By Sam Amick
June 29, 2012
2012 NBA Draft Team Grades
Before I get to the annual draft grades, a quick explanation about the process. These grades, to be clear, are a subjective assessment of how each team did based on two main factors: 1) the perceived expectations of the player(s) taken judged against the potential of other prospects who were available at the time, and 2) to a somewhat lesser degree, depending on the quality of the team being discussed, the fit on the roster. In some instances, a team's grade may be lower not because it made the wrong pick (in my opinion) but just because of my lack of enthusiasm over a particular player and what he will become. As we all know, how most of these players look now will differ greatly from the way they look in a couple of years, meaning there's only so much to be gleaned at this point in the process. Without further adieu, let's pull out those red pens and get to grading ...
C+ Atlanta Hawks
Shooters don't grow on trees, so in that regard I like the pick of Vanderbilt shooting guard John Jenkins at No. 23. He was a high-level scorer at Vanderbilt (19.9 points per game) with a gorgeous stroke that could be the best in the draft, but his game is limited. With new general manager Danny Ferry believed to be looking to shake up the roster, he missed out on a chance to be a bit more bold. Players who -- critics and red flags aside -- could become more dynamic pros, such as Baylor power forward Perry Jones or Mississippi State power forward Arnett Moultrie, were available when Atlanta drafted. Virginia power forward Mike Scott (No. 43), the ACC Player of the Year runner-up, could pan out as a sleeper pick after a highly productive college career.
A- Boston Celtics
If Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger winds up limping into training camp and having his career cut short by the back issues that caused his slide, then the Celtics will obviously have shot an air ball with the No. 21 pick. But the possible reward far outweighed the risk, and there's something great about an organization that does things the right way cutting through the white noise to pick a good basketball player (see Oklahoma City's taking Perry Jones at No. 28 as well). "We were concerned and we did our research on the back issues and felt comfortable," Celtics president Danny Ainge told reporters in Boston. "But there are some issues there and our medical staff thinks that short term and long term there may be some maintenance issues with the back. Doc Rivers played with a herniated disk for 13 years. He may need surgery at some point, he may not." Syracuse center Fab Melo (No. 22), a much-needed big man, can be relied on as a defensive presence right away. Boston also took Syracuse small forward Kris Joseph with the No. 51 pick.
B Brooklyn Nets
Kansas point guard Tyshawn Taylor (No. 41, traded to the Nets from Portland in exchange for cash) is a nice get, a two-way player and good athlete who could bolster the Nets' bench and compete with Jordan Farmar. Brooklyn also added Georgian forward Tornike Shengelia (No. 54) and Turkish small forward Ilkan Karaman (No. 57).
B+ Charlotte Bobcats
It's tough to assess how the Bobcats did without knowing more specifics about their trade talks. They need so much help that an "A" grade would have been earned by turning the No. 2 pick into two quality players rather than one. Still, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was considered the second-best player in the draft by a good portion of NBA executives, and it's never a bad thing to add a guy known for his leadership, defensive ability and relentless style when you're trying to build a new culture. Now, of course, owner Michael Jordan and new coach Mike Dunlap had better get to work fixing Kidd-Gilchrist's broken jumper. I really like the selection of Vanderbilt small forward Jeff Taylor at No. 31, largely because there just isn't enough value placed on players who get it done at both ends. Taylor does that, ensuring that opposing scorers won't be able to rest when Kidd-Gilchrist goes to the bench. He is one of the draft's best overall athletes in terms of strength and speed.
A Chicago Bulls
It helps when high-level players happen to fall to you this deep in the draft, of course, but general manager Gar Forman and his team still had to make the right selection. And with point guard Derrick Rose likely to miss a significant part of next season with his ACL injury, Marquis Teague, the up-tempo floor general who led Kentucky to a national title, is as good as it was going to get at No. 29.
A Cleveland Cavaliers
Just because the Cavs made a surprise pick at No. 4 doesn't mean it was the wrong pick, and I'd be killing them here if the guy they got Syracuse shooting guard (Dion Waiters) was someone on whom other teams weren't nearly as high. But that wasn't the case, as Waiters also appealed to Golden State at No. 7 (where Jerry West, among others, wanted him) and Sacramento at No. 5. He's tenacious, efficient and confident, even if he wasn't a starter for the Orange. At No. 17, grabbing North Carolina center Tyler Zeller in a trade with Dallas is tremendous value for a team that needed size and scoring up front. Cleveland traded No. 24, No. 33 and No. 34 to get him, but the chance to grab an ACC Player of the Year was well worth it.
D+ Dallas Mavericks
The speedy and athletic Jared Cunningham could turn out to be a decent player, but the Mavs passed on more well-rounded prospects with more upside like Perry Jones, Arnett Moultrie, Memphis shooting guard Will Barton and Baylor small forward Quincy Miller to take the Oregon State shooting guard at No. 24. Cunningham averaged 17.9 points last season, but he was not considered a first-round pick by most teams I talked to. Florida State center Bernard James, 27, is a physical player and a terrific story, having spent six years in the Air Force. But it's hard to justify this pick when Barton and Miller, among others, were still on the board. Dallas passed on those prospects once again when it took Marquette senior forward Jae Crowder at No. 34.
C+ Denver Nuggets
Selecting French shooting guard Evan Fournier at No. 20 seemed fairly high based on what I'd been hearing. And with Andre Miller hitting free agency, why not take Marquis Teague to keep the 1-2 point guard punch concept going by pairing him with starter Ty Lawson? That being said, my intel on Fournier is limited and I'm curious to see him up close (he wasn't at the Chicago draft combine earlier this month). Getting Quincy Miller at No. 38 was good value, and the selection of 7-1, 212-pound forward-center Izzet Turkyilmaz at No. 50 makes sense because length like that can always come in handy.
B+ Detroit Pistons
The Pistons were believed to have North Carolina power forward John Henson atop their list, but they simply couldn't pass up the chance to land a center, UConn's Andre Drummond, who could become a force. He could be a bust too, of course, but the size, mobility and potential were worth gambling on here, a few spots lower than many projected for Drummond. If Drummond develops, the Pistons could move the 6-11, 250-pound Greg Monroe to power forward. Detroit also took Texas A&M small forward Khris Middleton at No. 39 and sweet-shooting Missouri swingman Kim English at No. 44.
A Golden State Warriors
Getting North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes at No. 7 is about as good as consolation prizes get, and it should be interesting to see whether he or Dion Waiters is the better pro a few years from now. But the Warriors filled a serious need at small forward, and then they just continued to fill needs as the night went on. Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli (No. 30) can spell new Warrior Andrew Bogut and handle the backup big-man role that Kwame Brown served early last season before he sustained a season-ending chest injury and was later traded to Milwaukee. Michigan State forward Draymond Green (No. 37) is a far more productive and respected player than is typically available that deep in the draft, and Bosnian 7-footer Ognjen Kuzmic (No. 52) of the Spanish League is not a bad asset on size alone. All in all, the Warriors -- whose first pick would have gone to Utah if lower than No. 7 -- was rewarded for all that losing last season.
B Houston Rockets
The Rockets' roster is somewhat of a mystery now because they are attempting to go big on the trade market and acquire the kind of star (see Orlando's Dwight Howard) who can make them championship contenders. But without knowing how that will all unfold, I'll focus on draft night and how they landed three outstanding players. The addition of shooting guard Jeremy Lamb (No. 12) would seem likely to have a ripple effect. Shooting guard Kevin Martin has one year left on his contract and is known to be hoping for a trade (his production fell off considerably under coach Kevin McHale). His backup, Courtney Lee, is a restricted free agent who could be re-signed and paired with Lamb while general manager Daryl Morey finds a new home for Martin. Beyond all the talk about Royce White's anxiety disorder, the Iowa State forward (No. 16) will be intriguing as a versatile, smart player with point-forward abilities. Kentucky forward Terrence Jones (No. 18) was viewed by some as a top 10 talent at one time and is a big-time athlete who can play inside and out. Houston also obtained the 53rd pick, Turkish forward Furkan Aldemir, from the Clippers.
B- Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are getting killed by most media folks for going with Miles Plumlee at No. 26, but I won't be one of them (I had the Duke center as a late first-round pick in my last two mock drafts). He was a star at a group workout in Minnesota, where all 30 teams attended, and he continued his momentum at the draft combine. He not only has great size and insane athleticism (a workout-best 41-inch vertical leap in Minnesota), but also seems to have untapped potential because of the way he was used at Duke. With Austin Rivers and Seth Curry running the show, players like Plumlee were asked to hit the boards, set screens, defend and not much more. Conveniently enough, the Pacers could always use another big man to do those same things while hoping he evolves into something more. The Pacers also took UCSB shooting guard Orlando Johnson (No. 36, via a trade with Sacramento).
INC Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers didn't have a first-round pick and they traded No. 53, Furkan Aldemir, to Houston.
B- Los Angeles Lakers
From the looks of it, the Lakers landed a player whom Kobe Bryant will approve of when it comes to toughness. Marquette shooting guard Darius Johnson-Odom (No. 55 pick, acquired in a trade with Dallas) is, as the coaches like to say, a grown man. He's undersized but played a grittier game than most while averaging 18.3 points last season. The Lakers also selected 7-foot Gonzaga center Robert Sacre with the 60th pick.
B+ Memphis Grizzlies
I like the pick of Washington point guard Tony Wroten at No. 25, although the Grizzlies really need to go away from this whole wild-card theme next time around. They took unpredictable-but-talented Kansas point guard Josh Selby at No. 49 last year, and that hasn't paid off like some thought it might. The always-aggressive Wroten has lottery-type talent and could be a dynamic backup for Mike Conley if -- and it's a big "if" -- he can shore up the major weaknesses in his game (shooting, decision making).
B Miami Heat
Considering the more punitive luxury tax system that starts after next season, Miami didn't need another guaranteed contract unless it was attached to someone like Ray Allen or Steve Nash (both free agents). So the Heat traded the No. 27 pick to Philadelphia in exchange for a future first-round pick and this year's No. 45 pick. The Sixers selected Moultrie, while Miami chose LSU center Justin Hamilton. Having another big man is always helpful (Hamilton is 6-11 and 264 pounds), and now the Heat can decide whether he's worth keeping around.
C+ Milwaukee Bucks
I'm not completely sold on John Henson (No. 14) as a difference maker in the NBA, mainly because of the combination of his frail body and limited athleticism. But numerous executives whose opinions I greatly respect raved about him, so the yield sign goes up here. It's obvious that Milwaukee is in win-now mode. The Andrew Bogut trade created their backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, and now they have the frontcourt of their choice after acquiring center Samuel Dalembert from Houston and drafting Henson to play alongside him. You have to wonder, though, if the Bucks won't regret not taking the possible center of the future in Tyler Zeller, considering the 31-year-old Dalembert has only one year left on his deal. Kentucky shooting guard Doron Lamb (No. 42) should contribute as a reserve scorer.
B Minnesota Timberwolves
Purdue's Robbie Hummel could be a nice addition at No. 58. After missing the entire 2010-11 season because of an ACL tear, the 23-year-old returned to average 16.4 points and 7.2 rebounds as a fifth-year senior. The Timberwolves need shooting and Hummel joins newly acquired Chase Budinger in giving them two small forwards with deep range.
A New Orleans Hornets
For all the hype surrounding No. 1 pick Anthony Davis, it's time to scale back the expectations. This isn't LeBron James we're talking about, and Davis may very well struggle early as he figures out how to affect the game in his unique way at the next level. But he's a tremendous player around whom to start building, and the Hornets didn't stop there on draft night. Despite the Hornets' need for a point guard, I still think they took the right route in picking Austin Rivers (No. 10) over someone like North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall (No. 13 to Phoenix). Rivers can play both guard positions, and a backcourt that is likely to include restricted free agent Eric Gordon won't lack for offensive punch. New Orleans also landed an experienced and talented small forward in Kentucky's Darius Miller at No. 46.
A New York Knicks
The pick was booed on Thursday night, but Knicks fans may wind up liking Greek forward Kostas Papanikolaou when he arrives -- likely in 2013-14, because his Olympiakos contract has a reasonable $1 million buyout option next summer. Papanikolaou, an intense competitor, was the MVP of the Euroleague Final Four, where he scored a game-high 18 points in Olympiakos' victory over CSKA Moscow in the final.
A Oklahoma City Thunder
Perry Jones was regarded as a potential top five pick before returning to Baylor for his sophomore season, and the only saving grace about his monumental slide to No. 28 is where he landed. He could do much worse than being a part of the Thunder. Jones was already looking like a prime candidate to fall because of questions about his motor and passion for the game, but then some teams were scared away by a recent MRI that raised concerns about one of his knees. Not Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti, though, as he picked a player whom I think has far more promise than anyone in the late first or second round. As effective as power forward Serge Ibaka and center Kendrick Perkins are, Jones is more dynamic offensively and has significant room for improvement on both ends. Jones insists he can play some small forward, too.
B- Orlando Magic
The Magic landed a good player at No. 19 in St. Bonaventure power forward Andrew Nicholson, and that's really all you can ask for once you get to this point in the draft. The Atlantic 10 Player of the Year averaged 18.5 points while leading the Bonnies to their first NCAA tournament in 12 years. He can bang inside and he can shoot. He can rebound and he can defend. And those things, regardless of whether Dwight Howard is part of this team, are areas of need for the Magic and every other team in the league. What's more, Magic forward Ryan Anderson is about to become a restricted free agent and this is good insurance in case he gets away. Norfolk State's Kyle O'Quinn (No. 49), the MVP of the Portsmouth Invitational, was simply too good to pass up at his position no matter how many bigs are on the payroll.
B+ Philadelphia 76ers
If St. John's small forward Maurice Harkless (No. 15) can come along quickly, the Sixers may have found their answer to the post-Andre Iguodala existence. Iguodala has two years left (the second a player option) on his deal worth a combined $30.6 million. Harkless was a fast riser on draft boards in recent weeks. Similarly, Arnett Moultrie (No. 27) gives the Sixers a relentless rebounder and scorer at a time when power forward Elton Brand is entering the final year of his deal ($18.1 million).
B- Phoenix Suns
You play the hand you're dealt, and a team looking for serious wing scorers saw them all -- Dion Waiters, Washington shooting guard Terrence Ross, Austin Rivers and Jeremy Lamb -- taken by the time it was on the clock. Thus, you have the selection of pass-first point guard Kendall Marshall at No. 13. But as much as this is a somewhat underwhelming pick for a team so desperate for explosive talent, Marshall was the best fit if Phoenix is going to continue with any semblance of its previous program. We should know soon enough whether Marshall is taking over said program pretty quickly or learning under free agent Steve Nash.
A+ Portland Trail Blazers
Tremendous work by a Blazers group that prepared for the draft while dealing with a major transition period, as general manager Neil Olshey was hired just weeks ago after a year with Chad Buchanan running the show as an interim GM. Weber State point guard Damian Lillard (No. 6) was their top target, and he'll fill the void left by free-agent point guard Raymond Felton. Illinois center Meyers Leonard (No. 11) has his critics and isn't a sure thing, but he impressed numerous teams more than Tyler Zeller during the draft process and has a rare combination of size, speed and athleticism (he was in play for New Orleans at No. 10 as well). The rich got richer at No. 40, where Will Barton was a steal. Barton, who deemed himself the best wing in the draft earlier this month, was seen by many as a first-round pick.
A Sacramento Kings
No complaints here -- from me or the Kings. Upon review, it appears that Sacramento was prepared to draft Dion Waiters at No. 5 rather than opt for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or perhaps even Harrison Barnes, if all three were available. But they never had to make the tough choice when Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson fell to them. He will be a force in the frontcourt with center DeMarcus Cousins, who is quickly becoming one of the best big men in the game. The Kings haven't addressed their need for more defensive presence down low, but Robinson was too good to pass on here. The only downside? The pressure on the Kings intensifies yet again, because this is the second time in three years that a big-time big man fell their way (Cousins was the fifth pick) and it's time for them to start turning this talent into wins.
B+ San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs selected Missouri guard Marcus Denmon with the No. 59 pick. He averaged 17.7 points and five rebounds as a senior last season. General manager R.C. Buford is well aware that his new player is undersized for a shooting guard (6-3), but felt adding another scorer to the league's deepest bench couldn't hurt. "The guy can shoot the ball," Buford told reporters on Friday. "It would help if he'd grow 3 or 4 inches."
B+ Toronto Raptors
Once you got past Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal, there was incredible parity -- perceive parity, anyway -- among the shooting guard crop. So while Terrence Ross (No. 8) was expected to go later in the lottery or possibly in the late teens, it's not really a surprise that he landed here. He's an athletic scorer and a big-time shooter who seems destined to become a favorite of coach Dwane Casey. Ross joins DeMar DeRozan to give an offense-starved team another perimeter scorer. Toronto also took Baylor small forward Quincy Acy at No. 37, and the high-energy player will be there to crash the glass and dive for loose balls. At No. 56, Toronto grabbed 7-foot Croatian forward Tomislav Zubic.
B Utah Jazz
At No. 47, the Jazz selected Tennessee Tech guard Kevin Murphy. The 6-6 Murphy averaged 20.6 points last season, including a 50-point performance against SIU Edwardsville in January.
A Washington Wizards
The Wizards won't be challenging Miami for Eastern Conference supremacy next season, but they'll be far more fun to watch than your typical team that picked in the top five just months before. After acquiring center Emeka Okafor and small forward Trevor Ariza from New Orleans last week, they get their man to pair with point guard John Wall in Bradley Beal (No. 2). He can supply Washington with the shooting that it's craved and oh-so-much more, from rebounding to a top-tier penetration game to defensive ability. The Wizards also drafted Czech Republic shooting guard Tomas Satoransky at No. 32. He played the last two years in the Spanish League.

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