NBA Draft grades for all 30 teams (yes, we know it is too early)

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Let’s be honest here, we don’t really know how to grade this draft right now. A more accurate way to do this would be to grade the 2008 draft tonight (Chicago for Derrick Rose and Seattle/Oklahoma City for Russell Westbrook/Serge Ibaka get the top grades).

But we are a society of instant answers, and who am I to fight society? So here are grades for all 30 NBA teams out of the draft. But as your read these, consider these midterm grades (or first quarter grades, really), the serious tests lie ahead still.

We’ll do this by conference, in the order they finished last season.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Chicago Bulls (62-20): In Jimmy Butler they took an athletic guy who can defend, someone who fits the Bulls system. In Nikola Mirotic they got a guy people will forget about until he comes in from Europe and looks good in a few years. No game changers, but hard to do that deep in the draft.
Grade: B

Miami Heat (58-24): Norris Cole will get a chance to be a backup point guard. He can’t be worse than Mike Bibby.
Grade: C

Boston Celtics (56-26): They end up with two guys from Purdue, and in bars across Boston plenty of Boilermakers were ordered. I really like getting E’Twaun Moore late in the second round, good value pick.
Grade: B

Orlando Magic (52-30): The rumors were more interesting than reality by far (they still had Jameer Nelson when they woke up in the morning). They got two guys who fit their system, nice but not dynamic picks.
Grade: B-

Atlanta Hawks (44-38): Only one pick in the second half of the second round, used on a project big man in Keith Benson. Meh.
Grade: C

New York Knicks (42-40): They were not able to move up in the draft to get the shooters they wanted, so they settled for Iman Shumpert, the guy who won the combine. It’s a gamble, not a bad one (he’s a ridiculous athlete). But not what they needed.
Grade: C-

Philadelphia 76ers (41-41): Good pick up with Nikola Vucevic, the kind of genuine, low-post center and rebounder they could use. Sorry Spencer Hawes.
Grade: B+

Indiana Pacers (37-45): They traded away both their first round picks — two good prospects but unproven — for a solid all-around guard in George Hill. I like the move, the Pacers needs some guys who can do, not just more projects.
Grade: B

Milwaukee Bucks (35-47): Their real move was the big trade that brings them Stephen Jackson and Beno Udrih — which saves them about $10 million (with the difference in draft pick salaries) and gives them a guy who can create his own shot. Like they expected John Salmons to last season.
Grade: B+

Charlotte Bobcats (34-48): New GM Rich Cho tore down the last vestiges of the playoff team from 2010 and has started to rebuild with picks like Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker. It’s going to take time, and this was a tough draft in which to find really good rebuilding pieces. Biyombo is a gamble, but a good one to take for a team starting over.
Grade: B

Detroit Pistons (30-52): Point guard Brandon Knight fell to them and they wisely took him. They made some nice picks, but the rebuilding work is just starting.
Grade: B

New Jersey Nets (24-58): They were very fine hosts for the event, and getting Marshon Brooks was a good gamble for a team looking to rebuild because he has the dreaded.
Grade: B

Washington Wizards (23-59): Three quality picks, Jan Vesley will surprise, Chris Singleton will defend and Shelvin Mack will scrap.
Grade: A-

Toronto Raptors (22-60): Picking Jonas Valanciunas was the perfect move. They may not see him for a year or two, but good to gamble on a guy with a lot of skill.
Grade: A

Cleveland Cavaliers (19-63): They made the right move with Kyrie Irving, but Tristan Thompson seems like a reach. A lot of teams like him but his offense is so raw, I wasn’t a fan. Not loving their night because it feels like it could have been better, but they got the best guy overall.
Grade: B

WESTERN CONFERENCE

San Antonio Spurs (61-21): They traded away George Hill and took some risks on prospects — probably good risks, but it does not help them win right now and Tim Duncan’s window is closing.
Grade C

Los Angeles Lakers (57-25): Four picks after 40 so they weren’t getting much anyway, but they took some real leaps after a nice pickup with Darius Morris. They could have gotten guys more likely to help, but it looks like they wanted guys they didn’t every have to pay.
Grade: C-

Dallas Mavericks (57-25): They traded their pick to bring them Rudy Fernandez, which is a fantastic fit for them and helps more now (when they need it, their window is not open long). Now it’s all about keeping Tyson Chandler.
Grade: A

Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27): They played it well – they liked Reggie Jackson, promised him early and didn’t let anyone else work him out. Smart move if he pans out.
Grade: B+

Denver Nuggets (50-32): I like the trade to bring them Andre Miller and I think Kenneth Faried will be a perfect fit with this team (once he gets a few more tattoos).
Grade: B+

Portland Trail Blazers (48-34): At the end of what seemed a busy day they ended up with Raymond Felton — younger but not much better than what they had — and a couple of nice shooters who don’t do much else. This is the same team it was 24 hours ago, basically.
Grade: C

New Orleans Hornets (46-36): They had only one pick, middle of the second round, they took a real reach then sold it to the Knicks. Well, cash is nice, I guess, but this team is no better after draft night. And they need to soon.
Grade: C-

Memphis Grizzlies (46-36): They only had one pick and at 49 it wasn’t likely to be thrilling, still John Selby is a good reach there.
Grade: B

Houston Rockets (43-39): Jonny Flynn (via trade, and they may trade him away soon) and Marcus Morris (via draft) are the only two likely to make any impact short term (not a big Parsons fan). And I’m not sure that’s much of an impact at all.
Grade: C

Phoenix Suns (40-42): They have one pick and make a solid one with Markieff Morris. Solid but not spectacular.
Grade: B

Utah Jazz (39-43): They went into the draft wanting a big and a shooting guard, they got Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. Well played Jazz, well played.
Grade: A-

Golden State Warriors (36-46): Klay Thompson was a good get (not exactly fitting the newfound commitment to defense they talk about, but we’ll forgive them). This means somebody currently in the backcourt gets traded (we’re looking at you, Monta). Jeremy Tyler was a good gamble in the second round.
Grade: B+

Los Angeles Clippers (32-50): They only had second round picks (because they traded their first rounder to the Cavaliers to swap Baron Davis for Mo Williams). Trey Thompkins is a nice gamble in the second round.
Grade: C+

Sacramento Kings (24-48): One wild day for the franchise. At the end of it there is hope in the form of a Tyreke Evans/Jimmer Fredette backcourt, with John Salmons returning to the fold and DeMarcus Cousins in the paint. Tyler Honeycutt was a good risk to take as well. Not sure they are a whole lot better, and they are spending more money, but there is hope.
Grade: B-

Minnesota Timberwolves (17-65): They traded Jonny Flynn and drafted a bunch of Euros (some very obscure). I do like the trade for Malcolm Lee, he can defend at the NBA level. But in the end they got Derrick Williams to run the floor with Ricky Rubio, and that should make them better.
Grade: B

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more than Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary (especially given Wall’s comments about not wanting him to play as much) but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.

Don’t like the wait for this year’s Finals? Here’s the top 10 plays from the last two (VIDEO)

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Que the Tom Petty

Nobody is enjoying the week-long break between the end of the Eastern Conference Finals and the start of the NBA Finals (except maybe a few of the older Cavaliers players trying to get healthy). For those of us basketball junkies, we just want to get on to the two best teams in the league battling it out.We need a fix.

Here’s the best we can do today: The top 10 plays from the last two NBA Finals, the last two Cavaliers/Warriors showdowns. Courtesy the folks at NBA.com. There’s plenty of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and a big shot by Kyrie Irving made the list. Enjoy. And just try to be patient.

Warriors’ center Zaza Pachulia cleared to play in Game 1 of NBA Finals

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These playoffs, the Golden State Warriors have been 15.4 points per 100 possessions better when Zaza Pachulia is on the court as opposed to on the bench. That’s a bit misleading, the reason for the gaudy number is he rounds out the dominant starting lineup, which has outscored teams by 32.6 points per 100 this postseason (that is actually better than the legendary “death lineup” in these playoffs). Pachulia is just the first big in the rotation with four All-Star, powerhouse players, but he fills his role well.

Pachulia was slowed by a sore right heel against the Spurs but is 100 percent and ready to go for the Finals when they tip-off Thursday night at Oracle Arena. Here are the details via Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.

Zaza Pachulia, the only injured Warrior rotation player late in the Spurs series, has participated in all parts of all three practices, without restriction on that sore right heel. He is on track to start Game 1 of The Finals on Thursday.

“We’ve done running, had scrimmages and he’s done everything,” Mike Brown said.

He will have a crucial role on the glass against the Cavaliers. Cleveland brings two dominant rebounders to the party with Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love (plus that LeBron James guy can get some boards), the Warriors will use Pachulia to counter. Before you roll your eyes, he had 13 boards in the second meeting of these teams in the regular season, a blowout Golden State win.

He’s the first big in a rotation of them the Warriors will throw at Cleveland — JaVale McGee may get a little time, but expect a lot of small-ball lineups from the Warriors. If Pachulia can give Golden State a solid 18 minutes a night where he is strong on the glass and helps protect the rim, it will be huge for them.

Pachulia is going to get his shot, he’ll be healthy and ready to go.