THE DAVID STERN MEMORIAL EDITION
Quote of the night:
“We’ve had to explain to our international audience that the booing is an American sign of respect.”
That probably got Stern’s only positive response all night, except for his last ever pick. On a side note, I started watching the NBA a year after Stern took over as the commissioner, and the league has changed immensely since then. Apart from this being Stern’s last NBA Draft, there were a few notable things about this one.
This was one of the craziest drafts (if not THE craziest) in my NBA lifetime. There were too many trades and trade rumours to keep track of. The guy most people picked as the number one pick dropped to 6th, and a player who no one had in the top five went number one.
Of course, the main story for most readers was that Anthony Bennett became the first Canadian to go number one in the draft. That’s only two years removed from Tristan Thompson becoming, up until last night, the highest Canadian ever drafted, and Andrew Wiggins being the best high school player in the country this year. Canadian basketball is definitely on the rise, and that’s in large part thanks to David Stern and the NBA’s expansion into Canada 18 years ago.
Go back to 1995 and Canada’s contribution to the NBA was Bill Wennington, a journeyman backup center who was able to ride on the coattails of Michael Jordan to a couple of NBA Championships, and Rick Fox, who was born in Canada, but grew up in Bahamas and Indiana. In fact, Fox once couldn’t name how many provinces Canada had, which shows you how much of a Canadian he was.
Next season, there could be anywhere from nine to eleven Canadians playing in the NBA. Twelve if a team picks up Andy Rautins (who I think should have a spot on an NBA team). Only France (and the US, obviously) have more players in the league. And there are lots more Canadians on the horizon.
Ironically, Andrew Wiggins was born the same year that the Raptors played their first NBA game. Some say that might be fate.
Not that it was all good news for Canadian players. Myck Kabongo, who most mock drafts had going in the second round. He obviously needs a jump shot, but he’s a pass-first PG with great ball handling skills, good defensive ability and an unreal ability to get to the line. What is Kabongo’s loss might be the Raptors’ gain, if they can sign him over the summer (after a tryout at the summer league, of course).
Speaking of the Raptors, it’s also ironic that this historic night for Canada in the draft was also the first time in it’s franchise history that the Raptors didn’t have a draft pick and despite a lot of talk about acquiring one, couldn’t manage to get into the game.
That doesn’t mean all is lost on this front. As I said, they could still end up with Kabongo, who would be a nice prospect for the Raptors to pick up. Point guard is a position of need for the Raptors, whether or not they blow the team up. And Kabongo has a lot of potential so it would be really nice if they could grab him.
UPDATE: Kabongo has was signed to Miami’s summer league team. That doesn’t mean the Raptors can’t sign him for the season, though. In fact, I don’t see Miami either having room for him or being a good fit, so stay tuned.
Yesterday, I made a list of possible trades, and despite the draft being over, there’s still a chance the Raptors could swing a couple of big deals. Cleveland was apparently looking to trade their first pick right up until they made the call for Anthony Bennett, and it’s a good bet they’re still open to making a deal. In fact, I would be surprised if Bennett is in a Cavs uniform come the regular season. I’ll get into that in detail when I grade the Cavs’ draft.
Bennett might seem like an odd choice for the Raptors to try and acquire, but there would be some logic to it, even beyond the fact he’s Canadian. Again, whether or not they blow up the roster the Raptors need frontcourt depth (unless you’re still an Andrea Bargnani believer), and Bennett’s game is actually a good compliment to both Valanciunas and Amir Johnson. He’s scores efficiently from pretty much anywhere on the court, rebounds and defends. If he were two inches taller, I don’t think anyone would be questioning the pick.
Cleveland isn’t the only possible post-draft trading partner for the Raptors. Washington was also a team I mentioned yesterday that might be up for making a deal. And with their selection of Otto Porter, that is still a possibility. The Wizards want to win now and while Porter should become a good player, he might not be able to make the immediate impact they’re looking for.
Now, it’s important to remember that It’s uncommon for rookies to get dealt before they even play a game (once the draft has ended), so the likelihood of a deal is not very good. Still, it is a possibility.
But onto the report card. For those new to this, my grading system is a little different than most others which you’ll probably notice. There are some trades which are rumoured to be going through, but weren’t official at the time I wrote this, so I won’t include those. There seemed to be dozens of deals going down, so it’s likely I missed a few. And the big Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce deal to the Nets didn’t involve any draft picks from this year, so that will have to be discussed at a later date.
Okay, I can’t resist.
Bill Simmons is one of the most entertaining NBA writers, and Grantland has become my goto site for in depth NBA articles, but the fact that he doesn’t see the positives for this trade for his Celtics shows his lack of long term vision. This past season, 3 of the Celtics top 5 scorers were 35 years or older. And they were basically a .500 team. This team was old, capped out and only going to get worse. I understand the desire to keep Paul Pierce out of loyalty, but how loyal is it to a player to keep him around while you rebuild?
They traded three players who may end up retiring at the end of their current contracts (one year for Pierce and two for Garnett and Terry) for three first round picks, and some players they don’t really need. Yes, Gerald Wallace‘ contract is horrible, but if you’re going to rebuild, as Danny Ainge is obviously doing, then taking on a bad contract in order to get a draft pick isn’t a big deal. By the time the Celtics are ready to compete, again, Wallace’s contract will expire.
And those three draft picks will probably net them (no pun intended) something nice. They grabbed another pick in the vaunted 2014 draft, and considering how old and salaried up the Nets are, the 2016 and 2018 picks might end up being pretty high (they aren’t protected).
Ainge has seen the landscape and went all in on a rebuild. He didn’t try to remain competitive while reloading the roster. He knows the prizes available in next year’s draft and is willing to take on some hurt to gamble on that.
For the Nets, this is about as all in as you can go to win right now. They definitely improved in the short term, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see them win an NBA franchise best games next year and get past the first round, or even the second, next season. But when I look at this deal, I get an image of a man trying to build a sand castle higher and higher by taking sand from the bottom. It gets higher, but becomes less and less stable until it eventually collapses onto itself.
But this plan started when they mortgaged the future to trade for Deron Williams, so it’s hard to go back on it, now. In an alternate universe somewhere, the Nets have a roster of Brook Lopez, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Damian Lillard with no bad contracts and a bright future.
But here’s the report card (really, this time), as always, starting with the Raptors.
Without a pick, it’s hard to give the Raptors a grade. If you want to compare who the Raptors could have gotten for the pick they gave up for Kyle Lowry and Lowry himself, then it’s still an incomplete since we have no idea yet how good any of the players they could have selected will be. We also have no idea if Lowry will even be with the team after next season.
If you had to sit out a draft, this was probably the one to do it, so despite the fact the Raptors finished out of the playoffs, not having a pick isn’t as bad as it could have been.
This is my shortest summary of the Raptors’ draft selection, but for obvious reasons.
PHILADELPHIA: Exceeds Expectations
11. Michael Carter-Williams
42. Pierre Jackson
Traded Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel (#6) and New Orleans 2014 pick
Seemingly out of nowhere, the 76ers traded their best player and only All Star for a center project and pick in what is supposed to be one of the best drafts in nearly a decade. Holiday will be missed, but this move was ballsy. New GM, Sam Hinkie, saw this team as in that no-man’s land, known as the mediocrity treadmill. Good enough to compete for a playoff spot, but not good enough to do any damage there. He did what most new GMs are afraid to do and cash in his good will early, making the difficult moves right away.
It seems obvious the 76ers are the first team to go all in for next year’s draft, but Noah and Carter-Williams are good pieces to have for the time being. If you’re going to blow things up and rebuild, this is the way to do it.
UTAH: Exceeds Expectations
14. Shabazz Muhammad
21. Gorgui Dieng
46. Erick Green
Traded Muhammad and Dieng for Trey Burke (#9).
Traded Green and cash for Rudy Gobert (#27)
The Jazz ended up trading every single one of their picks, and in each trade, moved up. I’ve always been a big proponent of moving up in the draft, instead of moving down because it usually means you end up drafting the better player, and that seems to be the case here.
The Jazz have no point guards under contract for next season, and getting Burke was a coup. He’s undersized, and that might limit his potential, but for what they gave up, this is a homerun.
Gobert has the longest wingspan in the history of the NBA combine, at 7’8, is somewhat athletic and will probably develop in Europe for a year or two before hitting the NBA.
WASHINGTON: Exceeds Expectations
3. Otto Porter
Washington only had one pick in the draft, but may have been able to grab the best player with the third pick. And he’s exactly the type of player (and position), they need. Could the Wizards actually be turning themselves into a legit team? Wall, Beal and Porter, along with Nene, give the Wizards some real talent. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team in the playoffs next year.
BOSTON: Exceeds Expectations
16. Lucas Nogueira
Traded Nogueira for Kelly Olynyk (#13)
Traded cash for Colten Iverson (#53)
Olynyk won’t ever be an All Star but he’s got the potential to be a decent two-way center, and was projected to go in the top ten. Iverson, Allen’s illegitimate son, is a carbon-copy of his famous father, except he’s 7 feet, slow and white.
SACRAMENTO: Exceeds Expectations
7. Ben McLemore
36. Ray McCallum
McLemore was considered a top 5 pick, but inexplicably dropped. Sacramento fans couldn’t be happier. The Kings roster is a bit of a mess, and McLemore might be a step in the right direction for a franchise that has new ownership and management.
MINNESOTA: Exceeds Expectations
9. Trey Burke
29. Andre Roberson
52. Lorenzo Brown
Traded Burke for Shabazz Muhammad (#14) and Gorgui Dieng (#21)
Normally I’m not a proponent of trading down, but the T-Wolves had absolutely no use for Burke, with an already PG heavy roster, and Muhammad might have been the next best player available AND he plays a position they desperately need to upgrade. Muhammad certainly has the talent, and should fit in nicely on the T-Wolves roster.
Dieng has the potential to be a very good defensive center.
It’s difficult to believe, but the Timberwolves just seem to be getting better and better. They have the makings of a very good starting five, one of the best passing point guards in the league and Kevin Love, if he can remain healthy, is one of the best power forwards in the league.
MEMPHIS: Exceeds Expectations
55. Joffrey Lauvergne
60. Janis Timma
Arthur was expendable with the acquisition of Ed Davis, who needs more minutes, and their lack of a backup center hurt them in the playoffs. Koufos was a starter for a 57 win team, and is probably more suited to Memphis’ game than Denver’s.
ORLANDO: Meets Expectations
2. Victor Oladipo
51. Romero Osby
Oladipo will probably end up being a top five player from this draft, and there were a number of teams apparently trying to move up to draft him, which is always a good sign. His drafting does obviously make Aaron Afflalo expendable, which makes you think the trade for Eric Bledsoe might be coming down the line.
ATLANTA: Meets Expectations
17. Dennis Schroeder
18. Shane Larkin
47. Raul Neto
50. James Ennis
Traded Larkin for to Dallas for Lucas Nogueira (#16), Mike Muscala (#44) and Jared Cunningham.
Traded Ennis to Miami for something.
Atlanta had a lot of picks, and three of the four rookies they ended up with are international players. Think Danny Ferry is trying to take a page out of the Spurs playbook? Schroeder might end up being a very good PG, but it might be that one or more of the international players might not come over right away.
NEW ORLEANS: Meets Expectations
6. Nerlens Noah
Traded Noah and their 2014 first round pick to Philadelphia for Jrue Holiday
Noah was picked by many as the number one picked but unexpectedly dropped to 6, which was a boon for the Pelicans. Having a frontcourt of Noah and last year’s #1, Anthony Davis, didn’t make much sense, so they used their found money to grab a 23 year old All Star point guard, in Holiday. If it was just that, then they would have exceeded expectations, but they threw in next year’s first rounder, which means if they don’t make the playoffs, it could end up being a very good pick.
Still, I think it’s a good gamble, but that does mean that last season’s surprise, Greivis Vasquez, is suddenly expendable. If they can move him for a good small forward, then they could make out big. GM Dell Demps made such an obviously bad pick last year with Austin Rivers that I’m not quite ready to assume New Orleans future is going to be bright just yet. Plus, that name….
DETROIT: Meets Expectations
8. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
37. Tony Mitchell
56. Payton Siva
Yesterday, I listed Caldwell-Pope as one of my sleepers, figuring he would go somewhere in the middle of the first round (looking back, that was not where he was projected to go, so I’m not quite sure why I thought that), so I was a little surprised to see Detroit grab him at 8. He’s a nice player, but I’m sure they were watching McLemore drop with baited breath the same way Raptor fans were watching Harrison Barnes drop last year, only to see Golden State snap him up right before.
Mitchell was a projected first round pick who dropped to the second.
Detroit is slowly building a nice, young team. They still have a ways to go, but Joe Dumars is slowly making up for trading for Iverson and then signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villaneuva to horrible contracts.
MILWAUKEE: Meets Expectations
15. Giannis Adetokoubo
Adetokoubo was apparently someone the Raptors were trying to grab. He’s a physical freak with huge hands and a 7’3 wingspan, despite measuring just 6’7. He’s probably someone I should have had on my sleeper list, because I think he might end up being one of the ten best players in the draft.
The Bucks seemed to have a second round pick going into the draft, but that pick seemed to end up going to Dallas, and I’m not sure how.
DALLAS: Meets Expectations
13. Kelly Olynyk
43. Ricardo Ledo
57. Alex Oriakhi
Traded Olynyk (in a round about way) for Shane Larkin (#18).
I’m guessing Dallas moved down to save salary to try and sign someone like Dwight Howard, and they still got a nice, young point guard prospect, in Larkin. Overall, they did pretty well.
CHICAGO: Meets Expectations
20. Tony Snell
49. Erik Murphy
Snell is a wing player for the new NBA. He shoots from outside and defends, which is probably why the Bulls took him a little higher than he was projected.
Murphy used to be a Hollywood agent, so playing in the NBA will be a change of pace, if he makes the roster.
BROOKLYN: Meets Expectations
22. Mason Plumlee
Plumlee is a good, hard-nosed big man who should compliment Lopez well. With the big trade, they will desperate need his youth and he will be expected to give them minutes. He probably couldn’t be in a better situation, playing behind Garnett.
NEW YORK: Meets Expectations
24. Tim Hardaway Jr
Hardaway is the perfect Knick player. He’s a name player, has loads of confidence, likes the big stage and can replace J.R. Smith he he leaves.
CLIPPERS: Meets Expectations
25. Reggie Bullock
Bullock is a good shooter and can play defense. He has a chance to be a decent bench player for the Clippers.
GOLDEN STATE: Meets Expectations
Traded for Nemanja Nedovic (#30)
Golden State didn’t have a pick in the draft, but were able to acquire Nedovic, who will go down on record as the last selection David Stern will ever call. He’s a 22 year old combo guard, possibly drafted as a replacement for Jarrett Jack, should he leave as a free agent.
HOUSTON: Meets Expectations
34. Isaiah Canaan
Houston has had some success drafting undersized, offensive-minded point guards, and hope Canaan will continue the tradition.
LAKERS: Meets Expectations
58. Ryan Kelly
MIAMI: Meets Expectations
Traded a future second round pick for James Ennis (#50)
Obviously they saw something in Ennis. That’s nice.
PHOENIX: Approaching Expectations
5. Alex Len
30. Nemanja Nedovic
57. Alex Oriakhi
Traded Nedovic for Archie Goodwin (#29)- it’s more complicated than this, but this is the gist of it.
Len should be a good player, and Goodwin has a lot of upside, but both Nerlens Noah and Ben McLemore were still available, and will probably end up being better players. I think this is a case of a GM making not bad picks, but not bad isn’t going to get you very far.
SAN ANTONIO: Approaching Expectations
28. Livio Jean-Charles
58. DeShawn Thomas
With the Spurs, you can just usually assume they made a good pick. The Spurs have had some success drafting French players late in the first round, and Jean-Charles has the potential to be a good player. In the Spurs tradition, it’s likely he will play overseas for a couple of years before heading over to the NBA.
OKLAHOMA: Needs Improvement
12. Steven Adams
29. Archie Goodwin
32. Alex Abrines
Traded Goodwin to Golden State for Andre Roberson (#26)
The Thunder bypassed Olynyk and Mohammad, both of whom might have helped them more now and in the future, for Adams, who is lacking offensively. Overall, I’m not sure this draft will help them very much at a time when they could have made a big splash.
PORTLAND: Needs Improvements
10. C.J. McCollum
39. Jeff Withey
40. Grant Jerret
45. Marko Todorovic
Traded two future 2nd rounders to Cleveland for Allen Crabbe (#31)
They came out of the draft with five rookies, none of whom I think will end up making much of an impact in the NBA (maybe Crabbe). I’m not quite sure what their plan in, but I’m guessing they will make some deals this summer.
CLEVELAND: Needs Improvement
1. Anthony Bennett
19. Sergey Karasev
31. Allen Crabbe
33. Carrick Felix
Cleveland does like to surprise everyone. Two years ago, they reached for Tristan Thompson at 4 despite most projecting him to go around 10, bypassing Jonas Valanciunas. Last year they took Dion Waiters over Harrison Barnes. And this year they shocked everyone by taking Bennett number one despite most mock draft not even having him in the top 5.
Surprising people isn’t necessarily bad, but sometimes teams can try and think outside the box too much. And this seems to be the case with the Cavs.
Now, as a Canadian I’m happy to see them continuing to make Canadian basketball look strong, but Bennett doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a number of reasons. Now, I think he has a loads of talent, but he’s undersized for a power forward, and unless the Cavs foresee him as a small forward, I’m not sure how he even fits on this team.
If I was a Cleveland fan, I would be worried. They lucked out when they drafted Kyrie Irving, but there has been barely a move since then that wasn’t a head scratcher. Between the surprise draft picks, the crazy lottery party, re-hiring the over-rated Mike Brown three years after firing him, I’m not sure this is a team that can take advantage of the fact they have one of the best young point guards in the league.
INDIANA: Needs Improvement
23. Solomon Hill
53. Colton Iverson
Traded Iverson for cash.
Hill was a reach at 23. He’s a tweener forward, and there were better players available. Even drafting a project they could have stashed overseas might have been a better option.
And while they probably don’t have room for a guy like Iverson, trading him for cash isn’t exactly something fans love to see.
DENVER: Needs Improvement
27. Rudy Gobert
Traded Gobert for Erick Green (#46) and cash
The post-Ujiri era doesn’t seem to have started out well. Apparently they traded Koufos because they want JaVale “Scarecrow” McGee to be their center for the future. Unless they’ve figured out how to perform a successful brain transplant, I’m not sure I see the logic in that. And trading out of the first round for a second rounder and cash isn’t the best way to improve a team.