2016 NBA Draft Grades: Atlantic Division

The 2016 NBA Draft is now squarely in the rearview and teams have already begun signing their selections. Sometimes, taking 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 performed in the draft. We at Hoops Rumors will be taking a look at how each team fared on Draft night. We’ll begin with a look at the Atlantic Division:

Boston Celtics

Team Needs: Star player, Outside Shooting, Frontcourt Depth

Draft Picks:

The Celtics entered Thursday night’s draft with their eyes on landing a star player in exchange for the No. 3 overall pick. While names like Kevin Love, Jimmy Butler, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor were mentioned in connection with Boston, team executive Danny Ainge was unable or unwilling to make a blockbuster trade in exchange for the top three selection. Given the build-up and speculation attached to this year’s draft for the Celtics, it’s difficult not to be disappointed by the end result for Ainge’s squad.

Instead of acquiring a player who could be plugged into the starting lineup from day one, the team selected versatile wing scorer Jaylen Brown out of the University of California. While Brown may not be a ready-made star for the team, he is arguably the third-best player in the entire draft and fits a clear need for the Celtics. He’ll require some time to acclimate to the NBA game and to add some bulk to his frame before paying dividends for Boston, but he was a solid pick as a fallback option.

Boston’s other two first-rounders, Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic, are almost assuredly going to end up as draft-and-stash players. I like the addition of Yabusele, who has the ability to evolve into a force in the paint area for Boston. His offensive game will need serious work, but he projects as a solid hustle player off the bench down the line for the Celtics. I’m not as bullish on the selection of Zizic, who may evolve into a solid rotation player for the team in a few years. It’s no so much I am down of the big man’s game, but with Dejounte Murray and Deyonta Davis still on the board, I feel the team missed out on not nabbing one of that duo given their much greater upsides.

While the Celtics may have disappointed some with their first round choices, the team knocked it out of the park with their work in the second round. Both Demetrius Jackson and Ben Bentil were projected by many, including myself, to be first-rounders, which makes landing them at picks No. 45 and No. 51 overall flat out steals. Fantastic additions who should both be solid rotation players for coach Brad Stevens.

Overall Draft Grade: I feel the need to give the Celtics two grades for their 2016 NBA Draft. If grading based on the hope and expectation the team would flip the No. 3 pick for a star player, then the team gets a firm “D.” But despite not acquiring a true star player Thursday night, Boston nabbed a number of talented and promising young pieces who can help the team. For that work I give Ainge and the Celtics an overall mark of on “A.”

Brooklyn Nets

Team Needs: Talent, Point Guard, Scoring, Rebounding, Defense

Draft Picks:

The Nets entered the Draft without a selection thanks to their ill-advised dealings with the Celtics. The franchise is devoid of talent and in need of virtually everything one can think of in relation to a basketball team. GM Sean Marks was determined to acquire a pick in this year’s big event and found a willing trade partner in Indiana who eagerly shipped Brooklyn the No. 20 overall pick in exchange for forward Thaddeus Young.

Dealing Young and bottoming-out to rebuild through the draft would be a wise strategy at this point for the Nets if the team owned its next two first-rounders. But with Boston able to swap first round picks next year and owning Brooklyn’s 2018 first round pick outright, parting ways with a solid contributor like Young who was signed to a fairly reasonable contract makes little sense to me. If Brooklyn had done more with the No. 20 pick I may be singing a different tune. But landing oft-injured Michigan guard Caris LeVert, who likely could have been obtained in the second round, is a puzzler for me, especially given some of the other players who were available at that slot.  It’s going to be a very long season in Brooklyn unless the team pulls off a few stunners in free agency.

Overall Draft Grade: I like LeVert’s potential, but he was a major reach at pick No. 20 and was not worth parting ways with Young for. I am still shaking my head at the move by Marks and give the team an “F.”

New York Knicks

Team Needs: Talent, Point Guard, Center, Shooters, Frontcourt Depth

Draft Picks:

  • None

New York did not have a first-rounder thanks to the Andrea Bargnani trade, which was a disaster for the Knicks in every imaginable way. The Knicks REALLY could have used their pick, which was ultimately used by Denver to select Kentucky’s Jamal Murray. For those keeping score, the Knicks sacrificed a shot at Murray (or Jakob Poeltl, who was taken by the Raptors after Denver exercised its right to swap picks) in exchange for 71 total games of Bargnani. Ouch!

The team would have been well-served to have acquired a second-round pick given the available depth but team president Phil Jackson was unable to land one, which is another major missed opportunity for New York. The Knicks have already been active in signing undrafted free agents, so missing out on joining the second round isn’t quite as glaring as it may have otherwise been.

Overall Draft Grade: The Bargnani trade was one of the worst in franchise history and the failure to acquire another pick land New York an emphatic “F.”

Philadelphia 76ers

Team Needs: Talent, Scoring, Outside Shooting, Point Guard

Draft Picks:

  • No. 1 Overall — Ben Simmons, F (LSU)
  • No. 24 Overall — Timothe Luwawu, G/F (Mega Leks)
  • No. 26 Overall — Furkan Korkmaz, SG (Anadolu Efes)

The Sixers finally landed the elusive No. 1 overall pick and surprised no one when they chose former LSU forward Ben Simmons with it. While there was some pre-draft debate regarding the merits of former Duke swingman Brandon Ingram, Simmons is the consensus top player in this year’s crop and Philly didn’t overthink its pick. Simmons will join an overcrowded frontcourt in Philadelphia, but given his versatility, coach Brett Brown should have little difficulty finding a spot on the floor for the young player.

Philadelphia was reportedly interested in acquiring another lottery pick and was rumored to be pitching a deal to the Celtics involving Nerlens Noel in exchange for the No. 3 overall pick. The Sixers’ draft would have been phenomenal if the team had been able to nab Boston’s pick and added point guard Kris Dunn, who would fill a MAJOR team need. But the two parties could not come to terms and team executive Bryan Colangelo was forced to stand pat and select two international backcourt players with picks No. 24 and No. 26 instead.

I like the additions of Timothe Luwawu and Furkan Korkmaz, but feel the team would have been far better off taking Dejounte Murray or Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson with one of those selections. The team needs backcourt help desperately and even if Luwawu and/or Korkmaz are wearing a Sixers jersey next season, it is doubtful they will be ready to contribute much initially.

Overall Draft Grade: The selection of Simmons was a no-brainer and adding Luwawu and Korkmaz could pay off down the line, but by not selecting talent ready to contribute immediately late in the first round, Philly may have missed out on a strong opportunity. I give the Sixers an “A-” for their efforts.

Toronto Raptors

Team Needs: Frontcourt depth, outside shooting, backcourt depth

Draft Picks:

The Raptors are more than likely going to lose Bismack Biyombo to free agency this summer, so landing froncourt help was vital for the team. Nabbing former Utah big man Jakob Poeltl was an excellent way to accomplish this. Poeltl is a mobile big man who can rebound and defend and should quickly step into Toronto’s rotation. Poeltl flirted with joining the NBA last season, but remaining in school for another year did wonders for his game. He is perhaps the most NBA-ready big man in the entire draft and kudos to GM Masai Ujiri for landing him.

Former New Mexico State power forward Pascal Siakam is a ferocious rebounder, but he was a reach at No. 27 overall. There were a number of talented players available who were rated higher on most draft boards available at that slot and I think this will be a pick the team ends up regretting at some point down the line. Especially since Deyonta Davis, Skal Labissiere, Damian Jones and Cheick Diallo, all of whom I have rated higher than Siakam, were still readily available when Philly was on the clock late in the first round.

Overall Draft Grade: I love the pick of Poeltl, who may be the best center in the draft, at pick No. 9. He fills a clear need and should be able to contribute from day one. The team missed out on more talented players with much higher upsides with pick No. 27. If I was grading just for Poeltl it would be an “A+,” but the Siakam pick lowers the grade to a “B+.”

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