The Hawks can fall back on the disclaimer that second-round picks don't typically pan out, but this one seemed odd. Keith Benson (No. 48) is a ways from filling out his frame (6-foot-11, 230 pounds), but he's full of potential when it comes to becoming a player with serious NBA size. And clearly they had laser focus when it came to getting a big man, which is pretty odd for a team that's not lacking in that very category. I'd be surprised if he sticks on the roster.
The only time there's a downside of success is on draft day, when it's so much tougher for elite teams to find a way to grab players who could actually help. But Purdue's JaJuan Johnson (No. 27 via New Jersey) might actually be able to do that, and the experience that comes with being a four-year player whose game was on the rise every year comes in handy.
As for Johnson's college teammate E'Twaun Moore (No. 55), he has a track record of winning (a state title in high school, two Sweet 16 appearances with the Boilermakers) that will -- if nothing else -- mesh with the Celtics' culture. If he can beat the odds and actually contribute one day, that's all the better.
The Bobcats' part in a three-way trade with Milwaukee and Sacramento was a gamble in this sense: They shook up their roster based largely on the potential of players who headlined one of the weakest drafts in quite some time. Kemba Walker might very well prove me wrong, but -- impressive résumé and all -- he's no lock to be an impact player. Bismack Biyombo isn't either, even if his skill set of defending, blocking shots and rebounding is exactly what the Bobcats needed. They essentially swapped Stephen Jackson for Corey Maggette in the deal, a move that Golden State officials might deem the lesser of two evils. And from a draft perspective only, I'm not so sure No. 7 and No. 9 will ultimately pay more dividends than the No. 9 and No. 19 they started with. Still, there is a ton of potential there in Walker and Biyombo and a chance they got it right.
As was the case with the Celtics, the high grade is rooted in the reality that elite teams have very little chance of getting an impact player. The Bulls did that in landing Nikola Mirotic (No. 23 via Houston), who some view as a future All-Star. The huge caveat is the fact that he won't be over here for at least three years because of his $2-million-plus buyout clause with Real Madrid, but no one else Chicago could have landed at No. 28 comes close in terms of talent.
Jimmy Butler (No. 30) is a solid pick and a nice story to share with the fan base, as he has seen his dreams realized after years spent virtually homeless in Tomball, Texas.
It's tough to blame the Cavs for not landing more star-caliber talent in a draft that was historically low on it, but they still fell short. Kyrie Irving was the safe pick at No. 1, but taking dynamic forward Derrick Williams might have been the better play. Add in the facts that Cleveland has a glaring need at the position and a fan base that needs its own young star to help them forget about LeBron James, and it seems all the more likely that we might look at this pick sideways down the road. What's more, we now know that the Cavs could have had Kentucky's Brandon Knight to fill the point guard need with a high-level player there. Only time will tell if they missed out on a star in Jonas Valanciunas as well. They were expected to take the Lithuanian center but concerns over his contract and when he will actually play in the NBA scared them off.
The biggest myth out there about the draft is that these young prospects will come in and actually make a difference. Just ask the Clippers and Wizards, whose rookies (Blake Griffin and John Wall) enjoyed serious individual success while their respective woeful teams were essentially status quo record-wise. In that vein, the Mavericks' ability to turn their No. 26 pick in a weak draft into a shooting guard in Rudy Fernandez -- who will be a fantastic fit -- is nothing short of phenomenal.
The Nuggets had a need for another rugged rebounder and defender, and they filled it with Morehead State's Kenneth Faried (No. 22). He is expected to be a longtime pro who cleans the glass in ways that few guys can, but his ceiling doesn't go far beyond that. They weren't alone in their interest here, as Portland was also very high on Faried at No. 21 but opted for Duke guard Nolan Smith.
Small forward Jordan Hamilton (No. 26 via Dallas), meanwhile, is a case of prioritizing the talent and acquiring a decent asset. He doesn't fit with the Nuggets' roster that is heavy at the position, but could be traded into something that does if need be.
The Pistons wanted to go big and add a player like Biyombo who could help them defensively and bring added toughness. But they shifted gears when Knight was still available, and now they have a more balanced backcourt because of it. Rodney Stuckey is a shooting guard who was stuck in a point guard's role, so adding Knight could elevate his game as well by allowing him to play off the ball.
Kyle Singler (No. 33) is a solid pick in the second round, too. While Oklahoma City ultimately filled its need for a post-Eric Maynor backup point guard by selecting Reggie Jackson at No. 24, the Thunder were believed to be very high on Singler. And in an era where they are setting the gold standard for drafts, that says something.
Golden State Warriors
Luck came into play here for the Warriors, who somehow avoided all the chaos around them and managed to grab the player they coveted all along. They saw Klay Thompson (No. 11) as a significantly better player than Colorado shooting guard Alec Burks, and GM Larry Riley rated Thompson as the second-best shooter in the draft behind BYU's Jimmer Fredette. And with the rumblings growing louder once again that veteran shooting guard Monta Ellis may be on the move, Thompson's role could increase sooner rather than later.
Golden State had a fantastic second round, taking on a project player in Jeremy Tyler (No. 39 via Charlotte), whose size alone justifies the pick and whose upside is significant. Charles Jenkins (No. 44) is a potent player as well.
This might ultimately turn out to be the right play, but it's curious at the moment. San Diego State small forward Kawhi Leonard had fallen like a rock that Houston might regret not picking up. The Rockets lost a versatile perimeter defender and occasional scorer (Shane Battier) in a midseason trade and could have used Leonard's skill-set, but instead opted for more frontcourt versatility in Marcus Morris (No. 14).
Donatas Motiejunas (No. 20 via Minnesota) is an intriguing and potentially fantastic pick, with the sort of offensive creativity and versatility this draft was sorely lacking. If the red flags about his motor and attitude wind up being wrong, he could be a steal. Chandler Parsons (No. 38) had some front-office fans in this draft and could pay off as well.
As was the case with the Mavericks, the Pacers somehow leveraged a pick in a weak draft into a legitimate player. The trade for George Hill is a perfect fit, not only because of his Indiana roots but also because he is a tough, talented, two-way player on a team that is building such an identity. The Spurs clearly realized that unloading Richard Jefferson's contract was nearly impossible, meaning Leonard will have time to grow into the small forward position there. But the Pacers were looking for serious upgrades now and found it in Hill.
Los Angeles Clippers
Losing the No. 1 pick was just dumb luck for the Clips, but it wasn't dumb. The trade that sent Baron Davis and their first-round pick to the Cavs in exchange for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon was a success at the time. Davis' contract was an albatross which was threatening GM Neil Olshey's ability to retain the likes of DeAndre Jordan and Eric Gordon. Irving is certainly projected to be a better pro than Williams, but the bouncing of the lottery balls is the only thing to blame.
As for their second-round picks, Trey Thompkins (No. 37) could be solid if he finds another gear in terms of energy, while Travis Leslie (No. 47) is a freak athlete who can have dunk contests with Griffin.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers appear to have been stuck in just the sort of pickle the Celtics and Bulls might have avoided -- that of a top team without much chance of improving through the draft. That being said, Darius Morris (No. 41) might eventually turn into a reliable point guard. The undersized Andrew Goudelock (No. 46) is an intriguing shooter, and I'll just go ahead and admit that I had never even heard of Ater Majok (No. 58).
The only way this pick isn't worth it is if Kansas guard Josh Selby (No. 49) picks a fight with Tony Allen, but I'm pretty sure O.J. Mayo provided the necessary cautionary tale there. He is a massively talented, athletic and exciting player who was billed as a top prospect in the country coming out of high school. His one season at Kansas was a disaster, with injuries and suspensions to blame.
It was no secret that the Heat were looking for point guard help at No. 31, and it seemed for a while as if Boston College's Reggie Jackson was their man. But they traded with Chicago to get Norris Cole and might have found themselves a sleeper. Cole improved drastically between his sophomore and senior seasons at Cleveland State, not only with his scoring but his playmaking ability.
In a draft with so much uncertainty, Tobias Harris (No. 19 via Charlotte) was seen as one of the few "safe" picks. He's well-rounded as a scorer and passer and can play multiple positions, and should be given time to grow with the veteran-heavy Bucks. Jon Leuer's (No. 40) shooting might come in handy, and he'll be a fan favorite considering the Wisconsin connection. The Bucks had moved back from No. 10 to No. 19 in the first round by way of their three-team trade.
Williams could wind up being the best player in this draft, and the Timberwolves simply couldn't pass him up even with the roster concerns. Yes, his game draws parallels to incumbent forward Michael Beasley, but he played well enough last season that he could bring back decent value if they decide to move him now. Derrick Williams was the No. 2 pick, and much-maligned GM David Kahn got it right.
The Wolves might wind up looking good for their second-round selections, too. Malcolm Lee (No. 43 via Chicago) was seriously considered by some teams in the late first round.
New Jersey Nets
Marshon Brooks (No. 25 via Boston) is a big-time scorer who wowed some teams during his workouts, and that's a welcomed skill-set for a team that is starting Sasha Vujacic at the "2" spot. Bojan Bogdanovic (No. 31 via Miami) is a smart investment, a stocky, 6-foot-7 swingman who is one of the best scorers in Europe. He isn't expected to come to the NBA for a couple of years because of his overseas contract, but the Nets will look smart if he produces over here like has over there. Jordan Williams (No. 36) is an undersized big man and must always battle to keep his weight, but he produced at a very high level at Maryland.
New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets traded their first-round pick to Portland in a deal for Jerryd Bayless in October and later traded him to Toronto for Jarrett Jack. The pick was eventually used by Milwaukee to land Tobias Harris. New Orleans also sold its second-round pick (No. 45) to the Knicks, who used it to select Kentucky center Josh Harrellson.
New York Knicks
The decision to pass on Florida State forward Chris Singleton is where the scrutiny comes in, as he was considered the best defender in the draft and everyone knows the Knicks need defenders. Iman Shumpert (No. 17) might wind up quieting the critics, or at least putting a small smile on the face of Spike Lee, who looked so unenthused immediately after the decision. It's worth noting that Shumpert was believed to have received some consideration as high as No. 13 (Phoenix). He can defend and score for a team that does need to get younger at the point guard position. What's more, there were indications that Singleton's personality might not be a good fit in the star-filled Knicks locker room.
Oklahoma City Thunder
GM Sam Presti does as good a job as anyone of thinking two steps ahead, and that's what we saw with the Thunder's first-round pick. With a big payday around the bend for Russell Westbrook, it's looking likely that incumbent backup point guard Eric Maynor will be tough to hold onto once his rookie-scale contract expires in 2013. Enter BC's Jackson (No. 24), who was intriguing enough that Miami was trying hard to land him to compete with Mario Chalmers. Rival teams thought the Thunder had issued a promise to Jackson, and it appears they may have been right.
Justin Harper (No. 32 via Cleveland) is a solid pick for a second-rounder. He received some first-round consideration in large part because of his ability to stretch the floor. The Magic lost a big man who could do that when they traded Rashard Lewis to Washington, and Hedo Turkoglu just hasn't been knocking them down like he did in his earlier years. Harper shot 44.8 percent from beyond the arc last season at Richmond, and Orlando would be just fine if he comes anywhere near that number in the pros. DeAndre Liggins (No. 53) is a good defender, and those are always valuable in this league.
Nikola Vucevic (No. 16) had a chance to go as high as No. 14 to Houston, primarily because he was one of the biggest players in the draft at 6-10. But he had impressed in workouts, too, with teams as high as Sacramento (No. 7 at the time) not necessarily considering him for their pick but allowing him into the periphery of the conversation. The Sixers badly need bigs and are trying to speed up their rebuilding process.
The Suns were focused on adding some muscle to their frontcourt, with the thinking that Channing Frye would be better served eventually coming off the bench. And while Markieff Morris (No. 13) wasn't expected to be taken before his twin brother, Marcus (who would go a pick later, to Houston), I'm fine with any team taking a deliberate approach to a draft and being able to execute its plan.
Portland Trail Blazers
Chemistry, fit, character -- all those things matter, but talent still plays a large part. That's why Duke's Smith as the No. 21 pick surprised me so much; he is on the low end of the talent category when compared to his contemporaries. This was a draft where there were a number of point guards late who came with some risk and the chance for high reward. What's more, I'm curious to see if the Blazers wind up regretting passing on Faried, a rebounding machine whom they were believed to be very high on. Jon Diebler is a solid second-round pick (No. 51) whose shooting might come in handy.
It wasn't clear at the time, but the Kings considered Fredette and Connecticut's Walker more NBA-ready than Kentucky's Knight and likely would have passed on Knight at No. 10 even if he was there. The Fredette-Walker race was a very close one, and the marketing dollars and fan interest Fredette can bring certainly didn't hurt with his case. The Kings, to review, are likely to leave Sacramento after next season unless city officials and the Maloof family that owns the team can get an arena deal in place.
As for the three-team trade that took them from No. 7 to No. 10, point guard minutes were immediately made available when Beno Udrih was sent to Milwaukee. John Salmons, who played mostly small forward during his previous stint with the Kings, is back from the Bucks and will play that role again.
San Antonio Spurs
The grade would be even higher if not for the price they paid for No. 15 Leonard, as George Hill was still respected enough by the Spurs that they felt comfortable discussing trades for Tony Parker that would have led to Hill's taking over the team. But Leonard is a great fit here, with his defense-first mentality and a decent offensive game that has plenty of room for growth. Taking Cory Joseph at No. 29 is just another reflection of how point guard-heavy this draft was on the back end, and the Spurs grabbed their cup of tea there. Davis Bertans (No. 42 via Indiana) is yet another long-term investment that could make them look like geniuses down the road. He won't play in the league for a few years but is heralded overseas.
It will be interesting to see who was right when it came to the Raptors and the Cavs over Valanciunas, the Lithuanian center who so many executives believe has serious potential to be a high-level NBA player. Cleveland was scared off by his contract with his club team Lietuvos Rytas and took Tristan Thompson because he could contribute immediately. The Raptors, who were eyeing Congolese defender Biyombo at the No. 5 spot, were clearly less concerned.
If I'm handicapping it, I say Toronto winds up looking smart here because of the labor situation. It sounds as if Valanciunas could be headed Stateside as early as next January, and that might very well coincide with the start of the season.
GM Kevin O'Connor has been watching a bruising brand of basketball for quite some time now, so it should have surprised no one that he considered Enes Kanter (No. 3) his darling of the draft. Picking Knight would have been a byproduct of the point guard situation as it currently stands, as the Jazz continue to tell teams that they're less than enthused about Devin Harris. Then they get a potent player in Colorado's Burks (No. 12), a slasher with serious scoring chops who might be able to contribute right away.
As I mentioned earlier, Wall can't do it alone. The Wizards won the same amount of games without him in the 2009-10 campaign as they did with him last season (23), but now comes the fun part. In grabbing the athletic, exciting small forward in Jan Vesely (No. 6), they now have a get-up-and-go talent to run the break with their franchise centerpiece. Vesely has been the apple of the Wizards' eye for quite some time and that's precisely why. In Singleton (No. 18), they get a lockdown defender player who claims he can guard all five positions. Shelvin Mack (No. 34) is a nice pickup at the point. Washington's only backup for Wall before the draft was journeyman Mustafa Shakur.
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