The puzzle that is the NBA offseason peeled back another layer of the onion Thursday night thanks to the draft, so we can now presumably get to the juicy core—finding out where big names like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony end up.
It's why draft grades are such a funny thing. In the NFL, for example, grades are doled out based on how rookies fit with the generic stuff like other players and the coaching staff.
The NBA is more entertaining. Grades also have to take into account whether or not Team X did enough with the draft to lure a player of James' caliber to town. No? Good luck competing, especially in the Western Conference.
All things considered, we can discern some winners and losers rather easily. Let's take a look after grading each pick.
|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||Cory Jefferson, PF, Baylor||B|
ESPN, Highlighted picks indicated draft-day trade
Coming off a 25-57 campaign, the Utah Jazz needed something special to happen in the two rounds Thursday night.
It did. In fact, the Jazz reeled in one of the top draft classes overall, and it started with Australian point guard Dante Exum falling to No. 5. He is a bit of an unknown, but we do know he is an elite slasher who can score at will and create for others.
That's a big deal for Utah, which was second-to-last in scoring last year with an average of just 95 points per game. His pairing with Trey Burke, as Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress mused, is just about perfect:
I personally think this is a great pick for Utah and love the fit between Dante Exum and Trey Burke. They complement each other beautifully.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 27, 2014
Rodney Hood joined the team next via No. 23 overall and was yet another strong pick for the Jazz. However, to be the elite scorer he is capable of being, the Duke product will have to compete with the likes of Richard Jefferson and Co. for playing time.
New York Knicks
Phil Jackson has a plan, and we can do nothing but sit back and admire it.
Mere days after watching Carmelo Anthony opt out and stealing a pick by dealing two somewhat mediocre veterans, Jackson hooked Cleanthony Early out of Wichita State. CBS Sports' Adam Schein put it best:
Knicks get rid of Chandler and Felton, add Calderon and Cleanthony Early. Wow. Didn't seem possible 2 days ago. Great job Phil!— Adam Schein (@AdamSchein) June 27, 2014
Early can score at a fast clip, which is exactly what Jackson's offense is going to need next season without Anthony in the fold. Early averaged 16.4 points per game last season on 48.6 percent shooting from the field.
Jackson then turned around and got a strong future investment in Thanasis Antetokounmpo, whose brother Giannis turned out to be one of the best players from last year's draft. Thanasis is every bit as athletic and averaged 12.0 points, 4.3 boards, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks per game in the D-League last year.
While the Knicks have plenty of future work to do, Early and Antetokounmpo are nice building blocks for the future. Thanks to Jackson, New York left Thursday night much better than it entered.
The brass in Philadelphia are brave. Attempting a somewhat new strategy is admirable, but boy, does this have the potential to backfire.
With the No. 3 overall pick, the 76ers elected to go with Kansas' Joel Embiid, an injury-riddled center who would otherwise have been far and away the best player in the class. He still can be, but the risk may not turn out to be worth the investment.
But fine, fans can give the team a pass. They won't see Embiid at all next year, but they'll get to see the No. 12 overall pick plenty...never mind. Philadelphia traded for the rights to Dario Saric, who won't be joining the NBA for a minimum of two years.
Frank Isola of The New York Daily News hit where it hurts:
Joel Embiid has already played more games in a Sixers uniform than Andrew Bynum and Nerlens Noel combined.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) June 26, 2014
K.J. McDaniels (No. 32) and Jerami Grant (No. 39) were sound additions who will actually play right away, but neither is a force on the offensive end, especially as a rookie.
In other words, expect the 76ers to be in the lottery again after another miserable season.
There must be something in the water in Toronto, because a franchise should never draft a player who gets this sort of description from experts:
VIDEO: ESPN's Fran Fraschilla described a player the Raptors selected as "two years away from being two years away" http://t.co/pI1PYerjSs— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 27, 2014
Bruno Caboclo won the MVP of the latest Basketball Without Borders event, but other than that, the 18-year-old forward is a bit of a mystery.
Now, it's true the Raptors were one of the only teams to scout him, but that makes one wonder: Why did they use the No. 20 overall pick on him?
Trade back. Take him with No. 37. Don't take a player who is perhaps four or more years out in the top 20.
Speaking of No. 37, the Raptors used that to nab UConn's DeAndre Daniels, who had quite the reaction despite not being in attendance, as captured by Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant:
DeAndre Daniels: "when I heard my name called, I just started crying," (he was watching with family in Manchester)— Dom Amore (@AmoreCourant) June 27, 2014
Daniels is a rather raw prospect who needs development time, but he was not a horrific pick given how late it came.
But for a team that made the playoffs a year ago and has a star player like Kyle Lowry hitting free agency, the Raptors needed to do much more to improve. It just never happened or even seemed to be part of the thought process.