By Chris Lehman
In what was considered by some to be the deepest draft since 2003, a few teams stood out as the clear winners. Out of the 30 NBA teams, only 23 got to participate in the first round sweepstakes. The Rockets managed to stockpile 3 picks in the first round. The Hornets, Celtics, Cavs, Blazers and Warriors each had 2. But just because a team had more than one pick, doesn’t necessarily mean they cleaned up. In a draft class like this, guys who would normally be marquee players, are considered the sleepers. So who had the best day? Not Coach Calipari, who lost the first 6 players in his 8 man rotation.
5 Draft day Winners
5. Golden State Warriors – Do the Warriors even still exist? No, seriously. When’s the last time you even heard their name mentioned in serious NBA talks. Regardless, they cleaned up in this draft. Harrison Barnes could be the best all-around player in this draft. How he fell to 7 is beyond me. He’s a great scorer (obviously, or else the Warriors wouldn’t have drafted him). But he also brings much-needed defense to this team. They say he can’t create for himself, but fortunately for him, Curry tends to attract a lot of attention. While I love the Barnes pick, I love the Draymond Green pickup even more. Along with Royce White, the boy can simply do it all. He dominated college and I feel that his style of play will translate very well to the NBA.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers – Kyrie Irving will emerge as a superstar within the next year. Don Waiters is no Kyrie Irving, but he will be good for them. While Kyrie is good at attacking the rim, he is a terrific shooter. Waiters is a good shooter who is terrific at attacking the rim. That balance will be a nightmare for opposing backcourts. I also really like the move for Tyler Zeller. He’s a 7-footer who can also step out and shoot the ball. Any time you have a big man who can shoot 80% from the free throw line, you have a keeper. Let’s be real, they are STILL the Cavaliers, but I do expect to see them do significantly better than last year.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder – Okay, this is scary. Perry Jones III is the ideal player that the Thunder could have gotten here. They are an athletic-based team that likes to run. Their biggest problem is their lack of size. So how do you address this? You go out and pick up a 6’11” small forward who is a great athlete, rebounder and defender. Can you imagine if they ever decided to go big with Harden, Durant, Jones III, Ibaka and Perkins at the same time (6’5″ – 6’9″ – 6’11” – 6’10” – 6’10”). Who can match up with that size and speed?
2. New Orleans Hornets – The Hornets are a close 2nd, only because of the uncertainties surrounding the young phenom, Austin Rivers. Many thought he should stay at Duke to develop for one or two more years, but he was hungry to prove that he is ready now. Lil’ Doc has the potential to be one of the top point guards given the chance to mature properly. Where there is no uncertainty, however, is with the #1 overall pick, Anthony Davis. The boy can straight up play the game. He balls out every time he steps on the court. His versatility is unexpected, especially with the 3 point shot. He’s not a knock-down shooter, but let’s just say that Monte Williams won’t pull him like Mike Brown did Bynum. His biggest concern is that he will have to get stronger, similar to how Durant did (that worked out pretty well). The most frightening thing…is that he’s still growing! The Hornets also STOLE Darius Miller, who played alongside Davis, with the 46th pick. He is NBA-ready. This all-around player can slash with the best of them and can also hit the 3-ball (37%).
1. Houston Rockets – While having 3 first round picks is a sure way to make improvements, the 3 players that they got are money. Jeremy Lamb is the most NBA ready guard in the draft. He has an uncanny ability to put the ball in the basket, and at the end of the day, that’s what matters. His shot is pure and he’s got great handles to create for himself. Royce White and Terrence Jones were two of my favorite college players last year. While they weren’t the most dominant, I see them as two more NBA-ready players. Neither will be a star, but Jones offers that Lamar Odom-esque versatility that is extremely rare. White has the body of an undersized power forward with the athleticism and versatility of a small forward. White led his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. How many players can say that? Whether or not the Rockets are looking to trade, they’ll have a great foundation for years to come.
– Darius Johnson-Odom – People have been saying that Odom wanted to leave the Mavericks to play in Los Angeles. I guess I assumed they meant a different one. The Mavericks drafted DJO and then sent him off to LA for a chunk of cash. I predict this to go down as one of those steals that we end up talking about for years to come. At this point a lot of people are probably wondering, Who is DJO? Take James Harden, and compress him into a 6’2″ frame with a 6’7″ wingspan…and shave the beard. His skillset eerily resembles that of “The Bearded One.” The fact that he is a lefty is the least of the comparisons. He is also a lights-out shooter who shot 40% from downtown during his time at Marquette. He also has that unique ability to drive to the hole and wiggle through players and get shots up over bigger defenders. His 212 lbs. suggests that while he only stands at 6’2″ he will NOT be bullied. Watch his highlight real and tell me you don’t see James Harden.
Boom or Bust
– Boston Celtics – Jared Sullinger was a top 10 pick on some boards. The only reason he was that low was because of injuries. His skillset is remarkable. The Celtics took some gambles in this draft. Perhaps it was a sign of desperation from the aging team, looking to establish a young frontcourt that could potentially dominate the NBA for years to come. Sullinger is one of the best scoring big men we’ve seen in a while. On the other side, Fab Melo out of The Cuse, has the makings to be a terrific defender. If he reaches his potential that everyone wants to see in him, the one-two punch of offense-defense here could have been a great move. But if injuries continue to plague Sullinger, and Melo doesn’t pan out, then it could be a complete disaster.
– Thomas Robinson – In an era where having a Big-3 seems to be key, the Sacramento Kings just added a crucial piece that could make an immediate impact. Demarcus Cousins has established himself as a big man with ridiculous potential, he just has to put in the work. Tyreke Evans is one of the most explosive players around, he just has to make better decisions. Now with the addition of Thomas Robinson, the Kings have assembled what could be a very dangerous big-3. I don’t expect them to suddenly become great because they simply don’t have the other pieces, but the young core is established.
My most sincere apologies go out to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He was my favorite player coming out this year and probably the most NBA ready. He always finds a way to score, whether it’s driving to the rim or pulling up from3. On top of that, he is a very scrappy defender, could end up being one of the best defensive players in the NBA. I would have loved to see him drop to #3 and play alongside John Wall where he would be in a position to make a difference…or in fact anywhere else OTHER than Charlotte. No player is able to go into Charlotte and make a difference. Hopefully he finds a way out of that black hole.