June 28, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; Harrison Barnes (North Carolina) walks to the stage after being introduced as the number seven overall pick to the Golden State Warriors during the 2012 NBA Draft at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE
We grade the Western Conference teams' performance in the 2012 NBA Draft. The results are mostly good. And then there are the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Another successful NBA Draft is in the books, unless you are the Minnesota Timberwolves, in which case another NBA Draft is in the books. Andrew Sharp covered the East draft grades, and we're handling the West. Let's start from the top!
New Orleans Hornets
Drafted Anthony Davis No. 1, drafted Austin Rivers No. 10, drafted Darius Miller at No. 46
Davis is worth an A+ all by himself, but with a second lottery pick -- this one from the Timberwolves by way of the Clippers in the Chris Paul trade -- New Orleans probably should have done better than Rivers, a hyperaggressive and inefficient guard who doesn't seem to complement Eric Gordon terribly well. They, y'know, play the same position. With so many needs and such a blank slate, Rivers seems like a wasted opportunity. You don't have to pick a point guard or center there, but assuming the Hornets intend to pay Gordon whatever it takes, adding a score-first guard is just weird. GRADE: B.
Drafted Thomas Robinson No. 5, sold the No. 36 pick for cash
First, a guest grade from Sharp:
So, it's hard to get upset about taking Thomas Robinson. He's as NBA-ready as anyone in the draft, he's tough, and next to DeMarcus Cousins he gives the Kings a frontline that they can count on for the next decade or so. But Harrison Barnes would have more sense--you can find lots of blue collar power forwards, but it's harder to find a third option as talented as Barnes. He's not good enough to be a superstar on his own, but wedged between Tyreke and DMC, Barnes would have been perfect. Still, Robinson's a solid building block for Sacramento, and even if the Maloofs got cheap and sold a second round pick that could have been Kim English or Quincy Miller (either of whom might have been a solution at the 2/3) ... remember last year? When Sacramento engineered that completely indefensible trade to draft Jimmer in the lottery? Things could be a lot worse than drafting a forward you can pencil into the starting lineup for the next 10 years. GRADE: B
And now mine:
Seeing Robinson drop into their laps because of the Dion Waiters Experience was something like magic for the Kings. It wasn't quite DeMarcus Cousins in 2010 magic, but it could end up that way if ThRob hits all of his potential. It was a smart, solid pick by Geoff Petrie, who could have opted to stretch his legs out and fill the small forward hole with Harrison Barnes. Instead, he took the more inspiring, tough player, one who will make a nasty little tandem with DeMarcus Cousins.
Then the Kings did what the Kings do: they sold a valuable high second-round pick for cash. As I wrote last night, you only sell good second-round picks if you're at roster capacity (the Kings aren't) or bumping up against the luxury tax (not remotely close). Second-round picks don't require guaranteed contracts and don't carry cap holds. It's ridiculous for a bad, cheap team to sell the No. 36 pick when plenty of promising prospects were available. The Kings should know better, having picked up Isaiah Thomas (an All-Rookie team honoree) at No. 60 last year. For a team that needs everything to go right to compete, you can't start cutting off your own limbs for firewood. GRADE: B
Portland Trail Blazers
Drafted Damian Lillard No. 6, drafted Meyers Leonard No. 11, sold No. 41 to Nets for cash
The Blazers filled two immediate needs at point guard and center, so all right! The question is whether either of them are any good. I tend to believe that Lillard will be a good pro because of his shooting ability. We'll see how he is as a passer; the canvas is pretty blank on that one, as it is for every small-conference scoring guard. Leonard looked like a disaster on draft night; he should fare a bit better on the court, provided he can get up to speed quickly on what space LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers' star, takes up. Because of the NBA learning curve and the vital positions these two rookies will be in, it could be a tough season for Portland. But the future looks brighter today. GRADE: A
Golden State Warriors
Drafted Harrison Barnes No. 7, Festus Ezeli No. 30, Draymond Green No. 35, drafted Ognjen Kuzmic No. 52
Barnes should have been a top-5 pick, but Dion Waiters ruins everything. How lucky did the Warriors have to be to land Barnes? With the promise of losing their first round pick unless it landed in the top seven, they tanked just enough to tie the Raptors for the 7th worst team in the standings, won a coin flip to edge ahead in pre-lotto draft order, survived the lottery as no lower seeded teams jumped up and then on top of it all watched the Cavaliers pick Dion Waiters over Robinson and Barnes. Amazing.
The Warriors made the most of it with a beautiful fit in Barnes, whom we shall now call Dorell Wright Plus. Golden State also did really well later, picking up Ezeli (a promising defensive big man) and Draymond Green, who might be better than David Lee soon enough. (Right?) I don't know what an Ognjen Kuzmic is, but everyone else was taking southeastern Europeans, so why not? GRADE: A
Traded Samuel Dalembert and No. 14 (John Henson) to Bucks for No. 12 (Jeremy Lamb), Jon Brockman and Jon Leuer, drafted Royce White No. 16, traded Chase Budinger to Timberwolves for No. 18 (Terrence Jones)
All the talk around Houston was that Daryl Morey had been pushing to get up around No. 5 or No. 7 to pick up Andre Drummond. None of it panned out as Sacramento and Golden State benefited from top prospects falling into their laps. Instead, he stayed where he was and picked up three blue-chip players at three positions. His roster still lacks a center, but all three players he picked will hold their value for at least a year, you'd think, so Morey has plenty of time swing for the fences.
Budinger for Terrence Jones is criminal larceny. GRADE: A
Drafted Kendall Marshall No. 13
If the Suns magically keep Steve Nash, Marshall could be one of the best back-up point guards in the league quickly. If the Suns lose Steve Nash, Marshall could sit on the fringes of the Point Guard Era conversation. Concerns about his foot speed are valid, but Phoenix is quite adept at playing with a matador at the point, and Marshall should be better than Nash defensively in total. GRADE: A
Drafted Evan Fournier No. 20, drafted Quincy Miller No. 38, drafted Izzet Turkyilmaz No. 50
Hey! The Nuggets! What do you mean they added two more wings and a player with multiple Zs in his name? I'm stunned!
I have no idea if Fournier will be either a good NBA player or a good fit in the NBA -- he seems like a bigger, less nutty J.R. Smith, which is neither a good or bad thing. Miller is a dice roll, but a dice roll that certainly should have been taken by someone before No. 38. I'm of the mind that Miller will pan out well, provided he's brought along slowly. GRADE: A
Traded Kelenna Azubuike and No. 17 (Tyler Zeller) to Cavaliers for No. 24 (Jared Cunningham), No. 33 (Bernard James) and No. 34 (Jae Crowder), traded No. 55 (Darius Johnson-Odom) to Lakers for cash
Dallas saved money by moving down from No. 17 to No. 24 both because Azubuike is gone and there are savings as you move down the first round. The Mavericks can test out James and Crowder in Summer League and training camp, and do not have to make a real commitment until after the Deron Williams matter is settled. Brilliant draft for Dallas, even if it only results in one bit player going forward. Textbook handling for a team maximizing cap space and flexbility. GRADE: A
Drafted Tony Wroten No. 25
I'm sorry if these grades sound a little twee, but hey, the West is smart! Wroten has a wonderful pedigree and should be able to fill in as Mike Conley's back-up from Day 1, and someday might even make Conley expendable. This might be Chris Wallace's best draft pick ever. GRADE: A
Oklahoma City Thunder
Drafted Perry Jones III No. 28
Seriously though, how can you argue with this? If we forget Baylor's 2011-12 season ever happened, it's like OKC got another top-5 pick. Fran Fraschilla's on-air decision to compare Jones to Serge Ibaka was a bit eyebrow-raising, but this is still too good a pick to question. GRADE: A
Drafted Kevin Murphy No. 47
He's like a cross between John Jenkins and Damian Lillard. ... Wait, can you do that? GRADE: A
(I've become the easiest grader ever in my old age.)
Drafted Furkan Aldemir No. 53
Three points about Furkan Aldemir:
1. Ralph Lawler is definitely going to slip on that first name is a very bad way at some point.
2. My favorite Lord of the Rings character, definitely.
3. Who actually made this pick for the Clippers, who are without a general manager and have Vinny Del Negro (who doesn't scream "international scout") as a coach? Is Elgin Baylor back?
Traded cash for No. 55 (Darius Johnson-Odom), drafted Robert Sacre No. 60
I'm not sure either of these players will play a single minute this season, but if the Lakers are serious about cutting salary and still want to pay Kobe Bryant $30 million a year, they'll need cheap replacement players for the bench. These are two cheap replacement players. Voila! GRADE: B
San Antonio Spurs
Drafted Marcus Denmon No. 59
Sure. Why not? GRADE: Sure. Why not?
Traded No. 18 (Terrence Jones) to Rockets for Chase Budinger, drafted Robbie Hummel No. 58
All right, here we go.
This is David Kahn. This is exactly what David Kahn is. He is a man that makes rash, barely defensible decisions, and then piles more barely defensible decisions on top of them. He turns quarters into dimes like no one else. He is a volunteer fire department that sets itself on fire. He has botched enough attempts to add help on the wings (Wes Johnson, Martell Webster) that he had to give up a first-round pick for a recent second-round pick who had been knocked back in the rotation by a rookie, Chandler Parsons.
This isn't overpaying. This is just throwing money at a fire and watching it burn. This is buying hedge clippers on QVC when you need to cut up a baguette and can't find a knife.
Budinger might be a nice fit -- he knows Rick Adelman's system, and he can fly. But he was not worth anything remotely close to the No. 18 days before the deepest draft in years. Chase Budinger and players like him are not going to disappear behind lock and key if you don't pull the trigger two days before the draft. Stop panicking, man. Breathe, homey. You're making things worse. GRADE: D