Emma: NBA Draft Winners & Losers
By Chris Emma-
(CBS) To the surprise of no one, the NBA Draft lived up to its unpredictable form. The only given on the night was the loud applause for new commissioner Adam Silver. Everything else produced drama and chaos.
Several teams set themselves well for the monumental free-agency period and the season ahead, while others left experts’ heads spinning with questionable decisions. Let’s take a look at the draft’s greatest winners and biggest losers.
Boston Celtics – In a loaded NBA Draft class, landing Marcus Smart at No. 6 overall is an absolute steal for the Celtics. He’s a tough, physical guard who can score in a variety of ways. He could form a solid tandem with Rajon Rondo, but he also gives Boston flexibility to trade the veteran point guard. Later at No. 17, Kentucky’s James Young was a great addition, too, bringing versatility at either the two or three position. Brad Stevens got a big upgrade for his young Celtics team.
Miami Heat – With limited pieces in play and few options for trades, Pat Riley still pulled off a deal to bring in Shabazz Napier, the prized point guard from UConn whom LeBron James desired. It seemed unlikely that Riley could pull it off, but he found a way to bolster the Heat’s lineup and improved their chances of a return for King James. Any little move goes a long way for Miami.
Mitch McGary – Perhaps McGary could’ve been a lottery pick had he exited for the NBA one year sooner. After a year sidelined with a back injury, he still found a comfortable selection, landing with the Oklahoma City Thunder with the 21st overall pick. Many speculated he’d fall in the mid- to late-second round, but the Thunder made a shrewd move with the talented big man.
Kobe Bryant – The Lakers got Julius Randle, the bruising forward from Kentucky who could be a double-double machine. He’ll provide immediate help down low, and his bulldog attitude will sit well with the hyper-competitive Bryant, who’s in the twilight of his career and needs more help.
Orlando Magic – Sitting in the most uncomfortable spot in the draft, Orlando perplexed some with its fourth overall pick, reaching for Aaron Gordon of Arizona. And that was the highlight. Earlier in the day, the Magic traded away valuable shooting guard Arron Afflalo for unproven Evan Fournier and a second-round pick. At No. 12, the Magic would surrender Dario Saric, a first-round pick and second-round pick to the 76ers to get questionably acquire low-major point guard Elfrid Payton, who Philly had selected at No. 10. Weird decisions all around for the Magic.
Philadelphia 76ers – It seems hard to mess up with two picks in the top 10, but Philadelphia appears to have pulled it off. Then again, in an effort to tank, they might’ve wanted to be the night’s losers. With just one year of high-level basketball under his belt and an injury history of back and foot problems, Joel Embiid is a risk at No. 3. The bust potential is high on him. Forward Dario Saric — acquired from Orlando — has signed a three-year deal in Europe and doesn’t figure to come to the States for at least two seasons. He also could become a big flop. On the bright side, the Sixers can try again in next year’s lottery.
Toronto Raptors – The most frequent question asked by those watching the draft: Who is Bruno Caboclo? The Raptors reached (for lack of a more appropriate term) on the 18-year-old forward from Brazil whom nobody predicted in the first round. Just after missing out on hometown kid Tyler Ennis, they made a major mistake with Caboclo. It may seem unfair to write off a player with such little detail available on his abilities, but he’s been described as an “unknown project” and “two years away from being two years away.” Factor in the uncertainties with Kyle Lowry and Greivis Vasquez in the backcourt, and it’s all the most perplexing to take an unproven forward.
Gary Harris – The image of Harris in a Bulls hat for those several minutes could come back to haunt Gar Forman should the shooting guard have a stellar NBA career. Still, draft night was a rough one for the Michigan State standout. Projected in the lottery, he fell all the way to the 19th pick, then was dealt to the Denver Nuggets in the previously arranged Doug McDermott trade. Denver can feel Rocky Mountain high for landing such value, but few saw Harris going so low.
Chris Emma covers the college sports scene for CBS Chicago. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.