The Cleveland Cavaliers as expected were among the perceived winners in the NBA draft. It seems wildly premature to grade a draft before rookies step on the court, but that never stops us from taking an early look at the winners of the draft and the trades that accompanied it.
Cleveland - With the first and fourth picks, the Cavs would have had to truly botch things not to be on this list. They got the best point guard and they think the best player in Kyrie Irving. Then Cleveland had the first surprise by taking Texas forward Tristan Thompson, who was moving up on draft boards. Cleveland also traded Richmond forward Justin Harper for two future No. 2 picks to Orlando, stocking up future assets.
Minnesota – The Wolves are being called big winners in many cases and big losers in others. Any team that gets potentially the best player in the draft in Derrick Williams can’t be considered a loser. Prediction – he will become the first all-star from this draft. Getting a veteran like Brad Miller can’t hurt, even though his better days are way behind him and receiving a future first round pick from Houston was another plus. They acquired second rounder Malcolm Lee, among the better defenders in the draft.
Utah - With two lottery picks the Jazz got Enes Kanter, who can play center and power forward and at No. 12 took shooting guard Alec Burks. Kanter has a high upside and Burks is adept at getting to the basket and must work on his perimeter game. Still, these are two solid rotation players and Kanter has a chance to be more than that.
Washington - It’s about time the Wizards got some good news. This quietly has the look of a potentially improved team. No. 6 pick Jan Vesely and No. 18 selection Chris Singleton will provide depth on the front line. Neither should take the NBA by storm offensively. Singleton, however, may be the best defender in the draft.
Denver – At No. 22, the Nuggets got the draft’s most relentless rebounder – Kenneth Faried of Morehead State. Re-acquiring Andre Miller gives Denver a veteran behind point guard Ty Lawson, but the Nuggets should be cautioned – Miller wasn’t good at accepting a backup role during his first season in Portland. Texas forward Jordan Hamilton was expected to go higher than No. 26, and he should be a frontcourt contributor.
ON THE FENCE
Philadelphia – The pick of 6-11 USC center Nikola Vucevic wasn’t well received by the fans, but the Sixers did need frontcourt help. The biggest question is whether he is Spencer Hawes II, which if that happens, wouldn’t thrill too many fans. The Sixers are hoping he will be a rotation player as a rookie. The thing about the Sixers is that they are likely not done making moves. No player is rumored more to be going than Andre Iguodala. The Sixers should be cautioned about not getting enough back for one of the more underappreciated players (at least by the fans) in the NBA.
New York – The fans at nearby Prudential Center didn’t like the Knicks pick of Georgia Tech’s Iman Shumpert at the draft, but he is a solid defender and the that is something this team can need.
Indiana - Getting San Antonio guard George Hill for the No. 15 pick seems like an excellent move for an Indiana team that was the No. 8 seed in the East last year and should be moving up. Hill can play either guard position, is 25-years-old and should have his better days ahead of him.
San Antonio – The Spurs traded George Hill for the No. 15 pick, San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard, among the top defenders in the draft. Hill was continually improving and San Antonio, which was inconsistent offensively, lost a fairly valuable piece. Then with their own first round pick, San Antonio chose guard Cory Joseph of Texas, who only played one year in college. And in the second round, the Spurs got Davis Bertans, yet another international player who could eventually flourish in San Antonio. He was considered among the top shooters in the draft.
Dallas – The Mavericks need to get younger and they acquired the 26-year-old Rudy Fernandez in a three-team trade with Portland and Denver. Fernandez gives the Mavs another perimeter threat. Dallas didn’t give up anything of consequence and added a potentially key rotation player.
Golden State – In Klay Thompson, the Warriors got one of the draft’s top shooters. Plus if they trade Monta Ellis for needed frontcourt help, Thompson’s value becomes even greater.
Detroit – Brandon Knight slipped to No. 8 and this could give the Pistons the option to shop Rodney Stuckey, who has been a disappointment. Kyle Singler may not be a star, but he was a good value pick at No. 33 and gives the Pistons a perimeter threat.
Houston – The Rockets got a player who will add offense to the frontcourt in Marcus Morris. They traded picks and got power forward-center Donatas Motejiunas. In addition, they added point guard Jonny Flynn in a trade with Minnesota. Already there are reports that it could be a short stay for Flynn.
Phoenix – Markieff Morris gives the Suns a solid defender. He likely will never be a major scorer, but Phoenix has enough of that.
DIFFICULT TO GET EXCITED ABOUT
Boston – Unless you are a Purdue fan, this one won’t drive the excitement meter. JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore might help down the road but don’t appear ready to make an immediate impact.
Portland – The Trail Blazers were active, but did they improve the team much? Raymond Felton is likely an upgrade for Andre Miller, and first rounder Nolan Smith is a solid player and citizen but will he find his way in Portland’s rotation?
Milwaukee – The Bucks got rid of Corey Maggette, and in return will have Stephen Jackson, trading one volume scorer for the other. Milwaukee has to hope that University of Tennessee freshman (who the Bucks acquired with the Bobcats No. 19 pick) turns into a top player.
Chicago – Marquette’s Jimmy Butler was rising and might be able to add some help on the perimeter. Nikola Mirotic has a long-term deal with Real Madrid and won’t be coming anytime soon.
Charlotte - The Bobcats are going to be on everybody’s winner’s list but there were some questions. First off, a team that had trouble scoring (93.3 ppg.), got rid of its leading scorer, Stephen Jackson, although the Cats won’t miss his frequent eruptions. They acquired Corey Maggette who didn’t play well for Milwaukee last year but is a proven scorer. And while they are being hailed for securing the rights to Bismack Biyombo, nobody knows if he will become the next Serge Ibaka like predicted. They also got a solid choice in UConn guard Kemba Walker, but due to his size and perimeter game, there are questions about him. It doesn’t appear that one of the leagues’ worst offensive teams improved in that area.
New Jersey – The Nets better hope they can re-sign Deron Williams because there are many holes to fill. They swapped first rounders with Boston and got Marshon Brooks who was a proven scorer at Providence and could help the Nets backcourt.
Los Angeles Clippers – Forward Trey Thompkins didn’t produce as well as expected at Georgia, but without a first round pick, not much was expected from the Clippers. They selected Thompkins Georgia teammate Travis Leslie with the 47th pick.
New Orleans – The Hornets sold their second round pick (No. 45) to the New York Knicks. Hard to get too charged up about that.
Atlanta – The Hawks had just a second round pick and went big, with Oakland center Keith Benson.
HIGH RISK, HIGH REWARD
Toronto - The Raptors chose Jonas Valanciunas and the 19-year-old was considered the best center in the draft. He has three years left on his contract and it isn’t known when he will come to the NBA. Valanciunas has three years to go on his contract but even if the Raptors have to wait one year before a potential buyout, this seems worth the risk. They weren’t going to win this year anyway and it should be worth the wait for their center of the future.
Sacramento - Now we will find out if Jimmer Fredette’s skills in college translate to the NBA. There is no question he will be one of the top deep-range shooters in the NBA, but will he be able to get his shot off against top-flight defenses? It says here that it was worth the risk. NBA teams can’t have enough shooting and Fredette could open things up for his teammates. Sacramento also acquired John Salmons, whose history is to perform well the first year with his new team and then to tail off afterwards. Tyler Honeycutt appears to be a solid second round choice.
GOOD GAIN WITH LITTLE TO WORK WITH
Orlando – The Magic didn’t have a first pick, but sent to second rounders to Cleveland in exchange for second round choice Justin Harper of Richmond, one of the top shooting forwards in the draft.
Los Angeles Lakers – The Lakers didn’t have a first round pick and second rounder Darius Morris of Michigan could be a keeper. He had consistency issues, but was considered a potential first rounder.
Miami – The Heat traded into the first round and took Cleveland State point guard Norris Cole. Miami was looking for a point guard so this fit a need.
Oklahoma City – While point guard Reggie Jackson of Boston College is a solid choice, one has to wonder how he is going to see minutes. Oklahoma City clearly went for the best player and has a good track record.
Memphis – At the beginning of the year Kansas guard Josh Selby was mentioned prominently as a potential lottery pick. He didn’t play with any consistency, but nabbing him at No. 49 is a good gamble by the Grizzlies.