The draft is a time to restock rosters, adding promising talent on team-friendly contracts. It is that combination that makes first round picks so highly coveted. This year in particular, those picks were treated as if they were gold. Nearly the entire Eastern Conference tanked in order to get a top pick.
But as we got to watch these prized players more-and-more – save for Dante Exuum, the Australian man of mystery – every aspect of their game was nitpicked, and the focus became what they can’t do, rather than what they could be. What this made apparent is that this draft was loaded with quality role players.
With first round talent stretching into the second round, it was difficult for teams to walk away from the night disappointed. While there are an abundance of teams who are excited about their selections, let’s take a look at the drafts five biggest winners.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, Joe Harris
The two Dave’s, David Griffin and David Blatt may finally bring stability to Cleveland. That will largely depend on the development of Wiggins. He brings a great deal of hype to a city that needs players to be excited about. The Canadian import is a terrific perimeter defender, something the Cavaliers were sorely lacking last season. His offensive skills are raw right now. He needs to improve his ball handling, develop a go to one-on-one move and a series of counters, as well as become a more consistent three-point shooter. But there’s no reason that he can’t grow on that side of the ball. Drafting a player who gives hope to a basketball team that has been spinning its wheels since LeBron left, and for nearly its entire existence, certainly makes the Cavaliers one of last night’s winners. Of course, that won’t mean much if Wiggins doesn’t actually turn out to be a good player.
Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, Damien Inglis, Johnny O’Bryant
It wasn’t too long ago that Milwaukee was in danger of losing its basketball team. Now, they have an owner whose willing to spend money to rebuild the team and were able to get the player that they coveted all along. Parker can score in a variety of ways and is NBA ready offensively. He needs to make more of a commitment to the defensive end but should be fine, playing mostly as a stretch-four. Inglis is raw but has an NBA body and is a good athlete. O’Bryant is a good scorer around the basket and could carve out a niche in the Bucks rotation.
Orlando Magic: Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, Roy Devyn Marble
General Manager Rob Hennigan added two more terrific athletes, whose strengths are on the defensive end. The Magic will be able to defend against nearly every team in the league and will use defense in order to create transition offense. However, there will also be a lot of low scoring nights in Orlando. Nonetheless, Hennigan has given Magic fans plenty of reasons to be patient as the team continues rebuilding.
Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, James Young
The Celtics were hoping to come away with a top three pick or Kevin Love and neither prospect came to fruition last night. Given the team’s bevy of draft picks, there’s still a possibility that Love winds up in Green, but it is a small one. Boston’s plan B is to stay the course and continue adding quality players in the draft, who will either make the team a championship contender on their own, or be traded for the players who can do that.
Smart has a terrific frame and plays like a bull. According to espn.com’s Kevin Pelton, the Oklahoma State product has the highest wins above replacement player of anyone in this draft, at 3.6. He can contribute right away on defense and while he needs to improve his shot, the NBA’s more open court should help him be effective offensively. Young is a terrific athlete, who has good size and length for a small forward and can also play the two. He can also defend both positions. Offensively, the lefty is a good three-point shooter, who can also get to the basket.
Denver Nuggets: Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic
Denver dealt the eleventh pick in the draft to Chicago, figuring that it would get one of Harris or Nurkic, and still get a quality player with the other pick. Instead, the Nuggets got both players they wanted and saved cap space by moving Anthony Randolph in the trade. At 6-11, 280, Nurkic is a load, and he has a soft touch around the basket. Harris can play both point guard and shooting guard, is a tough defender and is a good three-point shooter. Jokic is a skilled big, who is a high IQ player and is a solid shooter.
*honorable mentions goes to the Washington Wizards who traded their first round pick, last offseason, to get Marcin Gortat, who was a big factor in getting them back to the playoffs. Phoenix used the pick in order to take Tyler Ennis, a point guard from Syracuse.
While none of these players have stepped onto an NBA floor yet, all five of these teams added quality players, who project to experience success in the NBA. There are plenty of teams who had good draft nights and appear to have gotten better. But from my point of view, these five teams stood out above the rest.