NBA Draft 2014: The Biggest Surprises of the Night
Even the most savvy mock-drafting prognosticators are consistently stunned by what actually goes down on NBA draft night. So long as we onlookers remain on the outside of every organization's thought process, that's inevitable.
And that's to say nothing of the trades that invariably get in the way of our best guesses, reshuffling the deck and generating all kinds of ripple effects in turn.
If anyone really knew what was going to happen during the draft, we probably wouldn't watch it so intently.
The 2014 edition was no different.
While there weren't as many trades as one might have hoped for, a couple of highly-touted prospects slid below where they were predicted to fall. And one guy you've probably never heard of went at No. 20. Unforeseen things definitely happened.
Here's a look at the most surprising of them all.
7. Doug McDermott Gets Traded to Chicago Bulls for No. 16 and No. 19
Draft-day trades are the surprises that are never all that surprising. This one definitely raises an eyebrow, though.
The Denver Nuggets swung a deal with Chicago—sending Creighton swingman Doug McDermott to the Windy City in exchange for the No. 16 and No. 19 picks. By the time the deal was finalized, Denver's Anthony Randolph was also shipped to Chicago.
Here's what's not surprising. The Bulls had every reason to try to move up for a lottery pick, particularly a sweet-shooting scorer like McDermott. As the organization pursues premier free-agent talent, having a top-shelf, NBA-ready prospect around certainly couldn't hurt the recruitment efforts.
That said, was McDermott worth giving up both the No. 16 and No. 19 picks? Of course, only time will tell. But in a draft this deep, on its face, that seems like a steep price to pay. It just goes to show that teams will go to great lengths to get their guy, especially when that guy can shoot like McDermott.
The Creighton product averaged 26.7 points last season, and that probably tells you all you need to know about his ability to fill it up.
6. Gary Harris Falls to No. 19
He's a fine defender and a strong finisher, and he'll run the floor in transition. Best of all, Gary Harris is a knockdown shooter.
Somehow, though, the 19-year-old fell to No. 19 in the draft. He was slotted by many to be selected in the lottery, so his fall certainly comes as a mild surprise. The only real knock against him is that—at 6'4"—he's slightly undersized for the shooting guard spot.
Nevertheless, Harris was an absolute steal for Denver.
Consider his jump-shooting ability. DraftExpress' Matt Kamalsky broke down the numbers, writing:
Harris' shooting breakdown, however, stands out in two areas that explain his middle-of-the-road efficiency. 74.7 percent of Harris' shot attempts last season were jump shots, the second largest percentage of any player in this group. He scored a top-5 ranked 1.05 points per-shot on those attempts.
Given that Harris could very easily have gone when Denver originally picked (at No. 11), the Nuggets wound up getting a great deal in return for the rights to Doug McDermott.
5. Noah Vonleh Slips to the Charlotte Hornets at No. 9
Despite his impressive NCAA production, Noah Vonleh slipped to No. 9 on Thursday. Some mock drafts had the 18-year-old going as high as No. 4.
The Indiana product can stretch the floor with his jump-shooting ability, but he's also more than capable of blocking shots with his long reach and big hands. In short, he had all of the tools to be a top-five pick.
He does still have some work to do, but that should come in time.
DraftExpress' Derek Bodner explains:
Vonleh measured out well in a number of situational statistics, but his overall low usage shows the growth he still needs to make to fully take advantage of his physical tools, as well as the confidence and assertiveness to really make his mark on a game offensively.
Wherever he belonged in this draft, Vonleh still managed to go in the top 10, and that's not too shabby.
The pick turned out to be a great one for the Charlotte Hornets, who needed the help alongside Al Jefferson on the front line. After having a breakthrough 2013-14 campaign, Charlotte was in need of an NBA-ready prospect who could help take them to the next level.
Thanks to Vonleh's slide, the Hornets may have gotten just that.
4. Boston Celtics Take Point Guard Marcus Smart with No. 6
Based on talent alone, it's no surprise the Boston Celtics selected Marcus Smart at No. 6. The odd part is that the Celtics already have a franchise point guard in Rajon Rondo.
Apparently, the C's were committed to taking the best available talent regardless of position. But this could also mean something more. It could mean the next step in Boston's rebuild is trading away Rondo, paving the way for Smart to take over what's destined to become a younger roster.
Boston could get some good young prospects for Rondo, so if the organization is committed to going through with its rebuild without holding back, a painful parting of ways may be in order.
Per Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, after being drafted, Smart told reporters, "I'd like to think I have an NBA ready body. I'm a great teammate and I'd like to win."
The 20-year-old is tenacious and should make a name for himself in the league soon enough. The Oklahoma State product knows how to put his head down and get to the basket. He's already a proven playmaker who will demand minutes from the outset.
Now—barring a trade—the trick will be finding those minutes.
3. Philadelphia 76ers Take Joel Embiid at No. 3 Despite Health Concerns
Whether we should really be surprised is a matter of opinion. Joel Embiid was long considered such an elite prospect that many analysts predicted he'd be taken with the first overall pick. But concerns over his health and a subsequent foot surgery changed all of that.
It suddenly became entirely possible that Embiid could fall as far as the Los Angeles Lakers' selection at No. 7.
The Philadelphia 76ers didn't let that happen. Despite the high probability that Embiid will miss a significant portion of the 2014-15 season, the Sixers were eager to snatch up a guy who has all kinds of upside.
Embiid is a strong defender with already-polished moves in the post, making him an extremely rare commodity—especially at just 20 years old.
There's a chance he becomes the next Greg Oden, but there's also a chance he develops into the next Hakeem Olajuwon. If you're a risk-taker, it's hard to ignore the optimistic outlook.
The selection was also somewhat of a surprise because the Sixers already have 2013 pick Nerlens Noel in the frontcourt. It remains to be seen whether the organization will keep both big men, but it has certainly accrued some valuable assets—all the more valuable if Embiid can stay healthy in time.
2. Toronto Raptors Take Brazilian Bruno Caboclo at No. 20
Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri must be thinking one step ahead of everyone else.
Otherwise, you could probably call this one a reach. At the very least, it's a risk.
With a number of proven prospects still available at No. 20, the Toronto Raptors instead took Bruno Caboclo, an emerging star in Brazil. He wasn't even on most draft boards, so the decision took virtually everyone by surprise.
At the moment, Caboclo remains very raw. He has fantastic length at 6'9" and impressive athleticism, but he's still a long way from becoming a productive NBA player.
In time, Toronto's bold move may well pay off. But it will indeed take time.
And that's perhaps what's most perplexing of all. After having a breakthrough 2013-14 campaign, you might have expected the Raptors to go with more of a known quantity—perhaps someone like the still-available Shabazz Napier.
So much for that.
1. Aaron Gordon Goes to the Orlando Magic at No. 4
The top truly noteworthy surprise of the night was the Orlando Magic's decision to select Aaron Gordon with the No. 4 overall pick. On the basis of sheer athleticism, the 18-year-old is plenty capable of turning heads.
Nevertheless, many figured Orlando would select its point guard of the future with Australian Dante Exum, who instead fell to the No. 5 pick belonging to the Utah Jazz. With point guard Jameer Nelson now past his prime, it reasoned that the Magic might snatch Exum without thinking twice about it.
Instead, they get a fine two-way player who can jump out of the gym. Gordon's ability to play defense may have been appealing to Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan, who's looking to build this team from that aspect.
And as it turned out, the Magic eventually snagged the point guard they needed in a trade that acquired 20-year-old Elfrid Payton.
The big question for Gordon is whether he'll develop a well-rounded offensive game, namely one that includes a reliable jumper. The Arizona product is young, though, and he has plenty of time to polish his raw scoring ability.
Should he do so, few will look back on this pick as much of a surprise. For the moment, though, it's exactly that.