NBA Draft Grades 2017
Last night was a real treat for sports fans. Loads of major trade rumors, one blockbuster trade and potential stars going to primetime teams. Today, I’ll be giving out draft grades to each team. These grades are based on starting opportunity, so if Team A started with the 12th pick, I won’t necessarily grade them lower than a team who took a potential superstar at #2. Rather, it depends on the value each team made from what they had. To keep you in suspense, I’ll give you the top five teams in reverse order:
5) Toronto Raptors (A)
OG Anunoby (23)
It’s astonishing the OG fell this far. It really didn’t take much in the way of brains to draft him at #23–the Raptors must still be laughing about how lucky they got. Anunoby has some injury concerns, but if he is healthy, we are talking about a Draymond Green type of player who has a high motor, great instincts and the athleticism and length to defend every position.
4) Houston Rockets (A)
Isaiah Hartenstein (43), Dillon Brooks (45)
Hartenstein is the second best draft and stash player in the class. It is a major surprise that he didn’t go in the back end of the first, let alone all the way until the middle of the second. Then, the Rockets added one of the best outside shooters in the draft class and one with the length, strength and awareness to contribute as a rookie.
3) Sacramento Kings (A)
De’Aaron Fox (5), Justin Jackson (15), Harry Giles (20), Frank Mason III (34)
The Kings may have gone as far as taking Fox at #1 if they had won the lottery. They love this kid and it isn’t a stretch to see him ending up as the best player in this class. He can get it done on offense, defense and may be the best leader in the draft class. Jackson was drafted a bit early for me, but Giles was could be a super-steal at #20. Just two years ago, he was considered the most likely player to be taken 1st overall in this draft. He has dealt with three knee injuries since then, but the potential is still very much there. Finally, Mason is polished and ready to shoot the daylights out of the ball as a rookie.
2) Orlando Magic (A+)
Jonathan Isaac (6), Wesley Iwundu (33), Ivan Rabb (35), PHI 2020 #1, PHI 2020 #2
Let’s first get the negatives out of the way: Those Philly picks are going to be garbage in three years and they could have drafted a high upside draft and stash player with that 25th pick rather than trading it. Even worse, Iwundu was the single worst pick in the draft as far as I’m concerned. With all of that said, the Isaac and Rabb selections make this one of the top drafts in memory. These two players both have monster upside. Rabb was a sure-fire lottery pick 14 months ago, but he elected to stay in school. He could be a double-double guy in a few years. Isaac dropping to #6 may go down as a head-scratcher in a few seasons. He not only is the safest play in the draft with a 9’1″ standing reach, guard athleticism and a high motor that will enable him to guard the 1-5, but he also possesses the highest upside of any player in the draft. Isaac might just end up the top defensive player in the NBA in three years, and has the physical ability and head on his shoulders to develop into a quality offensive asset as well.
1) Boston Celtics (A+)
Future Upper-Lottery Pick, Jayson Tatum, Semi Ojeleye, Kadeem Allen, Jabari Bird
Tatum is a fearsome competitor and has the offensive polish to score 18 PPG as a rookie, and perhaps 25+ some day. He is an all-around player and an ideal fit in this offense that needs a second scoring option. Granted, I would have rather seen them add Isaac, but the Tatum pick was fire too. Ojeleye is one of the best handful of second round picks in the draft as well. He should contribute in Brad Stevens’ deep rotation as a rebounding and defensive warrior and is by no means incompetent on offense. The real gem of this week, however, is what the Celtics accomplished in their trade with the 76ers. They still got their guy, who may, in fact, be the best player in the class, but they also added an upper-lottery pick either next year or in 2019. If they pick at #2-#5 next season, they will have their pick of future all-star big men, Michael Porter, DeAndre Ayton and Mohamed Bamba. Or perhaps they would choose to select the best European prospect of all time in swingman, Luka Doncic since you know, they also own the Nets’ unprotected #1 again next year which might be #1 once again.. I would imagine that Ainge is hoping that Lakers pick doesn’t work out, however, as that would give them the Kings’ #1 pick in the even more exciting 2019 class. Marvin Bagley III is a generational superstar, Moses Brown is the second coming of The Alphabet, then there is The Alphabet’s actual brother, Shaq’s son, Manute Bol’s 7’2″ son who plays like a bigger Kevin Durant, then Zion Williamson who is a perennial all-star big man in the making. The rich will get much much richer as a result of this deal.
The Other 25 Teams
Atlanta Hawks (C-)
John Collins (19), Alpha Kaba (60)
Both were picked later than they appeared on my big board, but they didn’t win the day with either of the picks. The issue with this draft, however, is that they are apparently trying to clear cap room for LeBron with the Howard move. They clearly lost the deal in order to do so.
Brooklyn Nets (A-)
D’Angelo Russell (trade), Jarrett Allen (22), Aleksander Vezenkov (57) (minus Brook Lopez)
The Nets took advantage of the Lakers’ apparent panic to rid themselves of Russell. That alone drives up their grade, but then they employed the proper strategy for a team in their situation by adding a raw Jarrett Allen who has loads of upside for a post-lottery pick.
Charlotte Hornets (A)
Malik Monk (11), Dwight Howard (minus Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli)
Grabbing Monk at #11 was a steal as he could end up being the best pure scorer in this draft class. The Howard deal was risky, as that contract is a monster and Howard is volatile if nothing else, but it could also prove to be a stellar move.
Chicago Bulls (B)
Zach LaVine (trade), Kris Dunn (trade), Lauri Markkanen (7), cash (minus Jimmy Butler)
Sure, I may be all alone here, but I love what the Bulls did with this trade. Markkanen was the wrong pick at 7, albeit a nice add, and giving the Warriors more ammo for cash was a big no-no, but hear me out: LaVine has 17.1 PPG, 4.0 APG and 3.6 RPG through his first 206 games despite not starting the first season and a half. That is a quality player as it is, but he did all that before turning 22. If he comes back from the ACL surgery as good as new, he could be an all-star within a few seasons. Add in Dunn, who was bad as a rookie sure, but so was Jimmy Butler and no one is denying that Dunn is oozing with potential. Butler is a phenomenal talent, but he is a repeat locker room cancer and moving him saves 11 million each of the next three seasons that could be used on another quality starter or a step toward making a run at LeBron. When you consider that the Celtics and 76ers turned down Butler for #3 straight up, you just have to ask yourself if the difference between #3 and #7 is worth more than LaVine and Kris Dunn. I say no, and not even close.
Dallas Mavericks (A)
Dennis Smith Jr. (9)
The Mavs’ draft room erupted in cheers when the Knicks took Ntilikina instead of Smith. That should tell you must of what you need to know. The Mavs love Smith and for good reason. He could have gone #2 and it would have been a story, but he certainly has the talent to be in that discussion. This super-athlete has the upside to be a Baron Davis type of point guard.
Denver Nuggets (C)
Tyler Lydon (24), Trey Lyles (trade), Vlatko Cancar (49), Monte Morris (51)
They made the most of their late second round picks with a quality draft and stash, then a guard that could make their rotation as a rookie, but they didn’t get enough to warrant moving the 13th pick, especially considering the fact that they reached for Lydon with the pick they received.
Detroit Pistons (C-)
Luke Kennard (12)
Sure, Kennard fits a need as he is instant offense, but his defense is beyond questionable and should make him a replacement level player at the next level. There were better assets on the board who could score and play defense like Donovan Mitchell.
Golden State Warriors (A)
Jordan Bell (38)
They were the first team out from the top five because this trade was robbery. Bell is an elite shock blocker with a high motor who can rebound and run the floor. Sounds like he would fit in with a certain NBA championship team. Don’t be surprised if he seems some starts in his rookie year despite being selected in the second round. There were plenty of smart people projecting him as high as #21 in yesterday’s draft so he is by no means a second round talent.
Indiana Pacers (A-)
TJ Leaf (18), Ike Anigbogu (47)
The Leaf pick was mediocre, for as LaVar Ball announced to the nation, he is not an NBA-level defender. The reason for the high grade is what they did with their second round pick. Ike was the steal of the draft and could have been a lottery pick had his medical testings come up clear.
Los Angeles Lakers (B)
Lonzo Ball (2), Josh Hart (30), Thomas Bryant (42), Brook Lopez, (minus D’Angelo Russell and the Timofey Mozgov contract)
This is a mixed bag. Ball was my top player in the draft and Bryant is an analytical dream in the second round, but while it was nice to drop the Mozgov albatross, moving Russell for so cheap, then passing up a chance to grab Tony Butler at 28 were both errors.
Miami Heat (C+)
Bam Adebayo (14)
Don’t get me wrong, I love Bam’s potential and energy, but this was one of the bigger reaches in the first round. There were more polished players on the board who also had potential, or if they loved Bam this much, they could have traded back while acquiring an extra asset.
Milwaukee Bucks (C-)
D.J. Wilson (17), Sindarius Thornwell (48)
Thornwell was a stellar pick in the second round. He is an older player that can defend and contribute in year one, but even a steal like that couldn’t save their grade because Wilson was that big of a reach. Sure, he can shoot a bit, but his upside is limited and he likely would have lasted another 8 to 12 picks had they chose to trade back.
Minnesota Timberwolves (A-)
Jimmy Butler (trade), Justin Patton (16), (minus Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn)
You likely already read what I said about the Chicago trade and that I think Chicago got the better end, but that doesn’t mean Minnesota didn’t make the right move. They now have a tremendous Big-3 for the future so they had to overpay to make it happen. Patton at 16 is a good grab as well, seeing that he has vast potential to develop into a quality starter.
New Orleans Pelicans (B)
Dwayne Bacon (40), Edmond Sumner (52)
There isn’t much to see here with two second rounders. Bacon is a quality all-around wing who could make a career in the league. Sumner is a long-shot to make the roster, but has some potential considering where he was selected.
New York Knicks (C)
Frank Ntilikina (8), Damyean Dotson (44), Ognjen Jaramaz (58)
It is tough to grade a team low who selected Ntilikina, but when you pass on a player like Dennis Smith Jr, there are consequences. Dotson at 44 was a bit of a reach, but at least he can shoot. Jaramaz was a total waste of a pick.
Oklahoma City Thunder (A)
Terrance Ferguson (21)
I may be the biggest supporter of Ferguson out there, as this was the area he was expected to land. With that being said, it is a perfect fit for what the Thunder need. Ferguson has one of the top two or three long-range shots in the class and has terrific size for a two-guard. He will be able to defend multiple positions sufficiently and has tons of potential.
Philadelphia 76ers (C-)
Markelle Fultz (1), Anzejs Pasecniks (25), Jonah Bolden (36), Jawun Evans (39), Sterling Brown (46), Mathias Lessort (50)
Sorry fam, I know you all want to be excited about grabbing the media’s consensus top overall prospect in the draft, but every analytical model I’ve seen has Fultz outside of the top 4. That isn’t the problem, however, as Fultz may very well be a star. Rather, moving the future upper-lottery pick to move up two spots to grab what might be a top 2 player at his position in a deep draft was a pure bonehead move. The good news is that both Pasecniks and Bolden could be lottery type of talents if and when they come over to the states and that Evans was a nice value in the second round.
Phoenix Suns (C)
Josh Jackson (4), Davon Reed (32), Alec Peters (54)
I’ll start by saying that Peters in the late second is one of the top values in the draft. The Reed pick, on the other hand, was one of the worst values of the draft. Jackson is an excellent player, although I preferred Isaac at the spot. My issue here is the fact that teams were crawling at the Suns’ feet to trade up to #4 and they resisted huge packages. Had they moved back to #8, they could have picked up Dennis Smith Jr. to replace Bledsoe next year plus added a quality first round pick in the process. That was a big missed opportunity in my eyes.
Portland Trail Blazers (B)
Zach Collins (10), Caleb Swanigan (26)
In a move that made sense for both parties, Portland dealt #15 and #20 to the Kings for the 10th pick to grab Collins. He is a quality scorer and will be a reliable starter in this league, but passing up a Malik Monk at that spot, no matter their needs, was a mistake. Swanigan at 26 was a nice addition as well and fits their needs, but it was maybe a tad high to pick him.
San Antonio Spurs (C+)
Derrick White (29), Jaron Blossomgame (59)
We are talking about Gregg Popovich, so we might as well just give them an A+, but based on everything I know about the players, neither pick was a good value. White is a typical hard-nosed Spurs player, but doesn’t seem to have the athleticism to ever be more than a role player in the NBA.
Utah Jazz (A-)
Donovan Mitchell (13), Tony Bradley (28), Nigel Williams-Goss (minus Tyler Lydon)
You’ve got to hand it to them, they did an excellent job with their trades to acquire the pieces they loved at the right spots in the draft. They didn’t get any tremendous value, but Bradley has the kind of upside that in a few years could make him a top 5 pick in this draft.
Thanks for reading! Make sure to let me know on Twitter what you think about your team’s grade.