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A Decade of NBA Draft Ups and Downs

Eric Pincus breaks down each individual class from the last 10 NBA Drafts.

Eric Pincus

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The NBA will hold its annual draft on Thursday night.

The top two prospects are widely believed to be LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram, although it’s yet to be determined if the Philadelphia 76ers (first overall) and Los Angeles Lakers (second) agree.

Every draft class is unique.  Some produce multiple All-Stars, but are shallow in depth. Others can boast a long list of starters, but few to no superstars.

Naturally, it takes time for young players to develop into franchise players.  The last three draft classes have yet to produce a single All-Star, but Minnesota Timberwolves forward/center Karl-Anthony Towns, taken first in 2014, looks like he’ll start earning that honor relatively quickly.

The 2010 class produced All-Stars in Paul George, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, but 58.3 percent either didn’t make the league or fell out within five years.

How will Thursday’s 60 prospects fare?  The challenge for teams, when selecting a number of 18- or 19-year-old kids, is guessing correctly.

The true answer may not be clear for a handful of years.

Some teams are more successful than others, as detailed in A Decade of Drafts: Which Teams Fared Best?

The following is a breakdown of the last 10 drafts, focusing on the number of All-Stars and starters in each class – along with a count of players who weren’t on NBA rosters after five season:

All-Stars

Class Individual All-Stars Total Appearances Average Appearances per Year
2006 5 17 1.7
2007 4 15 1.7
2008 5 14 1.8
2009 6 16 2.3
2010 3 8 1.3
2011 5 9 1.8
2012 4 7 1.8
2013 0 0 0
2014 0 0 0
2015 0 0 0
Total 32 (5.3%) 86 12.4

The 2009 class generated the most individual All-Stars and was just one shy of matching 2006’s total appearances mark, despite the latter class’ three-year head start.

None of the last three classes have produced All-Stars, yet.  Only Blake Griffin was named an All-Star as a rookie, and that technically was in his second year of service after injuries knocked him out for the 2009-10 season.

Six players were named All-Stars in their second season (Brandon Roy, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Derrick Rose and Griffin – noting the argument that the Clippers forward was still considered a rookie).

Five were All-Stars in their third year (Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Paul George and Kevin Love).

By that standard, the 2015 class may not be behind without any All-Stars, but 2013 and 2014 are lagging.

Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers, Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle SuperSonics) and Golden State Warriors each drafted the most All-Stars over the last 10 years (three apiece) – although Oklahoma City’s James Harden wasn’t honored as such until he was traded to the Houston Rockets.

Highest Paid Players by Class

Class Player Total
2006 LaMarcus Aldridge $171,154,937
2007 Marc Gasol $180,435,514
2008 Kevin Love $172,106,169
2009 Blake Griffin $117,873,362
2010 John Wall $108,639,665
2011 Kyrie Irving $117,541,135
2012 Damian Lillard $154,260,167*
2013 Victor Oladipo $21,487,440
2014 Andrew Wiggins $24,850,243
2015 Karl-Anthony Towns $25,720,035
Total $1,090,140,842*

* The exact figures for Lillard’s extension won’t be established until early July.

Numbers include past and future NBA earnings, including any option years ahead.

Lillard beat out Anthony Davis, by virtue of a bigger contract extension qualifying for the “Rose Rule.”  Lillard qualified by two All-NBA honors (second team for 2015-16 and third team in 2013-14).  Davis was named to the All-NBA First Team in 2015 and voted in as an All-Star starter once – but he needed two of either to qualify the bigger extension.

Gasol not only tops the list in career earnings, but he’s the only second-round pick on the list.

Starters

Class 50+ Starts on Average for Career 50+ Starts at least 40% of Career Not Yet in NBA Out in Five Years or Less Total
2006 6 (10.0%) 11 (18.3%) 8 (13.3%) 28 (46.7%) 36 (60.0%)
2007 7 (11.7%) 12 (20.0%) 11 (18.3%) 22 (36.7%) 33 (55.0%)
2008 11 (18.3%) 19 (31.7%) 9 (15.0%) 16 (26.7%) 25 (41.7%)
2009 8 (13.3%) 14 (23.3%) 10 (16.7%) 17 (28.3%) 27 (45.0%)
2010 5 (8.3%) 11 (18.3%) 9 (15.0%) 26 (43.3%) 35 (58.3%)
2011 9 (15.0%) 15 (25.0%) 7 (11.7%) 19 (31.7%) 26 (43.3%)
2012 7 (11.7%) 10 (16.7%) 5 (8.3%) 23 (38.3%) 28 (46.7%)
2013 8 (13.3%) 8 (13.3%) 11 (18.3%) 13 (21.7%) 24 (40.0%)
2014 4 (6.7%) 11 (18.3%) 10 (16.7%) 6 (10.0%) 16 (26.7%)
2015 4 (6.7%) 4 (6.7%) 20 (33.3%) 0 (0.0%) 20 (33.3%)
Total 69 (11.5%) 115 (19.2%) 100 (16.7%) 170 (28.3%) 270 (45.0%)

Few players hit the NBA as a starter.  The 2008 class yielded 19 players who started at least 50 games over a minimum of 40 percent of their careers.  The 2014 class has early starter depth, while 2013 is lagging.

Twenty players from the most recent draft in 2015 have yet to sign in the NBA.  Based on previous years, between nine and 15 will eventually make their way (like recent rookies Nikola Jokic, Nemanja Bjelica and Sasha Kaun).  The Philadelphia 76ers hope to have Dario Saric (2014-12th) ink this summer after staying overseas for two seasons.

Results by Tier

The following table shows the league averages over every five picks in the first round, and every 10 in the second:

Tier All-Star Starter Not in NBA
1-5 12 (24%) 30 (60%) 3 (6%)
6-10 8 (16%) 30 (60%) 7 (14%)
11-15 2 (4%) 12 (24%) 8 (16%)
16-20 3 (6%) 10 (20%) 8 (16%)
21-25 2 (4%) 8 (16%) 15 (30%)
26-30 1 (2%) 5 (10%) 20 (40%)
31-40 1 (2%) 11 (11%) 52 (52%)
41-50 2 (2%) 8 (8%) 70 (70%)
51-60 1 (1%) 1 (1%) 87 (87%)
Total 32 (5.3%) 115 (19.7%) 270 (45.0%)

The odds of finding an All-Star in the 15-30 range were better than it was in the second round, but the majority were top-10 picks.  The same can be said of starters, where 60 of the 115 starters (52.2 percent) were taken the top 10.

Teams were twice as likely to find an All-Star with a top-10 pick – and six times more likely to land a starter – than choose a player who didn’t last more than five years.

The lone stand-out in the 51-60 range is Isaiah Thomas, the 60th pick in 2011.  Only 13 of 100 players (87 percent) in that same tier lasted more than five years in the league.

The data for the most recent drafts is inherently incomplete.  The 2015 class has only had one year to prove itself.

Year by Year

The numbers for the 2011 lockout-shortened season are adjusted up from 66 games to 82.  Teams listed are after any pre-career trades.  Frontcourt (FC) includes forwards and centers; Backcourt (BC) includes guards.  Some fall between the two, and a subjective decision was made case by case.

2006

Count: FC 37 (61.7 percent) — lottery nine (64.3 percent); BC 23 (38.3 percent) — lottery five (35.7 percent)

All-Stars: LaMarcus Aldridge (2nd — Portland Trail Blazers), Brandon Roy (6th — Trail Blazers), Rajon Rondo (21st — Boston Celtics), Kyle Lowry (24th — Memphis Grizzlies), Paul Millsap (47th — Utah Jazz)

Lottery Misses: Andrea Bargnani (1st — Toronto Raptors), Adam Morrison (3rd — Charlotte Hornets née Bobcats), Tyrus Thomas (4th — Chicago Bulls), Shelden Williams (5th — Atlanta Hawks), Patrick O’Bryant (9th — Golden State Warriors), Mouhamed Sene (10th — Oklahoma City Thunder née Seattle SuperSonics), Hilton Armstrong (12th — New Orleans Pelicans née Hornets)

Second-Round Steal(s): Paul Millsap (47th)

Between All-Stars and Misses: Randy Foye (7th — Minnesota Timberwolves), Rudy Gay (8th — Memphis Grizzlies), J.J. Redick (11th — Orlando Magic), Thabo Sefolosha (13th — Bulls), Ronnie Brewer (14th — Jazz), Shannon Brown (25th — Cleveland Cavaliers), Jordan Farmar (26th — Los Angeles Lakers), Steve Novak (31st — Houston Rockets), P.J. Tucker (35th — Raptors), Daniel Gibson (42 — Cavaliers), Ryan Hollins (50th — Hornets)

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — Six players (10.0 percent)

In 40+ percent of years — 11 (18.3 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: Eight (13.3 percent)

Out in Five Years or Fewer: 28 (46.7 percent); FC 18; BC 10

Notable: Four of the first six drafted played briefly in the NBA.  Roy was a tremendous player whose career was derailed by injury.  Leon Powe (49th) was a contributor with the Boston Celtics before injury.

2007

Count: FC 38 (63.3 percent) — lottery 12 (86.0 percent); BC 22 (36.7 percent) — lottery two (14.0 percent)

All-Stars: Kevin Durant (2nd — Thunder née Sonics), Al Horford (3rd — Hawks), Joakim Noah (9th — Bulls), Marc Gasol (48th — Grizzlies via Lakers)

Lottery Misses: Greg Oden (1st — Blazers), Yi Jianlian (6th — Milwaukee Bucks), Acie Law (11th — Hawks), Julian Wright (13th — Pelicans née Hornets), Al Thornton (14th — Clippers)

Second-Round Steal(s): Marc Gasol (48th), Ramon Sessions (56th — Milwaukee Bucks)

Between All-Stars and Misses: Mike Conley (4th — Grizzlies), Jeff Green (5th Thunder née Sonics), Corey Brewer (9th — Timberwolves), Brandan Wright (8th — Warriors), Spencer Hawes (10th — Kings), Thaddeus Young (12th — 76ers), Rodney Stuckey (15th — Pistons), Nick Young (16th — Wizards), Marco Belinelli (18th — Warriors), Jason Smith (20th — 76ers), Jared Dudley (22nd — Hornets née Bobcats), Wilson Chandler (23rd — Knicks), Aaron Brooks (26th — Rockets), Arron Afflalo (27th — Pistons), Tiago Splitter (28th — Spurs), Carl Landry (31st — Rockets), Glen Davis (35th — Celtics), Josh McRoberts (37th — Blazers) and Ramon Sessions (56th).

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — Seven players (11.7 percent)

In 40+ percent of years — 12 (20.0 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: 11 (18.3 percent)

Out in Five Years or Fewer: 22 (36.7 percent); FC 13; BC nine

Notable:
Overall, a quality draft, with a high volume of still-active players. But for the second year in a row, the top overall pick was dramatically overshadowed by the second.

2008

Count: FC 39 (65.0 percent) — lottery seven (50.0 percent); BC 22 (36.7 percent) — lottery seven (50.0 percent)

All-Stars: Derrick Rose (1st — Bulls), Russell Westbrook (4th — Thunder née Sonics), Kevin Love (5th — Timberwolves), Brook Lopez (10th — Nets), Roy Hibbert (17th — Pacers)

Lottery Misses: Michael Beasley (2nd — Heat), O.J. Mayo (3rd — Grizzlies), Joe Alexander (8th — Bucks), Anthony Randolph (14th — Warriors)

Second-Round Steal(s): DeAndre Jordan (35th — Clippers), Goran Dragic (45th — Suns)

Between All-Stars and Misses: Danilo Gallinari (6th — Knicks), Eric Gordon (7th — Clippers), D.J. Augustin (9th — Hornets née Bobcats), Jerryd Bayless (11th — Blazers), Jason Thompson (12th — Kings), Brandon Rush (13th — Pacers), Robin Lopez (15th — Suns), Marreese Speights (16th –76ers), JaVale McGee (18th — Wizards), J.J. Hickson (19th — Cavaliers), Alexis Ajinca (20th — Hornets née Bobcats), Ryan Anderson (21st — Nets), Courtney Lee (22nd — Magic), Kosta Koufos (23rd — Jazz), Serge Ibaka (24th — Thunder née Sonics), Nicolas Batum (25th — Blazers), George Hill (26th — Spurs), Darell Arthur (27th — Grizzlies), Nikola Pekovic (31st — Wolves), Mario Chalmers (34th — HEAT), Omer Asik (36th — Bulls), Luc Mbah a Moute (37th — Bucks) and Sasha Kaun (56th — Cavaliers).

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — 11 players (18.3 percent)

In 40+ percent of years — 17 (28.3 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: Nine (15.0 percent)

Out in Five Years or Fewer: 16 (26.7 percent); FC eight; BC eight

Notable: Beasley and Mayo have had productive years in the NBA — “miss” may not be fair — but neither should have gone before Westbrook.  Kaun was just a rookie this last season, his fate as a hit or a miss is still to be determined.

2009

Count: FC 30 (50.0 percent) — lottery five (35.7 percent); BC 30 (50.0 percent) — lottery nine (64.3 percent)

All-Stars: Blake Griffin (1st — Clippers), James Harden (3rd — Thunder), Stephen Curry (7th — Warriors), DeMar DeRozan (9th — Raptors), Jrue Holiday (17th — 76ers), Jeff Teague (19th — Hawks)

Lottery Misses: Hasheem Thabeet (2nd — Grizzlies), Jonny Flynn (6th — Wolves), Terrence Williams (11th — Nets); While Griffin and Harden are certainly justifiable, Tyreke Evans (4th — Kings) and Ricky Rubio (5th — Wolves) should not have been taken before Curry.

Second-Round Steal(s): Danny Green (46th — Cavaliers), although Cleveland let him go after a year, giving the Spurs the chance to sign and develop an important championship role player.

Between All-Stars and Misses: Jordan Hill (8th — Knicks), Brandon Jennings (10th — Bucks), Gerald Henderson (12th — Hornets née Bobcats), Tyler Hansbrough (13th — Pacers), James Johnson (16th — Bulls), Ty Lawson (18th — Nuggets),Darren Collison (21st — Pelicans née Hornets), Omri Casspi (23rd — Kings), Taj Gibson (26th — Bulls), DeMarre Carroll (27th — Grizzlies), Wayne Ellington (28th — Wolves), Toney Douglas (29th — Knicks), Jeff Ayres (31st — Kings), Dante Cunningham (33rd — Blazers), DeJuan Blair (37th — Pistons), Jonas Jerebko (39th — Pistons), Jodie Meeks (41st — Bucks), Patrick Beverley (42nd — Heat), Chase Budinger (44th — Pistons), Patty Mills (55th — Blazers).

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — eight players (13.3 percent)

In 40+ percent of years — 14 (23.3 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: 10 (16.7 percent)

Out in Five Years or Fewer: 17 (28.3 percent); FC nine; BC eight

Notable: Evans and Rubio should not be considered misses outside of overlooking Curry.

2010

Count: FC 44 (73.3 percent) — lottery 11 (78.6 percent); BC 16 (26.7 percent) — lottery three (21.4 percent)

All-Stars: John Wall (1st — Wizards), DeMarcus Cousins (5th — Kings), Paul George (10th — Pacers)

Lottery Misses: Evan Turner (2nd — 76ers), Wesley Johnson (4th — Wolves) — neither should have been taken before Cousins; Ekpe Udoh (6th — Warriors), Xavier Henry (12th — Grizzlies); also any non-All-Stars taken before Paul George.

Second-Round Steal(s): Lance Stephenson (40th — Pacers), Hassan Whiteside (33rd — Kings) would have been a steal, but he didn’t last in Sacramento.

Between All-Stars and Misses: Derrick Favors (2nd — Nets), Greg Monroe (7th -Pistons), Al-Farouq Aminu (8th — Clippers), Gordon Hayward (9th — Jazz), Cole Aldrich (11th — Thunder), Ed Davis (13th — Raptors), Patrick Patterson (14th — Rockets), Luke Babbitt (16th — Blazers), Kevin Seraphin (17th — Wizards), Eric Bledsoe (18th — Clippers), Avery Bradley (19th — Celtics), James Anderson (20th — Spurs), Trevor Booker (23rd — Wizards), Quincy Pondexter (26th — Pelicans née Hornets), Greivis Vasquez (28th — Grizzlies), Landry Fields (29th — Knicks), Jeremy Evans (55th — Jazz)

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — five players (8.3 percent)

In 40+ percent of years — 11 (18.3 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: Nine (15.0 percent)

Out in Five Years or Fewer: 26 (43.3 percent); FC 18; BC eight

Notable: Bledsoe and Bradley were two sharp, non-lottery picks.  Turner was a very productive player with the Celtics last season.  Johnson has contributed as a role player, but they were both drafted too high.  Both Tibor Pleiss (31st — Jazz via Thunder) and Nemanja Bjelica (35th — Wolves) were rookies last season; too soon to declare either a hit or a miss.  Larry Sanders (15th — Bucks) was initially productive, but left the NBA for personal reasons.  Fields also had a short, five-year career.

2011

Count: FC 33 (55.0 percent) — lottery eight (57.2 percent); BC 27 (45.0 percent) — lottery six (42.9 percent)

All-Stars: Kyrie Irving (1st — Cavaliers), Klay Thompson (11th — Warriors), Kawhi Leonard (15th — Spurs), Jimmy Butler (30th — Bulls), Isaiah Thomas (60th — Kings)

Lottery Misses: Derrick Williams (2nd — Wolves), Jan Vesely (6th — Wizards, Jimmer Fredette (10th — Kings)

Second-Round Steal(s): Chandler Parsons (38th — Rockets), Isaiah Thomas (60th — Kings)

Between All-Stars and Misses: Enes Kanter (3rd — Jazz), Tristan Thompson (4th — Cavaliers), Jonas Valanciunas (5th — Raptors), Bismack Biyombo (7th — Hornets née Bobcats), Brandon Knight (8th — Pistons), Kemba Walker — Hornets née Bobcats), Alec Burks (12th — Jazz), Markieff Morris (13th — Suns), Marcus Morris (14th — Rockets), Nikola Vucevic (16th — 76ers), Iman Shumpert (17th — Knicks),  Tobias Harris (19th — Bucks), Donatas Motiejunas (20th — Rockets), Kenneth Faried (22nd — Nuggets), Nikola Mirotic (23rd — Bulls), Reggie Jackson (24th — Thunder), Norris Cole (28th — Miami), Cory Joseph (29th — Spurs), Bojan Bogdanovic (31st — Wolves), Shelvin Mack (34th — Wizards), Jon Leuer (40th — Bucks), Lavoy Allen (50th — 76ers), E’Twaun Moore (55th — Celtics)

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — nine players (15.0 percent)

In 40+ percent of years — 15 (25.0 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: Seven (11.7 percent)

Currently Out Through Fifth Year: 19 (31.7 percent); FC 11; BC eight

Notable: The best first-round picks outside of the lottery were Leonard and Butler.  Other strong selections were Faried and Joseph.  Andrew Goudelock (46th — Lakers) is hoping to stick in the league again on a non-guaranteed deal with the Rockets.

2012

Count: FC 39 (65.0 percent) — lottery seven (50.0 percent); BC 21 (35.0 percent) — lottery seven (50.0 percent)

All-Stars: Anthony Davis (1st — Pelicans née Hornets), Damian Lillard (6th — Blazers), Andre Drummond (9th — Pistons), Draymond Green (35th — Warriors)

Lottery Misses: Thomas Robinson (5th — Kings), Austin Rivers (10th — Pelicans née Hornets), Kendall Marshall (13th — Suns); Honorable mention to any non-All-Stars taken ahead of Lillard.

Second-Round Steal(s): Jae Crowder (34th — Mavericks), Green, Khris Middleton (39th — Pistons), Will Barton (40th — Blazers)

Between All-Stars and Misses: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2nd — Hornets née Bobcats), Bradley Beal (32nd — Wizards), Dion Waiters (4th — Cavaliers), Harrison Barnes (7th — Warriors), Terrence Ross (8th — Raptors), Meyers Leonard (11th — Blazers), Jeremy Lamb (12th — Rockets), John Henson (14th — Bucks), Moe Harkless (15th — Magic), Tyler Zeller (17th — Cavaliers), Terrence Jones (18th — Rockets), Andrew Nicholson (19th — Magic), Evan Fournier (20th — Nuggets), Jared Sullinger (21st — Celtics), John Jenkins (23rd — Hawks), Tony Wroten (25th — Grizzlies), Miles Plumlee (26th — Pacers), Festus Ezeli — (30th — Warriors), Quincy Acy (38th — Raptors), Mike Scott (43rd — Hawks), Kyle O’Quinn (49th — Magic),  Robert Sacre (60th — Lakers)

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — seven players (10.0 percent), rounding up Kidd-Gilchrist from 49.5

In 40+ percent of years — 10 (16.7 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: Five (8.3 percent)

Currently Out Through Fourth Year: 23 (38.3 percent); FC 14; BC nine

Notable: Rivers has found a valuable role the past two seasons on the Clippers, but he wasn’t especially successful on the Pelicans.  Marshall has found a place in the NBA, but was cut early by the Suns.  Royce White (16th — Rockets) and Fab Melo (22nd — Celtics) have yet to find footholds in the league.

2013

Count: FC 33 (55.0 percent) — lottery eight (57.1 percent); BC 27 (45.0 percent) — lottery six (42.9 percent)

All-Stars: None

Lottery Misses: Anthony Bennett (1st — Cavaliers), Trey Burke (9th — Jazz)

Second-Round Steal(s): Perhaps Allen Crabbe (31st), Isaiah Canaan (34th) and/or Joffrey Lauvergne (55th)

Between All-Stars and Misses: Victor Oladipo (2nd — Magic), Otto Porter (3rd — Wizard), Cody Zeller (4th — Hornets née Bobcats), Alex Len (5th — Suns), Nerlens Noel (6th — 76ers), Ben McLemore (7th — Kings), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (8th — Pistons), C.J. McCollum (10th — Blazers), Michael Carter-Williams (11th — 76ers), Steven Adams (12th — Thunder), Kelly Olynyk (13th — Celtics), Shabazz Muhammad (14th — Wolves), Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th — Bucks), Lucas Nogueira (16th — Raptors), Dennis Schroder (17th — Hawks), Shane Larkin (18th — Mavericks), Sergey Karasev (19th — Cavaliers), Tony Snell (20th — Bulls). Rudy Gobert (27th — Jazz), Archie Goodwin (29th — Suns), Jeff Withey (39th — Pelicans), Mike Muscala (44th — Hawks), Raul Neto (47th — Jazz), Ryan Kelly (48th — Lakers), James Ennis (50th — Heat), Lorenzo Brown (52nd — 76ers)

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — eight (13.3 percent), rounding up for Miles Plumlee from 49.7

In 40+ percent of years — eight (13.3 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: 11 (18.3 percent)

Currently Out Through Third Year: 13 (21.7 percent); FC four; BC nine

Notable: Gobert was a tremendous selection by Utah late in the first.  Others who stands out with the All-Star potential include Antetokounmpo and McCollum.

2014

Count: FC 35 (58.3 percent) — lottery nine (64.3 percent); BC 25 (41.7 percent) — lottery five (35.7 percent)

All-Stars: None

Lottery Misses: Nik Stauskas (8th — Kings), although he showed he still has potential in stretches after a trade to the 76ers.

Second-Round Steal(s): Nikola Jokic (41st), Jordan Clarkson (46th)

Between All-Stars and Misses: Too early to say, too many to list.

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — four (6.7 percent)

In 40+ percent of years — 11 (18.3 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: 10 (16.7 percent)

Currently Out Through Second Year: Six (10.0 percent); FC three; BC three

Notable: Two lottery picks are expected to make their debut next season with the Sixers – Joel Embiid (3rd) and Dario Saric (12th).

2015

Count: FC 36 (60.0 percent) — lottery nine (64.3 percent); BC 24 (40.0 percent) — lottery five (35.7 percent)

All-Stars: None

Lottery Misses: To be determined.

Second-Round Steal(s): Josh Richardson (40th — HEAT), Norman Powell (46th — Raptors)

Between All-Stars and Misses: Too early to say, too many to list.

At Least 50 Starts: Four (6.7 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: 20 (33.3 percent)

Currently Out Through First Year: None

Notable: Devin Booker (13th — Suns) was an excellent late-lottery pick.  Larry Nance Jr. (27th — Lakers) was also a solid find.

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NBA DAILY

NBA Daily: Pelicans Might Be Better Off Without DeMarcus Cousins

Without DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis has excelled. It might not be a coincidence.

Moke Hamilton

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Forget Kawhi Leonard, the most interesting storyline of this NBA summer is going to be DeMarcus Cousins.

By now, if you’ve wondered whether the New Orleans Pelicans would be better off without the talented big man, you’re certainly not alone.

Just ask the Portland Trail Blazers.

On Saturday, the Pelicans pulled off an improbable sweep of the third-seeded Blazers in the first round of their best-of-seven playoff series. And while the immediate question that comes to mind is what to make of the Blazers, a similar question can be (and should be) asked of the Pelicans.

Without question, Cousins is one of the most gifted big men the NBA has sen in quite some time, but it shouldn’t be lost on any of us that Anthony Davis began to put forth superhuman efforts when Cousins was absent.

Ever heard the saying that too many cooks spoil the brew?

That may be pricisely the case here.

Sure, having good players at your disposal is a problem that most head coach in the league would sign up for, but it takes a special type of player to willingly cede touches and shots in the name of the best interests of the team.

We once had a similar conversation about Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, mind you. Those that recognized that Westbrook’s ball dominance and inefficiency took opportunities away from Durant to be the best version of himself once believed that the Oklahoma City Thunder would have been wise to pitch Westbrook to New Orleans back when Chris Paul was still manning their perimeter.

For what it’s worth, with Cousins in the lineup, he averaged 18 shots per game. In the 48 games he played this season, the Pelicans were 27-21. With him in the lineup, Davis shot the ball 17.6 times per game and scored 26.5 points per contest.

In the 34 games the Pelicans played without Cousins, Davis’ shot attempts increased fairly significantly. He got 21.9 attempts per contest and similarly increased his scoring output to 30.2 points per game.

Aside from that, Cousins’ presence in the middle made it a tad more difficult for Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday to have the pace and space they need to be most effective. With both Davis and Cousins, the Pelicans struggled to consistently string together wins. Without Cousins, they improbably became the first team in the Western Conference to advance to the second round.

That Cousins tore his achilles tendon and is just a few months from becoming an unrestricted free agent combine to make him the most interesting man in the NBA.

* * * * * *

With Chris Paul having decided that the grass was probably greener with James Harden and Mike D’Antoni than it was with Doc Rivers and Blake Griffin, the Clippers fulfilled his request to be trade to the Houston Rockets and re-signed Griffin to a five-year max. deal. In doing so, they both gave Griffin a stark reminder of what life in the NBA is like and provided a blueprint for teams to follow when they have a superstar player with whom they believe to have run their course.

The glass half full perspective might be that Davis has simply become a better, healthier, more effective player and that with Cousins, he would have another weapon that could help catapult the Pelicans ever further toward the top of the Western Conference. But the half-empty glass might yield another conclusion.

At the end of the day, although he still hasn’t appeared in a single playoff game, Cousins is regarded as a game-changing talent and is one of the few players available on the free agency market this summer that could justify an annual average salary of $30 million. In all likelihood, the Pelicans will re-sign him for a sum that approaches that, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best move.

In the end, the Clippers traded Griffin for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, a first round pick and a second round pick. All things considered, it was a great haul for the Clippers when you consider that, just a few months prior, they could have lost Griffin as a free agent and gotten nothing in return.

Remarkably, after seeing Griffin dealt to Detroit, in the Western Conference, the Pelicans are on a collision course with the Golden State Warriors. Their health a constant concern, the team will have to deal with the pesky perimeter defense of Holiday and Rondo and versatility and two-way effectiveness of Davis.

Nobody gave New Orleans a chance against Portland, and for sure, not many people are going to believe in their ability to score an upset over the defending champions. But believe it or not, New Orleans has become a different team. And they’ve done so without Cousins.

Indeed, believe it or not, the Clippers gave us a blueprint for what a team should do when it has a superstar who might not be the best long-term fit for their program.

And if the Pelicans were wise, they’d be smart to follow it.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Rookie Contributors Lifting Playoff Teams

This year’s impressive rookie class has translated their regular season performances to the playoff stage.

Dennis Chambers

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This past NBA season had the luxury of an incredibly entertaining and high-powered rookie class. Every other day it seemed like the feats of either Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Lauri Markkanen, Dennis Smith Jr., Kyle Kuzma, or Ben Simmons were dominating the discussion about how advanced the league’s crop of newbies appeared to be.

As a result, the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year race was a much more heated discussion than the year before.

With the impressive campaign these NBA freshmen put together, it should come as no surprise that on the on bright stage of playoff basketball, three of the aforementioned crop are helping lead their team’s in tight first-round battles.

Donovan Mitchell has been the leading scorer for the Utah Jazz through two games in their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jayson Tatum is stepping up for the Boston Celtics to help fill in the void of Kyrie Irving as they take on the Milwaukee Bucks. Ben Simmons is nearly averaging a triple-double through three games for the Philadelphia 76ers in their matchup with the Miami HEAT.

Lottery pick talents are expected in today’s NBA to come in and have some level of impact for their clubs. Usually, they play the role as a foundational building block that shows flashes of promise with an expected up-and-down first season. While these three playoff contributors haven’t been perfect all year long, under the pressure of the postseason, they’ve stepped up their play and appear to be avoiding the learning curve.

With that, let’s highlight further what Mitchell, Tatum, and Simmons have been able to do thus far in the postseason.

Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

All season long Mitchell threw the entire scoring load of Salt Lake City on his back for the Jazz and helped carry them to a 5-seed in the Western Conference when early season projections suggested they should head towards in the wake of Rudy Gobert’s injury.

However, the 13th pick out of Louisville had no intentions of missing out on the postseason. And from the looks of his production so far, who can blame him?

Through the first two games of the Jazz-Thunder series, Mitchell yet again placed his name in the same breath as Michael Jordan. Mitchell’s 55 points in his first two playoff games broke Jordan’s record of 53 for most points scored by a rookie guard in that scenario.

Mitchell’s 27 points in Game 1 and 28 points in Game 2 led the Jazz to even the series and steal home court advantage from the Thunder. While he hasn’t been responsible for setting up the team’s offense, tallying just five assists through those two games, Mitchell is fulfilling the role of Gordon Hayward as the team’s primary scorer.

In a series against a team that features the likes of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, Utah needs Mitchell to go out there and get as many buckets as he possibly can.

So far, he appears to be welcoming the challenge.

Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

When it was announced that Kyrie Irving would be lost for the entire postseason due to injury, the Boston Celtics’ hold on the 2-seed seemed a lot less intimidating than it once was in the Eastern Conference.

However, three games into the first round series against the Bucks, the Celtics hold a 2-1 lead. A lot part of that has to do with the role Tatum has been able to step in and play right away with the Celtics down their main scorer and playmaker.

Throughout the first three games of the series, Tatum 12.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2.3 steals. The third overall pick in the 2017 draft started the series off with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals to help Boston start off the matchup with a 1-0 lead.

At just 20 years old, Tatum is matching his age number with his usage percentage thus far against Milwaukee. For some perspective, Jaylen Brown managed just 12 minutes a night for the Celtics last season as a rookie when the playoffs rolled around.

Granted, injuries and missing players are helping in Tatum being on the court as much as he has, but the rookie is earning his time out there on the court.

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

The perceived frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, Ben Simmons has taken control in his first ever playoff series.

For starters, Simmons is averaging nearly a triple double over his first three games against the HEAT; 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 9.7 assists.

On top of his triple double ways, Simmons has upped arguably his biggest weakness so far in the playoffs, shooting 75 percent from the charity stripe. During the regular season, Simmons struggled from the line, hitting only 56 percent of his attempts.

With the offensive prowess of Simmons obvious, it’s the job he’s doing on the defensive end of the court against an aggressive and tough Miami squad that’s elevating his play to the next level.

Simmons’ ability to switch all over the defensive end of the court has placed his responsibilities from Goran Dragic to Justise Winslow to James Johnson, and seemingly everywhere in between.

Now with Joel Embiid back in the fold for the Sixers and Simmons, the rookie point guard has his defensive partner on the floor to help ease the workload on that end. A two-way performance each night will be imperative for Simmons in helping lead the young Sixers past the experienced HEAT team.

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Pelicans Role Players are Key to Success

The supporting cast in New Orleans is a big part of their playoff surge, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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The New Orleans Pelicans have taken a commanding 3-0 lead in their first-round playoff series again the Portland Trail Blazers. While surprising to some, the Pelicans only finished one game behind the Blazers in the standings. The Pelicans have the best player in the series in Anthony Davis and the defensive duo of Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday have stifled Portland’s backcourt.

The truth is, the Pelicans have been a good team all season long. A lot of attention and recognition has been given to Davis, Rondo and Holiday this season and playoffs, and rightfully so. But New Orleans wouldn’t be where they are without the important contributions of some of their role players.

Take E’Twaun Moore, for example. Moore bounced around the NBA early in his career, with stops in Boston, Orlando and Chicago before finding long-term stability contract wise with the Pelicans. He’s primarily been a bench player with them before this season, his second in New Orleans, his first as a full-time starter.

He’s given the Pelicans a huge boost, especially from the three-point line. He’s put up 12.5 points per game on 50.8 percent shooting from the field, both career-highs. He’s shooting 42.5 percent from three-point range.

“I think it’s just our style of play,” Moore told Basketball Insiders. “We play fast and open. Coach [Gentry] gives us a lot of freedom, a lot of confidence. That’s why my game is up, my shooting is up.”

It’s not just offensively though. Moore has always been one of the more underrated defensive guards in the league. Paired up alongside Rondo and Holiday, the trio form a solid wing defensive unit. They’re a big reason for Portland’s offensive struggles.

Moore is the type of role player that every playoff contender needs to succeed. He knows that his role may change from game to game. Some nights he may be asked to score a little more. Other nights his defense is going to be called upon. Whatever it may be, he’s always ready to do what’s asked of him.

“I bring the energy. I bring a spark,” Moore told Basketball Insiders. “It’s knocking down shots, playing defense, getting out in transition. Just trying to be a spark.”

The Pelicans bench has also been a huge factor all season long. Their depth took a major hit early in the season with the injury to Solomon Hill. Hill has since returned to the lineup, but his absence paved the way for other players such as Darius Miller to step up.

This is Miller’s second stint with the Pelicans after spending two years overseas. Drafted 46th overall in 2012, he didn’t play much his first three years in the NBA. In 2014, he was cut by the Pelicans only about a month into the season. This year was different, he was thrown into the rotation from the get-go.

“This is a huge opportunity,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I just come in and try to work every day, try to get better every day. My teammates have done a great job of putting me in situations where I can be successful.”

Miller has given the Pelicans a capable stretch four in the second unit who can slide over to small forward if need be. He’s averaging a career-best 7.8 points per game, the most out of any of New Orleans’ reserves. He’s their best three-point shooter off the bench, connecting on 41.1 percent of his long-range attempts.

While he acknowledges that he’s enjoying his best season yet as an NBA player, he’s quick to praise his teammates for allowing him to flourish.

“I just try to bring a spark off the bench. I come in and try to knock some shots down,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “My teammates do a great job of finding me when I’m open, I just try and knock down shots and compete.”

Sometimes time away from the NBA helps players grow and mature. The NBA game is fast paced and it can take awhile to get used to it. While some players have begun to use the G-League as a means of preparing for the league, Miller took an alternate route of heading to Germany.

For him, it’s a big reason why he’s been able to make an easier transition back to the NBA. His contract for next season is non-guaranteed, but he’s probably done enough to warrant the Pelicans keeping him around. He’s a much different and much-improved player. If not, he’s sure to draw interest from other teams.

“It was a lot to learn for me personally,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I had to learn a lot of different things like how to take care of my body, how to manage my time, a whole bunch of stuff like that. The time overseas really helped me to mature and grow up and learn a few things.”

These Pelicans have most certainly turned quite a few heads since the playoffs began. We shouldn’t deal too much with hypotheticals, but it’s interesting to wonder what this team’s ceiling would’ve been had DeMarcus Cousins not been lost for the season due to injury.

This is a confident bunch, however. They’ve beaten both the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets during the regular season. They’ve already shattered a lot of expert predictions with their performance in the first-round. The Pelicans feel like they can hang with anyone out West.

“As far as we want to go,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I feel like we’ve competed with all the best teams in the league this whole season. We just got to come out, stay focused and do what we do.”

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