2008 NBA Draft Grades
by Trevor Whenham - 06/27/2008
The NBA Draft has ended and the dust has mostly settled. And there was a whole lot of dust, too - tons of trades, a few surprise picks, and the odd head scratcher. It's several years too early to know how this draft class will turn out (though I am optimistic), but we can look at first impressions. Here, then, are my 2008 NBA Draft grades.
Atlanta - No pick. Their first rounder ended up with Phoenix. They were moving in the right direction with a young team last year, so it's probably okay that they didn't get yet another infusion of youth.
Boston - (B+) - I like this draft. The team obviously doesn't have immediate needs, so they took a couple of risks. J.R. Giddens would have easily been a lottery pick if he was a good citizen, so he could be a bargain with the last pick of the first round if he behaves. Semih Erden is an intriguing prospect that is incredibly raw, so he can stay in Europe for as long as he needs. Bill Walker could prove to be the biggest steal of the draft. He had lottery talent, but teams were scared off by his past knee injury and he dropped to the middle of the second round.
Charlotte - (C) - They stretched, stretched again, then stretched some more. A lot of people are more optimistic about D.J. Augustin than I am, and I was surprised by the pick since it essentially means that they have given up on Raymond Felton. Alexis Ajinca made it into the first round on the strength of his workouts, but I am incredibly skeptical of a European player who averages five points a game. It will be a while before he makes the trip to Charlotte. Kyle Weaver plays solid defense, but his shooting isn't good, and he's at best a risk.
Chicago - (A) - The Bulls got lucky, and they made the most of it. Derrick Rose is the best player in the draft, and Chicago is immediately significantly better. I like Sonny Weems, too, but I didn't give them an A+ because Weems is a guard, and the team is totally overrun with guards right now. Omer Asik was a low-cost gamble that will either pay off nicely or will be completely forgotten about.
Cleveland - (B) - This pick was a surprise. I was sure that they would pick Kosta Koufos because of his Ohio ties. J.J. Hickson was the pick instead, though. I mostly like the pick. He has upside. He's not the immediate help the team needs, but you weren't going to get that at 19.
Dallas - (C) - Just one pick, and it was late. Shan Foster is one of the best shooters in the draft, but he'll have to discover new dimensions to his game before he can be a serious contributor. Not a bad pick given when it was made, though.
Denver - No pick.
Detroit - (B-) - I like the move they did. They didn't like their late first round pick, so they traded it to Seatlle for two additional second round choices. That left them with three second rounders, and they picked projects in all cases. Walter Sharpe has upside, but he won't contribute for a couple of years. Trent Plaisted is a depth center that might be able to surprise people in time. Deron Washington is a freakish athlete, but he has holes and I don't like his chances of making the team.
Golden State - (C) - I hate their first pick and love their second. Anthony Randolph is an incredible athlete, but he is so far from NBA ready that it's a joke. I don't like these kinds of gambles because they so rarely pay off. On the other hand, the Richard Hendrix pick in the second round is a nice one. He has the game to contribute, and he's great value late in the second round.
Houston - (B+) - The Rockets made so many first round trades that I won't even bother trying to figure them all out. All you need to know in the end is that they got Donte Green. That's a great pick - Green was great value at the bottom of the first round. Joey Dorsey was another nice value pick, and he could become a fan favorite if he keeps his act together. Maarty Leunen is essentially a wasted pick.
Indiana - (B+) - The picks themselves don't do much for me - Brandon Rush seems like he has a good shot at flopping, and Roy Hibbert was taken well before he should have been. To grade the Pacers' draft, though, you need to look at their trades, too. They needed a total facelift, and they got it. Jermaine O'Neal is out, T.J. Ford is in, and a bunch of other nice pieces have been added. This team isn't finished yet, but it's a nice new start for a struggling team. I especially like the addition of Josh McRoberts. A great job by a new GM.
Clippers - (A) - I can't believe I am saying this, but the Clippers actually did something right. This was a very nice draft. Eric Gordon is a great player, and I think he will turn into a very good NBA scorer. DeAndre Jordan was a ridiculous steal in the second round. He has huge potential, and who cares if he doesn't work out given where he was picked. Mike Taylor ended up playing in the D-League last year after getting booted from Iowa State. He did well, and could be a contributing bench point guard in the pros.
Lakers - No grade - The Lakers traded their first rounder for Pau Gasol. Their second rounder is Joe Crawford, and he almost certainly won't make the team. They did nothing to improve on draft night, but they had done their draft work months ago.
Memphis - (B+) - I liked their pick, and I like their trade. Kevin Love would have fit in nicely, but O.J. Mayo is a better player with a brighter future. He'll fit in well, and should make up for the high cost of Mike Miller. Darrell Arthur was a bargain late in the first round and should help them right away because they need a power forward now. Memphis still has a lot of work to do, but they are better now than they were Wednesday morning.
Miami - (A+) - I give the Heat the best grade in this draft mostly because they avoided doing anything really stupid. Beasley is the best scoring talent we have seen in a long time, and he and Dwyane Wade will give opponents nightmares. Not picking him, or trading him, would have been a terrible move. Mario Chalmers was an absolute steal. Riley almost traded the Beasley pick to choose a point guard, but by staying still he got a pretty darned good one. Darnell Jackson is another Jayhawk and another no-risk pick. He has the potential to be a contributor, and who cares if he isn't. A great draft.
Milwaukee - (B) - I was really into the prospects for this team when they traded the overrated Yi Jianlian for small forward Richard Jefferson. But then they picked small forward Joe Alexander. And then they picked small forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Maybe another trade is in the works. Or maybe they are going to steal a page from the Villanova playbook. 'Nova plays a bunch of guards at once, so maybe the Bucks will field a point guard and four small forwards.
Minnesota - (B+) - Trading away O.J. Mayo is one of those risky moves that could backfire if he becomes a star. I mostly like the move. Kevin Love will be solid, and Mike Miller fits in very nicely. The grade would have been higher if they had picked someone other than Nikola Pekovic to open the second round. A lot of players who could help now were available. Pekovic apparently is the real deal, but he will be stuck in Europe for a few years before coming over. Minnesota needs help now, not later.
New Jersey - (B+) - I don't really buy into Brook Lopez, but he presents reasonable value at No. 10. I am a huge Chris Douglas-Roberts fan, so I think that he was a huge steal in the second round. He isn't pretty, but he's always in the right place and he just knows how to score. They would have earned a higher grade if not for the Ryan Anderson pick at 21. He's a player that has some things going for him, but his game doesn't differ much from Yi Jianlian, so I don't get the pick. The biggest jewel the Nets got on draft day is the cap space they freed up by getting rid of Jefferson. This year could be ugly, but the future is bright.
New Orleans - No picks. They sold their pick at No. 27 to Portland. Not a bad move for a team that is pretty complete and wouldn't have filled any immediate holes in that spot.
New York - (B+) - Danilo Gallinari is starring in the Euroleague, scouts are high on him, and Mike D'Antoni is a good friend and former teammate of his father, so this could turn out to be a great pick. I just can't help to be nervous, though, given the times that we have heard great things about a Euro that hasn't turned out to be all that. The best part of the Knicks' draft, though, was that Isiah Thomas had nothing to do with it.
Orlando - (B-) - I don't like the Courtney Lee pick at all. He may have filled their positional need, but he was a long way from the best player available.
Philadelphia - (B) - I am down on Marreese Speights because he is more upside than realized potential, but I am prepared to be wrong about this one. He could be a solid player down the road, but I would like this guy better at 26 than 16.
Phoenix - (B-) - The Suns picked a couple of players who I expect to be fully underwhelming. Robin Lopez wouldn't have gotten the attention that he has if he weren't a twin. He defends well but can't score and doesn't solve the Suns' problems very well. Malik Hairston was a blue chip recruit who was never more than decent for Oregon, and will never be more than a bench time-filler for Phoenix.
Portland - (A-) - The Blazers are on their way to being a really good team. Jerryd Bayless is a ridiculously talented player with a pile of upside. It was amazing that he dropped to No. 11, and he was perhaps the biggest value pick on the board at that spot. I'm not as crazy about Nicolas Batum because of the Euro-hype factor, but he will come cheap. I also like that the team traded away all of their second rounders instead of adding players that they won't need this year.
Sacramento - (D+) - The Kings get the bottom spot in these grades. They stretched way too far to get Jason Thompson at 12. They could have traded down quite far, added a second rounder or a role player, and still got their player at a much lower salary level. Point guard was a need, so Sean Singletary fits, but I just don't see him being anything other than a backup who you hope you don't have to rely on. Patrick Ewing Jr. benefited from his name - that's the only reason I can explain why he got drafted.
San Antonio - (C+) - I'm almost never excited about what the Spurs do on draft day (even though it usually works out), so it is no surprise that I don't like this draft much. George Hill out of IUPUI seems like a stretch as a first rounder, and especially with higher rated players available. They could have traded down and still made this pick. Goran Dragic is a Euro point guard project that won't be in the NBA for a few years. I'll be quite surprised if James Gist ever makes this team.
Seattle - (B-) - The Sonics obviously think that Kevin Durant is going to score a ton of points, because the way they picked they are going to leave him to do it alone. They added five players, and they were heavily skewed to defense. Russell Westbrook strikes me as a pretty big stretch at No. 4. He can get the ball to Durant, but so could have other available players who could add some points as well. Serge Ibaka is a ridiculously raw prospect that will play in Span for a few years. The team needs help, so investing in a long-term prospect like this makes no sense. D.J. White is a player I like, but he can't score, either. DeVon Hardin is yet another center prospect that may pay off but probably won't. So is Sasha Kaun, but he makes even less sense because he just signed to play in Russia. This draft doesn't do nearly as much to move this team forward as other young teams did. They could have done more given the number of picks they started with.
Toronto - (B+) - They only had one pick, and they used the second rounder to choose Australian Nathan Jawai. He's an intriguing prospect, but that's irrelevant. What the team really did is choose Jermaine O'Neal 17th overall. That's a great move. He and Chris Bosh could terrify opponents if they can stay healthy.
Utah - (B+) - The Jazz got solid value when they picked Kosta Koufos 23rd. He won't likely be an all-star, but he will be a solid contributor. A big man who can shoot is a nice asset. Their other two picks were Europeans who won't come over for a while. Ante Tomic is a big, big guy who could easily have been picked sooner. He needs to bulk up, but he has potential. Tadija Dragicevic came from off the board, and no one really knows what Utah has. It won't be much for a long while.
Washington - (C-) - JaVale McGee leads the draft in capital letters in his name. That's quite possibly the only distinction he will earn in his career. McGee never should have left Nevada, and at the very best it will be at least three years until this guy is even noticeable on the court. They left several much better players on the board when they picked McGee.