NBA Draft: Central Division Grades
The 2017 NBA Draft has officially come and gone with 28 of 30 teams in the league collected new players Thursday night, with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Washington Wizards being the only two teams that didn’t make a selection. As hard as the draft process was for most NBA teams, it was equally as tough tracking the draft updates on Twitter, as trades were being tossed around like pizza dough. It was a dramatic draft night and we’re going to take at how your team did with their selections.
The Central Division was relatively quiet on draft night. The Eastern Conference champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers, were one of the two teams in the entire league that didn’t make a selection. There was some big news on the front of the Chicago Bulls as they traded away Jimmy Butler, but aside from that, this division remained seemingly unchanged.
Cleveland Cavaliers: N/A
The Cavs didn’t make a single selection in the draft and still may be considered the best team in the conference. When you have LeBron James, your urgency to make big splashes in the draft is likely minimal. There was talk that the Cavs were trying to trade into the second round to select Cal forward, Ivan Rabb, but the deal fell through. The defending Eastern Conference champs remained quiet, but their offseason should be exciting to watch regardless.
Chicago Bulls: B-
1:7- Lauri Markkanen (PF, Arizona)
The Chicago Bulls finally did it. They traded Jimmy Butler and the 16th overall pick to the Minnesota TImberwolves in exchange for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and the seventh overall pick. Dunn and LaVine are very nice young players with great upside and were viewed as the beef of the trade. With the seventh overall pick, the Bulls selected Arizona forward, Lauri Markkanen. Markkanen is a stretch four with fantastic size and an even better shooting stroke. He was arguably the best overall shooter in the draft. However, he does have red flags with his defense and poor rebounding. The Bulls are in a position where they need big guys, but they need bigs that can control the paint, protect the rim, and rebound at a high level. Markkanen doesn’t have that. What this pick does, however, is lessen their need to re-sign Nikola Mirotic for big money. He may re-sign anyway, but they won’t have to break the bank for a player that can stretch the floor. Markkanen is a great player with great upside, but I’m not in love with the pick. However, it is early and Chicago could be headed toward a rebuild so whatever young talent and assets they can get should be good for them at this stage.
Milwaukee Bucks: C
1:17- D.J. Wilson (SF, Michigan)
I had such high hopes for the Bucks in this draft and all they did was let me down. They were put in prime position to select a solid big that could give them some more identity, but instead, they drafted another combo forward with limited upside. With Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker already slated to blossom as superstar forwards, drafting D.J. Wilson only creates a logjam. He’s a combo forward that can distribute in the offense and score at a decent rate. With that being said, the Greek Freak does the exact same thing that Wilson does. Antetokounmpo is already running the offense as a forward with a way better all-around game and a fantastic ceiling. Wilson was a late bloomer in the draft process with a solid performance in the NCAA Tournament and was viewed as a possible riser on draft night. In the Bucks’ case, I don’t see what the benefit would be by drafting Wilson where he will be fighting for playing time and confuse their identity even further. I never viewed Wilson as a high upside prospect and taking him at 17 was one of the bigger reaches in the draft. On top of that, they traded their second round pick in Sindarius Thornwell to the Clippers so Wilson was the only player drafted for them. I gave the Bucks the second worst grade in the draft.
Indiana Pacers: A
1:18- T.J. Leaf (PF, UCLA)
2:47- Ike Anigbogu (C, UCLA)
2:52- Edmond Sumner (PG, Xavier)
The Pacers killed draft night and did it in a very subtle fashion. For a team that gave up Paul George for a floor mop and a bag of basketballs, they should be feeling pretty good about themselves after the draft. T.J. Leaf is exactly the player that they needed. A forward that can stretch the floor and score in a variety of ways. He was the primary scoring option for Lonzo Ball at UCLA and could flourish into a high level scorer at the NBA level. Thaddeus Young holds the starting job for them as of now, but don’t be surprised if Leaf jumps in and challenges that. Indiana piled onto their front court depth by adding another UCLA product in Ike Anigbogu. Anigbogu was given a first round grade by most draft analysts including myself and they were able to snag him in the middle of the second. It was reported that the likely cause for him falling was his injury questions, but if all of those concerns go to the wayside, this could be one of the biggest steals of the draft. An aggressive center who’s a good finisher at the rim with solid shot blocking ability. The Pacers needed a strong big that can give them more solid depth up front and that’s what they got. Edmond Sumner could be one of the hidden gems in the draft. He went down early with an ACL injury, but was slated to be an early second rounder before that. He has a solid all-around game and he could play a big role for them especially after losing Jeff Teague in free agency. He’s a big point guard that has NBA ready skill and solid upside. The Pacers had to trade for this pick with New Orleans, but Sumner could make the trade worth it long term. The Pacers did it quietly, but they had a great draft night and if anything will make Pacers’ fans feel better about losing Paul George, this should do it.
Detroit Pistons: A-
1:12- Luke Kennard (SG, Duke)
Luke Kennard was one of the late risers in the draft and can now even be viewed as a steal at 12th overall. The Pistons were beyond grateful that Kennard fell right into their lap. He’s exactly the kind of player that they needed. With Kentavious Caldwell-Pope heading to free agency with a presumably high price tag, the Pistons needed to add another strong shooter that can score in bulk. Kennard might be the best shooting guard in the draft from all over the floor. He has a smooth left-handed stroke and a knack for hitting contested shots. He specializes in hitting shots coming off screens and in traditional catch-and-shoot situations. Kennard is also the kind of player that Detroit can rely on for consistent buckets. Reggie Jackson isn’t exactly lethal from outside and Andre Drummond can’t create his own shots at all so adding a consistent and polished scorer with high upside in Kennard is exactly the move they should have made. Kennard has the upside to be one of the better scorers on his team and a reliable player all-around. The Pistons had one pick in the draft and they definitely made it count.