Friday, June 28, 2013

2013 NBA Draft: Winners, Losers & Somewhere In Between

Anthony Bennett greets NBA commissioner David Stern after Cavaliers make Canadian power forward UNLV's first No. 1 overall selection since Larry Johnson 22 years ago. (Photo courtesy of NBA.com)

Following this year's latest 60-player extravaganza featuring another unusually high amount of stash picks and enough drama for every network soap opera a few times over, one more NBA Draft has come and gone. As we try to do every year in its aftermath, we'll take a look at some of the big winners, and those who could have done a little better:

Winners
Sacramento Kings: The team with a home they're openly trying to leave might be a team on the rise next season. Sacramento only had two picks, but made the most of each despite not drafting frontcourt help for DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings had Ben McLemore fall into their laps at the No. 7 spot when he was projected within the top three and was considered the best player in the draft by several experts, and drafted underrated point guard Ray McCallum in the second round to form an effective platoon with Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette.

Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers' first move was to draft a partner for rookie sensation Damian Lillard, which they did by taking Lehigh's C.J. McCollum at No. 10. From there, the Blazers slowly moved further up in size, acquiring Cal swingman Allen Crabbe in a trade from Cleveland before beefing up the front line with Kansas' Jeff Withey and burgeoning big man Grant Jerrett of Arizona. The Blazers' other draft pick, Marko Tedorovic, can easily be stashed overseas until he is ready, and Portland is hoping he turns out as well as one of their most notable international stars, Arvydas Sabonis, did.

Philadelphia 76ers: The Sixers may have traded Jrue Holiday to New Orleans, but they get back a defensive star in the making in Nerlens Noel, whose torn ACL caused five teams to pass on him before the Pelicans grabbed the Kentucky standout at No. 6; and then Philly used their own pick on Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse five spots later, giving them a point guard who can steal just as well as he can pass and score. If that wasn't enough, the Sixers got great value in their second round pick, fortifying their backcourt with Baylor's Pierre Jackson, whose breakout stretch run carried the Bears to an NIT championship.

Dallas Mavericks: Mark Cuban worked the phones to perfection last night, turning Kelly Olynyk, who the Mavs drafted at 13, into trades with Boston and Atlanta that brought back Miami point guard Shane Larkin at No. 18, while Ricky Ledo; the superstar whose academic ineligibility precluded him from playing at Providence, ended up coming back to them in the second round. With these swaps, Dallas has a point guard of the future in Larkin to feed two scoring wings in Ledo and Jae Crowder, which eases the pressure on an aging Dirk Nowitzki.

Chicago Bulls: The Bulls also had just two selections, but hit home runs on each one. With the future of Luol Deng in doubt, Chicago drafted the extremely versatile Tony Snell out of New Mexico at No. 20, giving Tom Thibodeau a dual threat on both sides of the ball; and backed it up in the second round with Erik Murphy arriving in the Windy City to help ease the transition from Carlos Boozer, whose tenure in Chicago may be coming to an end.

Deshaun Thomas: Described in our mock draft as a consummate pro's pro, the bruising Ohio State big man looked for all the world like he would be an undrafted free agent, a shame for a player of his caliber. Fortunately for Thomas, not only did he get drafted, he walks into a dream situation in San Antonio, who selected him 58th overall. Thomas' arrival gives Gregg Popovich another versatile big man to place into the Spurs' rotation, and it fills the future task of having to replace Tim Duncan. Between Thomas, DeJuan Blair and Kawhi Leonard, the reigning Western Conference champions do not need to rebuild right away, but rather reload and evolve.

Fran Fraschilla: Of all the ESPN analysts last night, Fraschilla was far and away the most valuable on the microphone. His scouting reports of international players were the most refreshing and informative segments on draft night, and underscored the fact that someone out there should really take a look at him when the next college coaching carousel rolls around.

David Stern: The commissioner will always be a lightning rid for better or worse, but the NBA is really going to miss him when he rides off into the sunset next February. Let's face it, no one could work a crowd like Stern, and the Brooklyn native spared no expense in stealing the show, pulling out all the stops in front of his hometown crowd.

Losers
Orlando Magic: The Magic get an incomplete grade for yet another draft in their continued effort to rebuild post-Dwight Howard, first passing on Ben McLemore and Nerlens Noel to take Victor Oladipo of Indiana second overall, opting for the flashy shooting guard who will have to work harder to exploit professional defenses, and then taking Oklahoma's Romero Osby in the second round when they could have had Deshaun Thomas, or even a guard like Peyton Siva, who went to Detroit.

Charlotte Bobcats: In his first autobiography, pro wrestler Mick Foley wrote that the great Ric Flair (ironically, one of the most famous Charlotte residents) was "every bit as bad on the booking side of things as he was great on the wrestling side." The time may have come to start saying the same about Michael Jordan. For everything MJ has done on the court, he has proven to be in over his head in the front office, and the selection of Cody Zeller at No. 4 does nothing further to help his cause.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Remember how everyone lauded Sam Presti for fleecing the Rockets in last year's James Harden trade? Yeah, that was a long time ago. One year later, Harden has emerged as a star in Houston, and all the former Sonics have to show for it are Jeremy Lamb, an aging Kevin Martin, and No. 12 overall pick Steven Adams, a center from Pittsburgh who is a project to say the least. The Thunder will get great mileage from Andre Roberson, who was acquired in a trade, but their night could have gone much better.

Boston Celtics: Kelly Olynyk, Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans could end up being the new big three in Beantown after the Celtics traded for Olynyk, and then struck a deal to pry Wallace and Evans from Brooklyn for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, an agreement that will be announced on July 10th after the start of free agency. The Celtics did get three first-round picks from the Nets for the future, but in the short term, it will be a long road ahead in Boston.


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