NBA Draft Winners, Losers: Miami, Minnesota come away looking good

31 Comments

Trying to assess winners and losers in the immediate aftermath of an NBA Draft is a fool’s errand — we are at least three years out from really knowing who did well. Think back three years, would anyone take Dion Waiters in front of Damian Lillard if you redid the 2012 draft?

That said, we’re going to give it a shot.

I’ll start with this comment: I’m not putting the Knicks in the loser category straight away. Porzingis was not who I would have picked but the guy has upside and a lot of teams like him. If the Knicks can develop him — which is another question — they have a steal. But this is a franchise that has tried the quick fix for years, I don’t completely hate them trying to get the best guy by going slower. If James Dolan lets them stick with it.

Here are our winners and losers from the 2015 NBA Draft.

WINNER: The Miami Heat
(Justise Winslow at No. 10, Josh Richardson at No. 40)
Winslow is the guy the Knicks should have taken at No. 4 (unless you think the Knicks are good at player development suddenly), but instead he falls right into Pat Riley’s lap. He can defend multiple positions at an NBA level right now, plus he showed some versatility to his offense at Duke. He’s going to get most of his offense in transition — the Heat want to run — and he shot 41 percent from three last season. Winslow fell to the perfect team for his style of play, and the Heat catch a big break.

LOSER: NBA Fans
This was going to be the NBA draft with the wild trades, all sorts of player movement, crazy surprises and… not so much. Mason Plumlee and Tim Hardaway Jr. got traded, but that’s not exactly the kind of wild thrills we had in mind. Look for a lot more movement come the start of free agency on July 1, but this draft did not live up to the hype.

WINNER: The Minnesota Timberwolves
(Karl-Anthony Towns at No. 1, Tyus Jones at No. 24)
Flip Saunders didn’t over think it, he just took the best player on the board with the first pick, a guy who is going to fit beautifully with Andrew Wiggins and the rest of the young core in Minnesota. I also like the move to make a trade and land a quality point guard — he can back up Ricky Rubio… and considering Rubio’s injury history Jones may get a fair amount of run. This is a team on the rise.

LOSER: Atlanta Hawks
(Traded to end up with Tim Hardaway Jr., took Marcus Eriksson at No. 50)
I get trading out of the 15 pick (giving it to the Wizards) for the No. 19 pick, they picked up a couple of second rounders there. But then they traded that No. 19 pick too, when guys who could have helped then like Bobby Portis and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson were still on the board. Maybe you can say Hardaway is better than those young stars, but he regressed last season with the Knicks and Mike Budenholzer has some work to do there.

WINNER: The Chicago Bulls
(Bobby Portis at No. 22)
They had only one pick but they made the most of it, drafting a high energy, defense first kind of guy. Tom Thibodeau would have loved him, but alas. To make up for that bulls fans will love this guy because he fights and outworks guys at both ends of the court. He defends well in the paint and on the perimeter. Offensively, put him in a modern offense (like Fred Hoiberg wants to run) and he will get you hustle points and knock down some jumpers. This is just a great fit.

LOSER: The Memphis Grizzlies
(Jarell Martin at No. 25, Andrew Harrison at No. 44)
I don’t get the Martin pick, but this was a guy the Grizzlies loved and promised very early on. Martin’s offensive game suits an up-tempo team, but he struggles when the game grinds down — and all the Grizzlies do is grind. Martin wasn’t even the best forward on his team, the Grizzlies should have taken Jordan Mickey (the Celtics got him at 34, and that helped keep them off the loser list since they badly overreached at 16).

Lakers’ Jeanie Buss: “I have 100 percent confidence in Rob Pelinka”

Getty Images
2 Comments

Internally, the Lakers believe they are on the right track: They signed LeBron James as a free agent, they spent years acquiring assets then turned those assets into Anthony Davis, and they believe the roster that will take the court next season will bring vindication for the front office and ownership group. The Lakers believe they will be back on top, where they belong.

From the outside, um, let’s just say there are doubts around the league. Doubts about all the picks — particularly the pick swaps and deferments — that the Lakers gave up to get Davis and now that could hurt them in the future. There are doubts about the ability of Rob Pelinka to build out a roster around LeBron and Davis that is truly a threat.

Jeanie Buss has no such doubts. Speaking to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times (and other reporters) at the NBA Awards show Monday, Buss expressed nothing but confidence in Pelinka and the Lakers’ staff.

“I’ve always had confidence in Rob, whatever the speculation is out there,” Buss said. “We don’t need outside media to validate the things that we do. I’m very happy and I think we’re on the right path.”

“I have 100% confidence in him in running his basketball operations,” Buss said. “He’s brought us a great new head coach in Frank Vogel, whose teams have had a lot of success in the playoffs and who have played consistently ranking high in defense, which means not only does he emphasize defense but the players buy into his defensive schemes.”

The question isn’t Vogel’s credentials, although how a staff with Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, and other veteran coaches with big egos will mesh together is going to be interesting.

The question is talent.

The Lakers have the high end of that with LeBron and Davis, but when you think about the Laker title teams of the past it wasn’t just Shaq and Kobe, it was also Derek Fisher and Robert Horry and Rick Fox and a host of others. The same thing was true in this past Finals — the deeper team won because the Raptors could adapt and handle their star not being 100 percent.

Are the Lakers going to chase another star and then complete the roster with minimum salary players? Or, get two or three quality role players with their cap space to have a deeper team? Has this all been planned out and thought through? Maybe Rob Pelinka builds this roster out beautifully, but we only have one year of experience to judge him on, and that did not go well.

Buss may have confidence, she should, the rest of us are in wait and see mode.

The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP

Daniel/Getty Images
5 Comments

Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.

Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates for helping him reach this point, then talking about his father.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.

Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.

Antetokounmpo won the award handily with 941 points to Harden’s 776. The Greek Freak had 78 of the 100 first place votes.

James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win and was frustrated with another second.

Antetokounmpo is the first player from Europe to win the MVP award since Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

Nikola Jokic came in fourth in the voting, Stephen Curry was fifth. Here are the full results:

 

 

Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year for second straight season

Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images
2 Comments

Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.

And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.

The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.

This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.

Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year

Getty Images
1 Comment

Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).

It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).

Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.

He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.