2015 NBA Draft Grades: Southeast Division

The 2015 NBA Draft is squarely in the rearview and a number of draftees have already provided a taste of what is to come with their summer league play. I held off on my grades until now because I wanted a better context in which to evaluate each team’s selections, with free agency and summer league providing greater perspective. Sometimes, selecting the best available player isn’t the best course of action and it is wiser to nab a player who fits a clear need, which should always be considered when rating how each front office fared in the draft. I’ve already run down my thoughts on the Atlantic and Central Divisions, and next up is a look at the Southeast Division:

Atlanta Hawks

Team Needs: Depth, scoring.

Draft Picks:

  • No. 50 Overall  Marcus Eriksson, SG, Sweden
  • No. 59 Overall  Dimitrios Agravanis, F, Greece

Atlanta’s haul on draft night amounted to two draft-and-stash players whose NBA futures are murky at best, and Tim Hardaway Jr., whom the team acquired from the Knicks in exchange for the No. 19 overall pick that had been garnered in a swap with the Wizards earlier in the draft. So in essence, the Hawks dealt the No. 15 overall pick in the 2015 draft for 2013’s No. 24 overall choice. While I do think that Hardaway could benefit from a change of scenery, I firmly believe that Atlanta would have done better to hold onto its original pick and simply used it to select Kelly Oubre, who was taken by Washington at No. 15 overall.

Oubre, while he didn’t live up to expectations during his lone season at Kansas, has the potential to be a two-way star in the NBA. Hardaway, while being a nice complementary offensive player, has shown himself to be fairly one-dimensional thus far in his professional career. Hardaway is also a bit of a redundant a piece with Kyle Korver already on the roster, which makes the trade even more of a head-scratcher in my view. I would even go as far as saying that keeping the No. 19 overall pick, Jerian Grant, would have benefited the franchise more than adding the former Knicks shooting guard.

Overall Draft Grade: D. While the Hawks did land a proven commodity in Hardaway, Oubre has the potential to be a far better NBA player. Atlanta would have been better served to simply hold onto their original selection instead of wheeling and dealing in the first round.

Charlotte Hornets

Team Needs: Outside shooting, frontcourt depth

Draft Picks:

  • No. 9 Overall Frank Kaminsky, PF, Wisconsin

It feels as if the Hornets have been searching for a player who can stretch the floor on offense for ages, with outside shooting being one of the team’s main weaknesses for a few seasons running. That’s why I found it a surprise that Charlotte passed on Devin Booker with its pick and instead went with Kaminsky. Sure, Kaminsky is certainly capable of filling up a stat sheet from the outside, but the team could have used a wing player who can shoot much more than a stretch-four. Or, perhaps I should say, another stretch-four, given that the team traded for Spencer Hawes this offseason. The addition of Hawes should have allowed for GM Rich Cho to land an impact player on the wing like Booker, or Duke’s Justise Winslow, who may end up haunting Charlotte if he becomes a two-way star in the league.

Kaminsky is limited athletically, and while he is certainly a fierce competitor who is very skilled offensively, his defensive shortcomings will lower his overall ceiling as a prospect. I’m rooting for “Frank the Tank” to succeed in the league, but I can easily see him becoming a specialist like Steve Novak, and reduced to sporadic minutes in reserve. Which is not what you want out of a top 10 pick, especially given some of the talent still on the board when Charlotte was on the clock on draft night.

Overall Draft Grade: C+. The selection of Kaminsky was puzzling given the presence of Hawes, the team’s greater needs at the wing and center positions, and the availability of Winslow and Booker at the No. 9 spot. Kaminsky is a solid player, but the team could have utilized this pick much more effectively.

Miami Heat

Team Needs: Youth, depth at wing and at center.

Draft Picks:

  • No. 10 Overall Justise Winslow, SF, Duke
  • No. 40 Overall  Josh Richardson, SG, Tennessee

Team president Pat Riley likely stared at his draft board in disbelief when the Heat’s pick was due and he saw that Winslow was still available at No. 10 overall. Winslow had been projected by a number of mock drafts to be a potential top five pick, so landing him where Miami did cannot be considered anything but a steal for the franchise. The former Duke swingman can provide depth for both Dwyane Wade at shooting guard and Luol Deng at small forward, and given the age and injury concerns for both players, that’s a huge boon for the team. There are concerns about Winslow’s ability to hit his outside shots consistently, but his athleticism and defensive abilities should garner Winslow regular minutes as he figures things out.

The addition of Richardson isn’t likely to have much, if any, impact on the coming season for Miami. It’s doubtful that the swingman will make the team’s regular season roster, though his defensive acumen should ensure him a slot on the Heat’s D-League affiliate for 2015/16.

Overall Draft Grade: A+. It’s hard to find any fault with the Heat selecting a player of Winslow’s potential, especially with the 10th overall pick. Fantastic job for Riley, who continues to show why he’s one of the best executives in the game by not overthinking the selection.

Orlando Magic

Team Needs: Depth, outside shooting.

Draft Picks:

  • No. 5 Overall Mario Hezonja, SG, Croatia
  • No. 51 Overall  Tyler Harvey, SG, Eastern Washington

Like Charlotte, it seems as if Orlando has been searching for a player who can light up the scoreboard from the outside for an eternity. The Magic are hoping that Hezonja, whom the team selected over better-known talents like Justise Winslow, Stanley Johnson, Devin Booker, and Frank Kaminsky with the fifth overall pick, will be the bounty of their quest. While Hezonja certainly has the skills and athletic ability to justify such a high selection, there are legitimate concerns regarding his maturity level and ability to accept coaching, which, if true, will hamper the Croatian’s development significantly. But if Hezonja manages to live up to his predraft hype, the Magic landed themselves a potential star who can fill up the rim from anywhere inside the arena.

My concern for Orlando is the high washout rate of European draftees in the NBA, and the risk the franchise took in nabbing Hezonja that high in the first round. While the upside of Hezonja is certainly tantalizing, the team may have been better served to select a more NBA-ready player in Willie Cauley-Stein, Winslow, or Booker at that slot. All of whom would have filled an obvious need for Orlando, and carried less risk while doing so.

I’m a bigger fan of GM Rob Hennigan nabbing Eastern Washington sharpshooter Tyler Harvey toward the bottom of the second round than I am of his selection of Hezonja. Harvey needs development as a player, but he’s a lethal shooter who needs to be accounted for by defenders the moment he crosses the halfcourt line. There are concerns with his level of athleticism, but he is a smart and savvy player who has the potential to become a solid contributor off of the bench for Orlando in a few seasons.

Overall Draft Grade: B+. I’ll give Hennigan credit for taking a gamble on the upside of Hezonja, but there were a number of players who could have filled the team’s needs at No. 5 overall who didn’t possess as many question marks about their NBA future.

Washington Wizards

Team Needs: Small forward, depth.

Draft Picks:

  • No. 15 Overall  Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas*
  • No. 49 Overall  Aaron White, F, Iowa

*Acquired from Hawks in exchange for the No. 19 overall pick and two future second-rounders.

The Wizards entered the draft needing to land themselves a wing player who would complement their starting backcourt tandem of John Wall and Bradley Beal, as well as to replace Paul Pierce, who signed a free agent deal with the Clippers this offseason. Washington made a smart trade with Atlanta, swapping first-rounders and giving up two future second round picks in exchange for the opportunity to land Oubre.

The swingman out of Kansas was a disappointment during his lone season with the Jayhawks, never coming close to delivering on the preseason hype that his impending arrival in Lawrence wrought. Oubre’s freshman campaign had a rocky start, with the 19-year-old often looking completely lost on the court and receiving sporadic playing time as a result. But Oubre did turn things around as the season progressed, and Washington landed itself a heck of a talent outside of the lottery. Oubre’s defense is more NBA-ready than his offense is, and he’ll learn the hard way that it takes more than athleticism to be an effective scorer in the pros. But I do expect Oubre to develop into a starter, and possibly a future All-Star, though it often won’t be a smooth ride. But full credit is due to the Wizards’ front office, who made a solid deal on draft night to land themselves a player who fits their needs perfectly.

Overall Draft Grade: A+. Great move by GM Ernie Grunfeld to move up in the first round via trade and to land Oubre at No. 15 overall. He fits an obvious team need, and Oubre has the potential to be a two-way star in a few seasons.

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3 thoughts on “2015 NBA Draft Grades: Southeast Division

  1. A+ and misguided praise to Riley for Winslow who was gifted to him at 10? What an amazing strategy by Riley to pick the obvious – what is so amazing about that?

    • Eddie Scarito

      Well..landing Winslow at No. 10 is definitely an A+ in my book for a draft haul. As for misguided praise for Riley, sure he made what looks like an obvious pick…but many an executive has dropped the ball when there were selections that should have been obvious in retrospect. Darko Milicic when Anthony, Bosh, and Wade were still on the board? Oden over Durant? I can keep going, but I hope you get my point. Riley did the correct thing and took the best available player while not overthinking it. I won’t penalize him for getting it right…even if it seems like a no-brainer.

  2. Chuck Myron

    I think the Hawks simply felt as though there wasn’t someone worth taking at No. 15, and that they wanted more of a sure thing with Hardaway. I can’t blame a team for going after a known quantity, particularly since it’s tough to find a ton of upside by the time the lottery is through. Oubre has upside, but I can only conclude from this pick that the Hawks don’t have faith that he’ll be any better than Hardaway.

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