The 2014 NBA Draft is in the books, which means it’s time to break it down and dissect each of the moves. For this week’s Head to Head, Basketball Insiders’ Yannis Koutroupis, Alex Kennedy and Jessica Camerato debate which team had the best draft. Here are their thoughts:
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers went into the draft with a simple approach: select the best player available. As a franchise looking to get back into contention immediately, they didn’t have any interest in going with a project who would need a couple of years to get used to the NBA. Luckily for them, perhaps the most NBA-ready player in the draft fell into their lap with the seventh overall selection.
Even if they go out and land the big-name free agents that they’re hoping to, Julius Randle will play his way on to the court and be a contributor. His competitiveness, work ethic, athleticism and just overall talent will help him earn the respect of Kobe Bryant and most importantly the Lakers’ future head coach, whoever that may end up being.
In the case that the Lakers are unable to land any of the big fish in free agency and need to thrust Randle into a big role from day one, they can do so with the confidence that no other power forward in this draft would have been ready to excel with the opportunity like he is. They’ve benefited greatly from their last two lottery selections (Eddie Jones and Andrew Bynum) and should get at least a similar impact from Randle.
With the point guard position lacking depth, getting Jordan Clarkson in the second round for cash considerations was just the perfect way to close out a strong draft for the Lakers. Clarkson has a lot of upside and was regarded by many as a potential first-round pick. Don’t be shocked if he has a strong showing in summer league and earns himself a contract as well.
- Yannis Koutroupis
The Utah Jazz were one of the hardest teams to get a feel for entering the 2014 NBA Draft, since they have young talent at every position and weren’t being linked to any specific prospect in particular. Because they don’t have any glaring holes, the Jazz were able to go with a best-player-available approach last Thursday, and came away as the big winners of the draft by landing Dante Exum with the fifth overall pick and Rodney Hood with the 23rd overall pick.
Exum has star potential and could be a match-up nightmare in the NBA given his size, length and athleticism, and he gives Utah a very interesting two-point-guard backcourt with Trey Burke. Exum was the best player on the board at No. 5 and is a great value considering he could’ve went as high as No. 2 and could end up being one of the best players to emerge from this draft class. Yes, there are a lot of question marks surrounding Exum, who is somewhat of a mystery man, but there’s plenty of intrigue as well. He has amazing potential and it’ll be very interesting to see how he develops alongside Utah’s young core.
Not only did the Jazz steal Exum at No. 5, they landed Hood much later than anyone expected. Some projected Hood as a lottery player, so for Utah to select him in the mid-20s was a huge steal. Hood is someone who can contribute for the Jazz from day one, scoring the ball and knocking down threes. His age (22 years old in October) may have scared some teams away since teams typically go after younger, higher-upside players in the draft, but Hood is definitely better than his No. 23 pick indicates and he made it clear that he’s looking forward to proving that throughout the course of his NBA career.
Utah came away from the draft with two players who can be significant contributors and add to their already-impressive young core, which is why they’re my winners of the draft.
- Alex Kennedy
Whenever a team has the top pick, it seems like they should be a lock for draft winner. But it is possible to miss on the best player, and the Cleveland Cavaliers have proved that in the past.
Last season, they used the first pick to draft Anthony Bennett, who had an underwhelming, injury-hampered rookie campaign. This year the ping pong balls bounced in their favor once again (the third time since 2011), and they had the opportunity to redeem themselves on draft night.
There was no “wrong” choice between Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker (Joel Embiid had been in the mix prior to his foot injury), but given the team’s history there was question as to whether or not they would make a surprise move or trade the pick. In the end, the Cavs selected Wiggins, who will make an immediate impact, and came out on top.
The decision goes beyond the draft. It shows that the Cavaliers are headed in the right direction under recently-hired general manager David Griffin and head coach David Blatt.
If all goes as planned for the Cavs this season, they won’t be in the running to land the top pick in 2015.