Maybe the biggest headline of this year’s draft was the the fall of Justise Winslow. Rumored to go as high as four, Winslow dropped into Miami’s lap at number 10. Winslow will bring an influx of defense and energy into the aging two/three spots, and, if Deng and Dwyane Wade resign, will provide valuable minutes off the bench for a team that expects to compete for the title next year. We’ve already made the Kawhi analogy, and playing in a well-run organization like Miami will allow Winslow to develop at a steady rate. With time, Winslow might end up being the steal of the draft and of course, it was Pat Riley who got him.
New York Knicks?
I really don’t know how to feel about the Knicks draft. Kristaps Porzingis is loved by most scouts, but he is the riskiest of the top picks. They paired Kristaps with a known commodity in Jerian Grant, who they acquired in a three team trade in which they gave away guard Tim Hardaway. With the Kristaps pick, the Knicks frustrated their fans to no end, but also Carmelo Anthony, who is one year into a 5 year/$124 million deal.
Melo forced his way out Denver and could force his way out here, assuming someone wants to take on the 31-year old’s monstrosity of a contract, in hopes the rising salary cap makes up the difference. Trading Melo would allow the Knicks to really rebuild, probably ending up in the bottom five again next year. But here is the biggest problem: They don't have their first round pick next year. So they really need to hit a home run with Kristaps. I don’t know if I like Kristaps or not, but I do know that if they can get Melo’s contract off the books they can start a new chapter for their franchise. If drafting Kristaps is the way to do that then the Knicks had a good draft. Maybe.
The Bucks needed outside shooting, badly. So what do they do? They trade a future first rounder (Bucks are hoping this is mid-20’s) to Toronto for Greivis Vasquez. Vasquez is a big guard who can come in off the bench, run the offense, and hit some open shots. At 17, the Bucks drafted Rashad Vaughn, a shooter from UNLV. The Bucks addressed their two biggest needs and grabbed a replacement for O.J. Mayo who could bolt in free agency after this season. The Bucks have strung together a ton of good decisions (drafting Henson, Giannis, and Jabari, getting rid of Larry Sanders) and this draft just continued this trend. The Bucks are on the upswing and will be a team to watch for this year.
With the Ty Lawson saga unfolding, the Nuggets desperately needed to acquire a point guard they could build around. Denver was trying to move up in the draft to grab either Mudiay or Russell. They didn’t even have to, as Mudiay fell into their laps at no. 7. Mudiay is a high-upside athlete, and if he had gone to SMU I believe he would’ve been a top-3 pick in the draft. In addition, with Denver entering a full rebuild Mudiay gives them a point guard to roll with, if (when) they part with Lawson. Someway, somehow Lawson will be gone before next season, and they no longer have to worry about acquiring his replacement via free agency. Finally, one more Mudiay note. Chad Ford pointed out before the draft that Mudiay spent a season in China, talking with many ex-NBA players, and they imprinted on Mudiay what he has to do to make it in the league. All Mudiay said before the draft was, “This is a job, This is a job, and I can’t mess around.” That sounds like a player who’s going to fulfill his potential, and if he does Denver will have their point guard of the future.
The Celtics did everything in their power to move up in the draft. Their attempts were futile and they ended up reaching for Terry Rozier at 16. He's a quick guard who likes to get up and down and is a good defender. Rozier is long (6’8” wingspan), but he struggles to shoot it consistently. This sounds a lot like Marcus Smart, the Celtics first round pick last year. But even if you love the fit of Rozier on the Celts, one thing is indisputable: They reached horribly on him. The C’s stole R.J. Hunter with their 28th pick, but that does not make up for the fact that they lost out on a potential star in Winslow, and used their first pick on another guard when they are in desperate need for anything else.
The Cavaliers had the 24th pick in the draft, but they traded the pick to the Timberwolves for two-second rounders. The Cavs did this to save cap room for this summer, but with R. J. Hunter on the board at 24, the Cavs were remiss to pass up on him. Hunter would have brought more shooting to the Cavs on a rookie contract. It would have given them security should Shumpert or J. R. Smith leave in free agency as well.
Philadelphia 76ers (and Jahlil Okafor)
Can you really be considered a loser when you ended up with who some consider to be the best player in the draft? I’m not sure. I do know, however, that the Sixers have three guys who can play center and a 6’10” forward who is overseas right now. Something is going to have to give in the Sixers frontcourt. Even if Okafor turns out to be as good as advertised, they will still have to move Embiid who they will not be able to get as much for now that he is shown to be injury prone. In addition, I’m not sure you can play Noel alongside Embiid or Okafor offensively. And I haven’t even mentioned Okafor’s displeasure with the Sixers. Sam Hinkie’s master plan might work if they can start getting good value with their bigs, but as of right now there is a log jam in the front court and it’s going to hurt Hinkie’s ability to get good value for his top draft picks.