Another NBA Draft has come and gone, which means it’s time to take a closer look. Did the bad teams get better, or are they doomed to make dumb decisions forever?
New York Knicks: C-
Kevin Knox is not the sort of player you throw away a season for. He is a high-upside prospect with a somewhat small chance of ever reaching his potential. That is the sort of swing you take in the mid-teens. Not at No. 9. Knox has no discernible NBA skills at this point. He is all potential. Mitchell Robinson saved the draft in the second round as a steal at center that has the physical ability to play in the NBA.
Boston Celtics: A-
Robert Williams should have been a lottery pick. The Celtics got him at No. 27 because… there isn’t a good reason. His free-throw shooting is the only major knock on Williams. He’ll be a strong defensive player who can rebound and finish alley-oops. With Aron Baynes potentially leaving in free agency, that is a very valuable pick. He should be able to give the Celtics regular season minutes right away.
Toronto Raptors: D
The Raptors didn’t have a pick in the NBA Draft, having traded off their picks in the past. When your first-round pick is spent dumping a bad contract (DeMarre Carroll), and that bad contract turns into a useful player on his new team while you don’t use that saved money to do anything to add to your team, the trade can only be qualified as an unmitigated disaster.
Philadelphia 76ers: A+
If the Sixers had taken Zhaire Smith at No. 10, it would have been a bit of a reach, but nothing too egregious. They got him at No. 16 and picked up an unprotected first-round pick from Miami for their troubles. Miami is filled with aging veterans who were never superstars. They have no way to add to their team in the near future. That pick is going to be in the lottery. It might be a high lottery pick. It is one of the most valuable outstanding picks in the NBA. And the Sixers got it without giving up the chance to add a lottery-level talent. This draft was a coup for Philadelphia no matter what else they did.
Brooklyn Nets: B+
Good job on Brooklyn’s part for getting that pick from Toronto, and slyly, it was a nice idea to take a European rookie who may not play for them next year. The Nets finally have their own picks back next year. They can finally start tanking officially, and having first-round picks in Europe is a nice way to do that. The only issue was that Džanan Musa was a reach at No. 29 overall. Right idea, wrong pick. Their second-round assets were used to make the brilliant Dwight Howard trade, though, so they gain points for that.
Washington Wizards: C
Troy Brown is a pretty standard mid first-round pick. It’s hard to get excited about him with Smith going one pick later. There is something like a 10% chance he figures it out on both ends of the floor and becomes a starter. His likeliest outcome is as an uninspiring bench piece. Given their desire to move Marcin Gortat, Williams would have been a better pick as well. There’s just nothing to get excited about here. Brown is a three-and-D prospect who can’t make threes or play defense yet.
Orlando Magic: C
The Magic were put in an uncomfortable situation when Trae Young went No 5. All indications were that they planned to take him there, but the Magic have to be bashed for not having a backup plan. Mo Bamba, Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac are their three best young assets now, and all of them are centers in modern NBA terms. Their values are all neutralized by the others. The Magic should have traded back when Young went, picked up some other assets, and then taken a guard. The Bulls would have paid a killing for Bamba.
Miami Heat: C-
Miami doesn’t lose as many points for trading future picks as Toronto does because they got Goran Dragić out of it, but losing a No. 16 overall pick and a potential top-10 pick for a player who has yet to reach the conference finals for you is not a great outcome. Miami would probably undo that trade now if they could. Now Philadelphia, the team that beat them in the playoffs last year, controls a very valuable unprotected pick of theirs. That has to sting.
Charlotte Hornets: B
The most important move in recent Hornets history was a deal they didn’t make. Danny Ainge offered the Hornets four first round picks to trade up for Justise Winslow in 2015. The Hornets said no, and they didn’t even take Winslow. They took Frank Kaminsky rather than the draft picks that became Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier. The stakes of their trade down on Thursday were much smaller, but at least the Hornets have learned their lesson. When you have a chance to pick up assets without meaningfully downgrading the prospects available to you, you take it. Miles Bridges is better than Shai Gilgeous-Alexander anyway.
Atlanta Hawks: B+
The Hawks traded the best player in the draft in Luka Dončić, a move that would be unforgivable under most circumstances, but they ended up with the second-best player in the draft in Trae Young, so it’s hard to fault them too much. They also picked up a very valuable pick from the Mavericks next season, one that could be as high as No. 6 overall and figures to be in the top-10 if it conveys. That’s about as good a haul as you can get when giving up the best player in a given draft.
Cleveland Cavaliers: B
LeBron James is leaving. Collin Sexton was the fourth-best player in the draft. It doesn’t matter if the two don’t fit together, the Cavs had to take him. The only reason they are dinged here is because Kyrie Irving is better than Collin Sexton, and the Cavaliers never should have traded him for this pick in the first place. They should have kept him and seen what happened. They didn’t, and they lose points for that bad decision.
Indiana Pacers: B-
Aaron Holiday is a good pick. He is going to be able to make shots from the moment he joins the NBA, and Victor Oladipo covers for his size issues. The two make sense as a backcourt pairing. But, just as is the case practically every year, there is nothing to get excited about in Indiana. The Pacers made a bland pick. They are a bland team.
Milwaukee Bucks: C-
Donte DiVincenzo vaulted up draft boards because people happened to be watching on the night he had his biggest game. He is a second-round talent who got hot on the right night and went in the first round. The only reason this grade isn’t an F is that the Bucks actually need shooting. Getting it, even from an inferior overall prospect, has some degree of value.
Detroit Pistons: D
Bruce Brown and Khyri Thomas both could have gone in the first round. That Detroit got them in the second was a very nice haul. But the Pistons traded the No. 12 overall pick, along with a host of other goodies, for Blake Griffin. No team would take Griffin’s contract for free at this point. That trumps anything they could have done on the margins of this draft.
Chicago Bulls: C+
If the Bulls were insistent on adding a center, Wendell Carter wasn’t a bad choice. He’ll be able to defend next to Lauri Markkanen at least. But the Bulls need a high-upside prospect at some point, and they passed on Michael Porter Jr. and Collin Sexton in favor of a fit. If that’s all they were looking for, they should have taken Mikal Bridges. Perimeter role players are more valuable than interior ones.