With the long anticipated 2014 NBA Draft now in the history books, it's already time to draw early impressions of how teams fared. By nature, the draft affords each team the luxury of improving their roster through adding a player. As such, accessing how organizations went about doing so is a task of gauging which teams helped themselves most and which teams could have done a better job at doing so. With that criteria, let's take a look at the potential winners and losers of this year's draft.
Round 1: Marcus Smart (6), James Young (17)
Round 2: N/A
The Celtics are clearly in rebuild mode and added a youthful backcourt pair to their roster on draft night. By all accounts, Smart would have been a top-two selection had he declared for last year's draft. Getting him at No. 6 evidences the strength of this year's crop of talent and also gives Boston another tough-minded point guard amid the uncertainty surrounding Rajon Rondo's future with the team. Like Rondo, Smart isn't much of a shooter, but his tenacious defense, size, and ability to stuff the stat-sheet could allow the duo to play together.
Then, with Young, the Celtics now have a shooter to stretch the floor, something last year's starting backcourt of Rondo and Avery Bradley simply couldn't do. His only year at Kentucky was fairly inconsistent, but Young played his best ball at the end of the season to help lead the Wildcats' NCAA Championship game run. Although he's pretty one-dimensional, Young's scoring potential is something Boston can use.
Round 1: Noah Vonleh (9), PJ Hairston (26)
Round 2: Dwight Powell (45), Semaj Christon (55)
Vonleh could have went as early as No.4 overall, but he slid a bit before the Hornets made him their selection at No. 9. At 18 years old, Vonleh possesses freakish measurables, including a 7-5 wingspan, 37-inch vertical, and massive hands, that make him an intriguing defender and rebounder. Along with that, his inside-outside versatility should complement center Al Jefferson as a stretch-four. With Josh McRoberts entering free agency, former Indiana standouts Vonleh and Cody Zeller - last year's first-round pick - give Charlotte flexibility.
With the Hornets' other first round selection, they worked a trade for swingman P.J. Hairston, who previously played at part-owner Michael Jordan's alma mater of North Carolina. Widely considered a lottery talent before being dismissed from the Tar Heels' basketball program, Hairston averaged over 20 points in the D-League last season and immediately fills Charlotte's need for a sharpshooter.
Round 1: Doug McDermott (11)
Round 2: Cameron Bairstow (49)
The Bulls finished dead last in the league in scoring last season, so adding the fifth leading scorer in Division I history is exactly what the doctor ordered. McDermott can light it up from deep, which figures to work well with a healthy Derrick Rose driving and kicking, as well as Joakim Noah working from the high-post. The Creighton legend's biggest weakness is undoubtedly his defense, but playing for coach Tom Thibodeau's top-ranked defense should help cover that deficiency quite nicely. "McBuckets" should be a crowd favorite in Chicago thanks to this perfect fit.
Round 1: Jabari Parker (2)
Round 2: Damien Inglis (31), Johnny O'Bryant (36)
The Bucks also struggled mightily on offense last season. With a young roster featuring raw athletes, Milwaukee's point guard was their leading scorer, a reality that produced the league's worst record at season's end. Enter Parker, the draft's best offensive player whose advanced skills allow him to score from anywhere on the court. At 6-8 and around 245 pounds, Parker is expected to play power forward, where he should be a mismatch on the perimeter and blend well with Giannis Antetokounmpo at small forward. His defense is a problem, but shot-blockers like Larry Sanders, John Henson, and Antetokounmpo could hide that to some degree. A potential 20-point scorer for years to come, Parker will be the Bucks' go-to guy and is the early favorite to win rookie of the year.
Round 1: Aaron Gordon (4), Elfrid Payton (10)
Round 2: Roy Devyn Marble (56)
The Magic seem to have established a prototype of future building blocks: ultra-athletic, versatile players that love to compete and lock-down on defense. Orlando's two lottery picks of Gordon and Payton fit that model to a tee. A slight surprise at No. 4, Gordon is an elite athlete that can really impact a game without scoring. In addition to being a fantastic rebounder and passer, Gordon will also provide a rim-protector next to Nikola Vucevic. Despite being the youngest player in the draft, Gordon should be a difference-maker this season and addresses Orlando's frontcourt needs better than anyone that would have been available with their second lottery pick.
In taking Gordon, the Magic passed on Dante Exum, but still secured their point guard of the future with their other first round choice. Payton was considered a sleeper since he played college ball at Louisiana Lafayette, but shot up draft boards in the pre-draft process as teams got a closer look at him. At 6-4, Payton is a hawk on defense and an attack-minded floor general that nearly led the NCAA in free-throw attempts last season. One concern is that both Payton and Gordon are sub-par shooters, as is last year's pick Victor Oladipo, but Orlando will hope the trio's disruptive defense creates easy transition opportunities.
San Antonio Spurs
Round 1: Kyle Anderson (30)
Round 2: N/A
In the Spurs' case, the rich keep getting richer. The NBA Champions earned the final pick of the first round and once again came away with a potential steal. Anderson is perhaps the most unique player in this year's draft, as he's a 6-9 point forward that averaged 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 6.5 assists as a sophomore at UCLA last season. With passing being his best skill, Anderson is exactly the kind of player the Spurs covet. He also improved his shooting percentage significantly last year, something San Antonio's coaching staff can build upon even further. While many questioned how his style and lack of athleticism would translate to the NBA, Anderson's most common comparison was Boris Diaw, who can now mentor him first-hand.
Round 1: Dante Exum (5), Rodney Hood (23)
Round 2: N/A
The Jazz received very good value with both of their first-round selections. Exum has outstanding upside and could be the kind of star that Utah would otherwise be hard-pressed to attract. The 18-year-old Aussie is huge for a point guard and lightning quick with the ball in his hands. With that in mind, Exum's size should enable him to play in lineups with Trey Burke until he eventually takes his job. He'll need to work on his jumper to keep defenses honest, but Exum could be a nightmare matchup in a couple seasons.
Hood is a smooth lefty that could have gone 10 or so picks sooner than he actually did. The former Mississippi State and Duke player provides insurance should Gordon Hayward leave in free agency and could instantly push to be Utah's best long-range shooter.
Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1: C.J. Wilcox (28)
Round 2: N/A
A rare four-year senior in today's draft era, Wilcox's scoring numbers increased each year at Washington. The 6-5 two-guard was good for 18.3 points per game last season and shot nearly 40 percent from three-point range for his college career. While he's a good athlete, Wilcox's calling card in the NBA will certainly be shooting, an area the Clippers have focused on addressing recently. However, on the heels of drafting Reggie Bullock last summer, taking Wilcox seems like a repeat.
Round 1: Zach LaVine (13)
Round 2: Glenn Robinson III (40), Alessandro Gentile (53)
The common characteristics among Minnesota's three picks is they are all future projects, perhaps indicating the Kevin Love situation has the Wolves expecting to be in rebuild mode soon. Thought to be the epitome of the lottery's high risk/high reward type, LaVine is a wiry combo guard with crazy bounce. During his lone college season, LaVine flashed a sweet shooting stroke, but posted uninspiring averages of 9.4 points and 1.8 assists as UCLA's sixth man. Even if he pans out down the road, LaVine's slight frame and lack of polish could cause him to float in relative obscurity for the next couple seasons.
Robinson is another player with a long way to go in proving he's more than an athlete. The son of a former No. 1 pick, "Big Dog Jr." would have been a first-round selection last year but decided to return to Michigan for his sophomore season. That extra year in college punctuated Robinson's lack of an outside shot and frustrating inconsistency, causing him to drop into the second round this year.
The Wolves closed their night by taking 21-year-old Italian Alessandro Gentile, a guard noted for his scoring. However, at the moment, it's unclear when (or if) Gentile will come overseas to factor into Minnesota's setup.
New Orleans Pelicans
Round 1: N/A
Round 2: Russ Smith (47)
Fresh off their first season under a new nickname, the Pelicans were left without a first-round choice, since they dealt it for Jrue Holiday during last year's draft. Holiday is a proven commodity at point guard, but if New Orleans had kept their pick, local product Elfrid Payton was ultimately the guy selected in their slot and would have provided similarly high upside at a cheaper cost.
Then, the Pelicans shipped last year's second-round pick Pierre Jackson, who averaged 29.1 points and 6.2 assists in the D-League, for the same kind of instant offense player in Louisville's Russ Smith. Both Jackson and Smith are exciting spark plugs, but the trade seems like a move sideways for a type of guard that couldn't find staying power on New Orleans' roster last season.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Round 1: Mitch McGary (21), Josh Huestis (29)
Round 2: None
This is a case of deja-vu for the Thunder. Last draft, they took an athletic, high-motor big man (Steven Adams) and a rugged wing defender (Andre Roberson). This year, they drafted another rookie duo with the same credentials while having needs elsewhere. McGary is another Michigan player who probably would have gone higher in last summer's draft but returned to Ann Arbor for a disappointing sophomore campaign. A back injury ended his season after only eight games, making Oklahoma City's first-round selection seem reliant on McGary's impressive freshman showing in the NCAA Tournament. While the Adams pick became a resounding success, McGary's college sample size and production (7.8 points, 6.6 rebounds) are pause-worthy.
The Thunder then took Huestis with their second pick, getting a player that was expected to be a round-two choice. Touted as a physical, pesky defender, Huestik comes in the mold of Thabo Sefolosha, who isn't expected to be retained by Oklahoma City, but seems like Andre Roberson 2.0.
Round 1: Nik Stauskas (8)
Round 2: N/A
In the 2010 Draft, the Kings came away with shooter Jimmer Fredette, who lasted two-and-a-half seasons in Sacramento. Last year, Ben McLemore represented another stab at finding a shooter, but he experienced a turbulent rookie campaign. This time, the Kings went back to the well by grabbing shooter Nik Stauskas of Michigan, essentially calling a mulligan on McLemore.
Unlike McLemore, Stauskas experiences zero lack of confidence. With that mindset, Stauskas' shot is as deadly as they come, and he's also improved mightily as a facilitator; however, his defense leaves much to be desired and could be exposed playing next to tiny point guard Isaiah Thomas.
Round 1: Bruno Caboclo (20)
Round 2: DeAndre Daniels (37)
Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri threw the curveball of the night by using the 20th overall pick on virtually unknown Bruno Caboclo. Then, once ESPN draft analyst Fran Fraschilla introduced Caboclo as an 18-year-old "Brazilian Kevin Durant" that is "two years away from being two years away", Ujiri's decision seemed more like a knuckleball. Ujiri was reportedly sour after missing out on Bucks rookie revelation Giannis Antetokounmpo last summer, so perhaps uncovering a similarly anonymous Caboclo was his rebound attempt. Nonetheless, it's a puzzling pick.
Round 1: Joel Embiid (3), Dario Saric (12)
Round 2: K.J. McDaniels (32), Jerami Grant (39), Vasilije Micic (52), Nemanja Dangubic (54), Jordan McRae (58)
Following last year's embarrassingly bad season, the Sixers spent their two lottery picks on players who won't help them much, if at all, this season. An amazing 7-1 prospect often compared to Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, Embiid was a near certainty to go No. 1 overall before an ill-timed broken foot bone factored in with a previous back stress fracture to cloud Embiid's health outlook. Post-surgery, Embiid is now projected to miss four-to-six months, limiting his rookie stock.
Saric, a 6-10 Croatian point forward, definitely won't be of use next season, as he recently signed a three-year contract to remain in Europe. That deal includes an option to join the NBA after two years, but until then, the Sixers will be without his skills, which are regarded as very promising.
Round 1: Jusuf Nurkic (16), Gary Harris (19)
Round 2: Nikola Jokic (41)
The Nuggets traded their original No. 11 pick to the Bulls for picks No. 16 and 19, where they acquired two players who probably won't get many minutes next season. Nurkic is a big-bodied center that could stay in Europe, while Harris could be buried on the depth chart. That's because Denver made a deal for talented shooting guard Arron Afflalo ahead of the draft and also roster Randy Foye at the position. Finally, Jokic is another frontcourt player based overseas, making his status unclear. The three draftees are each well thought of, but it could be a year or two before they pay dividends.