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NBA Draft Analysis

June 28, 2013
NBA Draft-The NBA draft occurred last night and I did not get to see any of it as I was flying to Europe at the time so suffice it to say I was rather shocked to see how it went down. In my opinion this was a three-person draft with Ben McLemore, Nerlens Noel, and Otto Potter being far and away superior to anyone else in this draft. Yet NBA executives clearly disagreed with me as only one of my top three players was taken in the top five selections. McLemore in my opinion is the biggest surprise (dropped to #7) as there were rumors that he had a poor  workout circuit before the draft but he was still the #1 player on my board because he had the best combination of upside and likelihood of success. While Potter was probably the safest pick he doesn’t have all-star talent and, although Noel had the highest upside of any player, he was coming off an ACL injury that understandably gave some GM’s pause. McLemore is a combination of Vince Carter and Jason Richardson in that he has a great three point jumpshot and very impressive athleticism but isn’t always aggressive and could stand to improve as a defender. Worst case scenario he’ll be a number three scorer for a team and give you 15-18 points a night but best case scenario he improves his dribble and becomes more aggressive to become an all star caliber SG at 22-25 pts a night. In a year with little talent at the top and even less depth later in the first round it shocked me to see McLemore still on the board at number seven. The Kings got a steal and I think that two or three teams in the top six will be kicking themselves in a few years for passing on him.
Boston Celtics-While the draft was entertaining the bigger story for the NBA last night was clearly the trade between the Boston Celtics and the New Jersey Nets. While I read an ESPN article chastising the Celtics for “rudely” dismantling the team I think that Danny Ainge has been brilliant this month. Instead of keeping an aging roster that had zero chance of competing for an NBA title he flipped an overpaid head coach (Doc Rivers- never deserved to be the highest paid coach in the league), a center on his last leg and likely to only play one more season (Garnett), and a selfish and clearly declining number two scorer in Paul Pierce for four future first round picks. That is quite a haul for a cast of characters that three years from now likely won’t even be on the teams they were traded too. Danny Ainge is setting himself up to have nine first-round picks in the next five years which he can use to draft players to surround Rajon Rondo with a young and cheap supporting cast or could be used in a trade to get an All-Star in the frontcourt to pair with Rondo. Ainge has given himself enormous flexibility and I suspect a big move will come from the Celtics in the near future due to these previous two moves this month. An example is three 1st round picks, Gerald Wallace, and Reggie Evans in exchange for a sign and trade of Dwight Howard and a salary dump of Ron Artest. 
For the Nets the move is rather strange in my opinion. It marks the second consecutive off-season in which they added an enormous salary while only improving themselves slightly. I do not like how they are throwing away their first-round picks so easily and, considering that the team couldn’t even make it out of the first round this past season, I have my doubts that this move will suddenly put them over the top. Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Derron Williams will at times light up a team from the outside and it will be fun to watch but Derron Williams still has yet to show me that he’s a true superstar and I think that will hold them back in the end when they face the Miami Heat. Also it puts enormous pressure on Jason Kidd as a first-year head coach as anything other than the NBA finals will be considered a disappointment. Three years from now Garnett will be retired, Pierce will be retired, and the Joe Johnson/Derron Williams duo will be one of the most overpaid in the NBA at a combined $46 million. The Nets are a better team today than they were yesterday but I question the cost.
The Mavericks-As far as the Mavericks draft day goes it was clear from the get-go that it was more about creating further flexibility in the future than actually taking the best player available at number 13. In the end I thought their strategy was executed pretty well with Shane Larkin at number 18 clearly filling a need as a point guard coming off the bench who excels at getting to the rim and shooting the three. He’s already being compared to JJ Barea and that’s a huge compliment from the front office in Dallas who may have realized that Darren Collison might not be the long-term answer as the starting or backup point guard. I also like how they added three second round picks in 2014 as that draft is already being billed as a far superior one compared to this years. They ended up trading one of those pics for another player but it still gives them additional ammunition in the future which Dallas lacked going into last night. Finally I would say that even though it looks pretty bad when they traded down from number 16 to number 18 only so they could get rid of last year’s first round pick in Jared Cunningham I think it was a good move. I never liked Cunningham from the moment I watched him or read his bio on Draft night one year ago and he was the only one of the three rookies, Jae Crowder/Bernard James being the others, that couldn’t see playing time. This was hardly a homerun for the Mavs and I personally was a big fan of Mason Plumlee, who was still available at number eighteen, but I would say the Mavs had a solid draft day considering their goals coming into the night. This off-season is still all about getting a quality player in free agency and nothing on draft day changed that.
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