By Jon Rothstein
» More Columns
FIVE QUICK THOUGHTS
1. HOUSTON IS ACCUMULATING ALL SORTS OF ASSETS
Or at least that’s what it feels like. The Rockets were viewed as a team that was doing everything it could to put together a package to entice Orlando to trade Dwight Howard and judging by their events on Thursday night, it seems like that’s their priority. Even if Houston doesn’t land Howard, it’s clear that they’re stockpiling as much talent as they can. UCONN guard Jeremy Lamb is a quality scoring threat and Iowa State’s Royce White is a lottery level talent that was taken midway through the first round. Kentucky’s Terrence Jones would have been a top ten pick in 2011. Last night, the Rockets got him at 18.
2. KYRIE IRVING FINALLY HAS SOME HELP
No one should expect the Cavaliers to contend for a playoff berth next season but things in Cleveland are starting to look somewhat up. The selection of Syracuse’s Dion Waiters with the fourth overall pick shook up the entire lottery and provides Irving with a lethal scorer to play with the back court. The addition of Waiters combined with the acquisition of North Carolina center Tyler Zeller solidifies two major positions for the Cavaliers and also gives them some personnel with some winning pedigree. If Tristan Thompson can show some strides next season and Cleveland can add a serviceable small forward, the future may not look so bleak in the post LeBron James era.
3. THE SIXERS LOVE THEIR WINGS
St. John’s forward Maurice Harkless has all the tools to be a terrific NBA player but it was interesting to see Philadelphia take him with the 15th overall pick. Doug Collins already has really talented wings in his rotation in Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, and Andre Iguodala which makes unsure where Harkless fits with this team. Iguodala has been long rumored in potential trades and could find a new address this summer. The 6-foot-8 Harkless played more of an interior game with the Red Storm last season because of the lack of depth St. John’s had on the interior and could potentially play more power forward than the three to start. It will be interesting to see how this situation unfolds for both Harkless and the Sixers.
4. NEW ORLEANS RISES
Trading a superstar like Chris Paul usually takes a few years to recover from but the Hornets look like they’re positioned to get back to respectability sooner than expected. By adding Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, New Orleans solidified their rim protection and potentially their point guard play if Rivers can develop into a legitimate NBA floor general. All that remains now is for Hornets general manager Dell Demps to come to terms with free agent shooting guard Eric Gordon and New Orleans with have a team on the floor that that a promising future —- and maybe even a decent present. Davis’ Kentucky teammate Darius Miller was a quality second round pick that will add outside shooting and toughness.
5. GOLDEN STATE’S RECOVERY
Bay Area fans were clamoring for Dion Waiters to fall to the Warriors at number seven and he was quickly swooped up by the Cavaliers three spots prior. Nevertheless, the fact that Golden State was able to land Harrison Barnes is a solid consolation prize. Barnes may never be a star in the NBA but his skills should blend well with the Warriors’ young back court of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Waiters would have added sizzle but Barnes adds stability at the small forward position for years to come.
1. JOHN CALIPARI
Nearly three months after winning the National Championship, Kentucky broke an NBA Draft record with six separate players being selected. For the first time in history, the top two picks came from the same school as Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were chosen by both New Orleans and Charlotte respectively. Calipari didn’t need any extra momentum in recruiting but Thursday night certainly can’t hurt. The buzz surrounding the Commonwealth’s program is as palpable as its ever been.
2. NEIL OLSHEY
The newly minted general manager of the Trailblazers hit a home run during his first draft in Portland. Olshey added a quality lead guard in Weber State’s Damian Lillard along with a solid big man in Illinois’ Meyers Leonard. The Trailblazers also were very fortunate to land Memphis wing Will Barton in the second round at number 40. Barton is a first round level talent that should stick in the NBA.
3. KEVIN MCHALE
The head coach of the Houston Rockets has a long standing relationship with Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg dating back to their days with the Timberwolves and you better believe that had a lot to do with McHale pushing for his team to go after Cyclones point forward Royce White. While other teams had major concerns over White’s off the court issues, McHale recognized White’s talent and will utilize him in ways only that he can be successful. Kentucky’s Terrence Jones and UCONN’s Jeremy Lamb are two other terrific first round additions made by Houston.
4. DION WAITERS
After the draft lottery, many had Syracuse’s best player pegged for the middle of the first round at best. On Thursday night, Waiters was taken fourth by the Cavaliers. That’s a monster jump in terms of the stature of an NBA player’s first contract.
5. KENDALL MARSHALL
If Steve Nash opts to leave Phoenix via free agency, the door becomes open for this southpaw point guard to immediately become a starter in the desert. Marshall isn’t a great athlete or defender but he is an exceptional passer that is tailor made for the Suns’ open court approach. Phoenix protected their future with this selection.
FIVE FIRST-ROUND STEALS
1. JARED SULLINGER TO BOSTON AT NUMBER 21
THE SKINNY: Ohio State’s best player over the last two seasons couldn’t have started his NBA career in a better situation. Sullinger will be a good reserve for Boston over the next few years if they can keep Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett together.
2. JARED CUNNINGHAM TO DALLAS AT NUMBER 24
THE SKINNY: The sleeper in the draft, Cunningham will be a lethal on ball defender in the NBA. A blend player who doesn’t need the ball to be effective, this athletic guard will quickly be revered by Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle.
3. ARNETT MOULTRIE TO PHILADELPHIA AT 27 (FROM MIAMI)
THE SKINNY: Athletic big man will help the Sixers on the boards. Could be a Tyrone Hill type for Doug Collins. Solid value for a late first round pick.
4. PERRY JONES TO OKLAHOMA CITY AT 28
THE SKINNY: I’ve never been a huge fan of PJ3 but this is a high level talent for the Thunder to add with the 28th pick. His talents should blend nicely with the star power of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden.
5. FESTUS EZELI TO GOLDEN STATE AT 30
THE SKINNY: Low post scorer will open opportunities for the Warriors perimeter. Can really operate effectively around the rim.
FIVE SECOND ROUND STEALS
1. WILL BARTON TO PORTLAND AT 40
THE SKINNY: Barton is a first round quality talent. This is a tremendous get for the Blazers and new general manager Neil Olshey.
2. DARIUS MILLER TO NEW ORLEANS AT 46
THE SKINNY: Veteran wing has good size and should stick for a long time in the league.
3. JEFFERY TAYLOR TO CHARLOTTE AT 31
THE SKINNY: Athletic small forward could be another Richard Jefferson.
4. KIM ENGLISH TO DETROIT AT 44
THE SKINNY: Versatile guard has good size at 6-6 and can really shoot the ball. Potential glue guy.
5. DORON LAMB TO MILWAUKEE AT 42
THE SKINNY: Dead eye shooter shot 47.5% from 3-point range during his two seasons at Kentucky.
What was your steal of the draft? Be heard in the comments below!