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NBA Draft grades for all 30 teams (yes, we know it is too early)

Jun 24, 2011, 2:59 AM EDT

Irving stands with NBA Commissioner Stern after being selected by the Cavaliers as the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft in Newark Getty Images

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.


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


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

  1. Arshdeep Bains - Jun 24, 2011 at 3:33 AM

    Hey, it’s C- now. Nice hahaha

  2. arc44 - Jun 24, 2011 at 4:57 AM

    Derrick Williams and Brandon Knight would have looked much better than the Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson combo the Cavs came away with. Thompson is clearly a reach at #4. The gap between Irving and Knight appears to be much smaller than the gap between Williams and Thompson. The Cavs could have taken Kanter at #4 even if Irving and Knight were taken at #2 and #3, because you can never have enough big men.

    Even though the Cavs landed Irving, they got a poor value at #4 by doing a bad job of judging the possiblities and deserve a grade of nothing better than a C.

  3. zblott - Jun 24, 2011 at 6:37 AM

    Best Drafts: Nuggets, Bulls, Spurs
    Worst Drafts: Pistons, Knicks, Blazers, Kings

    Explanations and other draft observations:

    • icu84bs - Jun 24, 2011 at 3:05 PM

      I did like your ‘The Year of the Boo Birds’ section in your analysis. Personally, I would like to take the time to BOO any owner who votes to lock out the players (After being an NBA addict for 40 years I need my NBA fix ;-)) Cheers.

  4. redbear18 - Jun 24, 2011 at 7:48 AM

    The Jazz got an A-? I would give them a B+, and all the jazz fans on Facebook are pissed and would give them an F. I would’ve liked to see them take Kawhi Leonard over Alec Burks, but they did the best they could. I hope to see Kanter develop into a good player soon.

    • almzor - Jun 24, 2011 at 5:49 PM

      Because when I want informed sports opinions… I turn to Facebook? Come on man!

      Jazz fans have a long history of hating draft picks initially… they boo’d Stockton’s pick for example. If anything the hostile reaction is a good sign for the team.

    • purdueman - Jun 24, 2011 at 7:49 PM

      I’m sure that the high grade for the Jazz draft is due to the clear indication that their GM has a well defined plan as well as realizes that in order to succeed in the NBA West they badly needed more bangers and size up front in the paint.

      Very good, but not star, guards and 3’s are a dime a dozen and always readily available in the draft, but bigs are much harder to find so you simply have to overpay/reach for them while you can.

  5. purdueman - Jun 24, 2011 at 7:49 AM

    The Chicago Bulls should get an A++ on this draft. For a team drafting at the very bottom of the draft to have emerged with a Euro who’s projected by most scouts to have been a future top 5 overall pick if he hadn’t declared for the draft this year, and to add a perfect system player that matches up well with the what the Bulls run is simply incredible.

    The Bulls don’t need the kid from Spain now anyways; all he’d do is ride the pine. This way the Bulls can keep him stashed for 3-4 years in Spain until Carlos Boozers deal is about to run out and then? BINGO! Boozers heir apparent steps right in! Stick THAT in your pipe, greaser Pat Riley!!!

    In addition, Michael Jordan continues to show that he doesn’t have a clue as Charlotte goes the “project” route and reaches for a couple of guys too high. This also is good for the Bulls, as the Bulls own a future Charlotte #1 draft pick that as time goes by goes from being a protected lottery pick to an unprotected pick, regardless of lottery status (Bulls option).

    So if Charlotte continues to make fumblebutt moves and keeps backfiring, the Bulls will likely find themselves with a lottery pick either in 2013 or 2014 compliments of Charlotte. Stick THAT in your pipe too, greaser Pat Riley.

    Ya, Riley’s a genius all right… just so long that is that he has a blank checkbook. But his genius in the 2008 draft was EPIC! After having done everything possible to tank the end of the season in order to try and get in the draft position to take Derrick Rose, genius Riley takes Michael Beasley and passes on emerging star Kevin Love, who went three picks later to the T-Wolves.

    No only does Riley now have to deal with the likelihood of a greatly reduced, and possibly “hard”, salary cap coming out of the new CBA (due to the backend loaded contracts of the “Big 3 Prima Donna’s”), but he also has to deal with a very young Bulls team that not only has a solid nucleus but is also sitting in the catbirds seat 2-3 years down the road to reload.

    Stick that in your pipe too!, you greaser! (Riley)

    • fm31970 - Jun 24, 2011 at 4:35 PM

      Remember how much potential Tyrus Thomas, Marcus Fizer, and Tyson Chandler all held for the Bulls? At least Chandler’s potential helped win a championship…for the Mavericks.

      • purdueman - Jun 24, 2011 at 7:38 PM

        None of the guys you mention were foreign players who were “draft and stash” Bulls draft picks. Three that come immediately come to mind who all became fine NBA Bulls/players were Toni Kukoc, Nicionni and Omar Asik. That’s a pretty damn good track record.

        Fizer was the best of a bad lot the year that the Bulls drafted him. Chandler had to get traded multiple times around the league before finally finding a place to fit in (but I’m happy for finally maturing and earning a ring), and Thomas was able to totally snow naive then Bulls GM John Paxson.

        Thomas sold Paxson hard on his work ethic and scouts sold Paxson hard on his upside, and when the Bulls then traded for him they got a lazy, malcontent slug who thought that the league and the world owed him a living. Yes indeed, that was a horrible and inexcusable move on the part of Paxson. No argument there!

  6. purdueman - Jun 24, 2011 at 7:53 AM

    Congratulations Celtic fans! You’ve just selected not one, but two Purdue Boilermakers, both of whom are hard working, fundamentally sound, well coached, hard working, good citizen guys! I give Ainge an A++ too as over time Celtic fans, you’re going to love this drafts results.

    Make the world a better place; punch Le Bum James in the face.

    • cleanslaton - Jun 24, 2011 at 11:15 AM

      Purdue lost to VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH in the second round of the NCAA tourney, after drawing a small Catholic school I’ve never heard of in the first round. They were given a 3 seed and lost in the second round of the tournament. Purdue sucks.


      • purdueman - Jun 24, 2011 at 7:31 PM

        Care to share with us what suckass college or university you attended (much less graduated), if any cleanslaton? When all you have is a hi skool diploma, it’s easy to take pot shots at those who have moved on to greater accomplishments in life.

        Purdue’s season ended last year before it started when key 2 guard Robbie Hummel went down with a torn ACL before the season ever started, and anyone who knew anything about collegiate basketball knew that Purdue had no answer to backfill the guy who the entire offense was built around.

  7. gregjennings85 - Jun 24, 2011 at 9:33 AM

    ‘purdueman’: I may be going out on a limb here, but you sound a tad bit biased, bud.

    • purdueman - Jun 24, 2011 at 7:45 PM


  8. sjhaack - Jun 24, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    No one got worse that a C-, most were Bs. The NBA gets graded on a curve shallower than Harvard.

  9. brianpmoore - Jun 24, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    It’s difficult for me to accept that the Chukwudiebere Maduabum era of the Lakers has already come and gone.

    • purdueman - Jun 24, 2011 at 7:41 PM

      Hey, if Cup-check (as Dan Patrick likes to say), can piss away $15M on a 3 year deal for useless benchwarmer/cheerleader Luke Walton, just think what he might give Chukwudiebere to sign!!!

  10. ginnitti - Jun 24, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    The draft day trades may have overshadowed the draft day drafts. Use this NBA trade tracker to check out a full breakdown of each trade.

  11. themanchine - Jun 24, 2011 at 11:01 AM

    Ok, I was wrong about Irving/Williams.

  12. passerby23 - Jun 24, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    I think Sacramento got a lot better. A Jimmer/Tyreke backcourt could be explosive.

    Not sure what “spectacular” pick you were expecting Phoenix to take at #14. They took the best player for their needs.

  13. fm31970 - Jun 24, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    I’m delighted regarding the Bucks’ moves. Maggette was flat out horrible, and Salmons failed to put up the numbers and provide the spark he did in his contract year, so moving both of them is a huge win for the Bucks. Adding a scorer like Steven Jackson will tale pressure off Jennings, allowing him to develop his game more– something he didn’t seem to do at all last season, but considering he and Bugot were hurt, it wasn’t a huge surprise. Hopefully Udrih will be what the Bucks wanted, and they didn’t trade away Ilyasova, either, which is good, plus they added a real back-up PG.

    Keep up the good work, John Hammond.

    • purdueman - Jun 24, 2011 at 7:44 PM

      Salmons is the Larry Brown of NBA players; he bounces around like a red rubber ball, looking great when he first joins your team and then reverting back to the same old John Salmons. Salmons has no business being a starter in the NBA, but he’s a good enough shooter to help off the bench for a team that can pair him with another guard who actually plays defense.

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