Coach: Reviewing The Draft
Each week, HOOPSWORLD NBA analyst and coach Anthony Macri opens his notebook and offers an assortment of observations on games, players, and teams from throughout the league. Coach Macri serves as a player development consultant for the Pro Training Center and Coach David Thorpe, working with a variety of NBA players on their skills and game understanding. The Coach’s Notebook appears on HOOPSWORLD every Thursday.
The 2011 NBA Draft, for as weak as it seemed, actually produced a fair number of pleased franchises. The movement was fast and furious, and at first glance there are a few teams that should be happier than most. For the Coach’s Notebook this week, we’ll assess how a few teams did on Draft Day based on the Homer Simpson scale: “Woohoo!” means they should be pleased with how Draft Day went, “Meh…” indicates a certain ambivalence, and “D’oh!” explains itself.
Charlotte Bobcats: The Bobcats managed to select both the biggest mystery of the draft in Bismack Biyombo and the most reliable leader in Kemba Walker. Biyombo was a great risk pick because if things work out, he could be a total star, and if they don’t, everyone knows it was a risk to begin with. Kemba will do exactly what is asked of him and can play immediately.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving was the easy pick at #1 – he gives them both production value and asset value, and was the best player in this draft by a comfortable margin. Selecting Tristan Thompson fourth was the first “wow” moment of the draft, and it set up a lot of what happened later. A great asset value selection, Thompson gives them a lot of flexibility to make future moves (they could now look to move J.J. Hickson, or decide to move Thompson to an interested suitor). This was about as good a night as Cleveland could manufacture.
Dallas Mavericks: How could a team that will retain the rights to no players in this draft class be a Draft Day winner? They managed to acquire Rudy Fernandez in a deal for the 26th pick (Jordan Hamilton). Fernandez is a solid guard who can play both backcourt positions, gives them a lot of options, and gives them great depth – especially considering both Deshawn Stevenson and Caron Butler could leave in free agency. A winner move all around.
Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets got better with Kenneth Faried, as he can impact their performance immediately. As long as expectations are set appropriately, he will be loved in Denver and give them extra possessions through defense and rebounding. That is a great fit for the way they play. The Andre Miller acquisition is not quite as sexy, but his stability is good, and he is a good change-of-pace from Ty Lawson. They also managed to acquire Dallas’ #26 pick, Jordan Hamilton, who is a versatile and long shooter – seems like he was a pick to give them asset flexibility since they have a number of guys that do what he does.
Minnesota Timberwolves: The busiest team on draft night found themselves doing mostly the right things. Selecting Derrick Williams was a no-brainer, as he was the second-best player in this draft. Either moving him or moving Beasley and/or Love seems likely, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. They also acquired Brad Miller but more importantly dumped Jonny Flynn, who would not have fit with Rubio and company. Malcolm Lee gives them a good backcourt defender who can compete for guard minutes and they grabbed Qatar product Tanguy Ngombo, a definite stash selection who has long-term potential.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Oklahoma City got a very good and undervalued player in Reggie Jackson who they can turn around and make a tradable asset or they can use as leverage to move Eric Maynor. Given it was their only selection, it was a very good use of what they had.
San Antonio Spurs: Is there any surprise that the Spurs are yet again draft winners? It’s like everyone else plays checkers, and they are playing chess every single year. They got younger, better defensively, and more athletic at the wing with Kawhi Leonard in exchange for George Hill, then used their late first round selection to choose a guy who could be a successor to Hill in Cory Joseph. With their other two picks, San Antonio flexed their international scouting muscle and selected two guys who could be excellent in 2-4 years – when they are finally able to come over: Davis Bertans and Adam Hanga. A great draft by every measure.
Washington Wizards: We saved the best for last. The Wizards got the guy they targeted at #6 in Jan Vesely, who will run the floor well and be very good above the rim if Washington commits to racing the floor systematically. They then proceeded to get incredibly fortunate and have Chris Singleton fall to them at #18. If they elect to keep all their frontcourt pieces, Singleton is their best frontcourt defender right now. However, I would expect they can now move both/either Andray Blatche and/or JaVale McGee, so roster flexibility was a real key. Finally, they found another undervalued player early in the second round in Shelvin Mack – a solid change-of-pace guard from John Wall and a winner through and through.
Milwaukee Bucks: My mentor and boss David Thorpe believes their #19 selection, Tobias Harris, is the sleeper of the draft. I have a built-in question-mark around guys coming out of Tennessee, but if he works out, this could be a good selection. The second-round selection of Jon Leuer makes sense – he is a guy who will have a long and productive NBA career because he will exceed most projections but expectations will never be too high.
Portland Trail Blazers: There was some surprise seeing Nolan Smith selected this high, and that surprise was compounded as we learned Portland had moved Andre Miller in favor of Raymond Felton, and moved Rudy Fernandez as part of the three team swap. Their new backcourt pieces don’t necessarily fit with their established grind-it-out style, which could be a breath of fresh air – but it’s hard to tell exactly what the goal was with these moves.
Sacramento Kings: Jimmer Fredette will be a fan favorite in Sacramento, where he’ll have to learn to play in curves a little more but should fit into a ball screen heavy offense. He is also a good shooter should Tyreke Evans learn to pass after penetration. Both Tyler Honeycutt and Isaiah Thomas are good second-round value picks who could make a roster. There are a lot of developmental “ifs” to their selections, which is why they merit their “meh” ranking.
Toronto Raptors: The collective groan from fans in Toronto should be tempered – Jonas Valanciunas is a great pick. Since he was the only acquisition on draft day, and he won’t be around for at least a year, it’s hard to move Toronto into the winners category. However, perhaps more important than having his talent is using him as an asset that makes moving Andrea Bargnani a more attractive option. One of the two will move this season.
Utah Jazz: The Jazz ignored need and went for the best player available, and this was smart. While the effects of this draft won’t likely be seen in the next year or two, selecting Enes Kanter could prove super-smart down the line. He seems to have a plan on the floor and assesses situations well, which is a huge part of post play at the pro level. They did get Alec Burks at #12, which again was a smart selection as he could turn into a lot more than meets the eye right now.
Detroit Pistons: While I don’t think I have hidden my distrust of Brandon Knight as a prospect, I have maintained that in the right situation things could work out. If he could learn under the right guy for a year or two, he could develop into a top tier starting guard. In Detroit, he will either learn under the wrong guy (Rodney Stuckey), or they will move Stuckey and Knight will be forced to figure it out on his own. Kyle Singler and Vernon Macklin are both tough “company” guys who could make the roster and give depth.
Golden State Warriors: If the Warriors plan to keep Monta Ellis, as they have maintained, then the selection of Klay Thompson makes very little sense as either production value or asset value. This could move into “Meh…” or even “Woohoo!” territory if their intentions were clearer. Jeremy Tyler is selection based on how good he was a few years ago, and if he recaptures that, good for the Warriors, but there is not a lot of risk here. Charles Jenkins in some ways was their best pick – he will end up having a long and productive NBA career.
Houston Rockets: It feels a little bizarre putting Houston in the “D’oh!” category, and I like Marcus Morris more than some, but why they decided to pick up Jonny Flynn in the trade with Minnesota really is a head-scratcher. Flynn is not terribly different in style from Aaron Brooks, and it seems unlikely he’ll make them terribly better than they were this year. Getting Chandler Parsons in the second round is actually a solid pickup if he can get a little tougher. If we look at Draft Day in isolation, this all adds up to a big miss for Houston. However, it is hard to imagine they are done with their movement, and I’d expect a lot more to come. That could quickly change the valuation of their day.
Orlando Magic: Not sure about the acquisition of #32 pick Justin Harper, who seems a little soft (though he can shoot it and stretch the floor). He may remind some in Orlando of Rashard Lewis, though it seems a stretch to think Harper could ever be that good, and there is a question about whether he just duplicates what Ryan Anderson basically already brings. DeAndre Liggins is a raw defender type – not sure he will make the roster in the end.
Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers went for solid when they probably should have gone for wow, even if they missed. Nikola Vucevic is a big banger, and a toughness upgrade over Spencer Hawes (should they elect to keep Hawes). But he doesn’t make their frontcourt any more athletic, which should have been a priority over size for size’s sake. Allen is a nice hometown selection out of Temple, but again, he is not going to wow anyone.
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