NBA Draft Grades: Winners and Losers

How did your favorite team do in Thursday’s NBA draft?

Did they follow form or reach a bit? Did they fill a need or take the best player available?

Should they have traded the pick or kept it?

Are you tired of players being stashed in Europe?

We break it down below, and we are not grading on a curve.

Atlanta Hawks: C-plus

Picks: John Jenkins (23), Mike Scott (43)

The Danny Ferry Era began much as the Rick Sund Era ended: quietly, and still without a center.  I will at least give props to Ferry for doing the least Hawk-ish thing ever and passing up on the oh-so-tempting Perry Jones III out of Baylor, whom Billy Knight would have had pinned up in his locker surrounded by candy hearts back in the day.  Anytime you walk out with the best shooter in the draft, it’s tough to call your night a total failure, and Vanderbilt’s Jenkins is as deadly as anyone from the arc and an underrated scorer off the dribble.  Scott’s production at Virginia netted him All-ACC honors, and while he probably won’t get much better, he could be in line for some minutes at power forward if the Hawks can’t add size this summer.

Boston Celtics: B-plus

Picks: Jared Sullinger (21), Fab Melo (22), Kris Joseph (51)

celtics small logoWhoever rolled out the trampoline to break Sullinger’s fall would be handsomely rewarded, and it just so happens Boston had one handy.  If this draft is last year, Sully goes top five; if it’s last month, top 10.  If Jared can eat fresh and shed a few, he’ll make most of the teams in the teens sorry they passed on him.  The concerns with Melo, Syracuse’s 7-footer, are not related to his health as much as his work ethic after academic ineligibility sidelined him for the NCAA Tournament.  Few playoff teams needed anything as badly as the Celtics needed rebounding; with Sullinger and Melo in the fold, the glass should be friendlier next season.  Joseph is a willing defender and capable scorer  who is at his best as a third or fourth option in space.  That should bode well for Joseph in the NBA, where very few locker room chalkboards will be dedicated to locking down the former Syracuse small forward.

Brooklyn Nets: B

Picks: Tyshawn Taylor (41), Tornike Shengelia (54) Ilkan Karaman (57)

nets small logoTaylor finally took a breath his senior year and played within himself; if he can do that on the next level and choose his gaps wisely, he will be a solid change-of-pace guard off the bench. Shengelia said he is like “a bigger Ginobili” in the press conference, but don’t be fooled; he’s no Manu.  Tornike, accompanied at the draft by fellow Georgian Zaza Pachulia, is a forward (3 or 4? Jury’s out.), an incredible slasher, a solid boarder and he’s active as all get out on both sides of the ball. It’s a shame the Nets just moved to Brooklyn, because Karaman is an Ed Hardy shirt and some Aviators away from a Jersey Shore audition tape.  The muscly, tattooed Turk loves to board and defends with vigor, two things which instantly make the 22-year-old a candidate for a roster spot.

Charlotte Bobcats: B-minus

Picks: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2), Jeff Taylor (31)

bobcats small logoThe Kentucky freshman certainly had his band of believers at No. 2, but Thomas Robinson would have been the smarter pick for Charlotte.  Neither player moves them within range of a playoff push just yet (Did you laugh a little? I laughed  a little.), but with Robinson, the Bobcats would at least have had a low-post scorer to complement the singularity of Bismack Biyombo’s game down low.  MKG is still a sensational athlete and a hustler whose offense should catch up with the rest of his game; we just might need a few years before we see that take shape.  Vanderbilt’s Taylor offers a similar package to Kidd-Gilchrist’s on the wing, and he was one of the best available prospects on the board with the first pick of the second round.  They will need to address inside scoring in free agency or this draft score goes down a letter grade.

Chicago Bulls: A-minus

Picks: Marquis Teague (29)

bulls small logoWith Derrick Rose’s ACL on the mend into next season, the Bulls needed someone that could break down defenses off the dribble while Rose is out and be a solid back up once the 2011 MVP returns.  Teague is that guy.

Cleveland Cavaliers: F

Picks: Dion Waiters (4), Tyler Zeller (17)

cavs small logoFor the second straight year, Cleveland mishandled the fourth pick in the draft.  Last season, it should have been Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas rather than Tristan Thompson; this season, it should have been Thomas Robinson or Harrison Barnes.  Waiters rode a speculative wave of intrigue into the top five despite skipping out on interviews, physicals and individual workouts with teams. His defensive struggles will soon be exposed once he’s plucked from Jim Boheim’s famed 2-3 zone.  Waiters is one of the two best in this draft at getting to the rim off the bounce – Austin Rivers is the other – but one wonders how Kyrie Irving will co-exist with a guy who needs the ball to do the majority of his work.  And although Zeller slipped farther than he should have, the Cavs didn’t need to package the rest of their draft (24, 33 and 34) just to save him and land Kelenna Azubuike, who’s played in three games since the end of the 2009-10 season.  They leave Newark with two good players, but they could have fortified a creaky roster with so much more.

Dallas Mavericks: A-minus

Picks: Jared Cunningham (24), Bernard James (33), Jae Crowder (34)

mavs small logoCunningham is a seamless blend of smooth and zing who should give Roddy Beaubois some healthy competition from his first day in camp.  James is the best story in this draft and also owned the night’s coolest moment, as the 27-year-old Air Force veteran received booming “U-S-A!” chants during his marches to and from the podium.  At 6-10 and 230 pounds, he is a defensive presence who led Florida State in boards and blocks this season. After serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and Qatar, a five-game road trip probably won’t throw him off stride.  Crowder is an absolute animal who despite his tweener status should stick on a team that accepts who he is: a hard-nosed dude whose skills will surprise you if you let him breathe a little.  It’s a shame they sold 55th pick Darius Johnson-Odom to the Lakers, though; DJO was an absolute steal anywhere outside the 30s.

Denver Nuggets: B

Picks: Evan Fournier (20), Quincy Miller (38), Izzet Turkyilmaz (50)

nuggets small logoFournier is a 6-7 Frenchman with a crafty midrange game, swagger for days and a spotty 3-ball.  Few 19-year-olds in Europe assumed as large a role as he did last season with Poitiers, and in all likelihood he’s merely a season away from contributing regularly to an NBA club.  Fournier should thrive under George Karl’s tutelage, and Denver’s revolving door at the scorer’s table will ensure that Fournier gets at least some burn if he comes over in 2012.  Miller, a 6-10 small forward out of Baylor, should fit similarly into Denver’s deep bench, as the former No. 1 recruit s facing questions about his athleticism following a blown ACL in his senior high school season.  If the trainers in Denver can patch him up, then Miller is an unreal bargain this late. Turkyilmaz is a 7-1 Turkish center who likely won’t see an NBA floor for a while but whose inclusion on last summer’s EuroBasket squad is a huge endorsement from a country who takes its big men very seriously.

Detroit Pistons: B

Picks: Andre Drummond (9), Khris Middleton (39), Kim English (44)

pistons small logoDrummond has had a hard time escaping criticism these past few months – he doesn’t want to be coached, he doesn’t love the game, and so on – but the Pistons would have had a hard time turning him away this late.  All hopes are he develops into the type of rangy center that Greg Monroe needs to showcase his full bag of tricks.  I was surprised to see Middleton go so high after people generally felt he left Texas A&M too early, but the selection of English was one of the best of the second round.  He is as efficient as they come on the perimeter, rarely takes a bad shot and definitely doesn’t mind running, having played at Missouri. Still, this draft class depends on Drummond’s progression.  If he is Andrew Bynum, it’s an A.  If he is Kwame Brown, it’s an F.

Golden State Warriors: B-plus

Picks: Harrison Barnes (7), Festus Ezeli (30), Draymond Green (35), Ognjen Kuzmic (52)

warriors small logoWith a healthy Stephen Curry (always a big if) to go with Klay Thompson and Dorell Wright in his contract year, Barnes adds to an already potent list of shooters.  It might not address an immediate need such as a backup point guard, but Barnes was the best value on the board.  With Andrew Bogut in tow, the annual search for a reliable center has slowed this summer.  That said, Bogut is prone to injury, and after trading away Ekpe Udoh in the Bogut deal, Ezeli is a defensive weapon the Bucks could use in the post, even if he never becomes much more than that.  Green should have gone in the first found, and the Warriors are going to love his winning approach.  As for Kuzmic, I will have to see if he can make a dent with the senior club in Unicaja (Malaga, Spain) next season before making any claims about his NBA future.  Frankly, the Warriors should have used the pick on Scott Machado of Iona, the nation’s assist leader who shamefully went undrafted.

Houston Rockets: A

Picks: Jeremy Lamb (12), Royce White (16), Terrence Jones (18)

rockets small logoWith Chase Budinger in Minnesota now, the Rockets needed another shooter.  In Lamb they get that – plus a chance for a whole lot more.  White struggled with anxiety issues, but there is nothing about the point forward’s game that is anything less than top 10.  Jones went into wallflower mode far too often at Kentucky, but as one of six Wildcats drafted, it’s a little easier to understand why.

Indiana Pacers: D-plus

Picks: Miles Plumlee (26), Orlando Johnson (36)

pacers small logoPlumlee had no business in the first round after a four-year Duke career that left the Crazies wanting.  I can name a dozen players who would have made more sense here for Indiana.  Johnson was a spectacularly physical scorer at UC-Santa Barbara, but he won’t be able to push opposing shooting guards around like that at the next level.  He has trimmed down this summer and appears quicker, which should help.

Los Angeles Clippers: B

Picks: Furkan Aldemir (53)

The 6-9 Turkish center probably won’t play the pivot in the NBA, but there is something he will do from any position: rebound, rebound, then rebound some more.  And a little more.  Aldemir isn’t your European cliché; rather, he is a young, tough Turk who doesn’t want to shoot unless it’s from five feet and in.  He stays in his lane, and that’s what makes him so valuable.

Los Angeles Lakers: B-minus

Picks: Darius Johnson-Odom (55), Robert Sacre (60)

Getting Johnson-Odom, one of the most undervalued scorers in this draft, at 55 for straight cash is pretty impressive.  DJO is the truth.  Last year’s Mr. Irrelevant, Isaiah Thomas of Washington, went on to do big things in the second half.  I seriously doubt Sacre has anything half that interesting up his sleeve.

Memphis Grizzlies: B-plus

Picks: Tony Wroten (25)

grizzlies small logoWith a 6-6 frame and a flair for the spectacular, a decent jump shot would have launched Wroten ahead of every point guard in this draft. His shot needs a lot of work, however. Although his size and skill set remind some of Tyreke Evans, Wroten’s pass-first mentality separates him from Evans in that regard, and his defense can be hellish against smaller guards.  When you’re as big as he is, almost every point guard he faces will be a “smaller guard.”  Memphis’ biggest need was and still is 3-point shooting, and drafting a guy who hit of 9-of-56 from the arc this season doesn’t really do much to pave over that pothole.

For Part II, click here.


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  6. Benji says

    How can the Rockets get an A when they drafted two PF’s and a SG? Now the Rockets have 4 PF’s no center. If this was my homework assignment I might have got a C if I was lucky.

    • Cory says

      DH12, duh? Just kidding.

      Some people project White as a SF. Offensively he can do it, defensively I don’t see it, but you could try and scheme around it. The only C’s available at that time were Zeller and Fab Melo (puke).

      Maybe they’re setting up to make a run at someone like Hibbert or Lopez over the next couple weeks if their Howard dream doesn’t come true.


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