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Grading the NBA Draft


Up first: Eastern Conference


By Adam Hoff

Featuring Jeff Dritz, Draft Guru


You might be wondering why the draft grades are coming out now, weeks after the draft itself.  Three reasons: 1) Iíve been really busy.  2) You probably wouldnít read our grades over the likes of Steve Kerrís and Chad Fordís, but now that there is a dearth of draft grades, boom, you are all over it.  3) I kind of wanted to see some early returns from summer leagues so that I could cheat and have more info than Dritz, since he sent his grades to me about 12 days ago.  Mission accomplished.


Without further ado, here are the draft grades (finally), starting with the Eastern Conference.


Atlanta Hawks

C+       Many have criticized the Hawks for taking Shelden Williams too high at #5, but I donít think it was that much of a reach. Williams is the kind of guy that, in recent drafts, would have dropped to the late teens because he isnít very athletic and doesnít have a high ceiling, but ten years after the draft, would end up being one of the top 7-10 guys in the class. Heís never going to be an All-Star, but heís going to be a very solid pro for a long time. They wouldíve done better if they couldíve traded down to #8 and taken him, but they couldnít pull it off. Solomon Jones is raw but could develop. Leon Powe and Alexander Johnson would have been better choices.


Adamís Grade: C+.  I concur. 


Boston Celtics

C+       This grade jumps if the pieces the Celtics gathered on draft day can be turned around into Allen Iverson. If thatís the plan, then the Celtics did well. If not, Iím not sure what they were doing. Why trade the #7 pick that could have been used to choose next yearís Rookie of the Year, Brandon Roy, for Sebastian Telfair, an athletic but small no-shot point guard with a questionable attitude that Portland was begging to dump, and then choose another athletic but small no-shot point guard in Rajon Rondo at #21? Leon Powe at #49 may have been the steal of this draft, so that bumped the grade up considerably. However, a draft of Roy at #7, Rondo at #21, and Powe at #49 would have been three steals and an ďA.Ē


Adamís Grade: B.  I too wondered about the decision to spend for two point guards, but at the same time, Rondo was a steal that late given his athleticism and I happen to be one of the rare Telfair believers.  Obviously, Foye or Roy (I love that they are the two best players in this class and that their names rhyme) would have been a better pick sans AI trade, but I happen to think Telfair is going to have a good career.  More importantly, with the massive Pierce contract extension, it seems very clear the Cís will be making some big moves between now and the trading deadline next season.  Donít be surprised if this team steamrolls the Atlantic next year after some major overhauls.


Charlotte Bobcats

B-        Adam Morrison may be the most marketable player in this draft, but Iím not sold on his ability to free himself for a shot against athletic defenders. Besides which, heís a small forward, and the hole in the Bobcatsí lineup was at shooting guard (Gerald Wallace doesnít shoot well enough to play that spot). I think Roy would have been the right choice here. But Morrison should get a few open looks from defenders doubling down on Emeka Okafor, Sean May, and Primoz Brezec. Ryan Hollins is not an NBA player. If the Bobcats wanted a center, they shouldíve taken Kevin Pittsnogle, whoís a bigger body and can hit 3s.


Adamís Grade: C-.  Morrison is going to be average and Roy is going to be a star, so it isnít rocket science.  MJís pride got in the way here Ė he was bitter that Roy skipped his workout so he didnít draft him.  Big mistake.  


Chicago Bulls

B+       Iím not sold on Tyrus Thomas the way many others are. He had a few big games in the tournament, but he wasnít on the top of the board for most of the season. Heís still very raw. With the Bulls adding Ben Wallace, theyíre in more of a ďwin-nowĒ mode. They still lack a power forward who can score, and while LaMarcus Aldridge may be a bit soft, I think heís a better complement to Wallace. That said, if Thomas fulfills his potential, he could very well end up the best player in this class. I liked Paxsonís slick moves to get his guy (Thomas) and pick up a decent piece in Victor Khyrapa as well. Sefolosha will hopefully be an athletic wing defender who can shoot. Heíll be useful to cover opposing teamsí top 2 guards, freeing Kirk Hinrich to focus a bit more on offense. But I liked Ronnie Brewer better, and they had to give up a future second-rounder.


Adamís Grade: A-.  It is hard to knock the Bulls when they actually managed to add rotation guys to a playoff team (that gave Miami a pretty tough test).  That said, I too would have preferred Brewer and I am very worried about the fact that Tyrus is bombing threes in summer league play and telling everyone that heís a small forward (and shooting 38% in the process).  Get near the hoop, my man.  The move that really excited me was the trade that brought over P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith for Tyson Chandler.  Not only was it a good personnel move, an upgrade in contracts, and a festival of initials, but it the implementation of a perfect ďbuy lowĒ strategy on the wildly talented Smith.  So what do the Bulls do?  Trade him for Howard Freaking Eisley and two second round picks!  What?  I swear, every time a team pulls of a heist these days, they turn around and give the player away.  Total insanity.  I would drop their grade, but since it wasnít related to the draft I will leave things alone.


Cleveland Cavaliers

A         Two steals. Shannon Brown is fiery, strong, and athletic. The knock against him is that heís too small to play the two, but doesnít handle the ball well enough to play the point. Not a problem with the Cavs, since LeBron will be handling the rock most of the time anyway. Gibson was a top-5 prospect before the season whose stock dropped. He may be turnover-prone, but he can score well and has the talent to be one of the top players in the draft.


Adamís Grade: A+.  Lost in all the LeBron contract extension talk is the fact that the Cavs just took a late first round pick and a second round pick in a draft deemed by most to be total crap and turned it into two legit players.  I mean, if you told me that Cleveland would shore up their rickety backcourt (Eric Snow, Flip Murray, and Damon Jones were playing huge minutes for a playoff team Ö think about that for a minute) through this draft I never would have believed it.  It is a miracle that Shannon Brown (my choice as the winner of this yearís Josh Howard ďPicked in Late First Round but Will be Getting PAID in a Few YearsĒ award) fell to #25 and Gibson has the talent of a lottery pick.  The best part Ė as Dritz alluded to (thatís why heís the guru) Ė is that the exact reason these players slid in the draft is because they are classic tweeners.  Given LeBronís ability to control the ball (especially late), all Cleveland needs are finishers, athletes, shooters, and defenders to surround him with.  Brown and Gibson fit the bill perfectly.  It is as if Billy Beane was GM for this draft, because the maximization of true value versus perceived value was done flawlessly. 


Detroit Pistons

B         Cheik Samb at #51 is raw and probably will never be an NBA player. Will Blalock is a good pickup at #60, and can eventually step in for Lindsay Hunter when he moves into the front office.


Adamís Grade: C-.  I donít like this pick, because it just further clouds the future of my boy Alex Acker in Detroit-What.  My man is going for 23 a night in summer league and he canít get a guaranteed contract?  Oh well, the Pistons loss will be someone elseís gain.  In fact, Chicago could use another tall, rangy combo guard, maybe Detroit will continue to stockpile the Bullsí roster. 


Indiana Pacers

C+       There are a lot of questions about Shawne Williamsí heart and desire, and given that heís kind of a ďpoor manís Danny GrangerĒ (who the Pacers took last year), this pick doesnít make a lot of sense. I like James White for his athleticism and his D. Reminds me of Josh Howard, except without the offense.


Adamís Grade: B+.  I know I am way out there on the Pacers.  For starters, you canít have too many athletic wing players in todayís NBA.  Beyond that, I had White as one of my top five sleepers for this draft and I am convinced that Shawne Williams is going to be that classic ďwow, he turned out to be WAY better than I thoughtĒ player, ala Villanueva last year. 


Miami Heat

A+       The Heat had no picks, the first-rounder sent to the Lakers in the Shaq trade. The Lakers used it to select Jordan Farmar at #26. Shaq just helped lead the Heat to their first championship.


Adamís Grade: NA.


Milwaukee Bucks

B+       David Noel at #39 is a minor steal. Heís a great athlete who could be a strong defender and useful rotation player in the NBA. Damir Markota at #59 is a good shooter whose D is questionable but is athletic enough to improve. However, there are concerns about his overactive social life.


Adamís Grade: B.  Boring.  But I did love the Charlie Villanueva acquisition.  Anytime you can unload a frail point guard that canít shoot for a potential All-Star power forward, you have to be feeling very good about yourself.  Bogut, The Seal, Simmons, Redd, and Mo Williams/Charlie Bell sounds like a pretty good, young starting unit.  Nice couple of years for Larry Harris and the Bucks. 


New Jersey Nets

B         Iím not as big a fan of Marcus Williams as some, but heís a great choice at #22. Some figured him to be a lottery pick. Heís not very athletic and has some character issues, but heís got great court vision and stands to learn a lot from Jason Kidd. Josh Boone was getting pushed around by Jai Lewis in the Elite Eight this year, and he never really seemed to show up consistently. I know the Nets desperately need some bigs, but heís not the answer. I like Hassan Adamsí athleticism at #54.


Adamís Grade: B+.  Boone dilutes the grade for me as well, but since I clearly like Williams more than Dritz (see the Draft preview column), I will bump the Nets up half a grade. 


New York Knicks

F          Iím not going to say much about this pick, since everythingís already been said. Really, Balkmanís not very talented, certainly not worth a first-rounder. He might not have been picked at all. Mardy Collins isnít bad, but itís not as if the Knicks donít have enough shooting guards. I love Isiah Thomas. Every time it seems like he couldnít make an even more obvious worse decision, he proves us wrong. Pure entertainment.


Adamís Grade: F for basketball, A+ for comedy.  Not only is the Balkman pick leading to hundreds of Renaldo Blackmon jokes (which got old faster than the references to the Chronicles of Narnia skit), but it now appears that Isiahís only goal is to make us all laugh.  The bad news is that everything has just become too easy and I donít think there is a funny joke left to be made about the Knicks.  Except for maybe this:


New York Knicks, Partial Roster

PG Ė Stephon Marbury

PG Ė Steve Francis

PG Ė Jamal Crawford (was a point guard at one time, at least)

PG Ė Nate Robinson

PG Ė Mardy Collins (supposedly he is a point guard)

PG Ė Jalen Rose (we all know he still thinks heís a point guard)


Knicks games are going to be worse than those pick-up games where all 10 guys want to be the one bringing the ball up the court.  What a joy it is to follow the NBA.


Orlando Magic

B-        I like J.J. Redick, and a couple weeks ago, he seemed like a good pick at #11. But that was before his herniated disc came into play. Ronnie Brewer would have been better because of his athleticism. Nonetheless, with the double teams Dwight Howard will be likely to face, J.J. could be the perfect choice because of the open looks he may get. Iím an Illini fan, but James Augustine (#41) never really showed me a whole lot. He plays hard but he needs to get stronger.


Adamís Grade: C-.  I like the way Orlandoís team is coming together and I think the Nelson-Howard-Milicic trio is going to make them good in the near future, but this was a bad pick.  There were several players that would have been much better options to pair with Nelson in the backcourt.  As Dritz mentioned, Brewer was probably the best bet, but Rodney Carney, that Swiss dude with the long name, and even Shannon Brown would all have been vastly superior picks. 


Philadelphia 76ers

A-        Rodney Carney was a great pick at #16, I love his athleticism. He can shoot and D up. And they managed to pick up a future second-rounder in trading down with the Bulls. And Carney should let them cut the playing time of the one-dimensional and otherwise brutal Kyle Korver (the answer to the question ďWhat would I be like if I was 6í7Ē and practiced shooting 3s all day?Ē). I donít want to steal Adamís thunder on Bobby Jones, so Iíll just say I like his D. Underrated great draft for the 76ers.


Adamís Grade: A.  Okay, here is the deal with the Sixers.  In the spring of 2001,  my wife (then girlfriend) decided to embrace the good times the NBA had to offer during the playoffs.  Perhaps not surprisingly, she decided to hitch her wagon to Allen Iverson, who was in the middle of that sensational run when he dragged the likes of Eric Snow and Tyrone Hill to the Finals.  Because I was a forlorn Portland fan tired of seeing my starting lineup appearing in court, I decided to root for Iverson and the Sixers right along with her.  Itís been a pretty bumpy ride ever since, as Larry Brown and Billy King have made one idiotic personnel move after another.  Seriously, just a barrage of train wreck decisions.  So you can imagine my surprise when Philly knocked this draft out the park.  Carney is one of the eight best players in the class and the perfect guy to pair with Igoudala on the wing (people are saying they are too similar, but that is ridiculous.  Why?  Because they both can jump really high?  Carney is a face-up player with deep and fairly consistent range and Igoudala is more comfortable in the intermediate post and working the offensive glass).  As for Jones, all I am going to say is that you should get to know the Next Bruce Bowen as soon as possible.  Do it.  Do it.  (In closing, I will note the irony that Philly finally had a good draft Ė or off-season move of any kind Ė the same summer when they seem intent on trading Iverson away for some loose change.  The disaster continues.)


Toronto Raptors

B+       Andrea Bargnani isnít Skita Tkishvili. Heís played well in a very competitive European league. But heís not Dirk Nowitzki either. He does have the potential to be a very good player. However, drafting him made a trade of Charlie Villanueva necessary, and Villanueva showed a lot of potential. He may end up better than Bargnani. A better move might have been keeping Villanueva and trading the pick for a guard, or trading down and taking Roy. That said, I like Bryan Colangeloís plan of trying to attract European players to Toronto, since American players donít seem that interested (aside from Chris Bosh). P.J Tucker is tough, but he may be positionless in the NBA.


Adamís Grade: C+.  I am probably biased against the Raptors because of the awful Ford-Villanueva trade (see above), but the bottom line is that when you have the top pick and donít get the best player, you have failed.  I felt sure that Chris Paul was the best player last year and subsequently lambasted each team that passed on him.  This year, I feel equally certain that Roy is the best player and plan on employing the same strategy. 


Washington Wizards

C+       Oleksiy Pecherov at #18 has been compared to Keith Van Horn. Well, Iím not a Van Horn fan. Marcus Williams would have been a better pick. And they should have taken Leon Powe at #48 instead of Vladimir Veremeenko.


Adamís Grade: B.  Hereís my bold prediction for this draft: Pecherov is going to be the biggest surprise in his class.  I donít know why, but since this isnít a legal memo, I donít have to explain myself.  I agree with Dritz though, the second round pick left a lot to be desired.


Adam Hoff is the columnist for WhatifSports.com.

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