The 2016 NBA Draft: A Tale of Kris Dunn, Jeff Schwartz, Sam Hinkie and Danny Ainge
Last night’s Draft was a whirlwind affair. There was a blockbuster trade, a lot of smoke, and some curious selections. The storylines were mostly dominated by four men. Those titular few held sway over much of the night. One was a puppet, another the puppeteer, the third an audience member to an orchestra he trained and once conducted, and the fourth a prisoner to his own design. I’ll go through each team’s selections, transactions and perspectives from last night with particular attention to the major subplots.
Atlanta Hawks: Selected Taurean Prince #12, DeAndre Bembry #21, Isaia Cordinier #44
The Hawks drafted for upside, a decent strategy in a weak draft with no top-10 selections. Personally I’m not a big believer in either player but both are athletic wing forwards that have playmaking potential. They seem to be preparing for the departure of Kent Bazemore, who they’d like to keep but may fall out of their price range. Also, having acquired two picks it’s possible they are considering retooling their team to build around Dennis Schroder, which opens the door for Al Horford’s departure as well.
Boston Celtics: Selected Jaylen Brown #3, Guerschon Yabusele #16, Ante Zizic #23, Demetrius Jackson #45, Ben Bentil #51, Abdel Nader #58
What a night for Danny Ainge. After dangling the 3rd pick for Jimmy Butler, and turning down Nerlens Noel, Robert Covington and both of Philadelphia’s late 1sts for that pick, Ainge bucked conventional wisdom and took Jaylen Brown over Kris Dunn. I actually loved this pick for Boston. It’s arguable they should have accepted the Sixers offer, but they had to unload picks, not add them. Brown is a prototypical NBA body that can play the wing and small-ball four, and I’m confident Brad Stevens is a coach that will get the most out of his potential. The rest of their decisions throughout the Draft were odd.
It’s no mystery the Celtics are trying to land a superstar, and after offering four 1st round picks for the chance to draft Justise Winslow last season, and their latest failed attempt to land Jimmy Butler, it’s curious to consider Ainge’s strategy of stockpiling picks in the hope of turning them into a star. He hasn’t shown much aptitude through the Draft either, so it’s no surprise their picks are so expendable for an established player. The Celtics last eight 1st round picks are MarShon Brooks, Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo, Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, James Young, Terry Rozier and RJ Hunter. You can now add Jaylen Brown, Guerschon Yabusele, and Ante Zizic to the list.
Yabusele has potential, but will likely be stashed in Europe, as might be Zizic. Demetrius Jackson was nice value at pick #45, but Bentil will spend the year in the D-League and likely has no NBA future, and Nader didn’t show up on most draft boards. I doubt this was the Celtics’ preferred outcome, and in hindsight one wonders if they should have accepted the Sixers’ offer. Noel would have transformed their defense at the rim, and Covington would have added to their shooting on the wing which they desperately need. They likely could have had Yabusele and Zizic at 24 and 26 from the 76ers, and taken players at 16 and 23 that fit on their roster now.
Brooklyn Nets: Selected Caris Levert #20, Isaiah Whitehead #42
Two nice selections from the Nets who had no draft presence two days ago. Both high-upside selections, but also far from sure things. I love Caris, and root for his health and success. If healthy, he and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on the wing is a dynamic core for a team rebuilding out of the ashes.
Charlotte Hornets: Nada
The Hornets traded their pick for Marco Belinelli. Exciting.
Chicago Bulls: Selected Denzel Valentine #14, Paul Zipser #48
Like this pick for the Bulls, who need a wing next to Butler that can shoot and move the ball in a motion offense. They need to surround him with athleticism, but he’ll be a solid rotation player in the NBA.
The Bulls were surrounded by intrigue the entire night, as Tom Thibodeau was reportedly offered to move Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn to reunite with Jimmy Butler, which he rejected, favoring to trade Ricky Rubio instead. Chicago subsequently denied the offer existed. The Bulls need to decide if they are building around Jimmy Butler, or if they’re going to use him to blow up the team and rebuild completely. If Charania’s report is true, and Thibodeau rejected Butler for Dunn and LaVine, it’s stunning that he’d turn down that offer and it’s stunning the Bulls would make it. But the Bulls likely saved themselves from a mistake, as they could choose to trade Butler in a month, and he‘ll fetch far more after the dust of free agency settles.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Selected Kay Felder #54
People got excited about the Felder selection, but he’ll probably spend the year in the D-League. Rooting for him though, he’s an exciting scorer.
Dallas Mavericks: Selected A.J. Hammons #46
Yawn. For a laugh, here are the Mavericks draft picks in the last decade.
Denver Nuggets: Selected Jamal Murray #7, Juan Hernangomez #15, Malik Beasley #19, Petr Cornelie #53
Great draft from Denver. All three of their 1st round selections can score and with Gallinari and Jokic they’ll be potent offensively. One thing to consider though: last night Tim Connelly said he sees Murray primarily on-ball, so how he fits with Emmanuel Mudiay will be interesting to watch going forward. Perhaps they’ll try to turn him into a sixth-man, or it’s possible they consider Mudiay to be a backup PG over the long-term.
Detroit Pistons: Selected Henry Ellenson #18, Michael Gbinje #49
Ellenson is a classic Stan Van Gundy stretch-four. He loves to space the floor around his monster-in-the-middle, and Ellenson will fire away from long-range. Furthermore, him and Drummond project to be a dominant rebounding frontcourt. Ellenson might not be the most efficient player but he’ll thrive in time in Van Gundy’s offense.
Golden State Warriors: Selected Damian Jones #30, Patrick McCaw #38, signed Robert Carter as an UDFA
The Warriors are apparently prepared to let go of Festus Ezeli. They also signed Robert Carter to an undrafted FA deal immediately following the Draft. Ezeli is going to get paid, and the Warriors are going to let him go so they can pursue Kevin Durant.
I projected McCaw at number 19 on my Big Board and this is an absolute steal for the Warriors. He should fit in seamlessly as a playmaking wing, and is an ideal match for their defensive scheme. Great work by Bob Myers and their front office buying this pick from Milwaukee in the mid 2nd round, and using it on a player that will make an impact in the NBA.
Houston Rockets: Selected Chinanu Onuaku #37, Zhou Qi #43, signed Gary Payton II as an UDFA
Adios, Dwight Howard. We knew this already but he won’t be in Houston next year. Onuaku and Capela are an interesting fit, but Houston will have great rim protection for the foreseeable future. The three selections here are all analytics-darlings with great physical measurables which is not a surprise. I included all three of these players in my top-30, and considering the lack of a 1st-round selection, this is one of my favorite drafts.
Indiana Pacers: Selected Georges Niang #50
Yawn. They traded their 1st round pick for Thaddeus Young, a solid trade.
Los Angeles Clippers: Selected Brice Johnson #25, David Michineau #39, Diamond Stone #40
I like Brice but I don’t understand why they took him here. Furkan Korkmaz went the next pick to Philadelphia and he fit perfectly on the Clippers as a scoring threat from the wing. Regardless, Johnson will be a serviceable backup four for them and can play now. Stone is a solid upside pick based on his projections as a prospect, but will spend the year in the D-League.
Los Angeles Lakers: Selected Brandon Ingram #2, Ivica Zubac #32
Ingram was the no-brainer here. Love Zubac at 32, as enormous centers from the Adriatic League have had recent success in the NBA (Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic), and the Lakers lack a presence inside. Russell-Clarkson-Ingram-Randle is a great young core, and they have a ton of cap space. If they bring in Hassan Whiteside, for example, they could become a force in the West within the next few years.
Memphis Grizzlies: Selected Wade Baldwin IV #17, Deyonta Davis #31
What a draft from the Grizzlies. Baldwin should never have fallen out of the lottery, and Davis falling to the 2nd round was almost criminal. John Hollinger runs the Grizzlies’ Basketball Operations department, and it’s no surprise they selected two players with great physical and analytical projections. Baldwin and Davis were six and nine on my board respectively and with Mike Conley possibly out the door, the Grizzlies were wise to pick up one of the best PG prospects in the Draft.
Miami Heat: Nada
Exciting night for the Heat scouting department. The Heat traded their 1st round pick in 2010 to the Cavaliers for LeBron, who eventually conveyed that pick to the Sixers, who took Timothe Luwawu in the 24th spot.
Milwaukee Bucks: Selected Thon Maker #10, Malcolm Brogdon #36
Unbelievable. Well, actually, really believable. Maker was not invited to the Green Room, and was not projected in the lottery, let alone the 1st round in many mocks, until Chad Ford pegged him at 10 to the Bucks just before the Draft. Maker is a Jeff Schwartz client (Excel Sports Management). Schwartz is also Jason Kidd’s agent and has been running the Bucks in the shadows over the past couple years. Aside from Kidd, Jerryd Bayless, Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis, Rashad Vaughn and now Maker are all Schwartz clients. Last year, GM John Hammond and most of the front office were known to have favored Bobby Portis over Vaughn, but they took Vaughn anyway.
Maker has talent, but he’s extremely raw and is going to spend next year in the D-League. That’s not what you want from the 10th pick. This is poor management and one I’m familiar with as a Knicks fan, where CAA controlled the organization’s fate for years. Middleton-Giannis-Maker may sound enticing in a few years, but the Bucks’ pool of players in potential acquisitions has been stifled by Schwartz. Unless his obvious influence is removed, it’s hard to envision a stable and successful organization.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Selected Kris Dunn #5
Dunn is honestly a perfect Thibodeau player, so it makes sense he doesn’t want to trade him. It’s stunning that Dunn fell to the Wolves, when both the Sixers and Bulls were reportedly willing to part with major assets to move up to 3 or 4 to select him. Nonetheless, Thibs now can play with a core of Dunn-LaVine-Wiggins-Towns, which is such an athletic group of players that I can’t even imagine what they look like in two years. The Wolves will be a running, flying death machine and will be almost impossible to score against with some of the perimeter athleticism they have acquired.
They are in a slight quagmire, in that Ricky Rubio has become expendable, but he’s a great player on a valuable contract in a league where most teams have a starting point guard. Thibodeau said they are “capable of playing off each other”, referring to Rubio and Dunn, but if he plans to plan a lineup with a backcourt of Rubio-Dunn-Wiggins teams will sag so far into the paint that it may just be five Wolves around the perimeter chucking bricks at the hoop from three. Rubio is likely on the move at a depressed cost, and the team that lands him will get a great piece.
New Orleans Pelicans: Selected Buddy Hield #6, Cheick Diallo #33
Guess that is the end of Eric Gordon’s days in New Orleans. I wish Buddy success on the Pelicans, though I’m not sure he’ll ever be much better than a healthy Gordon was in that spot. Him and Jrue are a dynamic backcourt, but Jrue is likely on his way out next summer. A Hield-Davis core is enticing, but Buddy’s success in the NBA will depend on his ability to knock down threes above 40% and if he can create his own shot. I’m skeptical of the latter.
Diallo is a great pick, and if he can internalize that he has elite rim-running and shot-blocking potential then he can be a force next to Davis. Davis gets worn down by a lot of the dirty work he has to do defensively, and if Diallo can develop to help rebound and protect the rim, Davis can regain his MVP-caliber form.
New York Knicks: Signed Ron Baker and Marshall Plumlee as UDFAs.
Gah. So many bought and sold picks, and none to NY. The life of a Knicks fan. Marshall Plumlee is trash.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Selected Domantas Sabonis #11, Daniel Hamilton #56
In a blockbuster deal, the Thunder sent Serge Ibaka to the Magic for Victor Oladipo, Sabonis and Ersan Ilyasova. It was no secret Ibaka wanted out of Oklahoma City after this season, and considering his pending free agency next summer, Sam Presti recouped a fantastic haul. Oladipo and Westbrook is the most athletic backcourt in the league, and the Thunder have forever searched for a wing defender that can also score the basketball. Obviously it remains to be seen if Durant will stay with the Thunder, but if he does, the Thunder’s small-ball lineup will be menacing on both ends. There is reason to be trepidatious, as neither Westbrook or Oladipo are great shooters, and Ibaka provided a lot of defensive help, so Adams’ responsibility grows considerably. Sabonis is a nice fit there, and should help offensively off the bench, but it’s fair to wonder about his fit next to Kanter, and how poor that bench lineup will be protecting the rim despite its offensive prowess.
Orlando Magic: Selected Stephen Zimmerman #41
On the opposite end of the deal, the Magic traded one of their core pieces for an expiring Ibaka contract going into a summer where the cap explodes to almost $110 million. They are taking a massive gamble on Ibaka returning to form after being marginalized offensively in OKC. But, if he does, the frontcourt of Gordon-Ibaka-Vucevic is impressive in terms of its length, athleticism and shooting ability. Vogel is preferable to two big-men lineups, and Ibaka should cover for Vucevic’s weaknesses defensively. There is a ton of pressure on Orlando to re-sign Evan Fournier, as he’s their only proven scoring option on the wing. The Magic are gambling, but let’s say they bring back Fournier and sign Chandler Parsons to a max deal. Payton-Fournier-Parsons-Ibaka-Vucevic with Gordon as sixth-man and Vogel coaching is a decent rotation that could bring the Magic back to the playoffs in the East.
Philadelphia 76ers: Selected Ben Simmons #1, Timothe Luwawu #24, Furkan Korkmaz #26
I feel bad for Sam Hinkie, man. This was his dream realized and Bryan Colangelo will reap the benefits of it. The Sixers had my favorite draft of the night, selecting my 1st, 3rd and 15th ranked prospects. I’m an unabashed Luwawu fanatic and look forward to him being able to shoot from the perimeter at will in Philadelphia. Him, Covington, Simmons and Noel are a tenacious combination defensively and can switch almost any pick-and-roll.
The Sixers will also bring over Dario Saric next year, and Joel Embiid will be healthy. The collection of the talent on the roster is incredible, and the additions of Simmons, Luwawu and Korkmaz add so much explosiveness, athleticism, scoring ability and raw talent that they are well set-up for the future. I expect them to trade either Okafor or Noel before the season, and wouldn’t be shocked if they were the landing spot for Ricky Rubio. Korkmaz will be stashed, but wouldn’t be able to contribute next year regardless. In two or three years, the Sixers will be a contending force in the East with the most valuable collection of contractual assets in the league by a large margin. Colangelo should send Hinkie an appreciative cake, or a car.
Phoenix Suns: Selected Dragan Bender #4, Marquese Chriss #8, Tyler Ulis #34
Nice draft for the Suns. Bender was the right pick at 4, and they were able to take Chriss as well for a collection of later picks from Sacramento. Chriss is an upside play and if he works out, he’ll be excellent. If he doesn’t, he’ll bust out. So it makes sense the Suns took Bender with their top-5 selection and took a risk on Chriss with a collection of picks that have a low collective potential. Ulis is a tremendous pick at 34, and he joins Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker in a crowded Kentucky backcourt. The Suns have a ton of athleticism on their roster, but the pieces fit oddly, and they’re likely headed for the lottery again to stack up on more high-end talent.
Portland Trailblazers: Selected Jake Layman #47
Sacramento Kings: Selected Georgios Papagiannis #13, Malachi Richardson #22, Skal Labissiere #28, Isaiah Cousins #59
Since last year the Kings have signed Kosta Koufos, drafted Willie Cauley-Stein, Georgios Papagiannis (a center), and Skal Labissiere (another center). What the hell is going on? Why would the Kings trade down from the 8th pick in a shallow draft for the 13th pick and take a guy they could have had in the 2nd round? Why would they take another center after drafting and signing two last year when they have arguably the best center in the league? Why would they use the 2nd pick they acquired in that trade-down to take another center? Richardson and Cousins are decent high-upside picks but their strategy is so confounding that I found myself laughing out loud at the thought of Vlade Divac for an hour last night. I just don’t understand.
San Antonio Spurs: Selected Dejounte Murray #29
Every year the guy the Spurs take is universally lauded as the steal of the Draft just because the Spurs took him. Murray technically was a “steal”, since he fell precipitously on the night of the Draft, but I didn’t rank him in my top-30. Murray is rail-thin and a poor off-ball defender, though he’s a good ball-handler and can finish surprisingly well around the rim for his size. He’s got a long frame, decent vision in the open floor and solid explosion on dribble-penetration. If the Spurs can develop his shot like they do with everyone else, they’ll probably have an above-average backup guard.
Toronto Raptors: Selected Jakob Poeltl #9, Pascal Siakam #27
In the last piece of the Andrea Bargnani trade and the final draft pick relinquished by the Knicks in the pre-Phil Jackson era, the Raptors took Poeltl, their replacement for Bismack Biyombo, who will be paid quite lavishly following his playoff performance in place of the injured Jonas Valanciunas. Poeltl is a decent pick here, and you know what you’re getting. Siakam was picked too high, and if the Raptors wanted a rebounding big that could protect the rim, they should have taken Deyonta Davis here.
Utah Jazz: Selected Joel Bolomboy #52, Marcus Paige #55, Tyrone Wallace #60
The Jazz traded their 1st round pick for George Hill, a fantastic move considering their scheme, and that the players selected in the 12–15 range would not have had close to his impact. Of the three players they selected, Bolomboy is the most likely to have NBA success, and the Jazz have shown excellent ability in the Draft the last few years, and may have found a diamond in the rough in one of the last 10 picks.
Washington Wizards: Nada
The Wizards traded their 1st round pick for Markieff Morris.