This may have been the most entertaining draft ever. There was drama, plot twists, comedy and surprises. We got David Stern basking in the glory of his 30 years as the best commissioner in sports. We got the entertaining ESPN crew actually giving some critical analysis. We got Shane Battier auditioning for his post-playing career. That was fun.
My MO is to grade on a curve with 3 As, 6 Bs, 12 Cs, 6 Ds and 3 Fs. I try to focus on what exactly was gained by the first round pick in the draft, but with the talent in the draft being so difficult to get a feel for I decided to go outside the box a little. My prediction about this draft is that in 10 years when I’m looking at this draft there will be some guy drafted late who I look at and say, “I didn’t see that coming.”
A: Miami Heat: No first round pick, but they landed Hoopsanalyst favorite James Ennis in round two. The lack of a first rounder dates back to bringing in LeBron which was pretty much the NBA coup of the century. That they scooped a first round talent in James Ennis is only part of it. In a year when it’s hard to say any team made a huge score in the draft, the team on the top is the one that benefits the most.
A: New Orleans Pelicans: Traded pick of Nerlens Noel and #1 pick next year to Philadelphia for Jrue Holiday. This is a slick move. I love Noel, but the Pelicans already have a young shot blocker emerging as a superstar. There was a gaping hole at PG in New Orleans and it’s now filled it with a 23 year-old all-star. Holiday’s presence will help Anthony Davis develop into the star he’s projected to be and should push the team into the playoffs picture. Getting Pierre Jackson was a great value in round 2 even if he plays the same position as Holiday. Look for him to have an impact off their bench immediately. No team improved themselves via the 2013 draft as much as the Pelicans.
A: Houston Rockets: This is for the James Harden deal. I’m having trouble figuring out where Houston’s original 2013 draft pick went, but the Raptor’s pick used as part of the deal to get Harden came for Kyle Lowry. The Rockets were smart in moving quickly to acquire a superstar and made great use of a draft pick in including it as part of the deal.
B: Utah Jazz: Picked up Trey Burke in a trade for the two picks and added Rudy Gobert. Burke is a great fit and a good value. The Jazz always seem to nail the draft. Burke looks like he’ll follow in the Jazz tradition of great PGs. Because he’s a great fit here, Burke is one of the early frontrunners for ROY. Gobert is a great pick up late in round one.
B: Washington Wizards: Drafted Otto Porter Jr. Good player. Good fit. Impressive young guy. They passed on Noel though, so they get a B. Porter will fit right in with the young backcourt and the veteran frontcourt in Washington. The Wizards improved a lot last year. Porter is the type of team-first player who will be much more of a help than a hindrance as far as keeping the improvement going.
B: Orlando Magic: Drafted Victor Oladipo. I like how Orlando is going about the post-Howard rebuild. They’re accumulating as many talented young bodies as they can and letting things sort themselves out. Oladipo should be a good fit, because he’s another team-first player. Life will be easier for the rest of the young Magic with Oladipo doing the hustle work on the court.
B: Portland Trailblazers: Drafted CJ McCollum. It didn’t work out so well for me when I bashed the Blazers for drafting a small college guard last year, so I’m not going to go there again. I like this pick. My concerns with Lillard were that they planned to plug him right in at PG. McCollum comes into a different situation. The backcourt is set now and McCollum can back up both positions, which is where he’ll fit best. He should excel as a combo. I love that they got Withey in round 2. He’s a better prospect than Meyers Leonard who they got in round 1 last year. He should help immediately with inside defense.
B: Detroit Pistons: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: This is the way to draft. Quietly take the best player on the board while everything around you is in chaos. Caldwell-Pope is a potential all-star and that’s always a good thing to bring in. The Pistons have done a great job accumulating talent in the draft the last few years and they should be ready to make a run by next year. I also like Tony Mitchell as a round 2 value pick.
B: Atlanta Hawks: Drafted Lucas Noqueira, Dennis Schroeder and Mike Muscala. I like that they went big. I’ve said that center depth was the strength of this draft and that the smart move was to draft them after the top 15 or so. Atlanta landed two of the more promising ones who should add to the Hawk talent base. That’s a good thing for a team that appears ready to do some retooling. I’m not a fan of Schroeder, but I give points for getting a first rounder for Joe Johnson’s contract.
C: Philadelphia 76ers: This “C” is for Crazy. Traded Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans in exchange for Nerlens Noel and the Pelicans top pick in 2014, then drafted Michael Carter-Williams. They gave up their 23 year-old all-star PG for a couple of high upside projects. Considering the struggles the Sixers have had trying to become relevant again, a total reboot might be the best thing. It certainly was the ballsiest move of the draft. They now get a potential superstar in Noel and a player in the draft who might have the next highest upside in Carter-Williams. They also get the Pelicans #1 next year, which will help in the rebuild. But trading Holiday is a huge risk. Carter-Williams and Noel could become a great PG-Center combo and I’m excited to see what develops here. But there is a lot of risk involved, including a year or two at the bottom while Holiday is leading the resurgence in New Orleans.
C: Milwaukee Bucks: Drafted Giannis Adetokonbo and Nate Wolters. Adetokonbo is an upside pick. He’s a hard player to get a handle on, but this is about where most had him pegged, so I have nothing bad to say about this. I always like when a team goes for upside. Wolters is a great value pick in round 2. I think he’ll contribute as a rookie.
C: LA Clippers: Drafted Reggie Bullock: If it wasn’t obvious before, I think the old Clippers are clearly dead. They’re acting like a winner now. They’re drafting smart, catering to their superstar and spending money. These aren’t your father’s Clippers or even the Buffalo Braves. This looks like a team that’s going to stay competitive. Bullock is a good role player who should help this team.
C: Toronto Raptors: Traded pick for Kyle Lowry. Lowry is a solid PG who is still young, so I’m not going to be too down on the Raptors for not having a pick in this draft. The big score was landing Masai Ujuri as the new GM in Toronto. Ujuri was masterful in building the Nuggets. The Eastern Conference lags far behind the West in smart, innovative front offices and someone like Ujuri gives the Raptors a big edge. I expect Ujuri to turn the Raptors into a major player in the East within 2-3 years.
C: Charlotte Bobcats: Drafted Cody Zeller. This was a reach and they also get docked for passing on Noel. Zeller will help of course. The Bobcat roster remains weak and just about any player they drafted would have helped. Zeller is also a nice fit as an offensive-minded PF. But they passed on a potential superstar and that just isn’t the way to run a basketball franchise.
C: San Antonio Spurs: Drafted Livio Jean-Charles: In 3 years we’ll all be watching this guy take the league by storm I’m sure. That’s what happens with the Spurs.
C: Sacramento Kings: Drafted Ben McLemore. I just don’t like the fit here. McLemore seems like a better fit on a more stable team where he can fire away more and is asked to create less. I felt Trey Burke would have been perfect for the Kings. They needed a steady PG to run the team.
C: Dallas Mavericks: Landed Shane Larkin after a flurry of deals. Larkin is a nice player to get and he’ll fill a need. But for the Mavs this appears to be all about clearing cap space for a run at Dwight Howard.
C: Memphis Grizzlies: Drafted Jamaal Franklin in round 2. Franklin is a mid-first round talent, so snagging him in round two eliminates whatever negatives are there from dealing the first rounder.
C: Boston Celtics: Acquired Kelly Olynyk. They landed a usable center. He’s the first piece in what looks like a massive, but necessary rebuild. Olynyk is a decent center prospect who could get a lot of PT on this rebuilding team.
C: Phoenix Suns: Drafted Alex Len with their own pick and Archie Goodwin with the pick they received for Steve Nash. Interesting is how wrong we all got this draft. Whether it was the rumor guys or the stat guys, no one saw Len and Noel dropping to 5 and 6. As for the Sun’s picks, both were reaches. I have no idea what was behind Len’s rise, especially with him being injured during the evaluation process. I do know the Suns passed on a potential superstar for a likely career backup.
C: NJ Nets: Drafted Mason Plumlee: Plumlee is a reach, but with Pierce and Garnett joining the Nets for a run a young banger might come in handy.
D: Cleveland Cavaliers: Drafted Anthony Bennett and Sergei Karasev. If Noel’s knees scared them off, I understand passing on the top guy. But Bennett? Where does he fit? This is a combo forward and I’m not sure he can play the 3 or the 4. Anthony Bennett is no better than the 5th best player in the draft. This has to be the first time ever a player without an obvious position has been the top draft pick. Sergei Karasev is a nice shooter, but that’s all he is. Getting help in this draft was a big deal for a Cavs team that has designs on the playoffs in 2014. I don’t see that Bennett improves them that much, if at all.
D: Oklahoma City Thunder: Drafted Steven Adams C Pittsburgh and Andre Roberson F Colorado. I do like what they picked up. This is a great situation for Adams to develop. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he were to become one of the top 5 players in this draft once all is said and done. Andre Roberson is player a lot of stat guys like much more than I do. While I think he’s something of a reach in round one, he is a great rebounder and such a skill has translated well. So why the D? The Adams pick came in the deal for James Harden, which really hurt the team this year.
D: Indiana Pacers: Drafted Solomon Hill: They’re kind of loaded on the wing with George, Granger coming back and Stephenson. That makes this pick kind of strange what with all the bigs and some decent PGs on the board. That he was also a reach compounds the error.
D: NY Knicks: Drafted Tim Hardaway Jr: Another reach. Why is it that Knick fans almost always cheer wildly for even bad picks, while at the NFL draft the Jets are always getting booed? May be hoops fans are just a mellower bunch. I can understand why there is some excitement. He has the famous name and played at a high-profile college. His stats are very pedestrian though and he’s another guy whose stock rose late in the process. I don’t see this one working out.
D: Golden State Warriors: Their first rounder went to the Jazz in the Marcus Williams deal long ago. Paid to get back in round one and ended up with Nemanja Nedovic. I’m not a big Nedovic fan and that’s why the grade is a D.
D: Minnesota Timberwolves: Drafted Trey Burke and dealt him to Utah for Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng. The Timberwolves were drafting 9th in a draft with 10 solid prospects. So they trade out of the top 9, pick up a guy in Muhammad who everyone had cooled on and Dieng who will be a part time center at best. I had hoped to give the team some props for losing David Kahn, but I’m not sure how much better the draft team has become.
F: Chicago Bulls: Drafted Tony Snell. Snell is quite a reach. I didn’t even have him in my top 60. I’m always wary of players who have a meteoric rise during the predraft camps and private workouts. He can shoot and that had to be the appeal, but they passed on some very good wings. This is the worst pick of the first round. This is also puzzling, as the Bulls have always been one of the better drafting teams.
F: LA Lakers: Traded pick for Steve Nash. This did not work out and the grade is as much for the disaster the season was and the frightening future of the Lakers more than anything.
F: Denver Nuggets: Sold their pick for cash: Thy briefly had the French Javale McGee and traded him away. Bummer. There was good value here and they passed. That isn’t how a contender should behave.