It’s officially time to overreact to the NBA draft results and hastily hand out make-believe grades. Rather than grade every team, I’ll focus on those teams that won the draft. It’s almost impossible to tell who won the draft, until we look back on the draft in a couple of years, but we’ll go ahead and try anyway. Here are the teams and players that made the Deans List for last night’s draft:
San Antonio Spurs
Obviously. They always win the draft. The Spurs are the smartest team in the league. They always walk away from the draft with a player that will help them. It’s no wonder that the Spurs are the most successful team in the league in the past decade. They don’t waste picks. Last night, they got Kyle Anderson with the last pick of the first round. He was projected earlier as a mid-first rounder, but probably due to his lack of athleticism, he slipped. Anderson is a unique player that wouldn’t fit on many teams. Hell, on the Wizards, they’d probably stick in the corner and expect him to be a corner 3 guy. That’s obviously not his game. The Spurs will improve his shooting, no doubt, but they drafted him for his passing and playmaking. He’ll create even more open shots on the perimeter, which is scary considering how open most of the looks were against the Heat in the Finals. In a couple of years, or maybe even months, teams will be kicking themselves for letting Anderson slide so far.
Trading the rights to Doug McDermott for Gary Harris and Bosnian center Jusuf Nurkic was a steal. The Nuggets had targeted both players and knew they had to do something creative to get them both. McDermott is a great fit in Chicago. It’s not like the Nuggets ripped off the Bulls, but the Nuggets got two potentially valuable assets for one. And it’s not like McDermott will be a superstar. They traded a role player for two first round picks, basically. Harris had one of the biggest slides in the draft, and Nurkic had been projected as a mid-teens pick all along. Along with that trade, the Nuggets also got Arron Afflalo basically for free in an earlier trade. The Nuggets may have made the smartest moves in the league in the last 48 hours.
I’m not in love with the Celtics’ draft, but they got two players in Marcus Smart and James Young that are very solid. It’s pretty unlikely that either player doesn’t stick in the league. There’s a good chance neither guy is ever a star, but they are definite rotation guys. Young needs to improve a lot, only really being a shooter at this stage. He was only a freshman last season though. And Smart provides some flexibility for the Celtics if they choose to trade Rondo now. Entering the final year of his deal, Rondo has been rumored to be on the move. The Celtics didn’t swing for the fences, and that was the right move. No need to force their way up in the draft to try and get Embiid. No need to force a trade out of this year’s draft. And no need to force Rondo out for the 8th pick. Sometimes the safe pick is the right pick.
Only if trading up to get Shabazz Napier ends up having any sway on keeping LeBron.*
Jabari avoided getting drafted by the Cavs, just like he wanted. And frankly, who can blame him for not wanting to go to Cleveland? They’re a mess of a franchise, and he plays the same position and type of game as Anthony Bennett, albeit much better. All Bennett jokes aside, Parker will be the focal point of the Bucks’ offense next year and could easily win Rookie of the Year and lead all rookies in scoring.
New York Knicks
Cleanthony Early was the steal of the draft. He easily had first round talent. Scouts almost always overrate potential and underrate college production. Thus, they can sometimes focus too much on a player’s age. For someone like DeAndre Kane from Iowa State, it makes sense. He’s 25. That’s too old. But Early is only 23 years old. He still has a good 8-10 years of playing at a high level, before he’ll lose steam. Early will produce for the Knicks and could let the Knicks finally trade Iman Shumpert, without hesitation. The Knicks also got Giannis Antetokounmpo’s brother, Thanasis in the second round. Is he any good? Who knows, but his name will at least create some excitement for Knicks fans. Phil is changing the Knicks culture.
The Magic will have an incredible defense in the next few years. They got Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton with the 4th and 10th pick respectively (trading Dario Saric and a first round pick to get Payton). Both guys are studs athletically and will create a formidable defense alongside Victor Oladipo. The Magic will have to address the lack of shooting on their roster, but for now, it is at least clear what they are trying to do.
Elfrid Payton’s Hair