Every year in the NBA Draft, teams will make moves that determine both their short-term and long-term future. Some of these roster decisions mean winning championships (Trading for Kobe Bryant in 1996,) while some of these other moves mean cutting all hopes of winning one (LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas in 2006.) One can never know for sure which moves will pan out until the players involved are put to the test on the court, but from what information the scouts gather, we can see which moves are more favorable.
Additions: Henry Ellenson (18th,) Michael Gbinije (49th,) Cameron Bairstow
Losses: Spencer Dinwiddie
Stan Van Gundy did it again. He already put together a fabulous starting five with Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris, and Andre Drummond that went 17-9 after Harris’ insertion into the line-up. Now Van Gundy has added even more depth, versatility, talent, and size with the 6’11” and 240 pound Ellenson. Henry Ellenson averaged 17.0 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks as a freshman in the tough Big East conference. Having a weapon like that off the bench is going to be very good for the Pistons, as the only other listed power forward last season was Anthony Tolliver after the Harris trade. Some mock drafts even had Ellenson going as high as 3rd overall to Boston, so for the Pistons, to get Ellenson at 18th is absolutlely a steal.
The Michael Gbinije addition was another good selection. It isn’t quite as impactful as the Ellenson one, but it still helps. Shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was a league leader in minutes last season because of a depth issue at his position. KCP played almost 37 per game in a current NBA where starters are supposed to play around 32. Of course, the main cause of this was Jodie Meeks’ now-healed injury, but Meeks’ injury was serious enough to question his ability to come back successfully, and Gbinije was a great player for Syracuse. He averaged 17.5 points and 1.9 steals per game on 46.1% shooting and 39.1% from three. He led a low seeded Syracuse team all the way to the final four, and he is already 24, an indication of his NBA-readiness. The Bairstow for Dinwiddie trade is mostly irrelevant to the success of the team, but it is always good to have front court depth for a player that struggles to make free throws like Andre Drummond. Overall great moves by Detroit, and they lost very little in the process.
Additions: Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, Georges Niang (50th)
Losses: George Hill, Caris LaVert (20th,) 2017 2nd round pick
The Pacers made two great moves with this draft. The first was the three-team trade that landed Indiana Jeff Teague in exchange for George Hill. Hill and Teague both play the same position, but Teague is the better player. Teague was an all-star during the 2014-2015 season, and he has the ability to create his own shot as well as opportunities for others. Hill is the better shooter and defender of the two, but he is simply less potent in a given game than Teague, who averaged 15.7 points and 5.9 assists per game last season.
Thaddeus Young is a very under-the-radar acquisition. In exchange for only Caris LaVert, whom many question because of his injury histroy, the Pacers got a very high quality player. On a legitimate NBA team like the Philadelphia 76ers from 2011 to 2013, Young played a big role, and he was a big reason why they made the playoffs. Young got 19.9 win shares over those three year (.146 per 48 minutes,) and averaged 13.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. Young has not been on a team with serious intentions to win games since then, but he is now enterring the prime years of a players’ career at age 28. Acquiring him for a late first round pick and a second rounder is well worth it for Indiana. Georges Niang won’t have a huge role on Indiana, but a three point shooter that averaged 20+ points per game in college is always helpful for a team.
Additions: Ben Simmons (1st,) Timothe Luwawu (24th,) Furkan Korkmaz (26th,)
The Philadelphia 76ers would have been even bigger winners had the Jahlil Okafor to the Boston Celtics for the 3rd overall pick trade gone through, but that doesn’t change the fact that they made three great selections. Ben Simmons is going to change this franchise. He plays so dominantly in a style similar to that of LeBron James, and he accomplished so much as just a freshman in the college game last year. Simmons avergaed 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.0 steals per game on 56.0% shooting. He will be a very good player.
The other first round picks, though, were even more impressive in terms of selection out of the available pool of players. Both Luwawu and Korkmaz were projected go higher, even in the lottery by some. Luwawu projects as the next great “three and D player,” as he is a 6’7″ wing with a 7’2″ wing span, noticeably good defense and athleticism, and he shot 37% from three for KK Mega Leks. Korkmaz is a smooth offensive player with great size (6’7″) at the shooting guard position. He has a great shot already, and he has room to grow as he is still 18 years old. To get both of them late into the first round was impressive. All three of these players will play a role in the team next season, which should be leaps and bounds better than this year’s shabby performance.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Additions: Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis (11th,) Daniel Hamilton (56th,) Ersan Illyasova
Losses: Serge Ibaka, Cash Considerations
The Oklahoma City Thunder did something that no other team in the NBA could do last season. They held a 3-1 series lead on the team with the greatest regular season record in NBA history, and they straight up beat another 60-win team in the 2nd round in just six games all in the same year. This Thunder team accomplished so much under just a first year head coach, and yet they traded their best interior defender if not their best overall defender for players with playing styles they already had. Victor Oladipo is a great player, don’t get me wrong, but the Thunder already have Dion Waiters to play the exact same role that Oladipo would thrive in. Andre Roberson is also on the bench at that position, as well as Anthony Morrow, Randy Foye, and Kyle Singler. The Thunder just created a log-jam at that position.
Ersan Illyasova is great as a stretch four, but so was Serge Ibaka. Ibaka’s defense and interior game is also much better than Ilyasova’s. Domantas Sabonis is a great prospect, but his guaranteed success as an NBA player is unknown, while Ibaka was thriving as a third option for a great team like the Thunder. The Thunder already had Ibaka, Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Mitch McGary, and Nick Collison all down low. Why they needed to acquire two mediocre big men for a defensive force is beyond me. They already showed they have what it takes to beat the NBA’s best, why they didn’t keep Ibaka is a head scratcher.
Additions: Georgios Papagiannis (13th,) Malachi Richardson (22nd,) Skal Labissiere (28th,) Bogdan Bogdanovic, future 2nd round pick
Losses: Marqueese Chriss (8th,) Marco Bellineli
The Sacramento Kings had a great opportunity to add a contributor with the 8th overall pick, and they traded it for unnecessary commodities. Papagiannis might not even play in the NBA, he is very appealing at 7’2,” but he is very frail at 240 pounds for that size, and he can barely run the floor. In Euroleague play, Papagiannis only averaged 1.5 points on 31% shooting. For a team that already has a franchise player like DeMarcus Cousins, at that very same position mind you, the complete “hit or miss” pick was very confusing. Then, the Kings, already with Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein (3rd among rookies in win shares in 2o16,) Kosta Koufus, and now Papagiannis at center, drafted Skal Labissiere, another center. While Labissiere at 28th overall is great value for his talent and potential. The Kings now have five centers with their starting and back up point guards, Rajon Rondo and Seth Curry, enterring free agency, and their best power forward as Quincy Acy.
Richardson at 22nd was a decent pick up in exchange for Marco Bellineli, but there were better options both there and at the 8th pick they gave up. Chriss would have been a great fit for the Kings, so too would have Denzel Valentine, Timothe Luwawu, Furkan Korkmaz, Deyonta Davis, or Dejounte Murray. The Kings have been making questionable decisions for a while now, this is just another one of those, and why its been 10 years since this team made the playoffs.
Additions: Taurean Prince (12th,) cash considerations
Losses: Jeff Teague, Kay Felder (54th)
Trading Jeff Teague away was a big mistake for Atlanta. While Dennis Schroeder will do a great job as the new starter for this team, the Hawks should not have traded away Teague, even if they re-sign Al Horford. Suddenly the Hawks’ deepest position becomes their most shallow. After Dennis Schroeder is the 34 year old Kirk Hinrich, and that’s it. Prince projects to be a good NBA player, and one has to repsect his defensive energy, but he is not worth Jeff Teague until he proves himself.
Then they traded another point guard, Kay Felder, to Cleveland for cash considerations. Point guards are very important, especially for a system-based team like Atlanta. Teague ran their offense brilliantly since Mike Budenholzer took over, while Schroder’s responsibilities were about creating his own offense. One does not know how Schroder will be at getting everyone else involved like Teague did so effectively. Atlanta has to re-sign Al Horford and Kent Bazemore, which makes getting depth at point guard that much harder.