So, this is a little bit late, I apologize. But I do actually have an excuse because I moved to a new state at the beginning of the month and the job search has been priority one. Taking a break today to do this.
With the 2016 draft complete, it’s time to sit back and get ready for the season after a long few months of no NBA basketball. But first, let’s take a quick look back at all 60 picks from the weekend’s draft.
Last year, I gave draft grades to teams, but there were too many that either had like 10 picks or no picks at all. So this year I’m grading pick by pick.
1. New Orleans Pelicans: Ben Simmons
Even with the news that Simmons is going to miss two months or more, this was the obvious pick. Simmons is a potential generational talent and could be the best player in the NBA in five years. He’s ideal from a fantasy perspective, too, because of his ability to rack up triple doubles. Adding Simmons to a base foundation of Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving and Joel Embiid gives New Orleans a crop of potential mega-stars – that is, if they can all stay healthy and reach their potential.
2. Brooklyn Nets: Brandon Ingram
This was also an obvious pick. Ingram is rail thin and will get bullied in his rookie season, but he’s the best pure scorer in this draft and I don’t think the Durant comparisons are too far off base. Ingram becomes the centerpiece for a team whose supporting cast is slowly becoming better and better.
3. Indiana Pacers: Kris Dunn
Yet another obvious pick. Dunn is an ideal replacement for Mudiay and clearly the third best player in this draft. He’s also someone who can step in right away and start producing results for a Pacers team that made the finals last year after finishing dead last in year one. Even if Thibs hates rookies, it’s only a matter of time before Dunn replaces Rubio as the starting PG for the Timberwolves, which is coincidentally a young team rapidly on the rise just like these Pacers.
4. Detroit Pistons: Buddy Hield
I’ll be honest: at first, I hated this pick. I think Hield is supremely overrated as a basketball player and that he can’t do much besides shoot. But the more I thought about it, the more the pick grew on me. The Pelicans are going to be a disaster again this season so they’ll be bound to let Hield loose and see what they’ve got in him. Clearing out Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson will leave a lot of 3s open for Hield.
5. Orlando Magic: Dragan Bender
I’m actually one of the few people that doesn’t think Bender needs a few more years of development before he can make an impact. His basketball IQ is NBA-level already and his skills are pretty advanced for a teenager. But I hate, hate, hate his situation. Drafting Bender and Chriss just seems like a careless experiment to see who their future PF will be. Neither of them can play any other position yet – Bender because he’s too slim and weak to play C and Chriss because his defense is horrendous. Outside of Simmons and Ingram, I think Bender has the most potential in this draft class, but I was a bit surprised to see Orlando pick him over someone who will make a more immediate impact.
6. Dallas Mavericks: Jamal Murray
There were four guys at the top of this draft that I thought stood out as the players with the most potential by a wide margin over the rest of the class: Simmons, Ingram, Bender and Murray. This kid can straight up ball, folks, and he has confidence in spades and the ability to score in bunches. The Nuggets have a great young guard rotation with Mudiay and Harris starting and Murray and Barton behind them. I’m not convinced Murray and Barton can coexist because their usage is so similar, and I’m also not convinced that Murray can ever be a point guard in this league. But Murray has star written all over him, and those guys usually figure out a way to succeed. Great pick by Dallas.
7. Oklahoma City Thunder: Denzel Valentine
A bit of a reach. The Bulls are going to be a mess that is going to take a long time to figure out, and I’m not sure here Valentine ultimately settles in. Hoiberg will love his high basketball IQ and passing ability from anywhere on the court, but his ceiling as a fantasy player is limited and he has a lot of guys ahead of him on the depth chart. For an OKC team that is rebuilding from the ground up, I respect the decision to go for a solid player here rather than a high-risk, high reward type, but there were guys on the board who would’ve been a better choice, I think.
8. New York Knicks: Thon Maker
The enigma! Is he 19 or 35? It might not matter because he may end up being the starting center for the Bucks on opening night. We all remember this kid (adult?) from his insane mixtape a few years ago, but unfortunately he hasn’t really progressed much in terms of skills since then. Maker remains, for the most part, a soul that occupies an ideal basketball body but just doesn’t quite know how to play the game. Jason Kidd doesn’t exactly strike me as a top-notch talent development guy, but there’s no question that Maker fits in with the Bucks’ wacky all-limbs lineup. Maker’s potential is sky-high, but it actually has to start manifesting itself pretty soon or this is not such a great pick. For now, given his potential, I think it was an all right choice.
9. Denver Nuggets: Jaylen Brown
Brown also kind of fits the mold of having supreme talent with not so supreme basketball skills and IQ. He is a phenomenal athlete but at this point he can’t do much beyond driving to the bucket, and even then his finishing is pretty subpar. He finds himself in a perfect situation in Boston, where Brad Stevens will have time to mold and teach him.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Marquese Chriss
This is a good pick based on potential alone. The most explosive player in the draft, Chriss is yet another guy who has yet to put it all together and play basketball properly. He’s got time in Phoenix, but it’s worth monitoring this guy and seeing if anything happens there this season. His ceiling may be Shawn Kemp, but his floor is Thomas Robinson.
11. Washington Wizards: Domantas Sabonis
Would have liked to see the Wizards go for a wing player here, where they need help the most, but adding a presence as solid as Sabonis to their transforming core seems like a good move. Much like the real Wizards, Washington surprisingly plummeted out of the playoffs and suddenly doesn’t have much talent on the roster besides Wall and Beal (OK, and Julius Randle). Sabonis doesn’t strike me as an ace fantasy player, but this is far from the worst pick so far.
12. Dallas Mavericks: Juancho Hernangomez
Juancho Man Randy Savage will probably end up being the Nuggets’ backup 4 to start the year, and could quickly become the starter if Denver trades Faried. A skilled stretch 4 with good all-around talent, Hernangomez would be a nice fit anywhere.
13. Sacramento Kings: Wade Baldwin
Being Mike Conley’s understudy will be great for Wade Baldwin, who runs the risk of becoming just a defensive specialist if he doesn’t have the chance to learn to play offense. It might behoove him to become a 2 and play alongside Conley, taking over the Tony Allen role. Either way, this guy is a monster physically for a guard and a really fun player to watch. Memphis kind of seemed like his destiny to keep the grit and grind alive for one more year.
14. Boston Celtics: Jakob Poeltl
I don’t like this pick and I don’t like Poeltl as a player. Watch his game against Sabonis in the NCAA Tournament to see why. I think Poeltl’s ceiling is pretty low and I don’t see him getting a lot of playing time in Toronto, at least right away.
15. New York Knicks: Caris LeVert
At this point in the draft, all of the actual good players were gone, so any pick looks like a reach here, but this one was a bit of a head-scratcher. Caris LeVert is made of glass and, despite what you hear from most analysts, does not have lottery talent. He’s an old school style player that doesn’t fit ideally in the modern NBA and Brooklyn isn’t exactly the most nurturing environment. Maybe this pick pans out, but for now I don’t see it.
16. Memphis Grizzlies: Taurean Prince
I like this pick for Memphis. It gives them another DeMarre Carroll type player and is just overall very solid. Fits in well with the rest of the Grizzlies’ squad of solid but not flashy players.
17. New York Knicks: Henry Ellenson
Will Henry Ellenson ever make it in the NBA? I’m not sure. His skills are enticing – a legit 7 footer who can shoot threes is always of interest – but his defense will likely never be NBA level and his game has a long way to go. This pick was purely a prospective one for New York, as Ellenson isn’t going to get any playing time this year in Detroit behind Harris, Morris, Leuer, Drummond, Baynes and Boban.
18. Orlando Magic: Ivica Zubac
One of the best picks in this year’s draft. Zubac is already a tenacious post player and a solid defender down low who will grow into a perfect player to complement the Lakers’ young big trio of Ingram, Russell and Randle. I would have taken Zubac in the top 10, and for Orlando to get him here at 18 was a coup. Luke Walton won’t hesitate to put this guy in ahead of Tarik Black and Timo Mozgov (seriously, why is this guy on this team?).
19. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tyler Ulis
I freaking love this pick by OKC. Ulis is a straight up baller who would have been a top 5 player in this year’s draft if he wasn’t 5’8″. His height didn’t stop him in college, but it will obviously be a greater obstacle in the NBA. Still, Ulis is a terrifically smart basketball player who’s lightning quick and is a phenomenal passer and floor general who can also shoot threes. Ulis will have a long and successful NBA career.
20. Los Angeles Clippers: Timothe Luwawu-Caborrot
I’m not a huge fan of Luwawu. His game has a long way to go and he may never surpass a Thabo Sefolosha type of role. He also has the misfortune of being stuck in the Philly logjam behind Covington, Henderson, Grant, Thompson and Stauskas. A lot of people think he can turn into a very nice three-and-D guy, but I just don’t see it.
21. Houston Rockets: Jake Layman
The first pick in this draft that really took me by surprise. Layman may not even make Portland’s roster and was a mid second round pick. There are rumblings that Layman can eventually turn into a Chandler Parsons type, but I think that’s a longshot. If he does make the roster, there aren’t really any minutes for him behind Turner, Crabbe, Aminu, Harkless, Davis and Vonleh. I think Houston would have been better off trading this pick to help shore up its thinning bench.
22. Sacramento Kings: DeAndre Bembry
A safe pick, if not an inspired one. Bembry was a late riser in the draft this year and is probably not a first round talent, but he does figure to be a solid bench piece. Sort of a poor man’s Denzel Valentine, he can do a little bit of everything including passing, shooting and rebounding. There were definitely worse things to do with this pick.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves: Damian Jones
Nice grab for the Wolves here. Jones is a really nice defensive center who probably won’t be asked to do much this year, but could find his way into some playing time if Zaza doesn’t work out (he kind of doesn’t fit what the Warriors are all about), McGee stinks as usual and Varejao gets hurt (he will). He’ll grow into a really good backup center in time.
24. San Antonio Spurs: Dejounte Murray
I really like this choice by the Spurs, who are a guard away from title contention. Not that Murray is that guard, but it’s a nice gamble: low-risk, high reward. If anyone can make use of Murray’s wild game, it’s Popovich.
25. Philadelphia 76ers: Cheick Diallo
Home run of a pick. Diallo has always had lottery talent, but because he didn’t fit in Bill Self’s system, the entire NBA forgot about him. Sure, he looked horrible at Kansas, but the physical profile is there. He’s an explosive leaper who shows a ton of promise as a shot blocker and rim runner, but one thing many people don’t know about him is that he also has a pretty sweet short range jumper that’s in development. Diallo was the definition of post-hype sleeper in this year’s draft and I think he’s a great piece.
26. Dallas Mavericks: Patrick McCaw
Great pick. Golden State quietly lost significant guard depth this offseason, so there’s a good chance McCaw plays a lot – especially when the Warriors are winning by 40 at halftime. McCaw is a smart defensive 2 guard who can handle the ball a bit and could emerge as a garbage time king, especially if he improves his jumper.
27. Washington Wizards: Skal Labissiere
I had hope that there was still something left for Labissiere’s potential until he got drafted by Sacramento. Now, I think you can more or less scratch him off. The guy looked clueless on the basketball court in Kentucky, despite (or maybe because of) people calling him a better prospect than Ben Simmons this time last year. There were a few guys Washington could’ve taken here that would provide more immediate help, but this is still an ok value pick if you believe in Skal still.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kay Felder
Another pick by OKC that I absolutely love. Like Ulis, Felder would be a lottery talent if he wasn’t such a li’l guy. Unlike Ulis, however, Felder possesses immense athleticism and explosiveness: he posted the second highest vertical leap EVER in the history of the combine at 44 inches. That’s almost four freaking feet in the air and like a foot and a half lower than the top of his head. Beyond that, he’s also a smart player and a good floor general. And beyond that, he’s poised to be Cleveland’s backup PG this year. Terrific selection by OKC. Plus, have you ever seen this guy dribble a basketball? It’s awesome. He like slams it into the ground with each dribble like he’s mad at it. He looks like this dude:
29. Indiana Pacers: Deyonta Davis
Slam dunk of a pick. Davis is perhaps the best defensive player in the draft class but fell to round 2 because he underperformed at Michigan State. He should have been drafted a lot higher and I’m surprised he fell so far in this draft, too.
30. Toronto Raptors: Pascal Siakam
Siakam is one of those African dudes with amazing athletic skills that only started playing basketball when he was like 16. Despite that, he shows pretty good fundamentals, but his game is definitely still centered around his hustle and athleticism. Toronto is really hurting for a PF with Patterson and Sullinger as their only options right now, so they might be hoping to get something from Siakam soon, but his skill level right now is more suited for the D League.
31. Detroit Pistons: Malcolm Brogdon
Brogdon is a really solid player, especially defensively, but I’m not high on him as a fantasy player; he may never be more than a defensive stopper. Still, though, his basketball IQ is top notch – that combined with his defense will get him on the court for this inexperienced Bucks team. Overall a decent selection.
32. Brooklyn Nets: Isaiah Whitehead
The Nets apparently loved this guy so much that they traded up for him, and their guard situation is so bleak that he will probably be on the floor a lot this season. His competition – Greivis Vasquez, Randy Foye, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Sean Kilpatrick, Yogi Farrell and Chase Budinger – don’t exactly put fear in one’s heart. With good coaching, he can carve out a career for himself as a volume bench scorer.
33. Philadelphia 76ers: Georges Niang
Rumor has it that the Pacers want to use Niang this season, but I don’t buy it. He’s a low ceiling guy who will make the roster, but I really don’t see him playing much. He’s slow and unathletic, which is kind of the opposite direction the Pacers are moving in, but he can shoot 3s which is always good. A second rounder is never going to make or break a team’s future but I think there were better guys here.
34. New York Knicks: Brice Johnson
Really nice value pick. Doc Rivers might have no choice to play this guy because of his elite rebounding skills, even with veterans Mbah a Moute and Bass in front of him. The Clippers’ likely tendency to go small might push him further down the pine, but Johnson will eventually be a rotation player somewhere.
35. Boston Celtics: Malik Beasley
I don’t know how the hell Beasley gets any playing time this year, but he’s a good prospect. In the right situation he can become a useful 3 and D guard.
36. Los Angeles Clippers: Chinanu Onuaku
Not a bad pick. Onuaku is a classic defense-first energy big. He’s a significantly undersized center with raw (read: bad) offensive skills, so there’s a chance he might not stick on a roster in the NBA, but if he can run, D’Antoni might give him a shot. Plus, he shoots his free throws grandma style:
37. Los Angeles Lakers: Ron Baker
Baker is a longshot to make it in the NBA from a talent perspective, but actually seems poised to make the Knicks roster. My guess is that Baker will fall somewhere between Linsanity and whatever it was that Jimmer Fredette did for the Knicks that one time.
38. Philadelphia 76ers: Georgios Papagiannis
This was a throwaway pick for the Kings, but it’s just whatever for Philly. Papagiannis should have gone undrafted and has no NBA talent to speak of beyond his monstrous size.
39. Denver Nuggets: Guerschon Yabusele
Five years from now, I think Yabusele could be one of the best 10 players from this draft. The dude is an animal. Unfortunately he’ll spend this season overseas. He’s a bruiser with an elite build and physicality, and possesses a nice jumper and even flashes some ball handling skills, even as most of his game is in development. One of my favorite picks in this draft.
40. Toronto Raptors: Fred Van Vleet
Toronto’s next pick was so good, but this one was very much not so. Van Vleet has looked terrible in preseason and is the fifth point guard for Toronto at this point behind Lowry, Joseph and Delon Wright and Brady Heslip, although even that doesn’t really matter because no PG plays beyond Joseph. I’ll be surprised if he makes the Raptors’ final roster.
41. Toronto Raptors: Furkan Korkmaz
How the hell did this guy fall so far? A lottery talent for sure, and at 18, he’s got lots of room to grow. When he comes to the NBA, he’ll be a lights-out shooter, and he’s also a pretty good athlete. A middle-class version of Mario Hezonja.
42. Toronto Raptors: Ante Zizic
Another nice value pick. Zizic balled out in the Adriatic League last season and is pegged for another season abroad. Great stash guy.
43. Brooklyn Nets: Malachi Richardson
Richardson’s game is all over the place, and he probably only went in the first round because of his tournament performance, but I think this was an ok pick based on value. The Kings roster is a crime against basketball so there’s plenty of room to carve out a role.
44. Washington Wizards: Diamond Stone
Diamond Stone is a lot like Greg Monroe: a small-ish center who doesn’t defend, doesn’t rebound very well and doesn’t score outside the paint. In other words, a dinosaur. And we all know Doc Rivers doesn’t let rookies play. Many considered Stone a first round talent, but I think the game may have just passed him by. We’ll see.
45. Oklahoma City Thunder: AJ Hammons
Another ace pick by OKC. I freaking love Hammons as a prospect. He’s 23 already, but this dude is a monster physically and can eventually become a starting-level center for a defensive-minded team. Really nice rebounder and shot blocker with an elite physical profile.
46. Memphis Grizzlies: Paul Zipser
Really nice pick. Zipser has borderline first round talent but fell because he’s 22 and from Europe. Chicago actually gave him a guaranteed deal, so he’ll be on the roster, but I doubt he plays much. From a value perspective, though, this was a good pick.
47. Milwaukee Bucks: Michael Gbinije
Gbinije is an extremely physical and athletic kid, but he’s already 24 and has no discernable basketball skills, although Syracuse tried using him as a ballhandler with mixed results. A D League stash for now, but I’m not sure he’s a guy who pans out.
48. Portland Trail Blazers: Isaiah Cousins
I like this pick. Sacramento’s other PGs are Ty Lawson, Jordan Farmar and the suspended Darren Collison. Cousins is nothing special but he could end up getting minutes.
49. Indiana Pacers: Zhou Qi
Love this pick. Qi is another guy with questions about his real age, but I think this guy is super talented and may have star potential. A mobile big who can shoot 3s and block shots, Qi needs to bulk up before he can play in the NBA but I think he can eventually become a bigger, faster Channing Frye who can protect the rim. Qi is a first round talent in my book and I would have drafted him at 1.22 if I didn’t end up trading that pick.
50. Los Angeles Lakers: Ben Bentil
Solid grab here. Bentil is an extremely foolhardy player but does have some talent. He’s a D Leaguer for now but could turn into a bench piece some day.
51. Minnesota Timberwolves: Alex Poythress
Poythress has proven at this point that he doesn’t hold any promise as an NBA player.
52. Cleveland Cavaliers: Gary Payton II
I don’t think The Mitten will pan out in the NBA, but it was worth taking him on potential alone.
53. Minnesota Timberwolves: Cat Barber
Barber is the biggest sleeper in this draft. This guy might immediately challenge John Wall to claim the title of NBA’s fastest player if he sticks on the roster, which is looking fairly likely. Cat’s game is reminiscent of Ish Smith’s, and we all know how well that went fantasy-wise when Smith was a Sixer. Barber might have to spend some time in the D League, but I really hope Philly gives this guy a shot. I think he can turn into a useful bench scorer in the NBA.
54. Toronto Raptors: Drew Crawford
This pick ended up getting dropped anyway so I don’t mind saying it was the worst one in this draft. A 26-year-old from Northwestern doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
55. Charlotte Hornets: Joel Bolomboy
Bolomboy figures to be kind of a poor man’s Kenneth Faried in the NBA, and the Jazz seem like a good fit. It’s doubtful he’ll play much for Utah but I still like this pick based on his ability to run and rebound.
56. Portland Trail Blazers: Demetrius Jackson
Late in the NCAA season, scout were saying Jackson was a lottery pick. But then he fell to the 2nd round. Jackson ended up in a terrible situation in Boston behind Thomas, Smart, Bradley and Terry Rozier but remains a very good prospect with elite speed, exposiveness and scoring ability. Great value pick, even if it takes a few years for him to end up in a better spot.
57. Denver Nuggets: Petr Cornelie
No complaints about this pick. Cornelie is a sort of fringe NBA guy but has decent potential. Will probably spend the next few years overseas.
58. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jameel Warney
Warney is an ok pick here, but it probably would have been better for the rebuilding OKC to grab someone younger with a bit more potential instead of a senior from a small school.
59. Indiana Pacers: Gracin Bakumanya
Full disclosure: I have no idea who this guy is. But he’s 19, 6’11” and has a 7’3″ wingspan. So that’s what the picks in the late 2nd are all about: just take a guy on pure potential. If it doesn’t work out, no biggie.
60. Brooklyn Nets: Stephen Zimmerman
Did people just forget about this guy because his name is at the end of the alphabet? He’s a 7-foot 20-year-old with a 9’1″ standing reach and was a top-10 high school recruit who can shoot 3s and block shots. No idea how this guy almost went undrafted, and I’m happy to have him.