With a lot of 19-year-olds going early to lottery teams, potential, potential and potential are all the words you will hear in the recently concluded NBA Draft. Given that we still have to see a lot of these picks pan out or in some cases, bust out, here is the list of the winners and losers of the 2014 NBA Draft:
1. Charlotte Hornets
Maybe all they needed to do was to go back to being the Hornets.
The franchise beleaguered for choosing duds in the draft finally got some positive vibes going their way after coming up with a successful pool of new talent. Back when they were the Bobcats, they were missing prospects left and right, infamously handing the franchise to Adam Morrison, or picking D.J. Augustin way too early, or hoping that defensive ace Bismack Biyombo pans out or that the shooting struggles of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be outshone by his defensive skillset and outstanding motor.
This time around they got the best player available in the position, a spot they feel that the up and coming Noah Vonleh will fill for years to come. Just as starting power forward Josh McRoberts exercised his player option, Vonleh fell in their laps at the 9th spot. He is the perfect complement for post-up behemoth Al Jefferson. He can be used as a stretch four (shot 48% from three in college ranks) and rebounds well for his size and position. They also got P.J. Hairston who has the ability to shoot the rock, a much needed skillset in a team that features Kemba Walker's penetration and Jefferson's post-up heavily.
2. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets took Doug McDermott, a skilled scorer who is fifth in total points scored in the history of Division I. Then they shipped him off to the Chicago Bulls who have been very high on McDermott and got the guy they targeted all along, Michigan State shooting guard Gary Harris at number 19 and a stash pick, Bosnian center Yusuf Nurkic at 17, arguably the next best center in the draft not named Joel Embiid. They also strengthened their 2-guard spot with an earlier deal with the Orlando Magic by shipping out prospect Evan Fournier in exchange for former Nugget and reliable veteran Aaron Afflalo.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
After days of going back and forth with the Cleveland Cavaliers in their yearning to land Andrew Wiggins, the 76ers may just have lucked upon the best player in the draft (or jinxed out depends on the foot). Bring out the tanks again, give Thaddeus Young a new hobby, and give out free tacos every game, as the team waits the healing of their future core of Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. Aside from Embiid they also have a stash pick in point-forward Dario Saric who will develop his game in Turkey, possibly coming over in two years and just in time for the Noel-Embiid party. They still have to develop other youngsters such as 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Willams but the ride should be fun down the road.
4. Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics
It is just right to lump two storied franchises who rarely see the lottery in this slot as they also luck out on two prospects who can contribute right away. Marcus Smart is a combo guard who may duplicate the work of Rajon Rondo and unload some of the burden from the all-star. They now have a three headed monster in Rondo, Bradley and Smart who can give opposing guards headaches day in and out. They also lucked out on shooter and small forward James Yung who can hit the outside shot and fill in amiably for Jeff Green if ever the Celtics consider moving their other assets.
The Los Angeles Lakers are banking in on 19-year old Julius Randle to gobble all the boards and play second fiddle to a returning Kobe Bryant. While the roster has holes at many positions (center, small forward, point guard), the purple and gold have a foundation block to build on and can potentially carry the franchise once the Black Mamba rides into the sunset.
5. New York Knicks
It is unfathomable that the Knicks make the list after having no first round picks in this draft but they got some gems in the second round picking Cleanthony Early of Wichita State. How he fell so low in the draft sliding down to the second round is still an anomaly but many are convinced that his lengthy college career will translate well into the NBA. The Knicks also got the brother of the Greek Freak - Thanasis Antetokounmpo who will be a prospect in the D-League and may just prove a steal in the long run just like his brother.
1. Orlando Magic
Aaron Gordon is a great prospect but comparing him to Blake Griffin is a reach, and how the Magic extended its arms to pick him. With prospects like Smart, Randle and Vonleh still on the table, the Magic rolled the dice on Gordon's athleticism and hope he has a higher ceiling than those mentioned. With Victor Oladipo in place as the starting 2-guard, the Magic also shipped out Aaron Afflalo who can command bigger salary after his contract expires and replaced him with youngster Evan Fournier. Luckily they nabbed a versatile guard in Elfrid Payton who they can develop as they replace the ageing Jameer Nelson. While Payton still has to develop an outside shall his versatility and ability to produce intangibles have made him a positive in this draft.
2. Philadephia 76ers fans
Another year of tanking and second-rounders and D-leaguers filling out the starting line-up? Well that sounds depressing. While most of Philly's fans are down with Sam Hinkie's plan of a slow rebuild, it must be hard on the eyes and on the wallets of season ticket holders to watch day in and out the Sixers get blown out with minimal talent. The losing will also considerably take its toll on their youngsters but there is hope in the horizon, if the health of Noel and Embiid cooperates and brings back the glory years of the city of love.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves
No draft day deal was made by the Timberwolves much to the dismay of Kevin Love and his camp. They took Zach Lavine who muttered bleep words (clue: finally me!) after having heard his name called out by Adam Silver. Lavine is a prospect who is one of the top athletes in this deep draft but still has to develop other facets of his game. He needs to be consistent more in scoring as he just registered a total of ten points in the final five games of his NCAA career. Minnesota has a lot of work to do with its young prospects after years of head scratching picks in the draft (Johnny Flynn, Wesley Johnson, Derrick Williams, anyone?). This withstanding all the ruckus of the Kevin Love drama that will fill the team season long much like the Dwightmare in Orlando years back.