A few years ago (2016, to be exact), I did a Draft Grades column for this here website and very promptly got an interview request from a Sacramento radio station.
The reason? They wanted to know why I gave some semblance of a decent grade to the Kings (if I recall, it was around a C-) for their 2016 draft, which looked like this:
*Draft Marquese Chriss at No. 8 overall;
*Trade him to Phoenix for the No. 13 pick (Georgios Papagiannis), the No. 28 pick (Skal Labissiere), a future 2nd rounder and the draft rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic.
In hindsight, that doesn’t look horrible, especially when you consider that Bogdanovic is good enough to now be one of the key pieces the Bucks are trying to bring in to make/keep Giannis Antetokounmpo happy. However, the day after the Draft in 2016, I’m pretty sure I had more than a couple nice things to say about Papagiannis, who has played a total of 39 NBA games (4.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 0.6 bpg) and is now back plying his trade in Greece.
In other words, Sacramento sports radio wanted to talk to me because they thought I was out of my mind for giving the Kings anything close to a passing grade.
This is all my long-winded way of saying I probably grade too nicely. And with that in mind, here is the team-by-team breakdown — in alphabetical order — of how your team did on draft night, with fantasy impact included where it applies.
Grade for this intro: B-.
(Disclaimer: Given the volume of transactions that happened last night, I’d say there’s about an 81 percent chance that I overlook something spectacularly. Apologies in advance if I do/did that for your team.)
Fantasy Impact: Okongwu (16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.2 spg, 2.7 bpg as a freshman at USC) could easily see minutes in the low-20’s backing up John Collins and Clint Capela, but it’s hard to imagine him making a fantasy impact early on. He’ll be a name to keep on your radar if there’s an injury in the ATL frontcourt, though Dewayne Dedmon’s presence further complicates that equation. (Update! Dedmon has been traded to Detroit. So that's one less obstacle for Okongwu.)
Grade: B+. I said I grade nicely, but I can’t just give out an A to my hometown team, especially when they’re first on the roll call. Okongwu, who has been compared by many to Bam Adebayo defensively, looks like a really strong addition for the Hawks, even if it ends up taking a little bit of time.
Fantasy Impact: Probably none this year.
Grade: A-. The Celtics added a ton of shooting and two very productive college players. Nesmith in particular shot 52.2 percent on 3s at Vanderbilt last season, and it sounds like he could have gone even earlier if not for a broken foot.
Fantasy Impact: Minimal. Shamet is a great real-life pickup for Brooklyn because of his outside shooting, but he only averaged 10.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.2 spg (and 2.5 3s) in 30 games as a starter last season, so we’re not looking at anything great even if Shamet is pressed into action.
Grade: B-. This is fine, and trades are appreciated, but do we have anything more spicy?
Yes we do.
Fantasy Impact: As noted in our most recent Rotoworld blurb, the Hornets do have a crowded backcourt with Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier, but you don’t draft LaMelo Ball third overall to do anything other than play him a lot. Ball’s size (6-7) also means he could easily share the court with Graham and Rozier in a guard-heavy lineup. As for a statistical blueprint, Ball averaged 17.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 6.8 apg, 1.6 spg and 1.7 3s (37.5 FG / 72.3 FT) in his 12 games in Australia last year. He’s likely to be a stat-stuffing percentage headache from day one, which is both fun and terribly annoying at the same time for fantasy purposes.
Fantasy Impact: Williams could be an Otto Porter injury away from serious playing time — and he may get it regardless given how high the Bulls took him — but there are reasons to wonder how productive he’ll be right away. And that leads me to…
Grade: Williams generated a lot of momentum leading up to the draft, and it’s never a bad thing when a team as savvy as the Spurs reportedly has interest, so I won’t rule out this pick as a potential home run. The reason I give it a lower grade is that I prefer players who actually put up numbers in college, because there’s a much clearer indication of how they could thrive in the NBA. With that in mind, Williams didn’t start a single game for FSU, averaging just 9.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.0 spg, 1.0 bpg and 0.6 3s (32.0 percent from long range) last season. He’s 19, so he could easily develop into a big-time player, but the Bulls passed on some already big-time college players to gamble on Williams’s upside. It could be great, it could be terrible, so we meet in the middle: a C.
What They Did: Drafted Auburn SF Isaac Okoro (No. 5).
Fantasy Impact: The big concern with Okoro is that he shot just 28.6 percent on 3s in college, and like Williams, he strikes me as an intriguing prospect who may take some time to become a fantasy contributor. As of now, I can’t imagine drafting him in anything other than a very deep league.
Grade: B. This pick neither thrills nor upsets me, though I would have preferred to see Cleveland bring in Obi Toppin.
Fantasy Impact: I want to say that Richardson going to Dallas is intriguing, but we were all excited about Delon Wright prior to last season and look where that got us. Ultimately, Richardson may be hard-pressed to even match last year’s numbers (13.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.9 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.7 bpg and 1.5 3s) with how much Luka Doncic dominates the offense.
Grade: C-. There may be a case to be made for Richardson over Curry, but personally I don’t love the idea of taking one of the most dangerous shooters in the league (Curry shot 45.2 percent on 3s last season) away from Luka and the Mavericks offense.
Fantasy Impact: Hard to imagine any this season given that Denver is a deep squad that hopes to contend.
Grade: B-. The Nuggets know what they're doing (see Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol), but it’s hard to imagine we’ll get much of a chance to evaluate either one of their most recent picks this upcoming season.
Fantasy Impact: At the moment, Hayes only has to contend with Derrick Rose for the PG role in Detroit, so he could be playing a lot sooner rather than later. In 10 EuroCup games for ratiopharm Ulm in Germany, Hayes (who is just 19 years old) posted 12.8 ppg, 6.2 apg, 1.5 spg and 1.6 3s. He’s been inconsistent as an outside shooter, but the left-hander has the size (he’s listed at 6-5) to be an intriguing fantasy point guard. Drafting rookie point guards in fantasy is risky due to percentage and turnover issues, but much crazier things have happened than Hayes putting up some notable stat lines at some point this season.
Grade: B. My brain is already scrambled from trying to keep track of names and destinations, and the Pistons did us no favors in that department. However, the Pistons do need some sort of point guard of the future, and they at least got a compelling prospect in Hayes.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Fantasy Impact: Putting the brutal news about Klay aside, Wiseman has landed in a potentially great spot to make at least a low-level fantasy impact right away, as he currently only has to compete with Marquese Chriss (sorry, Dr. A) and Kevon Looney for playing time. It’s easy to envision Mitchell Robinson-esque numbers from Wiseman as a rookie.
Grade: A-. The Warriors hopes of returning to prominence may have hit a crushing setback on Wednesday, but that has nothing to do with this draft pick. And even though we haven't seen a ton of Wiseman, it appears that there is a lot to like.
Aaaaaaand, I just realized that there are still 20 teams to go. Time to regroup and power through the rest of this! Click the next page to continue as I attempt to write less words about the upcoming teams while breaking down an exciting night for the Timberwolves…
What They Did: Dealt Trevor Ariza and the No. 16 pick to Detroit for a future first-rounder. Drafted Kenyon Martin Jr. (No. 52).
Fantasy Impact: None.
Grade: F+. There's nothing more annoying for me personally than when my team punts a draft pick another year down the line. The plus is for the nostalgia of drafting Kenyon Martin’s son.
What They Did: Drafted Duke SG/SF Cassius Stanley (No. 54).
Fantasy Impact: None.
Grade: C-. Only slightly less boring than drafting no one is drafting a single second-rounder. Stanley is no joke as a dunker, but there is no point in lingering here any longer.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Fantasy Impact: Kennard had a breakout season of sorts for the Pistons (15.8 ppg, 4.1 apg, 2.6 3s prior to injury), but goes to a truly awful situation for fantasy production on a deep Clippers team.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Fantasy Impact: None.
Grade: Incomplete. The Lakers essentially did nothing, and what they did (trade for Schroder) had already been done.
What They Did: Drafted TCU SG Desmond Bane (No. 30), drafted Mississippi SF Robert Woodard (No. 40), who I realized after publishing this is apparently on the Kings now. My psyche is cracking.
Fantasy Impact: Bane is worth keeping an eye on because he showed some nice all-around potential in college (16.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.5 spg, 2.9 3s for TCU), though there are a lot of potential wing options in Memphis already.
Grade: B. Bane was projected to go considerably higher in some mock drafts I saw, so this is a potential steal for the Grizzlies.
What They Did: Drafted Memphis PF Precious Achiuwa (No. 20).
Fantasy Impact: Probably none initially.
Grade: B. Achiuwa did some exciting things during his lone season at Memphis (15.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.1 spg, 1.9 bpg), and maybe has the potential to improve as a 3-point shooter after making 32.5 percent of his limited attempts (0.4 makes per game).
Fantasy Impact: Nope.
Grade: C. The Bucks made some huge waves earlier this week by trading for Jrue Holiday and possibly trading for Bogdan Bogdanovic, but they destroyed their chance at an awesome draft night grade by not making those trades on draft night.
Fantasy Impact: It’s easy to see Edwards quickly leaping past Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie to get a change to run away with a lot of minutes on the wing, though his highlight-reel plays also come with huge percentage-related red flags when it comes to fantasy. As for Rubio, he has now gone from a good situation in Phoenix to a good situation in Oklahoma City to a totally fine situation in Minnesota in the span of about three days. Even though he’ll be sharing the backcourt with D’Angelo Russell, there should be plenty of room for Rubio to produce around the top-60ish level he hit last year.
Grade: A-. If I awarded nostalgia points for the selection of Kenyon Martin Jr., then I can’t ignore the magic of Rubio returning to Minnesota. And as much as I question Edwards’s percentages from a fantasy perspective in year one, there’s no doubt that he’s going to be ridiculously fun to watch.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
What They Did: Drafted Alabama guard Kira Lewis (No. 13), drafted Kentucky C Nick Richards (No. 42) before trading him to Charlotte.
Fantasy Impact: Lewis looks like an exciting fantasy prospect in the future (18.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.6 bpg, 1.8 3s last season for Alabama), but he’s stuck fighting for minutes behind Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe and George Hill, among others. Not ideal.
Grade: B. The downgrade from Holiday to Bledsoe earlier this week is pretty brutal in real life, but we're not grading the Pelicans on their pre-draft trade, and I like the Lewis pick overall.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Fantasy Impact: As excited as I was for Toppin (who is from Brooklyn) to land in New York — and as excited as Toppin was, for that matter — it immediately hit me that he's going into a potentially rough situation to find playing time as a rookie. Hopefully Tom Thibodeau will make an exception and get Toppin into the rotation early and often, and it helps that the Knicks declined Bobby Portis’s option and waived Taj Gibson (per Shams Charania of The Athletic), but I am more than a little bit concerned here.
Grade: A. With that said, I love this pick. Toppin is exciting, charismatic, very productive in college (20.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.2 bpg, 1.0 3s), and I could see him becoming a John Collins-esque offensive force if given the opportunity. Getting him 8th overall was a massive win for the Knicks, even if their coach will probably completely blow it and leave him on the bench.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
What They Did: Drafted Aleksej Pokusevski (No. 17) after trading Ricky Rubio, No. 25 and No. 28 for the pick. Acquired No. 34 pick Theo Maledon from Sixers, No. 37 pick Vit Krejci from Wizards. Also acquired Al Horford and draft picks for Danny Green and Terrance Ferguson earlier on draft day afternoon.
Real-Life Impact: My head is spinning.
Fantasy Impact: Pokusevski is reportedly staying overseas for now, so let’s focus quickly on the Horford trade. And I do mean quickly. Horford posted 11.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 4.0 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.9 bpg and 1.5 3s last season, and could see decent playing time in the OKC frontcourt if they're willing to play him at PF alongside Steven Adams.
Grade: This one is completely mind-blowing to try to digest, but the Thunder know what they're doing, so I'm going to call this a B and move on.
What They Did: Drafted UNC PG Cole Anthony (No. 15).
Fantasy Impact: Possibly ample. D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams are both free agents, so Anthony — 18.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 2.2 3s — currently has a clear runway to a lot of minutes. The Magic could easily bring in or bring back a veteran to ruin the fun, but for now, Anthony is on the fantasy radar. The only issue? He shot just 38.0 percent with 3.5 turnovers his lone year at UNC.
Grade: B+. Flaws in the stat line aside, this is exciting.
Fantasy Impact: Not much, though we can no longer count on Al Horford as Joel Embiid insurance for those fearless enough to draft Embiid. Richardson’s production probably gets divided up between some combo of Curry and Green. Maxey is a point guard who didn't pile up many 3s (1.1), assists (3.2) or steals (0.9) in college, so it's hard to be excited about his fantasy upside.
Grade: B. Give the Sixers credit for doing a whole bunch of stuff, but the net result doesn't look drastically better or worse. They did get out of Al Horford’s massive contract, which is probably a huge relief if you're a Philly fan.
What They Did: Drafted Maryland PF Jalen Smith (No. 10).
Fantasy Impact: Potentially. Smith averaged 15.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 0.7 spg, 2.4 bpg and 1.0 3s (36.8 percent) as a sophomore at Maryland, and his competition for playing time at PF is an unimposing combo of Frank Kaminsky and restricted free agent Dario Saric. Given that combo of blocks and 3s, and the relatively high draft pick, Smith is on the list of late-round rookies to keep in mind.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Fantasy Impact: Nil.
Grade: C-. Remember, I’m not including pre-draft trades in the letter grade, so as much as I like Covington, it was my decision not to grade that here. And I give that decision a D.
Fantasy Impact: The Kings can’t get it right with Buddy Hield after signing him to a massive deal, so I have no faith in them finding minutes for Haliburton, despite the absolute dominance of his draft night suit.
Grade: C. There is a lot to like about Haliburton at No. 12, and by all indications he's going to be a very good role player/glue guy in the right situation, and I am nowhere close to convinced that the right situation is the Kings.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Fantasy Impact: Vassell is a good prospect (12.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.4 spg, 1.0 bpg, 1.5 3s), and it's going to be torture for Bulls fans if he ends up being better than Patrick Williams, who went seven picks earlier. The good news for Chicago fans is we may not find that out this year, as DeMar DeRozan has opted in, and Vassell will likely have a hard time getting minutes early on a veteran Spurs team.
Grade: A-. The Spurs are good at this.
Fantasy Impact: We can ignore Flynn if Fred VanVleet is back in Toronto. IF FVV leaves, we at least have to put the rookie PG on our radar.
Fantasy Impact: The shot-blocking Azubuike (2.6 bpg) is a nice real-life fit playing behind/learning from Rudy Gobert.
Fantasy Impact: The Wizards currently have a massive void at SF, so Avdija is an intriguing flier in fantasy drafts given his potential to contribute in a lot of areas. He also played just 14 minutes per game for Maccabi Tel Aviv in EuroLeague this past season, so there is a ton of boom or bust here when it comes to his fantasy numbers this season. If I had to bet, I'd guess Avdija is really quiet early before breaking out at some point later in the season.
Grade: A-. For a Washington team that should be prioritizing upside, Avdija at pick No. 9 is pretty great.
As is finishing this column if you made it this far, more than 3,600 words later. Thanks for reading, and we might as well start it up now: #FreeObiToppin.