Headlined at the top by Cleveland’s super surprising selection of combo forward Anthony Bennett at No. 1, the 2013 NBA Draft was full of surprises. That made this piece harder to write than usual. Between the record influx of international players and the never-ending trades, we won’t get an official reading on this draft for a long time.
With that being said, here are my immediate reactions from last night on this draft’s biggest losers and winners.
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For the Philadelphia 76ers, their eyes are steadily focused on the future. GM Sam Hinkie made quite the splash in his first draft with the team. His first move was one that no one saw coming. With projected No. 1 Nerlens Noel slipping pick by pick, the Sixers made their move quickly. They sent their lone All-Star from last season, Jrue Holiday, to the New Orleans Pelicans for the rights to Noel and a first-round pick in the 2014 Draft that only has a top-five protection placed on it.
Then with the 11th pick, they replaced Holiday by selecting former Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams. Once the initial shock of trading Holiday wears off, fans should be able to see how great of a draft their team had. Let’s not kid ourselves, the Sixers were nowhere near being contenders in the East, and after the failed Andrew Bynum deal didn’t really have a direction they were going. Hinkie blew it up and started all over. Noel, Carter-Williams and a potential top-10 pick next year (as well as what’ll probably be the Sixers’ own lottery pick) are all great starting pieces. The Sixers replace Bynum and Holiday, who made a combined $18 million last year, with younger and cheaper players. I’d say that the new management in Philly got off to a great start.
Going into the 2013 NBA Draft, everyone knew that the Utah Jazz were looking to get a point guard. However, with the 14th and 21st overall picks it was assumed that the top two point guard prospects — Trey Burke and Michael Carter-Williams — would be off the board. They were. Yet, the Jazz management worked the phones and pulled off one of the most equal draft-day trades in recent memory. The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Burke with the ninth pick and then swapped him for the 14th (Shabazz Muhammad) and 21st (Gorgui Dieng) picks. The Jazz were able to get the best point guard prospect in the draft and a player that will perfectly fit into their system.
Burke has the skills and intangibles that will endear him to Jazz fans. He’s no John Stockton, but he may, in time, make people forget about the mess of a situation they were left with when Deron Williams was traded two years ago. The Jazz are notorious for using their point guards in pick-n-roll situations and Burke is the most adept pick-n-roll guard in this year’s draft.
The Cleveland Cavaliers made an unpredictable draft even more unpredictable by coming out of left field and selecting Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick. Bennett is easily one of the most talented players in this rookie class, yet no one had pegged him as a potential No. 1 pick leading up to the 2013 Draft. The Cavs have been known to make surprising calls in the last couple drafts, taking Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters fourth overall in 2011 and 2012 respectively. That trend continued this year.
Bennett is a dynamic player that is capable of affecting the game offensively both from the outside and in the paint. His long arms also make him one of the better rebounders coming into the league. Pick-n-rolls between Kyrie Irving and Bennett and Waiters and Bennett are going to be dangerous and virtually unstoppable in the near future as long as Bennett continues to develop. Then at No. 19, they were able to select a player they had long sought after in Russian forward Sergey Karasev. The 19-year-old sharpshooter saw his stock rise in recent days and many reported that Cleveland was making calls to try and move up in the draft to make sure they got their man. But, in the end, he fell right into their lap. Karasev will bring outside shooting that the Cavs have been lacking in for the past few seasons and in time should open the lanes for both Irving and Waiters.
The Sacramento Kings also had a new GM (Pete D’Alessandro) calling the shots on draft night and he made good on his first selection. At No. 7, Ben McLemore is the definition of a steal. McLemore is right up there with anyone else that was drafted last night in terms of talent. McLemore will immediately be able to contribute in the NBA thanks to his shooting ability. His pure and effortless shot has drawn comparisons to only the best shooter in NBA history, Ray Allen. Team that with his youth and athleticism and you have the makings of a potential All-Star.
Also, he brings a change of culture to Sacramento. In the past the Kings have selected talented players with hazy personalities (Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins) but McLemore might be as clean cut as they come. With Cousins seeking out Shaquille O’Neal‘s help and advice to become an even better player, the addition of a guy who can put the ball in the hole in the variety is great for Cousins.
Not to be overshadowed, their second-round pick Ray McCallum Jr. (36th overall) is another great addition. McCallum played for his father at the University of Detroit, but it wasn’t because of a lack of talent. McCallum has the size (6-3) and talent that will allow him to contribute right away. For now, McCallum will serve as a backup to Isaiah Thomas, who had a breakout year of his own last season. With a new coach and new management, the Kings are off on the right foot.
On draft night, the biggest splash didn’t come from a certain player being drafted. The Brooklyn Nets, whose Barclays Center played host to the night’s festivities, made a blockbuster trade to acquire Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Paul Pierce from the Boston Celtics. Nets’ owner Mikhail Prokhorov wanted the Nets to be one of the top teams in the NBA and now has a roster to back that talk up. The Nets starting lineup now features five All-Stars: D-Will at point, Joe Johnson at the two, Pierce at small forward, Garnett at power forward and Brook Lopez at center. This trade rockets Brooklyn into the upper echelon of teams in the East.
The Nets didn’t have to give up much either, sending Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks and three first-round picks to Boston. The onus now falls on first-time head coach Jason Kidd to bring the best out of all this talent. Lost in all of this is that the 2013 NBA Draft did go on as scheduled and the Nets selected Duke center Mason Plumlee with the 22nd overall selection. Plumlee now gets to learn from some of the best big men and players the NBA has to offer.