Analyzing each team's draft moves

Friday June 26th, 2009
2009 NBA Draft Grades
The Timberwolves ran out of point guards to pick, so the draft ended. Now for the reviews. It's grading on a curve, too, based on the value of the pick and how the selections address team needs, not strictly the ability of the player to last in the league and his predicted level of impact. It's how a team like San Antonio can get a good mark without a first-round choice. That, and they're the Spurs.
B Atlanta Hawks
Maybe the Hawks were sending the message that they don't expect to keep free agent Mike Bibby, or that they don't want to. But in the same week they acquired combo guard Jamal Crawford in a trade, they drafted point guard Jeff Teague. No. 19 was the territory most projected Teague would go, so the price tag was right. Atlanta had a much greater need for size in general and rebounding in particular, except that the late teens was the wrong place to be looking for muscle. The only big players to go the rest of the first round were center B.J. Mullens, who a lot of teams would have passed on, and Taj Gibson, a thin power forward. While the Hawks did not solve the biggest problem, it's tough to knock their decision too much when the alternative would have been a risk or a reach. Second-round pick Sergiy Gladyr, a guard from the Ukraine, is likely to stay overseas.
Inc Boston Celtics
Their one and only pick was No. 58, so no grade. Lester Hudson's making the team would be an accomplishment and making any real impact beyond that would be found money. Boston's first-round selection went to Minnesota as part of the Kevin Garnett trade.
B- Charlotte Bobcats
Tar Heels Michael Jordan and Larry Brown picked a Dookie, Gerald Henderson, at No. 12, so you know they really, really like the guy. The Bobcats needed scoring, though, and that's not Henderson. For now, he's behind Raja Bell at shooting guard, with a good chance to take over some day. Derrick Brown is a nice pickup at 40 after being considered a possibility for late in the first round. The Xavier small forward has size and an offensive game with a quick first step to help him get to the rim and an improving three-point shot.
B Chicago Bulls
Still no inside threat for the offense, the need for years, but there also weren't any realistic candidates at No. 16. The pick there, James Johnson, is a combo forward with strength and agility. Johnson needs to get in better shape than he showed in predraft workouts, but he can handle the ball and fits nicely with a team that has reason to be optimistic about the future. Taj Gibson, the 26th pick, is a shot-blocking power forward who won't outmuscle anyone and probably won't have much of any role.
C Cleveland Cavaliers
Among Christian Eyenga (No. 30), Danny Green (46) and Emir Preldzic (57), Green is probably the only one with a chance to see opening night, and he would likely have a small role if he does make the team. Players picked in the second half of the second round don't normally have a presence for contenders. Eyenga was a long-term investment rather than trying to get someone at the end of the first round who could help now.
C Dallas Mavericks
There was little chance the Mavericks would find someone at No. 25 who could help much in 2009-10, and welcome to Rodrigue Beaubois. He is a big-time athlete at point guard, but has a long way to go to see the rotation. Maybe he develops for the future. Nick Calathes, who already has a deal to play in Greece, was acquired from Minnesota as the 45th selection. The real Dallas moves will be during free agency and possibly trades, with the outcome of Jason Kidd contract talks the domino-tipping moment. The Mavs also got St. Joe's power forward Ahmad Nivins at No. 56.
B+ Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets were expected to be players in the first round despite beginning the day without a pick there. Right on schedule, they got to No. 18 by trading a future choice for one of the Minnesota selections and used it to inject speed at point guard. Ty Lawson obviously won't play ahead of Chauncey Billups, but as a tournament-tested situational player, he could play a lot as a rookie in a bad sign for the future of Anthony Carter in Denver. The Nuggets went from no pick to adding a dimension they didn't have before. Exactly what a title hopeful should have been looking to do.
C+ Detroit Pistons
Austin Daye has a future, but Joe Dumars loves toughness in his players and Daye is not known for that, not in his inconsistent play and certainly not in his slender build at 6-10¾ and 192 pounds. Also, that future is not coming this season, so this will take a while. At least the new Pistons, suddenly in transition mode, are not pushing for an immediate contribution. Georgetown's DaJuan Summers was good value at No. 35. A third forward, Sweden's Jonas Jerebko with the 39th pick, will add toughness if he sticks.
A- Golden State Warriors
Maybe this is the signal that the Warriors will deal Monta Ellis. Maybe Curry will be part of the package to try to acquire Amar'e Stoudemire from the Suns. But for now, a player like Curry who can pick apart a defense when he gets a lot of shots in the very offense that will get him a lot of shots -- cha-ching! On style of play, it's the perfect match of prospect and team. Let it rain.
B Houston Rockets
They would have gotten a better grade by drafting a doctor or someone to chase away the evil spirits so that a doctor isn't necessary. Short of that, the Rockets made three separate moves to pick up three selections in the second round that did not exist at the start of the day. Two of those were invested to address a scoring need, Jermaine Taylor of Central Florida and Chase Budinger of Arizona, with Budinger surprisingly still on the board at No. 44. The third was spent on a point guard who is expected to stay in Europe, Sergio Llull.
D Indiana Pacers
It's not an anti-Tyler Hansbrough grade. It's anti-Hansbrough at No. 13. The Pacers won 36 games in the East and haven't been to the playoffs since 2006 ... and spent a lottery pick on someone whose upside is generally considered around the league to be a long run as a scrappy reserve. Hansbrough's great attitude and nonstop energy aren't enough to offset the odds that several players taken after Psycho T will have better careers. Second-round pick A.J. Price's chances at a meaningful role will depend on whether free agent Jarrett Jack stays.
A Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers took an open-book test. They had the only easy answer in the entire draft with Blake Griffin, so the grade is more the circumstance of having the No. 1 pick than the non-decision decision of what to do with it. Griffin has the best chance of anyone in the draft for a long and starry career. That's the definition of an "A" pick.
Inc Los Angeles Lakers
Wanting to get away from the guaranteed money of the first-round pick to try to route the cash toward keeping both Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom, the champions traded No. 29 to the Knicks, as well as No. 42 to the Heat. The remaining selection, No. 59, was spent on Texas A&M forward Chinemelu Elonu.
A Memphis Grizzlies
Defense, defense, defense. The Grizzlies gave up a ton of easy baskets last season and went about doing something about it by drafting the player with the best chance to turn games as a shot-blocker and general inside nuisance, Hasheem Thabeet, second overall. Then they took two other hard workers for the frontcourt, energy guy DeMarre Carroll at No. 27 and athletic, experienced Sam Young at No. 36. All should make the team. All should make the team better in an area of need.
Inc Miami Heat
One pick at No. 42, Patrick Beverly, and one pick at No. 60, Robert Dozier, so no grade. Minnesota had the Heat's first-round pick, No. 18, from the Ricky Davis trade.
B Milwaukee Bucks
The slide out of the lottery even Brandon Jennings feared never happened. He went 10th, far from panic territory. Jennings will need time to develop, but will set a fast pace and could become an electric point guard. If Ramon Sessions re-signs as a free agent, Jennings will have that time. If not, he gets the crash course. Kentucky's Jodie Meeks, the 41st selection, is a scoring guard with range and another good athlete for the backcourt.
B- Minnesota Timberwolves
There has to be something else behind door No. 2. Just has to be. Ricky Rubio as the No. 5 pick, great. Jonny Flynn as No. 6, wonderful. But point guard Rubio and point guard Flynn together? With consecutive picks? Even if they can play at the same time, and that's a big if, the Timberwolves have too many holes to be messing around with a gimmick offense. Rubio and DeMar DeRozan. Flynn and Jordan Hill. Rubio or Flynn and Stephen Curry even, which would still be two point guards except that Curry would pick apart defenses with his shooting. New president David Kahn did have better moments that put a positive spin on his first draft as a personnel boss. He got a future No. 1 from the Nuggets for Ty Lawson, a good move because Minnesota didn't have the room or the patience to handle four first-rounders in 2009-10. And he got Wayne Ellington at No. 28, a good spot for a good shooter. Forward Henk Norel of the Netherlands, the 47th pick, is expected to stay in Europe.
A- New Jersey Nets
On potential, the quirky Terrence Williams (No. 11) could become one of the real impact players of the entire draft, especially for a team that needs defense and rebounding, two of his best attributes. The Louisville small forward was arguably the best perimeter defender in the draft, capable of checking either wing position plus handle big point guards. For having one choice, and in a particularly treacherous part of the lottery at that, the Nets have a chance for a big return.
B New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets needed a backup for Chris Paul, and the point guards were flying off the board with Jrue Holiday at No. 17, Ty Lawson at 18, Jeff Teague at 19 and Eric Maynor at 20, so New Orleans was left with Darren Collison at 21. It could have turned out much worse. Collison is slight at 6-1½ and 165 pounds, but he has speed, will defend and is experienced in pressure situations from the postseason runs with UCLA. The 43rd pick, Marcus Thornton, an undersized shooting guard from LSU, has the potential to be a scoring threat as a role player.
B+ New York Knicks
For all the disappointed Knicks fans who wanted Stephen Curry to slip to No. 8, Jordan Hill is a nice fallback, a good match for Mike D'Antoni's offense as a mobile power forward who can hit a shot. Hill was easily the best fit among big men. How much he plays immediately will depend on whether free agent David Lee returns. Florida State's Toney Douglas, at No. 29, is a guard who can score and defend. His rookie role will be affected by the outcome with another free agent, Nate Robinson.
A Oklahoma City Thunder
Why all the talk about James Harden as a surprise pick at No. 3? He was, in many ways, the obvious pick, and certainly a sound pick. The Thunder needed a shooting guard and got the best shooting guard available, a player who didn't generate much predraft buzz because he isn't as flashy or as controversial as other top picks but is NBA-ready with a polished game. No. 24 pick B.J. Mullens is a young center from Ohio State whose personality has created doubts around front offices about whether he will ever be good, but it's low-risk given the draft slot. Just being in the league in four or five years makes any selection that late a successful outcome, and Mullens has lottery-pick potential. Robert Vaden, a shooter from UAB, went 54th.
Inc Orlando Magic
No picks. The first-round choice went to Memphis as part of the three-team trade with Houston that landed Rafer Alston. Orlando had an A-plus day by trading for Vince Carter, but it was all outside the draft.
A Philadelphia 76ers
It was a fortunate selection as much as a skilled selection to have Jrue Holiday fall to No. 17, but that makes it a value selection if anything. Interest in Holiday had obviously cooled, but anyone considered for the middle of the lottery a couple of weeks ago has real talent. Getting that talent in the late teens will allow him to develop without the expectations that would have accompanied a top-10 choice. Plus, he may be tutored by Andre Miller, depending on whether free agent Miller re-signs, a decision for the 76ers that just became more interesting. Holiday also gets to play for former point guard Eddie Jordan.
B Phoenix Suns
There was no center to pick to replace Shaquille O'Neal and only point guards ahead, and the Suns still heart Steve Nash. Earl Clark and James Johnson were the best prospects available at No. 14 without being point guards. Clark, with the ideal Suns-level athleticism, was an understandable call with a better skill set, though not without question marks. With focus, he will be a versatile forward who can give defenses fits. Phoenix also added forward Taylor Griffin (Blake's brother) at No. 48.
B Portland Trail Blazers
The temptation was to flunk GM Kevin Pritchard. One trade on draft night?!?! For Kevin Pritchard? The Blazers are not allowed to have a relatively uneventful couple of rounds. It's in the rules. It's in their DNA. The real impact was in getting away from money that can be invested in free agency, where Portland has a much better chance to make a meaningful splash to take the next playoff step. It got away from a guaranteed contract by taking a player at No. 22, Victor Claver, who is expected to stay overseas. It got away from another guaranteed contract by trading backup point guard Sergio Rodriguez, to the Kings for a second-round pick, Arizona State forward Jeff Pendergraph. Villanova forward Dante Cunningham came with the 33rd pick and St. Mary's point guard Patrick Mills the 55th.
B Sacramento Kings
They just set themselves up for years of comparison -- Tyreke Evans, the pick, vs. Ricky Rubio, the pass -- not to mention decades of abuse if it goes bad. But the Kings were not the only team that would have made the same tough call. In fact, there is a good chance they would have taken Jonny Flynn over Rubio at No. 4 had Evans been gone. Point guard was the obvious position problem and point guard was addressed, with Evans and the Sergio Rodriguez trade with the Trail Blazers. Evans is not a natural playmaker, so the risk is obvious. Forward Omri Casspi, the 23rd pick, is willing to play in Israel another season if the Kings want to save the money. Washington power forward Jon Brockman will go from No. 38 to being a fan favorite, if he makes the team, just on his demolition-derby style of play.
B+ San Antonio Spurs
DeJuan Blair at No. 37: the definition of a value pick. Obviously, the knees and conditioning are a concern, along with being a 6-6½ power forward. Otherwise, he would have been a first-round automatic and probably would have been gone by the mid-teens. But the Spurs had a dire need for offensive rebounding and that is Blair's specialty. Opponents will leave games bruised, and that was without the additional motivation that came once everyone started to pass him over. Jack McClinton, a shooting specialist from Miami, went 51st, and French point guard Nando De Colo went 53rd.
B Toronto Raptors
The risk of picking someone who relies so heavily on athleticism and doesn't have a perimeter game is offset by the consensus around the league that DeMar DeRozan is somewhere around the third- or fourth-best bet to turn into a star. It just will take some time. The Raptors got him at No. 9. Needing scoring, they found a scoring jolt.
B- Utah Jazz
They stayed away from protecting against the possible free agents hits with Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap and Mehmet Okur because there were no clear success stories on the board at No. 20 (B.J. Mullens, Taj Gibson and DeMarre Carroll were the next centers and power forwards to go). Thrilled as they were with the play of Ronnie Price in the playoffs, picking Eric Maynor to back up Deron Williams at point guard was no surprise. He has a chance to be that success story.
Inc Washington Wizards
The Wizards previously traded their first-round pick to the Timberwolves to get Mike Miller and Randy Foye, then on draft night selected Central Florida guard Jermaine Taylor (No. 32) and sold the rights to the Rockets. No great surprise. Washington doesn't need any more young players or to take on any more contracts.
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