I say this every year, but the NBA Draft is so much better than the NFL Draft. Yet the latter receives months and months of buildup, multiple days of coverage and an insane amount of attention. It never lives up to the hype.
The NBA Draft rarely disappoints.
I thought NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s first welcome was fantastic. He congratulated the NBA champion Spurs. He noted that Tim Duncan was the first overall pick, Kawhi Leonard was the 15th pick, Tony Parker was the 28th pick and Manu Ginobili was the 57th pick. Every player picked, he said, could matter. And then he got to the task at hand. Nice job, commissioner.
The one problem with the draft these days is Twitter. It has killed the suspense of the NBA Draft. Absolutely ruined it. I’m not hating on Woj or anyone else breaking news of the picks moments before they’re made. As a reporter, I respect them. As a fan, I hate what they’re doing. What’s the point? Why jack up a made-for-television event? It’s so annoying that for the second straight year I’ve stayed away from Twitter as much as possible during the draft. Any peek and you might see some news you might now want. Why wouldn’t you want it? Because once you get it you then waste five minutes watching television and what becomes useless speculation and analysis. And the cycle repeats itself the entire night. The other way Twitter ruins the draft is the television analysts are now sitting there acting like they don’t know the selections. Bill Simmons has his smart phone sitting right there and is probably glued to it when he’s not on camera. Then he throws out a prediction on who’ll be selected as the commissioner steps to the podium and, of course, that player gets selected. Whoever is leaking the picks, please, just stop!
With that out of the way, here are my pick-by-pick thoughts on the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft.
- What took Cleveland and/or the commissioner to so long? The additional minute or so added to the drama of this already intriguing draft. But it was bizarre. And it only fueled speculation that the pick would be traded. Instead, the Cavs kept the selection and took Andrew Wiggins, the player widely assumed for much of the last year (at least) to be the No. 1 overall selection. Can’t go wrong with Wiggins, I don’t think. But I don’t think he’ll ultimately be the best player from this draft.
- Jabari Parker is my guy. I’m really, really high on him. He’s the guy I think will be the best player from this draft class. If he stays with the Bucks and isn’t traded, I’ve got him winning Rookie of the Year next year. He’s going to get up as many shots as he wants in Milwaukee. Also, am I the only one who thinks Jabari Parker looks exactly like Thunder assistant GM Troy Weaver?
- Glad to see Joel Embiid didn’t slip too far. But the way analysts talk about him, it sounds as if he could be the steal of the draft as the third overall pick. That’s crazy. He’s being compared to a young Hakeem Olajuwon. We shall see.
- Aaron Gordon fourth overall, huh? Seems high. I don’t love Gordon. But his athleticism could be a problem for opponents. I do think he can be a really good player on the right team and in the right system. Orlando definitely isn’t that right now. But the Magic are stockpiling assets and are coming.
- I know nothing about Dante Exum. Can’t wait to see if he pans out.
- Marcus Smart to Boston. Great landing spot for him. Glad to see him go to a first-class organization. Of course, this likely means Rajon Rondo is officially done in Boston. Going to be interesting to see where he ends up.
- Of course. Of course the Lakers got Julius Randle. He could ultimately be the second best player in this year’s class. I love his game. I love his relentlessness. Great get for L.A. Great piece to kick start whatever rebuild/reload the Lakers are planning. Randle should have gone at least two spots higher. No way Gordon and Exum should have been taken ahead of him. Not in my mind.
- Go Blue! Nik Stauskas to the Kings. Funny he went to the Kings. In our pre-draft podcast, I posed the question of whether Stauskas is a better or worse player than Ben McClemore. Now they could be teammates. Or one of them could be getting traded. I’m on record, though, of saying I wouldn’t have touched Stauskas or Doug McDermott in the top 10. Speaking of McDermott, how many people had Stauskas going before him?
- Noah Vonleh goes to the Hornets. Thought it might be McDermott. But my question is why take him at nine when you just took fellow Hoosier Cody Zeller fourth overall last year? Maybe they can play together. But I don’t get it. Vonleh was projected to go as high as fourth. So he’s the biggest loser so far. If you can call being the ninth overall pick in the NBA Draft that.
- Another pick I just don’t understand. The reigning Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams, is a point guard. A fine one. Why take Elfrid Payton here? Trade brewing, or does everybody just think everybody can play together these days? (Editor's Note: That trade did happen. Payton was dealt to the Magic for international prospect Dario Saric and future draft picks).
- Doug McDermott to Denver? Don’t see him as a great fit with the Nuggets’ current roster. He can fill it up, but Denver has a bunch of dudes that can do that already. The Nuggets need more defense. McDermott doesn’t help much there.
Oh! Chicago trades up to get him. Bulls send 16 and 19 to Denver for McDermott. That makes much more sense for Denver and even makes sense for the Bulls, who need scoring and as few hits to their cap as possible as they pursue Carmelo Anthony or another big free agent (LeBron, anyone?)
- Dario Saric goes to Orlando with the Magic’s second lottery selection. Don’t know anything about him other than he’s staying overseas for at least another two seasons. But after seeing him open the suit jacket and reveal two sewn items on each side, I’ve officially had enough of these players pulling that move. Need more creativity, fellas. And by the way, didn’t Orlando just use the fourth pick on a power forward? What on earth is going on here?
- The Timberwolves took another point guard! Hahaha. Wait, that joke doesn’t work anymore? Never mind. Zach Lavine might be a nice selection here. With his size and scoring ability, Lavine has the potential to play alongside Ricky Rubio or, depending on how the Wolves feel about Rubio, replace him at some point in the near future.
Breaking: Thanks, Andy Katz, for finally explaining those mind-boggling 10th and 12th selections. Payton will go from Philly to Orlando, and the Magic will send Saric to Philly along with some future picks. That makes a lot more sense. And let me just say, Orlando is making out like bandits. The Magic landed a freak athlete in Gordon at power forward and a super athlete in Payton to play the point. Now the crazy athletic Victor Oladipo can slide over to his natural 2-guard spot and suddenly Orlando is looking like a scary-good young team with amazing athleticism at nearly every position. Again, the Magic are coming.
- T.J. Warren goes 14th to Phoenix. Didn’t watch him or N.C. State this year. But I’m looking forward to seeing him with that up-and-coming Suns squad. According to Jay Williams, there is an article that claims Warren is “the best player you’ve never heard of.” We’re about to find out.
- Adreian Payne to the Hawks. A little higher than most probably thought he’d be selected. But he could fit nicely in Atlanta if he can stretch the floor at the next level.
Breaking: Dang, Silver is good! Between the 15th and 16th picks, Silver took a moment to recognize Baylor big man Isaiah Austin, who learned days before the draft that he had a heart condition that will prevent him from playing competitive basketball. Knowing that punch to the gut that the young man took, Silver postponed the proceedings to make Austin’s dream come true. “With the next pick in the 2014 NBA Draft,” Silver started, “the NBA selects Isaiah Austin from Baylor University.” What a moment. What. A. Moment. The crowd gave Austin a standing ovation. Austin began tearing up as he pulled a NBA hat over his head and made his way onto the stage to shake hands with Silver. And suddenly obsessing over 19- and 20-year-old prospects seemed silly. With a thoughtful, heartwarming and extremely classy tribute, Silver and the NBA didn’t just honor Austin in that moment. They also put the draft in its proper perspective. This is still all just a game.
Sidenote: Did I just see Jeremy Lamb at the draft, hugging Austin shortly after he got off stage? It would make sense for him to be there. He’s tight with former teammate Shabazz Napier (who I sort of think the Thunder will select at 21), and Lamb said he’s going to spend some time in New York this summer as he did last year.
- Jusuf Murkic is drafted by the Bulls but, remember, this pick is supposed to go to Denver in the McDermott deal. Muric is a 19-year-old 7-foot center. Might take a while before we see him.
- James Young to Boston, after the Celtics nabbed Smart with the sixth pick. Things are looking up for the Cs. I love Smart and really like Young. He’s another guy that I think should have gone higher.
- Tyler Ennis to Phoenix. This has to be a trade waiting to happen, right? With Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe in Phoenix, it doesn’t make a ton of sense for the Suns to go after Ennis here. I sort of talked myself into thinking the Thunder would take either Ennis or Napier. Now I can’t help but think the Thunder moved up three spots to make sure it got Ennis.
- Gary Harris is selected by the Bulls, but, again, this pick goes to Denver as part of the McDermott deal. A little lower than we thought Harris would go. But a potentially great fit with the Nuggets. With Arron Afflalo back in Denver and with Harris now headed to the Nuggets, I’m really wondering what will come of Randy Foye. I continue to think he’s a good, cheap option for the Thunder.
- If you’ve ever heard of Bruno Caboclo, you’re an amazing hoop head. Apparently, he’s been described as the Brazil Kevin Durant. Toronto seems to think he’s worth it. Fran Frachilla said he’s “two years away from being two years away.” That has to be one of the greatest one liners in NBA Draft history.
- Why does it always seem like the NBA takes a commercial break before revealing something significant about the Thunder. Happens with the draft lottery. Seems to happen every year with the draft. When the Thunder’s pick came up, a lot of intriguing talent remained on the board: Rodney Hood, Napier, Cleanthony Early, Kyle Anderson, K.J. McDaniels, Clint Capela. I’ve heard fans clamor for all of those guys at one point or another. But Sam Presti being Sam Presti, he pulled a trick out of his sleeve. He took Michigan’s Mitch McGary (Go Blue!) and didn’t care where he did it. Last year, McGary was projected to be a potential top 10 pick. But after an injury-plagued sophomore season (he played in only eight games), his stock slipped significantly. He was projected to go in the second round this year. But as he’s done in the past, Presti took his man when he could regardless of where he was projected. Yahoo! Sports reported that the Thunder promised McGary. Might have. But was that the smartest thing to do? I clearly don’t mind the pick (duh, Go Blue!), but I can’t help but question it, mostly because the Thunder was sitting there at 29 as well, giving OKC a chance trade out of 21 for something juicy (a proven player or a future pick) while still getting McGary at 29 and on a slightly cheaper contract at that. But before we get too emotional, let’s all remember that the Thunder’s front office knows 100 times more info than we do. Who knows if McGary would have been there are 29. So be careful to not overreact too much. As for McGary, I think he’s a heck of a player. He could slide in nicely someday. He’s got good athleticism and skills for a player his size. Good passer. Great rebounder. Fantastic hustler. Terrific competitor. Hard worker. Quick learner. Tough as nails. You’ll love him, OKC.
- Jordan Adams from UCLA goes to Memphis. Another guy I didn’t see much of. I doubt we’ll see much of him next year on that Grizzlies roster.
- Rodney Hood to Utah. The Jazz just need players. They’re collecting assets at this point. Hood gives them more shooting and length on the perimeter. But if he’s any better than Alec Burks I’ll be shocked.
- Shabazz Napier to Charlotte. Wait, no, according to Andy Katz he’s going to Miami. LeBron has loved him for a while. And it was the league’s worst kept secret that the Heat would take him. If I was Presti, I would have taken him just to piss off LeBron and hope it could get him out of Miami. That’s reason No. 458 why I’m not a GM.
- Clint Capela from Switzerland goes to Houston. He’s a power forward who was favorably said to be a left-handed Serge Ibaka. I’ll believe that when I see it. But not a bad pick for the Rockets. They don’t need to add salary right now as they pursue another star to add to James Harden and Dwight Howard. And if you’re going to go the draft-and-stash route, why not do it with the left-handed Serge Ibaka?
Breaking: So Denver is trading Anthony Randolph to the Bulls in addition to McDermott. Hmmm? Carlos Boozer replacement, perhaps?
- P.J. Hairston picked by Miami but being sent to Charlotte. The former UNC standout goes back to North Carolina. No team in the league loves bringing in its local college stars like the Hornets/Bobcats/Hornets.
- Bogdan Bogdanovic, a shooting guard from Serbia, is headed to the Suns. We think. Who knows at this point? Seems like I’ve heard the name Bogdan Bogdanovic for years. I’ve got to be thinking of another guy. Somebody help me out. Who is it?
- C.J. Wilcox from Washington will be a Clipper. Great shooter and good defender. Could be a steal.
- They did it again! ESPN again went to commercial just before the Thunder selected. I’m telling you. Something’s up…Oh, and now they come back from the break talking about soccer instead of the Thunder. Riveting convo. Way to go ESPN. Josh Huestis is the selection. He’s was a four-year player at Stanford. He’s a 6-7, 230-pound small forward. He’s a guy I’ve never heard of and another player projected to go in the second round. Huestis is heralded as one of the best athletes in the draft and a player who can defend multiple positions. My guess is he ends up in Tulsa.
- Kyle Anderson goes to San Antonio. The Spurs already are being labeled geniuses for this pick. The next Boris Diaw is what they’re calling him. Many wanted him with the Thunder. I figured all along that the Thunder wouldn’t have much interest in Anderson. OKC has a history of going more for specialists. It makes sense on many levels given that these guys named Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson already are on the roster. But more and more, those “specialists” are being labeled “one-dimensional.” It’s going to look real bad for the Thunder if Huestis flames out and Anderson becomes even the next Boris Diaw.