NBA General

2008 NBA Draft Grades: The Nerds- The Dropouts- And Everyone In Between

By David J. Cohen

Last night the draft proved to be as interesting as advertised. The mega deals didn’t go down during the draft but a mega move did take place afterwards. Now on to the report cards: Atlanta Hawks: N/A. Things are looking up in A-Town. They weren’t in the lottery and pushed the NBA champs to 7 games. No one saw that coming.

Boston Celtics: C-; J.R. Giddens and Semih Erden. J.R. Giddens has a lot of athleticism but the Celtics had better options to choose from. Chris Douglas-Roberts or Mario Chalmers could have made immediate impacts next season, especially CDR with the possible exit of James Posey and a struggling Tony Allen. The Celtics sold Bill Walker for cash and he could’ve been the direct replacement for Allen.

Charlotte Bobcats: C; D.J. Augustin, Alexis Ajinca, Kyle Weaver. Augustin is a solid PG who could replace Felton. Since they are reportedly shopping Felton it made sense for the Bobcats to take Weaver to backup Augustin and play the defense that Augustin will struggle with. Ajinca has a 7’8″ wingspan, and that’s about it. He was not worth trading a future 1st round pick. The Bobcats failed to address their biggest need in getting a center, and with Brook Lopez sliding to them at 9 and Kosta Koufos there at 20 the Bobcats missed on taking a center that could start for them from day 1. Koufos especially would’ve been a great fit for them as the offensive big man to complement the defensive prowess Okafor brings to the court.

Chicago Bulls: A-; Derrick Rose, Omer Asik. The Bulls made the right choice in getting Derrick Rose because he can elevate Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah to a level that makes those selections acceptable. He can make everyone around him better and that’s what the Bulls needed. Asik has some talent but is likely to stay in Turkey for the next 5 years, so it’s doubtful he’ll ever play in the NBA. They gave up 2 future 2nd round picks for him. They got one of those back by trading Sonny Weems, who had no shot of making the Bulls roster.

Cleveland Cavs: C-; J.J. Hickson, Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kahn. Hickson could turn into a nice player but was a big reach at 19. Cleveland needed a backup PG and a backup C and missed a chance to address one of those needs. Mario Chalmers would have been a perfect backup for Daniel Gibson and Kosta Koufos would have been the perfect backup for Zydrunas Ilgauskas. He could stretch the floor and open things up for LeBron. Jackson was a good pickup for a future 2nd and could outplay Hickson. Kahn will be overseas for a while and doesn’t have much potential.

Dallas Mavericks: F; Shan Foster. The Mavericks didn’t have a first round pick because of the Kidd deal. That’s already blown up in their face. The Mavs biggest problem over the last couple years is that they are mentally soft, so they go ahead and take a player notorious for being a no-show on the road in college games. Foster also will struggle to be an effective 3-point shooter. He won’t make the team.

Denver Nuggets: B; Sonny Weems. The Nuggets were somewhat stuck at 20 and got a future first round pick. Since the Bobcats likely won’t make the playoffs the Nuggets got an upgrade in what will be a very top-heavy draft next year. Weems is another athletic player that gives the Nuggets a little insurance in possibly moving some players in off-season deals.

Detroit Pistons: B; Walter Sharpe, Trent Plaisted, Deron Washington. The Pistons didn’t really need any young players to come in right away and will have Plaisted and Washington play in Europe after the summer league. Walter Sharpe is a boom or bust pick and the 2nd round is the time to take those kinds of players. Getting Sharpe and Plaisted for D.J. White was a good deal.

Golden State Warriors: F; Anthony Randolph, Richard Hendrix. Randolph is simply too skinny to play the 3 in the NBA. Even with 20 extra pounds he’s frail. He will get bullied around. The Warriors continue to take these projects; they have Brandan Wright and Marco Belinelli already. On top of that the Warriors really needed a good offensive center that can run the floor and Kosta Koufos was the perfect fit. They also could’ve selected Robin Lopez, who could have directly replaced Andris Biedrins if they don’t resign him. Robin Lopez has more upside than Biedrins. Hendrix is a player that should make an NBA team but not this team. His problem is his athleticism so he needs to play in more of a half-court offense. This is possibly the worst fit for a player in the draft. They have 2 PGs whose future in Golden State is questionable and didn’t get any insurance.

Houston Rockets: B; Donte Greene, Joey Dorsey, Maarty Leunen. Greene has the athleticism the Rockets desperately lack and they got a 2nd round pick along with him. Darrell Arthur will likely turn into the better pro but with Luis Scola and Carl Landry already at PF they didn’t need him. They initially got Arthur and Dorsey for Nicolas Batum so they essentially got Greene, Dorsey, and a future 2nd for a prospect with a heart condition. Dorsey will play minutes at center for them and gives them added toughness and rebounding. Leunen will battle Steve Novak for a spot on the roster.

Indiana Pacers: A+; T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Maceo Baston, Roy Hibbert, Brandon Rush, Jarrett Jack, Josh McRoberts. The Pacers finally unloaded the huge contract of Jermaine O’Neal and picked up a great PG to run their offense. Ford will be in the top 5 in assists next year if he stays healthy. Stephen A. Smith’s MVP, “Rah-SHOW Nes-TERROR-VIC” is a large expiring contract and gives the Pacers nearly $20 million in expiring contracts next season. Hibbert has a lot of tools and if he can put everything together he will be a productive center in the league. With Hibbert and Rasho it allows Troy Murphy to play his natural position at the 4 full time. Jack is an excellent backup point guard and can step in and start if Ford gets hurt. Brandon Rush is a perfect fit and will allow the Pacers to let Marquis Daniels go after the season and cut Shawne Williams. He could turn into one of the league’s most productive bench players if the Pacers keep the coaching staff together for a few more years. McRoberts is a local hero and will probably play in the NBDL. Baston will have an outside chance of making the team. The Pacers, in the course of a day and a half, have morphed into a much deeper team.

L.A. Clippers: B+; Eric Gordon, DeAndre Jordan, Mike Taylor. Gordon is a terrific scorer and will make an impact right away. With the impending departure of Corey Maggette this gives the Clippers a direct scoring replacement for him. Jordan is likely a bust but to get his potential in the 2nd round is worth the risk. Taylor is the NBDL made man and with the uncertainty of the PG position he has a good shot of making the Clippers rotation.

L.A. Lakers: A+. They didn’t have a first round pick because Memphis made the charitable donation of Pau Gasol. That pick was Donte Greene. The Lakers won’t lose sleep over that. Joe Crawford is a shooter the Lakers could try to develop in the NBDL if they so choose.

Memphis Grizzlies C; O.J. Mayo, Marko Jaric, Antoine Walker, Greg Buckner, Darrell Arthur. The Grizzlies could’ve got more in a separate trade for Mike Miller and didn’t do themselves any favors financially, which was supposed to be the point of the fire sale. They basically traded Kevin Love and Mike Miller for Mayo. They better hope Mayo turns into an all-star and not the next Sebastian Telfair or else this franchise is in deep trouble. In my opinion Arthur saves them from borderline “F” status because he will get big minutes and should supplant Hakim Warrick by the end of the season. He is one of the steals of the draft and will be in a position to exercise his potential.

Miami Heat: A+; Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers. The Heat weren’t idiots after all and took Beasley. If they are smart they will let Marion and Beasley start together for half a season and then make a decision on Marion. The duo together could be outstanding with Marion guarding the 3 spot (in their division this means guarding Josh Smith, Gerald Wallace, Rashard Lewis, and Caron Butler) while Beasley becomes an offensive force right away. Beasley and a healthy Dwayne Wade could be a lethal combination. The Heat also picked up a starting PG for their team in the 2nd round, and that’s worth 2 future 2nd round picks any day. Chalmers is a shoe-in starter if the Heat don’t trade Marion for a starter at the point and brings a level-head and good perimeter shooting to a team that can exploit that with Wade penetrating and Beasley commanding the paint. And Chalmers has forever proved he’s clutch down the stretch.

Milwaukee Bucks: C-; Richard Jefferson, Joe Alexander, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. The Bucks a week ago were looking to move salary by trading either Michael Redd or Maurice Williams. Somewhere between shopping Michael Redd and the draft the Bucks instead decided to try and win now and traded their lottery pick from a year ago, Yi Jianlian, along with Bobby Simmons for Jefferson. The Bucks added a huge amount of money in getting Jefferson while trading away a special talent in Yi. If the Bucks were so willing to trade him a year later it makes you wonder why they took him in the first place when everyone knew he would take a couple years to develop. The Jefferson deal solidified their SF position while leaving them with just Charlie Villanueva at PF. That would be a position they would take care of during the draft. Wrong. Instead the Bucks took Alexander anyway and then Mbah a Moute later on. Alexander is a great player and since the Bucks couldn’t take a PF at the 8th spot they deserve somewhat of a pass. However the Bucks should’ve taken Richard Hendrix in the 2nd round. He could’ve been a nice 10-15 minute option at the position. They are hedging their bets on Villanueva playing at his highest potential. If he does the Bucks make the playoffs. If not their trade is a waste.

Minnesota Timberwolves: A-; Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal, Jason Collins, Nikola Pekovic. The T-Wolves got addition by subtraction by getting rid of their two problematic locker room influences in Marko Jaric and Antoine Walker. And they got back Mike Miller, one of the best sharpshooters in the league. He will put in 20 a night and will help take some pressure off Al Jefferson. Love needed to go to the right team in order to succeed and now he’s in a good situation playing next to Jefferson. He won’t be relied on as a low-post scorer, which will allow him to flourish. His passing skills in the paint will help Jefferson get easy buckets. Pekovic is considered the best foreign center scorer in the draft and has put up big numbers in Europe. He must stay there for a few more years but could prove to be a great asset to the T-Wolves. Collins and Cardinal are the bad contracts the T-Wolves had to take but were worth the deal. Collins will replace Mark Madsen.

New Jersey Nets: A; Yi Jianlian, Bobby Simmons, Brook Lopez, Ryan Anderson, Chris Douglas-Roberts. Richard Jefferson was a great and underappreciated player but the Nets big 3 were past their prime and the Nets are rebuilding. Jefferson was easier to move than Carter so the Nets did what they had to do. If Yi develops as he should the Nets won’t regret this deal. If Yi had come out this year he would’ve been a top 5 pick. They also have the luxury of playing him at the 3, which should help him as his body starts to fill in. Simmons is a good player who should compete with Yi for the starting job at SF. Brook Lopez was a good value pick and should contribute right away off the bench. Stromile Swift has been a disappointment but is now an expiring contract on the way out. Ryan Anderson is a PF who can score, something the Nets were lacking at the position with Sean Williams and Josh Boone. He was somewhat of a reach considering they really could use someone like CDR but they ended up getting him at the 40th pick. Douglas-Roberts will go down as the steal of this draft and will eventually replace Carter in the starting lineup once the Nets and Vinsanity inevitably part ways. His slashing style works well with the young players on this team and he will become a leader on this team at some point in the near future. He can play the 2 or the 3 and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up stealing Simmons’s minutes by the end of the season.

New Orleans Hornets: C-. If the draft played out as it should have the Hornets would’ve been smart to go ahead and sell the pick for about $3 million. However Darrell Arthur fell into their lap and the Hornets have a need for a good backup PF. Arthur could’ve been the perfect fit in New Orleans. Unless that money goes directly towards keeping Jannero Pargo the Hornets ended up making the wrong decision.

New York Knicks: F; Danilo Gallinari. To no one’s surprise the Knicks screwed up again. The Knicks took a player that can’t help them for 3 years, and at the one position on the team where the Knicks are set. At SF the Knicks have Quentin Richardson, Wilson Chandler, and Renaldo Balkman. The Knicks have no centers that can run the floor and only one 4 that can run the floor, and that’s David Lee. They were reportedly shopping him. On top of that the Knicks didn’t have a 2nd round pick because they sent that to Portland in what has turned out to be another disastrous Isiah Thomas move. The perfect fit for Chris Douglas-Roberts was to play under Mike D’Antoni and the Knicks could’ve selected him with that pick in the 2nd round. In New York CDR would have averaged at least 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists a night by his 2nd season. The Knicks at the 6th pick could have taken Brook Lopez and at least found a center who could run the floor. If they were set on taking a SF they should’ve taken Joe Alexander, who has a higher ceiling than Gallinari and could play right away. They also could’ve taken the best player available in Eric Gordon. The Knicks should’ve traded the pick and moved down in the draft, but instead took a flyer on an international player somewhat because of Isiah Thomas. Donnie Walsh basically sent him off to Europe to scout Batum and Gallinari and sure enough Isiah has plagued the Knicks once again.

Orlando Magic: C-; Courtney Lee. The Magic took a good player but made the wrong decision. CDR was the right fit in this situation because the Magic have enough shooters in Nelson, Lewis, Redick (if he ever sees the floor), Brian Cook, and Turkoglu. Hedo improved his game tremendously last year and has some dribble-drive skills but is the only player on the team that can slash to the basket. Douglas-Roberts has an unorthodox game in the weird angles he takes towards the basket and how he drives, but his game would get Dwight Howard easy baskets while getting open 3’s for Hedo, Lewis, and Nelson. In all honesty CDR might have better passing skills than Nelson. He was the kind of offensive player the Magic needed to solidify the offense. Mario Chalmers was also still on the board and the Magic really need a good backup PG to Nelson. Lee is a great scorer but wasn’t the best fit for the Magic.

Philadelphia 76ers: D; Marreese Speights. The Sixers needed a PF badly as Reggie Evans and Jason Smith are currently their best options. They took the position of need but drafted one of the busts of the draft in Marreese Speights. I saw Speights play in person at least 10 times last season in some big games and some meaningless games. I can tell you with certainty he isn’t ready for the NBA. He is lazy, out of shape, lacks motivation, and doesn’t have a mean streak. He got 8 rebounds a game in college but didn’t hustle for those rebounds and struggled throughout the season in simple box-out situations. He also struggles to finish easy plays around the rim, which is probably due to his conditioning. The Sixers could’ve taken a player like Roy Hibbert or Kosta Koufos at center to backup Dalembert or taken Darrell Arthur, who could’ve given the Sixers Al Hortford-type numbers this year. Instead they essentially drafted the next Eddy Curry without the high ceiling of potential.

Phoenix Suns: A; Robin Lopez, Goran Dragic. The Suns got exactly what they needed in this draft: a defensive center and a developmental PG. Robin Lopez, in my opinion, will be the better Lopez in the league because he is already a great defensive player both in one-on-one situations and as a help defender. Terry Porter is a hard-nosed coach that will preach defense and Robin Lopez is a player that prides himself on the defensive end. Shaq will help him develop some offense and Lopez might be able to teach Shaq how to defend the pick and roll. Lopez has some offensive skills in development and could turn into a dependable starting center on both ends of the floor. Dragic will stay overseas for now but when the time comes he might be good enough to run the Suns.

Portland Trail Blazers: B+; Jerryd Bayless, Ike Diogu, Nicolas Batum. Portland has morphed into the New England Patriots of the NBA as the wheelers and dealers of the draft. The Blazers made 5 trades during the draft and some of these moves are setting up a deal later this summer. Diogu still has a lot of untapped potential and Portland is a good spot to find it. Bayless gives them a good backup at SG and can play some point guard if needed. Batum will be a project overseas but could come in and fill the SF spot in a couple years. It would’ve been nice if the Blazers took someone at that spot that could play right away, but they are likely to fill that position with a veteran player of the caliber of a Corey Maggette. Bayless will be a good player if they keep him but he could be part of the package they are trying to deal, along with either Travis Outlaw or Martell Webster and Channing Frye.

Sacramento Kings: D; Jason Thompson, Sean Singletary, Patrick Ewing Jr. The Kings gave everyone the Lil’ Jon “WWWWWHAT” moment of the draft when they took Thompson. If he wowed them in workouts that’s one thing, but to take him in the lottery when they could’ve traded down and still taken him was foolish. The Kings didn’t have a PG on their roster coming into the draft. I would say Chalmers was too much of a reach at 12 but they took Jason Thompson! Singletary is a score-first point guard who might make it in the league due to his work ethic. He is a very streaky shooter and is by no means good enough to be a starter. Ewing Jr. doesn’t have a lot of the measurables to make it but is a hustle player. The Kings will send him to the summer league.

San Antonio Spurs: C+; George Hill, Malik Hairston, James Gist. The Spurs are an aging team and have no go-to guy at SF in the future, so when CDR slipped to them I expected the Spurs to take him. He would’ve been a nice fit with Ginobili. However, the Spurs scouts are notorious for finding players most people haven’t heard of and turning them into solid players, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Hill should make the team but it is uncertain what kind of contribution he will give them in the near future. Hairston can fill it up when he’s feeling it and is likely a direct replacement for Brent Barry after next season. James Gist gives the Spurs some needed athleticism in the frontcourt. If Popovic can get Gist to buy into defense he might be one of the best sleepers to come out of this draft.

Seattle Sonics: B-; Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, D.J. White, DeVon Hardin. The Sonics got a nice group of players but could’ve done better. Westbrook was a reach at number 4 and the Sonics are bone dry of talent at center. If Westbrook was their guy they should have taken a lesser offer from the Clippers and moved down to 7, where at the very least, Brook Lopez or Westbrook would still be available. Westbrook isn’t ready to start at the point right now, and with the futures of Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson hanging in the balance the Sonics need someone to play the point tomorrow. Ibaka has a ton of athletic talent and could develop into another Shawn Kemp. White is a tough rebounder but Darrell Arthur had much more upside. However I think the Sonics were targeting White as a replacement to Chris Wilcox and when he got drafted early the Sonics had to make a move. Hardin can come in at the center position and play defense but does not help Seattle with their main problem of finding a scorer from the center position.

Toronto Raptors: B; Jermaine O’Neal, Nathan Jawai. The Raptors gave up a lot to get O’Neal and better pray he is the last piece of a championship puzzle. Between Chris Bosh and O’Neal they have to fork over $75 million over the next 2 seasons, so as far as bringing more pieces in is concerned, the well is now empty. O’Neal could work wonders down low if he stays healthy as he will take a lot of double teams off Chris Bosh. But if he continues to break down he’s just a huge medical bill. Jawai could develop into a good backup center.

Utah Jazz: A; Kosta Koufos, Ante Tomic, Tadija Dragicevic. The Jazz are another team that knows how to draft well and it shows. The only position where the Jazz needed a player right now was at center, and Koufos is a perfect backup to Mehmet Okur. He provides a good midrange game and has some post moves that Okur is missing. He will be very effective playing with Deron Williams. The Jazz needed a SF prospect a few years down the line and got him in Dragicevic. He won his league MVP in Croatia last year and will continue to flourish over there until Matt Harpring is gone. Tomic is a good scoring center prospect that has some similarities to Pau Gasol. The Jazz could keep him but are likely to use him in the future as a trading pawn.

Washington Wizards: F; JaVale McGee. The Wizards need a backup PG, a SF, and a dependable C. They took none of these. McGee could develop into a backup center someday, but the Wizards don’t have time to wait if they plan on resigning Jamison and Arenas. CDR would’ve made a great backup to Caron Butler. Mario Chalmers would’ve been a great backup PG and make Antonio Daniels expendable. Kosta Koufos would’ve given them a scoring presence from a center, something they haven’t found in years. The Wizards needed to add a crucial piece to a successful playoff team puzzle. They blew it.

Those are the final grades. Some teams made honor roll. Others have their front office in the principal’s office.
This draft will go down as one of the deepest drafts across the board. The 2nd round of this draft could go down as the best of the decade.

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