With the draft come and gone, and fewer big trades than I expected, its time to give each team a grade. For those of you who read my old blog, you’ll know I don’t give out letter grades. I don’t see much difference between a B and a B+. And the letter grades can all mean different things, anyway. Are they grading how well the team did at the spot they had or are they grading the talent level they got?
I started using the grades I do when my oldest daughter was in grade 1 and instead of letter grades, they got Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations, Approaching Expectations and Needs Improvement. I think that makes much more sense for grading the draft.
And for the first time ever, there wasn’t a team that got a Needs Improvement grade, which might be an indication that the level of management has improved over the years (but that’s another column)
Since this is long, let’s get right into it. Since this is a Raptors website, I’ll do the Raptors first and then grade the rest.
20. Bruno Caboclo
37. DeAndre Daniels
59. Xavier Thames
Trades: Traded rights to Xavier Thames to Nets for cash and future considerations.
First off, my big disappointment was that Tyler Ennis was taken by Phoenix just two spots before the Raptors chose, but that’s not the Raptors fault. There was talk afterwards that the Raptors had worked out a deal for him, but nothing came of that. All Raptor fans should be praying that Phoenix re-signs Eric Bledsoe, because then the Suns just might entertain trading Ennis to the Raptors.
Quite frankly, it reminded me far too much when the Grizzlies were still in Vancouver, and my friend and I got our hearts set on a guy named Steve Nash, who we both felt was a winner and vastly underrated. Vancouver had a second pick at 22 and there was some hope Nash would fall that far. Instead, he was drafted by a Phoenix team that already had two very good point guards on the roster, one a hyper-athletic shoot-first point guard (Kevin Johnson) and the other a smooth floor general (Jason Kidd). The similarities are eerie.
As for Bruno Caboclo, he was not someone I had written about in my prospecting series.
Or had considered writing about.
Or had heard of.
After his name was called, I quickly scanned the Draft Express mock draft, and he wasn’t there and his profile is a scouting video from one game. To say he wasn’t on a lot of people’s radar is an understatement. And those that had heard of him thought he was a second round pick, at best.
That’s not to say it was a bad pick. Not in the least. There are many who felt that they took him too high and should have used their second round pick, but those people don’t realize two things. The first is that other teams may have been targeting him, which is why the Raptors had a deal for the 22nd pick, to draft both Ennis and Caboclo. Apparently both Phoenix and San Antonio were interested in him, and were picking before 37.
Secondly, where a person is picked doesn’t matter nearly as much as how good that player becomes. If the Spurs had taken Manu Ginobili 30th instead of 57th, would it really matter that they passed up on guys who didn’t come close to being as good as Ginobili became?
If Ujiri felt Caboclo was the best player available and there was a chance that he would be gone at 37, then you pick him and screw the pundits. I’d much rather see my GM do what he felt was the best thing rather than the most acceptable thing. Too many GMs play it safe and that’s not how you build contenders.
And it’s not as if the Raptors passed up a likely star to grab Caboclo. I know a lot of fans would have liked to have seen the Raptors pick Shabazz Napier at 20, but there’s a reason he lasted until 24 despite his NCAA heroics. He’s an undersized point guard who doesn’t make his teammates better and has trouble finishing at the rim. The likelihood of anyone being drafted after Caboclo becoming anything more than a decent role player is slim (according to draft history) so why not take a risk and draft someone who could end becoming a star?
Now, that said, I know so little about Caboclo that I don’t feel comfortable giving the team a grade, at this point. From what little I’ve seen he could be great, or he could be a bust. The right guys seem to be raving about him, so I’m willing to withhold judgement for now. Not because I have faith in Ujiri. That would be naive considering how little draft history Ujiri actually has. Before Caboclo, he’s only had two first round picks, Kenneth Faried and Evan Fournier (Ujiri did NOT draft Ty Lawson, despite many Raptor fans belief he did- that was before he was hired) and of his two second round picks, one (Quincy Miller) hasn’t done much and the other (Izzet Turkyilmaz) hasn’t played a minute in the NBA, yet.
The reaction by many basketball fans (both Raptor and otherwise) is further proof that the internet is full of idiots. There’s a big difference between not knowing who a player is and knowing he was a bad pick. People have to realize that.
I would dearly have liked to have seen Ujiri get the Greek Freak last year (something he was trying to do) and then pick the Brazilian Freak this year. Seeing those two play together would have been a sight.
With their 37th pick, they took DeAndre Daniels and I’m not all that impressed. I thought Spencer Dinwiddie, Glenn Robinson III or Nikola Jokic would have been better choices, but we’ll see.
59th picks are lucky to even make the team, so, while I am a big fan of Xavier Thames’ name, trading him doesn’t really matter.
Philadelphia: Exceeds Expectations
3. Joel Embiid
10. Elfrid Payton
32. K.J. McDaniels
39. Jerami Grant
47. Russ Smith
Trades: Philadelphia traded Elfrid Payton to Orlando for Dario Saric (12th pick), a 2017 1st round pick and a future 2nd round pick. Traded Russ Smith to New Orleans for something.
No team, not even the Raptors, took a bigger swing for the fences than Philadelphia. Embiid was a consensus number one pick up until a week before the draft who had been compared by numerous scouts to Hakeem Olajuwon. There wasn’t a player who scouts felt could make a bigger impact than Embiid. Whether he is physically able to is the big question. The navicular bone which Embiid broke is the same one that stunted the careers of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Yao Ming (Ilgauskas in the middle of his career and Yao at the end), but it’s also the same bone Kevin McHale, Michael Jordan and Kevin Martin broke and none of them had any ill effects after healing from their injuries.
Dario Saric isn’t coming over for a couple of years, but he’s got the potential to be one of the best players from the draft (I discussed him more here). In fact, the Sixers could have two of the best players from the draft in five years, and for a rebuilding team, that’s huge. The problem, of course, is that neither player will be on the team when next season starts, but team building is a marathon, not a race.
The Sixers could have taken players that were more NBA ready, but if you’re rebuilding, you need to collect the best talent.
K.J. Daniels was a player I covered in the prospecting series. I wasn’t a fan of him at 20, but at 32, I think it’s a very good pick. Jerami Grant was a possibility for the first round, but fell, I’m guessing, because his shot is broken. I think there were some better prospects available, but it doesn’t take away from their earlier accomplishments.
Orlando: Exceeds Expectations
3. Aaron Gordon
12. Dario Saric
56. Roy Devyn Marble
Trades: Orlando traded Dario Saric, a 2017 1st round pick and a future 2nd round pick to Philadelphia for Elfrid Payton (10th pick)
The first (mild) surprise of the draft was Orlando taking Gordon over Exum, who most mock drafts had going 4th, and then trading Saric’s rights for Elfrid Payton. There are certainly questions about spacing issues, since they traded away their best three point shooter (Afflalo) earlier in the day, but both Gordon and Payton were favourites of mine and guys who I thought had been underrated (although apparently not, since both were drafted higher than initially expected).
Both Gordon and Payton have the makings of monster defenders and guys who other players love to play with, but not against. Both are high IQ and team-first guys who have all the intangibles a coach would want.
I’m not sure whether it was worth trading a future first round pick, but I’m assuming there are restrictions on it. And keep in mind this grade does not include the trade of Aaron Afflalo earlier in the day. I think they got way too little back for a good, solid shooting guard who can hit from three and play defense.
Charlotte: Exceeds Expectations
9. Noah Vonleh
24. Shabazz Napier
Trades: Charlotte traded Shabazz Napier for P.J. Hairston (26th pick) and probably something else I’m not aware of.
Charlotte finally did something right in the draft! A lot of pundits felt Charlotte was going to draft a shooter, but with Stauskas gone one spot earlier, and McDermott not a good fit, the Hornets took the player with possibly the most upside left who should also fit in nicely with their current roster.
Vonleh is a physical specimen who should compliment Al Jefferson nicely in the front court, who has also shown a burgeoning outside game that the Hornets so need.
And while I listed Hairston as a player to avoid, I think on a team like Charlotte, with strong personalities that won’t accept poor behaviour, he could flourish. It’s also rare for a 26th pick to have the talent and NBA ready game that Hairston does.
Charlotte very well could have two starters from this draft.
Phoenix: Exceeds Expectations
14. T.J. Warren
18. Tyler Ennis
27. Bogdan Bogdanovic
50. Alec Brown
Trades: None (Arrghhh!)
I’m still bitter that Phoenix ended up taking Ennis two spots ahead of Toronto, but they did a very nice job drafting. T.J. Warren’s tweener game shouldn’t be a problem in Phoenix’s system, and they need frontcourt scoring, something Warren should help with.
I’ve said enough about Ennis, but suffice is to say, he’s a good pick, especially if Bledsoe leaves.
Bogdan Bogdanovic was one of my sleepers and a guy I figured San Antonio would end up drafting. He’s probably not quite ready for the NBA, yet, but that’s fine for a team with three first round picks.
Utah: Exceeds Expectations
5. Dante Exum
23. Rodney Hood
Trades: None (Arrghhh!)
Exum unexpectedly dropped and Utah couldn’t have been more fortunate. I like Gordon, but he wasn’t a good fit in Utah where scoring is desperately needed. It’s unclear how much Exum will be able to score, but a backcourt of Trey Burke and Exum should give others more open shots and keep the ball moving. Exum will take time to develop, but Utah is in no hurry and he could turn into a star if he fulfills his potential.
Rodney Hood won’t be a star, but he can shoot and that’s something Utah needs, and they didn’t pass on anyone they will probably regret to draft him.
San Antonio: Exceeds Expectations
30. Kyle Anderson/strong>
58. Jordan McRae
While I liked Kyle Anderson’s talent, I was wary of the fact that he’s only slightly more athletic and speedy on the court than I am. When San Antonio drafts someone, though, it’s generally stamp of approval. In all the years I’ve been doing this Draft Report Card, I’ve come to automatically give San Antonio an Exceeds Expectations, just based on history.
I’m not quite sure how Anderson fits in San Antonio’s lineup, but his passing skills will certainly be well utilized.
Brooklyn: Exceeds Expectations
Trades: Bought the rights to Markel Brown (44th pick), Xavier Thames (59th pick) and Cory Jefferson (60th pick)
So how does Brooklyn, who just had three late second round picks, none of whom might make the team next year get an Exceeds Expectations? Because they started the night without any draft picks at all (and none for the next 35 years, if my math is correct) but used the fact their owner is mega-rich (even compared to NBA owners) to buy into the draft. And that’s the only way the Nets are going to get young talent.
Detroit: Exceeds Expectations
38. Spencer Dinwiddie
Detroit only had one second round pick after giving their first round to Charlotte1, but they used it on easily the best player available. Dinwiddie not only has a great name, he probably should have gone about five to ten spots earlier.
[aside]1. Detroit basically traded their 9th pick to Charlotte for taking Ben Gordon and his salary for an extra year so Detroit could overspend on both Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, neither of who played well or fit in on the roster.
Geez, it’s a wonder Joe Dumars lasted so long.[/aside]
Chicago: Meets Expectations
16. Jusuf Nurkic
19. Gary Harris
49. Cameron Bairstow
Trades: Chicago traded the rights to Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris for the rights to Doug McDermott (11th pick).
While they gave up a lot to get Doug McDermott, he’s exactly the type of player the Bulls need. Defense, they’ve got plenty of, but without Derrick Rose, they have absolutely no scoring, especially after trading away Loul Deng.
I’ve never been sure about McDermott’s future in the NBA, but he’s not Adam Morrison. I think he will be, at least, a decent player. And I think he’s going to be better than that.
Teams that trade up usually end up getting the better deal and I think that might be the case for Chicago.
One last note, though. There was discussion that Chicago drafted McDermott to play alongside free agent Carmelo Anthony, and I don’t see that at all. Both players are scorers who need the ball to be effective and who don’t excel on the defensive end. What Carmel needs is to play alongside a Andrei Kirilenko-type who can defend both the small forward and power forward position (taking the toughest check) and who can hit the jumps hot, but doesn’t need the ball to be effective. That doesn’t describe McDermott, who would make more sense as a sign-and-trade player for Carmelo than a running mate.
Milwaukee: Meets Expectations
2. Jabari Parker
31. Damien Inglis
36. Johnny O’Bryant III
48. Lamar Patterson
Milwaukee almost got an exceeds expectations solely on the announcement of Jabari Parker that he wanted to be a Buck for life. Parker may not end up being the best player from this draft, five years from now, but he’s exactly the player the Bucks need. His defense isn’t great (I’m being kind) but Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ersan Ilyasova and LARRY SANDERS!, who should eventually be his fellow starters, all are above average defensively, so Parker should be covered. What they desperately lack, though, is scoring, which Parker should be able to do well from his first game on.
I especially like pairing Parker with Ilyasova, as both players are neither prototypical small forwards or power forwards, but their games should compliment one another.
Damien Inglis is a player with a great physical tools that needs to develop, but he’s got lots of promise and I thought San Antonio might take him at 30.
I think there were better players available at 36 than Johnny O’Bryant, but he’s got skills that should allow him to make the roster.
Denver: Meets Expectations
11. Doug McDermott
41. Nikola Jokic
Trades: Denver traded the rights to Doug McDermott for the rights to Jusuf Nurkic (16th pick) and Gary Harris (19th pick).
I’m normally against trading down because, for the most part, all you’re doing is trading for worse players. While Denver got some talent with their two picks, especially Harris, who fell to 19, I would have liked to have seen them draft Zach LaVine, who has star potential and would have fit in well on Denver’s roster, especially playing beside the equally athletic Ty Lawson.
LaVine should end up becoming a better player than Harris, and although Jokic will help them at the center position (have they finally figured out JaVale McGee’s negative basketball IQ isn’t getting any better?), LaVine is a player they might end up regretting not taking.
Cleveland: Meets Expectations
1. Andrew Wiggins
33. Joe Harris
45. Dwight Powell
I know there are questions about whether Wiggins has the mentality to dominate, but, at worst, Wiggins is a top flight defender who should be able to easily score in transition, rebound and hit the occasional jumper. One player that I’ve never seen brought up that should be germane to a conversation about Wiggins is Kawhi Leonard. He has an even more quiet personality than Wiggins, but it didn’t stop him from winning Finals MVP and being a star on the rise.
I think Wiggins has much more potential than Leonard.
And Wiggins is exactly what this Cleveland team needs. The last thing the Cavs needed was a Jabari Parker-type player who is yet another scorer on a team with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. What they need is a team-first guy who will play defense and score when needed. Eventually, Wiggins may end up taking over the team, but there won’t be any power struggles for it.
Joe Harris is a decent player, but I’m not sure he was the best available.
Boston: Meets Expectations
6. Marcus Smart
17. James Young
I think Marcus Smart has the potential to be a very good point guard, but I’m not sure how he fits on Boston unless Rajon Rondo is traded, and by drafting Smart, Boston may have lowered Rondo’s value. Boston obviously has moves to make, so we;ll have to wait and see how the pieces fall together.
James Young is a nice player, but I think Gary Harris might end up being the better player.
Lakers: Meets Expectations
7. Julius Randle
46. Jordan Clarkson
Most mock drafts had Randle going to the Lakers and that’s who they drafted. That’s pretty much the definition of meeting expectations. I’ve never been a huge fan of Randle, but the Lakers need young talent and Randle has the potential to be a good power forward and will only benefit playing with Kobe.
Julius Clakson is a pretty good prospect with some potential.
Minnesota: Meets Expectations
13. Zach LaVine
40. Glenn Robinson III
43. Alessandro Gentile
Considering LaVine probably should have gone higher and has great potential, the only reason Minnesota didn’t get an Exceeds Expectations was because of LaVine’s sourpuss reaction. I understand you might not have wanted to go to Minnesota, but considering it was just a few minutes later that Isaiah Austin was near tears for being simply allowed to have his name called out and go up to the podium to shake hands with Adam Silver, it strikes me as more than a little petulant.
And it’s also the last thing T-Wolves fans really needed to see, considering they’re probably about to see another All NBA player get shipped off to a better team.
Glenn Robinson probably could have gone in the first round and no one would have blinked, so getting him at 40 is good.
I have no idea who Alessandro Gentile, but I love his last name.
Memphis: Meets Expectations
22. Jordan Adams
35. Jarnell Stokes
While I think they picked Jordan Adams WAY too high (he’s a decent player, but I don’t see him having much upside at all), I think they got a steal in Jarnell Stokes, who could end up being the better player of the two.
Miami: Meets Expectations
26. P.J. Hairston
Trades: Miami traded P.J. Hairston to Charlotte for Shabazz Napier
LeBron obviously wanted Shabazz Napier, but they could have just as easily used Hairston.
Houston: Meets Expectations
25. Clint Capela
42. Nick Johnson
After trading away Asik earlier, the Rockets desperately needed a backup center, and although Clint Capela technically fits that description, he’s at least a year or two away from contributing. That said, he’s got as much or more potential than anyone else available at the 25th spot. Houston could have got a player who might have helped them immediately, but Capela should be a good gamble.
New York: Meets Expectations
34. Cleanthony Early
51. Thanasis Antetokounmpo
57. Louis Labiyre
Cleanthony Early was a darling of Bill Simmons and company, but I think he got picked about right. Thanasis Antetokounmpo is Giannis’ big brother, but that’s about all he brings.
New Orleans: Meets Expectations
Trades: Traded something (presumably) for Russ Smith (47th pick)
He’s the 47th pick. What do you expect?
Sacramento: Approaching Expectations
8. Nik Stauskas
This grade has nothing to do with Stauskas himself, who I think will be a very good player, and everything to do with why Sacramento would have picked him. They were the only team in the league to have three 20 ppg scorers, were one of the worst defensive teams in the league and the absolute worst passing team, and they go out and draft another scorer. Yes, they needed three point shooting, but hey also need someone to play defense and get the ball to everyone else.
Plus they already have a promising young shooting guard in Ben McLemore.
Elfrid Payton or Zach LaVine would have made way more sense.
I mean, if they wanted three point shooting, they should never have waived Jimmer Fredette, who isn’t great at a lot of things, but he is a fantastic shooter.
Atlanta: Approaching Expectations
15. Adreian Payne
43. Walter Tavares
Adreian Payne should be a pretty good player, and he was a sleeper of mine, but I don’t know if he’s the best player available and I don’t know where he fits on the Hawks roster. They already have plenty of outside shooting and plenty of power forwards.
Oklahoma: Approaching Expectations
21. Mitch McGary
29. Josh Huestis
55. Semaj Christon
While I think Mitch McGary will be a decent role player, I thought Oklahoma not only picked him too high, passed up on players that would have helped them more, but also I’m not sure how he fits on the Thunder.
With Rodney Hood, P.J. Hairston and Kyle Anderson available, all who would have helped Oklahoma more, McGary will now end up being the fifth big man for the Thunder.
Clippers: Approaching Expectations
28. C.J. Wilcox
C.J. Wilcox has good physical tools and can shoot from three, but he’ll get lost behind several Clipper players and there were players available that not only were better, but would have helped them more, like K.J McDaniels and Jarnell Stokes. The Clippers biggest weakness is defense and especially interior defense, and Wilcox does nothing to improve that.