There was a strong feeling heading into Thursday's NBA draft that it might be one of the most unpredictable drafts in recent memory. That suspicion was confirmed right from the very start, and there was no shortage of surprises throughout the night.
A surprising pick doesn't always end up being a poor one, but picks can only be graded immediately following the draft based on what observers already know. The next few seasons will tell the story about which picks were great and which were awful, but it's fun to speculate in the meantime.
Here are the three biggest reaches from Thursday's draft. Each player listed will have to prove his critics wrong at the NBA level.
Most people usually have a pretty good idea of who the No. 1 overall pick is going to be heading into the draft. Even if it isn't set in stone, there is almost always a defined leader. That simply wasn't the case ahead of Thursday's draft, though, resulting in one of the most shocking picks in NBA history.
Alex Len, Nerlens Noel and perhaps even Victor Oladipo were considered viable candidates for the top pick, but the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the world by taking UNLV forward Anthony Bennett.
The Canadian-born star was a highly touted prospect heading into the collegiate ranks, and he didn't disappoint. As a freshman, the 6'8" forward averaged more than 16 points and eight rebounds per game, so he appears to be the real deal. At the same time, very few considered him to be No. 1 overall pick material. As Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld reports, media paid very little attention to Bennett the day before the draft, as nobody thought he would be the top pick.
It's possible Bennett will be a great player in the NBA, as he is an elite athlete and seems to have a great attitude, but the reach is even more perplexing when you consider the fact that the Cavs already have Tristan Thompson in place. The plan could be to play Bennett at small forward rather than power forward, but he is far more proficient as an interior player. Cleveland must have a plan of some kind, but Bennett doesn't seem like a great fit at No. 1 right now.
There is no doubt that one of the most intriguing prospects in this year's class is Greek swingman Giannis Antetokounmpo. At 6'9", he can certainly afford to bulk up, but he offers a skill set that arguably nobody else in this draft can match. While he obviously has a long way to go before being compared to Kevin Durant as a player, Antetokounmpo has a look similar to the Oklahoma City Thunder star.
It's unlikely the Milwaukee Bucks found the next KD, though.
The 18-year-old Antetokounmpo faced a very low level of competition this season as he averaged 9.5 points and five rebounds per game for Filathlitikos in Greece's second division. According to Fran Fraschilla on ESPN's draft coverage, Antetokounmpo hadn't played outside of Greece until a couple of months ago, so he is very much a mystery, causing some teams to be apprehensive, according to ESPN's Chad Ford.
There is an inherent danger in a player as raw as Antetokounmpo playing in the NBA from day one. He won't have an opportunity to play big minutes like he might have had in Greece, so frustration could set in, which could really stunt his progress. The Bucks are looking to the future, so they can afford to bring him along slowly, but the 15th pick seems awfully high for a player who has barely been tested against elite competition and hasn't been overly productive thus far.
It's difficult to be too critical of a pick in the latter half of the first round considering how comparatively weak this year's draft class was, but the Indiana Pacers' selection of Arizona forward Solomon Hill at No. 23 was a bit of a head-scratcher.
Hill was a blue-collar player for the Wildcats and a key cog over the past three seasons, but his upside is extremely limited, and most services graded him out as a second-round prospect at best.
That didn't stop the Pacers from taking him in the first round, though, as he appears to be a decent fit for what Indiana likes to do. Head coach Frank Vogel is probably hoping Hill becomes part of the rotation in the near future and gives him some hardworking minutes.
Even so, the pick raised a lot of eyebrows, and Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star even admitted he knew little about Hill besides his position.
A lack of notoriety doesn't mean Hill will flop, but the big issue is that two great fits went off the board right after Indiana picked Hill. The New York Knicks selected Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr., while the Los Angeles Clippers took North Carolina guard Reggie Bullock. Lance Stephenson was far too inconsistent for the Pacers last year, and they really could have used a great shooter at the guard position. Indiana then could have potentially gotten Hill in the second round anyway, so this has to be considered a reach.
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