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.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
The Golden State Warriors entered the night without a selection in the 2013 NBA Draft before sticking their foot into the ring. First, they traded with Minnesota to acquire the 26th pick and then moved that pick to Oklahoma City for the 29th pick and finally shipped the 29th pick to Phoenix for the 30th pick. With that pick, they selected Nemanja Nedovic from Serbia. Golden State is dangerously close to the luxury tax lone and still have to try and re-sign Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry this offseason, so it was a surprise that they decided to buy a pick in the first round rather than the second, where the player’s contract would’ve been non-guaranteed. Essentially the Warriors traded into the draft to trade back twice and select an international player who won’t come over any time soon. They missed on a chance to potentially bring a player like Allen Crabbe, Isaiah Canaan, Tony Mitchell or Jamaal Franklin.
The Charlotte Bobcats have not been a good team the past two seasons. In the lockout-shortened 2011, they set a record for the lowest winning percentage (.106), and in 2012, they won only 21 games. The ping-pong balls didn’t bounce favorably for Charlotte and they ended up with the fourth overall selection in a draft void of star talent. The Bobcats/Hornets drafted Indiana big man Cody Zeller. Zeller had a great college career for the Hoosiers and tested out of the gym athletically during the NBA’s Draft Combine in Chicago. Zeller seems best suited to become a stretch four in the NBA, but he has said that there’s more to his game than what people saw during his two years at Indiana. Though Zeller is a solid pick and a solid player, he could’ve been drafted later than four, and is not the pick to turnaround this franchise. For the second straight year, they drafted a player that projects to be a good rotation player at most. With players like Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore still on the board, the Bobcats could’ve worked the phones and tried to move back and stockpile assets and still select Zeller at a later spot.
The Indiana Pacers headed into the draft with not many holes. With the emergence of Paul George and the return of former All-Star Danny Granger next season, the Pacers could be even better than the team we saw take the Miami Heat to the brink of elimination in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, with David West hitting free agency and D.J. Augustin having a lackluster season as George Hill‘s backup, power forward and point guard were places where the Pacers could’ve used some new talent.
In a move almost as stunning as Anthony Bennett going first overall, Indiana picked Solomon Hill of Arizona. Solomon Hill was NOT first-round talent. Hill had a good career with the Wildcats, but no one thought he would be one of the first 25 players picked nor is he one of the 25 best players in this draft class. This is a situation that mirrors the Bobcats. The Pacers could have just as easily traded down a few spots and still been able to select their guy. Hill is certainly an upgrade over Gerald Green, but with better talent still available, I was shocked that they choose to go in this direction with their lone pick of the night.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
The Oklahoma City Thunder were put in a position that not too many 60-win teams find themselves in come late June: the lottery. Sam Presti and the Thunder management have worked wonders in previous drafts, selecting Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden in the lottery. This selection was part of the package they received from the Houston Rockets as part of the James Harden trade they made last October. With that lottery pick, they selected project big man Steven Adams out of Pittsburgh. Adams is from New Zealand and has only been playing organized basketball for around eight years.
With their second selection in the first round, OKC traded up to 26 in order to select Andre Roberson, a tweener forward, out of Colorado. Both Adams or Roberson will not be able to contribute immediately to the Thunder and immediate contributors were exactly what OKC needed to get out of at least one of their two picks. Oklahoma City must hope that Serge Ibaka comes back with a more developed post game next season, otherwise their lack of interior scoring will still hang over them.
With the 32nd pick, the Thunder took Alex Abrines of Spain, who is one of the top young prospects in Europe and is someone they will keep stashed overseas for a while. Abrines was a great value pick for OKC, but again he will not be able to help next season. This either shows that the Thunder have great faith in the development of last year’s rookies Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III or that wiz kid Presti might be beginning to lose his touch.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has tons of potential but the Milwaukee Bucks sorely needed someone who could contribute right away. The Bucks are a team in serious limbo right now. Basically any player that was part of their backcourt last season is a free agent this offseason, and this pick gave them a chance to potentially replace Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis or J.J. Redick. Yet, the Bucks were much more focused on upside than fit it seems.
Antetokounmpo claims that he wants to play in the NBA next season and though he has flashes where he looks like the second coming of Penny Hardaway, those flashes are few and far between. Antetokounmpo does not have the maturity, mentally or physically, to have any sort of impact in the league anytime soon. As their lone selection in the 2013 NBA Draft’s first round, this move could point that the Bucks are taking a route similar to the Sixers and focusing on the future. However, after being the eighth seed in the playoffs last season, the Bucks were a couple moves and additions away from being a playoff regular in the Eastern Conference. This pick could ultimately pay huge dividends in the future for Milwaukee, but viewing this from their current standpoint, it doesn’t make much sense.
Who were this draft’s biggest winners/losers?
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