2014 NBA Draft Grades: Eastern Conference
The Hawks added frontcourt depth by nabbing Adreian Payne from MSU. (Isportsweb.com)
Now that the 2014 NBA Draft is complete, it’s time to analyze things and offer up grades for each team. We’ll start with the Eastern Conference.
Adreian Payne, PF/C, Michigan State (No. 15): There comes a time when value supersedes needs and with the growing trend of the “stretch four” it never hurts to have depth at the power forward slot. What Payne brings to the table is an explosive inside game and the ability to step out and hit the mid-range jumper and even the three ball, which is again increasingly valuable in this era of NBA basketball. When you pair that with his impressive rebounding set, you have the makings of a very nice complimentary player to try to help the Hawks regain some sense of relevancy in the ultra-weak East. A lung disorder and a few mechanical flaws in his shot are probably why he dropped this far in the draft, but all signs point to Atlanta getting an absolute steal at 15. What we really like about Payne is that he has the guts to wear purple pants (see video below). You know who else wears purple pants? Find out here.
Walter Tavares, C, Cape Verde (No. 43): With an abundance of bigs sure to be ahead of Tavares on Atlanta’s depth chart, this seems like a “holy shit, this guy is 7’3” with a 7’9” wingspan, let’s grab him and see what happens” sort of situation. We’d be shocked to see Tavares suit up this season.
Lamar Patterson, SG, Pittsburgh (No. 48): A capable defender and even better passer, Patterson has the potential to grow into the kind of second team role player teams hope for when drafting guys out of the second round.
Marcus Smart, PG/SG, Oklahoma State (No.6): To us, drafting Smart means you’re trading Rajon Rondo. It’s as simple as that. Or is it? We certainly hope so as this backcourt won’t work because the point of basketball is to put the ball in the basket as efficiently as possible and neither guy has shown he can do that at this point. But in the event Rondo is moved before the season begins, this pick does make perfect sense. Smart is a great leader and a more than capable passer that will usher the Celtics into their next era with a toughness you like from your floor general. Help him develop a jumper and you’ve got yourself an All-Star caliber player at a pretty decent slot in the draft.
James Young, SG/SF, Kentucky (No. 17): The Celtics are surely aware they need shooters, right? Guys that can hit outside shots are in high demand in the NBA and though Young isn’t completely devoid of an outside game, the Celtics certainly could have done better at addressing a major need at this point in the draft. Our guess is that Young’s athleticism and defense won over in this case and if all goes according to plan, he’ll become a steal at 17.
Grade: A+ or C-, depending on how the Rondo situation plays out
Markel Brown, SG, Oklahoma State (No. 44): Brown had the advantage of playing in the same backcourt as Marcus Smart in college. Now he’ll get a bit of PT with Deron Williams.
Xavier Thames, SG, San Diego State (No. 59): Thames is struggling in Summer League action.
Cory Jefferson, PF, Baylor (No. 60): Jefferson is a defensive specialist that could sneak onto the roster.
Nothing really of note with these three picks, maybe there’s a chance one grabs a roster spot and surprises some people. Hey, at least Nets fans got a chance to participate in the draft!
Noah Vonleh, PF/C, Indiana (No. 9): This pick speaks volumes to the amount of depth in this year’s draft class. After a slightly surprising slide, the Hornets found themselves able to select Hoosier Vonleh ninth overall. Yes, ninth as in eight players picked ahead of him. We’re not saying Vonleh is better than any of the players picked earlier, but to be able to get a big with this much potential at this stage of the first round is remarkable. There is more to like than not when it comes to Vonleh.
Defensively, his height and length suggest he will be just as effective of a rebounder in the NBA as he was at Indiana, though he will need some time to develop more as a rim protector and overall defensive presence. The tools are there, just be patient. Offensively, Vonleh has a wonderful inside-outside game that should help space the floor a little better in Charlotte opening things up for Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson more and more. Vonleh wasn’t exactly jacking up the three-ball at will in college but when he did it was with pretty good accuracy which also bodes well for his overall value should he continue to improve this part of his game.
Another part of his game that needs improvement — and that’s an understatement — is his passing. His assist-turnover ratio was the worst in this class and must improve upon his transition to PF or he may find himself riding pine during crucial situations.
P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends (No. 26): After passing on Doug McDermott at nine, it was pretty much a given the Hornets would address their shooting needs at 26, doing so with the selection of Hairston. We’d normally try our best to insert a snarky comment regarding Hairston recently punching a high school kid in the face, but frankly, we don’t find it amusing. Hairston can shoot the ball and that’s all that really matters in the NBA. He has the talent to become a steal for the Hornets this late in the draft, but there is a reason talent like this was still available to them — his questionable past. Make what you will of it; there is a chance he never runs into trouble again in his life and we certainly hope that is true, but we have seen this story before. Our guess is he sticks around for a while and becomes a nice piece in the Hornets rotation.
Semaj Christon, PG, Xavier (No. 55): Charlotte finished its draft on a high note, selecting Christon. Super-quick and able to create his own offense, he could become Charlotte’s version of Darren Collison. Christon won’t supplant Walker as the starter by any means, but it’s nice to know you have options.
Doug McDermott, SF/PF, Creighton (No. 11) (drafted by Denver, rights traded to Chicago): We guess if you are going to draft a guy with zero ability to play defense you do it when Tom Thibodeau is your head coach. Maybe the intensity of defense the Bulls play can mask McDermott’s deficiency on that end of the court and really let him thrive where his greatest attribute is needed — shooting the ball. If all goes according to plan and Derrick Rose can stay healthy, these Bulls are looking scary again even if they didn’t land Carmelo Anthony.
Cameron Bairstow, PF, New Mexico (No 49): If it can find the PT for this guy, Chicago may have a nice piece here.
Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas (No. 1): Truth be told, we were waiting for the Cavaliers to draft my good friend Ross Duerksen (5’10”, College of Charleston) with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. Seriously, we thought after the Anthony Bennett pick that the Cavaliers brain trust had really no idea what the fuck they were doing. Lucky for Cavs fans, the top 10 picks in this draft were about as foolproof as you can get. You could have swayed me on any player taken early on as a legitimate No. 1 pick. Wiggins was the guy for a lot of reasons and rightfully so, as he’s an athletic defender with enough polish on his offensive game to make an impact right away. He didn’t exactly “wow” anyone the way he was supposed to in his first and only year at Kansas, which led to the fluctuation of his draft stock, but even if former college mate Joel Embiid hadn’t suddenly earned a “Greg Oden-like” injury reputation, we still would have been on board with this pick. Wiggins is more NBA ready than the rest of the class, with the exception of Jabari Parker, and pairing him with the newly extended Kyrie Irving makes Cleveland look poised to make some noise for the next several years.
Joe Harris, SF, Virginia (No. 33): The former Virginia star goes from one Cavaliers squad to another and judging by his Summer League showing, he looks capable of supplying some offense in the NBA.
Dwight Powell, PF, Stanford (No. 45): We may have to take back every bad thing we’ve ever said about the Cavs after this pick. We love this selection and truly believe Powell can end up being a David West-type PF in the NBA if he can continue to develop his post game to compliment an already solid face up game.
Spencer Dinwiddie, PG/SG, Colorado (No. 38): The Pistons made their only pick in this draft count. Dinwiddie draws comparisons to Shaun Livingston and rightfully so, as he is a good passer with the ability to play off the ball. An ACL injury knocked Dinwiddie’s stock down quite far, but if he can stay healthy Detroit has a bona fide back-up that can contribute nicely off the bench.
Having dealt their first rounder to Phoenix, the Pacers sold the only pick they actually made (Louis Labeyrie, No. 57) to the Knicks for cash.
Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn (No. 24): Probably the most obvious pick when it came, the Miami Heat filled its biggest hole in selecting Napier. He’s an efficient scorer and decent ball handler, but his lack of explosiveness is what leads us to believe that even though he may very well be an upgrade over Mario Chalmers, he isn’t as big of an upgrade as the Heat needs. Napier should push Norris Cole for a spot in the starting lineup but our guess is he isn’t the long-term solution people may think he is.
Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Duke (No. 2): In almost any other year Parker would be the No. 1 pick in the draft, hands down. You can put aside the “tweener” talk because the kid can flat out ball! The only knock on him is on the defensive end, though we think it’s overblown and he will show us as soon as he suits up this season that it won’t be a problem. Parker’s offense is smooth and Bucks fans will greatly appreciate watching someone other than O.J. Mayo and Brandon Knight run Jason Kidd’s offense.
Maybe the pressure comes off this pair enough to let them morph into solid role players for a Bucks team that could surprise some folks. That really is the benefit of getting a player like Parker. Be happy, Milwaukee!
Damien Inglis, SF/PF, France (No. 31): Length seems to be this kid’s calling card which is nice, but more than likely will be stashed for a year or two.
Johnny O’Bryant, PF/C, LSU (No. 36): The only thing that would have made this pick better was if his first name was Koshaq.
New York Knicks
Cleanthony Early, SF/PF, Wichita State (No. 34): Early lacks the size and defensive ability, so we can’t get too excited about him, but Phil Jackson saw something in him so it’s hard to completely dismiss him as a prospect.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo, SF, Delaware 87ers (No. 51): Antetokounmpo will need to master Jackson’s triangle offense if he’s going to land a roster spot.
Louis Labeyrie, PF/C, France (No. 57): The Knicks landed plenty of young talent this summer, and Labeyrie, originally drafted by Indy, was purchased from the Pacers as part of this youth movement.
Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona (No. 4): When Orlando took Gordon at No. 4, all we heard was how the hell do you pass on Dante Exum? Well, simply put, Gordon is the better prospect. His game translates well and has been compared to Blake Griffin. We think that’s fair enough and if it comes to fruition, Orlando hit a grand slam with this pick. Couple this with the selection of Elfrid Payton, and Orlando basically won this year’s draft. If the Magic had opted for Exum at four then more than likely it would have taken either Julius Randle or Noah Vonleh at 10, and some could argue that perhaps Gordon would have still been available as well though not likely. The kicker here is Payton, and we love both picks.
Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette (No. 10) (Drafted by Philadelphia, but his rights traded to Orlando by New Orleans, via Philadelphia): Payton is the best pure PG in the draft. Unlike Exum, you know what you’re getting here when it comes to point guard play. Payton’s shooting isn’t pretty but we doubt he’s the go to scorer on this squad playing alongside Victor Olidipo. Payton is the floor general that so many teams covet and adds even more athleticism to a team starting to brim with it.
Roy Devyn Marble, SG, Iowa (No. 56): Back court depth seems to be the play here. Nothing more.
Joel Embiid, C, Kansas (No. 3): We weren’t buying it for a second when a foot injury suggested that Emiid would tumble down the draft board. He’s the real deal and though the injuries are a bit concerning it was a pick the 76ers absolutely had to make and they will be rewarded handsomely by doing so. We like the Hakeem Olajuwon comparisons and think they are fair, but Embiid’s health will determine how realistic they are. The only problem we can think of is how the Sixers plan to use him alongside Nerlens Noel, but that is Noel’s problem at this point.
Dario Saric, SF/PF, Croatia (rights traded to Sixers by Orlando for Payton) (No. 12): The tank is on in Philly for the next couple of years, so acquiring Saric makes perfect sense here. By the time he makes the leap to the NBA, the 76ers should be an exciting and up and coming team that he can transition smoothly into given his excellent offensive capabilities and good basketball IQ.
K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson (No. 32): Teams need guys who, while putting in time to improve certain parts of their game, can still contribute greatly in other areas and Daniels can do this with his defense. If he can develop an offensive game to compliment that, this pick will be golden.
Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse (No. 39): Grant is seeing important minutes in the Summer League, so at the very least, he’s getting his shot to show what he can do.
Vasilije Micic, PG, Serbia (No. 52): He’ll compete for Serbia at the 2014 FIBA, gaining valuable international experience.
Bruno Caboclo, SF, Brazil (No. 20): Not many people, ourselves included, had really ever heard of Caboclo before the Raptors took him at 20. That is sure to change over the next few years. We’ve heard everything from Giannis Antetokounmpo comparisons to Caboclo being the Brazilian Kevin Durant. Now we won’t go as far as saying he would ever compare to KD, but everything we read, see and hear about this kid is he has some game. Offensively gifted but rough as sandpaper, the next few years will determine the true value of this pick.
DeAndre Daniels, SF, Connecticut (No. 37): Daniels needs to pack on a few pounds, but his game likely translates to the NBA standard. Solid second round picks can help put fringe teams in the mix of the playoffs and he could be one of those picks.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below how you think your favourite Eastern team did in its draft.