It seems like only yesterday that the Cavaliers beat the Warriors in an epic game 7 at Oracle Arena and now only a week later the 2016 Draft is already over. The NBA never stops even in the offseason when there aren’t any games. Here are some of the players and teams that stood out after the draft.
1. The Phoenix Suns absolutely aced this draft
With the 4th pick the Suns took Dragan Bender, a 7’ 1” Croatian power forward who reminds scouts of Kristaps Porzingis. Bender is extremely skilled and has the potential to be an excellent rim defender as he is long and mobile. Even though Bender was a great pick, their next move was the real gem of this Suns draft.
The Phoenix Suns fleeced the Sacramento Kings when they traded up to get the 8th pick. The Kings did not get even close to a fair return for the pick they gave up. For context here’s how NBA teams view the 13th and 28th pick. At the 13th pick NBA teams generally expect to get a player with the top level potential of an above average starter, but not an All-Star. At the end of the first round, teams hope to get a solid rotational player off the bench. So let’s review this trade again.
Essentially the Kings traded a player who has the potential to be an All-Star in Marquesse Chriss, a guy who every other NBA team loved, for the chance at an above average starter, and a bench player plus a relatively unknown European shooting guard (Bogdan Bogdanovic). Chriss is a freaky athlete with a pretty jump shot, and a motor that runs extremely hot when he is engaged. If he reaches his full potential he will be one of the rare NBA bigs who can protect the rim and stretch the floor. He had the third most potential of any player in this draft, behind Ben Simmons and Jaylen Brown, but dropped to 8th because of concerns about his polish. At the 8th pick, Chriss was a tremendous value, and the Kings made a huge mistake trading him away
As an added bonus the Suns also picked up Tyler Ulis, who really should have been a first rounder, but fell because teams questioned if a 5’ 9” point guard could succeed in the NBA. Ulis should at the very least be a solid backup point guard behind Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe. In the long term this draft makes the Suns a lot more athletic and versatile, and while the Suns of next year may not contend for much yet, fans should be excited about the excellent group of youngsters the Suns drafted.
2. The Nuggets are going all in on 3-point shooting
With each of their picks the Nuggets took the best shooter available, and it worked out perfectly. They ended up with 4 of the top 5 shooters in the draft with excellent value at every pick. Jamal Murray at the 7th pick was a total steal because he shoots the lights out (he reportedly set the Boston Celtics record for 3-point shots made in a workout), and he is an elite competitor with a great feel for the game. He fell to 7th because of questions about his size and athleticism but he will be a perfect fit next to the super-athletic and long Emmanuel Mudiay.
At picks 15 and 19 the Nuggets took Spaniard Juan Hernangomez and Florida State Seminole Malik Beasley. Hernangomez is an interesting pick because he really blossomed this year in Spain, and looks like he could become one of the playmaking stretch 4’s that NBA GM’s are obsessing over. He will be a great fit next to either Jusuf Nurkic or Nikola Jokic, and is a strong compliment to Kenneth Faried if the Nuggets ever want to go small. I question the Beasley pick a bit is because the Nuggets already have a similar guard in Gary Harris who has shown some really nice potential. On the other hand, if a team can get a guy with Beasley’s potential at #19 they have to take a shot at him. Beasley actually probably would have gone higher in this draft had he not fractured his foot, which prevented him from working out for teams. The former Seminole is an electric athlete and lights out shooter, and should be really effective on a Nuggets team that will likely fast break quite a bit.
With their final pick the Nuggets took 6’ 11” French sharpshooter Petr Cornelie, who provides the team with a really interesting combination of length and shooting. This draft and the development of their young talent should push the Nuggets to be a contender for the 6th through 8th seeds in the West. Their starting lineup will probably have Emmanuel Mudiay at the 1, Jamal Murray at the 2, Danilo Gallinari at the 3, Kenneth Faried at the 4 and Nikola Jokic at the 5 spot. The Nuggets will feature a tremendous amount of shooting and athleticism on the floor at all times, which will allow them to compete with the many high-talent teams out west.
3. Jaylen Brown
Celtics fans hated this pick, but the more I think about it the more I begin to love it. Many experts thought that the Celtics should have taken a guard; either Jamal Murray or Kris Dunn, but they smartly swung for the fences. Brown has as much potential as Ben Simmons because of his rare athleticism, which we really have not seen from a player coming into the NBA since LeBron James. He comes with a ready-made NBA body at a long 6” 7’ and a chiseled 230 pounds. The Georgia native can jump with anyone in the league, and it would not surprise me if he had an over 40 inch vertical leap. The attribute that really separates him athletically is he speed and quickness. Brown has unreal speed and agility for a man his size, which is reminiscent of a young LeBron James and could translate into him becoming an elite defender.
A lot of scouts complained about Jaylen’s college production, but in reality he doesn’t fit as well in the college game as he does in the NBA. In the pros, Brown will be free to constantly attack the basket in a much more open and spaced NBA game. Also from the reports and videos I have seen Brown has made a mechanical adjustment to his jump shot, which has corrected a lot of his prior shooting issues (mainly consistency in the lower body), so look for him to have a vastly improved catch and shoot game.
Overall if Brown develops to his full potential the Celtics will be a scary team in the East who will have the talent and depth to compete with the Cavaliers and Raptors at the top of the East. At the very least Jaylen Brown makes the 2016-17 iteration of the Celtics much more dynamic and exciting than they were in the last year.