Team-by-Team NBA Draft Reactions
Yes, it is too easy to truly “grade” an NBA team’s draft. We have no idea how these players will develop and my thoughts will end up looking silly in many ways. It is still worth trying to evaluate an organization’s draft at this junction. And more importantly it’s pretty fun.
I’ll be releasing an updated full big board in probably a week or so. Here, I’ll be discussing things more from team’s perspectives while there I will discuss from the players.
Atlanta Hawks — #19 John Collins, #41 Tyler Dorsey, #60 Alpha Kaba
Not a big fan of this draft for the Hawks. I could see Bud working his wing magic on Dorsey but all three of these guys need a lot of coaching on the defensive end. At #19 OG Anunoby could have been a really good pick considering the Hawks track record of improving wings shooting ability. The Hawks are a good enough organization that they could get a lot out of Collins but the same was said for Adreian Payne.
Boston Celtics — #3 Jayson Tatum, #37 Semi Ojeleye, #53 Kadeem Allen, #56 Jabari Bird
Whew boy. Brad Stevens is a wizard who will find the way to get the most out of these guys but it is hard to get behind what Danny Ainge did here. Tatum was simply not the best talent available at #3 and especially given the presence of Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder, and maybe Gordon Hayward he is a tricky fit. Ojeleye and Allen are fine picks but neither are good enough to make up for the Tatum selection. If Kadeem Allen ends up making the roster they will have ALL of the guard defense though.
Brooklyn Nets — #22 Jarrett Allen, #57 Aleksander Vezenkov
Another draft I’m not a big fan of. I like what Brooklyn’s doing in general so like Boston they will probably get more out of these guys than expected, but guys who don’t project to play defense are hard to get too excited about.
Charlotte Hornets — #11 Malik Monk, #40 Dwayne Bacon
Monk was the highest guy left on my board at #11 so I’m actually a fan of what Michael Jordan did for once. His fit next to Kemba Walker isn’t perfect but Steve Clifford’s emphasis on jacking threes should be good for him. He is one guy I wouldn’t be surprised to see start off his NBA career slowly but pick it up around five years in. Shooters often take longer to adjust to the speed of the NBA game than other guys. Bacon at 40 is a less important pick but not one I can get behind.
Chicago Bulls — #7 Lauri Markkanen
The Bulls are pretty much consensus losers of draft night for good reason. Their trade for Jimmy Butler was an awful return for a legitimate borderline top-10 player and topping that off by drafting Lauri just makes things worse. Selecting Markkanen is a sign that they will probably let Nikola Mirotic walk in free agency and there’s a real chance Markkanen will never be as good a player as Mirotic.
The one positive thing I will say is that if Fred Hoiberg finally starts playing the three-heavy offense he was purported to he could extract a lot of value out of Markkanen and Zach Lavine. Their defense is going to be a problem though. Also, trading their second round pick for cash after trading their best player is an atrocious move.
Cleveland Cavaliers —N/A
Dallas Mavericks —#9 Dennis Smith
I’ve been low on Smith all year but at #9 to the Mavs I can actually get behind the selection. Monk would’ve been my pick of choice but Smith will look quite good in Rick Carlisle’s spread pick-and-roll scheme. The chances of Smith and Carlisle butting heads probably isn’t being talked about enough but Smith is going to be a player who puts up big numbers in that system. I would still draft him with the ultimate purpose of trading him but he definitely went to the right place to get the most out of him.
Denver Nuggets —#24 Tyler Lydon, #49 Vlatko Cancar, #51 Monte Morris
It is hard to see what the Nuggets were trying to do with their trade of #13 for Trey Lyles and what ended up being Lydon. If the goal was to draft OG at #24 the trade makes sense but considering he ended up getting picked right before them you can’t give them too much credit. Lydon is theoretically the kind of shooting and shot blocking 4 that fits well next to Jokic but I would have preferred to see them go with Cameron Oliver in that role. Cancar and Morris are both fine but unexciting second round picks.
Detroit Pistons —#12 Luke Kennard
The Pistons might have had the worst draft of anyone outside the Bulls. Kennard at 12 is simply a massive reach. Stan Van Gundy has a proven track record of overpaying or reaching for shooters who can’t play defense (Henry Ellenson, Jodie Meeks) and Kennard falls perfectly in that line. SVG did end up turning J.J. Redick into a good NBA player but Kennard and him aren’t as similar as the superficial white shooter from Duke comparison would suggest.
Golden State Warriors — #38 Jordan Bell, signed Chris Boucher
Well, this is the least surprising thing ever. After being big winners of last year’s draft with the selection of Patrick McCaw the Warriors went and bought one of my favorite second rounders in this year’s draft in Jordan Bell. The fact that he’s a high IQ center who fits their small-ball switching scheme really makes this the perfect mesh of team fit, need, and talent. Boucher is icing on the cake as another intriguing talent who deserved to get drafted.
Houston Rockets — #43 Isaiah Hartenstein, signed Cameron Oliver
The Rockets penchant for drafting toolsy big man who show signs of shooting and shot blocking continues. Donatas Motiejunas, Zhou Qi, Terrence Jones, and now Hartenstein and Oliver. Hartenstein is fine value in the second round and Oliver was a first-round talent on my board so I’m a big fan of this draft for them. Hopefully they really give Oliver a chance to make it.
Indiana Pacers — #18 T.J. Leaf, #47 Ike Anigbogu, #52 Edmond Sumner
Leaf at #18 isn’t my favorite pick but most of the guys expected to go in that range were as bad or worse so it’s hard to hate them for it. Anigbogu and Sumner are both guys I had as late first rounders so this was a good second round from my perspective. If they do end up losing Paul George this off-season it will be interesting to see if they commit to a more full rebuild or not.
Los Angeles Clippers —#39 Jawun Evans, #48 Sindarius Thornwell, signed Isaiah Hicks
The Clippers might have had my favorite draft from a pure value over expected draft slot perspective. Evans and Thornwell were both top-20 on my board. I would love to see Evans develop behind Chris Paul but if CP ends up leaving in free agency he would at least still fit well in their offensive scheme. I don’t have huge faith in Doc’s ability to develop Thornwell but if Paul stays around and he gets a chance to play it will be a good opportunity for him.
Los Angeles Lakers — #2 Lonzo Ball, #27 Kyle Kuzma, #30 Josh Hart, #42 Thomas Bryant, signed P.J. Dozier
Even with Kyle Kuzma and Thomas Bryant picks I don’t like the Lakers are one of the biggest winners from this year’s draft. Lonzo was #1 on my board for a reason and even with iffy surrounding talent he should be a phenomenal fit in Luke Walton’s motion offense. Hart at #30 and signing Dozier are also strong moves for potentially useful two-way wings. They could use some more shooting so that’s one reason to go after Kuzma/Bryant but it would be nice to see them sign some more established shooting talent to play alongside Lonzo.
Memphis Grizzlies — #35 Ivan Rabb, #45 Dillon Brooks
Neither of these guys were my favorite second rounders but they both are guys who have a lot of visually appealing fluidity with the ball. They’ve made some good picks in recent drafts but haven’t yet developed any of the talent particularly well. Pretty meh on these picks.
Miami Heat — #14 Bam Adebayo, signed London Perrantes
Signing Perrantes to a Summer League team is a good move but Bam at #14 when they already have Whiteside is a borderline indefensible move. He is already someone whose ceiling might have been as a backup center and with Whiteside in tow he will pretty much be capped as a 15 minute a game guy. Even in the middle of the first round teams should be aiming much higher.
Milwaukee Bucks — #17 D.J. Wilson, #46 Sterling Brown
I don’t like the Wilson pick at all but the Bucks have proved me wrong about long and athletic guys before. If he doesn’t work out the Bucks should have some consolation in Sterling Brown who is a near perfect addition. Brown is something of a poor man’s Khris Middleton with his length, IQ on both ends, and shooting ability, and players like Middleton are the kind you can never have too many of. Don’t be surprised if Brown is as much of a second round senior steal as Malcolm Brogdon was last year.
Minnesota Timberwolves — #16 Justin Patton, signed V.J. Beachem, signed Charles Cooke
Patton is fine value at #16 but it would’ve been nice to see them go after a wing or power forward instead. The Patton selection screams of Thibodeau still wanting to play Karl-Anthony Towns at the power forward position. Still, it’s hard to hate on the Wolves and Thibs too much as their trade for Jimmy Butler was truly fantastic. Charles Cooke is also a very intriguing un-drafted free agent with his combination of shooting and defense.
New Orleans Pelicans — #31 Frank Jackson, signed Peter Jok
Eh. Jackson would not have been my choice at 31 but he’s not a disastrous pick either. They have little recent track record of developing picks though so I wouldn’t be too optimistic for his future.
New York Knicks — #8 Frank Ntilikina, #44 Damyean Dotson, #58 Ognjen Jaramaz, signed Nigel Hayes, signed Luke Kornet
It is always comforting when an organization you believe to be poorly run uniformly drafts players you believe are overrated. Taking Ntilikina over both Dennis Smith and Malik Monk is hard to justify even if Ntilikina is a theoretically good fit in the triangle offense. Both Hayes and Kornet are solid un-drafted free agents but neither Dotson or Jaramaz are all that intriguing.
Oklahoma City Thunder —#21 Terrance Ferguson
It is easy to understand why the Thunder fell for Terrance Ferguson. His theoretical upside of a pure 3&D guy is something they need next to Westbrook and they have always loved super athletic guys. Unfortunately, Ferguson is a streaky shooter who can’t actually play defense. Considering how many wings there were with more two-way potential this was one of the draft’s worst picks.
Orlando Magic — #6 Jonathan Isaac, #33 Wesley Iwundu
The Magic’s track record of developing Aaron Gordon by forcing him to play small forward is not a good sign for Jonathan Isaac. Isaac was a great value pick at #6 as the #3 guy on my board but I have little faith in them correctly deploying Isaac at the 4 or even 5. If they somehow had the foresight to play a front court of Gordon and Isaac at the 4 and 5 they could be a super intriguing duo. Iwundu makes sense as a toolsy guy they would like but is unlikely to help them due to his poor basketball instincts.
Philadelphia 76ers — #1 Markelle Fultz, #25 Anzejs Pasecniks, #36 Jonah Bolden, #50 Matthias Lessort, signed James Blackmon, signed Melo Trimble
Obviously I would’ve liked to see Philly take Ball #1 but Fultz is by no means a bad pick. They are set up incredibly well for the future with the core of Embiid, Simmons, and Fultz. None of their later picks are absolute steals but both Bolden and Lessort are guys who were good value on my board. Not sure why they pursued all 4’s and 5’s considering how badly they need a 3&D two-guard though.
Phoenix Suns — #4 Josh Jackson, #32 Davon Reed, #54 Alec Peters
I liked the idea of Phoenix trading Eric Bledsoe and drafting De’Aaron Fox and I would’ve preferred Isaac to Jackson but he is not a terrible pick at #4. Unless Bender really develops the Suns are starting to look like a team with a bunch of good but not great prospects which is a tricky place to be in. Reed wasn’t the best 3&D wing on the board at #32 but he’s another okay selection.
Portland Trail Blazers — #10 Zach Collins, #26 Caleb Swanigan
Though his fit next to Jusuf Nurkic isn’t ideal, Collins was the #1 guy on my board and Nurkic isn’t good enough for me to dislike them selecting my best available guy. Trading up in this draft was also a good idea as Collins was a tier above most of the guys selected in the 15–20 range they would’ve drafted in. He has the physical tools of former Blazer big Mason Plumlee with the shooting skill of Meyers Leonard and better defensive instincts than either guy. Could be a good pick-and-roll fit next to McCollum and Lillard. Swanigan wasn’t my favorite pick at #26 but their conservative defensive scheme could fit his strengths/weaknesses well.
Sacramento Kings — #5 De’Aaron Fox, #15 Justin Jackson, #20 Harry Giles, #34 Frank Mason
Fox at #5 is a great pick for the Kings. They might not have the infrastructure in place to get the most out of him, but he is the right type of personality and player to start building in a better direction with. None of their other picks were great but they are clearly prioritizing good locker room guys. Kind of similar to what Washington did post-Blatche/McGee/Young era and it’s a strategy I don’t hate. They already got more out of Skal Labissiere than I expected so I’ll hope for the same with Harry Giles. Not a very good draft outside of Fox but nailing the guy at the top is important enough to outweigh the other selections.
San Antonio Spurs — #29 Derrick White, #59 Jarron Blossomgame
Okay, I said the Warriors pick was the least surprising thing ever but this is actually the least surprising pick. The Spurs drafted a high IQ guy that can pass, shoot, and dribble at the back end of the first round. As a huge fan of White’s, I couldn’t be happier to see this pick. The Spurs will put him in situations to succeed and R.C. Buford’s comments about him having more defensive potential than given credit for are exactly in line with my thinking. Super excited to see what he becomes in San Antonio.
Toronto Raptors — #23 O.G. Anunoby, signed Kennedy Meeks
This pick, the Spurs, and the Warriors are all kind of the inverse of the Knicks where I feel better about liking them for a smart organization taking them. I probably was too high on OG because I did basically ignore his injury concerns. NBA teams certainly know more about that than I. Still, guys with his defensive talent simply shouldn’t be available this late in the draft and he can at least be a 20’s value pick like Andre Roberson. Great pick by Masai.
Utah Jazz — #13 Donovan Mitchell, #28 Tony Bradley, #55 Nigel Williams-Goss
Given the dearth of talent in the 15–25 range of this draft trading up for a solid two-way wing like Mitchell is a good move. Not sure what his selection means about the future of George Hill or Dante Exum but still a good pick who fits in their culture of defense. Bradley at #28 instead of someone like Jordan Bell is a less good pick. Williams-Goss is a super poor man’s George Hill so at least he fits well in the back of the draft. Drafting non-creating guards like Mitchell and Williams-Goss does suggest the Jazz think they can either keep Gordon Hayward or give Rodney Hood a larger creation burden.
Washington Wizards — Signed Kris Jenkins, Marcus Keene, Devin Robinson
Jenkins and Robinson are fine but not particularly noteworthy un-drafted FA signings. Trading the 52nd pick for Tim Frazier is a fine move for a team constantly in need of a backup point guard.
Alright, that’s it for now. I’ll be back soon with an updated full big board.