Observations from NBA draft night
Winners in Thursday's NBA draft included the Hornets, Celtics and 76ers
The Rockets tried to make a big move, into the top 5, but couldn't get it done
Many expected a lot of wheeling and dealing, but there were only minor trades
That sound you hear? Mock drafts everywhere being crumpled up, trashed or deleted. Some observations from a crazy night in Newark, N.J. ...
New Orleans -- First, the Hornets grab the draft's lone transcendent talent in Anthony Davis, a defensive menace who will terrorize dribble penetrators for years. After an offseason training with Kevin Love and Al Horford -- two All-Stars who also work with noted trainer Rob McClanaghan -- Davis will come to camp a more polished offensive player, too. Then, with the No. 10 pick, they picked up Austin Rivers, a dynamic combo guard that oozes potential -- once someone figures out what position to play him. If New Orleans brings back Eric Gordon, it has the core of a sensational young starting lineup.
Boston -- Boston addressed significant frontcourt needs by plucking plummeting Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger at No. 21 and defensive-minded Syracuse center Fab Melo (more on him below) at No. 22. Sullinger is an interesting pick: a year ago he was considered a top-five talent, but a less than stellar sophomore year combined with concerns about a potentially chronic back injury had teams running away from him. Two concerns general managers often cite with Sullinger: a low motor and difficulties defending the pick and roll. Kevin Garnett, who assisted with the development of Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis, could be a big help to Sullinger -- if KG decides to return.
Boston took a flyer on Melo's Syracuse teammate, Kris Joseph, an athletic small forward, at No. 51.
Philadelphia -- At No. 15 the Sixers took St. John's forward Maurice Harkless, a raw but extremely gifted small forward. Then the Sixers cut a deal with Miami to acquire Mississippi State big man Arnett Moultrie, a double-double machine with the Bulldogs who can defend and hit the offensive glass. The decision to draft Harkless likely spells the end for Andre Iguodala, who could be moved for a shooter the Sixers sorely still need.
Honorable Mention: Chicago -- The Bulls never thought Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague would be on the board at No. 29.
Houston -- This isn't a knock on Jeremy Lamb, Royce White or Terrence Jones; all three could turn out to be good players. But the Rockets had grandiose plans on draft night -- moving up to No. 2 or No. 5, specifically -- and couldn't make it happen. Perhaps it is all for the best. Houston's end game was constructing a deal to land Dwight Howard, who a source close to him says has no interest in re-signing with the Rockets if traded there. Now, Houston can hope one of its three picks develops into an All-Star level player
Perry Jones III -- An uberathlete with the height (6-foot-11) to play power forward and the quickness and ball-handling skills to play small forward, Jones slipped to the bottom of the draft due to inconsistent play last season at Baylor and late concerns about a possible long term knee injury. The downside: Jones loses a lot of money slipping all the way to No. 28. The upside: He's with Oklahoma City, one of the best developmental franchises in the NBA, which will give him the freedom to mature in practices rather than games.
Indiana -- Granted, the Pacers don't have many holes to fill. But Duke's Miles Plumlee at No. 26 seemed like a stretch. Plumlee was a dirty work player in college, rebounding and setting screens for Austin Rivers and Seth Curry. He will be asked to the same as a pro, likely backing up Roy Hibbert. Still, Arnett Moultrie and Perry Jones have more potential and Marquis Teague would provide protection should George Hill become too pricey to afford in the offseason.
(Dis)Honorable Mention -- Brooklyn Gerald Wallace is a good player. But Harrison Barnes, who was available at No. 6, where the Nets would have drafted had they not swapped the pick for Wallace last season, has the potential to be much better.
Fab Melo -- No one is saying the 22-year old Melo is ready to play right away. But his defense and shot blocking skills are undeniable and with a little work and by adding a little bulk to his 7-foot, 255-pound frame, Melo has starting center potential. And for the Celtics, which shifted Kevin Garnett to center the second half of last season, that's a position they badly needed to fill.
(a): Dion Waiters, Cleveland -- The buzz in the hours leading up to the draft was that Waiters was on the rise; few thought he had risen all the way to No. 4, where the Cavs snapped up the Syracuse guard. Waiters was the draft's mystery man, skipping the combine and refusing to work out for any team, leading many to assume he had a lottery guarantee. Still, Cleveland is taking a significant risk on a player that didn't start a game for Syracuse last season
(b): Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte -- The Bobcats were either going to trade the No. 2 pick or use it on Thomas Robinson, the burly power forward who had wowed teams in workouts. Instead, the 'Cats kept the pick and used it on Kidd-Gilchrist, an explosive small forward who will score in transition now and hopefully develop his shooting touch in the future.
(c): Scott Machado -- Scouts flocked to Iona to get a closer look at Machado, the nation's leading playmaker (9.9 assists per game) with a cool knack for running a team. Yet two rounds passed and Machado's name was never called. He will land on someone's roster, and as a free agent will have the opportunity to pick his situation.
Trades -- Where was the flurry of activity? Where was all the first round movement? Where was the three-team deals? Many expected a lot of wheeling and dealing on draft night. Instead, there were a handful of minor moves. Maybe in free agency ...
Steve Nash, Phoenix -- The Suns surprised many by drafting Kendall Marshall, the North Carolina point guard considered the best pure playmaker in the draft. Drafting Marshall doesn't guarantee Nash's departure -- the two could play together or Marshall could serve an apprenticeship behind the future Hall of Famer -- but Nash had made it clear he wanted to see Phoenix improve before he would consider returning. Drafting his replacement likely isn't what he was talking about.