2016 Western Conference NBA Draft Grades

In this article, I will take a close look into each team’s draft selection, and provide a brief explanation of why I gave them the grade I did. A few teams completely dominated the draft. but others went down a questionable road. 

Los Angeles Lakers:

Draft Selections: Brandon Ingram/Ivica Zubac

Grade: A

Los Angeles is currently in a rebuilding stage, and they did an excellent job of adding two likely rookie starters if they do not sign anyone in free agency. Ingram has the making to become an elite two-way star in the league. His scoring ability cannot be overlooked, and he will be in early consideration for Rookie of the Year. Zubac is an old fashion center from Europe, who will need to learn to step away from the basket to be more effective. With another rebuilding year likely, the Lakers can afford to bring him over, and give him playing time to develop.

Phoenix Suns:

Draft Selections: Dragan Bender/Marquese Chriss/Tyler Ulis

Grade: A

Many draft experts were predicting the Suns to take Marquese Chriss at the fourth overall pick, but they added both him and Dragan Bender. Bender is very young, and will need to bulk up to play in the NBA, but his shooting ability, court vision, and defensive upside could be the franchise cornerstone has lacked since Steve Nash. Phoenix wants to run fast, and Chriss provides that. He is very raw on both ends of the court, but Phoenix gave up nothing to trade with Sacramento to secure him, making this a steal for them. Tyler Ulis was an excellent pick in the second round. With so much uncertainty amongst Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, if Phoenix is able to unload one of them, they will have an excellent floor general to lead their second unit in Ulis.

Minnesota Timberwolves:

Draft Selections: Kris Dunn

Grade: A-

Kris Dunn was a hot commodity on draft night, and the Wolves were trying to leverage him for as much as possible, but when it is all said and done, I believe he stays in the Twin Cities. Dunn is the prototypical Thibodeau player. Dunn has the defensive skills to guard the other elite guards in the league, while he is a good scorer and distributor. With Towns and Wiggins already the two main focal points of the offense, Dunn will not be looked to score early on, which will greatly help his overall development and confidence in the league. This pick also lets Minnesota sell low on Rubio, and move on from the disappointing era.

New Orleans Pelicans:

Draft Selections: Buddy Hield/Cheick Diallo

Grade: B+

New Orleans needed to add some young athletic talent to their roster. Buddy Hield will provide the scoring, and floor stretching ability they desperately need. He is a much cheaper, healthier, and better long-term solution than Eric Gordon. There is a lot of concern about his defense, but a frontcourt of Diallo and Davis will be daunting for any perimeter player to try to attack. Diallo is very raw, showed by his limited playing time at Kansas, but already has the ability to be an elite defender for the Pelicans. With Davis being able to stretch the floor, it will allow Diallo to stay near the basket where he is the most comfortable, and serve as a cleanup man.

Denver Nuggets:

Draft Selections: Jamal Murray/Juan Hernangomez/Malik Beasley/Petr Cornelie

Grade: A

Denver isa  team full of role players, and their draft selections were not looking to yield at stars, but did they strike gold this year. A combination of Jamal Murray and Gary Harris at the shooting guard position makes for an electric duo of scorers, who can hit any shot. Hernangomez was the most pro-ready international player, who can step in, and give solid minutes at the three. He also makes the expensive contract of Wilson Chandler disposable. Beasley was one of my favorite picks heading in the middle of the first round, and Denver added him to their platoon on the wing. He never looked to be top offensive option, but a good third or fourth option. Cornelie will likely spend a few more seasons overseas before the Nuggets bring him over, as they need to figure out what to do with their mixture of role players, and young talent.

Sacramento Kings:

Draft Selections: Georgios Papagiannis/Malachi Richardson/Skal Labissiere/Isaiah Cousins

Grade: C-

Drafting three frontcourt players in the first round the past two drafts, has to make you think if the Kings are finally ready to move on from DeMarcus Cousins. A team like Boston who had a good draft, and has plenty of assets could look to acquire the star they desire, especially since they did not add a center in the draft. Papagiannis is a big body, but he looks like a role player at the best, Richardson is extremely inconsistent, Labissiere did not stand out this past season, and Cousins struggled in big moments. I just do not see this draft group doing anything within the next few years to warrant their selections. Of the four, I think Labissiere will be the only one with a successful career.

Utah Jazz:

Draft Selections: Joel Bolomboy/Marcus Paige/Tyrone Wallace

Grade: B

Utah was active before the draft to acquire a veteran point guard. They traded the 12th pick for George Hill, which was a little steep for me, but they need a drastic improvement over Trey Burkes. Utah did well in the second round, to add a potential nice frontcourt rotation player in Bolomboy, while bringing in competition for point guard depth. Paige and Wallace are both good floor generals, who also show scoring and defensive abilities. Both would be an improvement over Burkes at this point in his career.

Memphis Grizzlies:

Draft Selections: Wade Baldwin IV/Deyonta Davis/Wang Zhelin

Grade: A-

Memphis is entering a new era of rebuilding, and they started it off with a bang. With the likelihood Mike Conley leaving in free agency very high, Memphis selected Wade Baldwin. Baldwin is raw in terms of point guard skills, but he can shoot and defend at a high level. He may take a season or two to develop the point guard skills needed to run a team, but once he does, he will be considered a steal of the draft. I was not a huge fan of Deyonta Davis as a lottery pick, but as a second round pick, Memphis looks like bandits. Davis learning from Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol will help him maximize his potential, and become a destructive defensive presence in the paint. I do not see Zhelin coming over in the near future, but rumors are, Memphis wants him to play in summer league.


Los Angeles Clippers:

Draft Selections: Brice Johnson/David Michineau/Diamond Stone

Grade: B+

Los Angeles was lacking a toughness about them, and they drafted two players who will give them exactly that. Brice Johnson will bring an efficient scorer, rebounder, and defensive presence off the bench. He will serve as a good piece to mess with Draymond Green in their heated rivalry with the Warriors. Diamond Stone does need to improve his maturity levels, but at selection 40, he could be the steal of the draft. With Los Angeles thinking of unloading DeAndre Jordan, Stone could serve as his replacement. Michineau will likely stay over in Europe, as the Clippers look to groom him at the point. I would not be surprised to see them try to get him into the D-League, or work closely with Chris Paul, who is starting to get up there in age.

Oklahoma City Thunder:

Draft Selections: Domantas Sabonis/Daniel Hamilton

Grade: B+

The Thunder committed robbery on the Orlando Magic Thursday night. The Thunder did not feel Serge Ibaka was the needed piece to winning a championship, and went the depth route to surround Durant and Westbrook. Andre Roberson and Victor Oladipo will be a great platoon at the shooting guard position, both capable of playing high levels of defense, and stretching the floor. Sabonis will help soften the blow of Ibaka, by adding another piece to the frontcourt rotation. His energy, rebounding, and interior scoring will help keep Kanter and Adams healthy and rested for the postseason. I do not see Hamilton making the roster. Oklahoma City is strapped for cash, and looking to contend, they cannot waste money on developmental rookies.

Dallas Mavericks:

Draft Selections: A.J. Hammons

Grade: B

Dallas did not have a first round selection due to the Rajon Rondo trade, which still upsets many Mavericks fans, but they did maximize their second round pick. Hammons is the rim protector Dallas needs to have a fearsome interior defense. His size and length will make him difficult for anyone to get an easy shot. He will be a liability against quicker players, and out n the perimter, as he is slow. He is quite old for draft standards, but his productivity in college cannot be overlooked, and should translate to the next level.

Houston Rockets:

Draft Selections: Chinanu Onuaku/Zhou Qi

Grade: B-

Houston has come to terms with losing Dwight Howard this offseason, and with this whole drama mess this past season, they are probably happy. Onuaku and Qi are tremendous high upside picks, but both will need a few years to groom before offering much on the court. It is hard not to draw comparisons between QI and Yao Ming, who dominated the court for Houston, but Qi is completely different. He can provide perimeter shooting and shot blocking potential, but needs to add some weight before being a factor in the league. Onuaku could give limited minutes as a rookie, serving as a defensive specialist, but he too would benefit from a year in the D-League. Houston also made some splashes with their undrafted free agent signings.

San Antonio Spurs:

Draft Selections: Dejounte Murray

Grade: A

We always wonder how great franchises stay great for so long, and it is for picks like this. Murray was viewed as a lottery pick for most of the draft process, but fell into the laps of San Antonio. Murray needed a few years of development to hone in his point guard skills, and find a consistent shot, and San Antonio provides just that. Behind the tutelage of Tony Parker and Patty Mills, Murray will learn how to effectively run an offense, as well as become an efficient scorer. There was a lot of rumors of Mike Conley to San Antonio, but if Parker is coming back, this pick made that less of a reality.

Golden State Warriors:

Draft Selections: Damian Jones

Grade: A

I did not expect Damian Jones to last this long into the draft, but did he land in a great spot. Golden State was looking for a cheap replacement for Festus Ezeli, who disappeared in the finals, and was not going to be worth the contract some team is going to offer him. Jones provides the same defensive and rebounding abilities, but with a much better offensive game. He does have questions surrounding his motor, but playing for a team like Golden State, and in limited minutes should provide the energy he needs to be highly successful. Golden State also signed some height in undrafted free agents, as they look to redo their frontcourt, which was manhandled throughout the playoffs.

Portland Trail Blazers:

Draft Selections: None

Grade: N/A

By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17


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