Jim Brighters - NBA Editor Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Let us wade through our yearly ridiculous exercise of analyzing a draft class not only before they play a single game, but also before their new teams have established an identity through free agency.
This draft is harder to grade quickly for a few reasons.
This was not a terribly deep draft and only two teams had two first-round picks - the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. That means we are grading out on one pick in most cases, which doesn't really qualify as a "draft class."
Again, though, we must.
The Rockets selected Sam Dekker with the 18th pick and Montrezl Harrell with the 32nd pick. Oddly enough, I'm not ga-ga over either pick, but where they were selected makes this an easy win for Houston.
ESPN's Marc Stein reported on Thursday that the Rockets intend to once again go full force into the free-agent market for either LaMarcus Aldridge or Kevin Love. Stop me if you heard this before, but the Rockets will have to trim pay roll to afford either. That means some veterans in Houston are going to be veterans elsewhere.
Dekker and Harrell can both step in immediately and contribute in the event the Rockets shred their roster to bits to try and shoehorn another high-priced talent without the slightest regard for fit.
Karl-Anthony Towns was the correct pick, but prying Duke's Tyus Jones for two second-round picks was a nice piece of business. Jones isn't going to supplant Ricky Rubio, although someone should, but he's a capable back up in the NBA.
The Timberwolves have assembled a roster loaded with young talent. Flip Saunders has no intention of being the long-term coach, but now he's built a group that could attract a big-time leader.
Emmanuel Mudiay may have slid and he may not be able to shoot, but he's a great value at No. 7, especially for Denver. The Nuggets want to get back to that up-tempo style in which they thrived under George Karl.
Mudiay is a freak athletically. Guarding him in the open court will be a massive challenge. Plus, Mudiay's selection brought us this bizarre, little gem from Ty Lawson -
Justise Winslow was the unfortunate victim of the slide and Miami was the beneficiary. In fact, the teams that passed on Winslow are going to appear later on this web page because of neglecting Winslow.
The Duke product can walk into the NBA and start. In a league looking for versatility and forwards who can do different things, Winslow is that. He can push the break out of a rebound like Golden State's Draymond Green. Winslow's a winner, a defender and a leader, and if his fellow Duke alum Luol Deng boogies in free agency, Winslow can start. If Deng stays, Winslow will find rotational minutes and, again, at No. 10, the Heat committed robbery.
OTHER WINNERS: ORLANDO took Mario Hezonja for shooting needs; OKLAHOMA CITY took Cameron Payne for backup point guard help; CHICAGO took Bobby Portis at 22 to add bulk if it trades Taj Gibson to free up money for Jimmy Butler; GOLDEN STATE took Kevon Looney at 30 for immense value that late.
THE "I GET IT" GROUP
NEW YORK KNICKS
This was really a three-man draft for studs with Towns, D'Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor. The Knicks sat at four and in need of a home run, they swung for the fences with Kristaps Porzingis, who had the biggest superstar potential of anyone left.
Porzingis got booed, but Mudiay didn't have a No. 4 value, at least not in the minds of Phil Jackson and other Knicks brass. If the Knicks couldn't move down and acquire a viable, young impact player, then Porzingis offers the most potential and that's what drafting is about.
The Knicks aren't afforded the same timetable as a Minnesota, or Philadelphia, or Orlando. New York has a max player who is going to languish unless it gets something in place for him to thrive with sooner rather than later. Granted, Porzingis is a project, but he's not years away. Maybe two tops and Carmelo Anthony will still be around.
It's a tough sell, but it's just the unbearable amount of misfortune in picking fourth in a three-star draft.
Also, I loved the deal that sent Tim Hardaway for Jerian Grant. Grant is a tough, two-way guard who won't wilt in Madison Square Garden. Jackson made a great trade.
Another big man is one thing, but did they have to select every big man in the world in the second round?
Here's the question the Sixers faced at No. 3 after the Los Angeles Lakers stole their guy in Russell - did anyone else warrant being taken third beside Okafor?
That's the most important question because no matter how many big men are under a Sixers' contract, they are in no position to draft by position when they are this bad.
Okafor can score 15 points a game in Philadelphia next season. Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel can't. And, with two big-man spots on the floor in a 48-minute game, this trio could average 33 minutes per game and everyone will be fine.
The Sixers need guard help. That's a fact not even the most devoted Sam Hinkie analytics acolyte could dispute. So, should Philly have taken Mudiay just because they need guards, despite the fact that Okafor has so much more potential? That's a dangerous way of thinking. Value supercedes need when you're terrible, plus, Okafor may in fact become a need if Embiid can't play again.
My predecessor, John McMullen, says, "luck is not a plan." On this day, he's more correct than ever. Hinkie's plan to stink for high picks is solid logically in a basketball-isolated bubble, but when that luck-based strategy nets the Sixers the third pick, it can bite you. The Sixers missed out on Andrew Wiggins and now Russell, and the value plugged in at No. 3 has happened to be big men. (Lest we forget Dario Saric toiling over in Europe for at least next season.)
It looks bad because Russell was a great fit, but Hinkie took the best player available each time and if Embiid can actually play, they'll have two stud offensive big men.
Now, Sixers fans, just worry that's it not a big-man league anymore.
OTHER "I GET ITS": LA LAKERS took Russell at 2, but Larry Nance, Jr. in the first round was a stretch; BOSTON took Terry Rozier at 16 and that was too high, but R.J. Hunter at 28 was a steal that low; TORONTO got a first-round pick for Greivis Vasquez, which is amazing, but took Delon Wright instead of power-forward help, which was available at 20.
At this point, I wouldn't trust Michael Jordan picking sides in a dodge ball game.
Frank Kaminsky might be a good pro. He can shoot from deep and handle better than most bigs. The NBA is gravitating toward big men who can shoot.
However, who is Kaminsky going to guard in the NBA? If he's paired with Al Jefferson up front, Kaminsky won't be quick enough to defend power forwards, nor will he be strong enough to defend centers.
That will make him potentially a liability. Plus, Jefferson, Cody Zeller and the newly-acquired Spencer Hawes meant there wasn't a profound need for another big.
The Kaminsky selection was perhaps slightly too high for a player with so many question marks. Winslow went one pick later and he could see time immediately backing up Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, or Nicolas Batum. (Eventually start for Kidd-Gilchrist.) Needing more wing help, coupled with being the worst 3-point shooting team, should have meant Winslow or Devin Booker, the best shooter in the draft.
This was the most baffling Winslow whiff.
Detroit took Stanley Johnson from Arizona, who is capable. The Pistons needed small-forward help, thus, the Johnson selection. Winslow is a small forward. He is a better one than Johnson both currently and in projection. The Pistons passing on Winslow makes absolutely no sense to me.
OTHER LOSERS: INDIANA took Myles Turner, but with premium on playing up-tempo, felt like Payne was a better fit; MILWAUKEE traded a first-round pick for Vasquez, a backup point guard who makes $6.6 million and isn't better than Jerryd Bayless, its current backup point guard.