By Brian Kalchik @RantsportsBrian on June 28, 2014
There are 60 new members of the NBA fraternity. Well, 61 if you want to include Isaiah Austin, who was drafted by Adam Silver in the classiest move of the entire 2014 NBA draft. From Andrew Wiggins, the Cleveland Cavaliers' No. 1 pick in the proceedings, to Cory Jefferson, this year's Mr. Irrelevant, this was a deep and talented class full of quality contributors. Here now are my grades for the 30 first-round selections.
In Andrew Wiggins, the Cavaliers got the player with the most upside and highest ceiling in the draft. Joel Embiid might have been the best player, but his foot injury was too much of a risk. Wiggins can play both the 2 and the 3 and is an effective defender.
Jabari Parker was the guy the Bucks wanted all along, and more importantly, the Bucks were the team that Parker wanted. The Bucks needed an elite scorer an got that in Parker. The only question is whether Parker will be a 3 or a 4.
Joel Embiid might be the best player in the draft, and the Sixers decided to take another gamble on an injured big man at No. 3. Even though he will miss 4-6 months after foot surgery, Embiid could form an imposing front line with Nerlens Noel. The pick is definitely a gamble, but the Sixers are going nowhere fast, making the decision that much easier.
Aaron Gordon is a bit of a surprise from the Magic at No. 4. Gordon is a freak athlete and does a little bit of everything. This grade would have been worse had the Magic not addressed another position later on. The Magic were able to get perhaps the best athlete in the draft and still addressed a major need.
Dante Exum at No. 5 was a big steal for the Jazz. They needed a potential franchise player, and Exum could be that. He's quick, fast and has great size for his position. He can either play with Trey Burke, or eventually take Burke's starting job.
The Celtics were down to Marcus Smart and Julius Randle, and chose Smart. He has the toughness and competitiveness that perfectly fits a franchise known for winning. Smart can play either the 1 or the 2 alongside Rajon Rondo. With this pick, Rondo's future with the Celtics is in question.
Julius Randle is ready to play right now, and the Los Angeles Lakers desperately needed help in the post. He is a double-double machine right now and will help the Lakers re-build after a disastrous 2013 season.
Nik Stauskas was an Interesting pick for the Sacramento Kings. They previously drafted a shooter in Ben McLemore last year, but Stauskas is a better shooter. It doesn't seem like McLemore and Stauskas can play together, considering both are the same player, but you can never have enough shooting. The Kings needed a point guard, but no one was worth the 8th overall pick.
Noah Vonleh's slide from top-five pick to the Charlotte Hornets at No. 9 had more to do with how raw he is than his talent as a player. He's got enormous potential, and he can play both inside and on the perimeter. He can rebound and run the floor. The Hornets needed a shooting guard, but they addressed that later.
Trading for Elfrid Payton was a good move for the Magic, who needed a point guard after passing on Dante Exum and Marcus Smart at No. 4. Payton has great upside and is an aggressive defender. He’s also one of the fastest players in the draft class and is a true point guard. Teamed with Victor Oladipo, the Magic have an intriguing backcourt.
Doug McDermott is a tremendous scorer who proved himself over four years in college. The Bulls needed shooting help and traded for one of the best offensive players in the draft. For a team that struggled to score last year without Derrick Rose, any offense will help.
Dario Saric is a great value here at No. 12 for the Sixers. He's one of the most skilled players in the draft similar to Hedo Turkoglu or Lamar Odom. Unfortunately, he signed a three-year deal in Turkey and can't come to the NBA for at least two years. Just like Embiid, Philadelphia can afford to wait on Saric since they won't be good again next year.
Zach LaVine is perhaps the biggest hit-or-miss player in this year's draft. He's one of the best athletes in the draft, shoots the ball from deep and has great size for his position, but if his demeanor is anything like it was on draft day, he could be a bust.
The Suns needed help at small forward, and they got one of the five best wing scorers in the draft in T.J. Warren. Warren is not a great shooter, but he is a scoring machine. He lacks a consistent jump shot and elite athleticism, but his ability to get to the basket will immediately help the Suns.
The Atlanta Hawks love shooters, and Adreian Payne is the best shooting big man in the draft. He can really stretch the floor and has good athleticism, but with the Hawks already having several players similar to Payne, it might be a bit of a reach. A shooting guard like Gary Harris would have been a better pick.
Josef Nurkic is a huge center who is very good around the basket. His lack of athleticism and some off-the-court issues caused him to slide a little, but the Denver Nuggets traded for him. The only question about Nurkic is whether he will start right away in the NBA, or be stashed in Europe for a few years.
The Boston Celtics took one of the youngest players in the draft in James Young, and a player who has tremendous upside. He has the potential to be an elite shooter and has great size for both the 2 and 3. A projected lottery pick, Young is a great value pick here for the Celtics at 17. Along with Marcus Smart, the Celtics could have their backcourt of the future.
The Phoenix Suns have a great point guard in Goran Dragic, but a rookie like Tyler Ennis can be an excellent backup point guard. He sees the floor well and rarely made mistakes at Syracuse. He also can shoot it a little and plays solid defense. Ennis is also excellent insurance for the Suns in case Eric Bledsoe, a restricted free agent, gets an offer the Suns can't match.
Gary Harris is a great value for the Denver Nuggets. Harris was ranked among the 15 best players in the draft. His lack of size led somewhat to his slide, but he's one of only a handful of good two-way players in the draft. The Nuggets just got Arron Afflalo, but with Afflalo likely to opt out of his deal next summer, Harris could be the long-term shooting guard for Denver.
ESPN's Fran Fraschilla said it best when it came to Bruno Caboclo when he said "He's two years away from being two years away." Caboclo has a 7-foot-7 wingspan, can shoot it and has been referred to as Brazil's Kevin Durant. He's far away from being able to play in the NBA, but with that comparison, he clearly has some talent down the road.
Mitch McGary may have been overrated this year after his magical run in the 2013 NCAA tournament as a freshman. A back injury tanked his sophomore season and his marijuana suspension at Michigan led his slide all the way to Oklahoma City at No. 21. This is a good spot for him as far as draft placement. On the court, he can be a much needed frontline scorer off the bench.
Jordan Adams is one of the best scorers in the draft, and on a team that desperately needs offense on the wing, Adams is a good fit, even if he is somewhat of a reach. Outside of Mike Conley, the Grizzlies lacked a true scorer on the perimeter. With Tony Allen and Courtney Lee in front of him, it remains to be seen how much Adams will play as a rookie.
Like Dante Exum, the Jazz were lucky that a top-20 player like Rodney Hood slid down to No. 23. Hood is a big shooter and good defender who can alternate between the 2 and the 3. He is also a good option in case Gordon Hayward leaves in free agency. With Burke, Exum, and Hood, the Jazz have an exciting backcourt for years to come.
The Miami Heat were making an all-out to effort to draft Shabazz Napier, and whether they did it to entice LeBron James or upgrade their point guard position, they were able to trade for Napier. He is one of the best point guards in the guards in the draft and a steal at No. 24. Napier's selection could mean the end for either Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole in Miami.
Clint Capela is long, athletic, and a good pick for the Rockets, even though he will be overseas. He bears a passing resemblance to a young Serge Ibaka, a raw player, but one with good upside. With each of their draft picks, the team is trying to free up enough cap room for a player like LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. Capela is a good stash pick.
P.J. Hairston played his college ball at North Carolina, and he will be playing his professional ball in the same state. The Hornets needed a shooter who could stretch the floor and play right now, and that's what Hairston brings. Hairston had his issues in college, but with a year in the development league, he has seemingly put his issues behind him.
With their final first-round pick, the Phoenix Suns selected Bogdan Bogdanovic from Serbia. Unlike Warren and Ennis, Bogdonovic is likely a draft-and-stash guy for the Suns. Bogdanovic is one of the best young scorers in Europe. He's probably ready to play in the NBA right now, but a season overseas could make Bogdanovic even better.
C.J. Wilcox was a bit of a surprise for the Clippers at No. 28, but he is a great shooter on a team filled with plenty of great shooters. The Clippers selected Reggie Bullock, a similar player, last year in the draft. Wilcox has deep range, is a good shooter, and doesn't have to play right away.
Josh Huestis was probably the biggest surprise in the first round. Projected as a second-round pick, Huesstis' defensive play made him a late first-rounder. He's a good athlete and a terrific defender, and he plays unselfishly. With Thabo Sefolosha set for free agency, Huestis could step in and fill his role.
The San Antonio Spurs continue to draft well, and were able to get a steal in UCLA's Kyle Anderson. When Anderson has the ball in his hands, he can be special, just like Boris Diaw. With Diaw set to hit free agency, Anderson was the best player in the draft that has his skill set.
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