Another NBA Draft has come and gone, and because we were dealing with one of the deepest draft classes we've seen in years, this one was more fun than most. But it's over now, and Mock Draft Season is officially dead, too. But that just means it's time for ... Draft Grades Season!
Two quick notes before we get started:
- Because Tom Ziller would have died trying to grade the entire league in one night, we decided to split it up this year. I'm handling the East, and you can read his West grades soon.
- I'm not going to pretend to know prospects I hadn't seen before, so... Yeah, if you're looking for hardcore analysis of Kostas Papanikolaou, Kyle O'Quinn, Justin Hamilton, Tomislav Zubcic, Tornike Shengelia, Mike Scott or Ilkan Karaman, maybe this report card isn't for you.
All right then, to the grades.
Selected SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist No. 2 overall, SG Jeff Taylor No. 31 overall, traded Corey Maggette to Pistons for SG Ben Gordon, future 1st round pick
Maybe Rich Cho is much smarter than anyone realized. The Bobcats were dealt a crushing blow when they lost the lottery, but they've played things just about perfectly from there. The Ben Gordon trade gives them someone who can score, and even though he's way overpaid, the Bobcats would have had to overpay people anyway just to meet the salary floor over the next few years. Plus, they picked up a 1st round pick from the Pistons in one of the next three drafts (depending on lottery protections).
But, the main story: Cho played things close to the vest all along, feigned disinterest at No. 2, milked Cleveland and Houston to see if they'd offer something truly insane, and then when (apparently) they didn't, the Bobcats went ahead and took the second best player in the draft.
They must have been tempted by Thomas Robinson's ability to contribute immediately, and Kidd-Gilchrist isn't the sort of player who's going to come in and put up huge numbers to get fans excited. But in the end, if you're trying to build a serious contender, MKG was the second-best weapon available, and he's much, much better than all the Gerald Wallace comparisons would suggest. It took guts to go for an unorthodox superstar given how barren the rest of the roster is, but Cho made the smart play, and added Gordon to help provide scoring while MKG contributes in other ways. Getting Jeffery Taylor (maybe the best perimeter defender in the draft) at 31 was just a bonus. Considering the situation that were dealing with, you couldn't ask for much more. GRADE: A+
Selected PF John Henson No. 14, SG Doron Lamb No. 42, traded for C Sam Dalembert
Grabbing Henson at 14 is a steal, but I'm also unusually high on Henson, so I'll try to stay unbiased. Still, they picked up Dalembert from Houston and slid two spots, but still managed to get the poor man's Anthony Davis, and someone who could potentially be deadly as a pick-and-pop partner with Brandon Jennings. None of these players are going to turn Milwaukee into a title contender, but John Hammond seems content to build quietly, one underrated piece at a time, putting together a sneaky solid team up there. Adding Doron Lamb in the second round fits perfectly, then. GRADE: B+
Selected PG Marquis Teague No. 29
When I first saw this pick I thought it was great. Upon review, I'm not actually sure what the Bulls were thinking here. Derrick Rose will miss part of next season, but Teague won't be ready to play big minutes that early, and by the time he develops a few years down the line, Rose will be smack in the middle of his prime. In that case why not roll the dice with a wing like Quincy Miller? Or Jeff Taylor? Jae Crowder? Teague could be really good, which is why I liked the pick initially, but it's just hard to see how he fits into Chicago's immediate or distant future. GRADE: C
Selected SG Dion Waiters No. 4; Traded Nos. 24, 33, 34 for corpse of Kelenna Azubuike and the rights to No. 17 (Tyler Zeller)
OK, it's one thing to reach for Waiters in the top five the exact same way they reached for Tristan Thompson last year, but then to deal three picks in a shockingly deep draft to pick up Tyler Zeller?
Why not take Harrison Barnes -- who's at least four inches taller than Waiters and more athletic -- and use the other three picks to fill out your rotation with players like Perry Jones (24), Draymond Green (33) and Quincy Miller (34)?
The Cavs already have their franchise superstar, but the rest of their rotation isn't quite there yet. So a draft like this was perfect for them: there was only one franchise superstar, but there were tons of great rotation players. And I still don't understand how all they wound up with was Waiters and Zeller. Maybe Waiters is way better than we realize, but probably not, right? And maybe Zeller is something more than a career backup that they traded three picks for, but... GRADE: D
Selected PF Jared Sullinger No. 21, C Fab Melo No. 22, SF Kris Joseph No. 51
As Sullinger continued to slide Thursday, not only was I positive he'd end up on the Celtics, but I felt more and more like he's destined to come in and spend the next 10 years making everyone else look stupid for doubting him. He's the best offensive big man in the draft, and with his hands and soft touch around the rim; as long as he stays healthy, he seems like a perfect candidate to be on the receiving end of Rajon Rondo assists for the next 10 years.
And with Fab Melo, you couldn't really imagine a better scenario for a young, raw big man surrounded by question marks. If there were a boot camp for troubled teenage big men potentially headed down the wrong path, that boot camp would involve spending nine months next to KG, right? Is there any other big man in the league you'd rather put in charge of motivating someone like Fab Melo?
It's not a coincidence that the Celtics' big three keeps turning late first rounders into surprising stars (Rondo, Bradley, even Kendrick Perkins), and Melo has as much potential as any of them. Between him and Sullinger, the Celtics did as well as you could ever hope picking in the 20s. GRADE: A
Selected SG John Jenkins No. 23, PF Mike Scott No. 43
John Jenkins was a great pick in the 20s, but Josh Smith is still sitting in Atlanta, and this week would have been the perfect opportunity for ATL to deal him for as many picks as possible, replacing him with any of the 10 different freakishly athletic wing players that went between 10 and 40 Thursday night. Jenkins will be good, but it feels like the Hawks missed an opportunity. GRADE: C
Traded No. 27 pick (Arnett Moultrie) to Philadelphia for No. 45 (Justin Hamilton) and a future first round pick
They acquired a future first round pick and still added a big man to play behind Chris Bosh. Considering they still have LeBron James, they really they could have drafted pretty much anyone and they'd be totally fine. But adding another first round pick for the future definitely doesn't hurt. GRADE: A
New York Knicks
Selected SF Kostas Papanikolaou No. 48
Nights like this, when you stop and look at the Knicks' roster and remember that their biggest draft day story was their star player tweeting a gay slur to someone, then you think about their options over the next few years and how much money they've already spent and how little they can possibly do and just how relentlessly mediocre everything is .... These are the nights when you realize the Knicks are the most depressing team in the NBA. GRADE: F
Selected PF Andrew Nicholson No. 19, C Kyle O'Quinn No. 49
And the Magic turned down an opportunity to rebuild with three first round picks and possibly more from Houston --God knows what other offers they turned down -- instead picking up a player who provides security in case Ryan Anderson leaves, even though they're probably going to overpay Anderson regardless this summer, all in hopes that they can somehow squeeze out another few years of first round exits with Dwight Howard. GRADE: F
Bought pick No. 41 (Tyshawn Taylor) from Portland and No. 54 from Philadelphia (Tornike Shengelia) and selected PF Ilkan Karaman No. 57
The Nets gave away a lottery pick for half a season of Gerald Wallace, the rights to Ilkan Karaman and the chance to buy Tyshawn Taylor and something called Tornike Shengeila? GRADE: F
Selected PF Miles Plumlee at No. 26, bought pick No. 36 (Orlando Johnson) from Sacramento
Hey, a team that's not actually that depressing (unless we're talking about that Kings trade). This pick gets an A+ for conforming to stereotypes, yes, but even if it's sort of its own punchline, Plumlee actually fits pretty well with the Pacers.
Unless they were going to give someone up in a trade to the top 5-7 picks, they weren't going to find the explosive superstar they needed, and otherwise the rotation is pretty much set. So Plumlee gives them some nice depth up front, without changing the core of the team at all. The big question for Indiana is whether it can land a go-to star at some point over the next few years, but it deserves credit for not reaching for any fool's gold in this year's draft. Here's to hoping Plumlee and Tyler Hansbrough guest star as a duo on Parks and Rec, preferably as FBI sidekicks to Burt Macklin, because every episode with Burt Macklin is the best. GRADE: B
Selected C Andre Drummond No. 9, SF Khris Middleton No. 39, SG Kim English No. 44
This was the ideal scenario for the Pistons. They were supposed to be in a weird spot at No. 9, deciding between about 20 different role players and without any clear solution at center. Then Drummond fell past the Warriors and they got a chance at the last potential All-Star available AND a potential solution at center.
Drummond is raw, and who knows whether he'll ever be half as dominating as his physical tools suggest. That's what makes this pick a little tough to grade. But even if he never becomes Dwight Howard, he's still a huge presence who will rebound and block shots as well as anyone in the league. Give it time, and he should fit in perfectly next to Greg Monroe. I don't know much about Middleton, but adding English's shooting midway through the second round was icing on the cake. GRADE: B+
Selected SG Terrence Ross No. 8, SF Quincy Acy No. 37, SF Tomislav Zubcic No. 56
Another team that found itself in no man's land, the Raptors went with the opposite of Detroit's strategy. Instead of taking a raw maybe-superstar like Drummond, they went with Ross, who has a lower ceiling, but more skills that should translate to immediate success. They didn't need a center, anyway, since Jonas Valanciunas should be coming over to fill that void.
As for Ross, his jumper needs to get more consistent, but he's got the potential to be a defensive killer and a solid second or third option on offense. Given their options at No. 8, that's actually a pretty phenomenal pick-up. Throw in Quincy Acy as the next Reggie Evans, and Toronto quietly got better Thursday night. GRADE: A-
Selected SF "Maurice" Harkless No. 15, traded future 1st round pick and No. 45 to Miami for No. 27 (Arnett Moultrie) and then sold pick No. 54 (Tornike Shengelia) to Brooklyn
It's hard to grade the Harkless pick since nobody has any idea whether he'll capitalize on all the potential, but even if he never puts it all together, he should give Philly one more absurdly athletic wing to play with, and his length will be an asset on both ends of the floor. Arnett Moultrie was pretty solid at the 27th pick, too, as long as there are some solid protections on that future first round pick (no lottery, for instance).
The key now is whether they can turn Andre Iguodala into a piece that makes them better than a seventh or eighth seed in the East. But that's been the question for two years now, so I guess we'll just have to keep waiting. GRADE: B
Selected SG Bradley Beal No. 3, SG Tomas Santoransky No. 32, traded SF Rashard Lewis for C Emeka Okafor, SF Trevor Ariza
First, a guest report card from Ziller:
No offense intended, but I was really rooting for the Cavs to move up to No. 2 for Beal just to see what Ernie Grunfeld's reaction would have been. Would he have taken Robinson to break up the deal and basically hold the rest of the league hostage? Just taken Barnes and moved on? I feel like that was a missed opportunity for real drama. I blame Dion Waiters. GRADE: A
Now, my grade:
Considering the hype he's gotten the past few weeks, Beal's one year at Florida wasn't really that impressive, but all the tools are there, and just about everyone seems to agree that he's got every intangible you could ask for in a19-year-old. His shooting is what got him drafted this high, but he can also attack the rim off the pump fake and be a scorer. So he's kind of like MKG -- you don't know exactly what it's going to look like when things come together for him, but you have the sense it's going to be pretty great regardless.
As for the trade, I know a lot of people hated it, and but as a Wizards fan all I can say is this: The team hasn't won 50 games in 30 years, and the past three seasons have been especially brutal. Adding a few overpaid veterans to make things respectable makes more sense in D.C. than it would just about anywhere else.
Plus: Nene, Okafor, and Ariza are really just there as a 2-3 year bridge to the future, giving the Wizards a chance to actually win games while the rebuild unfolds. If everyone develops on schedule, those veterans will be coming off the books in 2014 and 2015 -- right as John Wall and Beal are coming into their prime -- giving the team plenty of cap space to help fill out the roster with solid role players and maybe even one other star.
It's not an overnight fix, but for the first time since, like, 2006, Wizards fan actually have reason to be excited about the near future AND the long-term. And isn't that what the draft is all about? GRADE: A
Do you guys like videos about the NBA Draft? Sure! We all do! So let's watch some, including a fashion analysis from the man himself, Walt Frazier: