Ball Don’t Lie grades the 2012 NBA draft
Another draft has come and gone, and another batch of judgment must be offered up. We spare no feelings with our draft grades as we lay waste to the flotsam and jetsam of an NBA panel gone mad with power, while replete with obvious and odious failures.
Actually, no, we're kind of cool with most of the picks, as you'll see in our rankings. In a limited draft filled with limited chances for trades by teams with lots of holes to fill, draft position counts for quite a bit. Until these teams really screw up with these players in terms of development or over-praise/play, the slates are just about clean and the feelings are warm. Seriously, nobody's really screwing up badly, here. That's what free agency is for.
Click the jump for our grades for each of the NBA's 30 teams.
Additions: John Jenkins, Mike Scott.
Jenkins is an elite shooter at the college level, and though the Vanderbilt product won't be putting a Hawks team over the top in that area (Atlanta was fifth in the NBA in 3-point shooting last season), he appears to be good value for being taken 24th overall. Good value, I suppose, in how favorably you compare his skills with Doron Lamb, who was taken 42nd overall by Milwaukee. I just wonder if the Hawks really needed a good shooter, with other actual "good players" available.
Scott was a big banger with good stats at Virginia, but you better bang and have good stats playing in a senior season that started three months after your 23rd birthday. Still, for a second-round pick? Not bad.
Additionally, both players have names that sound like the sort of generic white dude names video game programmers would give unlicensed baseball video game player names to.
[Related: Marc J. Spears: Winners and losers from NBA draft]
Additions: Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo, Kris Joseph
Boston may have disappointed its fans by failing to either move up in the draft (to potentially grab Austin Rivers) or swing a big trade for a vet, but the reality is that neither the move up was feasible, and the trade options were limited with Kevin Garnett still mulling retirement through the weekend. In place of that, the team did quite well.
Take Sullinger's worst case scenario: Let's say he needs significant back surgery that leaves him out for the entire 2012-13 season. This means the Celtics, in whatever form we see them in by that time, will suit up a healthy, lottery pick-level talent in 2013-14. And if Sullinger's back holds up this upcoming season? Then Boston got a steal. Melo will have quite a bit of work to do to adapt to man-to-man NBA defense, and his foul rate will be off the charts this season, but he's a 7-footer who wants to defend. Hard to beat that in the 20s.
Kris Joseph, who was 23 in his last year at Syracuse, comes less heralded. He is a good athlete, though.
Additions: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeff Taylor
Really, what were the Bobcats going to do? Once the team knew it was slated to pick second in a one-man draft, its fortunes were all but assured. And the trade down options, while not awful, weren't enough to pull the trigger in a depth-acquiring deal. Kidd-Gilchrist may never be a star. He may never fill out to more than a defensive-minded Calbert Cheaney-type; but he's a mindful (eh!), spirited player who is going to work for you. I still think Bradley Beal was the better, and perhaps safer, pick. But MKG's ability to improve year to year could mean great things for Charlotte. Calbert Cheaney could be the absolute lowest notch on his Potential Belt.
(You'll have to pardon me. We're all short of sleep.)
Taylor's inclusion has drawn criticism because he's a rangy defender much in the same mode as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but when you have absolutely nothing on your roster of note, you don't really care about drafting for need in the second round. Take who you have rated the highest; and if it's a defender like Jeff Taylor, you could do a lot worse.
Overall, we refuse to lower this team's rank just because the lottery balls didn't settle Charlotte's way. And on a Bobcats team that has been tough to follow even when it was winning, MKG is someone to get behind.
[Related: UK becomes first team to produce No. 1, No. 2 pick in same draft]
Additions: Marquis Teague
We weren't blown away by Teague's play in his lone year at Kentucky, but the Bulls managed to do a remarkable thing with the 29th pick: Chicago drafted for need, and possibly picked up the best player on the board at this point.
Teague is an astonishing athlete who can get into the lane to play the drive and kick game. He'll also be rudely welcomed into the flop and charge game at the NBA level, but another year of seasoning (and way more shot attempts) under John Calipari would have potentially put him in the 2013 lottery. In Teague, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic, and Charlotte's eventual first-rounder that the Bobcats owe Chicago, the Bulls are putting together a nice little core of youngsters taken with afterthought draft picks.
(Sorry, Taj Gibson, but you don't count. You can probably remember what it was like to hear Kris Kross for the first time.)
Additions: Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller
You'd like to give this one an "incomplete." At best, you'd like to bow to the sorts of people who spend their entire lockout-induced time off and then lottery-bound regular season paying attention to NCAA hoops and charting out just who to take with the fourth and (after a trade with Dallas) 17th overall picks in the draft. You don't want to be flip in a few paragraphs after the people who are paid to do this spent months preparing.
Waiters was a surprise, though. He had some great individual workouts, but great athletes tend to do that. Darko Milicic did that, but so did Rajon Rondo. Waiters was a tough as nails wing who struggled to stay on the court during his last year at Syracuse, but perhaps the NBA style (and all those resultant free throws) is exactly what he needs. Some guys are just born to play in the NBA, and his NCAA production doesn't matter.
Zeller is attempting to break the decades-long streak of wasted draft picks on 7-footers in the middle of the first round. If he's a capable rotation player, or eighth man, then at 17th overall this was a fine selection, mainly because that position is so hard to fill. The Cavs need depth badly and all those traded second-round picks could have possibly helped that, but the second round is a crapshoot. Zeller's no guarantee either, but we appreciate Cleveland's moxie.
Wherever it takes them, I suppose.
Additions: Jared Cunningham, Bernard James, Jae Crowder
It was another weird, fun, and interesting draft night for the Mavericks. The team made a surprising move back down the first round to both save a little cash on that guaranteed contract, and pick up some second-rounders along the way. The team took a chance on Jared Cunningham with that guaranteed pick, a whippet-thin speedster who has intriguing athleticism but a whole lot left to figure out. Still, to get someone with that upside that low in the first round was a solid move. If he flames out, who cares? Twenty-fourth pick, limited salary.
James was obviously the story of the night behind Anthony Davis, a 27-year-old Air Force veteran who served three international tours. His age and frame make him a possible rotation player once he gets his NBA legs under him during his rookie year. Crowder is a banger that might not be much taller than Cunningham.
All three could contribute nothing, but the risk-taking and context has us approving Dallas' night.
Additions: Evan Fournier, Quincy Miller, Izzet Turkyilmaz
For a pretty-good team working with some pretty uninspiring draft picks, the Nuggets turned in a night that features quite a bit of upside. Even if we don't see any of these players any time soon.
Fournier is a skinny 6-foot-7 guard who might not make the NBA for years. From the clips I saw on Thursday it's clear he has NBA-level athleticism, and the touch is there, but he needs to add some NBA strength to that NBA height. A first-rounder on the guy may have been dodgy, but we haven't seen as much of Fournier as Denver has. Right, Denver?
The same goes for Miller, who was highly regarded coming out of high school but struggled in his lone college season after attempting to recover from an ACL tear. We don't know why Miller didn't stick it out for another year at Baylor to improve his status, but sometimes these things don't come down to basketball. The knock on Miller is that he shoots too many jumpers, but good touch mixed with fear over re-injury can do that to a player. All the other physical hallmarks, provided his knee returns to full strength, appear to be there.
Turkyilmaz is a 7-footer who has a ways to go before he can consider an NBA career.
[Related: Anthony Davis is selected first overall in the 2012 NBA draft]
Additions: Andre Drummond, Khris Middleton, Kim English
Interesting, potential-filled draft for Detroit. English can play. He can shoot, and in the NBA if you can shoot, you can play. Simple as that. Middleton's frame and game remind of a guy who is going to be in the NBA for a few years, and with a second-round selection that's hard to beat, and not slim praise. On top of that, Middleton has yet to turn 21.
Drummond is the biggest coin flip in the draft. He's the biggest anything in the draft, mixing that massive 7-6 wingspan and dominant potential with a history that suggests he might fritter it all away. That he'll lure fans in and put together that week or even month of double-double play and engaged defense (because that goes beyond shot-blocking; and the Pistons badly need someone paying attention on the inside with Greg Monroe around) before falling backward. As fans of sound center play, we're dying for Drummond to work out. We're hoping he falls closer to Bob Lanier than Reggie Harding. We hope Ben Wallace sticks around for another year to show him how it's done, before and after practice.
We've seen this buildup before, though. Please let the payoff be different this time, Andre Drummond.
(Pistons had to take him, though. Had to.)
Golden State Warriors
Additions: Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green
Barnes seems the epitome of the safe pick, but really who else were the Warriors going to grab at No. 7? Outside of Austin Rivers, Barnes was the only sure thing left in the draft at that point, and even taking a chance on Andre Drummond seemed a bit much. He adds to Golden State's most notable shooting skill set, and he won't flake out when a long trip out East allows the team one day off before it has to take on the Lakers at Staples Center. Golden State got a starter. End of that story.
Grabbing a thick big man like Ezeli at No. 30, with guaranteed contract in hand, seems like a very Warriors move. The size, though? As it does every June around this time, it has us arguing things away even though we should know better.
Everyone seems to be raving about Draymond Green's all-around skills and smarts while still wondering what position he's going to play, as some sort of hybrid forward with good instincts and shot-making ability. Isn't it odd how the most fundamentally sound prospects out there always seem to stay out of the realm of the orthodox when it comes time to add them to the NBA? It's probably why I cover this league.
Additions: Jeremy Lamb, Royce White, Terrence Jones
To start, any deal involving Dwight Howard was never going to happen. Managing to swing three middling picks into two higher lottery picks and turn that into the NBA's best center wasn't going to happen even if Howard actually met with new Orlando GM Rob Hennigan last week and told him he wanted a new team by Bastille Day (Dwight's been watching a lot of History Channel of late). Toss in the fact that the Rockets never got those picks, and that Howard never met with his new GM, and you have a deal that was never even considered.
What the Rockets did pull out were three name players who, I'm sorry, were fantastic grabs for their spots. Factoring in what appears to be a needless Samuel Dalembert trade (Jeremy Lamb wasn't going to be there with the 14th pick? That should be up for consideration) does knock their ranking a bit, but this was a good haul.
Lamb won't come in and have Rocket fans ready to forget (or, eventually sign off on dealing) Kevin Martin, but he can score at this level. Royce White can do just about anything at this level; now it's up to the NBA to figure out what to do with his many talents. Terrence Jones smacks of a Keon Clark-type; but if you can get a good coach to work Jones into something special — and in Kevin McHale, the Rockets have a good coach — he could pan out. All for picks taken from 12 to 18.
We're dropping a grade because of the Dalembert deal. Phoenix wouldn't have taken Lamb, with its draft-for-need philosophy, and neither would Milwaukee with Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings on board.
Additions: Miles Plumlee, Orlando Johnson
(Not going to make a joke about his name. Your name is "Kelly," so you have absolutely no room to talk. Yes, he sounds like one of Gene Hackman's students, and not players, in "Hoosiers." Yes, he probably has a brother named "Augie." But just stop there, Kelly.)
Though we knew months ago that this could be Larry Bird's last year with the Pacers, and were aware a day before his final media conference that he was stepping away, watching Bird leave the podium after that cheerful presser was somewhat affecting. Lump in my throat affecting, actually. Even though Bird stated that he would be running Indiana's draft one last time.
And then he drafted Plumlee.
"Oh sure," the contrarians cried while hoping Bird didn't go out like this, "the Pacers dropped a lower-rung first-round pick on Jeff Foster over a decade ago. That worked out well, didn't it?"
Except that Foster combined to average 25.5 points/rebounds per game in his senior year, nearly double Plumlee's 13.7. And he's on the books, guaranteed money, for the next two years. Yes, this was a low pick — but there were better ones out there. At positions Indiana could have used help with.
Prove us wrong, big man.
Los Angeles Clippers
Additions: Furkan Aldemir (and, essentially, Sam Cassell in 2006 and Chris Paul)
The Clippers dealt away their rights to Minnesota's selection at 10, which was used on Austin Rivers, that they received in a deal that netted them one year of borderline All-Star play from Sam Cassell in 2006; and an eventual sweetener to send NOLA's way to grab Chris Paul.
Aldemir is a rebounder who we may never see, taken in the second round.
Also, Sam Cassell and Chris Paul. And they didn't have to pay Marko Jaric.
[Related: 2012 NBA draft pick-by-pick analysis | Slideshow]
Los Angeles Lakers
Additions: Darius Johnson-Odom, Robert Sacre
The Lakers attempted to find their defender at point guard with Johnson-Odom, but I'm not as convinced.
Sacre is a big dude who doesn't appear to have NBA-level athleticism. He's also a 7-footer who played stateside and was selected 60th overall, so even if he plays just a week in the NBA, how can you criticize a pick like this?
(Scott Machado? OK, whatever. Fine, guy.)
Additions: Tony Wroten Jr.
With a lower rung first-round pick and a whole lot of rotation to fill out, the Grizzlies went crazy. And we love it. Wroten Jr. apparently takes chances with his passing and penetration, and while that's the last thing you want to hear regarding a team that doesn't feed Zach Randolph nearly enough at times, that sort of pell-mell style can aid the Grizzlies in second quarters.
Calling this a "risky" pick doesn't make sense to me, unless you're in love with Quincy Miller or Doron Lamb, because this was a 25th overall selection that won't make much money. For now, I dig it.
Marquis Teague could have been considered, but I don't think he was "Grizzlies" enough for Memphis.
Additions: Justin Hamilton
I don't completely agree that Hamilton is an NBA-level player, not even on the end of the bench. I do agree that whoever the Heat grab with their eventual first-round pick acquired from Philadelphia will be better than who the Heat were going to grab with the 27th overall pick in Thursday's draft, and that they did well in dealing with Philly.
(That is to say, I trust the Heat with an 18th pick next year in a worse draft more than I trust them to take Arnett Moultrie, who Philadelphia selected.)
Hence, another grade like this.
Additions: John Henson, Doron Lamb, Samuel Dalembert
Out of nowhere, in adding three guys that I'm not particularly fond of overall, the Bucks may have had the best draft north of New Orleans. Which is saying something, because just about everything is north of New Orleans.
The Bucks didn't draft for need at 14, even with defensive specialists Epke Udoh and Luc Mbah a Moute on board, and grabbed a lottery-level shot blocker in Henson. Lamb was a huge find in the second round, and here's hoping the Bucks hang onto him instead of jettisoning Lamb like they did the similarly-styled Voshon Lenard years ago.
And trading down two spots to pick up Dalembert? A starting center? Works for me.
Again, these don't have to be blockbuster deals or picks. It's all about context, and afforded the chances at the players they dealt for or selected? The Bucks did a fantastic job.
Additions: Robbie Hummel, Chase Budinger
Hummel is to be commended for working through two different ACL tears, but I'm not as convinced he's a lights-out shooter as some have pegged him. You need legs and strength to consistently get open and nail a shot that is nearly 24 feet from the hoop, and Hummel's going to have his work cut out for him to be more than just camp fodder.
"Work cut out for him." Good thing he's Robbie Hummel.
You can argue the relative merits of the 18th pick Minnesota traded for Budinger, one the Rockets used to pick up Terrence Jones. There could have and probably will be better players that were available at that spot than Budinger, in the long run. But Chase fills a need at the wing and he's a known commodity as an NBA vet. That's good value for 18, in any draft.
Additions: Tyshawn Taylor, Ilkan Karaman, potentially Gerald Wallace
Grade: D+ (raised a grade if New Jersey declines to pay Gerald Wallace into his 30s)
The Brooklyn Nets' first draft was a very New Jersey Nets-type of draft, right down to holding the draft in the same building the Nets just left a few months ago, to the ringing ears of the lustily booed David Stern.
The Nets traded their lottery pick, in a panic, to Portland last March for Gerald Wallace. Wallace is a fine player that we highly respect, but out of sorts on a rebuilding team (even if the Nets retain Deron Williams) and a potential flight risk as a free agent. Because the Nets can't possibly save any face on this, we've already begged them to not try to make up for this bad deal by burdening themselves with a Gerald Wallace deal for the next few years, but that hasn't stopped GM Billy King before.
Tyshawn Taylor has potential and was regarded as a first-rounder by many outlets, but his decision-making needs work.
Karaman is an athlete and rebounder who might not come over.
New Orleans Hornets
Additions: Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers, Darius Miller
Davis will clearly be a star and then superstar for years to come. We might fret that he needs to play alongside an offensive-minded center at times, someone to hold while Davis flies in from the weak side, but that's about the only limitation I can see right now. Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan did just fine with Rasho Nesterovic, despite the protestations of those who weren't paying attention.
Rivers is an odd fit in New Orleans next to Eric Gordon, but that's not the point right now. Rivers was a college freshman, and he's a ways away from needing to be a good fit next to Gordon, who might not even be on the Hornets next season. You take the best player you're comfortable with, regardless of position, and move from there. And the Hornets did a fantastic job. They now have the enviable task of combining the talents of two scoring guards that can dish.
Also, they drafted perhaps the two most famous participants in Thursday evening's proceedings. This will help, at the gate.
Darius Miller is a shooter with a chance to make the team.
New York Knicks
Additions: Konstantinos Papanikolaou
The Knicks dealt this pick to Houston two years ago in an attempt to make up for Isiah Thomas' miserable run as GM and for a chance to sign LeBron James. They've made mistakes since then, but what did you expect New York to do back in 2010? The pressure was on.
Papanikolaou is a defender who may never come over, but New York took a chance at 48 with nobody of significance left on the board that would have helped the team in 2012-13.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Additions: Perry Jones III
Jones would have been a great pick for any team a dozen or so spots higher, so for him to fall into the lap of a Finals participant at 28 was fantastic for both sides; if not Jones' agent.
His game needs refinement, but all potential injury or motivation issues will be shoved aside when he enters a training camp full of young men nearly his age who are going to be smarting from a Finals gone wrong. And though the Thunder are stacked, that bench could use a little help, and Jones will have his moments even in his rookie year on what should be a 60-win team.
[Adrian Wojnarowski: Thunder offer four-year deal to coach Scott Brooks]
Additions: Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O'Quinn
Ryan Anderson is a terrific player, and Nicholson certainly wasn't drafted to replace Anderson in any meaningful way, but perhaps it's time to try a more typical power forward type next to Dwight Howard? Assuming Dwight … y'know.
Not as a starter, mind you, because we've been hyping Anderson for years. Just in the mix.
Nicholson has all you need from a big four, and though he lacks a bit in the rebounding department, the Magic have a guy to help with that. He's a long, aggressive scoring type that will turn 23 a month into the season and be able to help early on.
O'Quinn is a banger, and little else but camp fodder at this point. He's a big banger, though, so he'll be around.
Additions: Maurice Harkless, Arnett Moultrie
The Philadelphia 76ers went out and got themselves two more Philadelphia 76ers. Two more guys with revving motors that look to score and bound around and show off that coveted athleticism that the 76ers seem to buy by the truckload every summer.
Moultrie is a scoring four with legitimate size at that position, more help if the 76ers decide to use the amnesty clause on Elton Brand. Harkless is still finding a way (he just turned 19) to turn all that athleticism into actual production (in the box score or otherwise), and you can't say the Sixers don't have a type.
Using a future first-rounder to trade for Moultrie dips our grade a little.
Additions: Kendall Marshall
The Suns were the first — or, depending on how you judge a few other squads, the only — team to pick for need. Marshall is a pass-first sort of dude with a lot to work on, and it's possible he might be asked to work in Steve Nash's place sooner than the kid ever could have expected. Marshall's long arms and loping style remind me a bit of Mike Conley, even if his game never will (for reasons good and bad).
[Related: Adrian Wojnarowski: Suns will pursue Celtics' Ray Allen]
He may have been a reach, but even with Nash around the Suns need a point guard.
Portland Trail Blazers
Additions: Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Will Barton
A strange draft. Big centers taken where Leonard was selected almost never pan out, but if the team utilizes him as six fouls and gravy in the second quarter, then they may have found something. Still, several much better basketball players were taken ahead of Leonard.
It's hard to say as much about Lillard, who we like; though we are wary that he'll never get over being a waterbug scorer instead of a playmaker. If he were heading to a different team (one that isn't working with a power forward that needs the ball), I'd probably be more enthused. As it stands, though, he could put his head down and fight for Rookie of the Year votes.
Barton was an odd find in the second round. He's actually a very good shooter and scorer and it was strange to see him drop so low in even this shooting guard-heavy draft.
Additions: Thomas Robinson
Perfect pick, perfect timing. Robinson may never be an All-Star, but that's what DeMarcus Cousins is for, and Robinson will be his brutal helper as the Kings try to bang their way back toward respectability.
(That didn't sound right.)
Best — every year a power forward gets taken high in the lottery and is expected to show all sorts of touch and handle on the fly. Robinson won't work with those expectations, though he has that talent, in his first year. Again, that's what Cousins is for, and we really hope there's no on-court chemistry hiccup that we're missing as we regard their respective games.
San Antonio Spurs
Additions: Marcus Denmon
He's a combo guard and a 59th pick, so most pundits are saying wonderful things about the Missouri Tiger heading to the Spurs. If his name were Marquis de N'Mon, some scribes would be readying themselves for a Spurs/Heat Finals next year.
For now, this dude is a tough tweener that will have a shot at making the Spurs next season. Pretty good take for his draft slot.
Additions: Terrence Ross, Quincy Acy, Tomislav Zubcic
Skinny, athletic wings just don't thrill me; they're fun to watch on the odd lob or put-back, but guys like DeMar DeRozan just never did it for me. And, so far, the Raptors.
While I'm not going to be flip and tell you that the Raptors just went out and drafted another one, Ross' skills are similar, his handle just as poor. We're hoping, like Toronto, that this gets spun around and I'm terribly wrong.
Acy will have a hard time working his game with his frame (6-6) in the NBA, while Zubcic remains an interesting prospect but not a contributing player at this point.
Additions: Kevin Murphy
Someone who can shoot, picked up in the low 40s? Always worth your time. This guy looks a lot smoother than, say, Quincy Lewis. Though we're sorry for bringing that up, Jazz fans.
If Murphy plays even a scintilla of efficient NBA basketball in 2012-13, then this pick will have been a winner.
Additions: Bradley Beal, Tomas Satoransky
Beal was Washington's obvious choice, provided his availability, when the team went hard at starting forwards Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza earlier in June. His overall skill set has you wondering if he'll end up as the best thing to come out of this draft that isn't named "Anthony Davis," and once he gathers NBA strength he'll be an all-around force to be reckoned with. A smooth one, at that.
Tomas Satoransky is a basketball player. I love the draft.
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