The question appears whenever one dissects an event of this kind. Does one grade a team based on the overall talent they hauled in, or on the job they did drafting whilst keeping their draft position and needs in mind? An specially applicable scenario is that of the Cowboys. They did not haul in a great amount of talent this year, but from my perspective seemed to make good decisions as far as the guys they did take, in addition to setting themselves up wonderfully for next year by acquiring the Browns' #1. I've decided to judge performance based on a year-to-year basis, meaning that in the aforementioned Cowboys scenario they would have received a middling grade, with expectations of a great upswing in next year's event. With that philosophy in mind, let's go down the list of teams who helped themselves most on draft day. Keep in mind that this is a grade assigned ONLY to draft picks. Trades and potential signings are thrown out the window.
#1: Seattle. Let's disregard the puzzling infatuation with small forwards for a moment and look at the pure talent the Sonics hauled in. First and most assuredly foremost comes Kevin Durant, potential mega-superstar. I repeat my assessment from before the draft: In any draft of the past 10 years that did not include a guy named Oden, Durant goes #1. And that includes the famed '03 draft. Adding Jeff Green seems like it forces Durant into a power forward role, but playing those two guys at the wing positions should become an incredible pairing that could easily remain dynamic for the next 10 years. In second rounder Carl Landry they've picked up a capable backup to Green who can also play simultaneously with the other 2 at the shooting guard position.
#2: Portland. As if adding the top cebter since Shaq wasn't enough, Portland is surrounding him with enough pieces to ensure a high level of play for many years to come. Rudy Fernandez and Petteri Kopponen were two of the five best international players in this extraaordinarily deep draft. Taurean Green was a steal in the late second round, and Demetrius Nichols is an NBA ready player. Give it a few years and Portland could become truly fearsome.
#3: Atlanta. The hopeless Hawks didn't add much depth this year. But they didn't really need much. They were in an awkward position at #3, where the clear best players available were all forwards-their only area of strength. They took the best one available in Al Horford, a safe pick who should work out even for this hapless franchise. They then picked again at 11 and shored up their biggest need at point guard, with Acie the Aggy. They picked up enough quality to negate their lack of quantity this year, and now the rest of the league will hope and pray for some good basketball from them this year. Phoenix getting a top pick next year would be disastrous for the rest of us, and remember-no stipulations this time. The pick is guaranteed.
#4: Golden State. I hate to administer a vote of confidence to Nelly's team, but in this case I just have to. Trading the immensely talented but vastly overrated Jason Richardson for the immensely talented young question mark Brandan Wright was a great move purely on the fact that they dumped a ton of cap space and acquired a 10 million dollar exception, usable for any tough trades. They didn't get their man in Yi, but were able to pick up another very talented young player-Italian Marco Bellinelli, who some have projected as almost a Ray Allen within a few years. They've taken a momentary step back, but will benefit from it in the long run.
Honorable Mention: I reserved this spot for the team aforementioned in the introductory paragraph-those who may not have had the resources to take top talent, but used their opportunities wisely. In this respect, no team stood out to me more than [sigh] the Spares from San Antone. Tiago Splitter will be a very solid player in this league, and grabbing him that late in the first round will pay dividends. Nabbing a troubled kid like Marcus Williams in the second round also makes a ton of sense. Williams is talented and has the kind of skillset that Coach Pop loves. And if he doesn't pan out- he's back on the street. Second round contracts aren't guranteed, so he has reason to shape up. (Besides the obvious incentive of playing for a true dynasty)