The NBA Draft comes only once a year and fulfills the lifelong dreams of players all over the world. The draft also presents a time for NBA teams and their fans to dream big. To find that superstar to build around, or find that missing link to a championship.
A lot of teams really had a good draft night, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two particular people who had a great night. Baylor’s Isiah Austin and NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Especially Austin, who should have had his name called pretty early in my opinion. Austin, was diagnosed earlier in the week with Marfan Syndrome. A condition that has unfortunately ended his basketball career. It’s such a sad story, however the NBA, in what was one of the classier moves I’ve ever seen in sports, brought a lot of smiles to a lot of people’s faces. Silver, named Austin the NBA’s Honorary Draft Pick. So, Austin heard his name called after all. It wasn’t the way he wanted it called, but it was a moment that reaffirms that Austin is still a winner and will be a winner at whatever he does in life. Fantastic moment for all involved.
The day after the draft is the time to evaluate what we saw, and what we see for the future. That’s just what I will do with The Good, The Bad, and The Intriguing of the 2014 NBA Draft….
THE GOOD: Charlotte Hornets – The Charlotte Hornets look like one of the biggest winners of last night’s draft. For one, they addressed their needs. The Hornets were one of the NBA’s best defensive teams last season, but they were also one of the worst offensively. Noah Vonleh, whom they took with the 9th pick should be a great fit alongside Al Jefferson, once he gets acclimated. His ability to be a stretch four should open things up more for Jefferson and give the Hornets frontcourt some versatility. Looking for a sleeper pick? How about P.J. Hairston from North Carolina, by way of the D-League. Hairston, played in the D-League last season after leaving UNC due to off the court problems. Hairston, is gritty and will fit in well with the Hornets defensive mindedness, but he can also light it up from the perimeter. Something the Hornets desperately need. In the 2nd round, the Hornets drafted Stanford’s Dwight Powell, but later included him in a trade to Cleveland for Alonzo Gee.
THE BAD: Toronto Raptors – Sure, the two players they coveted the most were gone by pick #20 (Tyler Ennis and Gary Harris), but there was still plenty of value out there. Certainly, more value than Bruno Caboclo. WHO??? The Raptors came within a game of advancing to the 2nd round of the playoffs and have concerns, whether or not Kyle Lowry will be back. Shabazz Napier was still on the board along with many others that could have provided help somewhere. Yet, the Raptors come up with maybe the biggest head scratcher of the night.
THE INTRIGUING: Philadelphia 76ers – No team’s draft performance was criticized more than the Sixers. Philly, gambled and drafted injured big man, Joel Embiid with the 3rd pick overall and essentially used the #10 pick on Croatian, Dario Saric, after they swapped picks with the Denver Nuggets. It’s very possible neither will play for the Sixers this season and Saric may not be available for 2-3 years. Obviously, drafting Michael Carter-Williams paid off in last year’s draft, but so far drafting Nerlens Noel has not. Noel, is healthy now and should be ready for the start of the season, but how he fits in with Embiid will be interesting. Embiid, is a guy that can face up and play with his back to the basket, but so far, Noel hasn’t proven he can do either. Can they coexist in the same frontcourt, while the Sixers wait for Saric? Maybe, but it’s doubtful. I really didn’t have a problem with them drafting Embiid, but while I’m sure there is a plan in place and patience should be exercised for this franchise, having two top 10 picks and possibly not seeing either of them dress out at all this season isn’t a good look. Especially, after Noel’s injury last season. It’s not all bad, though. The Sixers picked a defensive specialist in Clemson’s K.J. McDaniel in the 2nd round and more importantly they have accumulated assets, which could be very important down the road.
THE GOOD: Chicago Bulls – There’s no denying that the Chicago Bulls have bigger fish they’re hoping to fry in free agency, but they don’t seem to be taking any of that for granted. Picking up Creighton’s sharpshooter, Doug McDermott, could be huge in more ways than one. One, it gives them instant scoring help (Think the Sixers could have used that?) on the wing. McDermott, can flat-out shoot the ball, but he’s also good around the basket, he’s a good passer, and even makes plays off the bounce from time to time. Two, it gives the Bulls another piece that may look impressive to Carmelo Anthony or Lebron James when they come to visit in July.
THE BAD: Western Conference powers – Doc Rivers, L.A. Clippers team has wing players galore and what do they use their ONLY pick on? You guessed it. Another wing player. C.J. Wilcox, looks to be a solid pick, but the Clippers had other needs and there were players left that could have been a good fit. At one point the Clips looked like they could contend for the NBA title. Now, they look like a big question mark and very overrated. On the other hand, the Memphis Grizzlies probably needed a small forward, but they went for shooting guard Jordan Adams in the first round. Adams, is talented but the Grizz are already stock piled at shooting guard. The choice probably should have been Rodney Hood, which Utah got as a steal at #23, or maybe Cleanthony Early who looks like a better fit. I do like their 2nd round pick of Jarnell Stokes, who is a banger inside and fits Memphis perfectly.
THE INTRIGUING: Utah Jazz – Speaking of the Jazz. I was very impressed with what they did. I think landing Dante Exum at #5 was huge. I think he can be a really good fit with Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward. Exum, has the size to play the 2-guard and gives the Jazz another ball handler. Of course, Hayward may be gone, but no worries. The Jazz used their other first rounder to grab Duke swingman, Rodney Hood. If Hayward is gone, Hood has the game to be a good replacement, at a cheaper price. Overall, a nice draft for the Jazz.
THE GOOD: Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks – The Nets, nor the Knicks were even supposed to have a pick. However, after a little ‘wheelin and dealin’, both teams had picks in the 2nd round. Boy did they deliver. The Nets picked up a player some thought should have gone in the first round. Markel Brown, was Marcus Smart’s backcourt mate at Oklahoma State. He’s widely looked upon as on the most athletic guards in the draft. He’s also a very capable shooter. The Nets, also picked up Xavier Thames out of San Diego State, and Baylor’s Cory Jefferson. Both of whom, could find a spot on the roster. As for the Knicks, they picked up one of my favorite players in the draft. Cleanthony Early, has first round talent, so picking him up in the second round is an absolute steal. Early, should help the Knicks immediately. He’s a small forward that’s kind of hard-nosed but very skilled. Knick fans should love him. The Knicks also grabbed Thanasis Antetokounmpo, the brother of Milwaukee Bucks swingman, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Solid drafts from two teams that didn’t have picks until hours before the draft began.
THE BAD: Orlando Magic – The Magic, may not have had the worst draft night, but it could have been much better if they had drafted Julius Randle or Noah Vonleh with the 4th pick. Aaron Gordon, is a freak of an athlete and will defend his you know what off, but where’s the offense? He’ll get better offensively, but can the Magic afford to wait on him? Gordon, may be a good player down the road, but better players were available.
THE INTRIGUING: Boston Celtics – Did drafting Marcus Smart signal that the Celtics think Rajon Rondo’s tenure with the team is coming to an end? Maybe. Perhaps, the Celtics like Smart which is understandable, but when you factor in Avery Bradley the Celtics now have 3 point guards who are virtually the same. Neither of them are particularly good shooters, but they’re all tough as nails. Rondo, is the better pure point guard of the three, but it looks like the Celts are preparing themselves for his departure.
Other Notables: It was no surprise to see Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker go off the board with the first two picks. We just didn’t know in what order. Ultimately, I like Parker better, but I think the Cavs made the right move in drafting Wiggins. For some reason, Wiggins just seems like the better fit with Irving to me……….. The Los Angeles Lakers, got their man. Julius Randle, is the guy they wanted from the jump. Randle, should give the Lakers stability down low, while also giving them another guy that can face up and get his own shot. That could be very important in taking pressure off of Kobe Bryant………..Maybe, the Miami Heat are listening to Lebron James. I fully expect Lebron to back with the Heat, and I also think his opting out was to put a little pressure on the Heat front office to improve the roster. The Heat are off to a good start by swapping draft picks with Charlotte, and landing Shabazz Napier. There’s more work to be done in Miami, namely by Dwyane Wade taking a pay cut, but getting Napier is a beginning to keeping Lebron James’ talents in South Beach………..
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