1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV
Cleveland stunned everyone by taking Bennett with the first selection, and it was stunning because it was presumed that Bennett was slipping deeper in the top ten with little buzz linking him to Cleveland. And ultimately, it was a really bad pick. It is never a good sign when it is early in the year and people are wondering if Bennett was one of the worst top picks ever, and it did not get much better. Bennett was either a small forward that can't shoot, or a power forward on a team with a glutton at that position. He did not have a double-digit scoring game until his 33rd game, think about that. Bennett is going to have to show some significant improvement to avoid the dreaded b-word.
2. Orlando Magic - Victor Oladipo, G, Indiana
Oladipo was not the rookie of the year this past season but I think of the top contenders for the award, he may have one of the brighter futures after his very solid rookie campaign. Oladipo was more than willing to play either guard position, despite being more of a natural two-guard, and he showed the slashing and defensive abilities that made him such a high pick in the first place. Sure he had way too many turnovers and struggled to shoot from the perimeter, but he had a very nice debut and should only improve from here.
3. Washington Wizards - Otto Porter, Jr., F, Georgetown
Porter made plenty of sense on draft day for the Wizards. Here's a local product that happens to play at the biggest need on the roster. However, what made sense at the time turned into disappointment quickly as Porter struggled all season long to get off the pine. The team got more production out of second round pick Glen Rice, Jr., who averaged a hearty 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds. That's saying something.
4. Charlotte Bobcats - Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
I really was not a fan of this selection at all as I thought that there were better players at Zeller's position and that Zeller was not worth the fourth selection. The first half of the year, as Zeller struggled while looking overwhelmed on the court, my strong opinion felt justified. But after the All-Star break, Zeller showed more confidence in his game, shot much better and rebounded better. All in all, down the stretch, Zeller showed real strides in his game under the tutelage of coach Steve Clifford to where he looks like an emerging playmaker that can complement Al Jefferson for this rising team.
5. Phoenix Suns - Alex Len, C, Maryland
The big Ukrainian struggled to find playing time for the surprising Suns and when he did hit the court, he struggled to make much of a difference. He finished with a Player Efficiency Rating of 7.2, which is less than half of the league average. Len struggled mightily offensively beyond lay-ups and dunks close towards the basket and shot a poor 42.3% overall from the field. There were some flashes but not enough. What will be important for him is good summer session of work and build with more experience next year. The talent is there but it will take a lot of work for it to come together.
6. Philadelphia 76ers (from New Orleans) - Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
Yes, Noel never played at all for the 76ers as he recovered from knee surgery (which they likely played it safe as part of their tanking efforts). But even then, I think Philadelphia got the better end of the Jrue Holiday trade and I think New Orleans made a mistake in that trade in giving up this year's first and should have just kept Noel. Considering he never played, I really cannot give a grade on this as there is still much to be determined on Noel but I do think Philly made the correct move.
7. Sacramento Kings - Ben McLemore, G, Kansas
I was very much surprised when McLemore, who could have gone #1, fell to the 'Mento at this selection, and I think the Kings must have been ecstatic to make this pick. And I think they would make this pick again, even as McLemore had a bit of a topsy-turvy season where he seemed to do well one month and struggle the next. The jump shot, widely agreed upon as his strength coming out of Lawrence, was a relative disappointment as he only shot 37.6% from the field and 32% from three-point land, although rookies often struggle at first from the field. He did play well and improve his play down the stretch and he should be able to continue that into his sophomore campaign.
8. Detroit Pistons - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, Georgia
Likewise for many of his fellow rookies, Caldwell-Pope's rookie campaign was, more or less, all over the place but considering the team he played for was a major disappointment, we probably should not be surprised. Caldwell-Pope's minutes fluctuated quite a bit at times but like McLemore, he showed promise at times. His shot was inconsistent but he showed enough of the skills to where he can be a fine scorer and shooter. He showed a lot of promise defensively as his active hands make him a consistent steal threat.
9. Utah Jazz (from Minnesota) - Trey Burke, G, Michigan
So the Jazz traded picks that were Shabazz Muhammed and Gorgui Dieng for a pick that was Trey Burke. I think it is safe to say that were the clear winners in that regard. Burke was a legitimate contender for the Rookie of the Year award thanks to a very fine rookie campaign in Salt Lake City. And even then, he did not shoot the ball all that well and his defensive work was a little inconsistent as well. But in what was a season of not much highs for the franchise, the team does seem to have its future locked down at the point guard position.
10. Portland Trail Blazers - C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
The Blazers made the selection of the Patriot League product thinking that he would help the league's worst bench corps. While Portland improved by 21 wins in getting into the playoffs, their bench corps was still the worst in the NBA with a key reason being McCollum struggling in his rookie campaign. Of course, he missed the first six weeks of the season but afterwards, he struggled to get on the court. He should improve and his per-36 numbers were good, but he still has plenty of room to improve.
11. Philadelphia 76ers - Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse
Well, here is your Rookie of the Year. Now, Carter-Williams had inflated numbers thanks to a wholly depleted roster in the midst of a wholesale tanking job. Yes, his jumper is horrific as shown by him having the lowest field goal percentage for anybody that averaged over 15 shots a game. That said, Carter-Williams has given this franchise a building block for the future in an exciting playmaker at the point guard position, especially considering he was somebody I considered to be rather raw entering the league.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Toronto via Houston) - Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
Considering of how raw Adams was coming out of Pittsburgh and the fact that OKC was a team gunning for a title, nobody was all that surprised that Adams saw limited minutes. But in those limited minutes, Adams showed flashes as a key complement of Serge Ibaka in the post. Adams's offensive game needs a whole lot of polish and he never really had to do much more than lay-ups and dunks with the high-power Thunder offense. His defense, though, was a bright spot and he showed a very bright future that end. And perhaps his biggest impact was when he was punched by Zach Randolph in the NBA Playoffs, leading to a crucial Zeebo suspension for game 7.
13. Boston Celtics (from Dallas) - Kelly Olynyk, PF/C, Gonzaga
Now Olynyk's days may be numbered as he could be part of any kind of a Kevin Love package, but given his rookie campaign in Beantown, there is something to work with. He played a little too much center as he looks like more a power forward, and struggled a little bit right out of the gates, but there is no question that he is very talented on the offensive end. He can shoot it up from the perimeter and he has the skills to become a really good passer for a guy his size. The Canadian will never be a great defender but he was able to his length to his advantage a solid amount. For whomever he is playing next year and beyond, they will have something to work with.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Utah) - Shabazz Muhammad, G/F, UCLA
As I mentioned earlier, the Trey Burke trade was not a winner for Minnesota. And Muhammed did not get off to a great start as he got kicked out of the rookie program in the summer. Who would have thought that the best thing Muhammed would do as a rookie was hit the boards? Of course, he did not average two rebounds a game but when you extend out his numbers to a per-36 mark, they are pretty good for a wing guy. However, his offensive work was a big disappointment and he was a fiasco defensively. He looked too one-dimensional and he has a long way to go to be a contributor.
15. Milwaukee Bucks - Giannis Antetokounmpo, G/F, Greece
Well, I failed the Bucks with this pick a year ago and I was so off on this one, I probably get some rotten tomatoes thrown my way (theoretically speaking, of course). This kid, who the kids call the "Greek Freak," seems to be poised for stardom and for a Bucks team that was a dumpster fire last season, he seems to be the one guy they can build around. The upside this kid has is tremendous, he is so long and athletic, the sky may be the limit. Sure, the numbers he put up this season were not amazing, but considering he is a teenager fresh out of Europe, it was still damn impressive. Holy cow.
16. Atlanta Hawks (from Boston via Dallas) - Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil
Danny Ferry pulled a few pages from the San Antonio playbook with their first round selections being a pair of foreign prospects. The first one, Nogueira, continued to play overseas in Spain so one cannot give this draft pick a grade. Nogueira needs the seasoning as he is still quite raw and his offensive game needs a lot of work, but he should be able to contribute defensively. It looks like he will be coming to the Hawks this year and depending on what goes on with Al Horford this offseason, they may need him to give them some quality minutes in the paint.
17. Atlanta Hawks - Dennis Schröder, G, Germany
As in the previous pick, Ferry made another foreign selection in a project for the future. And while the German guard has terrible hair, he has a solid amount of work to do to be a difference maker for the Hawks as he was not great when he saw the floor this year. There is no question that he is rather talented but he struggled to hold onto the rock as he was a turnover machine at times and his shot was inconsistent as well. Schröder also was burned several times defensively and was a little foul happy as well. I think he did show some flashes, but the Summer League action will be key for him going forward.
18. Dallas Mavericks (from Houston via Brooklyn, Atlanta) - Shane Larkin, G, Miami (FL)
Larkin was a kid I liked a lot out of Coral Gables and I really liked this pick for the Mavs. However, Larkin really never saw the floor all that much as a broken ankle right before the Summer League set him back. Ultimately, he only played in 48 games and averaged a tick more than 10 minutes a pop. There, this edition of the Summer League will be critical for Larkin in his future with the club, if he is not included in any sort of deal as has been rumored every now and again.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Lakers) - Sergey Karasev, G/F, Russia
At least the Cavaliers were expecting to get a lot of the top overall pick as opposed to this selection to where expectations were naturally not as high. I thought that Karasev was a guy that could help contribute right away but he showed that he was more of a project than perhaps I had thought. Karasev saw his fair share of action in Canton in the NBDL and only played in 22 games with the big club and his per-36 numbers were rather mediocre as he shot very poorly. And he may get blocked out of playing time should the team select Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.
20. Chicago Bulls - Tony Snell, G/F, New Mexico
Snell was hit and miss for the Bulls this year. He was thought to help the team score more from the perimeter but while he showed flashes of it, he ultimately was not much of a factor as he shot 38.4% and 32% from three. He also showed some flashes of defensive skill but the team was noticeable worse off defensively when he was on the floor. Thibodeau has given him credit for hard work and having the desire to make it, but this was not a great start for the former Lobo.
21. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Golden State via Brooklyn, Utah) - Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
While I more or less commented negatively on this selection when discussing the Trey Burke trade, but Dieng was a combination of good and bad in his rookie campaign. For much of the year he was a mess with the ball in his hands, but down the stretch showed some nice work with his mid-range jumper (although somebody who has very little post game). He did rebound very well, but the team didn't rebound when he was on the field. Dieng has to get stronger but there is a little there there for the Wolves.
22. Brooklyn Nets - Mason Plumlee, C, Duke
Considering how aggressive the Nets were in the offseason before last season with them putting all of their chips to the center of the table, expectations for Plumlee were not that high as he was not expected to be a big contributor. However when push came to shove, Plumlee ended up being a big contributor at the center position and the team excelled when he started and got significant playing time. He was very good from the field, shooting 65.9% from the field (although his mid-range game needs some work as virtually every shot was from the paint), and he was very active defensively. Not to mention him doing this. He's got a bright future for a team that needs the youth, and naturally so considering I was down on this pick.
23. Indiana Pacers - Solomon Hill, F, Arizona
I was far from a fan of the Hill selection for the Pacers as I felt he was not a first round caliber player, instead one that could have been had in the second instead, and he was pretty unsuccessful at getting on the field. Sure they were a safe playoff club but Hill never was able to get into any sort of rotation for them. And when he did get on the field, he did not give the team much reasoning to give him more run.
24. New York Knicks - Tim Hardaway, Jr., G, Michigan
I thought this was a good pick at the time and Knicks fans seemed to like it very much at the draft, albeit likely because he was the son of a player that remembered. And ultimately in a miserable season, he was one of the sole bright spots. While he did have a negative net rating on the floor as he was a sieve defensively and a non-factor on the boards and in the assisting category and was a little one-dimensional, that one dimension, shooting and scoring, was very good. The rest of the game should come around but his shooting alone should allow him to stick for a very long time.
25. Los Angeles Clippers - Reggie Bullock, F, North Carolina
After all the Clippers brought in as reinforcements to their wings, Bullock was going to find it tough to get playing time for this strong playoff contender but with some injuries, he got a little more burn than one may have expected. He was thought to be a strong shooter coming out of Chapel Hill but he really struggled with his jumper all season long. However, he looked good defensively on the perimeter and was one of the team's best wing defenders. But, he did battle a sprained ankle that also limited him as well. So a little bit of everything for Mr. Bullock.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Memphis via Houston, Golden State) - Andre Roberson, F, Colorado
I was not much of a fan of this selection at all for the Thunder as I thought it was a nice reach. Roberson ended up seeing action in only 40 games (with 16 starts, nonetheless) and he was more or less what people thought he was, a solid defender and a mediocre offensive player. His shot is very much a work in progress and his shot is awful from the perimeter as he went two for 13 from deep. On the other hand, he did a lot of good things defensively in crowding passing lanes and blocking some shots too. He may be more or less a defensive-only guy, but there's little wrong with that.
27. Utah Jazz (from Denver) - Rudy Gobert, C, France
Everybody knew that Gobert was a project big man that was not going to make any sort of impact as a rookie, and he certainly met that expectation as he saw action in only 45 games while averaging less than 10 minutes a game. But the thing is, when Gobert did play, he was doing a solid job. Yes, his offensive game was non-existent but he showed a lot of promise defensively and on the board thanks to his tremendous size and length. Naturally, a Jazz team that was a trainwreck defensively and struggled on the boards did not play him but maybe they'll utilize the Frenchman a little more this upcoming year.
28. San Antonio Spurs - Livio Jean-Charles, F, France
This was a classic Spurs selection in taking a talented foreign prospect and considering their deep, veteran roster, allowing him to develop overseas before bringing him stateside. And true to form, Jean-Charles saw no action for the NBA champions this year. Who knows what Jean-Charles will turn into down the line when he does play for the Spurs but given the team's track record, you want to give the team the benefit of the doubt.
29. Phoenix Suns (from Oklahoma City via Golden State) - Archie Goodwin, G, Kentucky
Goodwin was a prospect that came out for the draft a year too early, but he also came out early out of circumstance with a loaded incoming freshman class in Lexington that arguably forced his hand. As Phoenix made the surprise playoff push, Goodwin never saw much if any playing time but he was not terrible when he played. He showed flashes of a nice offensive touch to go with his athleticism but he was never able to earn more burn. However, he was arrested recently for disorderly conduct, so there's that.
30. Golden State Warriors (from Miami via Cleveland, Lakers, Phoenix) - Nemanja Nedovic, G, Lithuania
This pick based around a number of times and when the music finally stopped, it was the Warriors that landed the Lithuanian guard. As I admitted a year ago, I really did not know much of anything about Nedovic and ultimately, Nedovic wass not much of a contributor at all for the Warriors this past season, only appearing in 24 games at an average of 5.9 minutes per game. One would presume that as he gains more experience he would become more of a factor, but he probably will be spending much of his time in the NBDL.