Thursday was quite the night in the NBA, with many teams making moves and building for the future. Here’s what franchises made the best and worst decisions on one of the biggest days of the NBA offseason.
Picks: Taurean Prince – No. 12 (via UTAH), Deandre Bembry – No. 21, Isaia Cordinier – No. 44
The Hawks did a great job of acquiring a pair of first round picks by sweeping up Utah’s lottery selection. They simultaneously dropped Jeff Teague’s hefty contract following an underwhelming season by the former All-Star guard. Atlanta used those picks to draft key contributors that can come in and produce immediately. Both Prince and Bembry are two-way wings that can defend and score at the NBA level. In the second round, the Hawks snagged Cordinier, who was once mocked as high as the early 20s. Cordinier has immense athleticism and plenty of raw potential.
Picks: Jaylen Brown – No. 3, Guerschon Yabusele – No. 16, Ante Zizic – No. 23, Demetrius Jackson – No. 45, Ben Bentil – No. 51, Abdel Nader – No. 58
The Celtics’ selection of Jaylen Brown 3rd Overall shocked many NBA fans, however may have been one of the better picks in the draft. Brown is an outstanding defender and can score the ball as well. Brown may be one of the most pro-ready players available in this class. Then, the Celtics went on to pick a pair of international bigs who have potential to develop down the road. However, what made Boston stand out from the rest was their steals of Demetrius Jackson and Ben Bentil in the mid-late second round. Jackson and Bentil were both first-round prospects who just slipped out of the opening round. Luckily for the Celtics, they snatched ’em up and both players could become major role players for Brad Stevens’ team.
Picks: Caris LeVert – No. 20 (via IND), Isaiah Whitehead – No. 42 (via UTAH)
Don’t get me wrong, LeVert is a spectacular talent, and dumping Thaddeus Young’s contract was a smart move, but the Nets simply didn’t do anything to make a splash Thursday night. Brooklyn is in full rebuild mode, and this draft helped them get younger, but the Nets lost a key contributor in Thaddeus Young. Neither the LeVert pick nor the Whitehead pick in the second stands out on paper. Time will tell whether or not LeVert turns into the player the Nets hope for him to be.
The Hornets needed outside shooting, and by trading their first round pick for Marco Bellineli, they solidified that need. However, for Charlotte fans, they leave the night frankly bored and wishing their team had made a splash.
Picks: Denzel Valentine – No. 14, Paul Zipser – No. 48
Many are already calling the selection of Valentine the steal of the draft. The Bulls are hoping Valentine can fill Derrick Rose’s vacancy he left as a playmaker, scorer, and leader. Denzel Valentine is the complete prospect, with four years of experience under his belt, and a complex skillset on both sides of the floor. Chicago made a great choice with their lottery pick, and it should show with the Michigan State product’s statistics in 2017.
Picks: Kay Felder – No. 54 (via ATL)
Kay Felder is one of the most athletically intriguing prospects the NBA has seen in a while. At just 5’9″ with a 44″ vertical and absurd speed and agility, he already has the physical attributes of an NBA playmaker. He can step into the void likely left by Dellavedova in free agency. For owning just one pick in the late second round, the defending champions did way more than anyone could imagine.
Picks: Henry Ellenson – No. 18, Michael Gbinje – No. 49
Ellenson was viewed as highly as a Top 5 pick at one point during the season, however his stock gradually fell as the season progressed. Fortunately for Ellenson, he landed on a team in need of post depth and should certainly earn minutes. Gbinje will likely be on a D-League roster for a while, though could develop into a solid role player when his name is called.
Picks: Georges Niang – No. 50
The Pacers chose proven talent over possible upside, and you have to respect that decision in this league. Much of the late first round prospects take years to develop, and by then, they have their minds set on heading elsewhere in free agency. Indiana made moves and acquired Thaddeus Young and Jeff Teague, who will both be major pieces of the puzzle for the Pacers. Teague fills that ever elusive gap of a true point guard in Indiana, while Thaddeus Young can probably fight for a starting job at forward. Niang may earn a roster spot with his basketball IQ and physicality.
Picks: Thon Maker – No. 10, Malcolm Brogdon – No. 36
The Bucks held one of the most head-scratching picks of the night. By selecting Thon Maker at 10th overall, Milwaukee left plenty of basketball minds spinning. Maker, who has yet to play at the college level, and whom is coming straight out of high school, where (keep in mind), he wasn’t necessarily a super star at that level even. Maker could have easily been grabbed in the late first and it is simply mind-boggling that the Bucks felt the need to jump on him this early. The steal of Brogdon in the second is the only reason the Bucks don’t earn an “F” grade.
New York Knicks:
Picks: Stephen Zimmerman Jr. – No. 41
The Magic made an absolutely confusing trade that headlined draft night. In an effort to accelerate their rebuilding process, they made a trade for a proven commodity in Serge Ibaka. Ibaka is indeed a solid player, but considering that the Magic already have a power forward prospect who is coming into his own (Aaron Gordon), the trade doesn’t make much sense. Orlando surrendered perhaps their best player (Victor Oladipo) as well as a very valuable lottery pick, for a player that plays a position they are already set at. The trade simply doesn’t make much sense. Side Note: Zimmerman may turn into a steal, but until he does, the Magic earn a poor grade.
Picks: Ben Simmons – No. 1, Timothe Luwawu – No. 24, Furkan Korkmaz – No. 26
Props to the 76ers for not picking a single center in this draft, because that is what NBA fans have been accustomed to as of late. Philadelphia got their cornerstone player with the number 1 pick, Ben Simmons. Simmons has unlimited potential, and his talents could translate to the pros immediately. Not only did the 76ers pick the best player in this draft class, but they also grabbed some international talent that can add depth in the backcourt. Luwawu and Korkmaz were once mocked as high as the lottery, so picking them in the late 20s, is a steal.
Picks: Jakob Poeltl – No. 9, Pascal Siakam – No. 27
The Raptors definitely had one of the better drafts this year. Poeltl can be a great big in the league due to his size and physical attributes. If Biyombo heads elsewhere, Poeltl can step in that role right away. Although, the pick that stands out to me is their selection of Pascal Siakam. Siakam is one of my favorite players in this draft, because of his raw ability to score the basketball, combined with athleticism. He averaged 20.2 PPG last season, as well as 11.6 Rebounds. His stats are ridiculous, and he has a skillset that could be very useful in the NBA.
Picks: AJ Hammons – No. 46
Hammons has a lot of skills on the court, but his lack of athleticism up and down the court will likely not work in the modern NBA. He may or may not make the Mavs roster, but was regarded as a first round talent by many, so this pick was still a smart one. Time will tell if Dallas’ selection of Hammons pays off.
Golden State Warriors:
Picks: Damian Jones – No. 30, Patrick McCaw – No. 38 (via MIL)
Considering where they picked, the Warriors had one of the best nights of any team. They added height with Damian Jones, something they need alongside Bogut and Ezeli (if they get him back). They also added Patrick McCaw, a remarkable shooter, and somebody who will fit right into Steve Kerr’s system. McCaw’s skillset as a scorer is one of the best in the draft, though it flew under the radar at UNLV. Golden State did a terrific job drafting in 2016.
Picks: Jamal Murray – No. 7, Juan Hernangomez – No. 15, Malik Beasley – No. 19, Petr Cornelie – No. 53
The Nuggets were one of few teams with three first round picks, and they used them correctly. With these picks, Denver added two exceptional talents in their backcourt, as well as a prospect down low. Murray and Beasley will join Denver’s very young athletic guards Will Barton, Gary Harris Jr., and Emmanuel Mudiay. The five of them will be lethal running and scoring down the court. Hernangomez also has the prototypical Power Forward qualities, and he can shadow Faried for a few seasons before his time may come.
Picks: Chinanu Onuaku – No. 37, Zhou Qi – No. 43
The Rockets only got two second rounders in this draft, but they did the best they could with the selections they were given. Onuaku has solid athleticism and great blocking ability, but his potential is likely limited to a role player at best. Zhou Qi is a very high risk-high reward kind of player, and if he pays off he could eventually step into Dwight Howard’s starting position. Props to Houston for signing Gary Payton II as an UDFA; that could be the most underrated move last week.
Los Angeles Clippers:
Picks: Brice Johnson – No. 25, David Michineau – No. 39 (via NO), Diamond Stone – No. 40 (via NO)
The Clippers did an exemplary job of adding a backup PF and C, to give Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan necessary rests. Diamond Stone may have been one of the best steals in the draft, and Brice Johnson has a very high motor as well as standout work ethic. The Michineau pick will likely be a draft-and-stash pick, but the other two selections Los Angeles made were fantastic.
Los Angeles Lakers:
Picks: Brandon Ingram – No. 2, Ivica Zubac – No. 32
Ingram has drawn many comparisons to All-Stars in the NBA, such as Paul George or Kevin Durant. If Ingram becomes half of what scouts expect of him, Los Angeles has found who Kobe’s torch is going to be passed down to. Zubac adds depth down low, and he will take quite a few years to develop, but it’s the selection of Ingram that allows their grade to be so high. The Lakers have found their new face of the franchise.
Picks: Wade Baldwin IV – No. 17, Deyonta Davis – No. 31 (via BOS), Rade Zagorac – No. 35 (via BOS), Wang Zhelin – No. 57
The Grizzlies did exactly what they had to in this draft. They picked a point guard with all star potential to possibly replace Conley if he leaves in free agency. And they also picked a post player to give Randolph and Gasol rests and possibly be their big man of the future. Davis, by some act of magic, slipped to the second round, and Memphis swooped in and stole him. Their foreign players in the second round weren’t flashy, but a few years down the road could be contributors.
Picks: Kris Dunn – No. 5
Dunn is far and away the best guard in the draft, so the Timberwolves made a smart pick when he fell to them at Number 5. Dunn could very well be the end of Rubio’s career in Minnesota. The T-Wolves will now have one of the youngest and most athletic lineups the league has seen in a while featuring Dunn, LaVine, Wiggins, and Towns.
New Orleans Pelicans:
Picks: Buddy Hield – No. 6, Cheick Diallo – No. 33 (via LAC)
Buddy Hield has absolute superstar potential. He could be the next big thing in the league, so the Pelicans made an excellent decision by picking him in the first round. Pairing him with Anthony Davis might be one of the next best young tandems in the NBA. New Orleans also brought in Cheick Diallo, who has very raw qualities for right now, but if he develops properly under Anthony Davis, he could be a valuable role player, and replacement for Ryan Anderson at the backup-4 position after Anderson probably leaves in FA.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
Picks: Domantas Sabonis – No. 11 (via ORL), Daniel Hamilton – No. 56 (via DEN)
The Thunder get the first A+ here, not for picking the best players in the draft or anything, but for making one of the smartest trades anyone has seen. The Thunder were able to trade for the ever elusive two-way Shooting Guard they have been searching for since the departure of James Harden. Now, if the Thunder can bring back Durant, they become the front runners out West. Losing Serge Ibaka certainly hurts, but with Kanter, Adams, and now Sabonis to fill in, the problem is immediately fixed. Great job, Oklahoma City, great job.
Picks: Dragan Bender – No. 4, Marquese Chriss – No. 8 (via SAC), Tyler Ulis – No. 34
Using some form of black magic, the Suns managed to possess two Top-8 picks, without losing anything on their roster. There is a gaping hole in Phoenix’ frontcourt at the Power Forward position. How did the Suns’ front office address that issue? By picking the two best Power Forwards in this draft class. Bender and Chriss are both very very raw players, but their combination of athleticism, shooting ability, and youth, combine for an exception tandem. At 7’1″ Bender could possibly play the Center position as well if need be. The Suns also drafted yet another Kentucky guard, and best friend of last year’s Phoenix lottery pick Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis. The expansion of “Kentucky West” continues.
Portland Trail Blazers:
Picks: Jake Layman – No. 47 (via ORL)
The Trail Blazers made essentially no impact on their roster in the draft. Layman will likely be no more than a D-League player or a reserve on the Portland roster. Poor impact is equivalent to poor grades.
San Antonio Spurs:
Picks: Dejounte Murray – No. 29
The Spurs found a real steal in Murray at 29 Overall. Murray’s athleticism had many experts mocking him in the lottery. With just one pick, San Antonio made that pick count. Ginobli and Parker’s inevitable retirements are coming soon, so Murray is an important player who can play the 1 or 2 guard.
Picks: Joel Bolomboy – No. 52, Marcus Paige – No. 55 (via BK), Tyrone Wallace – No. 60
The Jazz didn’t have a first round pick because they moved it for George Hill. That trade was an underrated move because the Jazz chose a proven commodity over raw potential. For a team on the brink of the playoffs, proven players simply are more valuable than young projects. In the second round, the Jazz picked three players that may fight for a roster spot, but likely won’t make much of an impact in their first year. The only player that stands out as a possible contributor is North Carolina’s Marcus Paige.
Picks: Georgios Papagiannis – No. 13 (via PHX), Malachi Richardson – No. 22 (via CHA), Skal Labissiere – No. 28 (via PHX), Isaiah Cousins – No. 59
The Kings just didn’t make much sense on draft night. At the end of the day, Kings fans and fans around the league were left just confused by what in the world Sacramento is trying to do. Their face of the franchise is C Demarcus Cousins, with their next most valuable player being another former Kentucky Center, Willie Cauley-Stein. So, it makes no sense that Sacramento would pick not one, but TWO more centers in the first round. The only pick that was intriguing is the selection of Malachi Richardson. Isaiah Cousins will probably be no more than a D-League project. The Kings really had one of the most bewildering drafts of the year.