Now that we’ve had some distance from the NBA Draft and time to think about it more logically and reasonably, it seems like a perfect time to get some opinions from smart people.
It’s time for an NBA Draft Analysis roundtable.
I asked the staff of Upside and Motor to answer five fairly straightforward questions about the draft. Here were their responses:
1. Simple question: What team do you think had the best draft? -Sam Vecenie
Andrew Ford: The Charlotte Hornets. One of the best players in this year’s draft, Noah Vonleh, somehow slid all the way down to the Hornets with the 9th overall pick, and they were wise to snatch him up. The Indiana University product will have the opportunity to develop under a promising, smart NBA head coach in Steve Clifford, and his skillset will fit nicely in the frontcourt next to big Al Jefferson. Jefferson can dominate the paint, while Vonleh can play up around the elbow or even out to the three-point line. With their second pick in the draft, the Bobcats addressed their biggest need, perimeter shooting, by getting P.J. Hairston in a draft-day trade with the Miami Heat. Hairston matured rapidly in the D-League, and he should be more NBA ready than most after testing his mettle against grown men for several months. In Vonleh and Hairston, they got two players that will probably contribute right now and still have plenty of room for future development, which is the best they could have hoped for.
Tom Fehr: Well, I think the subjectivity of this question is very important because frankly we won’t know for a long time. However, I’ll tell you a few teams I thought had a nice night. I really liked the Jazz’s draft, getting Dante Exum (who most didn’t think would fall to #5) and Rodney Hood in the first round. I think both will be significant backcourt pieces for Utah’s future. The Lakers also had an excellent draft, getting a monster in Julius Randle at #7 and buying a second round pick to take a chance on Jordan Clarkson at #46. And of course, I love Cleveland’s draft, just because of Wiggins.
Seth Partnow: To the extent Philly is even playing the same game as everyone else
literally by not trying, they still had a great draft. Best prospect at 3, free picks to get the guy they probably wanted at 10 at 12, and Pierre Jackson back to erase the only bad part of the Holiday-New Orleans trade. In the “actually competing” division, I liked what Orlando and Denver did. Though Orlando has all the downside in the Payton deal with Philly, I still really liked that they were able to come out of the draft with Gordon and Payton. Nurkic would have been a fine pick for Denver at 11, so getting him AND Gary Harris at 16 and 19 was a coup.
Ben Rosales: I usually dislike simply handing this off to the top teams in the draft since the selection process there honestly involves more not screwing up than any sign of superlative drafting ability, so I’ll go ahead and give props to how the Nuggets handled the draft. In a deep draft whose middle tier contains fairly comparable players, Denver managed to leverage its position and the Bulls’ desire for shooting into an additional pick for dropping just five spots. Moreover, they ended up getting the player that had been frequently mocked to them — or at least was mocked prior to the Afflalo acquisition at any rate — in Gary Harris, who was a borderline top ten prospect in my estimation. Add Nurkic and Jokic into the mix and the Nuggets made off with solid value all around this draft, which is really all you can ask for given what they had going into the night.
Fred Katz: The 76ers. Philly clearly couldn’t care less about tanking with two first-round picks who may not even play in the league this season, but that’s not even why they’re my pick for this. Their second round was incredibly crafty. Averaging 3.3 blocks per 40 minutes, KJ McDaniels and his 6-foot-11 wingspan have a defensive ceiling as high as almost anyone’s in the draft. Vasilije Micic, meanwhile, is a disciplined, 6-foot-6 point guard who already knows how to run the pick-and-roll, one of the most valuable traits for a point guard in today’s NBA.
Brian Schroeder: While there are several good contenders, based on team needs (OKC), general quantity (Philly), quality (Milwaukee) and even managing to get picks at all (New York, Brooklyn), the clear winner in my eyes is Utah. I think Dante Exum could easily become the best player in this draft, and should almost certainly either replace Trey Burke or complement him so well as to make them both great building blocks. While I’m not nearly as high on Rodney Hood as some people are, he’s really good value for where he was taken and is pretty decent insurance for Gordon Hayward while also being better than any other wing they played last season.
2. Another simple question: Who had your least favorite draft? -SV
Andrew Ford: Indiana Pacers. There are several other teams that ended the night without making a pick, but those teams started without one. They didn’t trade their one pick to get out of the draft altogether for cash like the Pacers did. How do you sell your fanbase on not gaining a guy that you could’ve at least tried to develop in the D-League just to pad your pockets with cash? The justification I’ve seen for the move is that the money will go towards an attempt to retain Lance Stephenson, but how much is that cash actually going to help if at all?
Tom Fehr: I have the same preface as the last answer, but I really didn’t like Orlando’s draft. I was much lower on Aaron Gordon than a lot of people going into the draft, and him rising to #4 made me like the pick even less. Eldrid Payton is another guy that sort of scares me because of the lack of a jumper.
Seth Partnow: I think three teams in particular fared poorly: Minnesota, Chicago and Phoenix. I am not a fan of the Zach LaVine pick, especially for a team claiming it wants to be competitive rather than rebuild in a prospective Kevin Love trade. The Wolves also sold (another) second rounder. I hated what the Bulls did for two reasons – first even though he might fit their needs to a degree, I’m way down on McDermott. But more importantly, Denver played them into overpaying for the 11th pick. Sure, the Bulls might have “needed” to move the two picks to clear some salary for a run at Carmelo, but they should still have gotten a decent amount more back from Denver, probably in the form of future picks. As far as Phoenix, I just didn’t love the picks themselves (Warren in particular seems like a reach), but beyond that, the draft looks to have been an episode of poor roster and asset management in that they had too many dudes already and just added more.
Ben Rosales: A few days after attending the draft in person, the most enduring memory for me isn’t the Lakers getting their man in Julius Randle at seven, the NBA’s rather touching ceremony for Isaiah Austin, or even seeing Andrew Wiggins walking out of Barclays in his dapper and absolutely unmistakable suit at 11:00 pm. It was the complete blank that the audience collectively drew when Adam Silver announced Toronto’s first rounder at #20. The myriad Google searches that ensued shortly after pretty much everyone heard the name “Bruno Caboclo” for the first time were met with a nonexistent Draft Express profile and a feeling that is usually reserved for late second round picks — hello Tanguy Ngombo! Toronto’s future prognosis is sufficiently uncertain with Lowry’s free agency yet to play out that Masai Ujiri would have been fairly justified in going for either immediate (Hood, Hairston) or future production (Capela) at this spot, yet he passed on every other “safe” option in favor of a complete unknown. Perhaps Ujiri will be vindicated in a half-decade or so when Caboclo comes over to the league, but at the moment, it’s hard to defend this without blind faith and an awful lot of optimism. As for DeAndre Daniels, it was fine selection for a second rounder, but it doesn’t really move the needle on what was on a whole just a bizarre draft for Toronto.
Fred Katz: I love Aaron Gordon, who I think will become the most versatile defensive player from this class, so I won’t include him in the discussion, but draft day was simply a poor one for Orlando. They gave up an exorbitant haul for Elfrid Payton, which is questionable considering his lack of range as a shooter. (If Rajon Rondo has taught us anything, isn’t it that having a point guard who can’t shoot puts a cap on your offensive output regardless of his distributing ability?) Then there was that dreadful Arron Afflalo trade. The guy could’ve been an All-Star this past season. Evan Fournier and the No. 56 pick isn’t enough for him. It’s shocking the market for a quality, two-way wing was so low.
Brian Schroeder: Part of me wants to say the Bulls, but I like Doug McDermott more than some seem to. Another part of me wants to say Orlando, but another part of me loves Elfrid Payton too much. I’ll say Minnesota. While it’s true and fair that no one they would have picked at that spot would have changed the Kevin Love situation and Zach LaVine is a reasonable gamble, he’s also not very good at all right now. More importantly, they sold their 2nd rounder for what feels like the billionth time, and given that this is a team in desperate need of shooters that sold its pick in a second round that was just lousy with shooters, it’s fairly ridiculous.
3. Both Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins are going to be stepping into good situations next season. Which one do you see having the better rookie year? -SV
Andrew Ford: Parker. He’s going to be in a position to dominate the ball, and that will suit him well. He will get at least a look most trips down the court, and the same can’t be said for Wiggins. Parker is more NBA-ready than Wiggins right now, too. He is already a great scorer and demonstrates polish well beyond his years. That should help him make more of an immediate impact. However, Parker posting better individual stats won’t necessarily make his Bucks have a better record than Wiggins’ Cavs this upcoming season.
Tom Fehr: Wiggins. Jabari will have a higher scoring average and might have a better shot at Rookie of the Year because of it, but Wiggins will provide a bigger impact overall, mainly because he should be competent to good on defense from the start, and his offensive game is further along than he’s getting credit for.
Seth Partnow: In statistical terms, probably Parker, simply because he’s a more NBA ready offensive player. Wiggins could have a pretty sizable overall impact on the Cavs if he can upgrade what has been a pretty moribund small forward position for them as well as help improve their defense.
Ben Rosales: As far as their rookie years go, the road certainly looks easier for Parker, if only because he doesn’t have to do as much developing as Wiggins to be effective off the bat. Milwaukee can hide him on defense, especially if Sanders is healthy, and there’s no one on the team to take touches away from him as he moves into the alpha dog scoring position from day one. He only has to do what he has already demonstrated he can do in college: eat a ton of possessions and put the ball in the hoop at a decent rate. As for Wiggins, the presence of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters does alleviate a lot of the pressure on him to create, but he’ll be asked to be the team’s primary defensive stopper in addition to a secondary scoring option. That’s not an easy task to accomplish in year one, as good as Wiggins was defensively at Kansas notwithstanding, since the curve he will have to climb defending the top opposing scorer every night is simply a more challenging one than what Parker will have to deal with. The production gap might end up being closer than one thinks, particularly due to Wiggins’ edge defensively, but it’s just easier to see Parker leading the pack by putting up big offensive numbers in year one.
Fred Katz: Parker will have the better rookie year. Wiggins will have the better career. Everything you hear about Parker’s offensive game is true. It really is refined, but his defense is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Wiggins, at this point in his development, is flipped, and it may be hard for him to garner as many minutes as Parker playing on a team that has a greater chance than Parker’s to make the postseason in the woeful Eastern Conference.
Brian Schroeder: Jabari simply by the virtue of playing with worse players. Kyrie’s got a pretty high usage and will almost certainly be the primary option going forward, while Jabari will be fighting over the #1 role with…a fat O.J. Mayo, a 20 year old, Brandon Knight, and…Carlos Delfino? He could put up one of the more prolific offensive rookie campaigns in a long time.
4. Is there a rookie outside of the lottery that you would expect to make a big impact next season? -SV
Andrew Ford: P.J. Hairston. He played in the D-League after departing from the University of North Carolina, which gives him an advantage over most other rookies when it comes to being ready to contribute immediately in the NBA. Hairston didn’t just play in the D-League, he thrived. That tells us more than the stats college prospects put up against many guys that have no basketball future beyond college. He’s coming into a team that needs perimeter shooting badly, and he fits the bill perfectly. His sharp-shooting ability should get him on the court early and often.
Tom Fehr: Shabazz Napier has a great shot to do just that. He likely will be on a contending team next year, assuming LeBron James isn’t going anywhere, and Napier was an absolute stud this year at UConn. Napier will be the rookie outside the lottery with the most eyes on him.
Seth Partnow: I was a big fan of Adreian Payne all year long and he fits in perfectly with Atlanta’s system. Could see Jordan Adams having an impact similar to Wesley Matthews in his rookie year in Utah. P.J. Hairston also potentially fills a gaping hole in Charlotte’s perimeter shooting. Cleanthony Early could put up some numbers in New York yet
be a questionable overall contributor, much like Tim Hardaway Jr. last season.
Ben Rosales: It is hard to say, namely since we don’t know what a lot of these roster situations for these rookies will look like after the dust settles in free agency. For instance, the best prospect out of the lottery in Harris doesn’t project to play a whole lot with Afflalo in front of him in Denver’s rotation, so his overall impact in his rookie year will be muted. Generally, the opportunities for significant minutes aren’t very widespread out of the lottery; as a result, I would put this as a race between Adreian Payne and James Young, both of whom should get decently sized rotation roles next year and have the talent to put up respectable rookie year numbers. A “big” impact is perhaps overstating things and I don’t think any non-lottery prospect will have one, but if one does emerge, I’d bet on it being Young.
Fred Katz: Adreian Payne. You know how we kept talking about how much the Pacers struggled with the Hawks’ bigs in the first round of the playoffs? That was because of their ability to shoot. Payne, who knocked in 42 percent of his threes this past year as a senior at Michigan State, only adds to that. Who wouldn’t want a polished pick-and-roll defender who knows how to rotate on the defensive end? Why would anyone turn down a legitimate stretch 4 with range from the NBA three-point line who is a quality screen setter and who knows how to pop and find space as intuitively as anyone else in this draft? The city of Atlanta is about to fall in love with Adreian Payne.
Brian Schroeder: Gary Harris. Shabazz is likely to see big minutes in the probable absence of Mario Chalmers (may he rest in eternal grace), but Harris will step right into the entirely reworked wing in Denver, and he’ll probably see big minutes as Afflalo’s backup and one of Ty Lawson’s favored spot up targets. He’s better than Randy Foye right now, and Randy Foye really wasn’t bad last season. He’s too polished at his age to not contribute, but in Denver? He’ll do more than that. Or he won’t, because this is an incredibly inexact science.
5. What second rounder do you think will have the best long term impact in the NBA? -SV
Andrew Ford: Spencer Dinwiddie. If he can stay healthy in the NBA, he could be a great talent. He’s a big combo guard that handles well enough to be a point guard and shoots well enough to play the two. He can do everything a team could ask him to do: shoot, create for himself, pass, rebound, and defend. He’s truly a complete player. If it wasn’t for his bad knee injury last season at Colorado that he hasn’t fully recovered from yet, he likely would have been a first round selection.
Tom Fehr: Cleanthony Early and Markel Brown. I think both will have decent careers in the NBA, and I think Early can play right now in the Knicks’ rotation. Brown might be a little bit further off but his athleticism is fantastic and his jumper is very smooth.
Seth Partnow: K.J. McDaniels, Nick Johnson and Spencer Dinwiddie seem like they
have the best chances to stick and be long term contributors. Johnson especially could be in an excellent situation with James Harden taking on a quasi-point guard role for Houston, he can focus on defense, hustle and the occasional spot up jumper.
Ben Rosales: I’d usually aim for “athlete who I think can figure things out” to answer this question, but as far as this draft goes, I’ll go with Spencer Dinwiddie. Assuming that he can bounce back from his ACL injury, Dinwiddie has the skill set to eke out a rotation spot for a long time in the league and while his athleticism might set a ceiling on what he can ultimately accomplish, he is probably a safer bet than an athlete like Jerami Grant, who has a long way to go as far as producing on a NBA level is concerned. Dinwiddie will likely be able to do that from the start and he’ll have a coach that will appreciate his game in Stan Van Gundy to offer a springboard for the rest of what should be a long career.
Fred Katz: I touched on this earlier, but KJ McDaniels. A 6-foot-11 wingspan and all those blocks say his defensive ceiling is immensely high. Meanwhile, offensive players who isolated against McDaniels shot only 20 percent from the field this past season. He’s got the potential to become an elite defender. He may never turn into a great offensive player, but his quality free-throw rate is a translatable stat which says he could become serviceable. I’ll take a versatile, athletic defensive wing on a non-guaranteed contract any day.
Brian Schroeder: One of the Jordan Clarkson, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Vasilije Micic trio. All point guards, all with good size and enough savvy to be credible backup point guards for an extended period in this league. That might sound a little weak, but in a league where point guard is rapidly becoming the most important position, backup points are in high demand. If playing 15 minutes a game, hitting a few threes and taking a few charges added several years to the end of Derek Fisher’s career, it’ll make a career for all three of these guys. Or at least one of them.