2009 NBA Draft Grades, Pt. 1
The grades are in for the Eastern Conference…
With draft night having come and gone the scrutiny can begin. Overall, most teams did a fairly good job of addressing their needs and several teams were the beneficiaries of big time talent falling into their laps. Only a few moves left people scratching their heads, but still enough to create plenty of discussion.
Today we take a look at the Eastern Conference, who didn’t have a pick until No. 8 when the Knicks were on the board. Despite that, the East still did some excellent work, coming away with a couple of mid-to-late first round steals and a couple of second round sleepers who could make some noise as well. Check back tomorrow for SLAM’s breakdown of the Western Conference.
Boston Celtics: B
Players Chosen: Lester Hudson (58)
It’s hard to give Boston a great grade here given that they held only the second to last pick as a result of the Kevin Garnett trade from two years ago. With that said, Danny Ainge certainly got a lot of value for this pick by going with Tennesee-Martin’s Lester Hudson. The combo-guard made headlines last year when he recorded the first quadruple-double in Division 1 history and put together the type of stat lines you’d expect to see in a video game. Physically there is a good amount to like despite the lack of size that Hudson brings to the court. He has a chiseled 6-1, 200-pound frame and a freakishly long 6-9 wingspan which will allow him to guard bigger players. The Celtics needed a guard who could come off the bench to provide scoring and defense, Hudson has the potential to do both, but at 24 years old, his clock is already ticking.
New Jersey Nets: C+
Players Chosen: Terrence Williams (11)
New Jersey has decided to build for the future. By trading off arguably their top player in Vince Carter for among others, Courtney Lee and some cap space, the Nets decided to go with a younger nucleus of players. In terms of the draft, the Nets needed either a tough power forward (early speculation had DeJuan Blair going here) or a versatile wing player to run alongside Devin Harris; they went with the latter. Williams has top-5 upside written all over him given his tremendous athleticism and versatility. He can do seemingly everything a player can do on the court at this point in his career except for consistently shoot from the outside, something that will develop with time. He is an excellent rebounder for his position, a solid defender and a good passer; the Nets have their backcourt of the future in TWill and Harris. Add in the tough defense and blossoming talent that Courtney Lee brings from Orlando, and the Nets have a solid three-guard rotation for the next several years, especially given that Williams can play multiple positions. Long-term this has the potential to pay off, but as for now, the loss of Carter ensures it’s going to be a rough season for New Jersey fans and the team will struggle, hence the low grade.
New York Knicks: B+
Players Chosen: Jordan Hill (8), Toney Douglas (29, from Lakers)
The two players on the Knickerbockers big board (Rubio and Curry) were gone by the time pick eight rolled around, so in the end Mike D’Antoni got his boy. Leading up to the draft the Knicks had been divided with the coaching staff falling in love with Jordan Hill who D’Antoni compared to “a young Amar’e Stoudamire” and the front office leaning toward Jrue Holiday. In the end, both groups got what they wanted, sort of. The Knicks took Hill who was the best player available—an athletic big man who loves to run and will fit in very nicely with the Knicks up-and-down offense. It should also be noted that the Knicks swapped Quentin Richardson and cash for Darko Milicic in a deal with the Grizzlies. Clearly D’Antoni is looking for a frontcourt that can run as opposed to the Knicks bigs of a few years ago, the plodding Eddie Curry and Zach Randolph. New York also bought the Lakers pick at 29, and though it had been widely rumored the Knicks wanted sharpshooter Jack McClinton, they again went with the best player on the board in selecting Florida State’s Toney Douglas. The combo-guard is one of the more underrated players in the draft, and in some ways is an upgrade on Richardson despite being smaller at 6-2. Douglas has good slashing ability, is a good catch and shoot perimeter player, but perhaps most importantly is an excellent overall defender – think a shorter Mardy Collins with game on the offensive end. Overall the Knicks played it safe and avoided one of the pitfalls of any draft, trying to get fancy with their picks. They didn’t get who they really wanted, not that they had a great chance anyway, but they took the two best players on the board when their picks were up.
Philadelphia 76ers: A
Players Chosen: Jrue Holiday (17)
Sometimes it pays to let other people do all of the work for you while you sit back and reap the benefits. Jrue Holiday had one of the worst draft nights of anyone, but it turned into a great night for the people of Philadelphia. As recently three weeks ago, Holiday was in the mix for the Sacramento Kings at four after impressing them in his workouts, but concerns about a shoulder injury scared a lot of potential suitors away and he started to plummet. The UCLA guard is a lottery talent with a lot of upside as a point guard, trailing perhaps only Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings in that department. He has great size (6-4.5) and length (6-7 wingspan) for the position, which will allow him to operate well in traffic and as an on-ball defender. Holiday has a good basketball IQ, knows how to finish around the basket, can run the pick-and-roll very well (a must for the NBA) and is versatile enough to line up at either guard spot. The 76ers needed a point guard with the ability to put the ball in the basket when necessary, especially with Andre Miller as an unrestricted free agent this season, in Holiday they got their man. Certainly taking the unproven youngster over more NBA-ready players like Ty Lawson and Eric Maynor is a role of the dice, but in this case it’s a great one.
Toronto Raptors: A-
Players Chosen: DeMar DeRozan (9)
It always has to be a good feeling to know that despite owning the 9th pick in the draft, your team selected the player who could emerge as the top pick out of his class in a few years. There isn’t a player in the 2009 Draft with more upside than DeRozan, if everything pans out this kid could be a star. The Raptors needed a scoring wing to accompany the interior duo of Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani and they may have gotten it with this pick. DeRozan underwhelmed for much of his freshman season but started to show signs of what the future could hold when he took home Pac-10 Tournament MVP honors, averaging 21 ppg during that stretch. DeRozan has good size for the wing (6-7), tremendous athleticism, a very good mid-range game and the ability to finish in the lane. This is a player who is still very much learning the game as well as his capabilities, but the open style of the NBA is actually going to be a better fit for him than the packed in defenses he was facing at the college level. The Raptors take a risk by taking DeRozan, but the potential payoff was too good to pass on and they didn’t.
Chicago Bulls: B
Players Chosen: James Johnson (16), Taj Gibson (26)
This was a respectable draft for Chicago; they addressed some needs, but did it in a way that isn’t going to have them suddenly winning 15 more games next season. The Bulls were looking for help in their frontcourt and they did so going with a pair of power forwards. James Johnson is an interesting prospect; he has a big, solid frame capable of banging down low against opposing frontcourt players, but also shows the ability to step away from the lane and create mismatches. He has the ability to create his own shot, shows a soft touch on his jumper and is a big man who excels in the transition game. In short, with the distinct possibility that Tyrus Thomas could be gone come next season, the Bulls drafted a player who fits the same mold of being a versatile four, but clearly Johnson is no Thomas. Taj Gibson could possibly fill some of the void left by Thomas on the defensive end if he is traded. Though not the same caliber athlete, Gibson is quick off his feet and has a ridiculous 7-4 wingspan that is going to make him a good defender at the next level. He is also a big man who can face up against defenders and take slower players off the dribble. His excellent rebounding numbers will be a good addition as well. Neither of these players are surefire picks for Chicago, but the Bulls went for help where they needed it the most and brought in a pair of quality players.
Cleveland Cavaliers: C-
Players Chosen: Christian Eyenga (30), Danny Green (46 from Chicago), Emir Preldzic (57)
Cavs fans can take solace in the fact that they acquired Shaq yesterday, because otherwise draft night would have been a complete disaster solely as a result of Cleveland’s first round pick. Danny Ferry opted to go with small forward Christian Eyenga from the Congo, who spent this past season with CB Prat Juventud, the same program that Ricky Rubio played for, but a lower caliber team. The unbelievable thing about this pick is Eyenga didn’t even want to be selected in the first round; supposedly his plan was to get drafted in the second round or not at all, and then return to his team overseas to further develop. Now, as a first round pick, Eyenga has a guaranteed contract coming from Cleveland. The Congo native said through a translator shortly after the pick was announced that he was “shocked” he has been selected; so was everyone else. Making things even worse, players like Sam Young and DeJuan Blair were still on the board for the Cavs. The scouting report on Eyenga is his is a good athlete and defender with the capability to knock down the perimeter jumper; the name Mickael Pietrus gets thrown around a lot with him. The Cavs saved some face in the second round by drafting Danny Green out of North Carolina. Green is a good athlete who hustles and has a nicely developing jumper. This is a guy who is already fairly polished and could contribute off the bench right away as rookie; this was a quality second round pick up. Slovenian Emir Preldzic will be stashed overseas for a couple of seasons to further develop his game. The 6-9 small forward has some nice potential, able to operate on the perimeter, pass the ball well and he shows a very high basketball IQ. He will need to get stronger and work on his lateral quickness to be a quality defender in the NBA. Again, the second round wasn’t bad at all for Cleveland, but the shocking first round pick is enough to drag their grade way down.
Detroit Pistons: A-
Players Chosen: Austin Daye (15), DaJuan Summers (35, from Minnesota), Jonas Jerebko (39, from Raptors)
The Pistons had a very quality draft in two regards: They addressed their needs for frontcourt help and a player on the wing, and they were able to get two major upside players given rather average spots in the draft. Both Austin Daye and DaJuan Summers are guys that can ultimately play the three or the four in the NBA if they continue to develop, and both have a lot of potential to be great players despite the question marks that surround them. Daye is arguably the best combination of size and skill in this draft outside of Earl Clark. The Gonzaga sophomore is a nearly 6-11 in shoes and has the skill set to play the small forward position in the NBA if he continues to progress. Daye has good handles, range beyond the arc and is more than capable of creating his own shot, especially given the size advantage he’ll have out on the perimeter. There are still a lot of concerns with his game, mainly his lack of strength and maturity at this point. Daye will have to become a lot tougher and hit the weight room in the offseason. If he lives up to his potential though, we’re talking about a major steal at 15 in the future. DaJuan Summers has an NBA body and more than enough toughness to handle his own in the lane. He is another guy who could create matchup problems with his ability to can the three and play good pick-and-pop basketball. Summers has a long way to go with his handles right now and has proven be turnover prone while in college; there are also some question marks about his ability to defend in the NBA. Still, at 35, Summers is a great pick to make because he doesn’t have to be signed and the Pistons will get a chance to see how he performs during the summer. Jerebko is very much like Summers, a bigger, versatile player but he is stuck between being a small forward and a power forward. There is a lot to like about him, especially his effort on the defensive end, but he looks like a guy who will get stashes overseas for at least a year to fine tune his game somewhat. Overall again, this is a solid draft for the Pistons. Guys like Daye and Summers may be too risky to take higher, but at 15 and 35 they look like can’t lose situations for Detroit given their upside.
Indiana Pacers: B
Players Chosen: Tyler Hansbrough (13), A.J. Price (52 from Dallas)
The Pacers helped to solidify a relatively young roster by adding a pair of solid role players to their lineup. There were certainly players with more upside than Tyler Hansbrough available at 13, but in drafting the UNC big man, Indiana is beefing up their frontcourt a little bit. Psycho T has the potential to start at the power forward spot right away depending on what he shows this summer and as we’ve learned in the past, good rebounding at the college level very easily transfers over to the NBA. A.J. Price was a nice second round acquisition and should make for a nice backup point guard option, especially if Jarrett Jack is gone next year and T.J. Ford is the man running the show. Price isn’t going to blow anyone away with his ability, but he is a steady hand at the wheel who will be able to manage the offense much as he did at Connecticut. Indiana continues to put together a very solid nucleus of young players around star Danny Granger and if they add another big weapon during the 2010 free agency buffet, the Pacers could make some serious noise in a couple of years.
Milwaukee Bucks: A-
Players Chosen: Brandon Jennings (10), Jodie Meeks (41)
The week started off with fireworks in Milwaukee when they traded away small forward Richard Jefferson, unofficially announcing a rebuilding period up north. The Bucks had a lot of options with their two picks as the frontcourt needs help, another scoring wing would have been nice to replace Jefferson and it isn’t looking like point guard Ramon Sessions will be resigned. Jennings is a great pick at 10, even though some may think the Bucks are swinging for the fences on this one (which they are), just because he has the second most upside of any point guard in this class. He is a phenomenal athlete with tremendous quickness and passing ability. Despite his small stature, Jennings can get to the basket and score very well, though his perimeter shooting still needs some improvement. This is another great role of the dice though as Jennings could prove to be a special player. Meeks gives Milwaukee a solid scoring option coming off the bench to help fill some of the void left by Jefferson. While he won’t be able to attack the rim and create a ton of offense as a slasher, Meeks is a big-time scorer who can light things up from the outside as he showed countless times at Kentucky this past season. With Jennings getting into the lane, Meeks can spot up and bury jumpers from the outside when he is on the floor. These two will take some time to develop, particularly Jennings, but the Bucks addressed two needs and they did it with quality picks.
Atlanta Hawks: B
Players Chosen: Jeff Teague (19), Sergiy Gladyr (49)
There’s no question that the Hawks needed to draft a point guard in this class. Acie Law and Speedy Claxton were shipped off for Jamal Crawford and Mike Bibby is a free agent. In taking Jeff Teague with the 19th pick Atlanta gets a lot of value for their spot. The Wake Forest guard spent much of the year as one of the top college prospects available, however, there is still the question of: Can he be a point guard? Teague has all the physical attributes you love to see in a floor general—athleticism, speed and quickness—but is he going to be a good distributor? Eric Maynor, a more NBA-ready point guard, was still on the board, but Teague definitely has the upside factor working for him. Gladyr is a good athlete and shooter from the Ukraine, where he averaged 15 ppg in the top division over there this season. Give him a couple of years to develop more (he’s only 19) and he could be a nice second round steal.
Charlotte Bobcats: A-
Players Chosen: Gerald Henderson (12), Derrick Brown (40, from Thunder)
This was an excellent haul for Charlotte as they were able to fill some of the holes they have on the wing. Gerald Henderson is a great athlete, even by NBA standards, and will be able to start one day as the two-guard. The former Duke Blue Devil has a great mid-range game and does a very good job of creating offensive opportunities for himself off the dribble. The really attractive part of his game though is the tremendous job he does as a defender. Henderson has a 6-11 wingspan to go along with his 6-5 frame that will allow him to guard perimeter players very effectively as he starts to get comfortable in the League. Derrick Brown has first round talent and should prove to be a steal for the Bobcats in the second round. Capable of playing either the three or four thanks to his great athleticism and versatility, Brown is a guy who can stick in the NBA for a long time as a quality role player. His lateral quickness and huge 7-3 wingspan will make him a very tough perimeter defender who can handle his own in the paint as well. His perimeter shooting also improved tremendously this past season, as he hit nearly 44 percent of his attempts from range. Michael Jordan & Co. didn’t get flashy in their picks, but filled some holes and got two very solid players who will be able to help right away and stick around for a while.
Miami Heat: B-
Players Chosen: Patrick Beverley (42, from Lakers), Robert Dozier (60)
This was a so-so draft for Miami, of course they had to deal with the handicap of not owning any picks in the first round. The Heat needed to solidify their frontcourt perhaps more than their backcourt, but opted to use their first pick on Patrick Beverley who spent the last year playing in the Ukraine. Beverley is a super athlete who has done well at both ends of the floor. He can shoot pretty well from the perimeter but is just as dangerous when he puts the ball onto the floor and attacks the rim. His time overseas seems to have been good for him, both on and off the court, and long term he looks like a nice back up option for Mario Chalmers at the point. Robert Dozier is another super athlete who can run well in transition and block shots with his length, but at this point there doesn’t seem to be much else to his game. He is going to be an energy guy if he sticks in the NBA, plain and simple. While it isn’t a terrible pick (there aren’t really any when you’re picking last) it’s worth asking if maybe a more polished guy like Josh Heytvelt might not have been a bad option to help out the frontcourt some more. What Heytvelt gives up for a little bit in athleticism, he more than makes up for with strength, rebounding and his pick-and-pop shooting ability. Dozier will be a guy who gets his points running the floor and picking up the trash inside.
Orlando Magic: A
Players Chosen: None
Despite not picking anyone, Orlando still had an excellent draft day. The Magic upgraded on Hedo Turkoglu significantly by trading for Vince Carter, a deal that will help Orlando immensely. In Carter, you still have a good perimeter shooter, but now with the added super athleticism that makes him a constant threat to attack the rim, more so than Turkoglu. Sure trading away a developing youngster like Courtney Lee who shows so much promise is tough, but Orlando still has plenty of backcourt talent, and just added a piece to the puzzle in Carter that could have the Magic back in the Finals again.
Washington Wizards: B
Players Chosen: None
This is very much a To Be Determined grade for Washington, but let’s gives them the benefit of the doubt for now. In trading away the 5th pick the Wizards may have passed on the opportunity to get a special player (Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn, etc.) but they did add a pair of veteran players that will be able to help out right away. In adding Mike Miller and Randy Foye to a lineup that already includes Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Gilbert Arenas and a slew of promising youngsters, Washington may have moved themselves back into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. Of course it could all blow up in their face if Miller and Foye don’t mesh and Ricky Rubio turns into the next big thing.