Among my laundry list of things I don’t like about sports journalism is the draft grades handed out the day after the event. They are meaningless. Does anyone ever go back and look at them? The grades are based on the writer’s perceived team needs and how well the team fit those needs. Perhaps these grades are somehow a justification of the many mock drafts out there (I did reasonably well on my lottery night mock draft with only James Young falling out of the top 11). As I’ve written before, basketball teams should simply take the best player. A good coach can work good players into a cohesive system. If I were to hand out draft grades, I’d give every team an A+ for effort and give each team a participation medal as well. That would be as sensible as draft grades.
I did think some teams did some interesting things. I was very happy that Jabari Parker fell to my Bucks. Even if he considers Milwaukee a suburb of Chicago, he seems willing to play for a small market team and should lead the squad in scoring before too long. Orlando made me happy as well by taking Aaron Gordon then trading for local hero Elfrid Payton. With Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo, they have an intriguingly young squad. If only they had a scorer like Arron Afflalo… Noah Vonleh should also be a nice fit in Charlotte where he can share minutes with fellow Hoosier Cody Zeller. I’d give participation trophies all around for most of the lottery.
There were two teams that I would not give medals to: Minnesota and Philadelphia. The Timberwolves drafted a pair of athletes who have questionable basketball skills. Zach LaVine threw down a dunk in front of Chad Ford early in the season and became a prospect. He’s a nice dunker, but faded badly in conference play against similar competition. That’s a bad sign. I really like Glenn Robinson III’s name, but his game leaves a lot to be desired. I don’t think Minnesota helped themselves at all, and the Kevin Love sweepstakes will commence.
I get what the 76ers are doing, but I think it is stupid. They are collecting assets in hopes of turning a bunch of today’s maybes into tomorrow’s superstars. This is what Boston did successfully before turning their assets into Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and the 2008 championship. It is fine to take the long view, but I can’t imagine anyone in Philadelphia wanting to buy tickets to see what will essentially be a D-league squad for the second straight year. If the 76ers were in a competitive business environment, they would go under. If a director were making a movie trilogy and purposely made the first two installments terrible, but promised a great ending, would anyone go to see it?
What really gets me is that NBA “experts” have praised the Philadelphia plan. They may be under the misapprehension that the only successful season ends with winning a championship. The 76ers don’t have to worry about that. The team will have one or maybe two NBA caliber players in 2014-15. Thaddeus Young, who the team is trying to trade, may be slightly above average. While Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year, it was telling that there were trade rumors floating around him. As a rookie, the 6-6 point guard put up nice point, rebound, and assist numbers, but they were rarely in aid of winning. I call this the Blue Edwards corollary for the small forward who led the Bucks in scoring in 1993-93 as the team went on to win 28 games. At least Edwards got himself into NBA Jam (along with the immortal Brad Lohaus for the Bucks). Carter-Williams came into the league with a reputation of being a poor shooter and did little to dispute that reputation. He hit 40.5% of his field goals and 26.4% of his 3-pointers. After the All-Star break, he fell off to a 20.9% conversion rate on threes. In other words, he has plenty of room for improvement.
Philadelphia is relying on a pair of injured centers to help them grow. Both Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid were mentioned as possible top picks before getting injured. I had Embiid atop my mock draft because his back seemed to be ok, but I would have dropped him after he broke his foot. I thought Noel was overrated as a prospect. At Kentucky, he was a very good shot blocker (a skill that does not always translate to the NBA), but his offensive game was extremely raw. He will likely lead the league in fouls in his rookie season. As for Embiid, big guys with foot problems do not have a great history in the NBA. If the plan is to be terrible for the foreseeable future, then Philadelphia is doing a bang up job. They may be able to sell the fans on their plan, but from what I’ve seen fans like something better than promises of a wonderful future: wins.