Saturday, June 26, 2010
2010 NBA Draft Grades
Picks: Jordan Crawford (27), Pape Sy (53)
With an undersized center, a ton of swingmen, and a bunch of guards vying for playing time, the Hawks' need for big man was clear. With potential-laden shot-blockers Daniel Orton, Hassan Whiteside, and Solomon Alabi still on the board at 24, picking Damion James - yet another swingman - was rather puzzling, and trading him for Jordan Crawford was downright beguiling. Crawford is going to be a good scorer in the NBA, but he's unmistakably similar to Jamal Crawford (not just in name), so it's hard to see what role he'll play on this Hawks team.
Picks: Avery Bradley (19), Luke Harangody (52)
With their guard rotation in utter disarray (Ray Allen, Nate Robinson, Tony Allen and Marquis Daniels are all free agents), Ainge recognized the need for a versatile ball-handler. Avery Bradley is an athletic young point guard who played off the ball in college, a la Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday, and like those fine young talents, he is a terrific defender. Like most young combo guards he is not a great shooter or a great passer, but his athleticism and focus will make his transition relatively smooth. Seeing how well the Celtics have molded undersized power forwards into solid pros (Glen Davis and Leon Powe helped them to a title), Harangody was an excellent pick up late in the second round.
For $17 million over next two years, Kirk Hinrich, who averaged 10.9 points and 4.5 assists last year, is ridiculously overpaid. Handing him and his burdensome contract off to the Wizards - and subsequently positioning themselves as the favorite to sign LeBron James - was an absolute coup.
Picks: Dominque Jones (25)
Despite boasting great depth at both guard spots, Jones was a steal at 25. He put up huge numbers (21.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists) against tough Big East competition, and has all the tools to succeed in the pros. With Nowitzki opting out, Haywood's contract expiring, and Eric Dampier continuing to stink, they might have been better served drafting a big man. They want to win now, however, and while Jones won't necessarily win games for them this year, he'll prove to be much more valuable than an unpolished center.
Picks: Greg Monroe (7), Terrico White (36)
Joe Dumars makes up for drafting Austin Daye 15th overall last year by nabbing Monroe, the true center they've needed for so long. A terrific passer with great post moves and commendable instincts on the defensive end, he could be the solid big man that stabilizes this erratic Pistons squad. White, an incredibly athletic 6-5 combo guard, was a great value pick at 36.
Golden State Warriors
Picks: Ekpe Udoh (6)
The Warriors drew some heat for this pick, having failed to mold long and lanky forward prospects Brandan Wright and Anthony Randolph into reliable starters. What the haters don't seem to understand is that Udoh is an entirely different player, and a much better fit in Golden State's system. The Warriors were in dire need of a shot-blocker, and Udoh averaged 3.7 swats per game for a team that nearly reached the Final Four. He is much more polished than fans realize, boasting a smooth jumper and terrific handles for a guy his size. Wright was 19 on draft day and Randolph was 18; Udoh is 23, which should be viewed as a positive in terms of his ability to contribute immediately to a team that could definitely use his skills.
Picks: Patrick Patterson (14)
The presence of power forward Jordan Hill, the ninth player in taken in last year's draft, is all that prevents this pick from earning the highest mark I can bestow. With Luis Scola set to become a free agent, and Yao's health still in question, Houston wisely addressed a need in the front court. Patterson is arguably the most NBA-ready player in this class, which makes him a perfect fit for the Rockets, who expect to be a playoff team when healthy. One wonders, however, if this means that they've given up on Jordan Hill, who has more upside but struggled mightily in his rookie campaign. Regardless, grabbing a potential starter with the last pick in the lottery warrants legitimate praise.
Picks: Paul George (10), Lance Stephenson (40), Magnum Rolle (51)
Their franchise player is a sweet-shooting 6-8 swingman who doesn't do much of anything else. So naturally, rather than fill a need down low or take a chance on a point guard to replace T.J. Ford, they draft a sweet-shooting 6-9 swingman who doesn't do much of anything else. It is hard to imagine George, a watered-down clone of Granger, playing alongside the All-Star forward, a thought that's particularly frustrating when you consider how they could have added depth and talent to either one of the two most important positions on the floor. Stephenson's potential makes him a steal at 40, but he's just another swingman who dominates the ball and will want to take shots away form Granger. He has always been a head case, so now one can't help but wonder how the Coney Island product feels about playing in Indiana, after his hometown Knicks took Andy Rautins and Landry Fields - neither of whom really expected to get drafted - immediately before the Pacers picked at 40.
Los Angeles Clippers
Picks: Al-Farouq Aminu (8), Erick Bledsoe (18), Willie Warren (54)
When you grab three prospects who at some point in their college careers were all projected to be a top-10 pick, you know you've come away with a great haul. Aside from simply filling a glaring hole at small forward, Aminu is a perfect fit. His athleticism, ability to guard any one of three of positions, unselfishness, and tenacity on the defensive end will allow surrounding starters Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin, and Chris Kaman to do their thing on offensive more comfortably. Bledsoe will make an immediate impact as Baron's backup, and Warren could still be a star if he's properly nurtured.
Los Angeles Lakers
Picks: Devin Ebanks (43), Derrick Caracter (58)
For the first time in years, it appears the Lakers were really trying. The 6-8 Ebanks was held as a potential lottery pick for much of his career, and he might actually get some run on a team that only has one reliable reserve taller than 6-4. Caracter was hailed as a transcendent talent as a young teenager, but garnered the reputation of being immature and selfish throughout much of his college career, though he grew up a bit after transferring to UTEP. Los Angeles might the perfect place for him to realize his potential.
Picks: Xavier Henry (12), Greivis Vasquez (28)
The burgeoning Zach Randolph ordeal is too complex to muse on at this point, so let's leave his potential departure out of this for the time being. With Rudy Gay set to become an unrestricted free agent - and without any guards they can rely upon to score - taking Henry was certainly a smart move. Rumor is they're planning on moving O.J. Mayo to the point, but in case they decide not to move Conley, Maryland's Greivis Vasquez will at least give him some strong competition. A great scorer with great court vision, he will make himself useful no matter what.
Picks: Dexter Pittman (32), Jarvis Varnado (41), Da'Sean Butler (42)
Despite training their focus entirely on free agency, Miami made some surprisingly smart picks. Taking Pittman early in the second round was a surprise, but he is gigantic and has some refined post moves. Varnado, the greatest shot-blocker in NCAA history, was a steal at 41, and had Da'Sean Butler not sustained a terrible injury in West Virginia's clash with Duke in the Final Four, he would have been a first round pick. The Heat's obsession with cutting costs suggests that a couple of these guys might never see the floor, but if they are given a chance, they should prove to be worthwhile additions.
Picks: Larry Sanders (15), Darrington Hobson (37), Jerome Jordan (44), Tiny Gallon (47)
Despite possessing just one first round pick, Milwaukee managed to nab a potential starter, an All-American forward, a 7-footer who can actually play, and one of the top 10 prospects in last year's recruiting class. Sanders' dominance on the defense end could make him the perfect complement to Bogut down the road, Jordan could immediately become the backup center, and Gallon adds some bulk to a relatively thin front line. The addition of Chris Douglas-Roberts makes it hard to see how Hobson fits in, but he was a bargain at 37.
Picks: Wesley Johnson (4), Lazar Hayward (30), Nemanja Bjelica (35), Paulo Prestes (45)
Though he might never be an All-Star, Wesley Johnson was a great pick at the four spot, giving the lowly Wolves a much-needed outside shooting threat, versatility on both ends of the floor, and a winning attitude. He will likely start from day one, and while he won't lead them to the playoffs without another solid addition or two, he will help lead them out of the gutter. Cousins was the better available prospect, but apparently Minnesota was concerned with his maturity (read: lack thereof) and how he would fit in with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. Johnson was surely a smart pick, but their three later selections are puzzling. Hayward will be playing behind Johnson, Brewer, and the newly acquired Martell Webster, and Bjelica and Prestes might not come to the NBA. There were plenty of players on the board in the second round who could have made an impact this year.
New Jersey Nets
Picks: Derrick Favors (3), Damion James (24)
Nothing New Jersey did on draft night made much sense. How the Nets rebuild will be defined by who they acquire in free agency (they have over $30 million in cap room), and even if Favors was the best prospect on the board, his being a young, potential-laden power forward will likely scare away the players they had the best chance of signing, like Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh; had they drafted Wes Johnson, they would have filled a hole in the lineup and then could more comfortably offer a power forward a lucrative contract. Memphis will likely match anything that Rudy Gay is offered, Joe Johnson is not going to a 12-win team, and they are not expecting to sign LeBron James. They sort of made up for that mishap by finally adding a lights-out shooter in Jordan Crawford, only to trade him and the 31st-overall pick for another swingman who can't shoot; the Nets lost so many games last year because they simply could not hit jump shots, and Crawford could have been huge for them. Favors might have as much potential as anyone in the draft, but this draft could be viewed as a setback in their rebuilding process.
New Orleans Hornets
Picks: Craig Brackins (21), Quincy Pondexter (26)
Burdened with bad contracts and their franchise player's growing frustration, the Hornets had a lot to prove last Thursday, and man did they deliver. Unsatisfied with their options at 11, they drafted and immediately traded Cole Aldrich and Morris Peterson to Oklahoma City for the 18th pick, a genius maneuver. With David West's contract expiring at the end of this season they would not want to be left with two undersized centers who can't really score (Okafor being the other), and managed to clear over $6 million in cap space, effectively evading a luxury tax bill. Brackins is the scoring big man they needed (he dropped 42 on Kansas as a sophomore), and Pondexter will get big minutes for a late first round pick.
New York Knicks
Picks: Andy Rautins (38), Landry Fields (39)
Syracuse's Andy Rautins, who led the Orange to a 30-5 record and ranks among the draft's five best shooters and passers, and Stanford's Landry Fields, who averaged 22 points and 8.8 rebounds for a Pac-10 school, are examples of unheralded prospects who deserved to go as high as they did, but are rightfully viewed by fans as gross errors in judgement by the team that took them. Of the five Knicks under contract for next season, three are wings (Danillo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Bill Walker), one is a point guard who can't really play the point (Toney Douglas), and one is Eddy Curry, meaning Rautins and Fields - both wings - have already been rendered useless. They could have added depth at point guard with Willie Warren or Sherron Collins, and definitely could have used Gani Lawal's low-post scoring or Jarvis Varnado's low-post defense. Rautins and Fields can both play, but whether they'll ever play in a Knicks uniform is very much in question.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Picks: Cole Aldrich (11), Tibor Pleiss (31), Latavious Williams (48), Ryan Reid (57)
The crop of prospects Oklahoma City rounded up is extraordinarily interesting. They come from three different leagues (Aldrich and Reid from the NCAA, Pleiss from the German League, and Williams from the NBDL), and only one averaged double-figures in scoring (Aldrich), and he only averaged 11.3 points per game. The Thunder addressed major needs in the front court by drafting a sensational low post defender in Aldrich and a true center with great scoring potential in Pleiss, and could reap major dividends from this haul even if Williams and Reid (who averaged 6.8 points and 4 rebounds as a senior) never see the floor.
Picks: Daniel Orton (29), Stanley Robinson (59)
It's so hard to give the Magic a good grade, because you know neither of these guys will play their rookie year. Both were huge steals (Orton could have been a lottery pick, Robinson was expected to go about 25 spots earlier), and they would fit in well with the Magic, but they might not play a minute of solid game time in the foreseeable future. This is a team so deep that talented forwards Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson, who could easily average 14-7 on any other team, were not even playing at the end of the year due to a shortage of minutes to go around, while they're paying Marcin Gortat $7 million a year knowing he'll play only 13 minutes a night. Regardless, Orton is very much like Dwight Howard, who should be a great mentor for the talented young center, and should they lose both J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes in free agency, Robinson could potentially make an impact at the swing. This is a team that is trying as hard to win right now as anyone in the league, however, so if anyone is to leave, they'll likely be replaced with a veteran who's ready to start for them. You have to admire the effort they put in, though.
Picks: Evan Turner (2)
He won't fit in next to Andre Iguodala, there's a logjam in talent at the guard spots, blah, blah, blah. Not only was Turner the best prospect on the board, but he fills the only hole in their lineup, and should realize his potential in the pros, it wouldn't matter if he was playing alongside Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly.
Picks: Gani Lawal (46), Dwayne Collins (60)
Preparation for Amare's departure? The Suns used both of their second round picks on power forwards, and while neither would be able to replace Stoudemire in the starting lineup, the athletic and reasonably experienced Lawal could earn big minutes.
Picks: Luke Babbitt (16), Elliot Williams (22), Armon Johnson (34)
In his last act as GM of the Portland Trailblazers, Kevin Pritchard proved not only why he should have kept his job, but why he is, and has been since the day he arrived in Portland, the best GM in the entire league. Martell Webster was no longer contributing, so Pritchard wisely dealt him to move up to 16 where he nabbed Luke Babbitt, who some had going as high as 8th overall. Elliot Williams is a great scorer and a top-notch defender (he's just a bit undersized), and recognizing that the Blazers don't have a true backup point guard, Pritchard astutely selected Nevada's Armon Johnson. Unless Pritchard committed some heinous act that the Blazers' organization wants to keep under wraps, his firing was utterly inexplicable.
Picks: DeMarcus Cousins (5), Hassan Whiteside (33)
Quick! Name five great centers in the NBA! How about three? Two? Andrew Bogut made an All-NBA team this past season, which only reaffirmed my pride in having Cousins ranked atop my big board since November. No team is going to want to play a team with Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins. On top of nabbing Cousins the Kings managed to grab 7-footer Hassan Whiteside, who averaged 5.4 blocks as a freshman and was hailed as a can't-miss prospect all year. So, why don't the Kings earn top marks? Well, Cousins and Whiteside were the only players in the draft who were universally labeled "immature." They both left after their freshman year, are used to dominating and getting what they want...and they both play the same position. NBADraft.net projected Whiteside would be the #1 pick in 2011 earlier this year. Don't think he isn't aware.
San Antonio Spurs
Picks: James Anderson (20), Ryan Richards (49)
Once again, the Spurs parlay a late pick into a potential major contributor. Anderson was expected to go earlier, seeing as he tore the Big 12 to shreds and at 6-6 boasts prototypical size for the shooting guard position in the league. With Roger Mason now gone, he could see big minutes as a rookie. Ryan Richards is a mystery, and while he's certainly not the heir to Tim Duncan's throne, he will become the only other Spur taller than 6-9 (he's 7-0), making him immediately valuable in that respect.
Picks: Ed Davis (13), Solomon Alabi (50)
I hadn't planned on dishing out so many A's, but I've been given no choice! Preparing to lose Chris Bosh, the Raptors wisely targeted big men and landed an absolute steal in North Carolina PF Ed Davis (my #1 college prospect entering the season), who should start right away, his excellent defensive instincts (2.8 blocks) and efficiency in the post (57.8% FG) making him a great complement to emerging star Andrea Bargnani. Florida State's Solomon Alabi was a major steal at 50 (many thought he would go in the first round), and could allow Bargnani to move to the power forward spot, where he's more comfortable, when out on the floor with him.
Picks: Gordon Hayward (9), Jeremy Evans (55)
Coming off a surprisingly good year in which they won 53 games, the Jazz had two very clear needs: a shot-blocker, and some explosiveness. Gordon Hayward not only fulfills neither of these pressing needs, but only further stereotypes concerning Utah's affinity for white guys. Preparing to lose Carlos Boozer, and having relied upon Kyrylo Fesenko - arguably the least-skilled player ever to start a playoff game - against the eventual champion Lakers, the Jazz were in dire need of a shot-blocker, and with Ed Davis, Larry Sanders, and the extremely talented Hassan Whiteside still on the board, they had plenty of options; in terms of explosiveness, Paul George or Xavier Henry would have made more sense than I can begin to complain about. But they took Hayward, Draft Express' #9 small forward prospect (that "small forward" prospect, not "overall" prospect), a shooter who shot 29.4% from range. They could have redeemed themselves somewhat late in the second round by taking the explosive, NBA-ready Stanley Robinson, or Rutgers center Hamady N'Diaye, who averaged 4.5 blocks last season. Instead they took the least talented player in the draft, Jeremy Evans, a 196-pound power forward who averaged 10 points and 6.9 rebounds for Western Kentucky. Well done.
Picks: John Wall (1), Kevin Seraphin (17), Trevor Booker (23), Hamady N'Diaye (56)
In Wall, the Wizards have a surefire franchise point guard who should be an All-Star very soon. Trevor Booker was a reach at 23, but he's a real gamer and already the Wizards' best low-post option; ESPN's David Thorpe even went so far as to rank him #8 in his rookie rankings entering the 2010-11 campaign. Trading for Kirk Hinrich and the 17th pick was simply ridiculous, however. The Wizards were looking to make a major splash in free agency in 2011, but will now be saddled with the two years and $17 million left on Hinrich's deal. He will make them a slightly better team this year, but could be the difference between landing or losing a max free agent next summer. The Wizards could only make mistakes on draft night; they just couldn't keep their wallet shut.