It started with Anthony Bennett going #1 and what unfolded over the next few hours was a chaotic, but entertaining, NBA Draft night. It’s not very easy to make quick judgments over what the teams accomplished during the draft, because we really have no idea how many of these players will develop. Still, we can judge how teams were able to fill positions of need with players at a good value relative to their draft position. Here is a look at some that stood out from Thursday night:
Philadelphia – New G.M. Sam Hinkie made a big impact in his first draft with the Sixers. All-Star Jrue Holiday was traded to New Orleans, but Hinkie picked up the man many presumed to be the #1 pick at #6, Nerlens Noel, as well as a valuable 1st round pick in 2014. Noel is a project and won’t be ready to really show what he can do until 2014, but he will be a valuable defensive presence. At #11, the Sixers took point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Carter-Williams has great raw talent and vision, and has a nice advantage being 6’6, but he also has some issues to work on, namely control and his perimeter shooting. Still, if these 2 players develop as they should, the Sixers could be a legitimate force a few years down the road.
Utah – The Jazz are another team that did a little dealing which put them in position to nab one of their biggest areas of need – point guard. Not only did they get what they needed, they got one of the better players in this draft, Trey Burke. Burke is a strong leader who has experience from playing in a pro-style offense at Michigan. Early word is the Jazz may bring him along slowly, but they may not have a choice if Burke performs to expectations. Near the end of the 1st round, the Jazz took a shot on raw French big man Rudy Gobert. His 7’9 wingspan and 9’7 standing reach made him the talk of the NBA combine, but he is at least a few years from making any impact, and that will likely only be on the defensive end.
Sacramento – The Kings stayed put in the 1st round and had possibly the player with the most upside in the draft fall to them at #7. Ben McLemore had some negative talk around him leading up to draft day, but he is a very good perimeter shooter with strong athleticism, and he has a lot of room to grow as a player. The Kings also made a great value pick at #36, getting point guard Ray McCallum, a capable scorer and distributor who will be able to give the Kings a different look at times.
Portland – Probably my favorite overall draft of the day, the Trail Blazers picked up three players who can make an impact, in different ways, immediately. Taking CJ McCollum at #10 may seem redundant to some with last year’s Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, but McCollum is comfortable playing on or off the ball, can score in a variety of ways, and is a good perimeter defender. With the first pick of Round 2, the Blazers got one of the best perimeter shooters in the class in Allen Crabbe and a little bit later picked up one of the best shot blockers in Jeff Withey.
Chicago – Getting the right fit for a team’s personality can be tough, especially at picks 20 and 49, but the Bulls pulled it off. Tony Snell is a long, athletic defender who is capable of knocking down open jumpers. Erik Murphy is capable of scoring on the perimeter and in the post as well as being a hard-nosed defender.
Minnesota – Another team active in draft-night dealing, the Timberwolves came away with a couple of players who can bring immediate help. Shabazz Muhammad may have been the most maligned draft prospect of the past few years, but there is low risk in taking him at #14. He is one-dimensional, but with the spotlight off of him in Minnesota, he has the chance to develop his all-around game. Later in the first round, the TWolves landed one of my favorite players in the draft, Louisville center Gorgui Dieng. Dieng has made a name as a defender and shot-blocker, but he made great strides this past season as a passer and mid-range shooter.
Oklahoma City – The Thunder entered the draft needing help in the frontcourt and took a chance on 3 players in the first 40 picks who may help, but there is as good a chance that all 3 could fall short. Steven Adams is athletic and strong for a 7-footer, but very raw. At times last season, he looked lost on both ends of the floor. Andre Roberson was a solid defender and rebounder in college, but he failed to improve the last few years and relies solely on his athletic abilities which won’t be easy at the NBA level. Grant Jerrett can knock down the occasional jumper, but he isn’t skilled enough or tough enough to play in the NBA now, or possibly ever. All 3 will need significant D-League time to see if they have what it takes.
Milwaukee – The Bucks took the biggest risk in this draft in Greek teen sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo. He has shown some skill and athleticism playing at very low levels in Europe, but is nowhere near ready to play in the NBA. The Bucks may not find out until his rookie deal is up whether this pick was worth anything.
Detroit – The Pistons had an opportunity to fix their problem at point guard at #8, but instead they chose to go with shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Caldwell-Pope entered college with a lot of hype and showed occasional flashes of how good he can be, yet he rarely lived up to it. Much of the same can be said for forward Tony Mitchell who the Pistons took in Round 2. Both of these guys need to figure out how to step up their game quickly or they may see their NBA chance come and go.
New York – The Knicks had a 1st round pick this year and they had a chance to add a strong scoring wing. They took Tim Hardaway, Jr. Hardaway was not a bad pick, but probably not the best they could have done in this spot. Still, if he is left open, he can knock down shots, but don’t expect that much more from hi, at least early on.
Cleveland – The #1 pick can pay big dividends to a team, as Cleveland saw just a few years ago with Kyrie Irving. Anthony Bennett may have as much upside as anyone in this draft, but he was inconsistent often during his one year of college, as well as being defense-deficient. One of the big men may have been a better fit. Later in the first, the Cavs took Russia’s Sergey Karasev. Karasev is skilled with a strong mind for the game, but is also inconsistent and defense-deficient. It may be tough to even have these two on the court together.
Undrafted Underclassmen – Adonis Thomas, Myck Kabongo, CJ Leslie, Vander Blue, B.J. Young: It’s not over for you, but the road will be that much tougher. Staying in school would have helped all of them.