July 3, 2012
The NBA Draft is always full of surprises and disappointments. In one of the few drafts that was exceptionally deep in recent years, there was great opportunity for quick improvement of a franchise with well-scrutinized management of picks.
Cleveland Cavaliers – The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Dion Waiters with the fourth pick of the draft. Waiters is too undersized to play shooting guard in the NBA, and he is limited by his jump shot (though it is improving). Therefore, he projects as a point guard in the NBA. And, he could flourish in the role point guard if his jumper stabilizes or if he limits his turnovers. The problem is that Cleveland has the reigning Rookie of the Year, Kyrie Irving on their team who also happens to play point guard and is more suited for the role. This move, by itself, is enough to give them a failing grade on the draft, but they followed that pick with another head scratcher. Zeller is a very skilled 7-footer who put up great numbers over his collegiate career, but he failed to dominate at UNC despite being bigger and better than most opponents. Zeller will play center for the Cavs based purely on size, but he should be playing at power forward where Tristan Thompson, their second pick from last year will play. Unless Waiters and Irving turn into one of the most exciting back courts in basketball next year, the Cavaliers did nothing to improve their team with two Top-Twenty picks.
Toronto Raptors – Every year, it seems as if the Toronto Raptors take an athletic guy who does not know how to play the game of basketball, and a European player with “potential.” While these moves look great on paper, they do not translate into wins once the season begins because the players that are drafted never see the court. The Euros stay in their country or ride the bench here, and the athlete usually proves that he can not stay on the court at the highest level. This year Toronto drafted two freak athletes Terrence Ross and Quincy Acy. Ross has good shooting touch and is explosive, but he is raw offensively and he plays the same position as their best player, DeMarr Derozen. Taking him at eight was a stretch. Quincy Acy is a NBA athlete. He will rebound and block a few shots at the next level, but he is undersized and limited offensively. The Raptors will not improve this season.
Portland Trailblazers – Portland’s loser status lies heavily on the shoulders of Damion Lillard. If he excels, then the Trailblazer’s look like geniuses. If he fails, then Portland wasted their draft picks this year. My money is on them failing. Lillard seems to have good shooting touch, a quick first step, and good vision. People have compared his skill set and athleticism to guards like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. I think those comparisons are a bit hasty. His jump shot is further along than either Rose or Westbrook at this stage, but Lillard did not play the best competition in the Big Sky tournament. He has not been challenged yet, and the NBA can break people that played against the highest competition in college. The other two draft picks were Tyshawn Taylor of Kansas and Meyers Leonard of Illinois. At a point in the NCAA tournament Taylor, a point guard, was shooting 11% from the three point line. Even with his elite athleticism, Taylor is not a good pick. And, Leonard is a NBA talent, but he is also a project. Unfortunately, the Blazers need him to produce immediately.
Houston Rockets – Though most draft experts will not believe it, the Houston Rockets had a nearly perfect draft. They addressed perceived needs and some necessary intangibles. The Rockets needed scoring. They drafted Jeremy Lamb, a silky smooth guard with a 7 foot wingspan and a fluid jumper. They needed athleticism. So, they picked up Royce White, a powerful 4 with good explosiveness and the ability to drive and initiate the offense. They needed size. They found Terrence Jones, a 6’10 long-armed and skilled power forward who could play 3 in the league. Any one of these players could make an All-Star team in the NBA at some point. The only way that Houston could have had a better draft is if they had stolen Perry Jones III too.
New Orleans Hornets – The Hornets won the uni-brow sweepstakes. Their entire draft was made by landing the owner of the two most connected eye brows in the nation and he is coming to New Orleans. At 6’11″, he is the best shot blocker in the nation. He has a sweet jumper, a decent jump hook, and solid footwork in the post. Anthony Davis is the consensus number one collegiate player in America. But, the Hornets also added Austin Rivers. Rivers has NBA pedigree, a sweet though occasionally inconsistent jump shot, and a deadly crossover. He takes and makes big shots. The Hornets have set a foundation for a great nucleus if these players develop.
Oklahoma City Thunder – The Hornets made the winners list simply by drafting Perry Jones III. Jones hurt his draft stock by only trying out as a NBA 3, and he previously had reported problems with his knee. So, Perry was passed on by teams that desperately could have used him. Perry Jones’ talent level was high enough to warrant the number one pick overall. Physically, he is the only person in the draft who could compete with Anthony Davis in college this year, and he slid to pick 28 with the Thunder.
Milwaukee Bucks – The Bucks needed size and athleticism, but drafted small, skilled players. Even the big men that they drafted are undersized. John Henson is 6’11″, but weighs 200 lbs. and is an average athlete. And, Doron Lamb is an also average athlete, but a shooter. Milwaukee has the skill players already and they have people that are going to take shots. They need athletes to defend and attack the rim. Both of their draft picks will probably decent NBA players, so the Bucks do not receive a failing grade, but there were better options available for them.
Boston Celtics – The Celtics needed shooting, athleticism, and size. They picked the undersized, non-athlete Jared Sullinger and the big, athletic and unproductive Fab Melo. The Celtics seem to have an obsession with the strong, undersized power forward. Since, Sullinger will produce at the next level, Boston will not look foolish.