly grind of the NBA? He only played 20 minutes per game in college. Otherwise, I can't argue with his selection. I also liked the Tyus Jones selection, only in that the T-Wolves need to get Zach LaVine closer and closer to his inevitable career on the And-1 circuit. Jones will only be a backup in the NBA, but he's smart with the basketball and doesn't need to shoot in order to make an impact on the game.
New Orleans Pelicans
They traded Branden Dawson. I can not grade them in this draft, unless the Clippers sent counterfeit bills in return for Dawson. In which case, the Pelicans need to be more careful when accepting money from strangers.
New York Knicks
I don't have as much of an issue with the Knicks' draft because they aren't in a position to win-now. They want to now and the fans want them to win-now, but that's not reality. I know little about either Porzingis or Hernangomez, other than the name "Hernangomez" sounds like a glitch on a video game where a player's first name and last name are melded together. I do know Jerian Grant and he was Notre Dame's best player last year. I think he's going to be a starter in the NBA very soon. The Knicks weren't trying to win now, and if the international scouts can be believed, the Knicks may have gotten the best player at #4.
Oklahoma City Thunder
I think Cameron Payne is going to be the the next mid-major player to star in the NBA. Of course, as soon as I say that, he'll never turn into anything. Regardless, Payne was an absolute stud at Murray State last year and pretty much does everything well. He's not athletic and he's skinny. He also tends to make mistakes, but he's going to a good NBA team because he's not going to be running the show. Russell Westbrook will be. I think Payne will end up being a nice replacement for Reggie Jackson. Dakari Johnson looks slightly cross-eyed and like he just came off playing a caveman in the Geico commercials, but I think he'll be a good NBA backup. He's limited, but he's a big guy who doesn't trip over himself. That alone has given many NBA players a 5-7 year career and at least one irresponsible free agent contract offer.
Every report on Mario Hezonja says that he is very confident. So I guess that's good as long as it is used appropriately. The Magic seem to have a pretty good core with Payton, Oladipo, Hezonja, though I can't help but wonder if they will regret not going with Willie Cauley-Stein for his defensive abilities. It was early to take Cauley-Stein, so I guess not drafting him makes sense. Still, I'd like to see what he could do with Payton and Oladipo. Poor Tyler Harvey. He led the nation in scoring, but he seems to small to score like that in the NBA. I could be wrong, because he can shoot. I wish I knew more about Hezonja, but I can't knock the Magic too much since they didn't turn down four 1st round picks for the honor of choosing Hezonja.
So the Lakers choosing Russell over Okafor probably won't work out for either team. The 76ers don't really need another center and they wanted Russell, because the 76ers backcourt is awful on paper. I like the pick of Jahlil Okafor. His ceiling isn't seen as being high, but he can score points, rebound and I think he will improve his defense towards being respectable. The 76ers have to be trading either Joel Embiid or Okafor. It's got to be happening. Otherwise, the 76ers chose a couple of European big men, a college player I had not heard of (Richaun Holmes), and J.P. Tokoto. Ask UNC fans about J.P. Tokoto. He can jump and is super-athletic. His game needs so much work to catch up with his athleticism. Is Philly the right place for that? I'm in a weird position of liking the 76ers pick, but not liking this draft, as they really didn't fix any of the true holes they have on the roster.
Grade: 3 (based on bad luck and four other picks that were underwhelming...I like Okafor)
I don't know why I didn't mock Devin Booker to the Suns. It made so much sense. I'm kicking myself. Booker is a great shooter and the Suns needed another shooter on the roster. They also traded for Jon Leuer, which is good news because maybe he will somehow cut into Alex Len's minutes and everyone can admit that Len was never really that good in the first place. I could have (and did) tell the Suns that a few years ago. I don't know if I buy Booker as an NBA starter, but in a league where outside shooting is becoming more and more important, Booker is NBA-ready as a shooter. He can stroke the three-point shot and he's really, really young so other facets of his game can develop too. It's hard to find guys with elite skills, but the Suns found one.
The Trailblazers traded the #23 pick for Mason Plumlee. It seems like a decent move considering the Trailblazers are going to need some forwards. Plumlee is much better off the bench than as a starter, but it's not like they gave up a ton with the #23 pick. Pat Connaughton is a mystery to me. Watching him, I can never figure out exactly what he does best, but he seems to have an impact on games. So Connaughton is a workout warrior, but he's also managed to contribute in college. Therefore, he vexes me.
This seems a bit high for Willie Cauley-Stein. I like him a lot, but he has very, very little offensive game and most of his value is tied up into his versatility and ability to be a great defender of multiple positions. I mean, he's a freak in terms of being able to defend multiple positions. He reminds me of a taller Dennis Rodman at times. He has absolutely no offensive game at this point, though I guess that won't matter much since DeMarcus Cousins will be doing most of the post scoring. I love Cauley-Stein, but I still have no idea how an NBA team properly utilizes him. He's an NBA player I would love to watch, but I don't know if I would want him on my team. I'm not a fan of the selection so high, despite my infatuation with Cauley-Stein's skill set. I think there were better picks out there, even if it meant selecting a guy I didn't like (Emmanuel Mudiay), but better fit a need in George Karl's offense.
San Antonio Spurs
My thoughts on the Spurs first round pick: Who?
My thoughts on the Spurs second round pick: Heard of him, didn't think he would get drafted.
Grade 1.0: 10 (didn't ruin the chance to land quality free agents), which was more important than choosing a contributing player.
Grade 2.0: 2 If the Spurs are going to choose a player who may not contribute then why not take a more talented underachieving player in the second round, who the organization can perform their magic on and transform him into a contributing player?
Delon Wright was a difficult player for me to analyze. He's not a great shooter and was used to controlling the ball at Utah. Still, he was one of the best players in the country and should prove to be a pretty good NBA backup point guard. The Raptors needed to draft another point guard (though Wright is more of a combo guard) after trading Vasquez and Wright is an experienced option who will fit in. I liked the Norman Powell selection as well. I don't know if he will make it, but he gives good effort on defense and showed steady improvement over four years at UCLA. Solid, not great draft.
I really liked this draft for the Jazz. I'm a big fan of Olivier Hanlan and can see a situation where he will get big minutes for the Jazz. His talent was covered up by Boston College teams that lacked talent and a direction. As long as Hanlan realizes he doesn't have to carry the load in the NBA, I think he has a skill set to be a 10-year pro. I also like Trey Lyles. Part of the reason he didn't go higher in the draft is he played out of position at the small forward spot all year for Kentucky. He would have been much better served coming off the bench as opposed to being thrust into the small forward spot after Alex Poythress' season-ending injury. I'm sure Poythress would agree. He's a good shooter for his age and size, plus he's also a strong rebounder. I think the Jazz got a steal in both picks. Hanlan will give the Jazz more experience (granted, college experience) at point guard and Lyles can come off the bench and give teams a different look from Favors.
I like that the Wizards drafted Kelly Oubre, even if I'm not a huge fan of Oubre. The Wizards needed to be aggressive in taking a shot to make the team better, and while I do think Oubre should have stayed in school, he does have that special potential to be a great player. He also has potential to never be any good too. He's the ideal for teams that love potential, at least he's the ideal in this year's draft. While I do have hesitations about Oubre transitioning to the NBA, he responded when Bill Self benched his ass at the beginning of the year and took it as a challenge to improve. That's a good sign. Aaron White won't ever play much in the NBA and I'm not sure why he was drafted. He's a decent shooter, but unless he turns into Matt Bonner I can't see him making an impact in the NBA. Maybe the Wizards felt White was pro-ready, but I would have taken a bigger gamble in the second round to improve their big man rotation.
So feel free to grade my grades harshly.