Generally I feel like draft “winners and losers” or grades are a useless exercise within the first three years or so of a draft, let alone the first day, so I’m not gonna do that. I just wanted to give a few quick takeaways on what I thought of last night’s draft:
- The 76ers are basketball’s Houston Astros
In using their first two picks on injured Joel Embiid and Croatian Dario Saric via trade, the 76ers showed the world that winning clearly in the short term isn’t the priority, as neither of those players will play much in the NBA this season, if at all. The Sixers have stripped down their roster and have worked to hoard young assets over the last two years, and will likely pick near the top of the draft again next year. This falls in line with their draft strategy last year in taking the also injured Nerlens Noel, who will debut with the team this season. There are some pieces there, like Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, and Embiid has superstar potential if he can stay on the court and develop, but 76ers fans are gonna have to be real patient for a while.
- The Magic could be a really, really fun team to watch
The Magic made a mildly surprising selection last night, taking Aaron Gordon fourth overall. He is regarded as a top prospect, but his offensive game is limited as he is a weak shooter. Where he lacks in shooting, he makes up for in ridiculous athleticism. Orlando then acquired the rights to goint guard Elfrid Payton from Louisiana Lafayette, a speedy, athletic point guard who loves to run in transition. Combine these two athletes with last year’s top pick Victor Oladipo, and Magic games could quickly turn into track meets. Should be a lot of fun to watch that team progress.
- I really like the Celtics draft
The Celtics had two first round picks last night, and used the first on Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart. Smart reminds me of Kyle Lowry in that he has a couple of screws loose, but is an all-out competitor and should be a great fit in Boston. If he develops into a quality NBA starting point guard, it makes it much easier for Danny Ainge to dump Rajon Rondo and acquire more assets for their rebuild. Their second pick, James Young from Kentucky, is a project but has lots of talent and potential. Young starred in the NCAA tournament, showing great athleticism, and quality, albeit streaky, outside shooting. I can see them both being big contributors in Boston for a long time.
- Toronto made a weird pick
This was the first real head-scratcher of the draft, as the Raptors took Bruno Caboclo 20th overall. ESPN’s international hoops guy Fran Fraschilla described Caboclo as the “Brazilian Kevin Durant,” but then went on to say he is “two years away from being two years away, then we’ll see.” I’m not one to doubt Raptors GM Masai Ujiri because I think he’s one of the best in the league, but taking a project like that in the middle of the first round was odd to say the least.
- The Heat got their man
It was the worst kept secret in the draft that the Heat wanted UConn guard Shabazz Napier, and they traded up two spots to make sure they got their man. Much has been made of a tweet that LeBron sent out three months ago while watching him play, but Napier really is a good fit for the Heat. They need to bolster the point guard position, and his scoring, defense, and attitude will all be welcomed in Miami as they likely let Mario Chalmers walk in free agency. I would still try to acquire Kyle Lowry and let Napier come off the Heat bench, but acquiring these types of assets can go a long way towards keeping the Big 3 around for a while.
- Isaiah Austin getting drafted was the best moment of the night
The night’s most emotional moment came when Commissioner Adam Silver drafted Baylor Center Isaiah Austin on behalf of the league. Austin’s career was taken from him before it began when he was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome earlier this week, but the league made sure he would have the memory of hearing his name called and walking across the stage, and even received a standing ovation from the crowd. Austin handled the situation with amazing maturity and dignity, so it was especially cool to see him have his moment.
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