Draft Grades: Northwest Division

June 29 at 10:57am CDT By Eddie Scarito

With the 2014 NBA Draft officially in the books, it’s time to take a look back and see how each team used the draft to make improvements and fill needs. I’ve already run down the picks for the Atlantic, Central, and Pacific Divisions. We’ll continue on with a look at the Northwest Division:

Denver Nuggets

Team Needs: Frontcourt Depth, Shooting Guard, Point Guard

Draft Picks:

  •  No. 16 Jusuf Nurkic (Center)*
  • No.19 Gary Harris (Shooting Guard)*
  • No. 41 Nikola Jokic (Center)

*Acquired from Bulls in trade for 11th overall pick (Doug McDermott).

The biggest news for the Nuggets on draft day was the trade for Arron Afflalo, which added a much-needed outside shooter to the team’s lineup. Denver then decided to turn their one first-rounder into two by trading with the Bulls, who snatched up McDermott.

The Nuggets used two of their selections on foreign born big men, neither of whom is expected to play in the league next season. Nurkic is huge, as well as being a skilled post player. If he can stay healthy and continue to develop, he could be an impact player in a few years. Jokic is also talented, but extremely raw. Jokic is more of an outside shooter at this point, and needs to add bulk and improve his rebounding and defense if he wants to make it in the NBA.

I like the selection of Harris, but with the trade for Afflalo, he becomes a luxury pick instead of a need. Harris was mentioned as a potential lottery pick by most scouts, so he’s a definite value selection at No. 19. Harris slid because of his size, but he is one of the more polished two-way players in the draft, and his defense will earn him minutes immediately.

Overall Draft Grade:  B —I like the Nuggets turning their one first round pick into two. The selection of Harris was a definite value add, and Jokic was a decent selection, considering what else was available at that spot. Nurkic could turn out to be a good player down the line, but the team did pass on the chance to nab McDermott, Zach LaVine, T.J. Warren, and Adreian Payne by making the trade. All those players could have a much higher ceiling than Nurkic or Harris.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Team Needs: Small Forward, Power Forward, Point Guard

Draft Picks:

  •  No. 13 Zach LaVine (Shooting Guard)
  • No. 40 Glenn Robinson III (Small Forward)

*Traded 44th overall pick to Nets for cash.
**Traded 53rd pick to Rockets for cash.

The Wolves certainly got more athletic on draft night. LaVine is an intriguing prospect who could turn out to be a bargain at that spot. He’s very raw and doesn’t have a defined position yet. He’s been compared to Russell Westbrook quite a bit when scouts discuss his potential. He can play the point, but it’s not his natural position. He’ll likely begin his career at shooting guard, potentially taking some of the ball handling duties on the second team. LaVine has a ways to go, but he’s a freak athlete who has star potential, though he isn’t guaranteed to fully realize all those physical tools.

Robinson is a very raw talent who will need some serious D-League time his first season, but he has the potential to develop into a very useful reserve. I really like this pick, and a good value at No. 40, especially since some experts had Robinson potentially sneaking into the end of the first round.

Overall Draft Grade:  B- —The Timberwolves need players that who contribute right away. Not sure that either of these selections fits that bill, but in a couple of years, if both selections live up to their potential, this draft could be looked back at rather fondly.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Team Needs: Swingman, Point Guard, Size

Draft Picks:

*Acquired via trade with Hornets via Heat.

I can almost swear that the team did this same draft last year when they selected Steven Adams and Andre Roberson. Either the Thunder were very happy with how that worked out, or they figured they needed more of the same.

This isn’t a knock against taking McGary, a player that has a much higher upside than Adams. If his back is OK, he’ll be an immediate contributor. McGary would have been selected much higher if he entered last year’s draft, but an injury-shortened season that also saw him facing a suspension for marijuana use lowered his stock. The Thunder should be very happy with his mixture of athleticism, passing, and offensive potential. He could be a starter by year two.

Huestis is a scrappy player who plays tough defense but doesn’t project to be a regular rotation player. He’ll make a nice 11th or 12th man, but there were better options on the board at the same position. Christon is a project who will need D-League time before he can hope to contribute at the NBA level.

Overall Draft Grade:   C+ —The Thunder got some value with the McGary pick, who if healthy can be an immediate contributor. I’m not a fan of the Huestis pick, especially considering that Kyle Anderson, K.J. McDaniels, and Cleanthony Early were all on the board at the time.

Portland Trailblazers

Team Needs: Center, Defense, Depth

Draft Picks:

  • No picks

The Blazers had traded their first rounder as part of the Gerald Wallace deal a few years back. The fact that he’s not on the team and they don’t have much to show in return has to hurt a bit, but the presence of Damian Lillard is more than a decent consolation prize. Granted, there weren’t any franchise changing players available at No. 24, but there were still a few useful pieces the team could have chosen from.

Overall Draft Grade:  D- —Trading your first round pick is always a risky proposition, and the team has nothing from that trade that will help the franchise next season, other than Lillard, who was acquired in a follow-up swap. The team better hope C.J. McCollum improves in his second year, otherwise it will be status quo in Rip City.

Utah Jazz

Team Needs: Small Forward, Power Forward, Point Guard

Draft Picks:

Despite not having a shot to take their dream player in Jabari Parker, you have to really like what the Jazz were able to accomplish on draft night. Exum was being discussed as a potential top-3 pick, and having him slip to the Jazz at No. 5 was a win. The book is still out on Exum, and it has to be seen how he will handle the much-tougher NBA competition. But physically and athletically, Exum has the makings of a star.

He will most likely begin his career as a shooting guard, playing alongside last year’s top pick, Trey Burke. But Burke’s lack of elite athleticism and speed might force the team to transition to Exum at the point. Wherever he ends up playing, Utah is gambling that he’ll be a top-10 player in the league in a few years. Exum could make the Magic kick themselves for passing over him to nab Aaron Gordon.

Hood at No. 23 was a tremendous value, and he has the potential to become a productive starting player. The Jazz will benefit from Hood’s ability to drain it from deep, and if he can develop into a better defender and rebounder, Hood will end up being a steal for the franchise.

Overall Draft Grade:  A —The Jazz came away with two potential starters, both of whom should see plenty of minutes next season. This could become the draft that gets the franchise turned around. Jazz fans have a lot to be excited about going into next season.

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