The 2010 draft is nothing more than an appetizer for the big free agent drama that’s about to commence. This draft still matters though and needs to be looked at. If there is one characteristic that stands out in this draft it is length. I think the 2010 draft should be called the wingspan draft. I count 12 players in this draft with a wingspan over 7’4”: Hassan Whiteside, Dexter Pittman, Hamady N’Diaye, Demarcus Cousins, Larry Sanders, Cole Aldrich, Jerome Jordan, Solomon Alabi, Derrick Favors, Tiny Gallon, Ekpe Udoh and Daniel Orton, in order of length. The previous three drafts had a combined total of 12 players over 7’4”, so this situation is fairly unique. It means that with so many long players available, their value, and the value of all big men for that matter was likely downgraded a little, so teams drafting these players may be getting a bargain. Teams who drafted for size, Sacramento, Miami, Oklahoma City and Milwaukee, could be the big winners if this is the case.
The other thing this means is the 2010 draft has an outside shot to be one of the great center drafts ever. The reason is there are just so many talented big guys in this draft that a few of them emerging as stars isn’t a difficult thing to see. Of course to be considered a truly great center draft at least one player will need to emerge as an all-time great and the only player who would seem to have such potential going in is DeMarcus Cousins.
The best center drafts ever would be:
- 1992: Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning: No draft with an all-timer featured a 2nd-best center as good as Mourning. Until another draft produces and all-timer with another HOFer, 1992 is the best center draft ever.
- 1984: Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin Willis: Hakeem ranks as an all-timer and Willis was a one-time all-star who played a long, productive career.
- 1956: Bill Russell, 1959 Wilt Chamberlain and 1969: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: I’m not going to rank one over the other here. These 3 are next in line, because the dominance of the individual involved even though no other prominent centers came out of the drafts.
- 1970: Bob Lanier, Dave Cowens and Dan Issel: Three HOFers and Cowens has a MVP to his credit.
- 1996: Marcus Camby, Jermaine O’Neal, Erick Dampier and Zydranus Ilgauskas: Even though there’s no player here who would top Ewing or Robinson, as a group I feel they’re strong enough to rank ahead of ’85 and ’87.
- 1985: Patrick Ewing, with a deep but unimpressive group of Benoit Benjamin, Jon Koncak, Joe Kleine, Bill Wennington and Manute Bol behind him. This was also the first year Ardvydas Sabonis was drafted, but this was by the Hawks. The Hawks never signed him and lost his rights after a season. He was selected by Portland in 1986 and came to the NBA 10 years later, so it is hard to include him here.
- 1987: David Robinson: Worth a mention here, but at the bottom of the best.
That’s about it. I didn’t include the drafts of the aughts, because they’re still incomplete. I’ll say that ’02: Yao and Stoudemire, ’04: Howard, ’05: Bogut and Bynum and ’07: Oden, Horford and Noah, all still have a shot at greatness. For the ’10 class to join the greats at least a couple of players would need to get to HOF level. I feel this is a real possibility, simply because of the sheer number of prospects who at the very least have something to like about them. With players so tall and long, the high end is much higher than it would be with forwards and guards. The chances that at least a few of the wide wingspan gang of 2010 exceed expectations is pretty good. If that happens, this is going to be a legendary center class.
But that is something for pundits to analyze some 20 years down the road. Right now most fans care only about the big LeBron sweepstakes. That could remake the league, so the interest is understandable. As far as the 2010 draft goes, here are the grades. As always, I grade on a curve. 3 As, 6 Bs, 12 Cs, 6 Ds and 3 Fs. I take into account mainly how much the team improved by how they used their draft picks, but some points are added/deducted for whether the pick was a reach or a good value.
A: Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins and Hassan Whiteside: Might as well give the top grade to the team that drafted the two centers with the most upside in a potentially great center draft. The players join what is suddenly a tall and deep frontline in Sacramento. Both players were a great value for when they were drafted. Both players posted numbers in college that suggest they’re impact players in the NBA. These are the types of players teams should be drafting when they get a chance. Better to swing for the fences with players like this than draft a role player whose biggest asset is he’s a solid citizen. I’m not saying it isn’t important that teams weigh everything, including attitude and off court issues. But great players win in this leagues and any chance to acquire such a player should be jumped at. Solid role players are out there and fairly easy to find. The Kings have had 3 drafts in a row now that would rank between solid and excellent. Considering the competition in the Pacific division, they seem like the team most likely to step up and challenge the Lakers for divisional supremacy. The downside here is the Kings could be building the JailBlazers of the teens.
A: New Jersey Nets: Derrick Favors and Damion James: I’m glad they didn’t fall for Wesley Johnson’s allure. Derrick Favors is a very solid prospect and a potential star. He looks like he could play either PF or center and is one of the few players in the draft with a chance to become a perennial all-star. Damion James was good value for where they drafted. The fact that James came in the Kidd trade really isn’t a negative any longer as the Kidd era had run its course. The Nets added two good pieces and appear to be in the running for the at least one impact FA, so it looks like they’ll have a good summer after a terrible season.
A: Philadelphia 76ers: Evan Turner: They got the best player in the draft and that’s never a bad thing. He’s the likely ROY and will go a long way toward getting this franchise back on track. The talent and situation for a big turnaround is here. They have a new coach in Collins. They have changed their rotation fairly significantly. There are youngsters in Holiday and Speights who seem ready to become forces. And they bring in Evan Turner who looks to me like a SF on the level of Grant Hill or Scottie Pippen. These things don’t always work out, but if there’s one team not involved in the FA royal rumble that seems primed for breaking out, it is Philly.
B: Washington Wizards: John Wall, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker and the right to pay Kirk Hinrich $17 million over 2 years. They gave up Antwawn Jamison’s really bad contract. The most important thing they got was a new start. What isn’t so good is that the guy who brought everything crashing down will be back and he plays the same position as Wall. We’ll see how that goes, but I doubt Arenas will be asked to stick around if he’s anything less than a strong, but humble veteran presence. Wall should be anywhere from solid to fantastic as a player. I’ve expressed some doubts that he’s on the level of Rose or Rondo, but he’s going to have a strong positive impact no matter what and that’s what this team needs right now. I’m also on board with the Hinrich deal. It netted them a center in what is a very deep crop. When a team is rebuilding the more young bodies brought in, the better. Hinrich will be expensive, but it is only for two years that will be spent mostly piecing together the team for the Wall era. That lessens the impact of his oversized contract.
B: Oklahoma City Thunder: Added Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, Tibor Pleiss and a future Clippers #1. The Thunder are a smart bunch. They’re buying when everyone is selling. They added a couple of centers to a frontcourt in need of some depth. Aldrich particularly could thrive here if asked only to rebound and defend. They also got a future Clippers #1 draft pick. Think about that. The Clippers are a team that has made the playoffs something like 4 times in 32 years. I know there is lottery protection on the pick, but that eventually wears off. Considering the history here, I like the odds of this turning into a very good deal.
B: Indiana Pacers: Paul George and Lance Stephenson: I like the George pick a lot. They got a player with good potential and a high enough floor that he brings good value whether he reaches his max potential or not. What I like best about the pick is it represents a change for the Pacers from the last couple of drafts. They had been going in the direction of drafting college stars with limited pro potential, specifically Brandon Rush and Tyler Hansbrough. I don’t know if this was an organizational philosophy, or just the way the draft fell for them. But in both cases they reached for a player with a rep bigger than his potential. George is the opposite. He’s a terrific athlete with the potential to become a star.
B: LA Lakers: Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks in round two. First round pick was sent to Memphis as part of the Pau Gasol trade. The Gasol deal has paid such huge dividends that they get upped to a B for whatever small part their use of this pick had in that deal. As for Caracter and Ebanks, I just don’t get why the defending champs would add a couple of guys with past attitude issues. Seriously, neither player has shown enough that they’re upside is worth the risk. The Lakers’ hold on the title is tenuous at best going into 2011. Anything that could bring them down a notch would likely prevent a repeat. The chance might be small, but why risk it with players like these two?
B: Milwaukee Bucks: Larry Sanders, Darington Hobson, Jerome James and Tiny Gallon: What I like about the Bucks’ draft is they went with the strength of the draft. I’m not sure I care much for when the players were drafted and in each case I would have taken a different player. But they added 3 centers in a draft that was strong at that position. There’s a good chance that one or two of the three will exceed expectations and make a strong impact. That they filled their perimeter needs before the draft by taking Maggette and Douglas-Roberts off the hands of teams looking to dump contracts suggests that this was a team with a plan that came together nicely.
B: San Antonio Spurs: James Anderson: Drafting low in round one, the Spurs have had no problem adding players like George Hill, Dujuan Blair and now James Anderson. While their continued elite status is tied to the continued health of Tim Duncan, this bunch is clearly going to do everything they can to keep the supporting cast strong. Anderson should be able to step right in and help out as a shooter.
C: Toronto Raptors: Ed Davis. Davis is a good fit and a great value for where he was drafted. The Raps could use a worker/grinder like Davis whether or not Bosh stays. Not that a solid workmanlike draftee coming in and doing better than expected is going to make up for losing Bosh. But they did well here.
C: Miami Heat: Dexter Pittman and Jarvis Vanardo. Traded pick to OKC with Daequan Cook for the cap relief that comes with it. The Heat went all in here. Putting themselves in place to add a couple of FAs to Wade is a great plan and there was certainly nothing available at 18 that could top this planned coup. Like the rest of the cap space teams, the grade is really an incomplete and the draft was inconsequential. What I like is they went big with Pittman and Vanardo in round 2. Should they land one or more big FAs to play next to Wade, players like this who can rebound and block shots will be good support players to have around.
C: Chicago Bulls: Traded pick for cap relief: I doubt any of the FA-obsessed teams changed their position for the positive as much as the Bulls. With enough cap space for two big deals, LeBron is less of an all-or-nothing type of deal. There are several different combinations of FAs whose addition to the core would vault the team to elite status. Of course ten years ago the Bulls were primed to add Grant Hill, Tim Duncan or Tracy McGrady to the young core of Elton Brand and Ron Artest. That didn’t go so well. Neither has any other big deal the Bulls have made in the post-dynasty era. Like Miami, this grade is really an incomplete. We’ll see in a few weeks whether or not this becomes an A+ or a F-.
C: Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward: Their original pick went to Memphis in the Kyle Korver deal. This pick came from New York in a trade where they sent Tom Gugliotta to Phoenix. I think. Hayward was an OK pick here. He has enough upside to justify grabbing him this high. They also get kudos for turning Gugliotta into something good 6 years down the line. I’d also say dealing a late #1 pick was worth having Korver around.
C: Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe and Terrico White: I can’t say these are bad picks. Monroe looks like he’ll help inside and the Pistons could use such a player. White is a reach, but has shown some signs. The Pistons are a team in a bad place right now with some bad contracts that will likely strangle the team for at least a couple of years. Monroe and White are going to do little to change that.
C: Orlando Magic: Daniel Orton: Smart pick up. Orton’s value was down after a tough pre-draft run. He’s talented enough that bringing him in for a 2-year look at the cost of a late first round draft pick is a pretty smart move considering the potential payoff.
C: Minnesota Timberwolves: Wesley Johnson, Lazar Hayward, Hamady N’Diaye, Martell Webster, a couple of players they’ll stash overseas. The price for the #1’s was Ty Lawson and Rodney Carney. I guess my feeling is: This is all they got? In a draft where they held three #1s and six overall picks, they come away with 3 mediocre SFs, a couple of players stashed overseas and Hamady N’Diaye. The Timberwolves should have owned this draft and used it to rebuild their core. Instead they passed on a player with great potential for one with solid role player potential. Johnson was a crazy reach at #4. I know he has some nice skills, but passing on a franchise-changing talent like Cousins for him is the type of move that keeps franchises mired in mediocrity for years. The point of trading stars for future draft picks is that the future draft picks remake the team into a force again. I’m just not sure the Timberwolves get this.
C: Memphis Grizzlies: Xavier Henry, Greivis Vasquez and a couple million in exchange for sending Dominique Jones to division rival Dallas. Gave up Pau Gasol and Steven Hunter to acquire the extra picks. Henry and Vasquez are both good enough players for their draft positions. Henry gives them a gunner and potential all-star down the line, Vasquez can run an offense. Both should fit in the backcourt mix here. What bugs me is the same thing with the Timberwolves. This is a team that owned 3 #1 picks going in and this is the best they could do? The idea behind accumulating draft picks is to stock a team that is rebuilding for the future. The Grizzlies added a couple of OK pieces to a crowded backcourt, but really should have improved themselves a lot more.
C: Atlanta Hawks: Jordan Crawford: Good value and he could help in easing the possible loss of Johnson. He does duplicate what Jamal Crawford does some, but he’s a good player and a team never should try to limit how many of those are on the roster.
C: Dallas Mavericks: Original pick was part of deal for Jason Kidd. They paid a small amount to Memphis for Dominique Jones. This is a smart move by the Mavs, paying a pittance for the right to draft Dominique Jones. He’s a decent value at this point and bringing another good, young player is never a bad thing. The Kidd deal also still gets a thumbs up from me. It has helped the team stay competitive and relevant, even if the cost was a little high.
C: LA Clippers: Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Bledsoe and Willie Warren. Traded a future #1. Nothing here that blows me away, but I could make a case for each move individually. Aminu wasn’t the best player on the board at #8, but his upside could make him the best pick. Bledsoe never really got a chance to shine at Kentucky and his numbers suggest he could be something of a surprise in the pros. I was never on board with the hype that surrounded Warren, but he did fall too much and was a bargain when they got him. I don’t know that a team that frequents the lottery as often as the Clipps does should be so reckless in dealing future #1s. We’ll know more about this draft in a few years. All the players are young and will likely be brought along slowly.
C: Houston Rockets: Patrick Patterson: Patterson is a reach here. That isn’t to say that the clever bunch that operates this team won’t find a productive way to utilize him. They seem to go for players like Patterson whose best stat is a high FG pct. This is probably due to a preference for low-mistake role players. It works well for them, so I won’t be too critical. I can’t give them much more than a C though.
D: Portland Trailblazers: Added Luke Babbitt, Elliott Williams and Ryan Gomes, traded Martell Webster: Babbitt and Williams are both solid picks who should give the team the flexibility to go bigger or smaller. Williams might even solve the PG problem that has held the team back some during their rise. In talent they did better than most teams. The reason for the low grade is they fired the GM who built this team into a contender. Kevin Pritchard has owned the draft since his first one in 2006 and he has used the draft better than few GMs before or since to build his team into a contender. Despite his success the Blazers have decided to move forward without him and this seems like a mistake. GMs who are smarter than their peers are a rare thing. The Blazers had one and probably have no idea what they’re losing here. While Pritchard might eventually be remembered as the guy who passed on Kevin Durant for a center who never was healthy enough to make an impact, he was the one who built this Blazers team into what it is. If Oden can come back they’ll be right there with the Thunder and the winner of the LeBron sweepstakes battling for league supremacy in the teens. I hope Kevin Pritchard finds a new GM gig, because the draft is much more entertaining when he’s involved.
D: Cleveland Cavaliers: Traded pick for Antwawn Jamison. This was a trade that needed to be made and at the time it seemed like a great idea. But results matter. The championship eluded the Cavs again and now the franchise could be looking at losing their superstar and their status as an elite team along with it. This deal was an all-or-nothing proposition and so far it has come up with nothing. This isn’t Jamison’s fault, but life isn’t always fair.
D: Boston Celtics: Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody: The Celtics had a choice between potential and immediate help and went with the potential in Bradley. This is a “we’ll see” type of pick, but seems like a big reach to me. I wouldn’t have taken Bradley in round one, but his athleticism is obvious and someday he might turn into something special. The excuse seems to be that Texas was a bad place for him. I find that hard to swallow. I’m not sure it was the best place for him, but prospects haven’t exactly gone to Texas and died the past few years. There seems to be a good group of vets in Boston, so he’ll have no excuses here.
D: Denver Nuggets: Traded pick to Memphis along with Steven Hunter’s contract in a salary dump. I can’t say this was terribly harmful, but when the competition out west is using similar picks to grab potentially useful pieces like James Anderson and Dominique Jones, this doesn’t help. Had this been done to open up cap space I could understand, but this was done to lessen the luxury tax and isn’t likely to improve the team.
D: Golden State Warriors: Ekpe Udoh. This is a crazy reach. I’ll try to spin positive first. I understand how a team can fall in love with this guy. The sum of his parts is pretty impressive. He’s a shot blocker, a decent rebounder and he can hit an outside shot. I’ll add that in a fast-paced Warriors offense he could thrive. He does fit, because he can play center and he’s arguably a better prospect than Brandan Wright or Anthony Randolph were at this point. The problem with Udoh at 6th is just it is too high to take him. I understand that the talent seriously leveled out at this point and this wasn’t the best place to be drafting. But Udoh’s upside is that of a very good role player. There were players here like George, Hayward, Monroe and Davis with much higher upside. A team just can’t reach this high for a player, no matter how much they like him.
D: Charlotte Bobcats: Pick went to Minnesota for Alex Anjica. Right now I can’t see where this is a positive. Anjica contributed little his first season and is now 22. He’s over 7’, so potential still exists, but if his first year is any indication, this deal looks like a mistake.
F: New Orleans Hornets: Craig Brackins and Quincy Pondexter: Craig Brackins in round one? Really, Hornets? Just look at the guys’ numbers and justify him as a first round draft pick. You can’t do it. In a draft that was thick with good forwards no less. There were better shooting combo forwards available and better rebounding power forwards available. This is the single most baffling selection of this draft. Pondexter is also a slight reach, but nowhere near the level of Brackins.
F: Phoenix Suns: First round pick went to Seattle (at the time) in exchange for taking Kurt Thomas and any realistic chance of winning a championship during the Nash-Stoudemire era off their hands. Even though the Suns were one of the great stories of this past year with their success, the team continues on the downward path they started on with deals like this. Even though it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Steve Nash checked in with another MVP-caliber season while leading a plucky bunch of overachievers to 50 wins in 2010-11, this bunch is headed down fast and that fall was accelerated by money-saving deals like this one.
F-: New York Knicks: Landry Fields and Andy Rautins: This might seem a tad harsh, because I rarely give out pluses or minuses. But the pick the Knicks gave up here was part of the fee that finally came due on the Stephon Marbury deal. That was the trade that basically turned the aughts into a lost decade for this franchise and there really is no way to spin this one. It didn’t matter if they had made 2 strong second round choices, nothing could have made the use of this draft pick right. For the record Fields is a solid pick, Rautins, not so much. Now the Knicks can set their sights toward LeBron and others in the hope that their franchise-defining big deal of the teens turns out a little better than the last decade.