No team made as big of an improvement as the Utah Jazz did at the 2013 NBA draft.
Draft grades are being handed out around the Association for picks that many won’t see on the court for years—if ever. Lost in all of this analysis are some of the key moves that helped teams get significantly better sooner rather than later.
Trading up to acquire Trey Burke could be a franchise-defining move for the Jazz, making their draft the highlight of the night.
How did every other team around the league fare?
We’ll take a look below at how each franchise improved or took steps backward by handing out grades for each NBA team.
If there is one thing we know about the Cleveland Cavaliers, it’s that we don’t know very much at all. In a draft that was anything but top-heavy, Cleveland threw us a curveball for the second year in a row.
Anthony Bennett was more of a knuckleball than a curveball, though. Cleveland needed a stretch forward who can open things up and feed off Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving. He can also slide into either the three or four position depending on the team’s lineup. If not for his seeming disinterest in playing defense, this pick would have been a slam dunk.
Grabbing Sergey Karasev later in the first round was a big move for a team that has struggled to get production out of its wings. Karasev appears to be a talented point forward who is already developed and ready to contribute significantly sooner rather than later.
You can’t blame a team for going the safe route after finishing terribly the season before. That’s what the Orlando Magic did with the No. 2 pick in the draft.
Victor Oladipo is a very well-rounded player who developed a much-improved perimeter game during his last season at Indiana. His overall potential may prevent him from becoming an All-Star, but the shooting guard is ready to contribute from day one for a team that needed significant help in their backcourt.
The building process in Orlando is going to take time, but it now has a key piece in moving on in its post-Dwight Howard life.
No team addressed both need and value as well as the Washington Wizards did with their first pick. Needing a quality two-way wing player, the Wiz went with a safe pick who can stay on the floor to contribute meaningful minutes.
Otto Porter is a gamer who has a decent all-around skill set. Combined with John Wall, he has the potential to become a very potent weapon for the team. If he can continue to improve his perimeter shooting he will excel in that role. Defensively, Porter has the tools and size to develop into a tenacious defender on the wing.
Glen Rice Jr. slipped into the second round, but the Wizards ended his day by trading the No. 38 and No. 54 picks to grab the viable scorer. He might not be a starter, at least initially, but you have to like the team’s aggressiveness to add wing players that will benefit from the team’s fast-growing offensive identity.
Throw conventional wisdom out the door at the NBA draft. Michael Jordan shunned popular opinion by making Cody Zeller the first center off of the board.
The Bobcats didn’t take home any other players in the draft and passed up on the chance to add a more versatile scoring center in Alex Len—something they needed in their frontcourt. Time will tell the true tale of this selection, but it doesn’t sit well considering who else was available when they were on the clock.
Most analysts were split on Alex Len’s potential at the next level heading into the draft. The Cleveland Cavaliers, believed to be considering the 7-footer, passed on him after doing extensive work vetting his game. When he fell to No. 5 overall, Phoenix leapt at the chance to improve its frontcourt’s offensive ability.
Len is a rangy big man who can open up the paint with his decent perimeter game. Phoenix already has Luis Scola in the paint as a banger, but Len doesn’t appear to have the talent to be that type of inside presence.
Grabbing a solid perimeter prospect in Archie Goodwin at the end of the first round was the Suns’ saving grace after a slight head-scratcher at pick No. 5.
New Orleans Pelicans
You can’t blame the New Orleans Pelicans for jumping at a chance to grab Nerlens Noel once he slipped past the first five spots. If healthy, there was little chance the former Kentucky shot-blocker would have ever been on the board.
Rather than taking a shot on an unproven commodity at point guard, the Pelicans addressed their need by trading away Noel to the Philadelphia 76ers for the very young and promising Jrue Holiday. The 22-year-old was an All-Star last season for the first time in his career and is coming into his own in the NBA.
In giving up two first-round picks, including the rights to Noel, the Pelicans took a swing for the fences. Luckily their 2014 pick is top-five protected, giving them a much-needed shot at some of the top talent in next year’s talent-rich draft class if they flounder again this season.
Landing arguably the best player in the draft with the seventh pick can’t be a bad thing, right? Ben McLemore is a pure shooter who has potential to be a dominant three-point specialist for a Sacramento Kings team that has expiring contracts all over their backcourt.
McLemore has been knocked as not having the personality or confidence to be a star in the NBA. If that’s the only reason teams passed on him six times then the Kings are in great shape with this selection. Bringing a shooter into the game with his range keeps defenses honest which will give DeMarcus Cousins some much-needed breathing room in the paint.
The Detroit Pistons could have benefited from selecting Michigan native Trey Burke with the No. 8 pick in more ways than one. However, the plan in Detroit seems to include Brandon Knight sliding into that role, although he fits better on the floor at the 2-guard spot.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a good option for a team looking for an all-around shooting guard who can do a little bit of everything. Was he picked a little higher here than he should have been? Maybe. Should the Pistons have made everyone happy by going with Burke? Probably.
Tony Mitchell was a bit of a gamble, but a gamble worth taking in the less-heralded second round. He can provide help in the frontcourt at multiple positions and has tremendous potential that Detroit hopes he can translate to NBA success.
Thankfully the Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t draft another point guard in Trey Burke. That would have been absurd, right?
Shabazz Muhammad was an excellent pickup after the Wolves traded Burke to Utah, especially considering that the team was probably targeting him at No. 9 overall. Muhammad is instant offense and could potentially become a top scorer on the Wolves lineup. With key pieces like Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love in place, that isn’t too far-fetched.
With Love and Nikola Pekovic already in the middle, Gorgui Dieng provides the team with an excellent alternate option. He may not be a viable scorer like either of those two, but he has the potential to be a force to be reckoned with defensively in the paint.
Portland Trail Blazers
We don’t know who the Portland Trail Blazers were targeting at No. 10 overall, but let’s assume the prospect they wanted was off of the board. That’s the best way to help make sense of their selection of C.J. McCollum.
While not a bad prospect, it’s hard to see where McCollum fits. Initially he will likely backup Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard in a sixth-man role, but where does he go from there? Like Lillard, McCollum is a short combo guard with good all-around skills at the position. Perhaps they didn’t see a center they liked enough to use the pick on and went with value over need.
Allen Crabbe is a pure shooter. However, it’s hard to imagine how a timeshare in the Blazers’ now-crowded backcourt will work out. Jeff Withey was a solid second-round pick, giving the team a potentially solid option at center. But it's not like he's a potent two-way option for the team.
After trading away rising star Jrue Holiday and drafting a center who won’t be ready to play until Christmas, it looks like the Philadelphia 76ers have become the first team to enter the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes.
Noel and point guard Michael Carter-Williams are the first of a new wave of 76ers, but are they the right direction for the team? Trading away a proven commodity like Holiday is never wise, although it’s hard to deny that the team was headed for this rebuild. The writing was on the wall after they dealt Andre Iguodala. Andrew Bynum flopped last season and didn’t play a game for the team.
Planning for the future is one thing, but making risky picks and trading away young and proven talent is not the best way to go about it.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder probably wanted to move up or down and out of the No. 12 pick but couldn’t on draft day. That might explain why they went with a project center with that selection in Steven Adams.
Andre Roberson is a one-dimensional player that won’t give the team very many minutes, if any, initially. Alex Abrines is an excellent spot-shooter with good upside, but won’t likely see the NBA any time soon.
Overall, the Thunder are perennial title contenders and didn’t do very much to get better for next season during this draft.
Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks are gearing up for yet another run at the top free agents in the NBA. Before that run begins they added two competent backcourt additions and some future draft picks in the process.
After trading down, the Mavs still got point guard Shane Larkin, who they likely would have picked had they stayed in the No. 13 pick. Larkin is small, but he plays bigger and has the athleticism to make up for that shortcoming. The biggest question is whether or not he can hold his own on the defensive side of the ball.
The Utah Jazz pulled off the best trade of the draft in order to land the point guard they wanted to lead their franchise—Trey Burke.
Burke is easily the best point guard in this draft and the Jazz, realizing that, parted with their two first-round picks in order to finally add a floor general it hopes can revitalize the organization.
Rudy Gobert was an understated pick later in the first round. He could eventually find himself playing significant minutes in a frontcourt that is currently in flux.
Are the Milwaukee Bucks the next team giving up on next season in order to begin to rebuild? With Brandon Jennings on the trade block (h/t Gery Woelfel of JournalTimes.com) and Monta Ellis entering free agency, that appears to be the case.
Factor in that they selected small forward Giannis Adetokunbo—who shouldn’t find himself on the court next season—and the Bucks are becoming heavy favorites for a top selection next season.
What is Danny Ainge thinking right now?
Kelly Olynyk is a versatile scorer but screams reach at No. 13, especially after Ainge surrendered two future assets in order to move up for the center’s rights.
The Celtics are starting over and it could be a couple of seasons—at least—until they become legitimate contenders again.
The Atlanta Hawks have needs all over the floor and addressed two of their primary concerns with their two first-round picks.
Lucas Nogueria is a legitimate presence in the paint, legitimizing their frontcourt defense. His development will be a key to the Hawks’ rebuild. He should also allow Al Horford to slide over to power forward, his more natural position.
Adding another international player, the Hawks went out and got an NBA-ready point guard in Dennis Schroeder who can get to the rim and score. His ability to facilitate for his teammates will be his biggest question mark heading into his Hawks career.
The Chicago Bulls had options with their first-round pick and chose to select a project wing player and potential eventual replacement for Luol Deng. Deng becomes a free agent after next season, giving this pick some credence.
Tony Snell is a raw prospect but has the type of defensive acumen that this organization demands from its players.
The big story for the Brooklyn Nets revolved around blockbuster trade talks with the Boston Celtics. However, they also snagged a very competent frontcourt addition in center Mason Plumlee.
Added to the mix, Plumlee can provide the Nets with key bench contributions right off of the bat. It’s surprising that he made it to this point given his two-way skills and developing post game, but the Nets won’t complain.
Indiana could have definitely benefited from adding to its backcourt, especially given its need for a competent secondary option at point guard.
After struggling to score points at times last season, though, the Pacers went with a potentially potent offensive producer in Arizona’s Solomon Hill. Hill certainly has some talent and may be able to eventually provide the team with security in the event Paul George or Danny Granger are injured or leave town.
On the surface, this pick doesn’t do too much to help even the gap between the Pacers and Miami Heat—which is hard to do anyway while drafting in the 20s.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers have a lot of pieces already in place to be legitimate contenders year in and year out. Finding a competent wing scorer seems like a no-brainer for Doc Rivers in his first move with the team.
Reggie Bullock may not be a heavy minutes guy, at least initially, but he can provide excellent relief off of the bench with his ability to stretch defenses. His shot is pretty and he should definitely carve out a significant role for himself off of the bench.
The Denver Nuggets didn’t have much to work with without a first-round pick. They didn’t exactly get much better with their second-round picks either, but they are a solid team still heading into free agency.
Grabbing the NCAA’s leading scorer in the middle of the second round was a good move. Erick Green will provide the team with another competent shooter who can help open things up for the slashing Nuggets’ offense.
Not making a pick may seem like a bad decision, but the Toronto Raptors are a talented young team with some budding talent. If they can add a piece or two in free agency this offseason won’t be a total wash for the Canadian club.
San Antonio Spurs
It’s hard to discount any player selected by a premier organization like the defending Western Conference champions.
Livio Jean-Charles of France, the San Antonio Spurs’ first-round pick, may not see any time in the NBA for quite some time, but it’s hard to question the team’s ability to cultivate talent after their extended run of success over the past decade-plus.
It’s no secret that the Houston Rockets want to reconstruct Jeremy Lin’s bloated contract. Taking a point guard with their only pick in the draft doesn’t have much to do with that, especially considering that Isaiah Canaan doesn’t project well as a facilitator at the NBA level.
Canaan’s selection isn’t a confusing one, as he was a high-rated prospect, but he won’t likely make a big impact. The Rockets, who are focusing on free agency, probably aren’t too concerned with that fact, either.
Los Angeles Lakers
The uncertainty in Los Angeles is coming to a head this offseason. With Dwight Howard hitting free agency, Kobe Bryant returning from a serious late-season injury and Steve Nash on the decline, it’s hard to imagine this team getting any better this offseason.
By selecting a 7-footer with range in Ryan Kelly, the Lakers may have added a bench contributor for its frontcourt but the move doesn’t scream improvement. It’s hard to do much with a late second-round pick, but it wasn’t a terrible move either.
Former San Diego State star Jamaal Franklin has the potential to be the steal of the 2013 NBA draft. Landing a player with his versatility and scoring ability well into the second round is a coup for an already talented Memphis Grizzlies team.
New York Knicks
J.R. Smith’s future will determine much of the New York Knicks’ first-round pick's immediate contributions. Tim Hardaway Jr. was an excellent pick for a team strapped for cash and looking to add a competent, long-term insurance policy on the wing.
Paired with an excellent frontcourt and the scoring talents of Carmelo Anthony, Hardaway Jr. could blossom into one of the finer players from this draft.
It’s hard to improve on a team with a star-studded lineup like the Miami Heat, especially when the team only possessed two late second-round selections.
This grade should really be an incomplete because we won’t know very much at all about their two selections until much later, if ever.
Golden State Warriors
Without having a pick in this draft, the Golden State Warriors did OK for themselves when the smoke cleared.
After trading into the first round, the Warriors moved back to the final pick of the round. They went with a point guard with explosive athleticism in Nemanja Nedovic of Serbia. While he may not play initially, Nedovic may provide the team with a competent backup point guard in the event they part ways with Jarrett Jack this summer.
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