NBA TEAM DRAFT GRADES
The NBA Draft is such an inexact science that it’s really hard to issue grades for how a team fared on draft night, considering it usually takes several years before we can accurately assess the results of a given draft. Still, we do have the ability to simply look back and see which teams did the best with the picks they had, and the information we have at hand. Here are our NBA TEAM DRAFT GRADES
Atlanta Hawks — B+; The Hawks came out of draft night with a solid haul, although our draft grade for them is slightly elevated because they finally rid themselves of the carcinogenic Dwight Howard. That, in and of itself, is a step in the right direction. John Collins, their first round pick, could come in and be a long-term replacement for Paul Milsap, who could cash in during free agency this summer. Tyler Dorsey is a ‘tweener guard who can provide some instant offense off the bench.
Boston Celtics — C+; This pick should be viewed through the prism of 1) trading out of the top spot and bypassing the chance to take Markelle Fultz; and 2) failing to use the assets acquired to make a bigger splash. Jayson Tatum could end up being a really good player, and Semi Ojeleye was a nice pick in the second round. But for all the assets that Boston has acquired over the years, they’ve still failed to make that big time splash move to get them to the next level.
Brooklyn Nets — B; If you factor in the acquisition of D’Angelo Russell, whom they acquired in the days leading up to the draft, the Brooklyn Nets certainly took two steps in the right direction on Thursday evening, even if they were small ones. Russell could/should thrive with a change of scenery. And Jarrett Allen, whom they selected at #22 overall, can run the floor, block shots, and rebound. He’s someone the Nets can cultivate, alongside Russell.
Charlotte Hornets — C-; Charlotte’s low grade is more of a reflection of their acquisition of Dwight Howard, who’s left the last three teams he’s been on worse off than they were when he got there. That’s just not someone you want to add to a team that’s already coming off a disappointing season. Meanwhile, while Charlotte was able to grab Malik Monk with the #11 overall pick, which seemed almost unfathomable in the days leading up to the draft. But, the question with that selection is whether the tandem of he and Kemba Walker will represent a major defensive liability.
Chicago Bulls — F; If you’re a Bulls fan, one thing should’ve become painfully apparent last night: the Bulls are only interested in money, and not in winning. They (finally) moved Jimmy Butler, in exchange for two young players who can’t shoot, but are on palatable contracts. Then, they sold their second round pick to Golden State. In other words: they did absolutely nothing to make themselves better through the draft. It’s sad to see how far this once-proud organization has fallen.
Cleveland Cavaliers — Incomplete; Cleveland sat out of draft night entirely. If you’ve been paying attention, they clearly have other things to deal with right now.
Dallas Mavericks — B-; The Mavericks were desperately hoping to see Frank Ntilikina fall to them on draft night, only to see him go one pick before them (to New York). It was no secret that they dreamed of a future built on Ntilikina at point guard. So after missing out on him, they took Dennis Smith Jr. from North Carolina State. Smith is a crazy-athletic point guard who can be a lights-out shooter, but it will be interesting to see how he meshes with the no-nonsense coaching of Rick Carlisle.
Denver Nuggets — D+; Denver had the ability to add several athletic wing players to shore up one of the worst defenses in the NBA last season. Instead, they traded out of the #13 spot, and added Tyler Lydon: a “stretch 4” that might have been slightly overdrafted, likely in anticipation of Danilo Gallinari leaving town this offseason. Point being, they really didn’t do anything on draft night that actually made them a better team.
Detroit Pistons — B; Guard Luke Kennard from Duke University was one of the hottest names in the days leading up to the draft, and he goes to a team that needs someone who can shoot the ball like he can. One of the big questions in Detroit is whether Kennard’s arrival is a precursor to the departure of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who enters this summer as a restricted free agent.
Golden State Warriors — B; Golden State entered the draft with no picks, but thanks to the short-sighted (and outright stupid) frugality of the Chicago Bulls, they managed to walk out with a potential rotation player in Jordan Bell. The Warriors purchased the Bulls second round pick (#38 overall) and got a high-energy defensive wing with athleticism, toughness, and shot blocking skills.
Houston Rockets — B; Houston didn’t pick until #43 overall, but they made it count. Isaiah Hartenstein is a physical 7-foot forward from German who can score in a myriad of ways, and could’ve been a late first round selection. When he comes to the NBA remains to be seen, especially since he needs to both grow up, both on-and-off the court.
Indiana Pacers — B; It’s pretty difficult to criticize what Indiana did with their two draft picks. TJ Leaf can come in and be the “stretch 4” that so many teams covet in the NBA today, especially as he continues to develop his shooting range out to the three point line. In the second round, the Pacers selected Ike Anigbogu, who many people saw as a mid-1st round talent, but were scared off because of potential issues with his knee. If he hits, Indiana got an enormous steal.
Los Angeles Clippers — B+; For a team that entered the draft with zero draft picks, the Los Angeles Clippers added a couple of sneaky-good young talents to a team that’s rapidly starting to show its age. Jawun Evans is an undersized point guard who’s a gifted scorer, and Sindarius Thornwell from the University of South Carolina left legendary Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski gushing about him, after Thornwell led his Gamecocks to a victory over Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils in the NCAA Tournament.
Los Angeles Lakers — A-; Regardless of how you feel about his dad’s entrepreneurial ventures (and his way of going about them), Lonzo Ball is a beautiful fit for the Los Angeles Lakers. The responsibility of playing point for the storied franchise will not be too big for him, and his game is suited to make everyone else on that team better. Plus, he’ll be a huge selling point when the Lakers go out “star-chasing” during the 2018 free agency period. The Lakers other picks in the first round, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma, could either turn out to be solid role players, or valuable trade assets for a future move.
Memphis Grizzlies — C-; Memphis didn’t have a first round selection, and ended up with forward Dillon Brooks from the University of Oregon in the second round. Brooks is a versatile playmaker who can score in multiple ways and set up teammates, but he’s struggled as a defender, which obviously doesn’t bode well for him on a team like the Grizzlies.
Miami Heat — C-; Miami was put in a tough situation when their pick came up in Round 1, when all the top wings were gone by the time they picked. They took Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, who’s a super-athletic big man with great feet, but he’s mostly suited as a post player, and still has a ways to go offensively. Still, it would have been nice to see them take someone who could shoot the ball from the outside.
Milwaukee Bucks — B-; Forward D.J. Wilson, whom Milwaukee took with the 17th overall pick in the first round, adds another tall, long athletic piece to the front court. But was he the right selection there? If the Bucks really wanted to take a frontcourt player, John Collins from Wake Forest was rated by many as a better prospect than Wilson. Plus, Wilson still needs a few years of development before he can contribute offensively, and this Milwaukee team is playoff ready right now.
Minnesota Timberwolves — A: It’s really hard to not love what Minnesota did. They haven’t figured out what their backcourt of the future is going to be, but they knew it wasn’t going to include Zach Lavine or Kris Dunn. So they traded both of them… and got Jimmy Butler. His competitiveness and professionalism is going to be huge for the young guys there. Then, with the #16 overall pick, which they also squeezed out of Chicago, they took center Justin Patton from Creighton, who’s an athletic seven-footer with a lot of great defensive tools. It was a great evening for the Timberwolves.
New Orleans Pelicans — Some people called Frank Jackson from Duke University taken by the New Orleans Pelicans early in the second round, a “poor man’s Malik Monk.” They’re both 6’3 combo guards that can shoot the lights out when hot. The Pelicans backcourt is a total mess, so Jackson could come in and contribute, but he’s a bit too one-dimensional to contribute big minutes.
New York Knicks — B+; Frank Ntilikina, the team’s selection with the #8 overall pick, was exactly the type of player this team needs: a mature-beyond-his-years point guard with elite athleticism, and the modus operandi of looking to set up the rest of his teammates first. The fundamental question for him will be whether he can thrive in perhaps what has become the most dysfunctional organization in the NBA.
Oklahoma City Thunder — B; Terrance Ferguson fits the mold of what Oklahoma City has to do, when building a team around Russell Westbrook: find shooters who don’t need the ball in their hands, and can play defense. It’ll just be up to Billy Donovan to ensure Ferguson shows more consistency as a defender.
Orlando Magic — B; Jonathan Isaac was one of the most tantalizing draft picks in this class, given his combination of height, athleticism, defensive ability, and shooting potential. But, he still has a ways to go, as he continues to refine his tool set, and how will he fit in on a Magic team that’s already filled with “long” players in the front court?
Philadelphia 76ers — A; It’s never a bad thing when you walk out of the draft with the consensus best overall player. Markelle Fultz will add a scoring punch to a team loaded with young talent but still badly needs someone who can shoot. If they get anything out of Anzejs Pasecniks (a draft-and-stash pick later in the first round), and if one of their four second round picks turns into a player for them over the long-term, this could be a franchise-altering draft.
Phoenix Suns — A-; Suns General Manager was reportedly in favor of taking Josh Jackson over De’Aaron Fox, the latter of whom had many fans within the organization. But the addition of Jackson adds a super-athletic wing and aggressive defender alongside the wealth of guards and big men that the Suns already have. If he can develop a more consistent jump shot, Jackson has true star potential.
Portland Trail Blazers — B-; Portland paid a handsome price to move up to #10, trading away the #15 and #20 picks in round one. But they were zeroed in on taking Zach Collins from Gonzaga, whom they feel brings a combination of inside play and outside shooting. However, his ability to do the latter, and play off current center Jusuf Nurkic, is still a bit of a projection, and far from a sure thing.
Sacramento Kings — A-; Sacramento might not see immediate returns on their investments made on Thursday night, but they took several big steps in the right direction. They loved De’Aaron Fox from Kentucky, and were able to get him at #5. Justin Jackson (taken at #15) is capable of contributing right away, and Harry Giles (taken at #20) has as much pure talent in this draft as anyone. They had a very good night.
San Antonio Spurs — B; If any other team drafted Derrick White in the first round of the draft, we’d be talking about it being a reach. But when San Antonio does it, we have to believe they knew exactly what they’re doing. He’s a mature point guard who’ll pair perfectly with Dejounte Murray for the Spurs.
Toronto Raptors — B+; Heading into the draft, OG Anunoby from the University of Indiana was a near-consensus lottery pick, even after tearing the ACL in his knee this past January. Yet, he managed to fall out of the lottery, and into General Manager Masai Ujiri’s hands at #23. Assuming a full recovery from Anunoby, he’ll be the 3-and-D specialist for the Raptors that DeMarre Carroll has failed to become.
Utah Jazz — B-; Utah is another team in which all their moves should be viewed through the lens of one player: Gordon Hayward. If Hayward chooses to sign elsewhere in free agency this summer, he’ll leave a major hole in the Jazz’ ability to score points. Donovan Mitchell could help out with Hayward’s potential departure, but he doesn’t have anywhere near the shooting ability of the latter.
Washington Wizards — D+: For the fourth straight year in a row, Washington traded away it’s first round draft pick. If Bojan Bogdanovich leaves in free agency this year, they’ll have essentially given away the draft pick in order to dump the heinous contract that Ernie Grunfeld gave to Andrew Nicholson this past off-season. The Wizards then traded away their second round pick for reserve guard Tim Frazier from New Orleans, hoping he can end the revolving door they’ve had at the backup point guard position.