(Photo Courtesy of Rant Sports)
The most hyped NBA draft in 10 years came and went with a flurry of activity. I had big plans to watch it (on my porch, with my roommate, maybe grill some hot dogs), but since the Watch ESPN App wasn’t working, I didn’t watch a minute of it. With that being said, I feel pretty confident in assessing the winners and losers of last night’s festivities.
Charlotte is absolutely on fire right now. Beautiful new unis. They have their old name back and they landed a stretch four and arguably the best shooter in the draft. Charlotte went with Noah Vonleh at 9 and acquired P.J. Hairston in a trade. Though I would have loved to have seen them keep Shabazz and reunite the old UConn backcourt, PJ Hairston is an absolute sniper with good size and athleticism. UNC would have been a title contender had he not been suspended, and he should be able to get minutes right away for Hornets team that desperately lacks shooting from the wing position. Vonleh was pretty limited in his one year at Indiana but that’s more a testament to Tom Crean’s horrendous coaching than his offensive game. He’s got great size, a soft touch, and a decent handle for a big guy. He made noise about handling the ball in the pros, and if Steve Clifford let Josh McRoberts show out a little bit offensively, than Vonleh should get his chance.
The Jazz have quietly built one of the most fun backcourts in the league now after adding Exum. I know ALL there is to know about Exum, since I watched a
YouTube video of his highlights in the U-18’s. He hasn’t played in a game over 12 months, which I really respect, and it would be super funny if he turns out to be terrible. Assuming he’s decent, a Burke/Burks/Exum guard rotation is pretty awesome. Utah also got great value, getting Rodney Hood at 23. Hood looked better than Parker a lot of nights, and his jumper should get him, and keep him on the floor immediately. Hopefully Jazz fans don’t have to watch much more of the vicious Richard Jefferson/Marvin Williams platoon.
Denver’s best move was stealing Arron Afflalo from the Magic for essentially nothing (Evan Fournier and a 2nd rounder). Afflalo is a top 5, two-way shooting guard in the league, and played very well during his earlier stint in Denver. Denver also drafted some foreign guy (BORRRIINNNG, unless he’s an Aussie) and got an absolute steal in Gary Harris at 19. Harris looks like his floor is a 3 and D guy who can be a nice rotation player, i.e Courtney Lee. His ceiling is probably something around Bradley Beal. Getting a guy like that at 19 is awesome.
New York Knicks
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but they nailed their 2nd round picks. The Knicks have done a pretty good job recently with their late first round picks (Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr., and you could even talk me into Landry Fields for a couple years), and it looks like they got two more good ones in the second round this year. Cleanthony Early looked like the best player on the court against Kentucky in the tournament and can probably get 18 points a night with his eyes closed if given the minutes. He’s a bit of tweener, but his jumper and handle are solid and he’s got the athleticism to be a capable defender, though he’ll struggle against burly 4’s. I don’t know one thing about Thanasis Anteteokounmpo, but if he’s half as adorable as his younger brother then the Knicks hit the jackpot.
It breaks my heart to put the Raptors on the losers’ side, but drafting a guy who scouts say is at least 4 years away from playing in the league is a tough sell. Especially with quality guys like Mitch McGary, PJ Hairston, Shabazz Napier and Kyle Anderson on the board. The Raptors were a 3 seed in the East last year, and odds are the East isn’t going to be much better this year. I know I should never doubt the great Masai Ujjri , but the draft this year was deep enough that he could have gotten a rotational player at 20 that could have helped them immediately. Shabazz would have been a nice safeguard in case Lowry bolts (heaven forbid) but at least they got his UConn teammate Deandre Daniels in the second round. Daniels is intriguing.
The 76ers front office and ownership has enough brainpower to fuel a Rocket ship, but I can’t wrap my head around this one. The owners are former hedge fund guys who view everything as flippable assets that they want to buy low and sell high (hence the Michael Carter-Williams trade rumors), but at some point you have to field an actual basketball team. It sounds like Sam Hinkie has a lot of job security, because there is a very good chance the Sixers are picking at the top of the draft again next year. Embiid at 3 is fine, and if he stays healthy then he could end up being the best player in the draft. But trading for Dario Saric, who just said he’s staying overseas for at least two and possibly three years, when there was a ton of talent on the board is baffling. The Sixers had the 3rd and 10th pick in the most loaded draft in years and there’s a decent chance that they get zero minutes from either of those picks this year. Needless to say, I’d be frustrated if I was a Sixers fan.