The 2014 draft class was stacked with players who are NBA-ready or will develop pretty quickly on the right teams. But more importantly, it was full of players who can be packaged in trades for teams that are looking to position themselves for postseason success next year.
Phil Jackson and Pat Riley showed the other 28 general managers that when you see a player you want, you do everything you can to bring him on board. The Knicks traded the hefty contract of Tyson Chandler and Ray Felton for a full house of younger talent from the Mavericks. Jackson is creating a more athletic roster that can surround Melo, should he choose to stay. Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, and Samuel Dalembert are now a part of #Knickstape. As a part of the deal, the Knicks also received 2 second round picks. Those turned out to be Wichita State’s CleAnthony Early and the Greek Freak’s similarly talented brother.
Not to be out-done, the Heat eyed the player that could sway Lebron’s decision to stay. The King has not been shy about his preference for 2 time NCAA champion, Shabazz Napier. Riley’s main goal was to fill the glaring holes that were exposed by the Spurs last month. Reportedly, Riley is working on a sign-and-trade that’ll bring Toronto’s Kyle Lowry to South Beach and send the Bosh family back to Canada. Assuming the Heat let Chalmers walk due to his disappearance in the Finals, Napier could see generous playing time alongside one of his biggest fans.
Surprisingly, I’m going to give the Lakers some props as winners in this draft. The Lakers typically don’t build through the draft. They took Kentucky’s Julius Randle who is going to be a very solid contributor as a rookie. General manager Mitch Kupchak touted the $30 million in cap space as means to sign the possible marquee free agents, Bron and Melo. No one knows how likely either of them are to head west considering their current teams are doing what they can to keep them. So setting those hopes aside, I like what Randle brings. The logical part of me (and any fan of the game) can see that that franchise is in rebuild mode a la Jordan’s Bulls after ring #6. If Lakers miss out on Bron and Melo this summer, Randle will be able to be mentored by one of the best players of the 2000s. Plus they’re in great shape cap-wise for the next 2 summers.
And finally, the Suns. The Phoenix Suns have undergone several face lifts since the Steve Nash era ended. They drafted the Morris twins front court and put their trust in back up-turned-most improved starting point guard Goran Dragic. Even Gerald Green was resurrected out there. So it made sense that the Suns drafted 2 ACC stars; Tyler Ennis and TJ Warren on Thursday night. The Western Conference is home to 4 of the league’s best guards so Ennis will have his hands full on defense. Offensively, Ennis proved that he’s not afraid to take the big shot. On many occassions, he carried Syracuse to nail-biting wins. Ironically, it was his on-court dominance that wound up being the downfall to Cuse’s tournament run. Ennis isn’t a prolific shooter but I’m looking forward to seeing what Coach Hornacek can do with him. TJ Warren, on the other hand, was one of the NCAA’s most underrated players.
As one of the best all around scorers in Division I, Warren brings a level of athleticism that is well suited for playing wing. Although he’s a great shooter, he’s also just as valuable moving without the ball. He reminds of Trevor Ariza in some ways. Combine this with the passing talent of Ennis and the Suns have a roster that’ll be really fun to watch over the next few years.
There were obviously other teams that won on draft night. These were just some of my personal favorites since I’ve watched these guys extensively. Let’s not forget that Commissioner Adam Silver exuded such class in his presentation of Baylor center, Isaiah Austin.