Irving stands with NBA Commissioner Stern after being selected by the Cavaliers as the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft in Newark

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


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.


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


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

Byron Scott: Kobe Bryant “at peace” with decision to retire after season

Kobe Bryant
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LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant was never going to go quietly into that good night. He would rage, rage against the dying of the light — and torn Achilles, knee ligaments, shoulders, and everything else holding him back.

But now, the end is near, and Kobe will face the final curtain at the end of this season. And he is at peace with it, if you ask his coach.

“It was so matter of fact, and he was so at peace with (the decision),” Lakers’ coach Byron Scott said of when Kobe told him this season would be it. “After I thought about it, I felt better about that. It wasn’t like he was agonizing over it or anything, it was like ‘I’m announcing I’m retiring’ and just kind of went on from there.”

Bryant told Scott before anyone else in the Lakers’ organization, and told him sometime Saturday (when the Lakers played and lost in Portland).

“I said, ‘what?’ He just told me at a very awkward time; we started laughing about it,” Scott said. “He said ‘you looked like you were saying ‘what they hell are you talking about’ but it just caught me off guard.”

It’s been an ugly season for Kobe, his body can no longer do what he expects of it — he can’t get the separation, the lift needed for his shoots. He was shooting 31.1 percent on the season going into Sunday’s game against Indiana, and he started 1-of-11 from the floor Sunday night. Yet he kept gunning.

“I gave up hoping he would change his approach 15, 18 years ago,” Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said. “He is what he is. And I’m thankful for it.”

Kupchak added hoped this decision would ease the pressure on Bryant.

“I would hope that he has more fun, and appears less frustrated, and also gets more appreciation,” Kupchak said. “He’ll get it at home, but on the road too, because people will have to recognize this is his last year and they are watching one of the all-time greats.”

Kobe got plenty of appreciation from Lakers’ fans on Sunday night with a massive ovation when he was introduced. Kobe had wanted to avoid a Derek Jeter style farewell tour, but with that announcement and the Lakers playing 13-of-17 on the road in December you can bet there will be some of that.

“One of the best ever to play the game,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said pregame. “I don’t know if there’s any one moment, just throughout the course of his career you didn’t want him to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line, period. Because you knew he was going to beat you.”

No doubt Kobe goes down as one of the game’s all-time greats — five-time NBA champion, MVP, two Finals MVP’s, 17 All-Star Games, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg — but what Scott ultimately wants is Bryant to leave the game on his terms.

“What I want from Kobe is basically his last game to be able to walk off the court, wave to the fans, and be able to go into the locker room standing up,” Scott said.


Here is Kobe Bryant’s letter given to every fan at Lakers’ game Sunday

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers

LOS ANGELES — In a classy move — and one done in a very Kobe Bryant tone — every fan coming into Staples Center Sunday night to see the Lakers take on the Pacers received a letter from No. 24.

Inside a sealed black envelope, on quality, embossed paper, was this letter from Bryant (photo below):

When we first met I was just a kid.

Some of you took me in. Some of you didn’t.

But all of you helped e become the player and man in front of you today.

You gave me confidence to put my anger to good use.

Your doubt gave me determination to prove you wrong.

You witnessed my fears morph into strength.

Your rejection taught me courage.

Whether you view me as a hero or a villain, please know I poured every emotion, every bit of passion and my entire self into being a Laker.

What you’ve done for me is far greater than anything I’ve done for you.

I knew that each minute of each game I wore purple and gold.

I honor it as I play today and for the rest of this season.

My love for this city, this team and for each of you will never fade.

Thank you for this incredible journey.

It speaks to Kobe’s mindset over the years that he talked about the fuel from the rejection of Lakers’ fans motivating him. As a Los Angeles native (and former Laker blogger), let me tell you there was precious little rejection of Kobe from this fan base. There were questions and doubters early on, but even when Shaquille O’Neal was seen as the driving force of the team Kobe was beloved in Los Angeles. Something that continued through his trial in Colorado — Lakers fans have almost always had his back.

But Kobe finds fuel everywhere. Which is why he is a future Hall of Famer.


Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor

The off-court incidents have been piling up for Jahlil Okafor over the past month: first, an incident captured on video that showed Okafor getting into a fight with a heckler early Thanksgiving morning; then, a report that Okafor had a gun pulled on him in a previous incident; and finally, this morning’s report that the Sixers’ No. 3 overall pick in this June’s draft had been pulled over in recent weeks for driving 108 miles per hour in Philadelphia. Together, they aren’t a good look for the rookie.

On Sunday afternoon, Okafor apologized for his recent behavior in a series of tweets:

The recent incidents involving Okafor are surprising—going into the draft, he never had any red flags for maturity or off-the-court issues. He’s certainly saying the right things after the fact, and he’s only 19, so hopefully this is nothing more than a small rough patch where he’s made some bad decisions, and not an indicator of things to come.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


LOS ANGELES — It has seemed like this has been coming for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck. All that surrounded him was talk of his play and speculation about the future he didn’t want.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Ad we’ll all be watching for those flashes of vintage Bryant we have hoped to see more of this season.