Draft grades: Evaluating every team
We billed this year's NBA draft as one of the most unpredictable in recent memory, and it certainly lived up to its billing.
After the first few picks went according to form, things started to get a little strange. Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn were drafted back to back into the same backcourt. DeJuan Blair, Sam Young, DaJuan Summers, Chase Budinger and Patty Mills fell out of the first round. Rodrigue Beaubois and Christian Eyenga went in the first round.
After digesting all the twists and turns, we're ready to provide our take on how every team in the league did Thursday night.
ATLANTA HAWKS GRADE: B+
Round 1: Jeff Teague (19)
Round 2: Sergiy Gladyr (49)
Analysis: The Hawks finally took a Wake Forest point guard -- too bad it was in 2009 instead of 2005.
Teague has a killer first step and can get to the basket, but there are questions about whether he's a point guard. On the other hand, he was ranked in our top five for much of the year, and had his team not crashed in the tournament or had he gone back to school for another year, he would have been a top-10 pick. So the Hawks got great value here.
As for Gladyr, he was one of my favorite players at the Reebok Eurocamp. He can shoot, is a good athlete and has a good feel for the game. In a few years, he could be a really good pick.
BOSTON CELTICS GRADE: B+
Round 1: None
Round 2: Lester Hudson (58)
Analysis: Danny Ainge didn't have a lot to work with (the Celtics' first-round pick was sent to Minnesota in the Kevin Garnett trade) and drafted a guy who put up huge numbers in college. Hudson is a combo guard who can shoot, score, pass and rebound. He is old for the draft and hasn't played against great competition, but at No. 58, you usually don't find players with his ability.
CHARLOTTE BOBCATS GRADE: B+
Round 1: Gerald Henderson (12)
Round 2: Derrick Brown (40, via Nets and Thunder)
Analysis: The Bobcats had a nice, solid draft. Henderson is a really good fit in Charlotte and eventually should be able to replace Raja Bell. He is a great athlete and can really defend. Brown was a great value in the second round, a terrific athlete who can play both the 3 and the 4.
Overall, the Bobcats helped themselves with solid picks who might not be superstars but who could be in the league a long time.
CHICAGO BULLS GRADE: B-
Round 2: None
Analysis: I think the Bulls had their hearts set on Tyler Hansbrough and probably were a bit crestfallen when they couldn't move up and get him. Like Hansbrough, Johnson brings toughness, but with a bit of an edge that could make the Bulls a little less comfortable. Gibson is skilled and versatile but, like Johnson, is no sure thing.
I think the value of Chicago's draft will be clearer once we see what happens via free agency with Ben Gordon and potential trades with Kirk Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas. There's upside here, but not enough to get excited about at this point.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS GRADE: B-
Round 1: Christian Eyenga (30)
Analysis: Danny Ferry obviously was eyeing the future when he reached for Eyenga. He's been compared to Mickael Pietrus as an athlete and defender but he's really raw and not ready. Green is more polished and an underrated find. Prezldic is a Euro project who might pay off.
I have to say I'm a little surprised the Cavs didn't go for a player like Sam Young or DeJuan Blair who could have helped them right away. I thought the future was now in Cleveland.
DALLAS MAVERICKS GRADE: B-
Round 1: Rodrigue Beaubois (25, obtained from Thunder)
Analysis: I like the Mavericks' second-round picks more than their first-rounder. I'd be willing to bet Calathes becomes a much better player than Beaubois, both in Europe and in the NBA, and Nivins is an up-and-comer.
I am not sold on Beaubois and think Toney Douglas would have been a better pick here.
DENVER NUGGETS GRADE: A-
Round 1: Ty Lawson (18, obtained in trade from Wolves)
Round 2: None
Analysis: The Nuggets sent a future Charlotte first-round pick to the Timberwolves to snag Lawson here, and I think it was a good move. Lawson should work out well as a solid point guard coming off the bench, doing what he did best at North Carolina -- pushing the ball up the floor and keeping mistakes to a minimum. And his new mentor, Chauncey Billups, is one of the best in the business. Nice pick.
DETROIT PISTONS GRADE: B+
Round 1: Austin Daye (15)
Analysis: Interesting draft for the Pistons. They took three forwards who can play both the 3 and the 4, all with terrific upside and all with big question marks about their consistency and drive. If these players play up to their potential, Detroit might end up as one of the big winners from this draft night. If they stay inconsistent, Pistons fans are going to be frustrated.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS GRADE: Inc.
Round 1: Stephen Curry (7)
Round 2: None
Analysis: I think it's too early to know what grade to give Golden State. I love Curry, and if the Warriors keep him, I think he's a great addition to Monta Ellis in the backcourt. Neither guy is a pure point guard, but Curry's shooting should complement Ellis' slashing nicely.
But if the Warriors turn around and ship Curry, Brandan Wright, Marco Belinelli and Andris Biedrins to Phoenix for Amare Stoudemire in July, as rumored, I'm not going feel as good about it. Stoudemire is great, but that's a lot to give up for one guy, especially if he might be just a one-year rental in Oakland.
HOUSTON ROCKETS GRADE: A
Round 1: None
Analysis: The Rockets spent millions buying up picks, but I like their haul. Taylor is a great athlete and scorer, Llull has shown a lot of promise in Europe and Budinger was a steal this low in the draft. All three second-round picks might end up sticking, which would be a rarity.
INDIANA PACERS GRADE: B+
Round 1: Tyler Hansbrough (13)
Round 2: A.J. Price (52, via Mavericks)
Analysis: I like the strategy Larry Bird and David Morway have been employing the past couple of years in Indiana. Instead of swinging for the fences in the draft, they are trying for singles and doubles, and they're connecting.
No, Hansbrough wasn't as sexy a pick as Earl Clark or Jrue Holiday, but he will be in the league for 10 years, maybe as a starter, and he brings a toughness and energy the Pacers really need.
Price isn't going to wow anyone, either, but he is steady and can be a solid backup for the Pacers.
Eventually the Pacers will need to find one more star to pair with Danny Granger. And when they do, they'll have built a terrific supporting cast around them that should be able to compete deep into the playoffs.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS GRADE: A
Round 1: Blake Griffin (1)
Round 2: None
Analysis: There is no "A" in Clippers. The franchise has been sometimes snakebitten and almost always inept.
But for the Clippers' faithful looking for a glimmer of hope, Griffin is your man. Can he single-handedly wipe out the negative vibes in Clipperland? No. But with Griffin, Eric Gordon and Al Thornton, the Clippers are quietly building a young nucleus that could be special someday.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS GRADE: D
Round 1: None
Round 2: Chinemelu Elonu (59)
Analysis: The Lakers traded away the draft rights to Toney Douglas and Patrick Beverley for cash and future second-rounders. The argument is that they need every penny when trying to re-sign Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom. And besides, will a rookie ever get any minutes for the defending champs?
I understand the rationale but I also think it's short-sighted. Good teams have to restock at some point, and I think Douglas in particular could have helped the Lakers. He could be a Derek Fisher type of player down the road.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES GRADE: A-
Round 2: Sam Young (36)
Analysis: I am not a huge fan of Thabeet but understand why the Grizzlies went that way. Ricky Rubio wasn't cooperating, and Thabeet can help the Grizzlies, who needed a big, athletic shot-blocker. He is limited offensively, but he can change the game on defense.
Later in the draft is where the Grizzlies really shone. I loved the Carroll and Young picks. They give the Grizzlies toughness and two players who can come in and contribute immediately.
I've been pretty harsh about some of the Grizzlies' shortcomings in the past, but for the second year in a row, I think they've drafted really well.
MIAMI HEAT GRADE: B
Analysis: The Heat did OK for themselves in the second round. They fell in love with Beverley upon his first workout back from the Ukraine and had been pursuing him ever since. Beverley and Dozier both are terrific athletes. Beverley also is a good defender and scorer. Dozier blocks shots and runs the floor.
This draft is not going to dramatically change the fortunes of the franchise, but I do think Beverley in particular could help the Heat down the road.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS GRADE: B+
Round 1: Brandon Jennings (10)
Round 2: Jodie Meeks (41)
Analysis: The Bucks went into rebuilding mode this week when they shipped Richard Jefferson to the Spurs for expiring contracts. So if they're going to lose for a little while, why not swing for the fences with a player who could be really special?
Jennings is a terrific athlete, is super quick and can score like crazy. He needs to get stronger, work on his jump shot and settle down a bit, but he has the tools to be great if he wants to be.
Meeks doesn't have the physical tools Jennings does, but he's a crafty scorer who can light it up when given the chance.
The Bucks' future now rests with young players like Andrew Bogut, Joe Alexander and Jennings. It might take Jennings a little longer to realize his potential, but if he does, the Bucks hit a home run.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES GRADE: C+
Round 2: Henk Norel (47, via Heat)
Analysis: Rubio and Flynn might have been the two best point guards in the draft. But to fall in love with them both and actually take them both amounts to point guard polygamy.
I really don't know what to think about the Timberwolves' draft. I keep waiting to hear about a trade that tells us where Rubio or Flynn is really going, but it hasn't come, and GM David Kahn says he wants to keep them both.
It's almost Kevin McHale-esque. Remember all of us scratching our heads in 2008 when the Wolves traded for Kevin Love, who plays the same position as their best player, Al Jefferson?
So, to recap: The Wolves traded two key players on their roster, Randy Foye and Mike Miller, and took back bad contracts to get the No. 5 pick, a questionable move. Then they got the two guys they love, Rubio and Flynn. Terrific. Then Kahn announced his idea to have Rubio and Flynn play together in the backcourt. Huh?
I could see it, I guess, had it been Stephen Curry they drafted to play alongside Rubio. But Flynn as a 2 guard? Really? The Wolves appear to have outsmarted themselves.
Here's the problem: Even if the Wolves' idea to play them together was a good one (and it isn't), I don't think Rubio would go for it. If he wants to, he can go back to Spain for the next year or two (or more) and really foul things up for the Wolves. Given how things look right now, I think he just might do it.
As for the rest of the draft, I think the Wolves made a good deal with Denver for the Lawson pick. That Bobcats pick they received could be valuable down the road. And I like Ellington a bit at No. 28. Norel, not so much.
In the end, I doubt we will see Rubio and Flynn on the floor together. Trade proposals will come the Wolves' way, and Rubio's camp will push them to accept one it likes.
Until then this was a weird night for Minnesota.
NEW JERSEY NETS GRADE: B-
Round 1: Terrence Williams (11)
Round 2: None
Analysis: The Nets' draft day was quite eventful. For the second straight year, they made a major trade to cut payroll. In 2008, they shipped out Richard Jefferson for Yi Jianlian and cap relief, and this year, it was Vince Carter for Courtney Lee and cap relief.
The Nets aren't going to be very good this season, but they'll take solace in Williams and Lee. Williams has the talent of a top-five pick, with great size and athleticism. He can do just about everything but shoot. He's an eccentric kid whose personality scared some teams away, but if he plays up to his potential, the Nets will have another star to pair with Devin Harris.
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS GRADE: B-
Round 1: Darren Collison (21)
Round 2: Marcus Thornton (43, obtained from Heat via Pacers)
Analysis: A team with huge holes in the frontcourt addressed, instead, its backcourt.
I think Collison is rock-solid and a terrific backup for Chris Paul. He's steady, he defends and he can really push the pace of the game. Thornton is a terrific scorer who slipped because of his lack of size and so-so athleticism.
I like the picks, with my only issue being that the Hornets passed on a few big men who could have helped, like DeJuan Blair, B.J. Mullens and DaJuan Summers.
NEW YORK KNICKS GRADE: B+
Round 2: None
Analysis: The Knicks didn't get what they wanted in the draft -- Ricky Rubio or Stephen Curry was supposed to be the point guard of the future at Madison Square Garden.
But they did draft the best available player at both points in the first round, and I think they improved. Add in the acquisition of Darko Milicic for Quentin Richardson, and the Knicks upgraded their front line and added Douglas, an underrated combo guard who can shoot, slash and defend.
None of the three players they added Thursday has star potential, but they're doing the best with what they have and building a solid supporting cast for what they hope will be a star-studded run on the free-agent market next summer.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER GRADE: A-
Round 2: Robert Vaden (54, obtained from Thunder via Spurs)
Analysis: While I thought the Thunder might be able to use Ricky Rubio as a trade asset, if nothing else, it's hard to fault Sam Presti. Harden is a better fit in the backcourt with Russell Westbrook, and I think the Thunder got a terrific value pick in Mullens. On talent and upside, he was one of the most intriguing players in the draft. If coach Scott Brooks can get effort from him, the Thunder will have intriguing young talent at every position on the floor.
ORLANDO MAGIC GRADE: N/A
Round 1: None
Round 2: None
Analysis: The Magic didn't have a first-round pick (they sent it to Memphis in the Rafer Alston trade), but they were really busy pulling off a blockbuster, acquiring Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson for Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie. The deal was a home run for the Magic. Carter is a huge improvement for the Magic at the 2, and believe it or not, according to John Hollinger's PER, Anderson had a better rookie season than Lee did.
The Magic needed to up the ante after the Cavs traded for Shaq, and they did it in a big way. If they can find a way to re-sign Hedo Turkoglu, they'll be the clear favorites in the East.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS GRADE: A
Round 1: Jrue Holiday (17)
Round 2: None
Analysis: I really like what the 76ers did, taking an opportunity to nab a lottery talent who was falling because of injury concerns. Holiday is in a long line of players who slipped when team doctors got nervous, with Danny Granger as a prime example. The Sixers could have gone with a more proven guard like Ty Lawson or Eric Maynor, but Holiday has more upside and could turn into a terrific pick for them.
PHOENIX SUNS GRADE: A-
Round 1: Earl Clark (14)
Round 2: Taylor Griffin (48)
Analysis: Judge the Suns on whom they grabbed at No. 14, and you have to be impressed. Clark was a top-five talent in this draft. He can play multiple positions, and if he gets motivated, he can be a dominant player who should be a terrific fit in the Suns' up-tempo system.
Griffin is about grit and athleticism, but he has the talent to stick in the league as a 10th man.
And if you factor in a possible acquisition of Stephen Curry, it gets even better for Phoenix.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS GRADE: B-
Round 1: Victor Claver (22)
Analysis: I love the aggressive way Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard approaches the draft -- even before it began this year, he made two trades to reposition his team.
But I'm not in love with his picks this time around. Claver has real upside and could be a good pick down the road, but he isn't exactly Rudy Fernandez, and he's going to have to make a big leap to make it. Pendergraph is solid but stiff, while Cunningham is talented but undersized and Mills is fast as lightning and a good scorer but small and not a great distributor.
Could Portland have done better? I think so, by taking DeJuan Blair and DaJuan Summers. And yes, it would have been fun to see Pritchard move all the way up to land Ricky Rubio or Stephen Curry.
The Blazers had a solid draft, but Pritchard's rep has made "solid" seem disappointing.
SACRAMENTO KINGS GRADE: B+
Round 2: Jon Brockman (38, traded from Blazers via Knicks and Bulls)
Analysis: I'm a little split on what to give the Kings.
On the one hand, I really liked their draft. Evans is a talented guy and one of the most NBA-ready guards in the draft, a terrific, physical slasher who knows how to score. Casspi is tough as nails with a high-energy game. Brockman is a lumberjack in the paint and will knock heads with anyone. Put these three draft picks together with the acquisition of Andres Nocioni in February, and you can no longer call the Kings soft.
On the other hand, I think the Kings chose the safest route, picking now over the future. Ricky Rubio was a better fit than Evans, who is a not a point guard -- he has a scorer's mentality, and Sacramento already has a star shooting guard in Kevin Martin.
The Kings felt Rubio was too far away, too much of a risk. Compared to Evans, he might be. But in the coming years, Rubio might make them wish they had grabbed him while they could.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS GRADE: A+
Round 1: None
Analysis: The Spurs always seem to find a way to make a little into a lot. With no first-round picks, they still were able to come away with some terrific players.
Blair, if his knees stay sturdy, is the steal of the draft. McClinton is a clone of Eddie House. And De Colo really impressed me with his point guard skills at the Eurocamp.
I think Blair can come in and help immediately on the boards, and McClinton can be a nice scorer coming off the bench. Factor in the addition of Richard Jefferson on Tuesday, and the Spurs have had one heck of a week.
TORONTO RAPTORS GRADE: B+
Round 1: DeMar DeRozan (9)
Round 2: None
Analysis: The Raptors swung for the fences with this pick, getting a player with as much upside as anyone else in the draft.
DeRozan is long and athletic and can run the floor. If he improves his jump shot and ballhandling, he could be one of the best players to come out of this draft. Those are big ifs, but the Raptors made a worthy gamble. With Chris Bosh possibly leaving this summer or next, they needed to add another premiere talent.
UTAH JAZZ GRADE: A
Round 1: Eric Maynor (20)
Round 2: Goran Suton (50)
Analysis: Fans never like their teams drafting bench players, but Utah GM Kevin O'Connor didn't try to make a crowd-pleasing choice.
The Jazz really needed to find a competent backup for Deron Williams, and in my opinion, they walked away with the most underrated player in the draft. Maynor is a pure point guard who sees the floor well, makes players around him better, isn't afraid to take over a game late and rarely makes mistakes. On top of that, he's a great kid and a hard worker who should fit perfectly in Utah.
Suton has talent, but he'll probably be honing that talent in Europe next year.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS GRADE: A
Round 1: None
Round 2: None
Analysis: Washington had the No. 5 pick in the draft but traded it, along with Etan Thomas, Darius Songaila and Oleksiy Pecherov, to the Wolves for Randy Foye and Mike Miller. The Wizards understood they were unlikely to get a player at No. 5 who could crack their rotation, and they wanted to be serious contenders right away in the East. I think the addition of Foye and Miller puts them there.
The Wolves were willing to pay significantly more than any other team, giving up two solid starters. I don't think the Wizards could have done any better in getting value for the No. 5 pick.
Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.
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