It's been a long night with a flurry of trades (thanks, Sam Presti), but here are my initial reactions to the draft that was;
Washington Wizards. Obviously, it all starts at the top for the Wizards; landing a franchise-altering talent in John Wall, who immediately makes this team relevant after having faded into oblivion in the post-Arenas gun incident days of last season.
But anyone -- well, anyone except David Kahn that is -- would have taken Wall number one overall. As superlative as Wall is, Washington has so many holes that they needed to make more moves to hasten the rebuilding process. And that's exactly what they did. The Wizards build on their good fortune in winning the lottery by swinging a deal that gave them the 17th pick at the cost of at least one season of Kirk Hinrich, before they could presumably move his expiring contract, which the team used on raw Frenchman Kevin Seraphin. Who knows whether Seraphin will develop into much of a player, but collecting picks and stashing Euros to develop overseas -- my god, the Wizards are acting just like a real franchise.
Even better was their trade for former Clemson standout Trevor Booker. Undersized for a power forward, Booker is nonetheless a ferocious finisher at the rim, the type of player NBA GMs routinely dismiss, only to be proven wrong time and time again (see: Paul Millsap, Carl Landry and DeJuan Blair). Booker might not be much more than a seventh guy on a contender, but his energy and ability to get up and down the court should make him an immediate contributor. And watch out if he develops any perimeter game.
Sacramento Kings. There's a lot to be said for simply not messing up; that old Woody Allen adage about 90% of success being about just showing up and all. The Kings had a shot at the most productive player in college basketball, one of the most physically imposing players to come out in the last decade, and they didn't miss. While Demarcus Cousins' myriad motivation/personality issues might prevent him from fulfilling his massive potential, at the fifth pick in the draft, it's more than worth it.
And in the second round, the Kings took another smart gamble, picking up mystery 7-footer Hassan Whiteside. The former Marshall product put up some Mutombo-esque shot-blocking numbers in his lone college season, but even euphemistically calling his offensive game "raw" is being a bit generous. Whiteside was projected anywhere from the late lottery to the late first round, so nabbing him early in the second round is something of a coup. Yes, there's a very strong chance he flames out, but at that point in the draft, isn't an impossibly athletic 7-footer worth it? Bravo Geoff Petrie.
Los Angeles Clippers. Maybe it's the ubiquitous Knight And Day ads, but I've got Tom Cruise on my mind. It's worse than it sounds. Which brings us to the Clippers. Indeed, to quote Cruise in Risky Business, sometimes you've just got to say f--- it, and swing for the fences. That's more or less what the Clippers did in the draft, and for this team it makes sense.
Al-Farouq Aminu at the eighth spot is a heist. Sure, Aminu can't put the ball in the hoop beyond ten feet and struggles to create his own shot, but he's a freak athlete in the Shawn Marion mold who gobbles up loose balls and figures to be a nightmare on the defensive end for opposing small forwards. On an uptempo team he should make an immediate impact, and if he ever figures out how to shoot, he'll be an absolute monster. The term "upside" was practically invented with Aminu in mind.
Likewise, trading for Eric Bledsoe and ending Willie Warren's freefall in the second round were similarly ballsy moves that could easily explode in their face or pay off big time. Bledsoe is young, has an NBA body, can light it up from deep...and has no experience running a team. His pure point rating his freshman year was horrific, although if they ease him in, it's certainly feasible that he could be a fixture in their backcourt along with Eric Gordon for a decade to come. Or he could prove that he really is just a turnover-prone combo guard.
With Warren, the Clips picked up someone who was a consensus top-ten preseason player whose selfish, depressing play submarined his stock in his sophomore campaign. Still, Warren has talent and may be better suited as a scoring combo-guard off the bench -- a niche he could find in LA. And if it doesn't work out, the Clippers' have taken on little risk; they can just cut him and his non-guaranteed contract.
Now, if they can just get Donald Sterling to sell the team to David Geffen and woo a certain free agent from Cleveland...
Indiana Pacers. Indiana was like the bizarro version of the Clippers, taking all sorts of crazy risks, except these ones are inexplicable through and through. There might not be a bigger boom-bust player in this draft than Paul George (aside from Cousins and perhaps Favors), and yet the Pacers rolled the dice on this uber-athletic swingman despite the fact that their best player (Danny Granger) plays the same position. What's the long term plan here?
Lance Stephenson, meanwhile, is an uninspired pick in the second round. Sure, he may be worth the risk of a non-guaranteed contract, but the dirty little secret about Stephenson is that despite all the hype, he was godawful for Cincinnati last year. He was a high-volume scorer who didn't score; who can't shoot; and to whom a pass is an alien concept. He's an irredeemable ball hog who can't quite back it up at the college level, let alone the pros. So really, a true tour de force of a pick.
New York Knicks. Quite an enticing roster they're assembling to lure The Global Icon™ to Manhattan, isn't it? Knicks' faithful can compose a veritable jeremiad of the woes the departed Isiah Thomas has inflicted on this once-proud franchise, but the parting shot was the cruelest: short-sightedly parting with their 2010 first-rounder, which would have been ninth overall.
But even with the picks the Knicks did have, they completely and utterly blew it. Andy Rautins and Landry Fields in the early second round, 38th and 39th to be exact? Were they just throwing darts at a board? Or did they forget they even had picks, panic and just blurt out the first names that came to mind? Rautins was a helluva college player, and his shooting makes him a perfect fit for D'Antoni's system, but couldn't they have signed him as an undrafted free agent? The same for Fields. And how can they justify taking those guys when players like Gani Lawal or even Stanley Robinson, whose freakish finishing ability would be a huge asset in that system, were still on the board?
Minnesota T'Wolves. As Matt Damon explains in Rounders, if you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker. And you, David Kahn, are the sucker when it comes to GMs. Selecting Wesley Johnson fourth overall -- ahead of Cousins, Monroe and Aminu -- is simply farcical. Indeed, Johnson should be a solid pro, but at 23 years old, there's very little upside. You can't pass on guys who can be legit stars in this league for someone who figures to be more of a third-scorer type. Just can't do it.
Kahn did salvage a bit later in the first round, picking up Luke Babbitt and the criminally underrated Trevor Booker...wait, what's that, he traded both of them? Oops. Martell Webster and Lazar Hayward are decent pickups in return for the aforementioned Babbitt and Bookers, although neither Johnson, Webster nor Hayward excels at creating his own shot. So the T'Wolves loaded up on wing players to address that glaring weakness on their roster -- and didn't really address it at all. To be fair, Prestes and N'Diaye are two solid late-second round picks, but that doesn't erase the unmitigated disaster that was the night prior.