Man, what a crazy draft. I tweeted this out during the night, but the degree to which this year’s draft didn’t follow any sort of consensus suggests a more contrarian big board is appropriate. If NBA team’s can’t figure out who should go where, there’s little point in sticking with Mock Draft groupthink.
Instead of traditional A/B/C…etc grades I will be handing out Love, Like, Meh, Dislike, and Hate. Granulating grades down across A+/A/A- just seems a little too exact for evaluating a team’s whole draft. The usual caveats about how silly it is to grade a team’s draft a day after the draft apply – but I’ve always found that line of thinking a little ridiculous. My grading of the draft is not meant to be a final determiner of each team’s draft, but instead purely how I would grade things with the currently available information, and nothing about that strikes me as invalid. On to the draft.
Atlanta Hawks – #12 Taurean Prince, #21 DeAndre Bembry, #44 Isaia Cordinier – Like
Prince was 21st on my board and Bembry was 13th, so if they had just taken them in reverse order things would have been easier to process. Taking Prince at 12 is a bit of a reach, and if they were targeting wings I would have gone after Luwawu, but they didn’t pass up on any overwhelming steals. I like the general strategy of throwing three darts at wing players – hoping one is able to provide the combination of defense/shooting/playmaking that can fit so well in Atlanta’s system.
Boston Celtics – #3 Jaylen Brown, #16 Guerschon Yabusele, #23 Ante Zizic, #45 Demetrius Jackson, #51 Ben Bentil, #58 Abdel Nader – Hate
Even ignoring the potentially awesome trade package the Celtics reportedly turned down, it’s hard to be a huge fan of their draft. I like Brown’s chances of developing under Brad Stevens, but passing up on Dragan Bender seems like a huge mistake. From there, the Yabusele pick was a huge reach on a guy who can’t play defense, Zizic was picked over better big man prospects, and Bentil and Nader were selected over much more intriguing available talent. The Jackson pick is the only time they selected higher on my board than there selection, and even then I would’ve preferred them to target Gary Payton II. Danny Ainge is generally a master of the trade market, but his drafting of James Young, Terry Rozier, RJ Hunter, and this crop is not very encouraging.
Brooklyn Nets – #20 Caris Levert, #42 Isaiah Whitehead – Meh
I had Levert at 20th on my board, so though I liked others better I can’t get mad at the value. Him and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson could be a very interesting combo of long armed versatile defenders if Levert can stay healthy and add some more strength. I probably underrated Whitehead a bit on my board, but I still would’ve rather seen them go after Payton II, Jackson, Kay Felder, or even Fred VanVleet if they were looking for a point guard.
Charlotte Hornets – Traded #22 for Marco Belinelli – Dislike
This draft was deep enough, and Belinelli is an uninspiring enough player, that the cost controlled asset seems much more valuable. Not a disastrous move, but I’d much rather have Timothe Luwawu.
Chicago Bulls – #14 Denzel Valentine, #48 Paul Zipser – Like
Valentine at 14 is a very solid pick, even with some alternative wings I liked a touch better, and Zipser at 48 is a pretty big time steal. This is almost a love, but Valentine is more of a meh than anything considering who was available, and it is usually more important to nail the first round than the second. Both guys fit well in a Fred Hoiberg offense, and both could easily fit alongside Jimmy Butler if he doesn’t end up getting traded.
Cleveland Cavaliers – #54 Kay Felder – Like
I had Felder 30th on my board so from a pure value perspective I absolutely love the pick. However, fit matters, and Cleveland probably shouldn’t be drafting any more players who rely on heavy usage rates to succeed. Felder could have value in all bench units for the Cavs, but they should be staggering Lebron and Irving anyway, and don’t really need much creation ability from their backup point guard. Still, the value here is undeniable, and I’m excited to see what Felder does in the league.
Dallas Mavericks – #46 A.J. Hammons – Love
The Mavericks are in need of a center, and Hammons was 25th overall on my board. He’s got the skill set to look good in their pick-and-roll heavy scheme, and if Carlisle can get him to try a little harder on the defensive end they might really have gotten a steal. At the very least, I expect him to contribute in a 10-15 minute a game role next year.
Denver Nuggets – #7 Jamal Murray, #15 Juan Hernangomez, #19 Malik Beasley, #53 Petr Cornelie – Hate
I generally perceive the Nuggets front office, and specifically their draft department, as one of the sharpest in the league, so it is hard for me to hate on their draft. However, every single guy they picked was lower on my board than their actual draft position, and the Murray and Hernangomez picks stand out particularly as flubs. Murray doesn’t really fit with Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris and isn’t a lottery talent in my eyes, and while Hernangomez is a decent fit next to their frontcourt I don’t think he defends or play makes enough to be a valuable NBA player. The Beasley pick was a reach over the other wings available, though I don’t hate it, and Cornelie is similarly not an awful pick at 53, but there were many superior options.
Detroit Pistons – #18 Henry Ellenson, #49 Michael Gbinijie – Meh
This is bordering on a dislike, but Ellenson was 19th on my board, and it’s hard to get too upset over the 49th overall pick. I like Ellenson’s fit in SVG’s three-bombing system, and also think SVG is smart enough to coax some minutes out of him at the 5 without destroying his team’s defense. Gbinijie is not a guy I would have drafted, especially considering who was still available, but again it’s more important that they did fine on their first round selection than what happened in the second.
Golden State Warriors – #30 Damian Jones, #38 Patrick McCaw, Signed Robert Carter – Love
I don’t even like the Damian Jones pick very much. He’s not great value at 30, and Onuaku, Qi, and Zimmerman are all more intriguing center prospects. Nonetheless, grabbing my #8 prospect who also happens to be exactly the type of long-armed defensive wing with some playmaking ability that thrives in Golden State is absolutely fabulous. If McCaw doesn’t succeed in Golden State that means I really messed up my evaluation on him. Making me love them even more, the Warriors signed my #29 overall guy in Carter as an undrafted free agent. He needs to improve on defense, but he legitimately could play (a much worse version of) the Draymond role as a small-ball 5 down the line. Simply a fantastic haul, and Jones even has some chance of working out in Ezeli’s role. Every pick looks better when you’re putting them in one of the league’s best systems.
Houston Rockets – #37 Chinanu Onuaku, #43 Zhou Qi, Signed Gary Payton II – Love
Morey clearly paid attention to the stat models, as all three of his picks/signings were seen as potential lottery guys by stats based approaches. With Dwight possibly departing I’d love to see Onuaku and Qi get an actual shot to prove themselves next year – they both could really turn some heads. As defensive specialists who don’t need the ball they also are both great fits next to Harden. Signing GP2 as an undrafted free agent is just icing on the cake, if he were to improve his shot he could easily be a better version of Patrick Beverley. The Rockets great D-League system also makes me more optimistic about all three of these guys developing.
Indiana Pacers – #50 Georges Niang – Dislike
I’m not going to say I hate a draft based on one guy picked at #50. It’s all basically a crapshoot at this point, but there are at least 20 guys I would have comfortably drafted over Niang. If they were looking for a role-playing small-ball 4 Dorian Finney-Smith would’ve been my guy.
Los Angeles Clippers – #26 Brice Johnson, #39 David Michineau, #40 Diamond Stone – Dislike
Johnson at 26 is a bit of a reach, but he’s an elite pick-and-roll big, and elite pick-and-roll bigs generally look pretty damn good with Chris Paul. I’m not sure of his defensive fit in a rotation with Blake/DeAndre, but if Doc actually lets him play with Paul he’s going to be in a great situation to really succeed offensively. Michineau is the only drafted player I’ve never watched, but his tools profile sounds intriguing, albeit just a worse version of Gary Payton II. Taking Diamond Stone over Stephen Zimmerman, Qi, and Hammons is about as egregious a second round error as you can make. The Clippers should have drafted a wing in the first place, and if they were going to go with a center they had far superior alternatives.
Los Angeles Lakers – #2 Brandon Ingram, #32 Ivica Zubac – Like
I would’ve taken Bender over Ingram, and I would’ve taken Onuaku, Zimmerman, or Hammons over Zubac, but Ingram is fine value, and Zubac is actually good value at 32nd overall. If the Lakers would just sell Julius Randle for whatever they can get their core of Russell/Clarkson/Ingram/Zubac is actually pretty enticing. I don’t expect Zubac to ever be more than a 25 minute a game guy, but he is a nice pickup for them in the early second.
Memphis Grizzlies – #17 Wade Baldwin, #31 Deyonta Davis, #35 Rade Zagorac, #57 Wang Zhelin – Love
Baldwin and Davis were my #5 and #7 guys respectively, and Zagorac was my #17! Both Baldwin and Davis might’ve slipped in the draft due to attitude concerns I didn’t really weigh, but the sheer amount of talent the Grizzlies got is incredible. Hopefully Davis finds some time to play behind Marc Gasol and Brandan Wright because I find it insane that he dropped all the way to #31. Unless he has serious red flags most don’t know about he is exactly the type of defensively versatile rim-rolling big that holds a lot of value in the modern NBA. Zagorac at #35 is also a great pickup even if they stash him in Europe for a few more seasons. I’m not even mad with the Zhelin pick at #57, he doesn’t make sense as a fit but he’s a guy who was once thought of as a legitimate first rounder. There are worse shots to take at #57 overall.
Miami Heat – N/A
Milwaukee Bucks – #10 Thon Maker, #36 Malcolm Brogdon – Hate
I’m fine with the Brodgon pick at 36, though McCaw would’ve made a lot of sense for them, but taking Maker at 10 is pretty inexcusable. Maker is a similar athlete/player to Deyonta Davis just with a less developed frame, and serious questions surrounding his hands and basketball IQ. Throw in the age rumors and nothing about his profile suggests lottery pick. Even worse, they almost certainly could’ve traded back for something of value and still selected Maker.
Minnesota Timberwolves – #5 Kris Dunn – Meh
I actually like the Kris Dunn value pick at 5, but his fit in Minnesota stands out as particularly awful. He’s an unlikely bet to ever be as good as Rubio, and if they do turn him into their starting point guard his brand of ball dominance and meh-shooting is not what you want next to Towns/Wiggins/Lavine. With Rubio already on the team it would’ve made a lot more sense to go for a big guy like Davis or Chriss, or at the very least a guard with more versatility like Baldwin.
New Orleans Pelicans – #6 Buddy Hield, #33 Cheick Diallo – Hate
Diallo at 33 is fine, even if he’s not a great fit next to Anthony Davis, but Hield at 6 is such a swing for a single pick to make at 6. Even if Hield develops into a better version of Redick he’s not going to move the needle for a Pelicans team that should be doing all they can to build a contender around AD. In the more likely scenario that he’s not even as good as Redick the Pelicans are really going to regret their selection.
New York Knicks – Signed Ron Baker – Like
I had Baker at 50, so I like that the Knicks signed him to a one-year deal. I hope they give him a chance to play as both a point guard and an off-the-ball guy next year.
Oklahoma City Thunder – Traded Serge Ibaka for Ersan Ilyasova, Victor Oladipo, #11 Domantas Sabonis, #56 Daniel Hamilton – Dislike
The biggest reason I don’t like the move is just because I don’t like giving up Ibaka if I’m the Thunder. The combined value of Ilyasova/Oladipo/Sabonis is greater than Ibaka, but the Thunder are a team on the brink of a championship, and championship team’s should be doing all they can to maximize their top 6 or 7, not to give themselves a good 10 deep rotation. Ibaka was able to fit in any Thunder lineup because of his spacing and defense, and their best 5 absolutely takes a hit by losing Ibaka. Sabonis isn’t a great value pick at 11, and his game is also pretty redundant with Kanter and McGary already in the fold. I’ve always liked Oladipo so I don’t hate the move, but it definitely seems like a step backward for a team that might be the most talented in the league. Daniel Hamilton at 56 is an interesting but probably unimportant selection.
Orlando Magic – Traded Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova for Serge Ibaka, #41 Stephen Zimmerman – Like
In an interesting turn of events, I’m not that big of a fan of the trade for the Magic either. Ibaka gives them some desperately needed lineup versatility next to Vucevic, and could be a super exciting option next to Gordon in the frontcourt, but as a team with a more long-term timeline, I’d probably rather have Oladipo and whatever I can get at #11. I still give them a like because the trade wasn’t awful, and the Stephen Zimmerman pick was an absolute steal. If they give him a chance to develop he could turn into a very useful two-way center, and make Vucevic much more expendable.
Philadelphia 76ers – #1 Ben Simmons, #24 Timothe Luwawu, #26 Furkan Korkmaz – Love
The Sixers made the easy pick with Simmons at 1, and hit on the much more difficult pick in drafting my #4 guy Luwawu at 24. Korkmaz at 26 is another very good value pick, and adding his shooting to the team makes a lot of sense from a fit perspective. I’m hoping the Sixers let Simmons get some real run at the point, even though I expect them to sign a crappy vet. There’s not too much to say here, the Sixers really nailed all three of their selections.
Phoenix Suns – #4 Dragan Bender, #8 Marquese Chriss, #34 Tyler Ulis – Like
This is almost a love, because taking a guy like Bender at 4 is a legitimately great pick. Chriss at 8 is fine value, and I hope picking him indicates the Suns will be looking to play Bender at the 5 some. If instead they hope to run out a 3/4/5 of Chriss/Bender/Len I will be considerably less bullish on their draft. Chriss is a meh and Bender is a love, but I really hate the Ulis pick at 34. The Suns need wings much more than they need guards, and if they were going to take a point guard Kay Felder or Gary Payton II would’ve made a lot more sense.
Portland Trail Blazers – #47 Jake Layman – Dislike
Again, not going to give a team too much hate based on a late second round pick, but there were around 15 guys I would’ve taken over Layman. Troy Williams, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Derrick Jones all stand out as better SF/PF tweener prospects.
Sacramento Kings – #13 Georgios Papagiannis, #22 Malachi Richardson, #28 Skal Labissiere, #59 Isaiah Cousins – Hate
Man, what the hell were the Kings doing. The raw value in their trades with the Suns and Hornets was pretty good, but then using those picks on Papagiannis, Richardson, and Skal is a pretty huge waste. It says a lot about their other picks that the Skal gamble is the pick I’m least bearish on. Each picked failed from both a fit and a value perspective. Malachi’s chucking isn’t likely to go away in Sacramento, Skal won’t get the extensive coaching he needs, and drafting another true center like Papagiannis makes entirely no sense. The Isaiah Cousins pick is actually fine, but I still don’t get why teams weren’t drafting Payton II.
San Antonio Spurs – #29 Dejounte Murray – Meh
If any other team made this pick I’d give them a dislike. I had Murray at 39 so it isn’t awful value, but with guys like Davis, McCaw, and Onuaku on the board teams could be getting some real insane value. However, since this is the Spurs drafting a toolsy prospect without much of a shooting stroke I immediately give him a pretty significant boost. They are more likely to coach up his decision making, and his shooting is a better bet to improve under Chip Engelland than anyone else. I don’t see Murray as having the elite upside some suggested, but landing in San Antonio certainly gives him a good chance at outperforming my expectations.
Toronto Raptors – #9 Jakob Poeltl – #27 Pascal Siakam Dislike
I don’t absolutely hate the value on this pick, and there aren’t that many players I like better from a value perspective that wouldn’t have been seen as reaches, but that isn’t an excuse for a meh value pick. When you add in that Poeltl is incredibly redundant next to Valancunias, and you might be better off just paying Biyombo, it becomes hard to defend the pick all that much. I would’ve really liked to see them go after Luwawu, even if it meant trading down. Siakam was also a pretty uninspiring pick, especially with Deyonta Davis, a better version of the same player type, still on the board.
Utah Jazz – #52 Joel Bolomboy, #55 Marcus Paige, #60 Tyrone Wallace – Dislike
Three late second round picks, three guys I wouldn’t have drafted over the available options. Bolomboy is the most defensible though I would’ve preferred Prince Ibeh, but drafting Paige and Wallace over VanVleet, Payton II, and Josh Adams is silly to me. VanVleet or Payton II might really be able to help the Jazz ascend to the playoffs next year as a third guard behind Dante Exum and George Hill.
Washington Wizards – signed Danuel House, Sheldon McClellan – Meh
I would’ve liked to see the Wizards trade into the late second and select one of the many guys I’ve harped on, but House and McClellan are both semi-toolsy wings who deserve an NBA shot. If either really pops in Summer League the Wizards will have made a good move.