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

Report: Chris Paul recruiting LeBron James hard to Rockets

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Chris Paul built himself into the NBA’s greatest point guard since Magic Johnson (until Stephen Curry came around). Paul mastered the game, offensively and defensively. He led two franchises, New Orleans and the Clippers, taking huge burdens for each.

Then, he engineered a trade to the Rockets to become James Harden‘s sidekick. Paul learned to excel at that, too.

Now comes phase two in Houston. The Rockets must pay him, and it sounds as if they will. And Paul will recruit his friend LeBron James to join him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Chris is going to return there. And listen, right now, Chris Paul’s focus isn’t so much on his own free agency. He’s trying to recruit LeBron James to Houston, and somebody close to him said to me he is as focused on recruiting LeBron as anything he’s done in this league. He wants to find a way.

The Rockets were on the cusp of beating the Warriors. LeBron could put Houston over the top and get Paul an elusive championship. I certainly understand Paul’s hunger to make it happen. He’ll probably never get a better opportunity to win a title than this.

Could the Rockets get LeBron? Carmelo Anthony, before getting traded to the Thunder, told friends of a desire to team up with Paul and eventually LeBron in Houston. LeBron once said he’d take a pay cut to play with Paul, Anthony and Dwyane Wade – not that LeBron must to play with just Paul in Houston. The Cavaliers, Rockets and LeBron could execute an opt-in-and-trade that sends LeBron to Houston, similar to how Paul got there last summer.

But it seems Paul is fighting an uphill battle. LeBron reportedly said he doesn’t like Houston as a city, and lifestyle matters.

Not that the intensely competitive Paul will just give up.

Report: Marvin Bagley ‘near-lock’ to Kings at No. 2 in draft

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The Suns will almost certainly take DeAndre Ayton No. 1 overall in Thursday’s NBA draft.

The mystery begins with the Kings at No. 2.

They’ve been linked to Luka Doncic, Michael Porter Jr. and now, most strongly, Marvin Bagley.

Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News:

I wouldn’t like that pick. Bagley is a high-end prospect, but I’d take Doncic (and prefer a few others to Bagley).

Bagley is a phenomenal finisher and rebounder due to his athleticism and exertion. He runs the floor hard and is quick off his feet, repeatedly.

But he is a huge liability as a rim protector, making him a tough fit as a defensive center. His just lacks the awareness, length and strength to defend the paint well. He can improve his awareness and maybe his strength to acceptable levels, but there is such a long way to go.

I also don’t trust his jump shot or defensive awareness on the perimeter enough for him to play power forward offensively or defensively.

Of all the top prospects, Bagley might be the trickiest to build around. And the Kings don’t have the greatest track record of roster building, even in the rare times they get a lottery pick right.

Report: Wizards willing to trade No. 15 pick if team takes on bad contract with it

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The Washington Wizards had the fourth highest payroll in the NBA last season — a lot to pay for the No. 8 seed and an unceremonious first-round playoff exit.

One way or another expect changes to the Wizards’ roster going into next season. Big names could be on the move. Even before that, the Wizards have signaled they will trade the No. 15 pick in Thursday’s draft if teams will take on one of the Wizards’ oversized expiring contracts, reports our old friend Ben Standig working for thesportscapitol.com.

The Wizards are open to trading down from the 15th overall pick in Thursday’s draft if another team takes on one of Washington’s expiring contracts. That’s the message relayed from the Wizards to other NBA teams, a league source tells The Sports Capitol.

The Wizards have five players with expiring contracts, including starters Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris. Gortat’s $13.56 million salary for the 2018-19 season dwarfs the other expiring deals. The hefty figure counts among the reasons why the 34-year-old center is considered a likely trade piece.

This plan is unlikely to work unless the team in question actually wanted one of those players anyway. It is worth the shot.

That said, expect a lot of trades and movement on draft night — that is the buzz around the league. After DeAndre Ayton going No. 1 there is not really a consensus, and some teams have fallen in love with players and are willing to trade up and get them. Teams starting with Sacramento at No. 2 are fielding serious offers for their picks, and a few may jump at them.

The problem is the guys teams love will be off the board by No. 15, which means the Wizards may be making a pick. Which is not a bad thing, they have traded their picks away for years and they could use the injection of youth. Still, they will look to trade this pick too if it helps lessen the burden on their payroll.

Report: Cavaliers flying blind into draft because LeBron doesn’t know what he’s going to do

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The first day we’re going to get a hint of LeBron James‘ plan this summer is June 29 — that’s the date he has to opt into, or out of, the $35.6 million on his contract for next season.

Opt-in and that means either he’s staying with the Cavaliers or there has been an arrangement made to trade him (likely to Houston). Opt- out and he becomes a free agent on July 1 — he could re-sign with the Cavaliers, or he could sign anywhere else for next season.

What LeBron is doing could impact what the Cavaliers do at the NBA draft, keep the No. 8 pick and draft for the future or try to trade it (probably packaged with Kevin Love or another player) to get LeBron more help now.

But LeBron isn’t going to let the Cavaliers know because he himself doesn’t know, reports Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

According to sources, the Cavs’ front office and James’ camp have been in contact over the phone and in person, though there has been no meeting with James present, nor has there been any real dialogue as far as James’ future is concerned.

Because the superstar himself doesn’t know.

The Cavs have been signaling (strongly, in some cases) that they’re looking to upgrade their team from the group that was swept out of the Finals this month, whether James stays or goes.

If LeBron is staying, then the Cavaliers should consider trading that pick to a team eager to land someone still on the board (if Michael Porter Jr. is still available there likely would be plenty of solid offers). However, if he’s going they should use that pick to start the rebuild (and Porter would be a good step that direction).

In reality, the Cavaliers have to act as if LeBron is gone. That was the sense one got being around the team through the playoffs and Finals, that this relationship had run its course. The Cavaliers should draft the best player they can with that pick, unless some team comes through with a killer offer for the slot (and Love plus the No. 8 is not going to land Kawhi Leonard, who the Spurs are not moving that fast to trade anyway). Then, if and when LeBron leaves, start looking at possible trades for Love, Kyle Korver, and every other veteran on the roster. Start the rebuild.

Still, new GM Koby Altman is flying blind on draft night, and LeBron’s not going to help the team out.