Jeremiah Short, Feature Columnist
The 2014 NBA Draft has come and gone. With the dust settled, it’s time to breakdown who drafted well, who drafted poorly and what players will be busts and what players could be potential steals for their franchises. There’s a caveat: I’m incorporating the True Impact Rating in my analysis. Some players may have been projected highly by most draft analyst, but they were ranked lower on my grading scale.
1. Boston Celtics
Draft Picks: Marcus Smart(6), James Young(17)
I’ll start with this statement: I loved what the Celtics did in the draft!!!
Marcus Smart and James Young were my top-rated point guard and shooting guard respectively. Smart was my overall top prospect. He’ll likely start out at shooting guard until Rajon Rondo is traded or leaves via free agency after next season. Young is a talented prospect who should take a year or two to develop, but he’ll settle in as the Celtics starting shooting guard sooner rather than later. He, along with Smart, should form one of the better backcourts in the NBA.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
Draft Picks: Joel Embiid(3), Dario Saric(12), K.J. McDaniels(32), Jerami Grant(39), Vasilijie Micic(52)
The 76ers are getting criticized for their bottoming out approach. But I applaud them for it. At least their admitting that they need to be really bad before they can be really good. While they’re accumulating players in their rebuilding project, they aren’t just taking random young talent. Sam Hinkie and the 76ers’ braintrust have taken players who are true assets. Joel Embiid, the 76ers’ 3rd pick, is another asset, although he likely doesn’t play for a year. Dario Saric was a good acquisition, as well. He won’t come over from Europe for two years. But when he comes over, the 76ers will be ready to contend and will have him for a cheap price.
The second rounders: K.J. McDaniels, Jerami Grant, Vasilijie Micic were great selections, too. Micic likely stays in Europe for a few years. But Grant and McDaniels will be rotation players from day one who will be great wingmen alongside reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, who I feel fits the “Franchise Player Equation” as a Penetrating-Playmaking Point Guard.
3. Denver Nuggets
Draft Picks: Jusuf Nurkic(16), Gary Harris(19), Nikola Jokic(41)
The Nuggets are winners just for turning Doug McDermott into Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic, two players I feel are superior to the Creighton product. Their second round selection, Nikola Jokic, is a good draft-and-stash prospect. The draft the Nuggets had wasn’t the sexiest, but it will help them become a better team in a year or two, which is all you can ask for when you’re not selecting in the top-10.
1. Chicago Bulls
Draft Picks: Doug McDermott(11), Cameron Bairstow(49)
If the Nuggets are winners for turning Doug McDermott into Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic, then the Bulls are losers for making the trade. I just don’t see McDermott helping the Bulls. Yes, he can shoot. But he can’t do much else. I just can’t see a player with the defensive limitations of McDermott seeing the floor in Tom Thibodeau’s defense-first scheme. The Bulls second-round pick, Cameron Bairstow, wasn’t even in my top-100 prospects. That should tell you how I feel about him.
2. Orlando Magic
Draft Picks: Aaron Gordon(4), Elfrid Payton(10)
I know you’re wondering how the Magic are losers. They got Aaron Gordon and that electric point guard from the small school. The Magic aren’t losers in the draft because of their acquisition of Elfrid Payton. It’s because they took a player, Gordon, who was rated 52nd in my True Impact Rating: Top 100 Prospects. I graded him out as a potential core player if he develops. But I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that he reaches his potential. I would have felt more comfortable with the Magic’s selection of Gordon if Marcus Smart, Julius Randle and Noah Vonleh weren’t still on the board. But they were. I don’t see how a team could select Gordon over any of those players. And I think they pay for it down the line.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
Draft Picks: Mitch McGary(21), Josh Huestis(29)
The Thunder took both of their choices late in the first round. But I still think they dropped the ball. McGary was my 78th rated prospect and doesn’t provide much value as a first-round pick, in my opinion. Huestis is a solid prospect. He was a reach, though, at that point in the draft. I don’t see how either player helps the Thunder in the next two years or ever.
1. Andrew Wiggins (1st Pick)
Why he might be a bust? I know, I know, Wiggins is supposed to be the best prospect since LeBron James. At least that's what we've all been told. But I've never believed that to be the case. The former Kansas Jayhawk was my 10th rated prospect. He's not the transcendent prospect most hype him to be the past few years, though. He'll score. No doubt. But he doesn't bring much defensive or positional versatility.
2. Aaron Gordon (4th Pick)
Why he might be a bust? Gordon will be a bust because he just doesn't possess the ability to become an All-Star talent. Top-5 picks in a drafts as deep as this one have to be potential All-Stars, in my opinion. I get the feeling that he'll be another Brandon Wright or Drew Gooden--6'9, athletic power forwards who teams got enamored with but didn't live up to expectations.
3. Doug McDermott (11th Pick)
Why he might be a bust? Let's see. He can shoot really well. But he can't run, jump or guard anymone. He was taken in the Lottery, though. I'm still trying to figure out why the Bulls traded for a one-dimensional player.
1. Damien Inglis(31st Pick)
Why is he a steal? Inglis was my sixth-rated prospect. But the Bucks got him in the second-round. He likely stays overseas for a couple of years. When he comes over, he'll join a talented nucleus of Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Larry Sanders. If Jason Kidd does become the Bucks coach, then the future looks very bright for the Bucks.
2. James Young (17th Pick)
Why is he a steal? Young was my ninth overall and top shooting guard prospect. It's not often that a team gets a potential All-Star outside the second round. But the Celtics did just that.
3. Tyler Ennis (18th Pick)
Why is he a steal? Ennis was my second-rated point guard and sixth-rated overall prospect. He slid due to a lack of elite athleticism. But he'll prove to be great asset for the Suns. I don't see him having a long-term future there--as Eric Bledsoe is their point guard of the future. He's one those players the Suns will be able to package in a deal to get a superstar a year or two down the road.
Honorable Mentions: Gary Harris(19th Pick), Kyle Anderson(30th Pick)
No one really knows what will truly happen with these prospects. There are so many uncertains and things that have to fall right for players to be successful. Right organization. Right style. Right coach. Right inner circle. Right work ethic.
There are so many variables that determine an NBA player's succe
ss. But we'll have this conversation again in five years and see who had it right.