Draft Grades: Atlantic Division

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 looked at the Central and Pacific Divisions. Now it’s time for the Atlantic Division:

Boston Celtics

Team Needs: Power Forward, Shooting Guard, Point Guard

Draft Picks:

The Celtics find a potential replacement for Rajon Rondo in Smart, a player who should improve his shooting with some work, and who is capable of defending both backcourt spots. If Rondo isn’t dealt, Smart can slide over and play shooting guard. The biggest worry with a starting backcourt of Rondo and Smart will be their ability to stretch defenses as neither is a reliable outside threat. Good value for pick at that spot.

In Young, Boston gets the potential scoring threat that team so badly needs. Young is a still developing player who will take a few seasons to reach his potential. But he’s a fearless gunner with a sweet outside stroke who can also take it to the basket. Defense will be an issue for Young as he needs to add bulk as well as improve his on ball defense if he wants to get minutes under coach Brad Stevens.

Overall Draft Grade: B+ — The Celtics were hoping to flip these picks for Kevin Love, so that diminishes their overall score for the night. But they did snag two players who should be starters by 2015/2016.

Brooklyn Nets

Team Needs: Youth, Depth, Point Guard, Wing Players

Draft Picks:

  • No. 44 Markel Brown (Shooting Guard)*
  • No. 59 Xavier Thames (Point Guard)**
  • No. 60 Cory Jefferson (Power Forward)***

*Purchased pick from Timberwolves
**Purchased pick from Raptors
***Purchased pick from Spurs via Sixers.

The Nets needed to acquire some cheap depth, and that’s pretty much what they accomplished. The franchise had a better night than expected, acquiring three second-rounders on draft night. None of the players they selected project out as a starter, but Jefferson could prove useful this season, while Brown and Thames will take longer to bear fruit.

Overall Draft Grade: C — The team acquired some potentially useful pieces, but nothing that improved the franchise for next season. It was a better haul than expected, considering the team had zero picks heading into the draft.

New York Knicks

Team Needs: Center, Youth, Small Forward

Draft Picks:

  • No. 34 Cleathony Early (Small Forward)
  • No. 51 Thanasis Antetokounmpo (Small Forward)
  • No. 57 Louis Labeyrie (Power Forward/Center)*

*Purchased pick from Pacers

The Knicks went into draft night desperately attempting to acquire a first round selection. They weren’t able to move into the first round, so thanks to the recent Tyson Chandler trade with the  Mavericks, Phil Jackson at least had a chance to make his first mark on the franchise. Early buzz was that the team was looking at Patric Young at No. 34. But when Early fell out of the first round, the Knicks couldn’t pass him up.

Early can play, but where that will be still remains unclear. He’s not fast enough to guard small forwards, nor is he big enough to be a power forward. Scouts also have serious misgivings about his ability to handle the ball. He’s also 23 years old, which means he’s close to his ceiling. Despite all the knocks, I think he’ll become a nice rotation piece for the Knicks in a season or two.

Antetokounmpo was a reach. Neither the Bucks, who employ his brother, nor the Sixers, who he played for in the D-League, decided to take him. That should tell you something right there. Granted, there wasn’t much left on the board at the time, so he might be worth the chance. 

Labeyrie is unlikely to ever play in the league, which makes the move to purchase the draft pick a puzzling one.

Overall Draft Grade: C+ —Credit to Jackson for getting some picks in the draft. Early was a good value for the slot, but the team’s other two selections were probably just footnotes.

Philadelphia 76ers

Team Needs: Shooting Guard, Depth, Talent

Draft Picks:

* Acquired from Magic for No. 10 overall pick, Elfrid Payton
** Acquired for No. 54 overall pick Nemanja Dangubic
***Also traded No. 47 Russ Smith to the Pelicans in exchange for the rights to Pierre Jackson, last year’s No. 42 overall selection.

The Sixers went into the night loaded with picks and high hopes. They were unable to trade up to select Wiggins, and when Parker went No. 2, it seemed all but assured they would select Dante Exum. But for the second draft in a row, Sam Hinkie took a chance on a player who might not set foot on the court all of next season.

Embiid is the most transformative player in the entire draft. But he could end up being the next Greg Oden just as easily as the next Hakeem Olajuwon. If Embiid can overcome his mounting injury concerns, this draft will be looked back on with great fondness. But this draft will also be looked at as tanking 2.0 for the team since it did nothing to get better for the 2014/15 season.

We just discussed Embiid, but Saric isn’t planning on coming over to the NBA for one or two seasons, minimum. The same with Micic. Both picks are decent values. Saric went right where he was slotted, and has a wealth of potential. The big question is if the team was better served to reach for that potential or better served selecting T.J. Warren, Adreian Payne, or Doug McDermott — and not having made the trade with Orlando that swapped picks.

Micic was predicted as a late first round selection in some mocks, so he’s a value where the team picked him. I’m very high on the selection of McDaniels, a player I thought had mid first round talent. He’s a ferocious defender who will make others around him better. Really like that pick. Grant was also a good value in round two, and he could develop into a nice role player for the team.

Overall Draft Grade: B+ —The final grade rests on Embiid’s health, but he might be worth the gamble. Saric was another good gamble, though the team might have gotten more value at the spot. The second round was filled with good value selections, though only McDaniels has starter potential. This is one that could easily change to an A+ if Saric and Embiid pan out. Passing on Exum could come back to haunt them.

Toronto Raptors

Team Needs: Center, Small Forward, Point Guard

Draft Picks:

  • No. 20 Bruno Caboclo (Power Forward)
  • No. 37 DeAndre Daniels (Small Forward)

If you shook your head and had no idea who Bruno Caboclo is, you’re not alone. Most experts didn’t even have him on their draft boards, much lest being taken in the middle of the first round. Caboclo has been described as the “Brazilian Kevin Durant.” Toronto would be happy if it turned out he was the Brazilian Giannis Antetokounmpo. This pick is a reach, especially considering the better known talent that was still on the board at that slot. This was easily the most puzzling selection of the night.

Snagging Daniels in the second round was a solid pick, and Daniels could develop into a productive reserve.

Overall Draft Grade: D- — I’m still having a difficult time processing the selection of Caboclo. Especially when Clint Capela, Mitch McGary, Rodney Hood, and P.J. Hairston were still on the board. The Raptors could have traded down and still nabbed their man. Daniels is a solid second-rounder, but went in range he was expected to go. The Raptors wanted Tyler Ennis, and were probably heartbroken when he was taken by the Suns at #18. Not a great night in Toronto.

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