2017 NBA Draft: Team Grades

By Mike Bachini, CBS Connecticut

 

Connecticut (CBS) – One of the most anticipated days on the NBA calendar, the NBA Draft, has come and gone. So what next? Well, naturally it’s time to hand out draft grades based off of player potential, team fit and necessity based off of what we know, and what we think we know. Which in all honesty, until the players step foot on an NBA floor, is next to nothing. So here goes.

 

Atlanta Hawks: B-

Atlanta drafted PF John Collins from Wake Forest with their first round pick, 19th overall. Collins is a dynamic interior scorer (19.2 PPG) with great rebounding abilities (9.8 RPG). His one glaring weakness is his defense. Wake Forest as a team was one of the worst defensive teams in college basketball this past season. Atlanta traded C Dwight Howard to the Charlotte Hornets the day before the draft, so naturally the Hawks did their best to find his replacement via the draft.

Speaking of the Dwight Howard trade, with the pick acquired in that trade, the Hawks selected SG Tyler Dorsey from Oregon with the 41st overall pick. Dorsey was a key part of the Ducks run to the Final Four this past season. There’s no doubting his quickness and ability to score. He’s considered small for an NBA SG however. The Hawks had the honor of drafting the NBA’s version of Mr. Irrelevant with the 60th overall pick and took Alpha Kaba, a PF/C from France.

 

Boston Celtics: B

The Celtics sent shock waves throughout the NBA a week ago when they were rumored to be nearing a deal to send the #1 overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, for their 3rd overall pick and future draft considerations. The deal became a reality on Monday when the Celtics and 76ers completed a very complicated trade that resulted in the Celtics falling back to #3. With the #3 pick, the Celtics drafted SF Jayson Tatum from Duke. Tatum is a very versatile scorer who can contribute right away on the offensive end of the floor. He needs to bulk up a bit and work on his defense if he’s going to see significant minutes for the Celtics, who value players who can get their noses dirty on defense (see Jaylen Brown, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart). There’s no doubt that Tatum fits what the Celtics need. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Tatum averaging close to 10 points a game when all is said and done this season.

In the second round, the Celtics found great value at pick 37 with the selection of SMU SF/PF Semi Ojeleye. Ojeleye started his college career at Duke, then transferred to SMU and was an impact player immediately on a team that won 30 games. Ojeleye also won AAC Player of the Year in his only season in the conference. Ojeleye is an intense guy who is a little on the short side (6’7″) for an NBA PF, but the 235 pounds that he adds to that help him be extremely physical. Oh and he was a 42% 3 point shooter last season as well. With their other 2 second round picks the Celtics drafted SG Kadeem Allen from Arizona, who is a very good defensive player and good insurance in case Avery Bradley leaves via trade or free agency and SG Jabari Bird who was Jaylen Brown’s teammate at Cal for one year and will most likely spend the season in Maine or as an overseas stash.

 

Brooklyn Nets: C+

I’m trying my best not to factor in too many things and only focus on picks that were actually made last night. However, in the case of the Brooklyn Nets, it’s hard not to take into account the fact that they should have been picking #1 overall last night. Because they weren’t, they need to be docked a couple of points. They did make a great selection with the 22nd overall pick last night, which they used on Texas C Jarret Allen. Allen was a highly rated prospect out of high school and held up his end of the bargain on a Longhorn team that underachieved greatly this past season. Allen is 6’10” 230 pounds and has a more clear path to playing time after Brooklyn traded C Brook Lopez to the Lakers before draft day. The Nets took PF Aleksandar Vezenkov from Bulgaria with the 57th overall pick as well.

 

Charlotte Hornets: B

The Hornets drafted Kentucky SG Malik Monk with the 11th overall pick, which was great value and fulfilled a need. Monk is a dynamic scorer, the only college player to score 30+ points in 4 games as a freshman. Monk’s best game came last December when he put up a stunning 47 points in a 103-100 win over eventual national champion North Carolina. Monk can score from anywhere on the floor. He needs to work on his defense. Right now he’s considered a one way player, but he will no doubt contribute offensively right away. In the second round the Hornets ended up with Dwayne Bacon, a SG from Florida State. Bacon has lottery potential, but some of the shine wore off last season when Jonathan Isaac became the household name for the Seminoles.

 

Chicago Bulls: D

If I’m penalizing the Nets for their trades, I need to do the same with the Bulls. The Bulls finally traded away Jimmy Butler, after what felt like 5 years of trade rumors with various teams. Their return from the Minnesota Timberwolves was the 7th overall pick, PG Zach LeVine and PG Kris Dunn. Unfortunately for the Bulls, they also had to trade away their 16th overall pick. That seemed like a bit too much. The Bulls drafted Arizona C Lauri Markkanen 7th overall. Markkanen is a 7 foot Center from Finland who was dominant at times last season for Arizona, but feels like a bit of a reach at 7. Reports came out Thursday night that the Bulls hadn’t met, or even spoken with Markkanen before the draft. I feel like Dennis Smith Jr or Malik Monk would have been a better pick here. I refuse to hand out F grades, because that makes it seem like there is no potential at all for success so Chicago gets the next best grade.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers: N/A

The Cavs did not have a pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

 

Dallas Mavericks: B-

The Mavs selected the 4th best PG in the draft, Dennis Smith Jr. from North Carolina State. Before the 2016-17 college basketball season, Smith was one of the most hyped PG in the country. The only downside was that he was coming off of a torn ACL, but all reports were that he was ready to go. He had a very solid season for the Wolfpack, but ultimately had to face the same criticisms as Markelle Fultz. If Smith Jr. is as good as advertised, how come he couldn’t get his team to the NCAA Tournament? And not only that, how could they only win 4 league games and finish under .500? A lot had to go into that that didn’t revolve around Smith, but it is at least a fair point to ponder. Smith has the feel of a guy who will be a much better pro than college player. It’s hard to fault a guy for losing focus and looking to the future when your team is in the midst of a 4-15 stretch in conference play.

Denver Nuggets: C-

The Nuggets selected PF Tyler Lydon from Syracuse with the 24th overall pick in the draft which feels like one of the biggest reaches of this years’ draft. Lydon was a solid player for Syracuse this past season, averaging 13.2 PPG and 8.6 RPG while shooting just under 40% from 3 PT range. However, I feel as though the Nuggets really could have used a different type of player. The Nuggets are clearly not in win now mode, so why not Ivan Rabb or Tony Bradley at 24? Taking PG Monte Morris from Iowa State with the 51st pick helps this draft a little, as he definitely has the ability to make the roster out of camp. The Nuggets also selected SF Vlatko Cancar from Slovenia with the 49th pick.

 

Detroit Pistons: B-

The Pistons selected Duke SG Luke Kennard with the 12th overall pick in the first round. Kennard is a fantastic scorer. He’s probably behind only Monk in that respect in this draft. Kennard impressed a lot of folks at his pro day workout, draining three after three after three. Everyone knew that was Kennard’s strength, but he is also deceptively athletic. He has great footwork and can create enough space to get off any type of shot. He will definitely help the Pistons this upcoming season. Kennard was the Pistons only pick, and not having any sort of depth to fall back on, hurts them a bit in my opinion.

 

Golden State Warriors: C+

Don’t get me wrong, I love what the Warriors ended up doing with this draft. But when your only draft pick is a 2nd round pick, your grade can’t be too high. That’s just the way it is. The Chicago Bulls selected PF Jordan Bell from Oregon with the 38th overall pick, and then shipped him to Golden State for cash considerations. A steal for the Warriors. Bell is a bit undersized, but he is an absolute freak who can get after it on the boards. He is just what the Warriors “need” (they don’t really need anything if we’re being honest).

 

Houston Rockets: C-

I almost wanted to give this grade an N/A as well because the Rockets only made one selection, and selected PF/C Isaiah Hartenstein from Germany with the 43rd overall pick. Hartenstein is actually American born, and moved to Germany in 2008. Hartenstein has experience playing with Germany’s national teams, competing on their under 16 and under 18 teams. He’s a 7 footer who sounds like he won’t be contributing to the Rockets this upcoming season.

 

Indiana Pacers: C

The Pacers selected PF T.J. Leaf from UCLA with the 18th overall pick in the first round. Leaf was a highly rated recruit coming out of high school and had a very solid 1 year in college. Leaf led a very talented UCLA Bruins team in scoring, averaging 16.3 PPG and was second on the team in rebounding with 8.2 RPG. He also shot 62% from the field and 46% from 3 point land. A lot of his high percentages were a product of PG Lonzo Ball’s ability to find the open man in high percentage spots. That’s not taking anything away from Leaf, but when a lot of your buckets are layups or dunks, you’re usually going to see a somewhat inflated number there. The Pacers selected Leaf’s college teammate, Ike Anigbogu with the 47th overall pick. Anigbogu was a surprise early entrant into the draft who some thought could have benefited from an extra year in college. His draft stock fell a bit over concerns of his knee. The Pacers went all in on players with injury concerns, drafting Xavier G Edmond Sumner with the 52nd pick. Sumner has loads of potential, but tore his acl in January and might not offer much value to the Pacers this upcoming season.

 

Los Angeles Clippers: C+

I’m going to give the Clippers the same draft grade as the Warriors for the very same reasons. They hit a home run with their only pick in the draft, but their only pick in the draft was at pick 48. With that pick, the Clippers selected 2017 NCAA Tournament darling, G Sindarius Thornwell from South Carolina. Thornwell carried his underdog Gamecocks all the way to the Final Four before being ousted by the Gonzaga Bulldogs in a very entertaining game. Thornwell was an absolute monster, averaging 25.8 PPG in the tournament until hitting a bit of a wall in that very game against Gonzaga. Thornwell has ideal size for the NBA at 6’5″ and if his scoring carries over, he’ll be one of the best picks of this draft.

 

Los Angeles Lakers: B+

The Lakers had a very solid draft. At number 2 they got their guy. PG Lonzo Ball from UCLA. Ball to UCLA was the likely outcome after the NBA Draft Lottery, but of course there were rumors that the Lakers were interested in other players, namely Josh Jackson. Ball to the Lakers was basically sealed when the Lakers sent 2015 number 2 pick, D’Angelo Russell to the Nets a few days before the draft. Ball is a special talent. His passing ability has drawn Jason Kidd comparisons and all the hype surrounding him and his father will no doubt put the Lakers back on the NBA map, which we know Magic Johnson will enjoy. The Lakers had 2 other first round picks, at 27 and 30. At 27 they drafted PF Kyle Kuzma from Utah and at 30 they selected SG Josh Hart from Villanova. I especially like the Hart pick. How can you not? Hart won a title with the Wildcats 2 years ago, returned for his Senior year and did nothing to hurt his stock. He’s a fierce competitor that can contribute in many areas. In the second round the Lakers took a flier on PF Thomas Bryant from Indiana. Bryant was considered to be a first round pick if he had come out last year, so the Lakers got great value this year.

 

Memphis Grizzlies: B-

Speaking of value, the Grizzlies selected PF Ivan Rabb out of California with the 35th pick of the draft. Rabb probably would have been drafted somewhere in the early 20’s of last year’s draft had he come out. He decided to return for his Sophomore year and his stock took a bit of a hit. He had less talent around him this past season (3 starters including #3 overall pick Jaylen Brown departed) which ultimately led Rabb to be the focus of defenses. Cal flirted with making the tournament his past season, but fell short. Rabb bet on himself, and I love that about him, but he just didn’t do enough to separate himself in a deeper draft this season. In the second round the Grizzlies selected SF Dillon Brooks from Oregon. Brooks was on a lot of preseason watch lists before last season, but at the end of the season was the third best player on his own team. Now, that’s not so much as an indictment on Brooks as it is praise for the way Tyler Dorsey and Jordan Bell were playing for the Ducks down the stretch.

 

Miami Heat: B

The Heat selected C Bam Adebayo from Kentucky with the 14th overall pick. Adebayo led the team in rebounding with 8 per game, and also blocked 1.5 shots per game. He’s extremely athletic who can play above the rim at an NBA level immediately, but was often overshadowed last season by the tremendous back court play of Fox and Monk. The Heat just missed the playoffs and thus had the last lottery pick of the 2017 draft. They did not waste it.

 

Milwaukee Bucks: B

The Milwaukee Bucks selected PF D.J. Wilson from Michigan with the 17th overall pick. Wilson was a late bloomer who flew up a few draft boards as the draft approached. He fits what the Bucks need, depth and athleticism on the wing. The Bucks have been hurt by injuries to Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton the past few seasons, so having another guy to help Giannis Antetokounmpo in case of more set backs was a great strategy.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves: B+

Again, if I’m docking the Bulls a few points, I need to bump up the Timberwolves a bit too. The fact that they were able to get the 16th pick from the Bulls in addition to Jimmy Butler is a bit crazy to me. With the 16th pick the Timberwolves selected C Justin Patton from Creighton. For a guy who is 7 feet tall, 6.2 rebounds per game is a little underwhelming. Then again, Creighton was so deep this past season that Patton only averaged 25 minutes a game. He’s a very versatile big man who can make shots from deep. His free throw shooting is a concern, but that’s one of the last stats you take into account with a guy who is 7 feet tall. He’ll add insurance to the Timberwolves already solid front court.

 

New Orleans Pelicans: C+

The Pelicans had the 40th overall pick, but traded it along with cash considerations to the Charlotte Hornets for the 31st overall pick where they drafted Duke G Frank Jackson. Jackson was part of a dynamite recruiting class this past season for Duke, but played in a very crowded back court with Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen. Jackson was one of the last players to decide whether or not to keep his name in the draft or return for his Sophomore season. The writing was on the wall that Duke was going to bring in another strong recruiting class, so Jackson decided to stay in the draft. Jackson did average 10.9 points per game and shot a solid 47% from the floor. He was able to showcase his abilities early on in Duke’s season when Jayson Tatum was injured and by the end of the season was a very reliable role player. So it wasn’t a complete lost season. He’s full of potential and worth the first pick of the second round for sure.

 

New York Knicks: B-

Some out there are considering the Knicks draft a success simply for the fact that they didn’t end up trading Kristaps Porzingis as they were rumored possibly to do yesterday. I never believed it would happen, as the asking price was extremely high, so I’m not taking that into consideration here. Most of the mock drafts had the Knicks taking Malik Monk with the 8th pick, as the Knicks needed a guard who could score. The Knicks passed on Monk and took French PG Frank Ntilikina with the 8th overall pick. Ntilikina turns 19 in a month and has good size for a PG at 6’5″. He won the MVP award at the 2016 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship and has incredible potential. In the 2nd round the Knicks took Damyean Dotson, who is a talented player but is not without some character issues. Their other 2nd round pick was spent on Serbian PG Ognjen Jaramaz.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder: B-

The Thunder took Terrance Ferguson with the 21st overall pick in the draft. Ferguson had an interesting few years. He was a 5 star recruit who originally committed to Alabama, then flipped his commitment to Arizona later on. After that it was rumored that he would be academically ineligible, so instead of waiting out the process, he ended up signing with the Adelaide 36ers out of Australia for a year, going the route of Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay. The jury is still out on Mudiay, but it’s safe to say Jennings hasn’t lived up to his enormous hype. There’s no way of knowing where Ferguson would have been selected had he stayed with Arizona. He definitely would have gotten more exposure, but his game might have been picked apart even more. He was a bench player for the 36ers this past season, but did get paid.

 

Orlando Magic: B

F Jonathan Isaac was a sleeper to be drafted in the top 4 as the draft crept closer and closer. He was drafted at 6 and the Magic got a player with loads of potential. The Magic do have a ton of athletic guys who need help with their shots (see Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon) but at 6 you need to take the best available player, and that was definitely Isaac. Isaac needs to bulk up a bit to survive the NBA season as he’s 6’10” 210 pounds. He has an enormous amount of potential and there will be no denying the Magic’s athleticism if the Magic choose to slot him at the 3 alongside Gordon.

 

Philadelphia 76ers: A-

The 76ers were one of the clear cut winners of the draft. As already mentioned, they traded the #3 pick and a future first round draft pick to the Celtics to move up to #1 and get their guy. Some saw Fultz as clearly the best player in the draft (Danny Ainge obviously didn’t) and the 76ers were one of those teams. The often talked about issue of Washington’s dreadful performance with him on the team seems to be the only red flag around Fultz. By all accounts he’s a good kid who fits in very nicely with what the 76ers are doing. Unless he suffers the same unfortunate rookie fate of their other first round picks Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, he should be the front runner for Rookie of the Year. The 76ers ended up taking 6 players in the 2017 NBA draft. They got great value with the 39th pick in Oklahoma State PG Juwun Evans. Other picks were Anzejs Pasecniks (Latvia), Jonah Bolden (Australia), Sterling Brown (SMU) and Mathias Lessort (Martinique).

 

Phoenix Suns: B

Josh Jackson was the #2 ranked recruit coming out of high school last season, and on the court he did nothing to prove that ranking wrong. Kansas, again, was one of the best regular season teams in the country and Jackson was a big reason why. Jackson is a 6’8″ athletic freak who can guard 3 positions in the NBA right away. He can bring the ball up the court if need be and is extremely versatile. He needs to work on his shot a bit, but it’s not extremely flawed like some other past high lottery picks. He had a few issues off the court that resulted in him taking anger management classes. If those issues are resolved, Jackson is a great pick for the Suns. The Suns also drafted G Davon Reed from Miami and F Alec Peters from Valparaiso in the 2nd round. Reed averaged nearly 15 PPG and 5 RPG for a very solid Miami team and Alec Peters was one of the best mid major players in the country before he sat out a few games at the end of the season as a result of a stress fracture in his foot.

 

Portland Trailblazers: B-

The Trailblazers had 3 first round draft picks, and used that capital to trade up from 15 and 20 to 10 to select Zach Collins from Gonzaga. Collins is the first ever one and done player to play for Gonzaga, and he didn’t even start. That just shows you how much NBA Executives are in love with his potential. Collins was a great player on a Gonzaga team that went all the way to the championship game before losing to North Carolina. Collins didn’t have the chance to be that effective in that game as he was in foul trouble early and ended up fouling out. The number one red flag on Collins is his propensity to foul out.  Other than that he’s a 7 foot 19 year old with a great scoring touch that will definitely help the Trailblazers in his first season. If Collins is the finesse scorer with upside, Caleb Swanigan is the guy who can do the dirty work and grab 10 rebounds a game right away. Swanigan is a great story. One that has been told many times by better writers than I.

 

Sacramento Kings: A+

I don’t care that this seems to be the popular opinion, I refuse to take an opposite stance on this. It’s just too easy. Sacramento had themselves one heck of a draft night. With the 5th overall pick, they didn’t out-think the situation. They took the best player on the board and one that fit their needs the best. PG De’Aaron Fox from Kentucky. They then had the 10th pick as well and some, myself included, were hoping they’d take Fox’ back court mate Malik Monk there. Instead they traded the 10th pick to Portland for the 15th and 20th picks. At 15 they took the best player on a national championship team, Justin Jackson of North Carolina. At 20 they went for potential and took the guy who was the #1 recruit out of high school on most websites and had drawn comparisons to Chris Webber, Harry Giles of Duke. And with their final pick at 34, they took a guy who won the Wooden Award as the best player in college basketball last season, Frank Mason III from Kansas. Wow. Not only are they all solid players, they come from winning programs and they are all extremely versatile. Of course Giles is the biggest risk with his injury concerns, but if you’re Sacramento, why the heck not? Just thinking of seeing Jackson and Fox on the court together (as teammates this time!) makes my head spin. They will be a fun team to watch. Oh and the budding rivalry between Fox and Lonzo Ball will make for a good storyline. The Kings hit a grand slam with these 4 picks.

 

San Antonio Spurs: C+

The Spurs have been picking at the back of the draft for so many years now, this is nothing new to them. With the 29th pick in the draft the Spurs selected G Derrick White of Colorado. White is a late bloomer and not exactly a household name. He also played on a Colorado team that barely finished above .500 this past season. White is 6’5″ and averaged 18 points a game but also averaged more than 4 rebounds and assists per game. The Spurs are hoping he continues to bloom late and they wind up with a steal at the end of the first round. In the 2nd round the Spurs took Jaron Blossomgame from Clemson. I’m pretty sure Blossomgame has been in the 2nd round of mock drafts dating all the way back to 2010. That’s obviously a joke, but he definitely replaced Perry Ellis as the guy who most thought had been in college for 7 years.

 

Toronto Raptors: C

The Raptors selected SF OG Anunoby from Indiana with the 23rd overall pick. That’s pretty good value for a guy some thought would be picked in the mid teens. The problem is that Anunoby is currently recovering from a knee injury that he suffered in January. He will be of limited immediate help to the Raptors this upcoming season. If his rehab goes well and he regains the strength in his knee, he will provide excellent versatility and defense for the Raptors in future seasons. The injury, plus the lack of depth is the reason the Raptors grade falls where it does.

 

Utah Jazz: B+

Donovan Mitchell, along with Fox and Wilson, was one of the players whose stock rapidly grew as the NBA combine and pro days came and went. Mitchell is a great two-way player as he was an ACC All-Defensive Team member last season and also averaged 15.6 PPG and 4.9 RPG for Louisville. He’s a little undersized at 6’3″ for an NBA shooting guard, but his game translates well and even if he isn’t able to be a dominant offensive player, his impact will be felt on the defensive end almost immediately. The Jazz took North Carolina PF Tony Bradley with the 28th pick, which is an extremely high upside pick. Bradley almost returned to UNC for his Sophomore year, but decided the time was right for him now. The Jazz traded away F Trey Lyles last night, so playing time could be available for Bradley. With their 2nd round pick the Jazz drafted PG Nigel Williams-Goss from Gonzaga by way of Washington. Goss sat out a year after transferring, but he was worth the wait for Bulldog fans. He was the the heart and soul of the Bulldog team that finally got over the hump and made not only their first trip to the Final Four, but to the championship game as well where they lost to Bradley’s Tar Heels.

 

Washington Wizards: N/A

The Wizards did not have a pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

 

Follow Mike Bachini on Twitter, @MikeBachini

 

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