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2015 NBA Draft Grades

I grade the first round of the 2015 NBA draft, because that's what real basketball reporters do. Right?

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The picks are who ultimately got the player at the pick. So the grade for 15 is for the Wizards, the grade for 19 is for the Knicks, etc etc

1. Minnesota Timberwolves - Karl Towns
The obvious pick. Despite the normal pre-draft smokescreening, Flip was locked in on Towns since the Santa Barbara workout, making the pick somewhat anti-climactic. But no less satisfying. Towns was the consensus #1 pick in this draft for a reason - his combination of size, rebounding, and IQ makes him very low risk, while his versatility, mobility, and a possibly great shooting touch also makes him potentially very high reward. Towns can do so many things, it's all but guaranteed he'll end up being great at at least a couple of them. At the least, the Wolves are getting a dedicated worker, strong rebounder, and solid interior scorer.and shot blocker. At best, Towns is a revelation for the new era of basketball - a legitimate 7-footer who can score from both the post and the three point line, and defend just about everything. Grade: A+

2. Los Angeles Lakers - D'Angelo Russell
I wasn't sure what to make of the late (very late) talk that the Lakers were suddenly strongly considering D'Angelo with this pick. They seemed locked into Jahlil Okafor, with the idea he would be the most help to Kobe in finishing his career out in a non-disasterous fashion. So this pick was surprising. But by no means was it bad.

Russell is the type of multi-dimensional guard who thrives in the NBA. He can handle, pass, run, finish, and shoot equally well both off the bounce and in catch-and-shoot. Other guys with that sort of profile? Manu Ginobili, James Harden, Steph Curry. Yeah. The Lakers got a player who can both help Kobe now and be his heir apparent for the future. Great pick. Grade A+

3. Philadelphia 76ers - Jahlil Okafor
The Lakers really yanked the rug out on Philly by taking Russell, who the Sixers had locked onto as a perfect compliment to their frontcourt of Nerlens Noel and (hopefully) Joel Embiid. Instead, they found themselves stuck in the awkward position of having no great options.

It's hard to blame them too much for taking Okafor - he was the best player on the board. At the same time, the combination of Okafor and Noel has some glaring weaknesses on offense - no shooting range, terrible free throw-ing - that makes one wonder if they can really coexist. Embiid theoretically has the range and versatility to work great with either, but who knows where his health is at right now.

So yeah, I don't see how this works. Sam Hinke has an unprecedented amount of freedom to be bad from Sixers ownership, but at some point the pieces have to start lining up. I'm not sure they wouldn't be better off having traded down and taking a guard or wing. Grade B-

4. New York Knicks - Kristaps Porzingis
Dangerous pick. Not just because Porzingis is a risk as a prospect, but because it was obvious Carmelo Anthony was going to dislike it. Which he does. And has let everyone with ears know about.

While it's nice to see New York finally stop the stock trading on their future, I'm not big on them choosing Porzingis as the guy they finally start a proper building process with. He's so unproven. And even if he does work out, that'll be 3 or 4 years down the road. Melo will be 34-35 by then, and he definitely won't be happy in the interim. Grade C+

5. Orlando Magic - Mario Hezonja
I love Hezonja. Irrationally, admittedly. He's athletic, has a monster talent level, was productive when his coach wasn't being a troll, and basically believes he's the second coming of Michael Jordan. He'll either be a human highlight reel or the most epic Twitter punchline ever. Either way, legendary.

Hezonja's a great fit with the Magic's perimeter attack of Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, and along with those two and Aaron Gordon, will form one of the most athletic lineups in the league. Grade A(+++++++++)

6. Sacramento Kings - Willie Cauley-Stein
A great pick for George Karl's system. For whatever that's worth, at the moment. Trill's combination of athleticism and extreme defensive versatility is a great compliment to DeMarcus Cousins, but it might be a difficult fit on offense.

Cauley-Stein's offense is limited to lobs and pick-and-roll action, which might force Cousins out to the midrange more than ever. Not exactly ideal. And assuming, of course, that Cousins even stays in town. Trill does provide great insurance against that. Grade B+

7. Denver Nuggets - Emmanuel Mudiay
Does this signal the end of Ty Lawson's time in Mile High? The Nuggets apparently weren't just willing to take Mudiay, but eager to, with Lawson on the block since Mike Malone was hired.

Mudiay certainly doesn't lack bravado, having chose to spend the last year playing in China for the Guangdong Tigers rather than the NCAA. Unfortunately, he was injured much of their season, so much of what's known about him as a player comes from superlatives rather than production. Still, his combination of size, speed and athleticism indicates a high ceiling. Grade B+

8. Detroit Pistons - Stanley Johnson
I don't really understand this pick. I don't get what the Pistons see in Johnson that they didn't see in Justise Winslow. He didn't shoot as well, didn't rebound as well, didn't defend as well....I really just don't get it. At his intro presser, Stan Van Gundy started talking about Johnson's "mentality" and "confidence". That sounds a lot like why Michael Jordan picked Kidd-Gilchrist instead of Bradley Beal to me. Grade C

9. Charlotte Hornets - Frank Kaminsky
This is a weird pick because I'm both ok with it and absolutely hate it. In terms of the Hornets as a team, this isn't bad - they need a mobile, shooting big to get them out of the box Al Jefferson's low post game corners them into. And the possible future combo of Kaminsky and Cody Zeller is even more promising, I think, thanks to its versatility and speed.

But the Hornets reportedly turned down SIX (!!!!) future draft picks from the Celtics to keep the #9 and take Kaminsky. That's lunacy. He isn't *that* good, and he's still on the board later if you want to deal back into the lottery. Another baffling Michael Jordan decision. Grade C

10. Miami Heat - Justise Winslow
Pat Riley gets all the nice things. Which y'know what? I'm cool with that. He's brilliant. He deserves nice things.

But holy smokes, a top-5 talent falling into your lap at 10? Miami could not have asked for a better outcome, nor a better player to slot in between Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to start a new youth movement. Winslow's top statistical comps included Grant Hill, Ron Artest, Paul Pierce and "Mad Mash" Jamal Mashburn. I predict everyone who picked between 4-9 (maybe even 3-9) will be kicking themselves in 5 years. Grade A+

(FYI, these grades are situational. An A+ for Winslow does not mean I think Winslow will be as good as Towns, necessarily, but that the Heat made the best possible pick given their draft slot, what they needed as a team, and who they took versus who else was available)

11. Indiana Pacers - Myles Turner
Solid pick. David West is unlikely to return and Roy Hibbert is...well, actually, I don't think anyone knows what Roy Hibbert is now, including Roy Hibbert. But in any case, the Pacers had a dire need for a young, talented big. It was reportedly a close call for Larry Bird between Turner and Trey Lyles. Turner showed more promise as a shooter, so I think they made the right choice here. Grade A-

12. Utah Jazz - Trey Lyles
At the least, the Jazz grabbed a solid big man to reinforce the bench after dealing Enes Kanter to the Thunder and promoting Godzilla (erm, Rudy Gobert) into the starting lineup. Lyles suffered a lot in Kentucky's platoon system, where he was largely forced to play small forward. We'll see how he fares at his natural 4 position now. I like his upside. Grade A-

13. Phoenix Suns - Devin Booker
Can shoot. Like...can really, really shoot. 51% from 2, 41% from 3, 82% from the line. Not sure if he can do anything else. But for what Phoenix does, that probably won't matter. They lost a lot of scoring punch after the Bledsoe/Dragic/Thomas hydra detonated, and Bledoes specifically needs a kickout option to replace Channing Frye. Grade B+

14. Oklahoma City Thunder - Cameron Payne
I am truly envious of OKC's uncanny ability to grab high-end, multi-dimensional guards in the draft. Payne averaged 20 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals per at Murray State last season, and has great IQ on both offense and defense. And as we learned in the draft, no one believes in Cameron Payne more than Cameron Payne.

At worst, he's likely a great new Reggie Jackson. At best, he's borderline James Harden-ish. Unfair, Thunder. Unfair. Grade A

15. Washington Wizards - Kelly Oubre
The Wizards liked Oubre enough to give up two second round picks to trade up for him, which isn't a bad deal at all. Paul Pierce is likely gone, and Otto Porter only kinda-sorta shows up some of the time, so grabbing an athletic swingman in the mid-first round is a sensible move. There's a lot of questions about how well Oubre really "gets" basketball, but if he can run and catch, John Wall can do the rest for him here in the early going. Grade B+

16. Boston Celtics - Terry Rozier
Danny Ainge must think he's another Avery Bradley. That's the only explanation I can come up for this. Striking out at trading up for Winslow is a letdown, sure, but wow...this pick just seems like the Cs were so depressed about that they just gave up.

Rozier can defend for sure, but he can barely shoot, is too small to play shooting guard and can't facilitate well enough for point guard. And where is he supposed to get burn, with Bradley, Isiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, and Marcus Thornton already on the roster? Maybe the whispers that Ainge isn't big on Smart are true. But ignoring the glaring need for a small forward to quadruple up on combo guards is silly. Grade D

17. Milwaukee Bucks - Rashad Vaughn
The Bucks are likely going to roll with Kris Middleton at shooting guard this year, with Jabari Parker at the 3 and Giannis at the 4. But who knows how that will work. There's a lot of players on the Bucks who are kind of position-less, in that it's hard to say what position they should really be playing. Is Middleton a 2 or a 3? Is Parker a 3 or a 4? Is John Henson a 4 or a 5? Last season this resulted in a lot of experimental lineups, with Greek Freak frantically bicycling from position to position to try and hold it together. Entertaining, but not a great model for long-term stability.

So the addition of Vaughn, who's strictly a 2-guard, is both solid feet on the ground and good insurance. Vaughn can shoot, which is a good counter-balance to Michael Carter-Williams in the backcourt. He's also more agile than Middleton, if the 2-guard spot proves to be too fast for him to handle, and figures to be more reliable than OJ Mayo. Vaughn reminds me of Kidd's old running mate in New Jersey, Kerry Kittles. Grade B

18. Houston Rockets - Sam Dekker
It's probably not wise to bank your bench production on Josh Smith and (bless his heart) Corey Brewer, so grabbing a solid 3/4 shooter to back up Trevor Ariza and whoever claims the Rockets' 4 spot (if it's not Motijunas, something went wrong...) is a good decision. I don't think Dekker is as good as his tournament run made scouts think he is, but he's smart, versatile on both offense and defense, and can do a bit of the Chandler Parsons stuff with the ball. Grade B+

19. New York Knicks - Jerian Grant
Are the Knicks running the Rambangle? That kind of matters a lot when talking about point guards. If so, this is a tough pick. Grant is a high usage guy who's only an okay shooter. But if Fisher is smart enough to trash the corner stuff and run pick-and-roll with Carmelo and Porzingis, this could work out great. Grant is great at creating offense when he has the ball, and can play smart defense to boot. Grade B+. Or D, maybe....

20. Toronto Raptors - Delon Wright
Wright is kind of a poor man's D'Angelo Russell, and my guess is the Raptors will actually use Wright more as a shooting guard than a point guard. Terrence Ross has been underwhelming, Lou Williams might not stick around, and there's even talk the Raptors could trade Demar DeRozen to avoid the payday he's in for. That could leave Kyle Lowry in need of a new running mate in the backcourt. Assuming Wright continues to improve his shooting touch from deep, this should work out ok.

Still, it's perplexing the Raptors didn't address the need for a power forward with Amir Johnson declining and now in free agency. Grade B

21. Dallas Mavericks - Justin Anderson
The Rondo experiment didn't work, and Monta Ellis - as good as he's been for the Mavs - takes weird accommodations to work. He doesn't mesh with traditional, high end point guards, but he refuses to play point guard himself. The Mavs aren't really in a position to Allen Iverson their roster, so now it sounds like Ellis won't be back in Dallas either.

The Anderson pick appears to signal the Mavs' readiness to build a more traditional, stable backcourt. Assuming Dallas can land a good, facilitating point guard that Rick Carlisle won't bury, Anderson should be able to step in right away at the 2-guard spot and provide some shooting punch, or at least back up whoever they start there, as well as Chandler Parsons at the 3. Grade A

22. Chicago Bulls - Bobby Portis
The Bulls are another team that got lucky, with a lottery talent dropping down to them in the early 20s. Ironically, Portis would have probably become a Thibs favorite, but well....

With Pau Gasol getting up there in years and milage, and both Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson increasingly nagged by injuries, the Bulls were in need of youth in the frontcourt. Portis has great size and feel for the game, and should develop into a solid post scorer and all-around defender. Just what the Bulls needed. He could eventually form a dangerous 1-2 punch with Nikola Mirotic. Grade A

23. Brooklyn Nets - Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Can run, will dunk. The Nets are a ship adrift, but even through the haze, it's clear they need to get younger and more athletic. Hollis-Jefferson has a lot of problems picking up the nuances of advanced sets and reading good defenses, but the mere fact he can get from baseline to baseline in under 6 seconds without injuring himself already puts him at the top of Brooklyn's 0-60 list. The Nets badly need a way to break out of the slow paced iso-Joe system. Grade B

24. Minnesota Timberwolves - Tyus Jones
He's a hometown kid, and that infatuation angers some people. I get that. But for a team that had assets and badly needed a backup point guard, this is a good pick for basketball reasons. Jones is a great facilitator who can push the pace, and shows promise as a shooter.

But best of all, the Wolves didn't overpay for the pick. Second rounders are pocket change in the grand scheme of the NBA draft. The Wolves spent three low-level picks they usually just set on fire, and - most importantly - didn't give up Nemanja Bjelica. Once the actual basketballing starts, I think even the most petulant of critics will come around on this. Grade A

25. Memphis Grizzlies - Jarell Martin
The Grizzlies badly need shooters. Jarell Martin is not a shooter. He's depth at the 3/4 spots, which is something the Grizzlies already thoroughly had covered. I like Martin as a player, but I don't get this pick. Grade D-

26. San Antonio Spurs - Nikola Milutinov
The Spurs are chasing LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency. They have contracts due on like, half their roster, including Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Cory Joseph, and maybe Manu Ginobili (if he doesn't retire) Stash away, Pops

(Also, this will look genius when Milutinov wins Finals MVP in like, 2020) Grade probably an A+ in 5 years

27. Los Angeles Lakers - Larry Nance
The Lakers need help at like....everything. So a solid forward with stretch-4 potential is a decent pick. Especially when the frontcourt rotation currently has Robert Sacre as the first big off the bench.

Also, Nance made a funny/semi-inappropriate Tweet about Kobe and Colorado a while back. They had to publicly reconcile, because LA doesn't know how to deal with losing and their media gets desperate and makes idiotic headlines out of dumb stories. So an extra half-grade for giving the stupid press more stupid things to write stupid stories about. You know how your town works, Mitch. Grade A-

28. Boston Celtics - RJ Hunter
Hooray, more shooting guards who can't shoot!


Someone check on Ainge. I think he may need a hug and anti-depressants. Grade F

29. Brooklyn Nets - Chris McCullough
McCullough reminds me of a sentimental Syracuse favorite, Hakim Warrick. With Thad Young testing the market, and Brooklyn's need - again - to get younger and more athletic, this is a solid pick for the end of the first round. McCullough can be an active rebounder/defender to balance Brook Lopez's more traditional game, and could develop shooting range all the way out to the three point line in a few years. Grade B+

30. Golden State Warriors - Kevon Looney
The Warriors are almost certainly losing David Lee this summer. So of course they get an athletic, mobile, skilled big man who can shoot the 3-ball to replace him. Of course. Curry, Klay, Barnes, Iggy, Dray, Looney. A billion threes next season. Why even pretend the world is fair. Grade A+

Traded out - Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks dealt the chance to draft Oubre, Vaughn, Dekker, Portis, Anderson, or Tyus Jones for Tim Hardaway Jr. That makes no sense. None of it. It is none sense. Grade D-