2014 NBA draft: Breaking down the winners and losers of this year's draft
In its initial aftermath, the 2014 NBA draft looks long on logical moves and short on groan-inducing surprises, while also being totally devoid of any blockbuster trades. Whether because the first-round picks were consolidated among a smaller number of teams or because this class seemed to break down into fairly clear tiers near the top, the entire lottery went without any shocking moves.
Orlando's decision to take Arizona forward Aaron Gordon at No. 4 when both Dante Exum and Marcus Smart were still available was the first eyebrow-inducing move, but this was a mild shake on the Richter scale compared to last year's "Anthony Bennett goes No. 1" earthquake. Even Duke's Rodney Hood, who slid from a possible lottery projection to the Jazz at No. 23, shouldn't go home devastated, as he'll have a chance to compete for big minutes on a rebuilding team from day one, while playing for another former Blue Devil in coach Quin Snyder.
Even if one of the most-hyped classes in years went through a fairly tame draft on Thursday night, there were still some highs and lows. Without further ado, let's run down the winners and losers of the 2014 NBA draft.
Winner: Canada Basketball
All hail our northern overlords. For the second year in a row, a Canadian was selected with the No. 1 overall pick. Andrew Wiggins followed in Bennett's footsteps, and he did so with a wide smile. Donning an outrageous jacket -- see below -- and a look of major relief, Wiggins finally arrived at the end of his years-long draft journey, delivering on the hype that has followed him since he was in middle school. In interviews over the years, Wiggins has always made it clear that he enjoys representing Canada while playing against the best the United States has to offer; on Thursday, he came out on top.
Canada becomes the first country besides the USA to produce two consecutive No. 1 picks, and it's done it despite having a population that is smaller than California's and roughly 11 percent of the United States'. That certainly qualifies as a hotbed. What's more, two others Canadians -- Nik Stauskas (No. 8 to the Kings) and Tyler Ennis (No. 18 to the Suns) -- were selected in the first round.
Canada Basketball was SI.com's top draft winner last year and they're now back-to-back champions. The next step? Riding this wave of prospects to major success in international tournaments. As much fun as the "Wiggins vs. Jabari Parker" pre-draft debate was, imagine how great it will be to see the two go head-to-head in a border war during the Olympics.
Winner: Kansas Basketball
It's not often that an NCAA basketball coach has a better draft night than Kentucky's John Calipari, but Kansas' Bill Self fits that bill this year. Wiggins was joined near the top of the draft order by fellow Jayhawk Joel Embiid, who went No. 3 to the Sixers. For Self, this must have been a night of both pride and relief: Wiggins managed to survive all the questions that popped up during his one-and-done season in Lawrence, and Embiid's foot surgery didn't drastically kill his stock as some feared. Kansas' quick run in the 2014 tournament might go down as a disappointment, but the program enjoyed all of the spotlight at the Barclays Center on Thursday.
Winners: Cavaliers, Bucks, Sixers
At the risk of being annoyingly positive, it's really quite hard to find fault with the picks made by any of the three teams at the top. Given yet another shot at the first pick, Cleveland did well to avoid over-thinking things, tabbing Wiggins to fill its major hole on the perimeter. He is the total package -- physical gifts, upside, love for the game, solid character, no injury risks -- and he's ready to help right now. Let the excited countdown to Summer League begin.
Milwaukee and Parker had been flirting pretty heavily for weeks, and the player/need fit there might be even better than in Cleveland. The Bucks are desperate for points, hope and a positive personality to rally around and Parker promises to bring all three. It's a nice feeling for the fanbase of a rebuilding team to know that the worst is officially behind them; Milwaukee's fans can say that with confidence now that Parker is aboard.
After suffering through a 26-game losing streak, Philadelphia needed something to show for its tanking-induced pain. GM Sam Hinkie found that in Embiid, a true center he can credibly sell to his necessarily patient fans as the player with the most potential in the entire draft. The Sixers are guilty of all sorts of unusual behavior, but one thing they haven't done is make false promises to their fans. The team's realistic, calculated approach to roster-building continued with the selection of Embiid, even if it will be months before he's back on the court after foot surgery.
Losers: Magic, Lakers
The two teams in the top half of the lottery that I thought most needed a point guard to provide a direction for the next three-to-five years (or more) were the Magic and Lakers. In Orlando's case, it passed on both Exum and Smart, while L.A. didn't get a crack at either guy once it was their turn to select at No. 7.
That said, I think both teams salvaged things fairly well. The Magic and Lakers were both able to draft one-and-done power forwards -- Gordon and Julius Randle, respectively -- with star potential. It worries me a bit that neither Gordon nor Randle has the shooting range that has become so common for elite power forwards in recent years, but both have plenty of time to fill out their games. Orlando also managed to pick up Elfrid Payton, the third-best point guard in the class, by swinging a deal with Philadelphia to move up to No. 10. It therefore left the lottery with a big-time athlete and a top prospect at their biggest position of need. That's not too bad.
As for the Lakers, it might be better that they aren't throwing a highly-touted rookie to the wolves by playing him alongside Kobe Bryant. L.A. also had a back-up plan: Buying a second-round pick from the Wizards to acquire Missouri point guard Jordan Clarkson, thereby adding depth at the position, even if they missed out on the big-time difference-makers.
Both franchises are dead in the water until they get quality players at the point guard position. Missing out on Exum and Smart puts the pressure on Payton to deliver in Orlando, and it leaves Lakers management looking to address the position in a fairly thin free agency class. I don't hate what either team did on Thursday, but I do worry that the way things unfolded will leave both open to second-guessing in the future.
There was a memorable sequence during Thursday's proceedings in which Sixers guard Michael Carter-Williams, the reigning Rookie of the Year, admitted on live TV that he wasn't sure if he was being traded after the Sixers took Payton at No. 10. Of course, that possible point guard log jam was unjammed minutes later when Payton was sent to the Magic, and Carter-Williams had nothing to worry about.
The same can't be said for Jazz guard Trey Burke and Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, who watched as their organizations grabbed Exum and Smart, respectively. How should Burke and Rondo process the arrivals of ball-dominant lead guards?
In Utah, the Burke/Exum pairing should get a chance to play itself out. The two players possess distinctly different body types, and it's probably best if Exum is eased into his ball-handling responsibilities. At some point down the line, though, one wonders whether push will come to shove and the Jazz will have to pick between the two players.
In Boston, Rondo must be wondering (hoping?) whether president Danny Ainge just drafted his replacement. The Celtics are entering their second rebuilding summer and have offered Rondo precious little to work with. In the short term, it's possible that Smart could be used off the ball as a scoring guard alongside Rondo the distributor, but he'll be ready for more than that at some point soon. The best course of action might just be to move out Rondo as quickly as possible, unleashing Smart and freeing him from any awkwardness out of the gate.
Winners: Bulls, Nuggets
Denver sent the No. 11 pick to Chicago for the No. 16 and No. 19 picks in what came off as a clean win/win.
The Bulls were able to climb up and grab a top tier shooter in Creighton's Doug McDermott, a perfect positional fit whose scoring abilities are badly needed in the Windy City, where the punch has been nonexistent during Derrick Rose's absence.
Meanwhile, dropping down in the draft didn't prevent the Nuggets from landing Michigan State's Gary Harris, a player many had pegged going in the lottery. Harris fills a position of need for Denver and he will get the chance to ease into NBA life after the Nuggets previously traded for Magic veteran guard Arron Afflalo. At 16, Denver took a bit of a flier on monster Bosnian center Jusuf Nurkic. Why not? It was practically a free pick. After a rocky run last summer, GM Tim Connelly looks to have started things off in promising fashion this time around.
Losers: Timberwolves, Zach LaVine
One of the most awkward moments of the first round came when UCLA freshman guard Zach LaVine was selected by the Timberwolves at No. 13. LaVine's stock had been all over the map in the months leading up to the draft; there was no guarantee that he would be a lottery pick, and he just about maxed out his pre-draft projections by going to Minnesota. His immediate reaction, though, saw him place his head on the table before getting up with a look of blank-faced shock that may or may not have been followed by a profanity.
Afterwards, he said all the right things about Minnesota as a destination, and it would be going too far to come down hard on a 19-year-old who looked a bit overwhelmed by what was obviously a life-changing moment. Nevertheless, Minnesota really could have used a wide smile and a galloping run up the stage from its first pick, what with 10 years of lottery trips and weeks worth of Kevin Love trade rumors hanging over the franchise.
Winner: Heat president Pat Riley
LeBron James likes Shabazz Napier? Riley delivers Shabazz Napier. Miami's real work will be done in July, but hand-delivering James' favorite point guard to him looked an awful lot like an early Christmas present and a symbolic sign that Riley plans to deliver on his promise to "retool" the Heat.
Loser: Heat guard Mario Chalmers
Did anyone have a worse night than Chalmers? Finally, folks had stopped talking about how poorly Chalmers played during the Finals against the Spurs and then the Heat trade up to draft a player at his position. If that wasn't bad enough for Chalmers, who is set to become a free agent on July 1, there was James gushing on Twitter about Napier again. Maybe this story somehow winds up having a happy ending for Chalmers, who played big roles on both of Miami's title teams, but Thursday felt an awful lot like the writing was on starting to appear on the wall for him.
Winner: Bruno Caboclo
It's no easy task, in this age of information saturation, to become a first-round draft pick with barely anyone knowing who the hell you are. That was the case for Caboclo, an 18-year-old, 6-foot-9 Brazilian forward who some projected to go undrafted. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri took Caboclo at No. 20 and informed reporters afterwards that his heretofore unknown find would play for Toronto during Las Vegas Summer League. As if we needed another reason to get excited for Summer League.
Losers: Casual Sixers fans
If Caboclo's NBA journey is unfolding much more quickly than most expected, the opposite can be said for the Sixers, who used two lottery picks on players who could have a limited impact next season. In addition to taking Embiid at No. 3, even though it's not clear when he'll be able to play in an NBA game due to his foot injury, Philadelphia grabbed Croatian forward Dario Saric in its trade with Orlando for Payton. Saric is a real talent, but one that's made it clear he plans to spend the next two seasons playing abroad. You've heard teams talking about "Winning now" mode; the Sixers embody "Winning later" unlike any other team in recent memory.
Any casual Philadelphia fans who weren't already turned off by the Sixers' tankfest last year will run for the fences after witnessing such a severe delayed gratification approach. I suspect the diehard, "We believe in Hinkie" crowd won't might their departure. Anything good is worth waiting for and Philadelphia has compiled some compelling pieces, even if it could mean another sub-20 win season next year.
Winner: Expanded Green Room list
This one is for the real draft dorks. The 2014 draft saw an expanded Green Room invite list that included 20 players. I wasn't sure how that would work and I worried that it might cheapen the experience. Instead, I think the longer invite list made it less awkward for the last players taken. For example, both Hood and Napier lasted into the early-to-mid 20s. If they had been the last guys standing in a 12-man group, that would have been much more noticeable. Instead, even though this was totally a matter of perception, it barely felt like they had slipped. Plus, having the extra guys there meant there were that many more smiles alongside new commissioner Adam Silver. I see no good reason for the Green Room list to get cut back to a shorter length going forward. Twenty seems like a good, and manageable, number.
Winners: Adam Silver and Isaiah Austin
The most emotional and memorable moment of the night came when NBA commissioner Adam Silver "drafted" Baylor center Isaiah Austin, who had recently been diagnosed with a career-ending genetic disorder. Austin took the stage wearing the NBA logo on his hat and wiping tears from his eyes in a scene that will be replayed for years to come. Silver has dealt with a lot in recent months, and he showed with this gesture that the distractions he's faced haven't taken his eye off the ball.
The gesture, which occurred without any pre-draft hype, drew praise from Thunder star Kevin Durant, among others.
"Adam Silver is such a classy man! That's love right there," Durant wrote on Twitter. "I'm emotional for him. Damn, I love that."
After trading rim-protecting big man Omer Asik to the Pelicans for a first-round pick, Rockets GM Daryl Morey did well to grab the long-armed Clint Capela at No. 25. Capela might be a project, but he has the wingspan and physical tools to develop into a shot-blocking force in a few years.
If anyone knows how to find the right method for unlocking Kyle "Slow Mo" Anderson's many gifts and covering for his limitations, it's Gregg Popovich. This instantly felt like one of those picks that we'll look back on saying: "How did they possibly get him at 30?"
Loser: James McAdoo
There's no sense in dumping too much salt on the wounds of the undrafted, but McAdoo does stand out from the pack a little bit, if only because he entered UNC as one of the top high school prospects in the country before free-falling over the last two years. In 2011, he looked like a surefire future lottery pick, and he was even willing to publicly state that his goal was to average 20 points and 10 rebounds as a freshman. Three years later, he will be fighting for a training camp invite or heading overseas. Other notable undrafted players included Khem Birch, C.J. Fair and Patric Young.
Winner: Andrew Wiggins' jacket
For a guy who drew an awful lot of questions about whether he had a superstar's mentality and assertiveness, Wiggins sure dressed the part with an eye-catching patterned suit.
Winners: Custom draft jackets
Speaking of suits, customized interior jacket designs were the go-to move this year. Below, Exum (left) and Smart (right) represent for Australia and Texas, respectively.
Winner: Adreian Payne's tie
Michigan State's Payne probably deserves the "Best Dressed" award given his bow tie, jacket, loud pants and the awesome new "Pac Man" logo Hawks hat to top it all off.