Friday, June 27, 2014

14 Burning Questions From The 2014 NBA Draft

1) How were there no top 10 shenanigans?

In a draft touted for its star caliber and depth, no one traded out of the top 10. No one reached for a player they should've traded back for. Every team in the top 10 made a sensible pick that appeared to fit their roster, including and especially teams like Cleveland and Sacramento who have made questionable lottery selections in the past. How is this possible? Has this ever happened before? Will it ever happen again? It seems too good to be true. 

2) Wiggins, Parker and Embiid went 1-2-3 as expected. Who will this come back to bite?

At this point in history, this is the universally accepted hierarchy for these three prospects.. Any of the three could go on to be a ten-time All-Star, and no one would be surprised. The Cavs may come to regret taking Wiggins, but going into next season, he's the best fit for their roster. The Bucks got what they wanted in Jabari Parker. Milwaukee needs a go-to guy to make a difference right away, and they believe that Parker is that player. The 76ers seem to still be in the preliminary stages of their rebuilding process. Embiid will most likely take two full seasons to rehabilitate and adjust to the NBA level. Their 12th pick, Dario Saric may not come to the NBA for two or three seasons, if at all, and their fans don't seem to mind. They're sold on a long term roster reconstruction, so everyone comes away feeling like a winner. For now. 

3) Does Aaron Gordon to the Magic make perfect sense? How did we not see this all along?

They're building an excellent defensive team in Orlando. Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton have a lot in common in terms of being two-way players who work hard, are extremely competitive and all seem to really love the game of basketball. Whether Gordon plays the 3 or the 4, he and Vucevic can both protect the rim, and if he can continue to improve offensively, he'll be a great long term fit for Orlando. The Magic came into this draft knowing they needed an athletic big man and a point guard, and they executed a successful game plan. Time will tell if a Exum or Vonleh would've been a better choice, but I think Gordon is an excellent fit. 

4) Dante Exum and Trey Burke are excited to play together, but who's the point guard?

Exum to the Jazz is another smart pick by a rebuilding team. Utah has Favors and Kanter up front, and a budding wing man in Gordon Hayward. However, no one in Utah is sure if Trey Burke is a one or a two, and the same may be true for Exum. Considering he was the best player on the board for Utah, Exum's potential makes him worthy of gambling the fifth pick on. It will be interesting to see who handles the ball and in what capacity for the Jazz moving forward.

5) Does Marcus Smart's arrival in Boston signify the departure of Rajon Rando?

It's unclear if Marcus Smart is expected to play in lieu of Rondo next season, or alongside him. For an organization with an aggressive front office and many tradable assets, anything is in play here. My guess is that Smart is truly a point guard, and the Celtics will look to move Rondo before his contract expires. While it may in fact be the best course of action for Boston, having Smart on their roster hurts their trade leverage in any deal involving Rondo, unless the Celtics proclaim a true desire to play both guards together at the same time. 

6) Will Julius Randle have the chance to make a playoff run with Kobe Bryant in the next two seasons?

Randle could end up being a major steal for the Lakers at 7. He might be the most NBA-ready player in the draft next to Jabari Parker, which is good news for a Los Angeles team eager to get back into the playoff picture in the West. The Lakers desperately need a quality big man, and there aren't many in free agency. If Randle can contribute right away, and Kobe Bryant's legs can hold up despite multiple injuries, the Lakers could be just one or two players away. If not, it could get ugly. Quick. LA still hasn't hired a coach, and it would be a shame to see an aging Kobe berate and ostracize Randle the way he did with Dwight Howard.  

7) Were the seven best prospects taken with the top seven picks?

Depending on how you feel about Noah Vonleh, it seems so. The NBA Draft, like most amateur drafts, is a crapshoot. We convince ourselves that there are tiers and clear differences in potential, and we're proven wrong every year. However, something about this draft feels different, and it wouldn't surprise me at all is Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, Gordon, Exum, Smart and Randle separate themselves from the rest of the prospects in this draft. All seven have shown rare talent and All-NBA potential.

8) What is Sacramento's plan with Nik Stauskas and Ben McLemore

In the stage that the Kings are in, they could realistically stand to upgrade spots 1-4 around DeMarcus Cousins. McLemore struggled despite playing at 82 games last season, and Stauskas gives them a quality player and roster flexibility going forward. 

9) If Noah Vonleh is the player some scouts think he is, how good could the Charlotte Hornets be?

The Hornets were the only playoff team drafting in the top 10. They have plenty of cap space to sign one or more quality free agents, and if their young players continue to develop, and Al Jefferson can stay healthy, it's possible that Charlotte could win 50+ games and host a second round playoff series as early as next season. Keep an eye on the Hornets as a possible destination for second tier free agents like Luol Deng, Pau Gasol, and Kyle Lowry. 

10) Can Doug McDermott play defense well enough to stay on the floor for Chicago?

My gut feeling is yes.  The Bulls like to play big up front, so it's hard to imagine him playing the stretch 4, at least right away. Tom Thibodeau likes to keep a small rotation, and has a history of burying players on the bench if they can't defend their position. He also has a history of getting the most out of his guys, and this feels like a good value for a playoff team trading up for a lottery talent. He'll help to stretch the floor and add scoring on the wing of an offense that desperately needs it. McDermott could carry a depleted bench unit, or even become a trade asset in a deal for a star player like Kevin Love or Carmelo Anthony.

11) Can and will Zach LaVine earn back the respect of Minnesota fans?

Poor Timberwolves fans, who are already moving on from Kevin Love even though he's still on the team. LaVine's frustration is understandable. I would be upset if I was essentially forced to work in Minnesota for between 4 and 8 years. Although, on live television, in front of millions of people, he pouted like a grade schooler who got picked last in a playground game. So many of the players drafted before him were gracious, humble, and overwhelmed by the moment. LaVine, by contrast, seemed irritated. It will be interesting to see how he tries to spin this blunder going forward, and how quick Wolves fans are to forgive and forget.

12) Does it make sense for Phoenix to start next season with Dragic, Bledsoe, AND Tyler Ennis?

I think they can make it work, but this feels like the beginning of the end for someone in the Suns backcourt. It seems more likely that they would look to move Bledsoe, considering his contract status, injury history, and streaky long-range shooting. However, an Ennis-Dragic back court would be small and could have a lot of trouble defending many of the young guard combinations in the Western Conference. There's also a chance that Ennis plays a limited role next season, and that Phoenix uses the last year of Eric Bledsoe's rookie contract to scout their young talent before making a decision. 

13) Is it okay for Knicks fans to be irrationally thrilled with their two second round picks?

YES, YES, and YES a third time! As a native New Yorker, I like to think that Phil Jackson pulled two rabbits out of his hat, when last week, he didn't even have a hat to pull rabbits out of. Cleanthony Early went 10 picks too late, regardless of the concerns about his true position in the NBA. No one knows much about Thanasis Antetotokounmpo other than the fact that he's the Greek Freak's brother, but that paired with his lone season in the D-League is enough to make New Yorkers excited for his arrival. Depending on whether or not Carmelo Anthony returns to The Big Apple, both draft picks could carve out a role for themselves immediately on a Knicks team looking to turn over a new leaf. 

14) Is Lebron James the reason the Miami Heat drafted Shabazz Napier?

This didn't hurt.

This didn't either

-John Fontanelli (@JohnAnthony37)


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