The NBA welcomed one of its deepest rookie classes in years during the 2014 draft, a night that provided many squads with young talent ready to contribute.
Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid, the crown jewels of the draft, went as expected during the opening three selections. While Embiid's foot fracture makes him an injury concern, all three offer All-Star upside for their new employers.
They're far from the only ones who will make a profitable NBA living, however. With more intriguing talent than usual, even some second-round selections from Thursday night are worth noting. Here's a full look at the results from Brooklyn:
|6||Celtics||Marcus Smart||PG||Oklahoma State|
|10||Magic||Elfrid Payton||PG||UL Lafayette|
|14||Suns||T.J. Warren||SF||N.C. State|
|15||Hawks||Adreian Payne||PF||Michigan State|
|19||Nuggets||Gary Harris||SG||Michigan State|
|26||Hornets||P.J. Hairston||SG||UNC/NBA D-League|
|34||Knicks||Cleanthony Early||SF||Wichita State|
|36||Bucks||Johnny O'Bryant III||PF||LSU|
|40||Timberwolves||Glenn Robinson III||SF||Michigan|
|43||Hawks||Walter Tavares||C||Cape Verde|
|44||Nets||Markel Brown||SG||Oklahoma State|
|49||Bulls||Cameron Bairstow||PF||New Mexico|
|50||Suns||Alec Brown||C||Green Bay|
|51||Knicks||Thanasis Antetokounmpo||SF||Greece/NBA D-League|
|56||Nuggets||Roy Devyn Marble||SG||Iowa|
|59||Raptors||Xavier Thames||PG||San Diego State|
As per the custom of any pro draft, it's time to take out the red pen and dole out grades for each NBA franchise. While we obviously don't know what will become of these 60 players 10 years from now, we can evaluate each club based on whether it amassed the most possible value while aptly filling specific needs.
|Golden State Warriors||N/A|
|Los Angeles Clippers||B-|
|Los Angeles Lakers||A-|
|New Orleans Pelicans||B|
|New York Knicks||A-|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||B-|
|San Antonio Spurs||A-|
Author's Personal Grades
The Philadelphia 76ers made one thing very clear: They don't care about winning next season.
After finishing a dismal 19-63, the 76ers had a chance to make a major splash with two top-10 picks. Unfortunately for them, the No. 3 pick that looked to guarantee them a star instead left them with a difficult decision: Should they take the plunge on an injured Embiid or settle for a prospect with considerably less upside?
Realizing that they're not an Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart or Julius Randle away from playoff contention, the 76ers went with the Kansas center, even though general manager Sam Hinkie suggested his return timetable is closer to five to eight months rather than the originally reported four to six.
With the third pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select Joel Embiid! pic.twitter.com/K1kTWuq1J9— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 26, 2014
"I sniffed opportunity," Hinkie told The Associated Press, via ESPN. "The moment he got hurt, we thought we might get him. We might be just the organization with just the set of owners, and we might be the one to do it."
The long-term planning did not stop there. The team traded the rights to Elfrid Payton, selected at pick No. 10, to the Orlando Magic for Dario Saric, taken at No. 12, and future draft picks. ESPN's Andy Katz has the details:
Here is the trade: Orlando sends rights to Dario Saric and will return Sixers pick in '15 and a 2nd in '15 for rights for Elfrid Payton.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) June 27, 2014
After signing a three-year contract with the Turkish club Anadolu Efes, as reported by ESPN's Chad Ford, Saric will not join the NBA for at least another two years. This means that both lottery picks may not play this season, but 2013 first-rounder Nerlens Noel should make his pro debut after sitting out all of last year.
Although it's a frustrating course of action for fans, who must suffer through terrible basketball for a while longer, both moves made sense. Considering how bad the 76ers will be, moving down two slots to regain their 2015 first-rounder from the Magic was a steal.
In the NBA, where amazing happens but upsets rarely do, there's no point in floating around the middle of the pack. The 76ers are bottoming out to an extreme, and they could be rewarded for their patience in two years with a healthy Embiid and an incoming Saric.
Somebody needs to teach the Toronto Raptors the concept of value.
In the opening round's first and only true stunner, they dug way down the draft board at pick No. 20 to select Brazil's Bruno Caboclo, whose name spawned several head scratches among onlookers who wondered, "Who's Bruno Caboclo?"
The lengthy 18-year-old from Brazil did not frequent the first round of many, if any mock drafts. It was a giant leap for someone DraftExpress rated as the No. 18 international prospect. He didn't make its overall top 100.
During the ESPN telecast, analyst Fran Fraschilla labeled him the "Brazilian Kevin Durant," except his 4.9 points-per-game average is a tad lower than the NBA MVP's output. Fraschilla added that the international prospect is a long-term project who needs several years of seasoning.
The team was expected to select a point guard in case it can't keep Kyle Lowry. Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri explained his choice to The Canadian Press, via TSN:
Bruno was one of our next guys and we decided we lost one [Tyler Ennis], we're not going to lose the second one. We jumped on it. We felt like he's second on our board so let's get aggressive.
He's a few years away. But he's a talent that I think, at the end of the day, we will be happy that we picked. We'll develop him and we're excited that we got a talent like that.
Caboclo may very well become a prized talent, but the Raptors lessened their potential reward by reaching for him in Round 1. They could have waited until pick No. 37, allowing them to get a better immediate talent (i.e Shabazz Napier or Kyle Anderson), pay Caboclo less and avoid any flak from the public.
Nobody cares much about a second-round gamble since everybody is an uncertainty at that point. During their ambitious first-round pick, however, the Raptors surpassed pro-ready contributors to get a guy who may pan out in four years.
New York Knicks
Two days before the draft, the New York Knicks didn't have a single pick to their name. By the end of draft night, though, they had made two of the evening's best second-round selections.
Their trade with the Dallas Mavericks netted two second-round picks, including a No. 34 pick that gave them a good chance of snagging a first-round-caliber prospect in a loaded draft pool. That hope was realized when forward Cleanthony Early fell into their lap.
The small forward averaged a team-high 16.4 points per game for the 35-1 Wichita State Shockers during his sophomore season. While the Knicks hope he'll spell Carmelo Anthony off the bench, the 23-year-old will contribute immediately in Phil Jackson's triangle offense.
With their second pick, the Raptors took Thanasis Antetokounmpo, whose brother Giannis became the steal of last year's draft. Thanasis, 21, played for the NBA D-League's Delaware 87ers last season.
Although he may return to Greece next season if the Knicks don't feel he's ready for the NBA, his defensive prowess makes him a worthy stash at pick No. 51.
For almost sitting out the entire draft, Jackson did well in his first draft with the team.