Eastern Conference NBA Draft Grades

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Now that the NBA Draft is over, it’s time to assess the winners and losers. Which teams used their basketball savvy to improve their teams? Which franchises found diamonds in the rough and which ones picked potential busts? Here are the team grades:

Eastern Conference NBA Draft Grades

Atlanta Hawks: Taurean Prince (12); DeAndre Bembry (21); Isaia Cordinier (44)

C+

Atlanta had three picks over the course of this draft, and chose to use every single one on wing players. Clearly this was a position of need and concern for the front office since the departure of Demarre Carroll and the likelihood of Kent Bazemore leaving. But Atlanta still have Tim Hardaway Jr, Kyle Korver and Thabo Sefolosha. There is also the big issue of losing their best player Al Horford. Unfortunately, with the departure of Jeff Teague they are without one of their top shot creators. While Dennis Schroder is a good player, they will need another guy who can carry the creative duties. This is where Atlanta may have made a mistake as none of the players picked are high end passers or creators.

Deandre Bembry and Taurean Prince will both come in and play right away and will likely make an impact. But there are other positions that need to be gravely looked at by the Atlanta front office. Maybe there are just too many problems to fix at the moment.

Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown (3); Guerschon Yabusele (16); Ante Zizic (23); Demetrius Jackson (45); Ben Bentil (51); Abdel Nader (58)

C

The Celtics were considered the key to the entire draft as Danny Ainge and his staff were actively shopping the third overall pick. The Celtics made the playoffs last season and received this pick from Brooklyn in the Paul Pierce deal. The team has a couple of gapping needs, primarily with shooting and in the front court. Both Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller are free agents, the third pick would have been a great chance to add depth there.

Instead the Celtics picked 6’7 wing Jaylen Brown out of California. While there is no doubt that Brown is one of the more talented prospects in this draft he may not be ready to contribute right away. Having a suspect handle and a broken jumpshot he might struggle for minutes. Brown will compete for minutes with Evan Turner, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, R.J Hunter and Avery Bradley.

They did add Ante Zizic late in the first round, another player who could possibly be a sleeper and is compared to Steven Adams of Oklahoma City. Boston is one of the losers of this draft.

Brooklyn Nets: Caris LeVert (20); Isaiah Whitehead

D

The Brooklyn Nets drafted Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead with their two draft picks this year. LeVert is a senior from Michigan who at one point was a potential lottery pick. He is a guard who could be an elite defender and has a terrific shooting stroke. Isaiah Whitehead was a McDonalds All-American who decided to play for Seton Hall for two seasons. Whitehead is a 6’4 athletic guard who has been compared to top lottery pick Kris Dunn. The problem with these two players is that LeVert has had about as many injuries as Derrick Rose in the past few years, and Whitehead had one of the worst assist to turnover ratios in all of the power conferences.

These are two extremely high-risk / high-reward players, but that is not why Brooklyn merits a D. A team that is still reeling from the trade that brought them future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the Nets are trying to rebuild. Unfortunately it is difficult to do that when you trade away every draft pick for the next few years. Brooklyn originally would not have had a draft pick, until they traded away their best player and asset Thaddeus Young. This trade was odd, as they only got the 20th selection, especially after Marco Belinelli was traded to Charlotte for the 22nd selection.

Charlotte Hornets: N/A

D

The Charlotte Hornets only had one draft pick this year. A young team that was looking for veterans to support their young cast of players. So they traded their 22nd pick to the Sacramento Kings to acquire a veteran player. Who did they get? Rudy Gay or Darren Collison? No? Perhaps another young talent like Ben McLemore? No not him either? No the Charlotte Hornets traded the 22nd overall pick for Marco Belinelli, a solid role playing veteran. But when you consider the scope of some of the other trades, this is a miserable result for Charlotte.

The Indiana Pacers managed to acquire a stud in the form of Thaddeus Young from Brooklyn for only the 20th pick. On top of this, Belinelli broke his jaw a few days later and will be injured for most of training camp.

Chicago Bulls: Denzel Valentine (14); Paul Zipser (48)

B-

Chicago did what everyone in the NBA thought they did not have the courage to do: trade homegrown hero and former MVP Derrick Rose. With this blockbuster trade it looks like the Bulls are ready to turn the corner. With their first round pick Chicago selected Denzel Valentine out of Michigan State.

There are startling similarities between Valentine and his former teammate Draymond Green. Both are undersized players without a traditional NBA position and both are excellent rebounders and passers. However, where Green is an elite defensive player, there are questions about whether or not Valentine can be successful on that end of the floor. This is not due to a lack of talent, but a lack of physical health. During team evaluations multiple teams became concerned with the condition of Valentines knees. Because of this, and because of Chicago’s unfortunate history of dealing with players who struggle with knee injuries, this is a worrisome pick.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Kay Felder (54)

A+

The NBA Champions only had one pick in the second round, they used it to select Kay Felder out of Oakland. For their position in the draft they came out ahead of pretty much any team. If there was a major position of concern for Cleveland it was point guard depth. Kay Felder led all of college in assists and could be a decent floor general that would allow LeBron James to occasionally play off of the ball.

Detroit Pistons: Henry Ellenson (18); Michael Gbinije (49)

B+

The Pistons are another young and up and coming team with one of the best coaches in the league in Stan Van Gundy. With potential stars Andre Drummond, Stanley Johnson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Jackson. The young Pistons managed to make the playoffs before being swept by the eventual champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite being winless in the playoffs, they were one of the most exciting teams during the post-season.

Playing with reckless abandon Detroit showed little fear against the mighty LeBron James. During this series they had one glaring issue, a lack of floor spacing. So Detroit drafted shooting big man Henry Ellenson with the 18th overall selection. The 6’10 former McDonalds All-American shows impressive movement for his size and a smooth shooting stroke. Detroit also added depth to an already deep wing position in Michael Gbinije from Syracuse. Detroit now boast one of the best group of wings along with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris and Stanley Johnson.

Indiana Pacers: Georges Niang (50)

A+

The Indiana Pacers only made one draft pick in the 2016 NBA draft, and it turned into Georges Niang. Niang is a small forward from Iowa State and has had one of the more impressive college careers in recent history. While he was a very good college player, it is unlikely it will translate into the NBA. Where the Pacers had one of the best drafts in the whole league was through trades. It started with a big three team trade involving Atlanta and Utah. Atlanta got the number 12 pick, Utah received George Hill and the Pacers got the best player of the bunch in Jeff Teague. This was a very good upgrade at the point guard position.

Indiana then went and traded the 20th overall pick for the talented Thaddeus Young of Brooklyn. Indiana’s starting five now consists of Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, Paul George, Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young. While they are still lacking a little bit of bench depth, they now have one of the most formidable starting lineups in the Eastern Conference.

Miami Heat: N/A

D

Miami did not have any picks this draft and are one of the older teams within the NBA with Joe Johnson, Luol Deng, Dwyane Wade and Amar’e Stoudemire. On top of that one of their only young players Hassan Whiteside is set to leave in free agency.

Milwaukee Bucks: Thon Maker (10); Malcolm Brogdon (36)

B+

The longest team in the league has just gotten a whole lot longer with the enigma that is Thon Maker. The first ever player to be picked straight out of a Canadian high school, the Sudanese born Australian international is a massive question mark within this draft. A 7’1 athletic big man, Maker has an excess of jaw-dropping dunks, crossover moves and blocks all across Youtube. His slight frame and toughness cause a massive problem before he can be an effective player in the NBA. There is talent there, and he fits the framework of what Milwaukee wants, if nurtured properly he could become an All-Star.

New York Knicks: N/A

D-

If there was a grade lower than D- the Knicks would earn it. Not only did the Knicks not possess a single draft pick, they lost what would be the 9th overall pick to Toronto for Andrea Bargnani.

Orlando Magic: Stephen Zimmerman (41)

A

The Orlando Magic pulled off a magic coup when they traded for Serge Ibaka. Now boasting one of the best front courts in the whole league with Ibaka and Nikola Vucevic, Orlando has cemented themselves as an up and coming team. Vucevic is one of the best offensive centers in the league and can score on practically anybody. Where Orlando occasionally struggles is with interior defense and in the pick and roll. This is not because they have bad perimeter defenders, but because Vucevic struggles to keep up with quick guards and is often late on his defensive rotations. But he is much too valuable on the offensive end to take him off the floor for long periods of time.

Serge Ibaka nullifies these problems as he is one of the best interior and pick and roll defenders in the NBA. The price was heavy, but well worth it after evaluating the trade thoroughly. The Thunder gave up Victor Oladipo and draft pick Domantas Sabonis. Oladipo is a player who has always has talent but has failed to live up to expectations and become a star. Sabonis would have been an amazing adition because of his rebounding and activity on both ends of the floor.

They did make up for Sabonis to some extent when they drafted Stephen Zimmerman in the second round. The big man from UNLV is an exceptional rebounder with great hands and is always active. A player that should become a good back-up center, he will greatly improve Orlando’s rebounding which was 20th last season.

Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons (1), Timothe Luwawu (24), Furkan Korkmaz (26)

A-

The worst team in the NBA last season finally managed to get its first overall process. Has “the process” finally worked? We will have to wait for now. All 76er fans have to know is that they got the best player in the draft in the form of LSU forward Ben Simmons. The 6’10 man from Melbourne, Australia has been called the “closest thing to LeBron James since LeBron James”. While this is perhaps an unfair to compare him to James, there are similarities in his body-type, ball handling and passing.

The other players picked by Philadelphia were Timothe Luwawu, a 6’7 shooting guard from the Serbian league, and Furkan Korkmaz, another 6’7 guard playing in Turkey. These two players are the reason that Philadelphia are receiving an A- instead of an A. While both men are young and talented players, they will most likely stay in Europe for a couple of seasons. This is probably the best thing for the “process” but 76er fans would probably want players who can play and help now.

Toronto Raptors: Jakob Poeltl (9); Pascal Siakam (27)

B

Toronto had a mediocre draft not because of who they picked, but because of the foreshadowing as to who they will be losing. By picking the best center in the draft it is clear that general manager Masai Ujiri has accepted the fact that Bismack Biyombo will be leaving Toronto this summer. Particularly when Domantas Sabonis is still on the board and would add a lot of depth to Toronto’s power forward position. Fortunately Jakob Peoltl is a high-end prospect. He may not be explosive, but he is a fluid athlete and has tremendous hands. Poeltl and Jonas Valanciunas will make a formidable pairing at the center position that will be feared for years to come.

The Raptors also made one of the more controversial picks with Pascal Siakam at the 27th selection. Instead of selecting talent in Labissiere and Davis, the Raptors picked a player who proved how effective he was at the collegiate level getting 27 double-doubles at New Mexico State, tied first in all of Division I basketball.

Washington Wizards: N/A

D

The Wizards took a step back from last year when they didn’t make the playoffs. They still have a dynamic backcourt consisting of John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Wizards did not have any draft picks to improve on this lethal combination.

 

Check out our Western Conference Draft Grades.

 

EAST LANSING MI – MARCH 5: Denzel Valentine #45 of the Michigan State Spartans brings the ball up the court during the second half of the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on March 5, 2016 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes 91-76. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)