A draft that really didn’t have much to offer talent-wise in comparison to the past year’s crop of talent and next year’s, made up for the lack of talent with a whole lot of entertainment and intrigue. It started from the beginning with the Anthony Bennett pick to the Cavaliers, and continued with supposed consensus No. 1 Nerlens Noel falling to No. 6 and then getting traded. But more on both of those later.
A lot of people seem to love the haul the Portland Trail Blazers pulled in Thursday night, and I’m not sure why. Yes, C.J. McCollum and Allan Crabbe can shoot the heck out of the ball but there’s really nowhere for those guys to fit in behind crowded backcourt that has Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard taking up the lion’s share of minutes in. In the frontcourt, the Blazers picked up Jeff Withey who joins Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard (2012 No. 11 pick) a crowd behind J.J. Hickson and LaMarcus Aldridge. However, players like this could be some sort of insurance in the event a player like Aldridge is dealt.
At the top, it also appears few are fans of the Anthony Bennett choice. While there were concerns regarding his weight and injury history, Cleveland made him the No. 1 choice which shocked nearly everyone besides Tim Legler. In all, the pick is not a bad one especially when looking down the line. Bennett can play the three for Cleveland with his shooting ability and athleticism, and is also a nice stretch-four player when necessary. In today’s NBA, that’s not a bad type of player to be with the transition of the game’s focus to the perimeter (see: Jeff Green). In all reality, there were probably one or two players in this draft class that will make an impact in 2013-14. But down the line, a starting five of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson, and Tyler Zeller will be a formidable one dressed in the Cavaliers’ wine and whatever they call that yellow color.
Speaking of those two players, Ben McLemore and Trey Burke are likely the players to contend for Rookie of the Year. McLemore’s offensive game needs some work but he could conceivably start in Sacramento’s first game. The Kings also picked up Ray McCallum Jr. in the second round, who should see time off the bench just based on his scoring capabilities on his own.
Burke should also slide into Utah’s starting lineup and, surrounded by Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors for the foreseeable future, the Jazz have a solid core.
The team who drafted and traded Burke—the Minnesota Timberwolves—pulled in arguably the draft’s best group of players. In exchange for Burke, Minnesota received the rights to Shabazz Muhammed and Gorgui Dieng, two players who should see some time as rotation guys to complement Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. With the chance that Nikola Pekovic leaves via free agency, the T’Wolves have a quality replacement in the middle with Dieng who should pair well with Love. Plus, Muhammed’s only responsibility playing alongside Rubio and Alexey Shved will be to score. And the less responsibility for a player with the attitude of Muhammed, the better things will probably go with him involved.
In the grand scheme of things, the best move of the night involved Noel, the Sixers, and the Pelicans. New Orleans sent Noel and a 2014 No. 1 pick top-three protected pick to Philadelphia for Jrue Holiday. This deal helps the Pelicans right now, and gives the Sixers a possible franchise player who they paired with No. 11 pick Michael Carter-Williams, and the chance to get a cornerstone next year with at least two, maybe three, lottery choices. Namely, Andrew Wiggins. It was something Philadelphia needed to do after spending the last few years in NBA limbo—multiple early-playoff exits and mid-first round lottery picks that had little to no impact on the team. It’s the way to win in today’s NBA, as started by the then-Seattle Sonics who tore it down and restarted through the draft with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
For New Orleans, the acquisition of Holiday gives them the point guard they need while affording the chance to trade Eric Gordon or Greivis Vasquez as Gordon was reported to want to go to Phoenix in free agency last season. In tandem with 2012 No. 1 Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, New Orleans has a nice core moving forward.