Some random thoughts after draft day and before I turn my attention to my J-school assignment and USA-Ghana tomorrow.
I'm not a big fan of draft grades since the idea of assigning grades before anyone has played a game is ludicrous. Someone go back and check what they said about Houston's first round selection of Aaron Brooks a few years back. The other thing I find interesting about draft grades is the pre-destined nature of it. "San Antonio always nails the draft, so even though I don't like James Anderson and I've never heard of this second round pick guy, they get an A." "Eric Bledsoe is great, but Sam Presti never misses, so he must not be as great as I thought." Anyway, having said that, the Clippers are receiving some good grades for their efforts. The lowest I saw was a B+ from Kelly Dwyer at BDL.
The best quote from the grades comes from FanHouse's Tom Ziller: "That, my friends, is a good draft. It might take a few years to develop, but Holy Talent, Batman."
The sequence of the draft was pretty much as expected. The Warriors were the real wild card since they can be so unpredictable, but when they took Udoh, then the Clippers brass breathed a sigh of relief and knew they'd get one of their guys. Neil Olshey mentioned three players they wanted in his press conference - I know that Al-Farouq Aminu and Greg Monroe were two of them. I assume the third was Wesley Johnson.
Building on that, when the Clippers say that AFA was first on their draft board, that of course refers to a board built based on players that they thought COULD fall to them. Had John Wall dropped for some strange reason, of course they would have taken him. But essentially, there were seven guys the Clippers would have been thrilled to get, and they were picking eighth, so it could have been a very disappointing day for them had the first seven picks fallen a certain way. Neil and Andy need to send a "Thank You" note to the Warriors front office. It's just the polite thing to do.
Had the draft gone wrong and had those seven players been off the board, they were looking to trade down and secure another asset, as we suspected. However, given that Hayward, George and Henry went 9, 10 and 12, they couldn't have traded down too far if those were there guys. They likely would have ended up with Luke Babbitt and a little something-something extra, which would not have been bad.
Speaking of Hayward, George and Henry, it's interesting how this draft turned out to have so many wings in the lottery. Two months ago, we thought there were no good options after Johnson and AFA. Of course, as with grades we won't really know about this small forward crop until they've played a few years, but based on what NBA GMs decided on Thursday, it looks like the Clippers were relatively lucky to be in need of a small forward in a draft that ended up having quite a few prospects. If you count Evan Turner and Xavier Henry, there were six wings in the top 12 picks, and Babbitt went 16.
It was not, however a strong draft for point guards. After a bumper crop last year, there were only two taken in this year's first round, and only three total (four if you count Willie Warren as a point guard, which I don't). That's amazing, out of sixty players.
If you think about it, the Clippers went into the draft with lots of needs, but the biggest were small forward and point guard. They ended up with the second best small forward in the draft, and the second best point guard in the draft, according to most experts. That's not bad. Then again, it's not saying much to be the second best point guard in this draft.
Here are a couple of money quotes from the press conference, both from Andy Roeser:
The way we're constituted now suggests that we will be a more uptempo team than we have been.
I think by the time we get into free agency we'll have our coaching situation resolved.
Then again, none of the coaches rumored to be on the team's short list (Mike Woodson, Dwane Casey, Vinny Del Negro, Kevin McHale) are noted speed demons. Del Negro's Bulls played at a pace slightly faster than the league average last year; Woodson's Hawks played at the fourth slowest pace in the league, which is strange considering the athletes he had in the ATL. Casey is a defense-first guy, and McHale just looks slow. Will the personnel inform the coaching search? We'll see.
Now that the draft is done, there may be an opportunity to snap up some of the undrafted guys and put them on the summer league roster. The Clippers, with so few players under contract, might be an attractive desitination for some of these guys (then again there are a few teams out there with pretty bare cupboards right now; Chicago and Miami are doing their best to get down to zero players under contract). My pick Alexey Shved is out there (Jonathon Givony of DraftExpress tweeted that he didn't want to get drafted, preferring to be a free agent). Mikhail Torrance is out there - apparently there was a medical concern over a heart condition with him, again according to Givony. If you're concerned about the Clippers lack of size in the backcourt, either of those 6'5" point guards might be good additions. Jerome Randle has already been signed by the Wizards, so these guys are going to be going fast at this point.
Last thought for now: in many sporting competitions, there are age classifications. So for instance, Gordon Hayward competed for the US in the Under 19 championships last summer. FIFA takes these things a little further and also has a U-23 level of competition in soccer. Well, the Clippers could field an entire U-23 basketball team at this point, and could do it for awhile.
- Point Guard - Eric Bledsoe - 19, born 10/23/1990
- Shooting Guard - Eric Gordon - 21, born 12/25/1988
- Small Foward - Al-Farouq Aminu - 19, born 09/21/1990
- Power Forward - Blake Griffin - 21, born 03/16/1989
- Center - DeAndre Jordan - 21, born 07/21/1988
They even have a backup at the guard spots in Willie Warren (20, born 10/22/1989). If Warren makes the team, DeAndre Jordan will be older than five of his teammates. How weird (and sure, scary) is that?
I'll tell you this: Summer League got a lot more interesting yesterday.