Sunday, June 28, 2015

Takeaways from the 2015 NBA Draft

Everyone can't win.

The 2015 NBA Draft wrapped up Thursday night with a few surprises, steals and a couple of possible "oops" being said in the future.

Here are a few teams that capitalized on the newest kids on the block and others who probably didn't.

The Atlanta Hawks failed to take advantage of good fortune afforded to them thanks to the Brooklyn Nets.

At the start of the 2015-16 NBA season, the roster for the runner-ups in the East could look much different.

Pending are the futures of All-Star forward Paul Millsap and versatile wing DeMarre Carroll. Both could be in a new city within the next week, or not. But, the Atlanta Hawks did much of anything to cover themselves for the unfortunate event of both Millsap and Carroll skipping town for greener pastures ($$$).

The Hawks were fortunate enough to be able to swap pick 29 to get pick 15 via the Brooklyn Nets due to the Joe Johnson trade. What they did with it wasn't exactly the smartest thing they could've did as an organization.

So what was there for them at 15?

They could've shot their shot with Sam Dekker, the versatile forward with a very strong inside-outside game that translates well to the next level. Dekker is improving as a shooter and he makes his money slashing to the cup and creating offense for himself in the mid-range game. He would've been a nice addition to Coach Bud's free-flowing offense. He's also physical and a willing defender. Instead he goes 18 to Houston, giving them a nice toy to plug in with James Harden and McHale's fast-paced offense, allowing him to show off his ability to run the floor for easy transition buckets.

Or maybe they could have nabbed Bobby Portis, a stretch four with tremendous rebounding ability, size. He's also a pretty good defender. His skill set would have given him a chance to flourish in the event of a Millsap departure. He goes 22 to a very strong Chicago Bulls team; a team very capable of being the best team in the East.

Instead the Hawks select Kelly Oubre for the Washington Wizards in a pick swap, sending them to 19 where they then draft Jerian Grant for the New York Knicks due to another trade which lands them guard Tim Hardaway Jr. The trade would subsequently send them completely out of round one.

Maybe a change of scenery will aid Hardaway Jr., but how many times have we heard that after a trade? While wasn't the worst shooting guard in the league, he failed to take advantage of a heavily depleted Knicks team that gave him every chance in the world to make an impressive sophomore jump. He didn't shoot the rock well and his defense, well it sucked, which is something Mike Budenholzer loves out of his wing guys. Has anyone seen the fit yet? I haven't.

Let's just say Coach Bud caught himself watching an epic duel between Hardaway Jr. and Dion Waiters in the 2013 Rising Stars game and said "I have to get this guy". Maybe what the Thunder said too before acquiring Waiters.

The Hawks are hoping for an impressive third year campaign from Hardaway Jr. but it's hard to imagine an at least "good enough" year with a team full of guards who I'd personally take over him. Like I said, maybe the scene and coaching staff change will force him to play defense and do other small things that signal his improvement to see relevant minutes. His potential to be a pretty good shooter (he shot a decent 34 percent) might also help from being regulated to waving towels around after a teammate makes a great play.

Until then, answers to why the Hawks traded completely out of the first round are some that I'm still searching for. Especially since they have very important decisions to make in-house.

Pat Riley strikes again.

A couple of months ago, Pat Riley more than likely took an indirect shot at LeBron James, shading him for having a "hidden agenda" after he left for a ride back home to Northeast Ohio. Those same sentiments held true for the draft strategy he took Thursday and if anyone deserved a bit of luck, it was the Miami Heat.

It came in the form of Duke versatile wing Justise Winslow. The lefty is a freight train in transition with a rare combination of speed and power. He's drawn many comparisons to James Harden.

A lot of mock drafts did not have the Heat having any sort of chance to get Winslow, but mock drafts are mock drafts for a reason. Winslow was in my opinion the steal of the draft.

If the Heat can retain Mr. Miami himself, Dwyane Wade and mid-season acquisition Goran Dragic, a lineup with a healthy Chris Bosh and impressive center Hassan Whiteside could shake things up in the East. Bye-bye lottery, hello again top-four seed in the already weak East.

While he isn't a knockdown shooter (I don't know if he ever will be), he will get his share looks in that lineup. He's very versatile, he can defend at a very high level, he's a winner, he's aggressive and as far as we know, there are no hidden agendas in Winslow's plans. He very well could develop into a prized two-way player. They are the ones getting fat paychecks nowadays.

He fell to the perfect organization.

Pat Riley has probably swapped feelings with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and more than likely would like nothing more than to bring another championship to Miami before LeBron brings one to Cleveland.

"Take LeBron and we'll raise you Justise Winslow" - Pat Riley somewhere.

Danny Ainge has a guard fetish.

Without any trace of a good big man on the roster, Danny Ainge chose to almost completely neglect the position. He went with two guards, Terry Rozier from Louisville and RJ Hunter from Georgia State. His only big man was Jordan Mickey, the forward from LSU

Not to discredit the selections of Rozier and Hunter, the former is an impressive defender and a tough scorer and the latter has range out to half court. I would have just liked to see the Celtics pick a guy for both forward positions and a center.

They. Have. Too. Many. Guards. Now.

The Celtics had a myriad of value options at 16 including Bobby Portis, Jarrell Martin, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Sam Dekker and Kevon Looney. They probably could have still ended up with Mickey at 33.

Granted, the Celtics asset bank (an infinite number of picks for future drafts) and impending free agency moves could allow us to forget that Ainge is trying to court a 6'7" and under team. Ainge could draft tons of big men within the next draft and we'll ask him why didn't he draft another guard.

Nevertheless, Danny Ainge is a relentless teambuilder. Keep an eye on his rebuilding efforts.

Karl-Anthony Towns could have a Kevin Garnett-like impact for the Timberwolves. Yes? No? Okay.

Kevin Garnett's days as a player are probably all but over. I really hope he stays around so that Flip Saunders can hire him. Mentor Karl-Anthony Towns? That would be a match made in heaven.

The T-Wolves had to make the decision to choose Towns or Duke center Jahlil Okafor and while Towns may not be as good as Okafor from day one, his (Towns) ceiling is higher in my opinion. I think the Timberwolves made the right decision.

The Timberwolves made the playoffs in Garnett's first full season as a starter and Saunders' first full season as head coach. Although the Western Conference is a much different conference than it was in 1997; it is highly unlikely a 40-42 record will grant you a playoff berth in today's West. However, Towns is looking to be that missing link that helps Saunders and the Wolves replicate the glory days in Minnesota.

Towns brings so much to the table including his rare ball-handling skills, shooting touch and he's a very good rim protector. His defense compliments a team with very good individual defenders that need to turn that into team defense; they ranked dead last in defensive efficiency. His defensive potential will also allow him to help ignite fast breaks due to good team defense. And with guard Ricky Rubio handling it in the open court with two electric wings: Zach LaVine and reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, it'll be a sight to see. Towns' effort and willingness to run the floor will allow him to be re-paid off of some of those defensive stops.

Other Notables
Don't worry Knicks fans, Phil said he's got it. And even though Carmelo's impatience at the "not ready yet" rookie says otherwise, Phil still would tell you he's got it. I think Kristaps Porzingis is going to make someone feel dumb however this ends.
The Sixers badly needed a point guard. Although not passing on Okafor was the right thing to do, GM Sam Hinkie completely forgot to get a floor general. 
Portland's rebuilding effort is in effect. They are in full "yeah, LaMarcus Aldridge is gone" mode. Welcome Mason Plumlee and Noah Vonleh.

Eighteenth pick Sam Dekker is really going to make noise in Houston, as is 32nd pick Montrezl Harrell, says Daryl Morey's most basic use of analytics.