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2017 NBA Draft Grades

Atlanta Hawks:  A-

Picks:  John Collins (19), Tyler Dorsey (41), Alpha Kaba (60)

In three picks, the Hawks picked up three strong assets for their rebuild. Collins is a pick-and-roll finisher who should pair excellently with Schröder while making strong effort plays.  Dorsey can play the 2-guard to provide extra space for Schröder, and also step in behind him at PG at times in order to give the Hawks a backup PG plan other than Malcolm Delaney. Kaba, meanwhile, has an insane 7’5” wingspan, and should be able to be the rim protector of the future. He and Collins should provide a good set of bigs for different matchups. In short, in an offseason that will be fairly pivotal to the success of tearing things down and building from near scratch, the Hawks nailed all of their picks, even if there’s not a future star among them.

Boston Celtics:  C-

Picks:  Jayson Tatum (3), Semi Ojeleye (37), Kadeem Allen (53), Jabari Bird (56)

Only one of these picks was really any good. Tatum was not the 3rd best player in this draft, and has all of the underpinnings of a long-run overrated player. Kadeem Allen is a finished product who won’t be able to find any minutes. Jabari Bird isn’t even going to make it through training camp and they’d have been better off selling his pick than taking him.  But Ojeleye is good enough to carry a grade on his own out of the D range. He’s a top-25 talent going deep in the 2nd, and while it took a bit of luck for him to fall there, the Celtics might have hit on 1 of their 3 2nd round draft picks, which is a pretty good ratio relative to the league.  Ainge still has yet to impress anyone with his drafting, but on the asset collection they have, that’s okay.

Brooklyn Nets:  B

Picks:  Jarrett Allen (22), Aleksandar Vezenkov (57)

Allen’s a good talent for 22, who could’ve easily gone anywhere from 15 or 16 on. He’s a little weak right now, but the Nets should give him some time to develop. Vezenkov is a pure shooter, and pure shooting talent is worth something in the NBA. He’s not athletic, and can’t jump, but he should be able to score in bunches for the Nets if they do get lucky and he does pan out.  Most of what’s driving the B grade, however, is Allen, who is a good defensive prospect if he adds a little bit of strength, and doesn’t conflict with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson like OG Anunoby would.

Charlotte Hornets: B+

Picks:  Malik Monk (11), Dwayne Bacon (40)

Monk might be the single best pick in this draft.  He’s an excellent scorer for a team that struggled to create offense at times last year, and an excellent shooter for when someone else is creating the offense and just needs some space to operate in.  He will make an impact next year, and the Hornets were lucky that he fell to them.  But if Monk was the best pick in the draft, then Bacon is nearly the worst (Though still better than Boston’s last two picks, which is telling).  The Hornets are allegedly committing themselves to two-way wings, but that’s not Bacon at all – he’s an awful defender who failed to give any effort on that end, much less consistent effort.  The Hornets not only sold their pick at 31 to move back off of Frank Jackson, but they ended up with a much worse player in the form of Dwayne Bacon, who doesn’t add anything that they didn’t already land in Malik Monk.  Fortunately, the #11 pick is the more important one to hit, and they nailed that one by having it fall in their lap.

Chicago Bulls:  F-

(If I had a lower grade, I’d ask for one an additional step below that to give them.)

Picks:  Lauri Markkanen (7)

In short, the Chicago Bulls announced a rebuild by trading the strongest win-now asset on their roster in Jimmy Butler, along with the 16th pick, in order to take back Lavine, Dunn, and pick seven. That’s not a great return for Butler in the first place, but they proceeded from there to take a player with minimal upside in Lauri Markkanen, as he’s unlikely to ever develop the strength or quickness necessary to become more than he is. And if that weren’t enough, they decided to randomly sell an asset in the form of their 2nd round pick. And that pick went to the reigning champions. And it was a switching defender who could’ve gone in the back of the first round.  Chicago has seen a bad draft already this year in the NFL, but this one almost trumped it.

Cleveland Cavaliers:  N/A, no picks.

Detroit Pistons:  C

Picks:  Luke Kennard (12)

Kennard probably will not be better than Donovan Mitchell, taken at 13, in the long run.  But for a team looking to win now, and in need of additional offense, he makes sense.  Basically, this pick does a lot for Detroit to maintain the status quo, and might even make Andre Drummond work out in the long run there.  Detroit’s a fairly good team defense already despite no elite defenders on the roster, and they had some major issues with play-making last year.  This could, then, end up being a good situation for Kennard, but for Pistons fans that don’t buy into the current core, it’s probably a little disappointing.

Indiana Pacers:  A

Picks:  T.J. Leaf (18), Ike Anigbogu (47), Edmond Sumner (52)

They acted similarly to Atlanta, which behaviorally makes sense as they’re in similar places in the standings and the franchise cycle. Indiana, however, gets the higher grade because they were willing to take on more risk at this stage of their rebuild.  Leaf, Anigbogu, and Sumner are all slightly risky picks due to injury or questions about their games, but they also have higher upside than their Atlanta counterparts, and that’s a great thing in a rebuild. Both teams got great picks out of their selections this year, and Indiana buying into the draft to grab Sumner (in a draft where we thought few 2nd round selections would be purchases at all going in) was a good move too.

Miami Heat:  B-

Picks:  Bam Adebayo (14)

Adebayo is a good fit for Miami, who can sort of use him as an understudy to Whiteside for a few years until Whiteside’s large deal is up and he’s a little on the old side.  Whiteside can develop him into a better shot-blocker and improve his comfort with the ball in his hands, hopefully. A few points were lost because Adebayo was a bit of a reach here based on other mocks, and there were other guys at positions of more immediate need, but Adebayo should still be a good player who fits into their system well.

Milwaukee Bucks:  B-

Picks: D.J. Wilson (17), Sterling Brown (46)

Wilson’s stock took way too big a leap after a strong NCAA tournament performance. While his hot streak started well before the NCAA tournament, and he has legitimate NBA skills that should translate — like his ability to play as the big in a pick and pop situation and his crazy length — this is still a bit of a reach. That hasn’t always been the worst thing for the Bucks, though, who just last year took Maker on a reach and got a decent center prospect out of it. Sterling Brown, however, should add some much-needed shooting and play-making to the Bucks 2nd unit, and has a good chance to contribute on both ends immediately.

New York Knicks:  D+

Picks:  Frank Ntilikina (8), Damyean Dotson (44), Ognjen Jaramaz (58)

This really feels like Phil, having gotten lucky and hit on Kristaps Porzingis, just started taking Euro players for the sheer principle of the thing rather than actually looking at if they were likely to be any good.  Ntilikina is a tantalizing physical prospect but isn’t actually good enough at that whole basketball thing for a team as desperate as the Knicks to place any faith in him. Jaramaz, meanwhile, is legitimately the 4th best prospect on his own team. He had no business being drafted at all. Damyean Dotson should have an impact for them as a super athletic scoring wing, but he’s the only real positive out of a draft that’s happening at a time when faith in Phil is waning.

Orlando Magic: C

Picks:  Jonathan Isaac (6), Wesley Iwundu (33)

If this grade were purely based on the picks they actually made, then the Magic would receive an A+.  They got a player in Isaac who could create the best defensive 3 and 4 pairing in the league within a year’s span, and then also got some potential playmaking from the wing off the bench in the early 2nd round.  Those were both fantastic picks, even if it does leave them without a replacement for Elfrid Payton.  But that’s not all they did in this draft, because they also started the draft with picks 25 and 35.  They did not end the draft with picks 25 and 35, instead flipping them for future assets that were of equal or lesser value than what they sent out. For a team that’s as talent-starved as the Magic are, that is enough to sink a draft grade.

Philadelphia 76ers:  A-

Picks: Markelle Fultz (1), Anzejs PasecniksJonah Bolden (36), Mathias Lessort (50)

Fultz, Pasecniks, and Bolden were all fantastic picks. Fultz was the best player in the draft and not getting cute with it is basically all you want there. Pasecniks and Bolden both are high-upside picks that could be something and the 76ers have the ability to wait for them to develop overseas. Lessort is also a great talent, but he doesn’t have a very clear path to minutes because offensively he does all the same things as Richaun Holmes, and I’d have wanted to go elsewhere if I were him. The most disappointing thing to me from their draft is selling off Sterling Brown, who legitimately could’ve been their best option at the shooting guard tomorrow.  Since they drafted and stashed multiple guys, they didn’t need to sell picks at all, but that’s a nitpick when they’re already so overloaded with talent that they’re just looking for projects to continue building on.

Toronto Raptors:  A

Picks:  OG Anunoby (23)

I think if they didn’t get lucky that OG Anunoby fell, then they’d have been better off trading the pick.  But they did, and they get to settle with a mere potentially elite defender. Anunoby should have a little bit of time to develop in Toronto, especially if PJ Tucker is brought back, but coach Casey has also shown no fear in giving rookies rotation minutes, so he should be able to get real game experience just the same.  It’s not entirely fair to credit them (or the Hornets at 11 and soon the Mavericks at 9) for the failures of other teams, but that is the reality of the NBA, and sometimes making the obvious choice is the franchise-changing good choice.

Washington Wizards:  N/A, no picks.

Dallas Mavericks:  A

Picks: Dennis Smith Jr. (9)

Their grade somewhat mirrors the Raptors’ before them because they got a very good player who fits a need at an inappropriately low slot because a couple of teams in front of them either had no need of the player or made a poor choice.  The Bulls and Knicks taking Markkanen and Ntilikina respectively enabled the Mavericks to grab their PG of the future and move Yogi Ferrell into a more natural backup role.  Smith is an explosive PG who should pair well with Nerlens Noel, Harrison Barnes, and the last legs of Dirk’s career.

Denver Nuggets:  D

Picks:  Tyler Lydon (24), Vlatko Cancar (49), Monte Morris (51)

The D here is mostly to make up for the defense that they failed to select in this draft despite desperately needing it.  They actively traded out of range for OG Anunoby, took a trade that gave up Donovan Mitchell and returned Trey Lyles + 24, which they turned around to take Tyler Lydon with, meaning that 1 good defender because 0 again, and they didn’t take anyone with defensive potential in round 2 either.  The Nuggets are apparently dead set on continuing to win games 141-137, and that will wear on them in the course of a season and also cap their ability to get better.

Golden State Warriors:  B+

Picks:  Jordan Bell (38)

Not only did the Warriors manage to buy into the draft, something Cleveland allegedly tried and failed to do, they managed to go high enough by spending all of the allowable cash to get Jordan Bell, a guy who could theoretically be starting for them next season as their center. It’s honestly astonishing that the Bulls made that trade, but the Warriors certainly took advantage of their poor front office. Bell should help push their rim protection into an even more nightmarish territory, as they now have three guys who can readily protect the rim or step out to the perimeter as necessary.

Houston Rockets:  Too soon to say

Picks:  Isaiah Hartenstein (43)

The Rockets traded their other pick at 45 to the Grizzlies, but they didn’t really want to have to spend the money on them anyway – they appear to be attempting to maintain as much cap space as possible in hopes of hitting on Paul George.  Even Hartenstein, who they actually did pick, will probably be a draft and stash.  Basically, they knew what their plan was and they executed, but it’s not a plan that makes them better on its own, so we have to wait to see how the cap space is used to determine the value of this step.

Los Angeles Clippers:  B

Picks:  Jawun Evans (39), Sindarius Thornwell (48)

The Clippers bought into the 2nd round twice, getting two very solid players at lower pick numbers than they were expected to go.  You can’t help but see the impact of Jerry West on this move, who was part of the Warriors FO that often bought 2nd round picks. I anticipate a Jamal Crawford deal in the process of these two picks, and at least one of them will be in a position to add rotation minutes next year.

Los Angeles Lakers:  A-

Picks:  Lonzo Ball (2), Kyle Kuzma (27), Josh Hart (30), Thomas Bryant (42)

The Lonzo Ball pick is the easiest one here. After trading D’Angelo Russell, the Lakers needed a PG and they went out and got the one loved by analytic models and scouts alike. Thomas Bryant is also a phenomenal pick, giving them some length at center, and the trade that they made to get him is a massive gain in value – they not only got their guy (since I assume Hart was at least equal to Bradley in their eyes) but picked up a free 2nd rounder on top of it.  The only question I have about their draft is Kuzma, who heavily overlaps with Julian Randle’s skill set and probably won’t ever be much better unless his unreliable jump shot somehow picks up.

Memphis Grizzlies:  A-

Picks:  Ivan Rabb (35), Dillon Brooks (45)

Like the other two that purely bought into the draft, Memphis did a good job of finding solid players.  The difference for Memphis is that they directly targeted needs. Dillon Brooks should provide some wing scoring that Memphis has needed for multiple years now, especially with the impending free agencies of Vince Carter and Tony Allen. Similarly, Ivan Rabb’s rebounding and ability to play the 4 on defense should allow him to play next to Marc Gasol in the event that restricted free agent JaMychal Green’s price tag rises too high.

Minnesota Timberwolves: A-

Picks:  Justin Patton (16)

The Jimmy Butler trade dictated the bulk of their night, and that was a coup, so they were going to get an A regardless.  However, they turned around and somewhat blew pick 16, one of the major assets from the trade that tilted it in their favor.  Patton is going to be a bench big at best for them, and while that is a need, that’s not exactly what you want to get out of your near lottery pick, especially when you have other, more noteworthy holes that need to be fixed.  He doesn’t pair well with KAT either, which is the main asset the Wolves should be building around (Jimmy Butler included) since one of them will often be forced out to the perimeter and it definitely shouldn’t be Patton.

New Orleans Pelicans:  C+

Picks:  Frank Jackson (31)

The Pelicans turned pick 40 and Tim Frazier into Frank Jackson through multiple steps, but there were a few steps along the way that didn’t really make sense for them and I don’t think the whole thing does either.  Frazier and Jackson will likely be comparable caliber players if Jackson isn’t better than his draft slot, and then they gave up pick 40 to do it too.  The trade exception will allow Demps a little more space to operate under the cap, but overall this was just a weird series of deals. You have to imagine they had a better option than that.

Oklahoma City Thunder:  D

Picks:  Terrance Ferguson (21)

The Thunder have desperately needed a 3-and-D player since the Durant era started. That’s probably what they want Ferguson to be, but there’s no indication that he can fill either part of that role at all. He shot 31% from the Australian 3 point line, and wasn’t a good defender, even if he does have the physical tools.  The Thunder were looking for help for Russell Westbrook here, but they didn’t find it at all and will have to answer for this one next offseason when Russell Westbrook is a free agent.

Phoenix Suns:  B+

Picks: Josh Jackson (4), Davon Reed (32), Alec Peters (54)

The Suns had the draft that the Nuggets should have had. They spent their first two picks going after excellent defenders and then moved on to use their last pick on a more questionable one.  I’m not sure how much Reed and Peters will be able to add to this roster, but they’ll certainly have a chance to contribute – they were both fantastic 4-year college players and have at least one or two elite skills that they bring to the table. Jackson, however, is the big prize, and the Suns took him rather than going for a guy like Fox. This is fantastic for them, since Jackson is almost a perfect wing pair to Booker — his defense should allow Booker to rest a little more on that end, his offense should let Booker move off the ball and turn it over less, and then Booker should help the floor not collapse on him due to lack of spacing.

Portland Trail Blazers:  B

Picks: Zach Collins (10), Caleb Swanigan (26)

Collins and Swanigan are both fantastic picks, but I’m not sure either of them fixes the core problems in Portland.  Swanigan could be the play-making C that they’ve seen a lot of success with in the past, from Plumlee to Nurkic, and Collins is the big prize, a rim-protecting C who can shoot the 3 and has a lot of agility to guard around the perimeter.  But none of that fixes their spotty perimeter defense at all, nor does it give them another star to put next to Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

Sacramento Kings:  A+

Picks: De’Aaron Fox (5), Justin Jackson (15), Harry Giles (20), Frank Mason III (34)

Sacramento probably got more total talent than anyone in this draft, and did so through a mix of high upside and stable players, such that every bet taken in this draft was hedged and they will get some high-end talent out of the draft.  Like Fox and Giles may both be elite players in this league, but Jackson and Mason will definitely be solid rotation players, with Jackson likely being a fairly stable starter for a few years.  They’ll be able to trot out a starting lineup of Fox, Hield, Jackson, Labissere, and Cauley-Stein next year, which is the most talent they’ve had in years.

San Antonio Spurs:  B

Picks: Derrick White (29), Jaron Blossomgame (59)

With White, the Spurs got a fairly crafty scorer who will be able to replace some of the production of Manu Ginobili or Patty Mills off the bench.  Blossomgame is what really makes this into a solid draft that only the Spurs could really pull off.  He’s a solid finisher at the rim, and has good size and instincts on defense, but he’s going to need to fix his jump shot in order to succeed at the NBA level, and no team is as good at fixing lightly broken jumpers as the Spurs.

Utah Jazz:  A

Picks:  Donovan Mitchell (13), Tony Bradley (28), Nigel Williams-Goss (55)

Assuming the Jazz are picking while blind on Gordon Hayward and George Hill, this is a fantastic draft either way. Mitchell and Bradley are both extremely high upside pieces that can also chip in a little immediately off the bench, and Nigel Williams-Goss holds the distinct title of “Not Shelvin Mack”, which should improve the backup PG. Ultimately, the Jazz set themselves up for the future, got rid of an iffy piece while it still had value, and other than getting somewhat beaten by the Lakers on the trade forcing them to pay to go up two spots to 28 in order to get “their guy”, they really did a fantastic job of betting better both now and later on the night.

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