On draft night there are winners and there are losers. While no championship title is given away based on who a team picks, the draft goes a long way towards determining whether or not a ring is possible.
Below are some franchises, college programs and draftees who did well for themselves on Thursday night.
Three NBA franchises
1. New Orleans
The Hornets knew who the face of their franchise would be on the night they won the lottery (Davis), but landing Rivers at 10 is a nice addition on the perimeter. He can learn under Jarrett Jack with the goal being to pair Rivers up with Eric Gordon down the line. And in Darius Miller at 46 the Hornets get a guy who is well-versed when it comes to doing the little things it takes to help a team win.
Thomas Robinson being on the board when the Kings came up at five was a definite win for Sacramento. DeMarcus Cousins is on the verge of making an all-star team (he’ll be taking part in Team USA’s Olympic training camp next month), and the Kings will make every effort to bring back restricted free agent Jason Thompson as well. Robinson will be able to compete immediately from a physical standpoint, and that tandem would allow him to progress at a reasonable rate.
Lillard definitely helps at the point, but the reason for Portland here is the fact that they were able to get Meyers Leonard at 11. With LaMarcus Aldridge returning to the floor there won’t be much pressure on Leonard to be a premier offensive threat. He can defend and rebound, and Leonard’s done a good job of improving his body since the college basketball season ended. And Will Barton, if under control, could prove to be a steal at 40.
Three college programs
John Calipari’s program had six players drafted, which is a record, as is the fact that two Kentucky players were taken with the top two picks. That makes 15 draftees (11 in the first round) in three seasons in Lexington. Think those numbers will come up in conversations with some of the nation’s top recruits?
2. North Carolina
If measuring programs based on the number of players selected in the top 20 picks of the draft then Roy Williams’ program has some bragging rights of its own. Four Tar Heels were taken in the first 17 picks of the draft, and while that was the end of their night that’s a nice haul for any program.
3. Weber State
Vanderbilt has an argument as the Commodores saw two players drafted in the first round for the first time in school history. But Randy Rahe saw the face of his program, Damian Lillard, go with the sixth pick in the draft to Portland. And for a program from a one-bid league like Weber State, that’s a nice line to add to the resume.
1. Dion Waiters (Cleveland)
Whether or not Waiters pans out in Cleveland isn’t the point here. Many who discussed the lottery guarantee that Waiters supposedly held in the weeks leading up to the draft thought it was coming on the back end (Phoenix). But fourth overall? That’s quite a jump financially for the Syracuse product, who was one of the best players in the Big East last season despite not starting a game.
2. Austin Rivers (New Orleans)
Anthony Davis will be the face of the franchise since he’s the top overall pick, but why can’t Rivers join him on the marquee? Rivers’ game seems to be better suited for the pro level, and when you’re the son of a successful NBA head coach it isn’t as if you’re walking into the league “blind” either. There will be an adjustment period (watching veteran Jarrett Jack should help some) for Rivers, but he’s more than capable of being a factor for the Hornets.
3. Perry Jones III (Oklahoma City)
Sure Jones III took a loss financially by returning to Baylor for his sophomore season, but from a basketball standpoint that decision paid off in a big way. He’ll join the reigning Western Conference champs under little (if any) pressure to produce right away, and his athleticism will fit in well on a team that needs some offensive help inside.