So, the 2013 NBA Draft is now in the books, and it was certainly one of the more exciting ones in recent memory. The numerous surprises at the top combined with multiple significant trades allowed for seamless coverage that kept the discussion focused mostly on what matters. In fact, as much as I love the NFL Draft, league officials should take a lesson from the NBA, which allots teams five minutes to make their moves rather than the far-too-long 10 minutes given to NFL teams. I should also mention that I thought Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons did a quality job. I’ve never been a Simmons fan, but he was at his best last night in that particluar setting, when he wasn’t asked to break down basketball on the fly.
Anyway, as always, there were some winners and losers on the night, and I’ve done my best to thoughtfully address most of them below.
Atlanta: Let’s start with the team closest to home, your beloved Hawks. I should start by saying they did about as much as they could, save moving Al Horford for something more substantial. In staying put, though, Atlanta managed to get at least one, and possibly two promising prospects. I’ll begin with German PG Dennis Schroeder, who I think has the chance to be really good sometime in the relatively near future. The 19-year-old not only plays a position at which the Hawks are weak (assuming Danny Ferry lets Jeff Teague walk), but he was also the best talent available at No. 17. Simply put, the kid has tremendous potential, combining excellent size and athleticism with a quality shot and great feel for the game. Schroader gets to the hoop with frequency, creates for others willingly, and has the ability to play stingy defense when he wants. He’s young, and is said to have some issues with work ethic and immaturity, but with little else available at the time, I give Atlanta credit for grabbing a guy that can be an impact player down the road. Of course, the team also traded its second pick for Brazilian center Lucas Nogueira, who originally went to Boston with the 16th selection in the first round. Like Schroeder, Nogueira is young, raw and may be a few years away from contributing. At first glance, though, you have to like his size (7-0, 220) and athleticism (runs the floor extremely well), as well as his potential to become a game-changing shot blocker. But Like many young bigs, Nogueira lacks offensive polish, knowledge of the game, and necessary weight. And, unlike Schroeder, I’m not sure the Brazilian will ever have a real shot at becoming a star. When you consider, then, that Atlanta gave up a top prospect in Shane Larkin (the guy the Hawks originally took at No. 18) to get Nogueira, I’m a bit less impressed. With that said, it was still a positive draft for Atlanta, even if it’s not one that will help the team in the season to come.
Orlando: When Anthony Bennett of UNLV went to Cleveland with the first overall pick, it meant the Magic essentially moved into that No. 1 spot (Orlando had about five guys on its radar, none of whom were AB). Still, the Magic didn’t flinch, refusing to bite on Nerlens Noel (the guy everyone assumed they wanted but wouldn’t have the chance to get) and instead opting for Victor Oladipo, the player the team apparently had atop its board the entire time. It’s a good thing, too, because Oladipo is considered by just about everyone to be the safest pick in the draft, a player with unique defensive talents in addition to considerable offensive upside. Additionally, Oladipo is the type of smart, committed, hard working kid around which the Magic hope to build. With Oladipo, Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic and Andrew Nicholson forming a young Orlando nucleus, the Magic are a solid example of why getting bad (sported 2012’s worst record after blowing things up by getting rid of Dwight) in an effort to get good isn’t always so awful.
Philadelphia: The Sixers had perhaps the strongest night of any team in the league, turning PG Jrue Holiday into C Nerlens Noel, PG Michael Carter-Williams and New Orleans’ first round pick in the loaded 2014 Draft (1-5 protected). Sure, Holiday was an all-star at one of the game’s most important positions, but Philly is undeniably in rebuild mode and Holiday couldn’t effectively be a part of that plan. So, instead of keeping him, they moved the young star and in return got excellent prospects at the 5 and 1, plus a likely lottery pick next season. Also, Holiday would have made the Sixers a playoff team this coming season, which clearly wouldn’t have aided them in the rebuild process, either. Instead, Philly managed to get two promising prospects and a top pick next year while staying bad enough to ensure their 2014 pick falls within the lottery as well. Add it all up, and Philly essentially received four top prospects for Jrue Holiday. Not too shabby for a team that had little hope heading into the night.
Minnesota: The Timberwolves had a great night, turning the No. 9 pick, Trey Burke, into UCLA SG Shabazz Muhammad and National Champion C Gorgui Dieng. People can knock Muhammad all they want, but the guy can flat out score, and still has room to improve. Don’t forget, he was the No. 1 recruit in all of America just one short year ago and, while recruiting services have been known to get things wrong, there’s still plenty to like about the former Bruin’s game. Not to mention he will have the perfect running mate in Ricky Rubio, a guy who doesn’t score much but excels at finding those who do (cough, cough…Shabazz Muhammad). Add to Muhammad Louisville center Gorgui Dieng – a guy who rebounds a ton, defends the rim and hits the open jumper – and Minnesota received two valuable assets in exchange for a PG, something the Wolves already have.
Others: There are a few other teams that didn’t necessarily move the meter, but did well where they sat. If I’m Detroit, I’m not giving up on Brandon Knight at the PG spot just yet, and am super excited about pairing him with a dynamic athlete/shooter in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope; Oklahoma City can no longer count on Kendrick Perkins at the five, and needs post scoring in the worst kind of way, so taking a swing-for-the-fences type approach with 7-footer Steven Adams made tons of sense; It didn’t take much thought, but Sacramento should at least be recognized for getting perhaps the most talented player in the draft when Ben McLemore fell in its lap at No. 7; Dallas managed to trade back, cut cap space and still get a PG that can flat out light it up in Miami’s Shane Larkin; And Utah traded up to get its PG of the future – Trey Burke – while also stashing away a center with big upside in Rudy Gobert.
Cleveland: This pick confused me on a number of levels. First, I should point out that Anthony Bennett is 20 years old and reportedly weighs approximately 260 pounds at 6-8. I’m not saying he weighs too much to play in the NBA, but I am saying he weighs WAY too much to play the three spot. Assuming, then, that he will end up at power forward, I should next point out that Cleveland already has Tristan Thompson, a young power forward they drafted with the fourth overall pick just two years ago. Perhaps the Cavs think Thompson can guard opposing threes while Bennett mans the spot on offense, but I just don’t see that happening, which it makes it difficult to envision these guys productively playing together. I get taking the best available player, but I have a hard time accepting a team that chooses to duplicate talent with the first overall pick, especially when doing so makes little strategic sense. What do I mean by that? Well consider that virtually no one else considered Anthony Bennett the top prospect available. Of course, that means even if Cleveland did (and it did), the Cavs could have traded back and still landed their guy. So not only did Cleveland draft a guy to play a position they already have filled, but they did so about three or four spots too high. Yuck.
Phoenix: Not only am I not sold on Maryland C Alex Len, the guy they chose with the fifth overall pick, but I also think the Suns made a huge mistake in passing on Nerlens Noel. Noel was a difference maker when he was healthy at Kentucky, and has boatloads of room for growth. Len, on the other hand, didn’t make first, second or third team All-ACC in 2013, averaging just 11.9 points and 7.8 rebounds during his second season in college. Again, Noel was more productive at a younger age and with less experience, and also is the better athlete with more room for growth.
Charlotte: For similar reasons, I didn’t like Charlotte’s selection of Cody Zeller with the fourth pick. I think Zeller offers more certainty, but less upside than the aforementioned Len, but he is neither as safe nor as promising as Noel, and Ben McLemore was available when Charlotte picked, too. In other words, the Bobcats could have gone in multiple better directions than the one they chose. But, hey, that’s Michael Jordan for ya.
Portland: The Trail Blazers went with Lehigh’s CJ McCollum when they picked at No. 10. To me, this pick is interesting on a few levels. First, McCollum is mostly a PG, which Portland already has in Damian Lillard. You have to wonder, then, which player they will move to SG. With that said, McCollum is a scoring savant and should team up with Lillard in quite exciting fashion. Again, I’m not sure exactly how they will fit together, but they certainly give Portland loads of talent in the backcourt for years to come.
Boston/Broolyn: If you don’t alrady know, Boston continued its transition to rebuild mode Thursday night, trading Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to Brooklyn for three first-round picks, Kris Humphries (expiring deal), Gerald Wallace, MarShone Brooks and more. Though Wallace brings with him a rather large contract, Boston managed to create some cap space and begin starting over. What’s more interesting, however, is Brooklyn’s side of things. Sure, the Nets took on a ton in salaries and didn’t get any younger, but Brooklyn has winning now in mind, even with a first-year head coach – Jason Kidd – roaming the sidelines. Criticize the Nets all you want, but they will open the season with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez in the starting five. Is that a title-winning lineup? Maybe not. But, in the sometimes-unpredictable NBA, it certainly gives the Nets a fighting chance (this team looks every bit as strong as San Antonio did heading into 2013, or as Dallas did prior to its championship run three years ago).
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