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The NBA draft is a whirlwind of emotions for GMs, coaches, players and fans alike. This draft, in particular, featured an onslaught of top-heavy talent, as well as tangible value deep in the second round. Meanwhile, Paul George didn’t get traded – not yet, at least – but Jimmy Butler found himself on the move. And, yes, Lonzo Ball is officially a Los Angeles Laker. Time for Luke Walton to give him the keys and let him run.
With that in mind – and before we give LaVar Ball the microphone once more – let’s hand out draft grades for all 30 teams. At the very least, it’s never too early to assess Phil Jackson’s night.
Atlanta Hawks: B
John Collins is the first ACC player since fellow Demon Deacon Tim Duncan to average 19 points, nine rebounds and shoot 60 percent from the floor. Better yet, he had the single-highest player efficiency rating in the country last season. A phenomenal athlete, Collins must become a consistent 3-point threat. If he does, his presence inside and out could help him become one of the steals in this class. The Hawks missed badly in the second round with Tyler Dorsey. “Mr. March” had an epic NCAA tournament, but he lacks creativity off the bounce and doesn’t project well defensively, either.
Boston Celtics: A+
Jayson Tatum is the most polished offensive player in the draft – a legitimate three-level scorer who can further develop an already impressive post-up game as his body progresses. Fittingly, I’ve been told that Boston believes he can fit the Paul Pierce 2.0 mold. Tatum is significantly better than last year’s No. 3 pick – Jaylen Brown – though his defense remains a slight concern. In the second round, Danny Ainge hit on SMU’s Semi Ojeleye, a powerfully built, highly athletic pick-up truck. It doesn’t hurt, either, that Ojeleye knocked down over 42 percent of his 3-pointers as a junior. There is suddenly some duplicity on this roster, but the Celtics also got a lot better.
Brooklyn Nets: A
Jarrett Allen won’t do anything great, but he will do everything well. There is some Brook Lopez to his game, and his 7-foot-5 wingspan is a huge boon for a Nets team that craves a shot-blocker. At pick 22, Brooklyn gets a guy who will play 10 years in this league.
Charlotte Hornets: B
Malik Monk is an elite shooter and a big-time worker. He gets superior lift on his jump shot and one NBA executive gushed, “He’s the best shooter I’ve ever evaluated.” The reality, however, remains there are few 6-foot-3 two guards in this league. For a guy as athletically gifted as Monk – he jumped 42 inches at the combine – he doesn’t play all that big, nor does he get to the rim all that well. Interestingly enough, he was one of the premier finishers at the rim last year, but too often settled for 3-pointers and two-dribble pull-ups. Ultimately, Monk’s value to Charlotte – and to another small guard in Kemba Walker – will be determined by his ability to become a true combo guard. Is he someone who can create for others and become a microwave (e.g. Lou Williams), or is he merely an undersized, volume shooter?
Chicago Bulls: C+
The rebuilding process is officially underway in the Windy City.
This grade is more a knock dealing Jimmy Butler than anything else. Lauri Markkanen, to his credit, had a splendid freshman season in Tucson save for a limited stretch where he seemed to wear down. Not unlike Gonzaga product Zach Collins – who heads to Portland – that’s the question mark for the 19-year-old Finnish big man: Will his body hold up? Markkanen can really shoot it, though (42 percent on threes), and has an advanced low-post game that translates well. Chicago’s rebuilding project needed to start somewhere, and Markkanen makes a lot of sense. His 69 3-pointers last season were the most by a 7-footer in college basketball in the past 20 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
One silver lining is the addition of Zach LaVine – who recently gushed to me about how well his rehab was going – and has the ability to become a star in this league. Additionally, maybe we can see an uptick in Kris Dunn, last year’s fifth pick and a guy who struggled as a rookie.
Cleveland Cavaliers: NA
The Cavs didn’t make a pick in the draft.
Dallas Mavericks: A-
The Mavs scouted French teenager Frank Ntilikina more than anyone, but had to “settle” on Dennis Smith Jr. after the Knicks nabbed him at eight. Often compared to Eric Bledsoe or even Russell Westbrook, Smith is a sensational athlete (46-inch vertical) who can bully his way to the basket and finish through contact. To be sure, he’s not as technically sound as you’d like and will struggle to make the proper reads in pick-and-roll. However, Dallas desperately needed a point guard. As a playmaking dynamo, you won’t find anyone better than the 19-year-old Smith.
Denver Nuggets: C+
Tyler Lydon seemed to regress as a sophomore, showing little to no playmaking ability and a limited post game. The Nuggets are hoping he can be a Ryan Anderson clone, and in theory, it makes sense. Lydon stands 6-foot-9 and shot 40 percent from three during his two collegiate seasons. But he’s got to become significantly tougher and develop a one-dribble pull-up for that to happen. Neither is especially easy to achieve. The Nuggets salvaged their draft to a degree by nabbing Iowa State point guard Monte Morris. All he did was lead college basketball in assist-to-turnover ratio three out of four years.
Detroit Pistons: A+
The Pistons got an absolute stud in Duke’s Luke Kennard. The misconception around him has been that he’s merely a shooter. It couldn’t be further from the truth: Kennard, with his unparalleled footwork and shiftiness as a lefty, flourishes on and off the ball. He is a creative playmaker – one executive compared him to Manu Ginobili – who finishes well in the lane and will become an effective pick-and-roll guy in time. Perhaps best of all, Kennard converted 44 percent of his 3-pointers as a sophomore last season, displaying legitimate NBA range while doing so.
Golden State Warriors: A+
It’s just not fair. Jordan Bell is not only a major shot-blocker, but he can switch ball screens as well. Bell is a surprisingly effective passer who possesses just enough of a touch to not be a total liability offensively. Think of him as a Ben Wallace or maybe even Kenneth Faried-type to a degree: He’s an Energizer battery with an insatiable appetite for the glass. Huge win for the Warriors.
Houston Rockets: A
Isaiah Hartenstein is very intriguing, and a guy I’ve been tracking for quite some time. He can’t really shoot it yet, but he is a fluid, super active 7-footer who runs the floor well and has deft, light feet. Hartenstein says he wants to leave Europe and enter the NBA next season, which may or may not happen. As he further develops his body, the southpaw is a gifted prospect whose rare versatility cannot be ignored. Great value for the Rockets at 43.
Indiana Pacers: B
T.J. Leaf is a slight, but highly athletic four man whom the Pacers hope can play around franchise cornerstone Myles Turner. He displays a deft touch around the rim and the ability to step away out to 16 feet. The key for Leaf moving forward is to extend his range out to long distance, because he will be a defensive liability and he’s not especially creative with the ball in his hands. I like the Ike Anigbogu pick more, Leaf’s UCLA teammate whom Indiana drafted 47th overall. His knees scared teams off – which led him to slip this far – but he’s a physical specimen who can instantly compete defensively.
Los Angeles Clippers: A+
Regardless of where Chris Paul winds up, Jawun Evans is a nice find for the Clippers in the second round. He thrives in pick-and-roll and has a great pace to his game. Really, size is the only knock on the 6-foot, 185-pound guard. Evans, though, is a “professional” point guard who can really go. Don’t sleep on Sindarius Thornwell, either. He quietly earned SEC Player of the Year honors while leading South Carolina to the Final Four. He is a no-nonsense, throwback player who does everything well.
Los Angeles Lakers: A+
Lonzo Ball sees the floor better than any player I’ve ever evaluated. His 8.1 assists per 40 minutes ranked second out of all players in the draft. As a result, the fact that he didn’t run pick-and-roll in college is a non-starter. One question mark, though, is whether Ball has the necessary physicality to be a lead guard at this level. He doesn’t always embrace contact – see his meager performance against De’Aaron Fox in the NCAA tournament – and his funky shooting delivery may be a problem off the bounce. That being said, the 6-foot-6 Ball is the ideal fit for a Lakers team that wants to run and has the horses to do so: Brandon Ingram now and potentially Paul George down the road.
Don’t forget about the Josh Hart pick, either. Hart is a position-less basketball player and a flat-out winner. The Lakers needed a guy like him and the fact they were able to get him at 30 is another win. Kyle Kuzma is going to wind up being one of the guys we look back on in three years and wonder why he lasted this long. The former Utah standout and combine stud is a capable athlete and crafty finisher – he’s going to earn minutes as a rookie. Lastly, the Lakers added Indiana big man Thomas Bryant, who improved his vertical 13 inches in one year while also adding to his defensive arsenal.
Memphis Grizzlies: C
The Grizz didn’t have a first-rounder, and I question whether Dillon Brooks will last in this league. He’s got a limited wingspan and defensive ability. If he’s not making threes, he can’t be on the floor – and I don’t think he will make threes at this level. Bottom line: Is he athletic enough to make X-factor plays to offset his lack of skill?
Miami Heat: C-
Bam Adebayo helped himself by improving his jump shot during the predraft process, but what we saw on tape from his lone collegiate season is a broken release point that yielded little return. A terrific athlete with good hands, Bam will rim-run with the best of them, but his lack of offensive prowess presents a significant issue considering he isn’t a prolific shot-blocker, either.
Milwaukee Bucks: B-
D.J. Wilson made a massive jump from his sophomore to junior year, displaying a much improved body and overall floor game. Is he a great rebounder or passer? No. But at 17, the Bucks get a 6-foot-11 four man who can stretch the floor (37 percent on 3-pointers) and switch ball screens. The reduced grade here is because I liked John Collins a lot better, who was still available.
Minnesota Timberwolves: A+
What a great night for the Wolves. You just don’t get superstar players in their prime – not in this league and not via trade. Jimmy Butler is just that, and he’s a Tom Thibodeau favorite coming off a second-team All-NBA selection. He can play the two-man game with Karl-Anthony Towns, and help alleviate the defensive pressure from the perimeter. Minnesota also went out and got Creighton’s 7-footer Justin Patton, a very promising offensive player who will blend well next to Towns.
New Orleans Pelicans: C
Frank Jackson isn’t dissimilar from Malik Monk. Can Jackson be a combo guy? I’m not sure. He’s only 6-foot-3, and not to say he can’t run a team, but Duke didn’t ask him to do anything other than score during his lone season in Durham. The good news is that “Frank from Utah” is a high-character guy who will work at his craft.
New York Knicks: A+
Perhaps, it’s not a total dumpster fire within the Knicks’ front office. Kristaps Porzingis remains a Knick (thank goodness) and Frank Ntilikina has been a target of Phil Jackson for quite some time. At 6-foot-5 with a freakish 7-foot-1 wingspan, the 18-year-old possesses elite size for a point guard, along with the ability to consistently run a team. His professional stats aren’t gaudy, but look past it: Ntilikina can shoot it and will thrive running the triangle as a lead guard who doesn’t pound the ball. Damyean Dotson is a big-time athlete and 3-point shooter who will play right away.
Oklahoma City Thunder: B+
Terrance Ferguson is an elite athlete whom Russell Westbrook will enjoy playing with. Despite converting a measly 31 percent of his threes as a pro in Australia, Ferguson should become a prolific shooter at the NBA level. For a team that needed a 3-and-D guy, Ferguson is definitely that.
Orlando Magic: B-
Jonathan Isaac has a high ceiling – one executive told me he’s a “superstar” – but he’s a project. Teammates and coaches loved him and he wants to be great. I’m not sure he will ever be a super creative player offensively, but he’s got a refined shooting stroke with the ability to finish at the rim. Defensively, Isaac might be more intriguing than anyone in this whole draft. At 6-foot-11, he moves his feet really well and has the general dexterity to guard three positions as a pro. He should help Aaron Gordon’s growth as well. The Magic – who really needed a shooter after ranking 29th in 3-point shooting last season – also get bumped down a grade for reaching on Wesley Iwundu at 33, who is essentially a worse version of Gordon.
Philadelphia 76ers: A-
The 76ers were very disappointed upon not winning the lottery. The organization had zeroed in on Markelle Fultz early on and rightfully so. GM Bryan Colangelo gave up a lot to move up two spots, but Fultz is that special and his return of investment will pay dividends. Like Lonzo Ball, he possesses excellent size for a point guard. Unlike Ball, though, Fultz is a superior scorer who can play off the ball. His razor-sharp passing ability is a plus, as is his ability to push tempo. We still don’t know if Philly is fully committed to Ben Simmons as a point guard, but Fultz’s rare versatility blends in well. He can become a monster running screen-and-roll with Joel Embiid – a combination that should yield immediate results. Is the “process” finally over?
Phoenix Suns: A+
Josh Jackson is my favorite player in the draft. The fact that he fell into Phoenix’s lap at No. 4 is a gift. He is a nasty, defensive edge setter who will rebound and guard multiple spots. The Suns have a rising superstar in Devin Booker, whom Jackson will blend well with because he won’t be asked to score. As he improves his perimeter game, the Kawhi Leonard comparisons will only continue. Meanwhile, Davon Reed wasn’t the best player on the board, but he’s a classic 3-and-D guy who can fill a role off the bench immediately. He connected on 40 percent from three as a senior last year, while earning first-team ACC Defensive honors – hence the 7-foot wingspan. The Suns are thrilled to get him.
Portland Trail Blazers: A-
The Blazers wanted to create a trade package to move up and find someone exactly like Zach Collins. His body and low-post game certainly need work, but Collins fits the new-age NBA big man who can shoot it, rim-run and handle the ball. He’s a good fit next to Jusuf Nurkic, who is a true five man. Caleb Swanigan is a horse in the middle – a classic big man who will bang every night. The Purdue All-American has improved as a shooter (78 percent on free throws) and is just 20 years old, but questions persist about how his lack of foot speed will translate against high-level bigs.
Sacramento Kings: A+
The Kings kept the fifth pick with the hope of getting De’Aaron Fox, whom they fell in love with for a multitude of reasons. An elite perimeter defender, Fox is a relentless attacker who excels in transition with a full head of steam. Seven-footers Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere – also Kentucky products – will love playing with him because both can run the floor. The only real question mark around Fox is a shaky stroke. Per Synergy Sports Technology, he ranked in the 14th percentile last year for jump shooting. But he shot the ball much better in the AAU circuit, as well as during predraft workouts.
Additionally, adding Justin Jackson – a highly capable scorer – offsets the loss of Rudy Gay on the wing. Finally, how about Harry Giles? If not for knee problems, he may have been a top-three pick. With his medicals clearly checked out, the Kings got one of the most talented players in the whole class – at the discounted price of the 20th pick. Lastly, Frank Mason is a wonderful get early in the second. The AP Player of the Year at Kansas, he is the first player ever to win the award and not be selected in the first round. Mason, however, is a pit bull who can come in and spot start or provide valuable minutes as a reserve.
San Antonio Spurs: A
I like Derrick White a lot. Despite playing just one season at the Division I level, he proved the ability to play both backcourt spots. A consistent 3-point shooter at 39 percent, White wouldn’t have lasted to 29 if not for below-average athleticism. But the Spurs have Dejounte Murray for that, who is also extremely long. In terms of versatility and the capacity to play pick-and-roll – a staple of any Spurs offense – White is a really good fit.
Toronto Raptors: A+
OG Anunoby is just scratching the surface of his immense potential. Assuming the ACL continues to heal, he gives Toronto an uber-athletic 6-foot-8 forward who can guard three positions. Anunoby is a terrific kid with special, albeit very raw ability. He fits the bill of what the Raptors want as a high-character, defensive wizard.
Utah Jazz: C-
Donovan Mitchell’s meteoric rise up draft boards stemmed from a sensational combine performance, highlighted by a 40.5-inch vertical and otherworldly 6-foot-10 wingspan. The Jazz moved up 11 slots while trading Trey Lyles to get him. Mitchell is undoubtedly a hard-nosed kid who fits Utah’s DNA. My concern is with his somewhat meager production. He shot under 41 percent from the floor and just 35 percent from three. Plus, for a kid as explosive as he is, he only got to the line three times a game. Unless he drastically improves in these areas, Mitchell projects as an energy role player more than anything else. The pick I liked more was North Carolina’s Tony Bradley at 29. He is a Tristan Thompson-type whose rebounding prowess should translate well.
Washington Wizards: NA
The Wizards didn’t make a pick in the draft.
More NBA draft coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• NBA draft winners and losers: Kings finally score big
• NBA prospect loses millions by staying in school
• Process pays off: Sixers take Fultz No. 1 overall
• Troubling new report about Phil Jackson, Knicks