In a perfect world, every team would feel happy about their performance on Thursday night in the 2014 NBA draft, which would be quite a rare event after a season littered with alleged tanking.
Except this isn't a perfect world, nor did every franchise do much to move in the right direction.
Somehow, someway, franchises were able to whiff at the podium despite being presented with what is accredited as the deepest draft in more than a decade. But as a counterbalance, plenty of teams were able to nab the proverbial missing piece, or simply a young talent who can change the fortunes down the road.
Here's a look at a grade for each pick, followed by the best, worst and strangest moves of the night.
|1||Cleveland Cavaliers||Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas||A|
|2||Milwaukee Bucks||Jabari Parker, SF Duke||A|
|3||Philadelphia 76ers||Joel Embiid, C, Kansas||B|
|4||Orlando Magic||Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona||A+|
|5||Utah Jazz||Dante Exum, PG, Australia||A|
|6||Boston Celtics||Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State||C|
|7||Los Angeles Lakers||Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky||B|
|8||Sacramento Kings||Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan||D|
|9||Charlotte Hornets||Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana||A|
|10||Orlando Magic||Elfrid Payton, PG, UL Lafayette||B|
|11||Chicago Bulls||Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton||B|
|12||Philadelphia 76ers||Dario Saric, SF, Croatia||D|
|13||Minnesota Timberwolves||Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA||C|
|14||Phoenix Suns||T.J. Warren, SF, N.C. State||C|
|15||Atlanta Hawks||Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State||B|
|16||Denver Nuggets||Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia-Herzegovina||C|
|17||Boston Celtics||James Young, SG, Kentucky||B|
|18||Phoenix Suns||Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse||B|
|19||Denver Nuggets||Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State||A|
|20||Toronto Raptors||Bruno Caboclo, SF, Brazil||D|
|21||Oklahoma City Thunder||Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan||C|
|22||Memphis Grizzlies||Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA||C|
|23||Utah Jazz||Rodney Hood, SF, Duke||B|
|24||Miami Heat||Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut||B+|
|25||Houston Rockets||Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland||C|
|26||Charlotte Hornets||P.J. Hairston, SG, UNC/NBA D-League||B|
|27||Phoenix Suns||Bogan Bogdanovic, SG, Serbia||D|
|28||Los Angeles Clippers||C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington||C|
|29||Oklahoma City Thunder||Josh Huestis, SF, Stanford||C|
|30||San Antonio Spurs||Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA||A+|
|31||Milwaukee Bucks||Damien Inglis, SF, France||C|
|32||Philadelphia 76ers||K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson||B|
|33||Cleveland Cavaliers||Joe Harris, SG, Virginia||D|
|34||New York Knicks||Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State||A|
|35||Memphis Grizzlies||Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee||A|
|36||Milwaukee Bucks||Johnny O'Bryant III, PF, LSU||C|
|37||Toronto Raptors||DeAndre Daniels, SF, Connecticut||C|
|38||Detroit Pistons||Spencer Dinwiddie, PG, Colorado||C|
|39||Philadelphia 76ers||Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse||B|
|40||Minnesota Timberwolves||Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan||B|
|41||Denver Nuggets||Nikola Jokic, PF, Serbia||C|
|42||Houston Rockets||Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona||C|
|43||Atlanta Hawks||Walter Tavares, C, Cape Verde||C|
|44||Brooklyn Nets||Markel Brown, SG, Oklahoma State|
|45||Charlotte Hornets||Dwight Powell, PF, Stanford||B|
|46||Los Angeles Lakers||Jordan Clarkson, PG, Missouri||C|
|47||Philadelphia 76ers||Russ Smith, PG, Louisville||B|
|48||Atlanta Hawks||Lamar Patterson, SG, Pittsburgh||C|
|49||Chicago Bulls||Cameron Bairstow, PF, New Mexico||C|
|50||Phoenix Suns||Alec Brown, C, Green Bay||B|
|51||New York Knicks||Thanasis Antetokounmpo, SF, Greece||A|
|52||Philadelphia 76ers||Vasilije Micic, PG, Serbia||C|
|53||Minnesota Timberwolves||Alessandro Gentile,G, Italy||C|
|54||Philadelphia 76ers||Nemanja Dangubic, SF, Serbia||C|
|55||Charlotte Hornets||Semaj Christon, PG, Xavier||B|
|56||Denver Nuggets||Roy Devyn Marble, SG, Iowa||C|
|57||New York Knicks||Louis Labeyrie, C, France||C|
|58||Philadelphia 76ers||Jodan McRae, SG, Tennessee||C|
|59||Toronto Raptors||Xavier Thames, PG, San Diego State||B|
|60||Brooklyn Nets||Corey Jefferson, PF, Baylor||B|
ESPN, Highlighted picks indicated draft-day trade
The Best Pick
4. Orlando Magic: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Outside of the obvious such as grabbing an Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker, Orlando's decision at No. 4 overall was the best of the night.
Many were quick to label it as too high for Aaron Gordon, but for Orlando, it was quite an easy decision. Fans understand that the draft is a balancing act not only between need and value, but the present and future.
In the present, Gordon allows the Magic to contend for a playoff spot each year. Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders put it best:
Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Maurice Harkless and Aaron Gordon? How will teams score on ORL next season? Excellent draft for the Magic.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 27, 2014
But in the future, it is impossible to know just how great the young Gordon can be. Numbers Never Lie was quick to point out that the Arizona product also happened to be the youngest player in the class:
We're talking about a tweener who, at 6'9", can play either forward spot and is coming off a season in which he tallied averages of 12.4 points, 8.0 boards, 1.0 blocks and 0.9 steals.
A defensive specialist already who can blossom into a force in the paint, Gordon fits perfectly in the paint next to the defensively lax Nikola Vucevic. A decade from now, Gordon may very well turn out to be the best in class, especially because of the situation he landed in with the Magic.
The Worst Pick
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Elfrid Payton, PG, UL Lafayette and Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
So early in the draft, the Philadelphia 76ers grab a center who may miss the entire season. That's passable, elite potential and all that Joel Embiid presents. But to follow that up with a point guard, when Michael Carter-Williams was the best thing going last year, is just silly.
MCW was in attendance and promptly interviewed by ESPN: "I don't know if I'm going to be moved or not," he told the broadcast.
Look, Payton is a horrific shooter but has great size at 6'4" and is a stout defender. But how he would have paired with MCW, who averaged 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists last year, is hard to discern.
So Philadelphia turns around and ships Payton to Orlando, a team that had just selected Dario Saric out of Croatia—a talent who won't come to the NBA for at least two years.
While Saric posted impressive averages of 16.7 points, 9.7 boards, 1.3 steals and 0.6 blocks last year in the Adriatic League, he's a bit of an unknown against pro-level talent and his status means fans likely won't see either first-round pick next year.
For what it's worth, the 76ers get compensation out of the deal, as noted by Ken Berger of CBSSports.com and Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
In Magic-Sixers deal, future pick owed to Orlando goes back to Philly, source says.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) June 27, 2014
Philadelphia gets Orlando's 2017 first-round pick, 1-11 protected, in Saric-Payton deal. Pick is 1-8 protected in 2018.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) June 27, 2014
Along with Dario Saric, Orlando will send a 2015 second-round pick to the Sixers, league source said.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 27, 2014
It's going to take a long time to see if this wild plan ever amounts to anything. In the interim, fans should be nothing but disappointed.
The Strangest Pick
6. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Is Rajon Rondo being shown the door?
There were plenty of ways the Boston Celtics could have gone with their first of two selections in the first round, but Danny Ainge and Co. elected to nab a player who plays the same position as Rondo right out of the gate.
To be fair, Smart could slide to the 2-guard next to Rondo, although that seems unlikely with the team that selected James Young at No. 17.
At 6'4" and 225 pounds coming off a sophomore season in which he turned in averages of 18.0 points, 5.9 boards, 4.8 assists and 2.9 steals, the Oklahoma State product is primarily known for his defense.
Smart also said before the draft he would love to work with Rondo, per CBS Boston:
Rondo’s one of the greatest point guards to ever play this game. If I’m fortunate enough and Boston picks me, and that means I have to sit on the bench (behind) Rondo, that’s an honor to learn from one of the greatest point guards in that position. Especially with me playing the point guard position, he’s been playing it for a while…It would be an honor.
That's all well and good, but for a team in the middle of an extensive rebuild, the chaos that comes through such a manuever via media and fan coverage could prove to be a distraction.
Add in the fact talented forwards like Noah Vonleh and Julius Randle were still available, and it's apparent Ainge got his guy, but we'll have to wait and determine a final verdict far down the road.