Let's start with this question: the Wolves filled two giant needs in this year's draft with Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones joining the pack. What grade would you give the front office, and why?
EiM: I'm giving them an "A" no question, and that's from the biggest cynic around. I've been plenty critical of Flip in all of his roles, and I will be again, but they got it right on draft night. I don't love Tyus Jones, and certainly don't think he's a future star, but he has some things going for him and fills a real need. The Wolves were patient and didn't overpay. Good work.
Key: Definitely an "A" from me as well. Not overpaying for Tyus is the kicker. They didn't screw up the first pick - and that does deserve credit, because we've seen plenty of teams do that - but Flip not biting on Houston's bluff, not biting on the Mavs' offers, and waiting the process out, that was pretty savvy. Cleveland was the perfect trade partner. They've got contracts due for Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson; they wouldn't want a fixed rookie deal on their cap if they can avoid it.
Lindsey: I would give the Wolves a solid "A" on this Draft - and it's been a while since we've seen that happen as Minnesota fans! Towns was the right pick for the Wolves. I love that he can play both offense and defense effectively and can't wait to see him improve the lineup. I'll admit I wasn't initially sold on Tyus Jones, but when he fell to 24 and the Wolves were able to work out a deal with Cleveland, I was thrilled. He's young, but he had no problem leading Duke and I think he'll make a smooth transition into the NBA - especially considering he gets to stay in his home state. He'll be a great backup for Rubio and will hopefully be an effective scorer off the bench. Plus, fans love the "hometown hero" story line, so I think it's a win-win.
David: They get an "A" from me as well. Not only did they fill their biggest needs and get the best player in the draft, they didn't give up too much to acquire the player they wanted. Getting Tyus for 31 and 36, and a future second, felt like such a steal after the rumored offers earlier in the day on Thursday. Coming out of the draft without acquiring any (more) bad contracts and without losing Bjelica made it feel like even more of a win. And, as the joke will inevitably go, they did not sell a single second round pick. What a draft.
JM: I see a future superstar in Karl-Anthony Towns. I probably would have given the Wolves a good grade no matter what else happened, but the fact they were able to grab a backup point guard in Tyus Jones at 24, which seemed like above-average value (many thought he wouldn't make it past Houston at 18), really makes this feel like one of the best possible outcomes. Scouts liked Tyus, the analytics liked Tyus, the Wolves needed another point guard to push LaVine off ball, and he was one of the top remaining prospects on the board. They didn't sell off any picks. I don't think I've ever been able to say this, but I wouldn't have done anything differently.
"A" is my grade, which makes it a clean sweep. They also kept Nemanja Bjelica and are nearing a contract agreement with him. Is this real life?
Who was your favorite pick of the night, and your least favorite, based on how you think that player will fit into his new organization and how they will perform based on draft position?
EiM: I LOVE Mario Hezonja for the Magic. Playing well for Barcelona at his age is no joke, and I love how much swagger he has. Just a fun, fun player who I think could be great. He's going to make for a great follow at any rate, and the Magic need shooting desperately. Outside of the Wolves, the Magic are the lottery team I'm most likely to enjoy.
On the other side, there were several picks I didn't like, but I'll single out Trey Lyles to the Jazz. Not sure I understand that pick. What is he exactly? Seems very unlikely he's ever as good as Derrick Favors, and they needed other things. There wasn't a great off-guard to choose there either, but I think they would have been better served by taking Cameron Payne there.
Lindsey: My favorite pick was Russell going to LA at No. 2. It surprised me (and probably most people, including Jahlil) that the Lakers didn't take Okafor, but I think it was a good move for them. Kobe is essentially a non-factor at this point in time, and even if he stays healthy for another season or two, they need that next big guard. I believe Russell will make a huge impact immediately - it was too much of a gamble to pass him up. Okafor will be good, but I think he's a bigger question mark than Russell moving forward into the NBA.
My least favorite pick of the night was actually the lack of a pick, and that was when Atlanta traded No. 15 to the Wizards for the No. 19 pick and two future second-round picks. Then, they dealt No. 19 for Tim Hardaway Jr. straight up. There were still plenty of solid options left on the board at that point, and I consider it a pretty stupid move to trade a first-round pick for Hardaway Jr. The Hawks' late-round picks were less than impressive as well, as they went with two fairly unproven foreign players in Marcus Eriksson and Dimitrios Agravanis.
EiM: Oh, that's a great call by Lindsey on the Hawks. No idea what they were trying to accomplish with those trades - holding the 15th pick going into the night and ending the night with Tim Hardaway Jr. to show for it seems pretty bad.
[Ed. note: Yeah, that was a terrible move]
Lindsey: I'm a closet Hawks fan, they've been my second-favorite team for several years, and I was completely irritated by their draft night. Milwaukee also seemed confused on what they were doing.
[Ed. note: Wait, you're not a Rashad Vaughn believer, Lindsey? I live right behind Cooper High School in New Hope so I feel like supporting the local star]
JM: Excellent choices. Justise Winslow was one of the best players in this draft, yet he fell to Miami at No. 10. That was an absolute steal. The Winslow-Bosh-Whiteside frontcourt is potentially devastating for the next few seasons, enough to get away with average guard play - we'll see if Dragic and Wade stick around this offseason - and still grab a top-six seed in the East. I have this vision of Pat Riley smoking a victory cigar in his office, sipping some Hennessy, laughing his ass off; only it's this subtle evil laugh like he knows Miami stole a star out of this class and it gives him one more move that everyone will point to and applaud.
I'm torn on my least favorite pick. On one hand, Detroit picking Stanley Johnson ahead of Winslow was a huge mistake, in my estimation. Maybe I'm biased against Arizona players (cough, Derrick, cough, Chase, cough, Loren Woods). Still, Johnson is a pretty nice wing prospect, so I can't pick him. It's also too easy for me to say Kelly Oubre at 15. There's no risk there. So... here goes nothing... Kristaps Porzingis is my least favorite pick. I can't shake the feeling that New York is the worst place for him to go, but I'm probably going to be wrong.
Playing at Madison Square Garden is one of the highest stages in the league, even if the Knicks are a joke. Fans are going to roast him on a nightly basis if he doesn't show out, because they passed on Mudiay and Winslow; two guys that seem to be more NBA ready. Can Knicks fans be patient if he doesn't show out right away? I don't think so. Going fourth overall to the Knicks seems like a disaster waiting to happen. The NBA is all about situation and I hate this situation for Porzingis. Best of luck, though! I really hope to be proved wrong because he seems like an awesome personality.
Key: Winslow falling to Miami is so appropriate. Pat Riley does it again, and this time without doing anything. Justise was a monster at Duke, especially in the second half of the season when his shoulder finally started cooperating. His statistical comps? Grant Hill, Ron Artest, Melo, Brad Beal, Paul Pierce, and Jamal Mashburn. Crazy. What a perfect player to play the 3-4 between Wade and Bosh, and lead a youth movement for the Heat. I really believe we're going to look back at this draft in five years and wonder what everyone between 4 and 9 were thinking. Maybe 3, even, since I'm not convinced the Sixers can facilitate success for Okafor.
David: My favorite pick of the draft, I think, is Emmanuel Mudiay to the Nuggets at 7. From what I've seen of his tape and his self-presentation leading up to and since the draft he seems like a really mature kid for 19, and could be a real steal for Denver, considering he could have gone as high as third overall had things gone differently.
Given that their current starting point guard seems to have made plans to not be on the team next year, and with a solid coach in Mike Malone, Mudiay has the chance to be really successful from day one. It will partially depend on Denver's roster moves to see how the team shapes up around him, but I believe in it.
Least favorite is Terry Rozier to the Celtics at 16. For a guy that, on the day of the draft, was predicted in some circles to go to the Wolves at 31, to go at 16 with Tyus Jones, Delon Wright, and Rashad Vaughn still left on the board seems a little weird, especially since the Celtics already had another first round selection at 28 (where he still probably would have been available!).
The Celtics need to do something with all of their "assets" to let their overstuffed backcourt breathe, and adding two more guards in the draft didn't help, as much as I like RJ Hunter's game. I would have hated the pick so much less if they had switched the order they took the same players (Hunter at 16, Rozier at 28).
Next question: Who's your steal of the draft?
EiM: Steal of the draft... there are a few possibilities here, but I'll pick Justin Anderson for the Mavericks. I really like him as a high quality three-and-D guy going forward. There are questions about whether the improved shooting is real, but I think he'll eventually settle in as a good-not-great shooter who can really guard the wing. That's valuable at 21.
Lindsey: I'm torn between Miami getting Justise Winslow and Chicago getting Bobby Portis. I'll go with the Bulls because Portis made the more surprising fall in my mind. Granted, you could argue the Bulls aren't exactly desperate for another frontcourt guy, but Portis making it all the way to No. 22 would have made them fools for not taking him. I think he'll be a good fit for the team and provide some solid depth off the bench.
JM: I'm going to go out on a serious limb here. J.P. Tokoto going No. 58 to Philadelphia felt like a steal to me. He can really defend. If he can find a consistent three-ball in the league, he'll be a good rotation wing. I love the situation he's going to - everyone knows Philadelphia is a construction site, and opportunity exists there that fringe players simply can't find in most other NBA cities. I bet Brett Brown is quickly going to favor Tokoto's defense over his other wings on their roster, and will appreciate the way he attacks in transition.
David: Steal of the draft has a couple of good options, with Justise Winslow to Miami being the most talked about option. I'll go all the way to the back of the first round and look at Kevon Looney to the champion Warriors. Looney, health problems or not, ticks a lot of the boxes of what the Warriors like, and they have the roster flexibility and system to allow him to develop and heal naturally, whether with the main roster or with their (also championship-winning) D-League team. It was such a perfect pick, and for a guy who was projected as high as sixth throughout the year, playing with the champions is an excellent opportunity.
[Ed. note: Looney to the Warriors is not fair]
Which team scored the biggest in the second round?
EiM: In the second round it's tough because so much is about opportunity, but I like the chances for Dakari Johnson with the Thunder. 48th picks aren't supposed to do anything, but I really think he can be a quality rotation big. He didn't get a huge opportunity to show it at Kentucky, but he can play.
JM: Houston. Grabbing Montrezl Harrell at 32 was great value. Harrell knows what he does well (rebounds/beast around the basket) and doesn't deviate from that. I love those guys. McHale and Morey are going to love Harrell's aggressiveness and tenacity in the paint. The Rockets launched the most three's last season (2680) by a pretty wide margin. When Dwight sits they can toss-in Harrell and watch him slam home easy dunks off Harden dishes in the pick-and-roll, and also create second chances on the offensive glass. I love the passion he plays with. His motor is incredible. Rick Pitino said the following about Harrell:
"We're all surprised that Montrezl slipped out of the first round, but it really doesn't matter," Pitino said in a text message to the Louisville Courier-Journal. "He'll get a contract from Houston. The most important thing is to be drafted by the right team with a chance to play. He certainly was drafted by the right team with a chance to play. Some players would have a chip on their shoulder to prove people wrong. Montrezl will have a boulder (on) his shoulder, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will."
Key: I won't even stick to the second round - my favorite non-first round steal is Christian Wood, who signed with the Rockets after going undrafted. He had some problems staying motivated at UNLV, but man, can he ever play. Great versatility, freak athlete, ferocious dunker. 6'10" with a 7'3" wingspan who rebounds and blocks like a madman, plus he can handle like a wing, play the pick-and-roll, and shows promise as a shooter. Ranked 55+ possessions in 6 different play types. I was really hoping the Wolves could grab him for summer league at the least, but the Rockets apparently offered him a deal almost immediately after the draft concluded.
David: Favorite second rounder was tough for me, because I don't know the players nearly as well. I'll go with Pat Connaughton to Brooklyn (then traded to Portland) at 41. Connaughton gets to be a part of whatever kind of rebuilding is happening in Portland, and if he gets floor time with Damian Lillard, he should have a lot of open spot-up opportunities, where he excelled at Notre Dame playing off of Jerian Grant. If he can make the NBA three consistently, and play quality defense, there will certainly be a place for him in the league.
EIM: Another draft thought I wanted to throw out to the group is this: the teams that have gone heavy on the "asset accumulation" route like the Sixers and Celtics were unable to make any significant deals this draft with their assets. Nobody was buying. Is that just a one-off due to whatever specific circumstances existed this year, or does it tell us something about how the business is changing? If so, what?
Key: That one's tough for me, because I think it cut both ways this year. I'm writing the Celtics off as a one-off because of whatever weird process Michael Jordan is sticking too. You don't pass on six (SIX!!!!!) picks for Frank freakin' Kaminsky. At the very least, take some of those, cede the 9th pick, and then deal your way back into the lottery a few slots lower if you're really that fixated on "The Tank." This feels more like another MJ obsession, like the Adam Morrison thing, than any sort of harbinger.
The Sixers, however, have a problem. They're failing the interpersonal aspect of the business, and it's costing them. Hinkie is showing the same callousness as his mentor, Daryl Morey, but he doesn't have the league's best shooting guard to show for it. When other executives start a ruckus over your lottery tanking strategy and the NBPA starts investigating you for CBA violations, that's a problem. It seems like Hinkie has lost a lot of trust and respect around the league, and as we know from Kahn, that makes it almost impossible to make deals in good faith. Other teams are so wary and unhappy with the Sixers, they're not willing to put anything meaningful on the table.
It also doesn't help that their process caught them in an impossible situation after the Lakers took D'Angelo. Okafor was the best player on the board for them. But he clearly is a difficult fit - they don't have the guard rotation to facilitate his brand of offense, and...as was painfully obvious in his intro presser...he's not happy being there. I really think they should have made a judgment call and gone with Winslow or Mudiay there.
EiM: In large part I agree with Key's arguments here, but it's worth pointing out that teams were more than willing to deal with the Sixers as recently as the trade deadline, when they were involved in several things. I agree that the rest of the league probably isn't too happy about a bunch of their maneuvers, but still.
The thing I can't get a handle on is that teams seemed willing this year, at the trade deadline for example, to trade picks and do transactions, and then the draft came around and... well, it's not what I expected. I think for lottery teams it's tough to sell your fans on trading back/out when they've suffered through a losing season, but I don't know if that explains it.
JM: I don't believe this is a trend or anything. Perhaps it's more about the GM's (Ainge and Hinkie) that have been doing the most "asset accumulation." Philly wasn't going to trade their assets for a superstar, and they certainly weren't going to move out of the three spot, so I don't think there's much to be concerned about there. Eventually they will have to add a legitimate, proven NBA player, and that usually has a better chance of happening after the draft.
This is an interesting question though. In the case of Boston, I bet we'll see them use their assets to bring in a superstar type player. The rumored Charlotte-Boston deal is insane to think about. The idea that MJ passed on six picks, whether you believe it or not, is unbelievable. It's also crazy to think Ainge could be that obsessed with Winslow to actually execute the deal. I'd say this is a one-off due to the circumstances that surrounded Philly and Boston during this draft.
David: This will likely get addressed next weekend, but I don't think either Philly or Boston are done trying to make a deal. They have some solid prospects that they appear to be willing to move, and as teams in the Eastern Conference, both are one star away from a playoff appearance (or a second consecutive in the Celtics' case).
If someone comes with a deal this summer that Hinkie likes for Noel, or Ainge for Smart, I have trouble seeing either one say no. It's too early in the offseason to declare anything a failure. I'm interested to see what else the Sixers try to do, because there could be a blockbuster deal out there for them if the calls are made.
EiM: It's awesome that the Wolves probably bettered themselves more than any other team in the league Thursday night. We don't get to say that too often.
JM: The rise might actually be real this time. It feels real.