After nearly a year of hype, the 2014 NBA Draft is finally over. The biggest surprise of the night was the fact that there were so few surprises. Teams seemed hesitant about trading their picks, and after the Cavaliers decided to keep the top pick, everyone else seemed content to stand pat. It may take years to understand the impact of last night’s picks, but waiting is no fun, so I decided to grade each team’s draft based on the value of the pick and how the player fits each team’s plan moving forward.
Atlanta Hawks: B-
Adreian Payne (15), Walter Tavares (43), Lamar Patterson (48)
They may have taken him a few picks early, but Payne was the right fit for this team. The Hawks took the Pacers to seven games last year without their best player, Al Horford, and with so much uncertainty in the East, by merely bringing back Horford and adding an experienced and versatile rookie to their frontcourt, the Hawks can compete in the East. As for their second round picks, Tavares is a 7’3’ monster with a 7’9’ wingspan. He’s a project since he’s only played basketball for four years, but he could be a rotation player in the future. Patterson is tough and has the attitude you want on a team, but I doubt he’s athletic enough to stay in the league.
Boston Celtics: B
Marcus Smart (6), James Young (17)
On value, I really liked these picks. I think Smart is a prototypical combo guard in the league and a future all-star who loves to compete. He’ll be a pain for opposing teams, especially late in games. Young is a great shooter who is also athletic and could be a very good two-way player similar to Bruce Bowen. The problem I have with the picks is the fact that their backcourt seems awfully full with Rondo, Bradley, and the rookies. I am not sure if they will re-sign Bradley, who is a restricted free agent, or trade Rondo, who has been on the block for years, but this grade could go up with the right offseason moves by Danny Ainge.
Brooklyn Nets: C+
Markel Brown (46), Xavier Thames (59), Cory Jefferson (60)
The Nets have no cap room and traded their pick for Joe Johnson in 2012, so they decided to fill some roster spots by buying a few second-round picks. Brown and Thames are very similar combo guards, but I like Thames slightly more due to his ball-handling ability and his experience helping San Diego State become a recognizable basketball program. Both need to find a role if they are going to stay in the league. If Jefferson can put it together, he is athletic enough be a rotation front-court player in the league.
Charlotte Hornets: B-
Noah Vonleh (9), P.J. Hairston (26), Dwight Powell (45), Samaj Christon (55)
The Hornets had Vonleh fall to them, and even though they need backcourt help, they went for the best player available. The Hornets’ crowded frontcourt actually gives Vonleh time to develop and learn under veterans like Al Jefferson. P.J. Hairston is an all-star level talent who needs to mature badly, or he will be playing overseas by the end of the rookie contract. Powell could be a backup front-court player in the future, but I doubt he sees the court much on this team. Christon is a big athletic point guard who could be a great shutdown defender off the bench. It seemed like the Hornets were ready to make a jump in the East, so it is interesting to see them take two projects in the first round.
Chicago Bulls: D+
Doug McDermott (11), Cameron Bairstow (49)
A lot of people really love McDermott, but I hate taking players that limited so high, especially when you have to give away two first-round picks to get him. He cannot defend, which must not sit well with Tom Thibodeau, and there were shooters available at 16, 19, and even in the second round. Bairstow is a big, below-the-rim power forward with limited court vision who will have a very nice career in overseas.
Cleveland Cavaliers: A+
Andrew Wiggins (1), Joe Harris (33)
They did everything they could to screw this up, but they decided to keep the pick and select the best player available. They may have been hesitant to select him since they want to go after LeBron James in the offseason, and they do some of the same things which may impede Wiggins’ development, but you cannot ignore Wiggins’ talent, and without a guarantee with LeBron the Cavs made the right move. Harris is a pure shooter who can hit shots off screens and will be a perfect floor-stretcher off the bench, even with his athletic shortcomings.
Dallas Mavericks: N/A
The Mavericks opted out of this year’s draft to get Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton, and traded their other first round pick in the Lamar Odom trade in 2011.
Denver Nuggets: B
Jusuf Nurkic (16), Gary Harris (19), Nikola Jokic (41)
The Nuggets traded the number 11 pick to get the 16 and 19 picks from the Bulls. Nurkic is a huge athletic center with great feet, but he probably will not be in Denver for another year or two. Gary Harris is a very good two-way guard, but after trading for Arron Afflalo, he does not immediately have a spot. Hopefully he can learn behind Afflalo as he figures out how to play in the NBA as an undersized guard. Like Nurkic, Jokic may not come over right away, but he is a
smart big man who can add rebounding and size when he does come over.
Detroit Pistons: C-
Spencer Dinwiddie (38)
I really like Dinwiddie, he is a big combo guard who can run the point, shoot, get to the basket, and defend. The low grade is due to the fact that the Pistons gave the Hornets their first-round pick so they could acquire Corey Maggette.
Golden State Warriors: N/A
They traded their picks to clear space for Andre Iguodala last year, one of the few pick dumps in this draft that worked out.
Houston Rockets: C
Clint Capela (25), Nick Johnson (43)
The Rockets plan on making a run at another superstar, so they took the extremely raw and athletic Capela and plan to leave him in Europe for a few years. Even though he is undersized, Nick Johnson could be a nice shooting guard off the bench and could develop into a scorer for a team’s second unit. If they land LeBron or Carmelo, this mediocre draft would be worth it.
Indiana Pacers: N/A
The Pacers traded their first round pick to get Luis Scola. I thought they could have used the pick to get another wing defender or body inside, but they can acquire those through free agency, especially since they need veterans more than rookies.
Los Angeles Clippers: D
C.J. Wilcox (28)
It’s usually a plus when a contender can get another shooter, but they drafted Reggie Bullock last year and still have J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, and even Matt Barnes. He’s a good scorer going to a team that did not have any problems scoring. I am not sure where he fits, and they could have probably benefited from getting another big body up front.
Los Angeles Lakers: A
Julius Randle (7), Jordan Clarkson (46)
The Lakers need to continue to make moves in the offseason to build around Kobe; however, they did a really good job with the picks they had. Randle is ready to contribute and play alongside Gasol as the Lakers’ inside muscle. Clarkson was a steal in the second round as a combo guard with point guard experience off the bench who can play next to Kobe if he can get his shot under control. I am not sure what the Lakers’ long term plan is, but drafting well is always helpful whether you are contending or rebuilding.
Memphis Grizzlies: B
Jordan Adams (22), Jarnell Stokes (35)
I thought Adams was a reach in the first round. He can score, but so can dozens of other former college players who are currently in Europe. He just is not athletic enough to be a consistent scorer in the league. Stokes is a beast on the boards and will be a perfect backup to Zach Randolph as he learns how to become a more complete player.
Miami Heat: B+
Shabazz Napier (24)
The Heat traded up to get the most dynamic guard in the draft. He’s obviously undersized, but he competes throughout the whole game, and has a ridiculous amount of confidence, something Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers have struggled to maintain. He is not a guy you build a team around, but LeBron loves him, so the hope is that this is another small move to try to lure James back for another run.
Milwaukee Bucks: A-
Jabari Parker (2), Damian Inglis (31), Johnny O’Bryant (36)
They let the draft come to them and got the guy they wanted. Jabari Parker was the most polished offensive player in the draft and should improve the team immediately, although they have to figure out what to do with O.J. Mayo. Inglis is an athletic wing with huge upside, like last year’s pick Giannis Antetokounmpo, but he is a little bigger and could give them a dangerously athletic wing combination in the future. O’Bryant is a big powerful that will give the Bucks more size and strength inside.
Minnesota Timberwolves: A
Zach LaVine (13), Glenn Robinson III (40), Alessandro Gentile (53)
There is no hiding that I love LaVine. He is a super athletic 6’6 guard who actually has a decent shot. It will be interesting to see him play with Ricky Rubio, but at least they’ll be fun to watch. Robinson is a first-round talent who can be a starter if he can increase his intensity level on the court. Gentile is a scorer who can get to the basket and should contribute as a second-unit scorer when he comes over from Europe. It would have been nice to see them get a big man as they prepare to trade Kevin Love, but otherwise, they had a very good draft.
New Orleans Pelicans: B-
Russ Smith (47)
After trading their first-round pick for Jrue Holliday last year, they decided to deal their way back into the draft by trading Pierre Jackson back to the 76ers for Smith. Smith is a score-first point guard, but his experience, success, and size give him an advantage over the guy the Pelicansgave up for him.
New York Knicks: B
Cleanthony Early (34), Thanasis Antetokounmpo (51), Louis Labyrie (57)
Early is a versatile forward with experience who can help right now. He’ll play the three and a little stretch four while adding some shooting and intelligence to the Knicks. Antetokounmpo is a freak athlete like his brother. If the Knicks are patient, he could be one of the better defenders and transition players in the league. Labyrie is a slow, thin forward in Europe and he will continue to be a slow, thin forward in Europe for the rest of his career.
Oklahoma City Thunder: C+
Mitch McGary (21), Josh Huestis (29)
I actually like the players they drafted, but they were just drafted too high. McGary gives them another big man as Kendrick Perkins prepares for greener pastures as he enters the last two years of his contract. They must have felt he was not falling to 29, so they took him early since they needed more size to compete with the Spurs. Huestis is one of the best defenders in the draft, but he would have been available in the second round, and they traded for a similar player in Andre Roberson last year.
Orlando Magic: B+
Aaron Gordon (4), Elfrid Payton (10), Roy Devyn Marble (56)
I thought Gordon was a reach at 4. He is super athletic and can contribute on the defensive end, but I thought they could have traded down, got another asset, and taken Gordon where Vonleh fell, around 8 or 9. They gave away some future flexibility by trading future first- and second-round picks to the 76ers to get Payton, but he looks to be the best point guard in the draft, especially with his defensive ability. Marble is the kind of smart, well-rounded guard you want to round out your roster. Unfortunately, his lack of athleticism will keep him from starting in the NBA.
Philadelphia 76ers: TBD
Joel Embiid (3), Dario Saric (12), K.J. McDaniels (32), Jerami Grant (39), Vasilije Micic (52), Nemanja Dangubic (54), Jordan McRae (58)
It is hard to grade a draft when over half the players will not play for the team in the next year, but the Sixers have a 7-year plan and plan to stick with it by adding assets and not competing until they are read to contend. Embiid is out 4-6 months with a broken foot, but I would not be surprised if they kept him out for the year. In the very little we saw from Embiid, he looks like a franchise changing big-man, but it remains to be seen if he can stay on the court long enough to make an impact. Saric is a great passer and a smart player who will play in Turkey for at least the next two years. If he can learn to shoot, he will be a Boris Diaw-type facilitator. The Sixers did get back a second-round pick next year and a 2017 first-round pick by trading the tenth pick Payton for Saric. McDaniels is a defensive force who could be a lockdown wing defender like Tony Allen. Grant is super athletic and could play both forward spots if he cleans up his game and learns to shoot – both big ifs. Micic is a great pure point guard with very good court vision but an iffy shot, while Dangubic is a lanky, athletic forward who is still learning the game. Both are Serbian and both will stay in Europe for a few years for developing. McRae is a scorer who is super competitive, but needs to add strength to stay in the league. The Sixers are determined to have a team that can start competing around 2016, and if the majority of these picks work out, they should be on schedule.
Phoenix Suns: C+
TJ Warren (14), Tyler Ennis (18), Bogdan Bogdanovic (27), Alec Brown (50)
I thought Warren was taken way too early for what he brings to the Suns. He a good shooter and scorer, but they need more athletes, not necessarily more scorers or guards. I like Ennis, but they already have Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, so I am not sure where he fits. Bogdanovic could be a Manu Ginobili-type scorer, but he will not come over to America for a year or two. Brown is a 7’1 perimeter shooter similar to someone else on their roster, Channing Frye. They may be considering trading Frye after his comeback season, but 7’1’ centers who shoot 42% from three do not come along all the time, so solid pick for the late second round.
Portland Trailblazers: N/A
They traded their first-round pick to get Gerald Wallace two and a half years ago, so that’s not depressing at all. To be fair, it is doubtful they would get a difference maker with 24, but still a wasted pick.
Sacramento Kings: D-
Nik Staukas (8)
All he can do is shoot. He is very, very good at shooting, but for a lottery pick, you need someone who can contribute in more than one area. When you have guys like Joe Harris going in the second round, it is hard to fully defend a pick like this.
San Antonio Spurs: A
Kyle Anderson (30)
They get a tall forward with point guard experience in college who can pass and fits the team perfectly with his attitude and high basketball IQ. He also gives the Spurs flexibility if Diaw signs somewhere else, since he fills the role of high-post facilitator perfectly.
Toronto Raptors: F
Bruno Caboclo (20), DeAndre Daniels (37)
Caboclo is ridiculously raw and is a good five years away from contributing to an NBA team. Like most teams, I did not even have him on my board and did not expect him to be drafted. He is mind-blowingly athletic, but still is learning how to play basketball. It is a shame because the Raptors could compete for an Eastern Conference title now and could’ve added talent that can contribute now like Anderson or even Hood. I like Daniels’ upside, but the Raptors already have DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, and even Landry Fields. It will give him time to develop, but the pick does nothing to help the Raptors now.
Utah Jazz: A-
Dante Exum (5), Rodney Hood (23)
The Jazz got very lucky that Exum dropped to five, but they were more than happy to take their point guard of the future. Exum has some developing to do, but he has the skills and physical attributes to be a top point guard in the league and the Jazz have the time to let him do so and figure out what to do with Trey Burke. Hood is also a project, but he can already shoot and could become a valuable two-way player over time.
Washington Wizards: N/A
The Wizards traded their first-round pick for Marcin Gortat last year. The 18th pick may have helped, but Gortat was definitely worth the risk if they can re-sign him, considering they made the playoffs and he was the anchor of their defense.