Canaan: Four college years helped development
Thursday night’s NBA Draft was unlike any in recent memory. It had all the makings of a night for the ages: unpredictability with the top pick, plenty of trades, and questionable decisions. When we look back at this draft class a few years from now, we may not find any superstar-caliber players. In the “here and now” though, there are numerous prospects who will come in and immediately contribute for their respective teams. Here is a look at the teams who got it right… and teams who royally screwed up.
Houston Rockets: First Round (none), Second Round (Isaiah Canaan)
It is only fitting to start this list with the Rockets, seeing as how they were winners of this draft all the way back in October. Houston sent an array of pieces, including the 12th overall pick, to the Thunder for guard James Harden. The rest is quickly becoming history. Harden has established himself as the premiere young shooting guard in the NBA. The Thunder have not gotten much from their end of the deal…but we will get to them later. Houston also hit it big with its second round pick. Canaan could have easily gone in the first round, but questions about his height and position caused him to slip. He will be an instant scoring threat off the Rockets bench. Think of Canaan as a more polished version of Nate Robinson. He is extremely confident and can shoot it from way downtown. Rockets fans will fall in love with Canaan immediately when they see him in action.
Portland Trail Blazers: First Round (CJ McCollum), Second Round (Allen Crabbe, Jeff Withey, Marko Todorovic)
When taking into account draft slot, value, and depth, no team had a better night on Thursday than the Trail Blazers. Portland’s ability to snag McCollum 10th overall without having to change spots was huge. He is the best pure scorer in the entire draft and will flourish next to Damian Lillard. In the second round, the Trail Blazers picked up a steal in Allen Crabbe. Crabbe falling out of the first round was one of the surprises of the night. He will be a big-time bench scorer for Portland. Withey provides great depth for a group of reserves that was the worst in the NBA last season. Don’t be surprised if Withey challenges Meyers Leonard for the starting job at center. He is a game-changer in altering shots. Simply put, it was a great night to be a Blazers fan.
Minnesota Timberwolves: First Round (Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng), Second Round (Lorenzo Brown, Bojan Dubljevic)
Minnesota became winners in the draft as soon as they dealt the 9th overall pick to Utah and acquired numbers 14 and 21. At 14, the T-Wolves tabbed Muhammad as the shooting guard of the future. Everybody knows about the controversy the UCLA product has been surrounded by for the past year. His recruitment and age have been question marks. However, for Minnesota to pick him up halfway through the first round is a perfect situation. He needs to remember he has a right hand, but Muhammad will be just fine as a scorer at the next level. Dieng will challenge for the starting spot at center if Nikola Pekovic leaves via free agency. He protects the rim and is an excellent player when setting up at the high post offensively. Brown has the talent of a first rounder, but he doesn’t show it often enough and has turnover problems. To make the roster, he needs to prove he can hold onto the basketball. Overall, it was a very solid night for the Timberwolves.
New Orleans Pelicans: First Round (none), Second Round (Pierre Jackson), **Trade: Jrue Holiday via Sixers**
New Orleans made waves when they shipped Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first rounder to Philadelphia for Jrue Holiday. The newly named Pelicans won this trade for the time being. Nobody knows what will happen with Noel’s torn ACL. The 2014 draft is expected to be one of the best in the last decade, but as the Charlotte Bobcats know all to well, the lottery is a toss up. There is no guarantee the pick New Orleans sent to Philadelphia will be highly slotted. Instead, the Pelicans acquired one of the best up-and-coming guards in the league. A backcourt tandem of Holiday and Eric Gordon (on the chance he stays healthy) has unlimited potential. Pierre Jackson in the second round was a great selection as well. The term “irrational confidence” accurately describes the former Baylor guard. Given his height limitations, he shouldn’t be the best player on the floor. Don’t tell that to Jackson though, as he constantly takes and makes shots in clutch situations. Greivis Vasquez becomes an attractive trade piece now, and the Pelicans could get a nice haul in return for the assist-happy guard.
Brooklyn Nets: First Round (Mason Plumlee), Second Round (none), **Trade: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry via Celtics**
The only thing that could overshadow some of the shock of draft night was the news that Brooklyn and Boston had agreed on a blockbuster deal to send Pierce and Garnett to the Nets. The former Celtics are two of the most iconic NBA players of the last twenty years. Brooklyn now boasts a starting lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Garnett and Pierce. Trade toss-in Jason “the Jet” Terry is a proven bench scorer and big-game shot taker. The Nets made out like bandits in this trade. They were able to clear the horrendous contracts of Kris Humphries (expiring) and Gerald Wallace (just as bad as it was when he signed it), as well as part ways with underachiever Marshon Brooks. First round pick Mason Plumlee will provide nice depth on the interior for Lopez and Garnett. His skillset is probably at its peak, but he is a rim runner who can rebound…the only skills Brooklyn needs him to utilize. The Nets now become serious contenders for the Easter Conference crown. The window to make this happen is small, so anything less would be considered a monumental disappointment.
Bobcats: First Round (Cody Zeller), Second Round (none)
Michael Jordan as a basketball player and as an executive is two very different things. On the court, MJ couldn’t lose when it mattered most. In the front office, he can’t do anything right when the stakes are highest. Draft night has become an annual event to ridicule Jordan, and rightfully so. His history of first round picks is laughable. Thursday night’s selection of Cody Zeller will only add to the ridicule. Make no mistake: Zeller is going to be a good pro. He will be a power forward with great quickness that can run the floor. However, half the battle is about value. Charlotte got absolutely zero value out of this pick. Taking Zeller 4th overall is a huge reach. If the Bobcats coveted him that much they should have just traded back a few spots (where Zeller would have still been available) and added some more assets. This will be a tough pick to sell to Bobcats fans.
Thunder: First Round (Steven Adams, Andre Roberson), Second Round (Alex Abrines, Grant Jerrett)
Consistent with what was just written about the Bobcats, the Thunder are on the losers list because of the value they got with each selection. At this point, it is time to call the James Harden trade exactly what it is: a massive debacle. OKC’s front office vastly undervalued Harden’s potential and in return received bit pieces for the best young scorer in the entire league. A part of those pieces was the 12th pick, which was used to select Adams. This is the riskiest pick of the entire first round. Adams has no clue how to play against top competition, and was overwhelmed in one season at Pittsburgh. He may pan out down the road, but gives the Thunder nothing in the immediate future. Taking Roberson at the end of the first round was also a head scratcher. He can’t get his own shot, has very little offensive skills, and doesn’t have a position. The Thunder essentially used a first round pick on a power forward in a wing’s body that can rebound. Abrines and Jerrett were good picks in the second round, as they represent little risk. Nonetheless, it was a puzzling night for the Thunder.
Suns: First Round (Alex Len, Archie Goodwin), Second Round (Alex Oriakhi)
The Suns cannot be criticized for taking Len with the 5th pick. He is worth the risk, given his large frame and room for growth offensively. He needs to become more physical on a consistent basis, but playing with Marcin Gortat will help that problem. The reason the Suns lost miserably in this draft was their last two picks. Taking Goodwin at the tail end of the first round was a huge mistake. He is a wild, unpolished player who lacks physical and mentally maturity. I would be surprised if Goodwin pays any dividends for Phoenix in his first two or three years. With Allen Crabbe still on the board, the Suns could have opted for one of the better scorers in the draft. Instead, they settled for a long-term project with a roster that is in shambles. Oriakhi as a second round pick is uninspiring. He really shouldn’t have been drafted at all, given his lack of post skills and a consistent motor. C.J. Leslie would have been a better post option at this point. Do not expect to see Oriakhi on this roster come October.
Pacers: First Round (Solomon Hill), Second Round (none)
The Pacers have made some excellent moves in recent years through identifying young talent and completing trades. The one area where they continue to confuse is the draft. Last year, Indiana surprised everyone by taking Miles Plumlee with a first round pick. This year, they again surprised by taking Hill. This is not a knock on Hill by any means. He is an NBA-caliber player with winning intangibles who will be on good teams for many years. The problem is where he was selected. Indiana could have waited until the second round to pull the trigger on Hill. They desperately needed some scoring punch in the backcourt. George Hill and Lance Stephenson are painfully inconsistent. Instead of taking a scorer, they went with a guy who does all the little things. Those types of players are meant for the second round. Indiana jumped the gun, and therefore are one of the losers of this draft.