And that’s why June 26, 2014 may go down as a day that changed the fortunes of multiple NBA franchises.
With a variety of potential cornerstones in Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, Dante Exum and Julius Randle all up for grabs, this was the perfect opportunity for a number of general managers to acquire a star-caliber talent, even outside of the first five picks.
In the end, Wiggins, the prospect who's seemed destined for stardom for well over a year, went No. 1 to Cleveland, but the Cavaliers are far from the only team that came out with influential building blocks on Thursday night.
Looking back on what was an all-important evening for countless organizations around the league, here's a look at how well each team performed at the Barclays Center, as well as reactions and analysis on the biggest moments of the 2014 NBA draft.
|Round 1 Draft Grades|
|6||Celtics||Marcus Smart||PG||Oklahoma State||B-|
|10||Magic||Elfrid Payton||PG||UL Lafayette||B|
|14||Suns||T.J. Warren||SF||N.C. State||B+|
|15||Hawks||Adreian Payne||PF||Michigan State||C|
|19||Nuggets||Gary Harris||SG||Michigan State||B|
|26||Hornets||P.J. Hairston||SG||UNC/NBA D-League||A-|
Biggest Surprises and Reaches
It wasn't a shock to see Wiggins, Parker and Embiid come off the board as the first three players chosen, but Randle's tumble out of the top five was certainly unexpected.
After averaging 15 points and better than 10 rebounds a game as a freshman with Kentucky, Randle's long since established himself as one of the most promising power forwards in recent memory, so needless to say, the Lakers were thrilled to see his name available at No. 7.
This was such a steal for L.A. that even Kobe Bryant was excited.
Bryant wasn't the only NBA superstar excited about his team's draft haul, as many, such as Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick, have written about LeBron's desire to play alongside Connecticut star Shabazz Napier.
By moving up to No. 24 to get the point guard who is coming off a dominant performance en route to the NCAA title, Pat Riley may also have helped his odds at luring James back to South Beach. "Even if James didn't directly influence him to draft Napier, surely LeBron took note of Riley's guts and skill in maneuvering to add a player. And surely, that can't hurt as James considers whether Riley will be capable of doing the same again in the veteran market, when free agency opens."
At the other end of the spectrum, despite the abundance of elite prospects in the pool, a handful of teams reached in Round 1, perhaps none more so than the Kings, who took former Michigan gunner Nik Stauskas with the eighth selection.
However, the most puzzling pick has to be Philadelphia's at No. 12, as the 76ers burned their second first-rounder on Dario Saric. He absolutely has the tools to contribute, but as CBS Sports' Matt Moore noted, Saric joins Embiid and 2013 draftee Nerlens Noel as early Philadelphia picks that won't join the team on the floor immediately.
Taking Embiid at No. 3 is one thing, because with his upside and rapid rate of development as a player, there was no letting him slip away. But to further prolong the rebuild by using a second top-12 pick on yet another prospect who is not expected to join the 76ers anytime soon is a dangerous gamble for an organization that has a lengthy road back to respectability in front of it.
|Round 2 Draft Grades|
|34||Knicks||Cleanthony Early||SF||Wichita State||B+|
|36||Bucks||Johnny O'Bryant III||PF||LSU||B|
|40||Timberwolves||Glenn Robinson III||SF||Michigan||A|
|43||Hawks||Walter Tavares||C||Cape Verde||A-|
|44||Nets||Markel Brown||SG||Oklahoma State||B|
|49||Bulls||Cameron Bairstow||PF||New Mexico||B+|
|50||Suns||Alec Brown||C||Green Bay||B|
|56||Nuggets||Roy Devyn Marble||SG||Iowa||B|
|59||Raptors||Xavier Thames||PG||San Diego State||B-|
Round 2 Highlights
While the night's true headliners were long gone by the time pick No. 31 rolled around, there were still some prospects with national recognition available in Round 2, such as Michigan fan favorite Glenn Robinson III, who went to Minnesota.
And while questions remain about Robinson's ability to transition to the professional game, at least his new team sounded ecstatic at being able to add the son of former NBA All-Star Glenn II at No. 40.
In addition to Robinson, former Louisville stud Russ Smith found a new home with the Pelicans, who took the former NCAA champion at No. 47 after flipping Pierre Jackson to Philadelphia for the pick.
There's no question that Smith does possess the natural ability to put up points, but as USA Today noted, there are much bigger question marks surrounding his potential in the NBA: "That's the question surrounding the 2013 champion and immensely talented scorer. He's only 6-1 and doesn't have the top-end athleticism to play shooting guard, but he developed as a passer last season. He definitely has charisma, for what that's worth."
For now, Smith will likely head to the D-League to develop a more complete game, but the fact that he's a proven winner and somewhat marketable asset may help him get a shot at the next level sooner rather than later.
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