A Belated Draft Night Recap: Winners, Losers, and Sleepers

Countless fried pickles were devoured. Fists were slammed into booths after the selection of Rashad Vaughn. Jaws were dropped after the selection of LARROLD NANCE

It was a night filled with unexpectedness at Buffalo Wild Wings’ Boneless Thursday on June 25th. Now that we have had time to digest not only those fried pickles, but also the picks and their relation to free agency, we end Out of Write Field’s two and a half weeks of dormancy and take a look back at draft night, assessing who won, who lost, and who is lurking.

Winner: Los Angeles Lakers

Showtime has returned to Hollywood. An organization founded on starpower found itself thirsting for it on draft night. The search was not long, and Mitch Kupchak made the correct decision in selecting D’Angelo Russell. Talk has circulated about Jahlil Okafor’s style of play being prehistoric in today’s NBA, and I agree to a certain extent, but Russell is simply the better player. Okafor’s NBA limitations are far too glaring (but don’t tell Jay Bilas that), and they begin on the defensive end of the floor. His inability to specifically guard mobile bigs oftentimes exposed him, and there were some games this year where I would categorize his defense as atrocious. His additional lack of athleticism and explosiveness doesn’t leave much room for improvement on the defensive end. Okafor is undoubtedly an offensive player, and a darn good one with his butt on the low block. However, force him to catch the ball 15 feet out and render him a non-threat, which has been a common thread in his summer league games thus far. I think I have presented my case. That’s plenty of talk about who the Lakers didn’t pick. The Louisville, KY product by way of Ohio State has now lured the spotlight away from Kobe Bryant, as the Lakers have at last officially begun the passing of the torch.Russell brings the pizzazz and flair that has been so synonymous with the Los Angeles Lakers through the years. With eyes toward the future, though, Lakers fans may have a pleasant surprise awaiting them in 2015-16. Adding Russell to a backcourt of Jordan Clarkson and Kobe, obtaining two players with legitimate role potential via the draft in Larry Nance, Jr. and Anthony Brown, along with the acquisitions of Lou Williams, Brandon Bass, and Roy Hibbert, all of a sudden we have an intriguing concoction out west, a brew that I believe will compete for one of the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference.

Winner: Houston Rockets

The rim, or the arc. These are the only two areas of the floor where the Houston Rockets will encourage shots attempted. This style of play, more affectionately known by Out of Write Field as “Moreyball,” is the direction of the NBA, whether you like it or not, and the Rockets are more or less its pioneers. Moreyball, predicated on driving lanes, spacing, and catch-and-shoot threes, is an offensive player’s paradise. It transformed Josh Smith and Corey Brewer, two of the worst 3-point shooters in the NBA who actually take threes, into semi-decent players from long distance. Smith, however, now finds himself an unrestricted free agent. Thus, on draft night, Daryl Morey went out and snagged (or rather, was gifted into his lap) another ultra-versatile wing, Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker, remaining true to Moreyball. Dekker has been adamant since draft night about Houston being the ideal fit for him, and he’s right. Wisconsin, admittedly, shackled his skillset a bit, and I’m among the school of thought that the NCAA Tournament Sam Dekker is the real Sam Dekker, and he stood up (please). Fans will find that Dekker is truly a fluid athlete in transition, something he was rarely able to showcase in his three collegiate seasons. And with his almost nonexistent mid-range game, who better embodies Moreyball than Dekker? Yet, Morey, already locking up a young player bound to flourish for his organization, was not done, obtaining another prospect lower than projected in Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell. The “L” is silent, but he is not. The extension of his range was blown slightly out of proportion during his junior campaign, as his jump shot cooled off significantly after the season opener in Puerto Rico against Minnesota. Harrell’s athleticism and ability to play above the rim at 6’8” are what he brings to the Rockets’ system, whose spacing allows the freedom for several lobs in the half court. In the end, Rockets fans could have asked for nothing more from draft night. A team already in title contention accomplished exactly what was necessary; they added two veteran college players prepared to play instantly while also being perfect systematic fits and incredible values.

Loser: Washington Wizards

Not an exorbitant amount of stock should be placed in NBA Summer League basketball, but when you commit a draft night gaffe, I can’t help but track it in the following weeks. Kelly Oubre, now less-affectionately known by Out of Write Field as Kellence “Championship” Oubre, was not what you would call the “best player available” at 15. There were a decently-sized handful of players available that I would have taken over Kellence, let alone trade up to pick. Ernie Grunfeld must have been enamored with Oubre, and I can certainly see why. He showed flashes of greatness in his lone year at KU. But Oubre is very much a tease. The only thing spikier than his draft night shoes is his motor, which runs hot and cold and is solely dependent on how he is performing on the offensive end of the floor. There’s obviously a reason he was glued to the bench for the first month of the season. Don’t call me a Kelly Oubre hater, because I’m not. He rebounds well. He has a smooth shooting stroke lacking a bit of consistency. I simply found moving up to secure him puzzling and believe there were several players available to Washington that will turn out to be better pros. The Wizards were trying to hit a home run when they didn’t need to. Now we find Oubre 11-35 from the field through 2 summer league games. Interesting.

Loser: Boston Celtics

Danny Ainge has himself a guard problem. Sometimes people classify a problem as “a good one to have.” This, however, is not of that variety. Reaching for Terry Rozier at 16 drew the second-largest “EXCUSE ME?” from Out of Write Field on the night of the draft. The Celtics have now accumulated a deep collection semi-good assets that probably will not end up being good enough to land something big. Why do I say that? Let’s look at the real reason Boston finds themselves in the 2015 Draft’s loss column. Ainge made multiple efforts, reportedly three, to make a resonating splash in exchange for a haul of assets. Their exertions to sway HINKIE at 3 failed, with Jahlil Okafor being the prize. Boston later offered a similarly large load to both Charlotte and Miami seeking Justise Winslow, but no dice. Resultantly, instead of walking away with one of the top 5 players from this draft class, the Celtics walked away with Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, and a golden sombrero. They struck out. Big time. The moral of the story? They don’t have many difference makers on their roster, and now they have more “assets” added to the jumble.

Sleeper: Brooklyn Nets

Just when we thought the transfiguration of Billy King was imminent, he goes out and inks Andrea Bargnani. Point being Billy King will most likely forever remain Billy King. There is hope, though. The Nets’ buyout of Deron Williams and their efforts to move Joe Johnson show the organization wants to do things right for a change. This conversion began during the NBA Draft, as the Nets came away a better, younger basketball team with some semblance of a retooling on the horizon. Brooklyn entered the draft in a hole having to swap the 15th pick with Atlanta for #29 (Joe Johnson yay), where they selected hometown hero Chris McCullough. McCullough’s season was cut well-short by a torn ACL, but the Nets quite possibly found a diamond in the rough, nabbing a versatile 4 with length and shooting touch who could have been seen slotted in the lottery in December mock drafts. Brooklyn’s true uptick, however, came as a result of their trade for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, also acquiring Steve Blake in the deal for salary dump purposes. As I mentioned in our mock draft, RHJ is an athletic defender with a nonstop motor and some personality. The one skill young players can wildly improve upon in the Association is shooting, and I fully expect that to occur with Rondae and his work ethic. In the end, as the offseason dust begins to settle a bit, the Brooklyn Nets are younger, more athletic, and are UNDER THE LUXURY TAX LINE? Whoa. Who are you and what have you done with the Brooklyn Nets?

Sleeper: Pat Connaughton (Portland Trail Blazers)

Ironically, both of my sleepers were involved in the same deal, as the Nets sent Connaughton (41st overall) and Mason Plumlee in exchange for Hollis-Jefferson. I, now, finally have to opportunity to wholly introduce the man that has emerged as my favorite prospect in this year’s draft. Why is this the case? Connaughton earned that honor during the latter half of the college basketball season, as he continued to fill a role ideally for a Notre Dame team that was enjoyable to watch, remaining underneath the NBA radar. Connaughton will be accustomed to playing in an NBA manner after thriving as a knockdown catch-and-shoot player with deep range in a spread-court, pick-and-roll, drive-and-kick offense. I always have a soft spot for baseball players who are multi-sport athletes, and Connaughton is a pretty damn good baseball player. He is currently property of the Baltimore Orioles, and he throws gas. He’s built like Clark Kent. He’s a white guy with a 44-inch vertical leap, the second-highest in NBA Combine history. He averaged 7.4 rebounds a night this past season at Notre Dame. Yeah, he’s 6’5”. And who else does that while also going 93-220 from 3 on the season? You get the gist. Pat Connaughton is a one-of-a-kind blend, adding to a Portland Trail Blazers roster that is a one-of-a-kind blend.

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