Almost immediately after the 2013 NBA Draft ended, it was predicated that the draft class would be one of the worst in history, but now as that class enters year four in the league, things are turning out differently.
The Class of 2013 was originally believed to be a potential rival to the putrid 2000 NBA Draft that featured Michael Redd, Kenyon Martin, Jamal Crawford and pretty much no one else, for being the worst draft ever. While no player from the 2013 class has qualified for an All-Star yet, I think it is clear to say the class has exceeded expectations, at least from a depth perspective.
Part of the criticism of the 2013 class was that they didn’t have a true superstar in the class; there was no Anthony Davis or Kyrie Irving at the top. Instead Anthony Bennett was drafted number one overall, and the former UNLV player has been one of the biggest busts in history, flunking out of the NBA and playing the D-League last season. He is back in the NBA (although you might not consider the Brooklyn Nets a real NBA team) but it is still his fourth team in as many years.
The draft may not have had a superstar, but it has plenty of good NBA players. This was made clear yesterday, when several players from the draft class were signed to multi-year extensions. Victor Oladipo (second overall) has emerged as a good two-way player, if not a true All-Star someone that can play a big role on a good team and signed a four-year $84 million contract by Oklahoma City. Cody Zeller battled injuries early in his career but now has the starting center role locked down in Charlotte (fourth overall) and just signed a four-year $56 million. Steven Adams (12th overall) also got the big money from OKC (four years, $100 million) after emerging as one the best centers in the NBA last season.
The top three big men picked in the 2013 class were Bennett, Alex Len (fifth overall) and Nerlens Noel (sixth overall). Len has been disappointing so far in Phoenix and has yet to find his niche in the rotation. Noel missed his whole rookie season and while athletically gifted, he is still a very limited offensive player. But the big men taken AFTER the first three have been very good. Adams was followed by Kelly Olynyk, who while injury-prone has shown he can contribute to a good team. Gorgui Dieng was taken 21st overall by Minnesota due to questions about his age, but he has emerged as a starter for the up-and-coming Timberwolves and signed a four-year $64 million extension on Monday. Mason Plumlee was taken right after him and after a promising start in Brooklyn, he is now a starter and key player for Portland.
At the tail end of the first round, a little known French Goliath named Rudy Gobert was taken 27th overall by Denver and was traded to Utah for Erick Green and cash (bad move Denver). In his second season, the French project would begin to dominate the paint on the defensive end and became one of the most intriguing young players in the league thanks to his athleticism and freakish length.
Speaking of freakish length, the one player whose ridiculously gangly body can rival Gobert was also taken in the 2013 draft. Taken 15th overall by Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo was one of the biggest unknown quantities to ever be taken in the first round of the NBA draft. The 18-year-old from Greece had attracted suitors thanks to his unholy combination of length and coordination that drew comparisons to Kevin Durant, although those were purely cosmetic. Antetokounmpo had only averaged 9.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists per game playing for a second-division Greek team. Unbelievably Antetokounmpo has adapted to the NBA better than anyone could have imagined and now that Jason Kidd has the Greek Freak playing point guard, Antetokounmpo has become arguably the most must-see player in the NBA outside of Cleveland and Golden State.
The draft has also turned out plenty of solid guards and wings, if not quite at the same rate as they have big-men. Undervalued after starting at Lehigh, C.J. McCollum (tenth overall) has thrived in Portland and combined with Damian Lillard to form one of the only backcourts that can trade blows with Golden State and the Splash Brothers. Otto Porter may have gone too high at number three overall, but the Wizard’s swingman made big strides last season and looks like a good NBA player. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (eighth) is a blossoming two-way player for Detroit, Dennis Schroder (17th overall) pushed Jeff Teauge out of Atlanta, and Andre Roberson (26th overall) is one of the better wing defenders in the NBA.
In any draft, players taken after the first round are unlikely to pay out; but the 2013 class had turned out some capable players. Allen Crabbe has become a sixth man for a great Portland bench unit, and Mike Muscala, Isaiah Canaan, Raul Neto, Ian Clark, Seth Curry, Matthew Dellavedova, Troy Daniels and Dewayne Dedmon have proven to be real NBA players.
So maybe Bennett and a few other of the top picks have been busts, and maybe nobody from the 2013 class is ever going to win the MVP, but after much criticism, the draft class has rounded into form and proven that their is quite a bit a talent in it after all.