My live reactions to the first round of the NBA draft.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SG (Kansas)
Cue the Drake music because it’s “Draft day, A. Wiggins” at the number one spot. As much as I love Jabari Parker, this is the right pick. Wiggins’ athleticism and upside are too much to pass up, and outside of his final game, Wiggins really stepped up in the absence of Joel Embiid. Wiggins isn’t a finished product, however. His handle and jumper both need work, but these things are both easily fixable. With multiple coaches constantly looking out for him, I expect his handle to improve very soon. Despite the questions about his jumper, I like Wiggins’ stroke. Obviously there is room for improvement, but there is a good foundation there for a shooting coach to build on.
My only question about Wiggins, other than this suit he’s wearing, is his killer instinct. The kid is only 19, but I still wish he would’ve come up bigger in the tournament. Will he grow into an assassin or will he just be the perimeter player that you can rely on in the first 44 minutes? Only time will tell. But even if Wiggins never fully develops that killer instinct, he still has all the ability to have a Vince Carter-esque game.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF (Duke)
This is the right pick for the Bucks. With Parker they have a polished scorer, dedicated learner, and immediate contributor. I have detailed the reasons why I love Jabari in my “Jabari Parker Live ” post. As it relates specifically to this fit with the Bucks, Parker can be a great influence on their young nucleus. This Bucks team doesn’t have too much veteran leadership so they are fortunate that the best player on the board is also about as mature as a freshman can be. Hopefully Parker’s calm and intelligence will rub off and transfer to some of the Bucks sometimes erratic young players, like the incredibly talented Greek Freak (I hope you didn’t think I was going to attempt to spell his name).
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid, C (Kansas)
Full disclosure, I am a 76ers fan. I don’t know how to feel after this pick. For months I’ve been saying that I wanted to avoid this scenario at all cost. I hate the idea of drafting a player that has had multiple injuries coming into the draft. I especially hate that one of these injuries is said to be related to defective vertebrae in his back. At the same time, the talent is obviously there and the split screen highlights comparing Embiid to Hakeem Olajuwon certainly give some cause for optimism. I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head. I will try to get my ideas together and dedicate an entire post to these thoughts (and possibly some wishes).
Expanded thoughts on Joel Embiid's future in Philadelphia can now be found in my post entitled "Big Brothers".
4. Orlando Magic: Aaron Gordon, PF (Arizona)
I don’t like Aaron Gordon. I love his athleticism but I don’t believe in him being a productive 4-man in the league. I consider Gordon a “Buzz Guy”. He has all the buzz word traits, length, athleticism, leaping ability. And those things are great, but how will he get consistent buckets at the next level. I’m unimpressed by his perimeter offense and I haven’t seen a back to the basket game on the block that will lead to any type of consistency. Gordon needs to vastly improve in at least one of these areas to be a reliable offensive threat.
While I’m not in love with Gordon, I do think he can find a niche in the league. If Gordon can land himself on a team where he doesn’t need to carry the scoring burden, he can be a terrific defender, rebounder, and energy guy. Unfortunately, this Magic team will need more from Gordon if they want to be competitive. I’ll be interested to see the path Gordon’s career takes. On a contending team, Gordon can have an impact, just not as the guy.
I also wonder what would’ve happened if Gordon would have returned to school for his sophomore or junior seasons. I suspect that his draft stock would have declined each year. Maybe it wouldn’t be the precipitous falls experienced by prospects like Patric Young and James Michael McAdoo after they chose to stay on campus, but Gordon is definitely cashing in at the peak of his value.
5. Utah Jazz: Dante Exum, PG/SG (Australia)
So where do you put a flashy, exciting prospect who only a few experts have actually seen play in live competitive action? Utah, of course; a place where Dante can continue to be flashy, exciting, and seldom seen. I don’t know too much about Exum but the singular highlight package that every network shows of him has me eager to catch him whenever the Jazz get some primetime ESPN coverage. Or maybe I should buy NBA League Pass so I can watch him play sometime before 2017.
6. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, PG (Oklahoma State)
Yes! I love Marcus Smart. I’m higher on Smart than most people. I really think Orlando should’ve grabbed him at four. Smart and Victor Oladipo could have been a tenacious backcourt to go along with the young talent they have in the front court. But Orlando passed and Smart is headed to Boston!
Smart is more of a combo guard than a true point so I would love to see him play with Rajon Rondo, but Rondo’s future in Boston is uncertain. Either way, Smart will be an immediate contributor. Last year Smart chose to stay for his sophomore season at Oklahoma State and many wondered if it was the right decision. Although Smart didn’t have the team success he hoped for and was involved in that ugly incident in Lubbock, I think staying in school did Smart a world of good. Smart improved in all aspects of his game and stood out as a teammate. Most of all, Smart’s competitiveness was palpable in every arena and through every TV. He is a guy you would love to go to battle with and that means something. Can you imagine if Smart fell to Kobe’s Lakers? I don’t know if the league could handle two guys that are that competitively ferocious in the same backcourt.
Currently Smart is a tough-nosed defender and fearless attacker on the offensive end. Smart scores with an array of shots without being a lights out perimeter shooter. This is high praise, but the more I watch Smart, the more I am reminded of a younger Dwanye Wade. As an incoming rookie, Smart already has a very similar build to Wade, which is scary when you think he will get stronger and better conditioned in the future. While Wade’s ability to attack and slither through a defense is uncanny, Smart will get to and finish at the rim effectively and he will be a better three point shooter throughout his career. Although it is unlikely that Smart will ever reach Wade status, he has the skills, physical tools, and desire to get close.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, PF (Kansas)
A lefty who knows how to score around the basket and attacks the glass, sign me up! I wish Randle was a little taller and had a longer wingspan; but I also wish Zach Randolph could jump over a dinner plate. Even without that ability Randolph is a force and Randle can also have success. If Randle can develop a reliable mid range jumper (like Randolph) to combine with his great feet he will be a nightmare for opposing defenses. And that is exactly what he will do. Randle will overcome his physical shortcomings to have a long career in this league.
8. Sacramento Kings: Nik Stauskas, SG (Michigan)
I like this pick for the Kings. Isaiah Thomas just had a breakout season at point guard; Demarcus Cousins is perpetually overlooked (for a variety of reasons) as one of the most talented bigs in the game; Rudy Gay has given the team a dose of athleticism on the wing; but the Kings have no perimeter shooting. Enter Nik Stauskas. Stauskas is a lights out shooter to play off of Cousins’ post-ups and Gay’s slashes. This is a good fit. This pick won’t make the Kings relevant in the Western Conference but it does make them better and give them more balance.
Stauskas often gets pigeonholed into the stand still three point shooter archetype but he has more to his game. Stauskas is more athletic than he is given credit for and he shoots off the bounce and on the move coming off screens. Stauskas is more of a Mike Miller than a Kyle Korver type. He has a bonafide NBA skill that will give him longevity in the league. I don’t expect Stauskas to be a star or his team’s leading scorer at any point but I think he will eventually play the Mike Miller role on an NBA contender down the line.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Noah Vonleh, PF (Indiana)
Vonleh isn’t NBA ready yet. He is also only 18 years old with incredible length and a world of potential. Beyond his size and potential, I was most impressed by Vonleh’s growth (pun intended) throughout the course of the season. Every game seemed to be better and better for Vonleh and I love a guy who wants to learn and improve.
This can be a good fit for Vonleh because he doesn’t need to be the man immediately. As long as he hits the glass and continues to learn, Al Jefferson can shoulder a large offensive burden. As Vonleh grows as a player and as an adult, I hope he pulls out his inner alpha dog and turns his skills and potential into dominant performances. I don’t know if Vonleh has the alpha in him, which really worries me. It is hard to pass up or bet against Vonleh’s physical tools but I’m not sold.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Elfrid Payton, PG (Louisiana-Lafayette)
First thought: Hair, hair, holy hair, Batman.
Second thought: What the hell are my Sixers doing?!
On opening night the Sixers plan on rolling out a backcourt of Michael Carter Williams and Elfrid Payton? One guy is a 6’6’’ attacking, creating point guard who struggles to shoot from distance. The other guy is a 6’4’’ attacking, creating point guard who struggles to shoot from distance. See the difference?
I hope the Sixers find a way to get Zach Lavine too.
11. Denver Nuggets: Doug McDermott, SF (Creighton)
McBuckets! McDreamy! McTriples! Doug McDermott, ladies and gentlemen!
I love his release. His stroke is sweet. I hate this fit for McBuckets. The Nuggets have no shortage of forwards and I don’t see him getting any type of significant minutes. I also don’t understand how he fits into the running style that is powered by Ty Lawson. I hope McDermott’s career isn’t damaged irreparably from any time spent being out of place in Denver because he can be a contributor in the right situation.
12. Orlando Magic: Dario Saric, PF (Serbia)
The Magic need another young forward about as badly as their city needs another amusement park. This pick has to be on the move unless Saric has agreed to stay in Serbia for the next few years.
It’s electric, boogey woogey woogey. I love watching this kid. LaVine has abnormal size for his position, flair, and great athleticism. His sometimes nonchalant demeanor worries me and it is frustrating to watch him get muscled by smaller guards. These two things raise red flags about LaVine’s killer instinct, desire, and ability to lead a team. I am a fan of LaVine and the possible highlights he can make (especially playing alongside Ricky Rubio) but I would be scared to death if my team ended up drafting him and relying on him. The size and flash might be a veil distracting us from LaVine’s fundamental issues as a true point guard.
14. Phoenix Suns: TJ Warren, SF (North Carolina State)
This is one of my guys. It seems a little strange that the Suns would make this pick after Gerald Green’s breakout season but they might be in a position to take the best player available and Warren and Gary Harris were the best players left on the board. Regardless of the reasoning behind the pick, Warren is a stud. He doesn’t have exceptional athleticism, but Warren is a ball player. Warren has a nose for the ball and a unique ability to make plays in all situations and at both ends. For me, production and polish always trumps length and leaping, so give me TJ Warren all day. Warren will be good from day one.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Adreian Payne, PF (Michigan State)
Payne feels like an old man to me. Maybe it is because of the injury bug that bit him a couple times in college, maybe it is all the knee pad action, or maybe it is because he spent more than eight months in college. I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t make Payne the sexiest pick. This is a good landing spot for Payne though. He has the chance to sit behind Horford and Millsap and develop his game. I would love to see Payne quicken his shooting delivery and improve his game off the dribble so he can be a serviceable stretch four. The bottom line is Payne’s greatest asset is that Tom Izzo hard hat mentality. I don’t think Payne will become a great NBA player but if he does hang around in the league it will be in large part due to his heart and mental makeup.
NBA: Isaiah Austin, C (Baylor)
Incredible act of class by Adam Silver. Well done.
16. Chicago Bulls: Jusuf Nurkic, C (Croatia)
I didn’t have the chance to get over to Croatia this year nor did I catch any of Nurkic’s games on the Croatian League Pass so I really have any insight on Nurkic as a player. The thing to keep in mind, though, is Nurkic probably will not come over to the NBA this year. This is important because the Bulls have effectively made a draft selection that they will not need to pay, therefore freeing up cash and cap space for their pursuit of Carmelo Anthony.
I’ll take undersized guards for $1,000, Alex. Apparently the Suns are building their team around three talented young point guards. Although this is certainly not the ’09 Timberwolves Flynn-Rubio-Lawson maneuver, David Kahn did come to mind. I don’t understand the need to have all three of these guys on the same roster. Maybe the Suns are afraid they will have to tie up too much money matching offers to restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe. I’m not sure. Suns GM Ryan McDonough, though, is one of the league’s extremely bright young executives and I’m sure he has a plan or two or five in place. Maybe McDonough and Jeff Hornacek are planning on calling Villanova’s Jay Wright to get some intel on the guard system they employed with Randy Foye, Allen Ray, Kyle Lowry, and Mike Nardi not too long ago.
As far as Tyler Ennis goes, the first thing that comes to mind is moxie. The kid has cojones. If you don’t speak Spanish, that means don’t be surprised if Ennis gives a vintage Sam Cassell celebration after making a huge shot. Ennis has an exceptional floor game and he can be a leader for years to come. It will be interesting to see how Ennis is used and if he can flourish in Phoenix if they don’t trade him for more assets.
19. Chicago Bulls: Gary Harris, SG (Michigan State)
I love Gary Harris. I bet Coach Thibodeau does too. I said it before and I’ll say it again, I love production and polish. Harris is one of those guys. He’s not going to wow you with length or athleticism but I have the same feeling about him that I do about TJ Warren. Harris just gets the job done. It isn’t always pretty and it isn’t even always the right decision, but it is always done with passion and commitment. Harris is a guy I would enjoy playing with because he is smart, passionate, well-rounded, and unselfish. In a few years we won’t believe that Harris fell this far.
20. Toronto Raptors: Bruno Caboclo, SF (Brazil)
Did I just hear them compare Caboclo to Kevin Durant? Was this comparison followed by the fact that he averaged less than five points per game in his Brazilian league? WHAT!? Kevin Durant has four scoring titles, right?
I can’t wait to watch Brazilian Durant.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Mitch McGary, PF (Michigan)
McGary is my least favorite type of prospect. There is a limited sample size, there were injury concerns, and he left school to escape off the court issues. The Thunder, however, can afford to take this calculated risk. If McGary has the ability to play without the ball and find his offense by hitting the offensive glass and roaming the baseline, he will be a great fit in this Thunder offense. Despite being one of the breakout stars of 2013’s NCAA Tournament, I don’t believe that McGary will have an impact in the NBA. It’s a shame that Oklahoma City couldn’t move up to draft Brazilian Durant.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Jordan Adams, SG (UCLA)
I didn’t get to see too much of Jordan Adams in college and I don’t think I will see too much of him in the NBA. I love his competiveness, but outside of that I don’t think Adams has a singular trait that will give him NBA staying power.
23. Utah Jazz: Rodney Hood, SG (Duke)
Hood is one of the most intriguing guys in the draft. As a Duke fan, I watched Hood a lot. He has some tools that will make me drool, but he also made me scratch my head at times. Hood has a definite NBA position, ideal size, and versatility. Whether or not Hood becomes an impactful player in this league depends upon his jumper. If Hood becomes a knockdown long range shooter, his potential as a “three and D” guy is nearly unlimited. If not, Hood will be just another average wing player in this league. Hood will be fighting an uphill battle in Utah but at this point in the draft he is a gem.
24. Charlotte Hornets: Shabazz Napier, PG (Connecticut)
This pick is headed to Miami. Lebron, are you watching? Now that Lebron got his favorite Hungry Husky he will certainly re-sign with the Miami HEAT, right? That remains to be seen but HEAT fans are definitely rejoicing.
I am a Florida Gator graduate and I was at the Final Four this year. How do you think I feel about Shabazz? But seriously, I love his game, love his ability to take and make big shots, and his ability to finish at the rim in traffic is often overlooked. The thing that makes Napier is his heart. He out wills his competitors much in the same way his former backcourt mate Kemba Walker did at the collegiate level. Napier combines that heart with serious NBA three-point range. I can’t wait to watch this guy, especially if he gets to play off of the Big Three on South Beach.
25. Houston Rockets: Clint Capela, PF (France)
Draft and stash for Melo?
26. Miami HEAT: PJ Hairston, SG (NBA D-League)
This pick is going to Charlotte in exchange for Napier. Michael Jordan gets a North Carolina guy to add to the roster. Hairston put up big numbers in the D-League, hopefully that success transfers to the big leagues. If Hairston can shoot the way he is projected to shoot, he’ll have a home in the NBA for a long time and he’ll be able to keep defenses honest, which is of particular value when Michael Kidd-Gilchrest is logging heavy minutes. The off the court issues are supposed to be a thing of the past so this should be a good add for the Hornets.
27. Phoenix Suns: Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG (Serbia)
The best name in the draft HANDS DOWN. I don’t care who else gets drafted, they aren’t touching that. BOGDAN BOGDANOVIC! Thank you, Ryan McDonough.
Presumably Bogdan Bogdanovic will stay in Serbia for a year or two, which means he won’t count towards Phoenix’s cap number this year. Is this a maneuver to create money to lure Lebron or Melo? I don’t think Phoenix will land any big time free agents but if you can draft a guy with a name like Bogdan Bogdanovic and simultaneously throw your name in the Lebron Sweepstakes you might as well do it.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: CJ Wilcox, SG (Washington)
What a dream situation for CJ Wilcox. He gets to stay out west and play off Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Wilcox is the consensus best shooter in the draft and this is a perfect fit minus the whole owner situation, of course. Good pick, Doc!
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Josh Huestis, SF (Stanford)
I only saw Huestis play once and I was left unimpressed. Surely Huestis will only play sparingly, but maybe he will help serve as Thabo Sefolosha’s replacement.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Kyle Anderson, SF (UCLA)
Of course the Spurs get Kyle Anderson. Of course he will be a perfect fit for their system. And of course he will kill your favorite team when you least expect it (and probably in the playoffs). Anderson has a versatile offensive game. He can be a less big-boned version of Boris Diaw off the bench.
*These trades were announced after my original opinions on the picks.
Elfrid Payton traded from Philadelphia to Orlando.
Doug McDermott traded from Denver to Chicago.
Dario Saric traded from Orlando to Philadelphia.
Jusuf Nurkic traded from Chicago to Denver.
Gary Harris traded from Chicago to Denver.
Shabazz Napier traded from Charlotte to Miami (as mentioned above).
PJ Hairston traded from Miami to Charlotte (as mentioned above).