Now that I have seen how the draft actually played out and processed all of the twists and turns and surprises, I. And if the title doesn’t make it clear, I think Sam Hinkie absolutely crushed the draft and has furthered my suspicion that he is the future best GM of all time.
I loved that he was a stone cold baller and gambled on Joel Embiid at #3 overall, but what I was also anticipating how he would use the #10 overall pick. The players that I liked there were international bigs (Capela, Nurkic) which didn’t make a world of sense with Noel and Embiid there or PG’s (Ennis, Payton) who didn’t make much sense with MCW there. Then the next guys on my board were KJ McDaniels and Kyle Anderson who slid all the way to the 30’s, so there is no need to expend a valuable lottery pick on them as Sam Hinkie went ahead and snagged KJ at #32 overall. I felt that trading down was the obvious play, but finding a good deal can be hard. Hinkie ended up finding his own deal by reading Rob Hennigan’s soul.
Orlando surprised when they took Aaron Gordon 4th overall with Marcus Smart and Dante Exum on the board as logical choices for a team that badly needed a PG. Of course Hinkie perfectly deduced the implications of this: they were targeting Elfrid Payton 12th overall, as Payton had been dominating workouts and fits Hennigan’s affinity for toolsy, defensive minded prospect who cannot shoot. But it’s not easy to get much in a trade down from 10 to 12 when the teams at 10 and 11 are not likely to snipe Orlando, so Hinkie came up with the creative solution of becoming 100% likely to snipe Orlando by taking Payton himself. Instead of getting a nominal fee for trading down two slots, Hinkie picked up the 2017 1st rounder that Philly had sent Orlando in the Dwight Howard trade, and a 2015 2nd rounder that should be in the 30’s. That’s a significant vig for trading down from 10 to 12.
Note that I’m not certain that this is precisely how it played out, it’s merely how it sounds to me after piecing the available information together. I’m not sure how Hinkie may have roped Hennigan into paying that much to move up 2 slots without playing Jedi mind games.
Hinkie then took Dario Saric 12th overall who will be stashed in Europe for the next 2+ years, and should appreciate in value over that span. I imagine that Saric ends up getting dealt to another overmatched GM before he ever puts on a Philadelphia uniform, as he seems to have more value as a trade chip than an NBA player based on limited info. I may be wrong, but that’s my prediction.
For Sam Hinkie the draft is more than an opportunity to draft potential superstars like Joel Embiid. It’s also a chance to ravage lesser front offices in trades. We kept hearing over and over about Wiggins being Philly’s #1 target, and to me that reeked of misinformation since Joel Embiid was in the draft too. I don’t know if he was going to leverage that to trade up for #1 and surprise snipe Embiid from Cleveland, or if he was going to snag Wiggins #3 overall and then completely clean out a team who feels that Hinkie’s adoration for Wiggins confirms the hype. But after the draft we got this from Woj:
Adrian Wojnarowski @WojYahooNBA · As it turns out, Philadelphia never made a run at Cleveland’s No. 1 overall pick, league sources tell Yahoo.
The great thing about Woj is that he always has his facts straight in a world where Ric Bucher and Chris Broussard sometimes try to break news as well. If Hinkie didn’t try to trade up for #1 after Embiid’s injury red flags were heightened, that supports my hypothesis that Embiid was his target all along. Unfortunately we will never know exactly what Sam Hinkie’s master misinformation plan was, but I imagine it was awesome.
Hinkie also went ahead and drafted my #13 player at #32 overall and my #21 player at #52 overall. And since New Orleans had so much fun getting hustled by Hinkie last draft, they decided to sneak in a quick losing trade when they shipped D-League extraordinaire Pierre Jackson for the #47 pick. I didn’t love the Jerami Grant pick at #39, but I had it above slot value and I don’t have a hard time hopping on board with the pick if Hinkie likes him.
If you root for a team that isn’t going to be good anytime soon and is low on my prediction list for good drafting, it might be a while before you can root for a winner. I highly recommend adopting Philadelphia as a 2nd team to root for (or a new favorite team altogether). You can get in on the ground floor and while it will be a few of years before they are good, they are eventually going to be great. Hinkie is too sharp and too creative for their fate to be otherwise.
Here are my updated predictions for who had the best draft nights, with my pre-draft predictions in the far right column for comparison.
I still think Houston got the steal of the draft in Capela. For whatever reason, NBA teams are much quicker to sour on toolsy bigs with questionable skill/feel than toolsy wings with questionable skill/feel (evidence: Harrison Barnes was drafted before Andre Drummond), even though bigs have such an easier path to usefulness. It doesn’t make sense to me that Andrew Wiggins can show worrisome skill deficiencies and still get picked #1 overall in the same world where DeAndre Jordan slides to round 2. And the reasons for Capela sliding sound especially dubious (he was bad at all-star practices, let’s value that more than playing for an actual professional team in a real sample of games). Maybe Capela never becomes anything but at 25th overall there’s no way it’s anything other than a great gamble.
Note that I placed a premium on higher picks, which is why Minnesota and Chicago evaded the bottom 3 in spite of having the most obviously bad drafts.
I also decided to re-rank the players based on the actual draft outcome. I’m truncating the list at top 40, because I don’t see the value in going beyond that. I was pretty much picking names out of hats to fill out the bottom of my list, and does it really matter if I rank Cleanthony Early 50th or 73rd or 374th? I wouldn’t draft him and I doubt there are more than 40 players worth drafting in any given crop of prospects, so that’s the limit to which I will rank in the future:
|34||Glenn Robinson III|
I didn’t go too wild scooting Saric up my board since I’m not convinced Hinkie is keeping him. But I upticked him anyway based on the possibility of such and my lack of conviction that he is definitely overrated.
I mostly skewed up the good team picks that I was not high on. I’m still fairly skeptical of the Payne pick for Atlanta since Ferry isn’t the most proven GM. He has impressed me recently and seems to have genuinely improved from his Cleveland days, but he is no Hinkie and I think he overdrafted for fit and eschewed a fair bit of value in the process.
TJ Warren I have an easy time getting on board with. I didn’t have a strong reason to oppose him before, and he’s such a unique mold that he probably has his own brand of upside. Jeff Hornacek mentioned that his defensive versatility stood out in workouts (which is credible given Warren’s steal rate), and if Horny likes TJ’s defense then I do too.
I’m still somewhat skeptical of James Young, as I feel Ainge is overrating his odds of becoming a good defensive player. It doesn’t seem impossible for him to become above average, but he strikes me as a clear underdog. Ainge also pointed out that Young has always been a great shooter and believes he ran bad as a freshman, which is a hypothesis I had too. If Young shoots well as a rookie and/or sophomore, he can hike up his trade value to bad teams who are poor at assessing defensive potential. There is something about him that is highly attractive to casual fans (as far as I’m concerned bad GM’s are glorified casuals), and he may have been drafted higher if he didn’t miss workouts due to a car accident.
Huestis seems like a complete zero offensively and I think Presti erred on that one. But he’s toolsy and can play defense, so at least that’s something.
What About Bruno?
I didn’t bother trying to rank Bruno Caboclo because I have no idea, but you may note that I gave Toronto an above average ranking in my post draft prediction. That is in spite of pick #37 being a throwaway in DeAndre Daniels, which I docked the Raptors for. This is because I think Masai Ujiri is a good GM, and when he drafts an 18 year old 6’9″ guy with a 7’7″ wingspan who can apparently shoot at #20 overall, I am not going to tell him he is wrong.
It doesn’t seem possible that somebody with that physical profile who can shoot somehow entered the draft and was completely glossed over by everybody. This is especially true for an age where the Internet and social media spread information like wild fire. But it happened, and I don’t feel overwhelmingly compelled to knock the pick due to the ignorance of almost everybody.
To offer some perspective: Zach LaVine went 13th overall because he can shoot and he can jump through the roof. The only evidence that he can do anything else comes from people who watched him in high school, even though the people who watched him in high school also graded him as not a top 50 player in the class.
Bruno’s tools are straight up better. I don’t even know how athletic he is and I don’t care. Zach LaVine is a leaper in Nik Stauskas’s body minus 25 pounds. His athleticism will aid his rim finishing and transition play, but he’s likely poor defensive player anyway and his athleticism isn’t going to help him get off a huge volume of 3’s (he attempted just 5.7 per 40 at UCLA). The reason why Durant is so elite is because being 6’10” with a 7’5″ wingspan enables him to get off his elite shot from any spot on the court, and he’s roughly unstoppable once he catches the ball. This is similar to why Dirk is so dominant. The combination of a great reach and great shot has unique synergy to create a special player.
Of course Durant is great for reasons other than just length and shooting, but the good news is that Bruno can be vastly inferior to Durant at a number of things and still be great value at #20 overall. LaVine’s physical tools aren’t special at all but Bruno’s are. It’s rich to me that Chad Ford gave Toronto a D for taking Bruno 20th overall for being raw after a full season of slurping LaVine as a lottery pick and giving Minnesota a B+ for taking him 13th.
For all I know Caboclo is a complete scrub, but his based on the tiny bits of info we have and Ujiri’s history of making smart moves, there is no way I am ever criticizing this type of gamble at 20th overall. The draft is all about upside, and if Ujiri thinks Caboclo has it then I agree with him.