Now that the dust has settled from a huge day that always has an effect on a NBA franchises’ future, it’s time to look back on yesterday’s draft and determine the teams that saw themselves improving and the teams I can’t figure what they are doing.
*I’m looking specifically at teams with playoff aspirations and teams that are looking to make deeper playoff runs, no continuous tankers, and no contenders.
In order from most improved on down.
Charlotte Hornets… picks: PF Noah Vonleh (9), SG PJ Hairston (26), PF Dwight Powell (45)
Charlotte made the playoffs last year, finally ending years of futility. They featured a starting 5 of Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Josh McRoberts, and Al Jefferson, relying heavily on defense and post looks for Big Al. Other than him though, they struggled to score, with Kemba being the only reliable source of offense on the perimeter. They made real sure to address that in the draft, all their picks are offensive threats and they didn’t have to reach for them or trade up to get them. Noah Vonleh has a midrange jumper that falls consistently to go with some post moves, he can pick and pop or roll to the rim, he has NBA size and the potential to develop 3pt range. He was climbing up the board on all the experts mock drafts, some had him going top 5, and then he ended up falling nicely to the Hornets with the 9th pick. P.J Hairston proved that he had NBA 3pt range last year in the D-League and he can play solid D, too. When the double team hits Big Al this year, he is going to have much improved shooters around him to dishout to. As long as they can maintain their defensive identity, they are capable of making noise in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Plus, they’re the Hornets again, they’re bringing back those awesome teal jerseys and have you seen their new floor? It’s sick
Orlando Magic…picks: F Aaron Gordon (4), PG Elfrid Payton (10)
You could tell the Magic got who it was they really wanted out of this draft and not just the next guy on their board. Aaron Gordon wasn’t projected to go in the top 5 but, he has a lot of upside due to freaky athleticism and a crazy competitive drive. He is also valuable right away because of his defensive versatility, he’ll need to add some muscle to go up against some of the leagues more bruising PFs but, he is quick enough to guard players on the perimeter and has the reach and hops to protect the rim. Orlando last years lottery pick, Victor Oladipo, was playing out of position at PG. Although he was aggressive and impressive he just doesn’t have the handles or the vision to play the point and would be better suited playing off the ball. Elfrid Payton can come in and take over point guard duty, with an attacking style of play and lock down perimeter D, he just needs to improve his shooting. With Gordon and Payton joining Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic, Orlando has a young core with real potential to be really good. More than anything I like the message that Orlando sent by trading for Payton and giving up a future first rounder to do so, they are letting their fans know that they are done rebuilding and ready to start winning. They get some minus points because they didn’t get more for Afflalo, overall positive day though.
Utah Jazz…. Picks: G Dante Exum (4), SF Rodney Hood (23)
Utah added a guard for the second straight draft, picking Dante Exum to go along with Trey Burke. I liked what I saw out of Trey Burke last year although I do question whether he can be a starting PG on a legitimate playoff team. I think they start both of them to begin the year until they see what it is they really have in Exum. If he can live up to the hype it won’t be long before he takes over floor generalship from Burke and eventually push him to the bench where he can still make an impact against opposing back-ups. Rodney Hood, along with Garry Harris, had the biggest drops from where they were projected to be taken, and Utah lucked into snagging Rodney Hood all the way down the line at 23. Hood a 6’8” SF can also play SG because of his great shooting. If Utah;s starters end up being 6’6” Dante Exum at PG, Hood at SG, and 6’9” Gordon Hayward at SF, that is a huge backcourt that is explosive offensively. I see them molding into a contender for a playoff spot, eventually, as long as Derrick Favors can show more than he did last year when he was finally given the starting role.
Denver Nuggets… picks: C Jusuf Nurkic (16), SG Gary Harris (19), C Nikola Jokic (41)
I can’t pretend to know anything about these foreign big men, all I can do is repeat what experts say and they had Nurkic rated as the second best center in the draft. I don’t really know when it is we’ll first see them suit up for their team either. So why do I have Denver as most improved? They made incredibly shrewd draft day trades, snagging Arron Afflalo from the Magic for a second stint with the team, giving up only a 2nd round pick and SG Evan Fornier. Then during the draft, trading Doug McDermott to Chicago for both of their first rounders. McDermott at F wasn’t a position of need for them and frankly wasn’t the best player available at 11 but, man did Chicago sure seem to want him. Getting SG Gary Harris and Afflalo in the same day means getting 3pt shooting and solid D and filling a position of need that was huge for them. They do also have a need at center because Javale McGee is just too volatile a player, so whenever those big guys do come over they could be an improvement too.
WHAT ARE THEY DOING??
In order starting from the most questionable:
Toronto Raptors…. picks: SF Him? (20), SF DeAndre Daniels (37)
Ok, so this is probably everybody’s WTF pick, right? HE is the only first rounder whose name I didn’t write out in my Draft Day Commentary, and I choose to continue that trend. It’s just so baffling to me that they would waste a pick like that. I’m not even trying to imply whether or not he’ll be a player, it just wasn’t sound draft strategy. The only drafts I’ve been a part of are of the fantasy variety, but common sense says if someone you like will be available with your next pick, don’t take him with your current one. Nobody was going to take him in the first round! Toronto was a surprise playoff team last year behind some really solid play from currently unrestricted FA PG Kyle Lowery and encouraging growth from DeMar DeRoazan. They have a nice team but, they aren’t there yet as a contender and as in most things in life, standing still only leaves you behind because everyone else is moving.
Chicago Bulls…picks: F Doug McDermott (11), C Cameron Bairstow (49)
Chicago needs help on offense, it’s well known, and on the surface it makes sense then to acquire McBuckets the best scorer, in college, out of everybody being drafted. The problem is that general knowledge says the Bulls plan to amnesty Carlos Boozer and make Taj Gibson the starting PF. McDermott is going to have to play stretch 4 because he just won’t be able to guard opposing SFs, he is not going to be able to stay in front of the LeBron James’ and Paul Georges of the world. I wouldn’t give up the rebounding and defense that Gibson provides for the offense of Douggy and all the liabilities that go along with it. In the 16th and 19th pick range, the picks they gave up, there were some offensive threats there that can play out on the wing with Jimmy Butler, which wouldn’t disrupt their regular line-up that has already been proven successful. Good 2nd round pick in Bairstow, I’ll give them that, he’ll be part of the Chicago’s big man rotation.
Minnesota Timberwolves… picks: G Zach LaVine (13), SG Glenn Robinson III (40)
Kevin Love. Who is everybody talking about, everyday a different rumor, a different destination? Kevin Love. They didn’t trade him, they didn’t capitalize on the trade frenzy that a draft can produce to shake a team for some draft picks in a loaded draft. I like LaVine and Robinson III, I do, but a team with them on it and no Kevin Love isn’t going to contend for anything and that is there destiny. A place like Minnesota that is freezing cold and desolate is not going to attract superstar free agents to play there. The only way they are getting a superstar is through the draft, like how they got Love. This draft was hot and Minnesota is just always so cold.
Phoenix Suns…. picks: SF TJ Warren (14), PG Tyler Ennis (18), SG Bogdan Bogdanovich (27)
Like the Timberwolves the Suns are not on this list because of the quality of their draft picks but, because of their lack of creativity to get better. I honestly love the TJ Warren pick but, if I’m the Suns and I’m stuck in such a loaded conference with a team that is a top 16 team in the league, I would make that one move that would push me over the top and into contention. Tyler Ennis, Bogdan, they aren’t the type of players that are going to take a team to the next level. Package those picks, throw in a twin and get a proven veteran forward that can provide that extra ummpphhh for you come playoff time. I still like their team and have great respect for Coach Hornacek and TJ Warren might be the piece they needed to crack the playoffs, I just have greater respect for ambition and wish the Suns would have showed some and made a power move.