Grading the NBA Draft
Wrapping things up: Western Conference
By Adam Hoff
Featuring Jeff Dritz, Draft Guru
By now you’ve read our scintillating Eastern Conference preview and are hungry for more. Good news: here is the second half. As always, these are Dritz’s grades from immediately after the draft and my grades from about three weeks after the fact.
A- I like Maurice Ager. While I don’t buy into the argument that he’s the “Wade-stopper” they lacked in the Finals, he is athletic on D and can score well. Good choice at #26. Trading the #58 (Danilo Pinnock) lets them pick up a better second-rounder in the future, and anyone they wanted at that spot they can probably sign as an undrafted free agent.
Adam’s Grade: A. It is funny, but post-Dirk, the Mavs seem to do better with late first round picks than they do with lottery selections. Etan Thomas (#13 in 2000) wasn’t a real factor during his short time in Dallas and Devin Harris (#5 in 2004) has only been okay in his first two years in Dallas. However, Josh Howard (#29 in 2003) is one of the best young players in the league. Now they’ve scooped up Ager, who I believe will be one of the steals of this draft. He has tremendous range, great athleticism, and is Tom Izzo-trained on the defensive end. I think he will crack the Dallas rotation this year and be playing 25-30 minutes a night by the time the playoffs roll around. As for the second round pick, I agree with Dritz, that was some savvy work.
D The Nuggets had the #49 pick, and used it on Leon Powe. This would be one of the biggest steals of the draft, and I had them penciled in for an A. Then they traded Powe to the Celtics for a future second-rounder.
Adam’s Grade: C+. You sure do love Powe. I agree that Denver sort of botched that one, but at the same time, you kind of have to use the same logic as with Dallas’ #58 pick. Given the quality of this draft, moving an actual player for a future second-rounder makes sense in theory. I agree with you though that they probably should have just accepted their good fortune when Powe fell into their laps.
Golden State Warriors
D+ I don’t like Patrick O’Bryant. He played well in the NCAA tournament, sure, but I always have questions about guys who climb the draft boards after the season ends. He’s long, but he’s still raw offensively and may not have the heart. Not what the Warriors needed. Ditto Kosta Perovic. There were better players available at #38 (Daniel Tucker, Dee Brown, Leon Powe, Alexander Johnson, etc.).
Adam’s Grade: F. Golden State is a team with a lot of talented guys but no direction. They needed to take their draft picks and various pieces and finally put together a plan. There were opportunities to trade players and picks in order to upgrade starting positions and instead they took a project center and some foreign dude that nobody knows anything about. Not a good draft at all. I can’t remember the last time the Warriors did anything right.
B+ Critics have argued that Rudy Gay (#8) and Stromile Swift were too much to give up for Shane Battier. However, Battier is the perfect complement to Tracy McGrady, and he’s good now. He can cover the opponent’s top scorer, freeing T-Mac to focus on O, and he can knock down the open J, which he’ll see many of with the double-teams T-Mac and Yao see. Swift proved to be a poor investment for the Rockets, so they cut their losses and now have salary cap space to spend on other players. This trade helped both teams. I don’t love Steve Novak at #32 (too skinny), and Lior Eliyahu (#44) still needs work.
Adam’s Grade: A-. I like this trade for all the same reasons that Dritz does, just a little bit more.
Los Angeles Clippers
B+ Leon Powe and Alexander Johnson would have been better, but I like Paul Davis at #34. He’s tall and can hit a jumper. He averaged 17.5 points and 9.1 rebounds last year, and will be a solid backup center. Guillermo Diaz was expected to go late in the first round, so picking him up at #53 was a steal. He’s an athlete and a scorer, but needs to work on his ball-handling.
Adam’s Grade: B+. I like both these picks a lot, but I don’t like giving A’s to team that didn’t draft in the first round. Davis whines too much, but that hasn’t prevented Brad Miller from having a good career. Like Ager and Shannon Brown, Davis is a former Spartan, so my guess is that he will be tougher and more fundamentally sound than people realize. As for Diaz, he seems to be the perfect player for this new “just take it to the rim and you will get the foul call” version of NBA basketball. Anytime you have only second round picks in a draft commonly referred to as “mediocre at best” and you come away with two potential rotation players, you have to feel very good about yourself.
Los Angeles Lakers
B+ I don’t think Farmar’s that great, but he’ll eventually be better than Smush Parker. The Lakers need help at the point, so he’s good value for them at #26. Danilo Pinnock at #58 is athletic, but raw.
Adam’s Grade: B-. After reading your comments, I have to wonder how you managed to dish out a B+ there. “Better than Smush Parker” describes 99% of the point guards above the age of 16. Okay, that is a bit harsh, but you know what I mean. I feel the same way you do, but I’m giving a B-. I bet if you could get Mitch Kupchak drunk, he would eventually admit that they desperately wanted Shannon Brown at #26 (and probably thought they were going to get him, considering all the reports out of Cleveland that the Cavs wanted Farmar) … and then he would start sobbing and waxing nostalgic about his first acquisition as GM of the Lakers (none other than Isaiah Rider).
A+ Great job by Jerry West. Shane Battier is solid but unspectacular, and getting the extremely athletic Rudy Gay and Stromile Swift for him can end up a steal. Gay has the talent to be the best player in this draft if someone can motivate him. Similar situation for Swift, though the Grizz know what they’re getting in him (they had him a year ago). Kyle Lowry plays hard and physical, and can run an offense. Great pick at #24. And then West caps it off with another steal by getting Johnson, who has mid-first round talent, at #45. Best draft he’s had at Memphis.
Adam’s Grade: A-. I agree with most of that. Johnson was a tremendous pick. Here’s how I know it was so good: starting with the Nets’ pick at #22, I turned around and predicted to my wife that “this team is going to take Alexander Johnson” approximately 20 times until he finally found a home. Then, once he did get drafted, he was traded about three times after that. I still can’t figure out what happened. Obviously, Gay is a very talented guy and could turn out to be great, but I have my doubts. Lowry is a favorite of mine but the early returns from the summer league weren’t so good. And then there is the fact that Swift is back being dead weight in Memphis (and dead salary, more importantly), which single-handedly drops the grade a bit. I could have gone anywhere from a B- to an A here, but I think there are enough pieces that Memphis is sure to come out ahead in the long run.
B This would’ve been an “A” if they’d kept Brandon Roy instead of trading him for Randy Foye. But as it is, I like Foye. He’ll be a good scoring combo guard, which they need. Craig Smith is tough but small at the 4. His toughness and ability to hit a 15-footer will make him a decent rotation player.
Adam’s Grade: A-. I like Roy a bit better as well, but Foye is sick. He’s the perfect player for the new rules and style of the NBA. You will see in the Draft Preview that I have something of a man crush on him. Plus, I have the luxury of knowing that Foye destroyed everyone in Vegas during summer league play. He was so good, in fact, that the T-Wolves probably deserve an A. However, the recent signing of Mike James could detract from Foye’s game a little, so I’m hedging my bet. James had an amazing year in 2005-06 and I’ve always liked him, but he’s the epitome of a shoot-first point guard. With James at point, the Wolves would have been much better off with Roy – a more well-rounded and patient player – at shooting guard than the pedal-to-the-metal Foye. Still, Minnesota was a team that couldn’t score last year and that had success in the past with aggressive guards, so I think the James-Foye backcourt makes them a playoff team next year. Good offseason, but as Dritz said, it could have been even better.
New Orleans Hornets
C- I’m not a big fan of either Hilton Armstrong (#12) or Cedric Simmons (#15). Armstrong averaged less than 10 points and 7 rebounds as a senior at UConn. Doesn’t seem to warrant a lottery pick, though he can block shots. He can’t really be trusted with the ball, and seems very unspectacular. Simmons is athletic but can’t really score from outside of 18 inches. This grade would be even worse if I was accounting for the recent moves made by the Hornets (signing Peja to a huge contract, trading for Tyson Chandler’s huge contract). I like Marcus Vinicius Vieira de Souza (try saying that out loud), good pickup at #43.
Adam’s Grade: D. The consensus seems to be that Armstrong and Simmons are great … if you could combine them into one person. Armstrong is running the floor, showing soft hands, and even finishing in the lane, but he’s being overpowered on the other end. Simmons is rebounding and blocking shots, but showing all the dexterity of a young Desagna Diop. I think the Hornets have had an awful offseason, but that’s just me.
D+ They traded away their picks for cash. They could’ve used the #22 for Shannon Brown and had a solid replacement for Leandro Barbosa, who becomes a free agent after this season. But there was nobody sensational available. Maybe the future first-rounder they got for the pick will be better.
Adam’s Grade: F. I like watching the Suns as much as the next person and their ability to turn the Boris Diaw’s of the world into gold is amazing, but they are absolutely shanking the draft as of late. They gave away their first round pick from two years ago to the Bulls (swapping for what eventually became the #22 pick this year, all in an effort to clear enough cap space to get Quentin Richardson, he of the oh-so-limber back and New York Knicks uniform) and lost the chance to take Luol Deng or Andre Igoudala. Last year they drafted Nate Robinson, which seemed genius until they sent him packing in the Q-Kurt Thomas trade. Now this year they sat things out in an effort to get under the luxury tax, of all things. What, did Donald Sterling buy the team? The worst part of all this is that they could have scored Rajon Rondo at #22. He would have been a perfect backup point guard – a guy that can push the pace and keep guys involved when Nash is out of the game. Instead, they traded the pick and wound up grossly overpaying for Marcus Freaking Banks. That makes three straight drafts in which they passed on the chance to add cheap, young talent to the roster. Good work. Someone needs to get down there and make sure that the America West Arena hasn’t been converted into a meth lab.
A- Great picks with Roy and Aldridge. Roy will be the Rookie of the Year, and Aldridge can score facing the basket and with his back to it. And he still stands to develop. The Blazers stood to face a strong backlash for passing on local favorite Morrison, but taking another local boy, Roy, should stave that off. As for Freeland and Rodriguez, I like those guys, but they’re young projects, and the Blazers already have more than enough of those. Bobby Jones, Alexander Johnson, Dee Brown, and David Noel would have been better choices. Overall, though, they did a very good job of adding talent at the top of the draft.
Adam’s Grade: A. I’m not totally sold on Aldridge, but he’s the type of guy you have to pair with a wide body like Randolph, so it could work. It doesn’t really matter though because they got the best player in the draft and made the T-Wolves look like fools in the process. Serious bonus points anytime you can heap another serving of embarrassment on Kevin McHale.
B- I like Quincy Douby at #19. He’s got a sweet stroke, and can create his own shot. I think he may end up being better than Redick. However, he’s a very similar player to their last two first-round picks, Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia. They’re all long and skinny, and each successive pick gets skinnier. Douby looks downright frail, somebody throw that guy a cheeseburger and point him to a weight room. Next year they’re going to draft a stick figure.
Adam’s Grade: C. Good comedy there from Dritz. Who is even on the Kings anymore? I can’t keep track of this team. It seems to me that Sacramento should have taken a pure point guard to both backup Bibby and to free him up for jumpers, but an athletic big man would have worked as well. The only thing they didn’t need – as the Guru has noted – is a wiry shooting guard. Plus, they just signed John Salmons, which further complicates things. I guess they are modeling themselves after the Knicks. Good luck with that, Kings fans.
San Antonio Spurs
C+ They traded their only pick, #59, to the Bucks for a future second-rounder. It will almost certainly be better than #59, and if there was anyone the Spurs liked at that spot, they can pick him up as a rookie free agent.
Adam’s Grade: Who cares.
D+ Robert Swift, Johan Petro, Saer Sene…I predict the Sonics take a raw, project center next year. This pick makes little sense. By the time his rookie contract is up in 3 years, they still won’t know if he’s worth the second contract. They should’ve traded this pick if they didn’t like anyone. Denham Brown (#40) might be a decent role player, because of his D, but I’m not sure he has the tools. Yotam Halperin (#53) has good court vision and makes players around him better. He can be a decent rotation guard, but never a starter.
Adam’s Grade: C. Supposedly this Sene guy is looking pretty good, but I agree that it makes little sense. It is either a moronically repetitive pick or an admission that the previous two centers suck. Neither is good for the Sonics. Throw in the fall from grace last year and the recent news that the team has been sold to a group out of Oklahoma City and I think it is safe to say that the good people of Seattle are probably a little bitter.
A I like Ronnie Brewer, and he’ll fill a hole on Utah. He’s an athletic shooting guard who can score and play D. He should start immediately. I’m a big Dee Brown (#46) fan. He’s super fast, has underrated ball control, and can hit an NBA 3. He also defends well. He’ll be a great backup for Deron Williams, and may even push Williams for playing time. Paul Millsap is decent, though Leon Powe would have been a better choice at #47. All in all, a nice job.
Adam’s Grade: A-. Brewer was a very good and fortuitous pick, considering that two or three other teams should have taken him before #14. The other two guys should make the roster and actually play, which is a huge bonus. Solid work here by the Jazz. If Williams takes a step forward and the front line can stay healthy, they are going to be pretty good.
Adam Hoff is the columnist for WhatifSports.com. Jeff Dritz is some guy we found on the street.