Draft Grades: Southeast Division

June 29 at 4:59pm 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, Northwest, and Pacific Divisions. We’ll continue on with a look at the Southeast Division:

Atlanta Hawks

Team Needs: Small Forward, Center, Point Guard

Draft Picks:

  •  No. 15 Adreian Payne (Power Forward)
  • No. 43 Walter Tavares (Center)
  • No. 48 Lamar Patterson (Shooting Guard)*

*Acquired from Bucks for a future second-round pick.

The Hawks were a team that was hoping to use their first round pick as part of a trade package that would net them a more established player. Unable to do that, the team picked up a nice player in Payne, a stretch four who can help the team out in a number of areas. He’s a bit of a luxury pick for next season considering Paul Millsap is still around, but he’s unlikely to sign as team friendly a deal on his next contract, so in Payne they nab a competent replacement. The only real knock on Payne is that he’s 23 years old, which doesn’t give him as high a ceiling as some of the other prospects in the draft.

If you look up project in the dictionary you very well might see a picture of Tavares. He’s got tremendous size but has only been playing the game a few years. He has an enormous wingspan, huge hands, and a solid frame–all building blocks of successful big men. Whether he can develop into more than a project is definitely up for debate. Tavares will continue to play overseas for the next few seasons and the Hawks hope to benefit from the selection sometime down the line. Tavares is already 23, which means his window for NBA production will be a small one at best.

Patterson is a hard working swingman who does a little of everything, but doesn’t translate to more than a reserve at best. He’ll get some minutes this season, but might not be in the league by 2015/16.

Overall Draft Grade:   B- — The Hawks went the safe route with Payne, but he’s NBA ready and should become an immediate contributor. Tavares probably won’t bear fruit, and Patterson might contribute something off the bench, but won’t be much of a factor in the franchise’s future.

Charlotte Hornets

Team Needs: Shooting, Point Guard, Power Forward

Draft Picks:

  • No. 9  Noah Vonleh (Power Forward)
  • No. 26 P.J. Hairston (Shooting Guard)

*Came via trade from Heat with the No. 55 overall pick, a 2019 second-round pick and cash for the No. 24 pick. Charlotte later sent the 55th pick to the Thunder for cash.

**Traded the 45th pick and Brendan Haywood to the Cavaliers for Alonzo Gee and cash.

One of the biggest surprise teams from last season, albeit in a weak Eastern Conference, managed to improve themselves for next season and long term on draft night. The Hornets most likely cursed aloud when the Kings made Nik Stauskas their pick at No. 8. I have to think that was the player that Charlotte was targeting all along, especially since they passed on drafting Doug McDermott at No. 9.

But things might have worked out for the men from Charlotte after all. Grabbing Vonleh ninth, when he was projected by most to be a top-5 selection, was a good value. The knock on Vonleh has nothing to do with his talent or athleticism, which he has more than enough of. The problem is with Vonleh’s motor and work ethic. Quite a few promising careers were derailed because of players not willing to put in the proper amount of sweat. Vonleh is still young so he gets the benefit of the doubt. The bigger issue is his redundant skill set alongside Cody Zeller.

The pick of Vonleh looks better when you consider the team nabbing Hairston, who was a steal at No. 26. Hairston might not be the shooter that Stauskas is, but he’s a more complete player who will contribute just as much next season. The biggest second guessing the Hornets will have is for passing on McDermott. The team desperately needs scoring, and if McDermott lights it up in Chicago, then Hornets fans will have something to gripe about.

Overall Draft Grade:   A- — The team might not have addressed its biggest need, but they did grab two players who were both steals where they were selected.

Miami Heat

Team Needs: Point Guard, Depth, Center

Draft Picks:

  •  No. 24 Shabazz Napier (Point Guard)*

* Came via trade with Hornets for the 26th and 55th overall picks in Thursday’s draft plus a 2019 second-rounder and cash.

The Heat get their man. Who will he be playing with next season? That’s very much up in the air right now. Assuming that Miami will put a similar amount of talent on the floor next year, then Napier is a solid pick. After getting next to nothing in the Finals from Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers, it was painfully obvious the team needed an upgrade at the point.

While the team probably could benefit more from a veteran upgrade, like say, Jose Calderon, Napier has all the makings of a winner. It’s doubtful he’ll ever be an all-star, but he is the type of player that winning teams need. He’s a solid leader, plays harder than anyone, and is absolutely fearless when games are on the line. If LeBron James returns, one of the selling points will be Napier’s presence.

Overall Draft Grade:  B — The team gets a solid player at a “need” position.

Orlando Magic

Team Needs: Point Guard, Power Forward, Depth, Shooting Guard

Draft Picks:

  • No. 4 Aaron Gordon (Power Forward)
  • No. 10 Elfrid Payton (Point Guard)*
  • No. 56 Devyn Marble (Shooting Guard)

*Came via trade with Sixers. Orlando received Payton, and Philadelphia got Dario Saric, a 2015 second-round pick, and a 2017 first-round pick.

The Magic will be exciting running the fast break next season–that’s the good news. The bad news–the team trying to score when playing halfcourt basketball. Remember, Arron Afflalo was traded away, and he was the team’s best outside threat.

The selection of Gordon is the curious one. There’s no debating his upside, and experts project Gordon’s ceiling as being somewhere between Shawn Marion and Blake Griffin. But for a team in need of scoring, passing on Exum might be something the franchise will regret.

On the positive side, Gordon does bring an enormous amount of potential and physical gifts to the table. But he can’t shoot very well, and is an abysmal free throw shooter. His offensive arsenal right now consists primarily of scoring in transition, off pick-and-rolls, and from lobs. It will take time, but Gordon will improve in those areas. It might take two or three seasons to happen, but Gordon should turn out to be a star.

I really like the selection of Payton, the best pure point guard in the draft. He’s not a good shooter, and some scouts have predicted his mechanics are too broken to be fixed. But as a facilitator and defender, he’s top-notch. His presence will also allow Victor Oladipo to go back to shooting guard, a position he is better suited for.

Overall Draft Grade:   A — I considered giving a lower grade since the team didn’t address its glaring need for a shooter, but the Magic nabbed two long-term starters, and at least one potential star. Hard to find too much fault in that.

Washington Wizards

Team Needs: Center, Point Guard, Power Forward, Small Forward

Draft Picks:

  •  No picks

*Traded No. 46 pick to the Lakers for cash.

The Wizards traded their first-round pick to the Suns for Marcin Gortat. Given Gortat’s play for the Wizards last season, it’s not too bad a return for the pick. If the team re-signs him then it was a good trade. If they let him leave for nothing in return, then not so much. Without Gortat they would have most likely been picking higher in the draft, and could have nabbed a valuable building block.

Overall Draft Grade:  B- — That grade is if Gortat re-signs. If he leaves then one playoff appearance wasn’t worth the sacrifice, and this grade gets bumped down to a D-.

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