The NBA Draft took place in Brooklyn last Thursday, here is my take on the draft and grades for each pick.
1. Philadelphia 76ers – SF Ben Simmons LSU
Not much to see here, Simmons was the best player in the draft with the most NBA ready all-around game. His biggest deficiency is his jump shot which can easily be solved. Simmons has superstar potential if he can rise to the challenge and be a leader on this young Sixers team.
2. Los Angeles Lakers – SF Brandon Ingram Duke
As obvious a top choice as Simmons was, Ingram was the clear cut #2 in this draft. He is a fantastic offensive player, has a massive wing span and is active on defense. He needs to add a lot of weight to his frame, but that, like Simmons’ jump shot, is a fixable issue.
3. Boston Celtics – SF Jaylen Brown California
Danny Ainge with a bit of a surprise taking Jaylen Brown over Kris Dunn at 3. Brown had a good, not great year at Cal as a Freshman, but has tremendous potential and upside. He has a solid frame for a SF, great rebounder and NBA-level athleticism that will allow him to compete right away. He does need to work on his jump shot and mature in his decision making.
4. Phoenix Suns – PF Dragan Bender Croatia
Suns go big, literally, selecting the Andrew Garfield doppleganger in Dragan Bender. Bender is a 7 foot European PF, with a smooth jump shot and high basketball IQ. The pick gets such a low grade because of how hit or miss European players have been. For every Dirk, there are 30 Darkos.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves – PG Kris Dunn Providence
It could not have worked any better for Tom Thibodeau and the T’Wolves. They keep their young core together and still get Kris Dunn at 5. Dunn is the most complete PG in this draft and is known for his defensive prowess. He fits perfectly into Thibs scheme as a physical, lock-down defender on the perimeter and can be an immediate contributor to a possible playoff team.
6. New Orleans Pelicans -SG Buddy Hield Oklahoma
Buddy is the best shooter in this draft, hands down. He gives New Orleans another solid offensive option alongside Anthony Davis. He defends well at his position, has an impressive work ethic and can heat up and stay hot even better than JR Smith. Buddy does struggle with turnovers and is not the prototypical NBA 2 guard but should have no trouble competing.
7. Denver Nuggets – PG Jamal Murray Kentucky
My Big East bias might be showing giving Kris Dunn and A and Murray a B+, but make no mistake, Murray can and will be a great NBA player. Murray is just 19 years old, he has a phenomenal jump shot, really great size for his position and is a great passer. He still needs to learn more about the position and is slow defensively. Really great value for Denver at 7.
8. Sacramento Kings (Traded to PHX) – PF Marquese Chriss Washington
Chriss is a long, extremely athletic big that has a NBA ready skill-set right now. He needs to mature and work on his rebounding, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but can make up for his deficiencies with his shot blocking and offensive game.
9. Toronto Raptors – C Jakob Poeltl Utah
Poeltl is probably my least favorite big in this draft. He is massive at 7-1 and shoots at a high percentage because he’s so fucking close to the basket already. He struggles with foul trouble but is a textbook low post big man who will rebound and block shots. The reason I think he is overrated is because of how badly he got manhandled by Sabonis and Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament.
10. Milwaukee Bucks – PF Thon Maker Sudan
Very nearly gave them a failing grade. Not sure what Milwaukee was doing here. Maker is such a question mark. There are questions about his age and if he is ready to make the jump from prep school to the NBA. It is reassuring that he is 7-1, but not much outside of that. Plenty of better players on the board including the guy taken next that could have helped them out big time.
11. Orlando Magic (Traded to OKC) – C Domantas Sabonis Gonzaga
What a pick and trade for OKC, Ibaka with incredible value landing the Thunder Sabonis, Oladipo and Ilyasova. Sabonis is arguably my favorite non-Big East player in this draft. He has an incredible skill-set offensively and defensively. He rebounds, blocks shots and passes at such a high level. He can step in and spell or even play alongside Steven Adams immediately and really help round out a solid starting 5 for the Thunder.
12. Utah Jazz – SF Taurean Prince Baylor
As a late lotto team, Utah was just outside the playoffs last season. They have a decent roster and can build around Hayward so why take a guy at the same position as your best player? Don’t get me wrong, Prince is capable of playing in the NBA but did not garner a lotto pick. He turns the ball over a ton, can’t really handle the ball and needs to shore up his jump shot.
13. Phoenix Suns (Traded to SAC) – C Georgios Papagiannis Greece
Another European and to a team that really didn’t need a Center. Boogie has every right to be upset as the Kings’ front office let him down big time at the Draft. Papagiannis is 7-2 and 19 (turns 20 July 3rd) years old. That’s about all the positive things I can say, he is slow, too weak to battle inside with NBA Centers and struggles running the floor. Absolutely no value for Sacramento.
14. Chicago Bulls – SG Denzel Valentine Michigan State
I looked at five different draft recaps and saw Valentine listed at PG, SG and SF, which I love. The Bulls desperately needed versatility. Denzel has a lot of positives coming into the league, he is a fantastic passer, great positional rebounder, and all-around solid on the offensive end. He does need to work on his on-ball defense and overall quickness, but I like this pick and expect Valentine to play some major minutes for the Bulls this season.
15. Denver Nuggets – PF Juan Hernangomez Spain
I know absolutely nothing about this guy. So again, I will stick with my gut and say he is going to be a project, he looks to be an undersized four that can stretch defenses. Should be a decent contributor off the bench for Denver.
16. Boston Celtics – PF Guerschon Yabusele France
Another European, but I don’t mind this pick. Boston had a bunch of picks to work with in this draft and took a few chances on some high energy, potential guys. Yabusele is a bit small at 6-8 for PF but has a good jumper and a thick frame to battle down-low.
17. Memphis Grizzlies – PG Wade Baldwin IV Vanderbilt
Really like this pick for Memphis, Baldwin gets to stay in the state of Tennessee and play for the Griz. With all indicators pointing towards Mike Conley leaving as a free agent, Memphis needed a PG and Baldwin was the best available. He has a decent all-around game but definitely needs to polish up his finishing and decision making.
EDIT: With Conley re-signing with Memphis, on the biggest deal in NBA History, Baldwin will have a chance to learn from a great point guard and have time to develop.
18. Detroit Pistons – PF Henry Ellenson Marquette
Ellenson is a really interesting player. I saw him play quite a bit last season and he never really impressed me even in his big games statistically. He looks very comfortable on the ball and is smooth offensively. He does have a tendency to flop and needs work defensively.
19. Denver Nuggets – SG Malik Beasley Florida State
Beasley is a nice piece to add at 19, I had him as the 3rd (2nd if you don’t count Valentine) best SG in the draft. Great scoring ability between his slashing ability and his jump shot. Needs work on his passing.
20. Indiana Pacers (Traded to BKN) – SG Caris LeVert Michigan
LeVert sat out most of the season due to injury for Michigan and the value of this pick depends completely on how he returns from that injury. He showed sparks of greatness towards the end of the season, but not consistently enough to say he is fully recovered. Prolific scorer and can play point guard for a Brooklyn team that needs just about everything.
21. Atlanta Hawks – SG DeAndre’ Bembry St. Joseph’s
I got to watch Bembry a bit last season and was really impressed with him on both ends of the floor. Real strong on-ball defender, attacks the rim and finishes well. Needs to work on his ball-handling and jump shot.
22. Charlotte Hornets – SG Malachi Richardson Syracuse
Was not impressed with Richardson this year, he makes poor decisions, is inconsistent and had no discretion with his shot selection. That said, he is young, and has time to develop, he also does have great size and is very aggressive offensively.
23. Boston Celtics – C Ante Zizic Croatia
Boston did need a paint clogger but this was not the guy to take. Zizic has a great motor, size and runs the floor extremely well. He does not have an offensive game, however, and I really don’t seem him developing into anything more than a role player.
24. Philadelphia 76ers – SG Timothe Luwawu Serbia
We’re into the nitty gritty here, the late 1st round Europeans! Timothe like essentially every other player in this draft has a 7 foot plus wing-span. He is very athletic and has improved his shooting ability, but really needs to learn to play into contact.
25. Los Angeles Clippers – PF Brice Johnson North Carolina
What a value grab for LA. I am a huge Brice Johnson fan and thought he had a legitimate case for NCAA player of the year last season. Tremendous work ethic, absolute monster on the glass and runs the floor extremely well. He will need to develop a jump shot to make up for his positional height.
26. Philadelphia 76ers – SG Furkan Korkmaz Turkey
Natural scoring ability, good quickness and he is very young. There will be questions if he can handle the physicality of the NBA and compete with players on the defensive end.
27. Toronto Raptors – PF Pascal Siakam New Mexico State
Big, quick, and a hard worker. Some pretty nice qualities to pick up at 27, the main concerns are his strength, can he compete with NBA-sized forwards? He also played weaker competition in college which may have inflated his stats.
28. Phoenix Suns (Traded to SAC) – PF Skal Labissiere Kentucky
Finally, Sacramento adds some talent to their roster. Skal is a phenomenal shot blocker and face-up shooter. He is young and has a lot to learn about the position and the game itself but has plenty of time and a year working with Boogie can do wonders.
29. San Antonio Spurs – PG Dejounte Murray Washington
Spurs doing what they do best, turning a late 1st into a steal. Dejounte Murray had a great year at Washington and I thought he would be a lotto pick. He has a great handle, explosive offensive and can finish well at the rim. He needs to improve his shooting from 3 and his size but he is one of the youngest guys in the draft and has a very high ceiling.
30. Golden State Warriors – C Damian Jones Vanderbilt
Good value pick here, Golden State desperately needed a center after Bogut went down and it looks like Ezeli may be leaving as well (although he is a RFA). Jones had a decent year at Vandy, solid rim protector and is a true 7 footer. He is prone to foul trouble and needs to work on his free throws.
Notable 2nd Round Picks
31. Boston Celtics (Traded to MEM) – PF Deyonta Davis Michigan State
Previously projected mid to late first rounder taken in the 2nd, great value on a young explosive forward.
36. Milwaukee Bucks – SG Malcolm Brogdon Virginia
One of the best on-ball defenders in this draft and he has a pretty nice jump shot especially from downtown.
42. Utah Jazz (Traded to BKN)- PG Isaiah Whitehead Seton Hall
My guy! Whitehead drafted out of my Alma Mater will step in and look to compete for the starting job. Great shooter, can get hot in an instant, extremely athletic, but needs to make better decisions.
45. Boston Celtics – PG Demetrius Jackson Notre Dame
Strongest guard in the draft. Tenacious on-ball defender and really attacks the basket on offense.
51. Boston Celtics – PF Ben Bentil Providence
Unbelievable scorer, can rebound really well for his size, needs to bulk up and work on his defense.
54. Atlanta Hawks (Traded to CLE) – PG Kay Felder Oakland
Smallest guy in the draft but an absolute show stopper. Scored 40 against Michigan State last season. Great passer, attacks the rim, and can heat up in an instant.