Grading the 2016 NBA draft

Ball Don't Lie
Grading the 2016 NBA draft
Grading the 2016 NBA draft

We’re well aware that draft grades – passing judgment on the hiring of a 19 or even 18-year old just hours after their names were called – is rather silly. There were 30 NBA franchises working with 30 disparate motivations, strategies, needs and abilities on Thursday night during the league’s draft, and though some fared better than others the 2016 NBA draft (like all NBA drafts) was not a level playing field for myriad reasons.

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With that in place, we can still hand out interim report cards for every franchise on the docket. Dig in:

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Atlanta Hawks

The Haul: Taurean Prince (Baylor) at 12, DeAndre Bembry (St. Joseph’s) at 21, Isaia Cordinier (France) at 44.

This was a very Hawksian draft bent on replenishing its supply of heady, all-around athletes, while potentially preparing the team for the defection of free agent swingman Kent Bazemore. Neither Prince nor Bembry will ever be stars, but they have the gifts and potential to act as key rotation parts from either the small forward or off guard position. Prince is ahead of Bembry in the shooting department at this juncture, but that doesn’t mean DeAndre’s heady game can’t fit in with the vets by midseason.

Grade: B

***

Boston Celtics

The Haul: Jaylen Brown (California) at 3, Guerschon Yabusele (France) at 16, Ante Zizic (Croatia) at 23, lottery-protected first round pick from the Los Angeles Clippers in either 2019 or 2020, Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame) at 45, Ben Bentil (Providence) at 51, Abdel Naber (Iowa State) at 58.

The tramping the dirt down on Danny Ainge’s supposed grave of assets needs to be dialed back a bit.

The only people that should either act shocked or haughty that the Celtics general manager was unable to land a star in the first of his pick-heavy nights must have passed on looking up the actual specifics behind what’s actually available out there. Ainge was prepared but also incredibly lucky to have a combination of lottery picks, massive expiring deals and a 20-and-10 guy to deal in the summer of 2007; one of those rare offseasons that somehow saw two different (nearly) in-prime future Hall of Famers (Ray Allen and eventually Kevin Garnett) available on the trading block.

Those legends aren’t exactly out there right now, less-celebrated stars aren’t even on the block, and as such Ainge was forced to work around the margins yet again.

What you can possibly criticize are the draft choices while he bides his time: Jaylen Brown is a home run swing that could bring Boston an All-Star, but the athlete has his drawbacks at his young age. Yabusele unique talents remain rather unique, his was a surprise call, and Zizic’s charms come from the old school that demands centers stay low and near the rim.

Ainge may never get his star via the trade pipeline, and in reaction he passed on Kris Dunn and took his chances on two on Thursday night. This story has barely begun – it could end in a whiff, and a lesson that it always takes two to tango.

Grade: B

***

Brooklyn Nets

The Haul: Caris LaVert (Michigan) at 20, Isaiah Whitehead (Seton Hall) at 42.

The Nets were always going to have to swap picks with the Boston Celtics in the 2017 draft, and the team’s new leadership (GM Sean Marks) decided to bite the bullet and work what former GM Billy King never had the temerity to do – suffer through the embarrassment have possibly having to dive from a top three pick down to the 20s in order to find some young asset to play around with.

Thaddeus Young is a smart veteran and good basketball player, but his absence on the 2016-17 Nets will cost the team wins in ways that won’t reflect in an improved lottery standing. It is worrying that Caris LaVert is far from a finished product, working with frightening foot woes. Still, when the crops are salted, you have to take a gamble on something that could eventually turn out savory.

Grade: A

***

Charlotte Hornets

The Haul: Marco Belinelli (via trade with Sacramento).

Faced with the possible free agent defections of Nicolas Batum, Courtney Lee, and Jeremy Lin, the Hornets needed to find NBA-caliber talent at a perimeter position straightaway. The team might someday rue dealing a No. 22 pick for a 30-year old in Belinelli, but these are the team-sustaining transactions you often have to take.

Grade: B+

***

Denzel Valentine brought his own cans. (Getty Images)
Denzel Valentine brought his own cans. (Getty Images)

Chicago Bulls

The Haul: Denzel Valentine (Michigan State) at 14, Paul Zipser (Germany) at 48.

Chicago did not deal Jimmy Butler, despite reportedly receiving several offers from Boston and Minnesota. This was probably a good thing, considering Butler’s two-way gifts, but hardly a warming burst considering the tattered nature of Chicago’s current roster. Valentine, despite being an older, intelligent player that can contribute in all offensive areas, will still need some time to catch up to NBA speed alongside the 27-year old Butler. And Zipser has an extra bone in his foot, which sadly doesn’t mean he can dunk on a 13-foot rim.

Grade: B-

***

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Haul: Kay Felder (Oakland) at 54.

Cleveland dealt its first rounder to Boston two years ago in order to help clear salary cap room in its successful chase down of then-free agent LeBron James, and although the team also had to give up Tyler Zeller along the way, every little bit of cap space helps when you’re in with a chance for LeBron. Its second round pick also went to Boston, helping create a trade exception that was later used to help acquire Timofey Mozgov.

The team did acquire (from Atlanta) our next favorite Summer League hero in Felder, though, a lefty sparkplug who might have a chance at making the roster should the team let Matthew Dellavedova walk.

Grade: A.

***

Dallas Mavericks

The Haul: A.J. Hammons (Purdue) at 46.

Dallas traded its first round pick to Boston in the Rajon Rondo deal and, ye gods and little fishes, that one didn’t really work out did it? Taking a chance on Hammons late in the draft was a fantastic move, as he has legitimate NBA skills at a center position that is perpetually difficult to fill in any era. He sleepwalks through games, though, and the Mavs will have to find some way to motivate the big man into the career his talents deserve. One long snoozefest through the Summer League and camp could mean the end of his NBA career. At No. 46, though, you take that “chance.”

Grade: A-

***

Denver Nuggets

The Haul: Jamal Murray (Kentucky) at 7, Juan Hernangomez (Spain) at 15, Malik Beasley (Florida State) at 19, Petr Cornelie (France) at 53, Daniel Hamilton (Connecticut) at 56.

The Nuggets are in an unfortunate spot, the team hasn’t been bad enough to reel in a knockout star during its semi-unexpected rebuild, but in a top-heavy draft this batch of players should help.

Murray is a sound shooter that should pair nicely with pell-mell penetrator Emanuel Mudiay, Hernangomez figures to be a solid rotation piece and versatile bench scorer should he come over, and Beasley appears to have the skills and smarts to overcome what isn’t an imposing NBA frame at this point in his basketball career. This will still act as an underwhelming team despite three first rounders, but considering the placement …

Grade: B+

***

Detroit Pistons

The Haul: Henry Ellenson (Marquette) at 18, Michael Gbinije (Syracuse) at 49.

Grabbing a player of Ellenson’s size (6-10), age (19) and skill set (in school, at least, he was able to capably score inside and out) at 18 was fantastic for Detroit; but legitimate questions remain as to just how well Ellenson’s game will translate to the pros. Especially his low post leanings, in a league that just doesn’t really do a whole heck of a lot of that anymore. Gbinije, already age 24, is a longshot to make it as a 3-and-D guy.

Grade: B

***

Golden State Warriors

The Haul: Damian Jones (Vanderbilt) at 30, Patrick McCaw (UNLV) at 38.

On paper, scoring Jones seems right out of central casting. The big man looks to be a heady potential NBA shot-blocker and rebounder, someone with enough athleticism to cast out a lasting career as a reserve center in the modern era, someone to replace another defensive-first 6-10’ish Vanderbilt product in the possibly defecting Festus Ezeli. However, he fell to 30 because there are questions about Jones’ drive and, well, motivation:

McCaw is a 3-and-D project that Golden State clearly targeted, someone who will likely make the roster as Brandon Rush gets on in years.

Grade: A

***

Houston Rockets

The Haul: Chinanu Onuaku (Louisville) at 37, Zhou Qi (China) at 43.

The Rockets were without a first round pick following the 2015 deal that acquired Ty Lawson from Denver, a move that seemed like an absolute steal at the time. Though the team’s rotation badly needs some fresh faces, it’s unlikely that we see Onuaku or (especially) Zhou Qi in a Rocket uniform next season.

Grade: C-

***

Indiana Pacers

The Haul: Jeff Teague (via trade with Atlanta), Thaddeus Young (via trade with Brooklyn), Georges Niang (Iowa State) at 50.

Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young won’t have LeBron James and company shaking by the time October rolls around, and Teague (an Indianapolis native) could leave the Pacers as a free agent next summer, but grabbing to NBA-level starters for 30-year old George Hill and pick No. 20 was exceptional for Indiana. Especially in a draft this raw and unrefined. Young is also on a reasonable contract that will pay him through his prime until 2019.

Niang is a super-slow plodder that could make the team if he keeps the jumpers falling.

Grade: A+

***

Brice Johnson makes it official. (Getty Images)
Brice Johnson makes it official. (Getty Images)

Los Angeles Clippers

The Haul: Brice Johnson (North Carolina) at 25, David Michineau (France) at 39, Diamond Stone (Maryland) at 40.

The Clippers, as is seemingly always the case, badly need end-of-bench help from the draft to play right away, and Johnson seems to fit that mold. As is also always the case, though, he’ll only go as far as Clipper GM/coach Doc Rivers will let him, as Doc isn’t always a big fan of handing what he sees as important minutes to rookies that need confidence. Still, good value this low – especially if Stone can make the team. Despite underwhelming skills outside the paint, his rebounding numbers should hopefully transition well.

Grade: A-

***

Los Angeles Lakers

The Haul: Brandon Ingram (Duke) at 2, Ivica Zubac (Croatia) at 32.

Ingram is an obvious NBA talent, a slithery-smooth Rookie of the Year candidate that would do well to spend as much time as he possibly can discussing footwork and economy of movement with new Lakers coach Luke Walton. He’ll get minutes right away despite his whippet-thin frame and age, something Laker fans have to be giddy about following the injury-plagued “rookie” year of Julius Randle and all the pushback Byron Scott gave D’Angelo Russell last season. Zubac reportedly refuses to act as a draft-and-stash player, and with the Lakers coming off of a 17-win season, why not give the banger a try?

Grade: A+

***

Memphis Grizzlies

The Haul: Wade Baldwin (Vanderbilt) at 17, Deyonta Davis (Michigan State) at 31, Rade Zagorac (Serbia) at 35, Wang Shelin (China) at 57.

Baldwin was a surprise drop to 17, a solid point guard prospect that Memphis would have probably taken even if they had 100 percent assurances that free agent point man Michael Conley was not only going to return to the Grizzlies next season, but also return to full and complete health following some Achilles woes. With the Conley uncertainty, though, the find looks even better.

Davis is a lottery-sized talent with a thus-far lacking offensive game, an NBA-level athlete who put up great per-minute stats in one year at Michigan State.

Grade: A

***

Miami Heat

The Haul: No picks.

The Heat were without a first round pick due to the six year-old sign-and-trade deal that helped LeBron James inch closer to a maximum contract. In a summer where they need just about every penny to work intelligently with, the year “off” will help.

Grade: Incomplete

***

Milwaukee Bucks

The Haul: Thon Maker (last played in Canada) at 10, Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia) at 36, $2.4 million from Golden State.

Grabbing Maker at No. 10 is an incredible reach, one that blew the viewers at home away while probably not surprising the rest of the league all that much. Secrets don’t stick at home with NBA front offices these days, and if the rest of the league knew Milwaukee fancied Maker but wanted to trade down (there were even rumors he could slip out of the first round heading into Thursday) potential trade partners probably played enough hardball to force MKE’s hand. The proof will be in the playing.

Brogdon is not much of an outsized athlete at shooting guard, but he’ll have a chance to make the team this fall.

Grade: C-

***

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Haul: Kris Dunn (Providence) at 5.

The Timberwolves reportedly spent the early part of the evening trying to lure in Jimmy Butler, even after selecting Dunn at No. 5. The wiry Providence point man felt like the most popular guy in the draft heading into Thursday, and due to his four-year status with the Friars will make him an immediate Rookie of the Year candidate. Dunn still has quite a bit to round out with his game, but that doesn’t make him any less than a potential stud.

Grade: A+

***

Buddy Hield brings the sunshine. (Getty Images)
Buddy Hield brings the sunshine. (Getty Images)

New Orleans Pelicans

The Haul: Buddy Hield (Oklahoma) at 6.

The Pelicans weren’t exactly drafting for need – or, at least, they shouldn’t have been at No. 6 – but adding a lights-out shooter like Hield will be music to the ears of New Orleans fans that have had to watch the dribble-dribble-dribble stylings of guards Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon for too long. Gordon’s status as a free agent should allow the Oklahoma senior to step right in and start firing away.

Grade: A

***

New York Knicks

The Haul: No picks

The Knicks once again did not have a selection due to the team’s overpay for free agent to-be Carmelo Anthony in 2011, and the franchise’s unconscionable chase down of Andrea Bargnani in 2013. Usually we’d hand an “incomplete” in this realm, but …

Grade: F

***

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Haul: Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga, at 11) in a trade with Orlando.

Adding a mini-Russell Westbrook in Oladipo, a stretch for in Ilyasova and sound big man prospect in Sabonis in exchange for Serge Ibaka isn’t a panacea. For all his frustrations and declining play Ibaka could still defend from 25 feet on in, Ilyasova remains inconsistent and Sabonis will still need some time to develop. Furthermore, Oladipo still has myriad holes in his game.

With that in place, this was a knockout deal for the Thunder. If each plays to its potential next season, the Thunder will have the deepest team in the NBA.

Grade: A+

***

Orlando Magic

The Haul: Serge Ibaka in a deal with Oklahoma City, Steven Zimmerman (UNLV) at 41, $1.2 million and a 2019 second round pick from Portland.

Then there is the other side.

It’s possible that Oladipo was rife with bad habits after three frustrating seasons with the Magic, as most are still uncertain about his game as he makes his way toward his second NBA contract. Still, Serge Ibaka has been on the decline for two years, his block percentage in 2015-16 was less than half of what it was during OKC’s run to the Finals in 2012, and his rebound rate has shrunk to almost unacceptable levels.

Perhaps a change of scenery will help for Ibaka, who turns 27 in September. Three players – three potential starters – for this guy, though?

Grade: D

***

Philadelphia 76ers

The Haul: Ben Simmons (LSU) at 1, Timothé Luwawu (France) at 24, Furkan Korkmaz (Turkey) at 26.

There are question marks about Simmons. His jump shot is infamously poor, and he took plays off in college in ways that you wouldn’t expect, say, Giannis Antetokounmpo or LeBron James would have should they had made the decision to slum on a sub-par NCAA team for a season. He’s still the draft’s best prospect, though, someone who has really only ever had eyes on the NBA, and you hope the Sixers can finally turn a corner in 2016-17; enough to keep him engaged.

Seemingly in win-now mode, the Sixers surprised in the latter stages of the first round by picking two potential stash prospects. Luwawu looks like a real comer as a lithe all-around swingman, though, and Korkmaz could really contribute at this level once he gets his legs under him.

Grade: A+

***

Phoenix Suns

The Haul: Dragan Bender (Croatia) at 4, Marquese Chriss (Washington) at 8, Tyler Ulis (Kentucky) at 34.

In Bender and Chriss, the Suns have pounced on two ultra-quick athletes that will have moments both terrific and terrible for this rebuilding Phoenix club. Bender figures to be an encouraging defender, his footwork on the perimeter is already there, though he’ll have to adapt to NBA speed, develop a more consistent face-up jumper and core. Chriss is a shockingly-poor rebounder, and though he’ll take the bulk of his rookie deal to figure this league out the athleticism is certainly already there. Taking yet another chance on a young Kentucky guard in Ulis makes sense at No. 34.

Grade: B+

***

Portland Trail Blazers

The Haul: Jake Layman (Wisconsin) at 49.

The Trail Blazers, then trying to push themselves into Western Conference contention, sent their 2016 first rounder to Denver in 2015 for Arron Afflalo in the wake of Wes Matthews’ season-ending Achilles tear. That selection turned out to rank at No. 19 this year (Malik Beasley), but this is sometimes the price to pay when attempting to circle the wagons (Afflalo struggled and later left as a free agent). The team sent cash considerations and a 2019 second rounder pick to Orlando for Layman, a bruiser with significant hops.

Grade: C

***

Sacramento Kings

The Haul: Georgios Papagiannis (Greece) at 13, Malachi Richardson (Syracuse) at 22, Skal Labissiere (Kentucky) at 28, Isaiah Cousins (Oklahoma) at 59.

Sigh. At some point, you want to be the guy that finally sees the method to Sacramento’s madness. They make it so damn tough, though.

The Kings turned yet another No. 8 overall pick into 13 and 28 following a deal with Phoenix, a bit questionable considering they had already dealt Marco Belinelli (in a fine move) for No. 22. From the first slot, the team chose a winsome-yet-raw Greek center in Papagiannis, yet another big man for a team already featuring DeMarcus Cousins (who, depending on your take on time stamps, may or may not like the deal) and Willie Cauley-Stein. With veteran Kosta Koufos already on the roster, Georgios may not come over for several years.

At 28 the team took yet another center in Labissiere, though at that point in the draft apparently Kings GM thought the young man too good of a prospect to pass on: Skal was considered a can’t-miss star in the making this time last year. Richardson is a good athlete, but if his shot selection at Syracuse makes its way to the NBA, all the hairs in Dave Joerger’s goatee will have fallen out by December.

Grade: D

***

San Antonio Spurs

The Haul: Dejounte Murray (Washington) at 29.

This doesn’t appear to be your typical late, Spurs-y pick. Murray wasn’t a film student and to the best of our knowledge he didn’t take sommelier courses at Washington. He’s not already slower than Ime Udoka, as some recent Spurs rookies appear to be. No, this is a knockout athlete with a nose for the rim at the point guard position, someone to raise a little hell on a team that likes to be in bed by 9.

Grade: B

***

Jakob Poeltl will not be allowed to play in jeans in the professional ranks. (Getty Images)
Jakob Poeltl will not be allowed to play in jeans in the professional ranks. (Getty Images)

Toronto Raptors

The Haul: Jakob Poeltl (Utah) at 9, Pascal Siakam (New Mexico State) at 27.

The 20-year old Utah center won’t be able to play next Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, as the Raptors didn’t finally land the power forward they’ve been searching for since 2010, but there is absolutely no shame in securing a solid and obvious backup center with a lottery pick. Especially while working in the top ten after posting the NBA’s fourth-best record. Siakam doesn’t factor to be the answer at power forward either, but the 22-year old’s package of athletic defensive gifts is in with a chance.

Grade: B

***

Utah Jazz

The Haul: George Hill (from Indiana), Joel Bolomboy (Weber State) at 52, Marcus Page (North Carolina) at 55, Tyrone Wallace (California) at 60.

Hill is already 30, but Utah’s point guard situation was already rather dire and grabbing some form of competent player with the 12th pick is workable. Returning youngster Dante Exum looked unendingly raw in his rookie season, and that was before he lost a needed sophomore year to an ACL tear. Big forward Bolomboy is still learning the game even at age 22, though Page does have a sound chance of making the roster.

Grade: B-

***

Washington Wizards

The Haul: No picks.

Washington dealt what would have been the 13th pick in the draft for forward Markieff Morris in February in a late playoff push. The Wizards failed to make the postseason, but Morris improved to averages of 12.4 points and nearly six rebounds in 26 minutes a game with his new team.

Grade: B

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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