With the 2017 NBA Draft just taking place, the 2016 rookies are no longer rookies. They’ve spent a calendar year in the NBA, have gone through the rookie hazing, have learned which veterans not to tick off, and (for some) have given their teams cause for concern. Some coaches and General Managers are already questioning the moves they made during the 2016 draft and would privately like a mulligan on some of their choices.
It may seem a bit early for a summation of the 2016 draft, but this is exactly how NBA executives think. They aren’t the most patient of people and many teams are already looking for an upgrade to their top draft picks from last year. The Celtics didn’t like the progress that Marcus Smart made as a rookie in 2014-15 so they drafted a player at the same position in Terry Rozier a year later. The Kings drafted Ben McLemore as their two-guard of the future with the #7 pick in 2013 but then quickly realized that he’s not their two-guard of the future or the present. Thus, they tried to rectify their mistake by selecting Nik Stauskas with the #8 pick a year later. If teams can point out their mistakes after just one season, then fans can too!
Whether it be a short-sighted trade, ignoring a player’s red flags, or just drafting the wrong dude; lots of teams are looking for a do-over from the 2016 draft. Some of those teams tried to sweep some of their 2016 mistakes under the rug of their 2017 moves but there’s a good chance that those very same teams will be on this list next year! Here are the 15 moves from the 2016 NBA Draft that teams are already regretting.
15 15. Every Team Allowing Yogi Ferrell To Go Undrafted
How could you pass on a player who looks just like Russell Westbrook? Ferrell was a basketball prodigy who was ranked the number one fifth grader in the nation back in 2004. He would then become an All-American at Indiana and also broke the school’s all-time assist record. But when the 2016 draft came around, no one could look past his diminutive size and he went undrafted. After playing 10 games with the Nets and shuffling between their squad and their D-League affiliate, Ferrell was signed to a 10-day contract by the Mavericks. Just a week into his Mavs’ tenure, Ferrell scored 32 points and became just the third undrafted rookie ever to score 30+ within the first 15 games of his career.
Ferrell then parlayed that 10-day contract into a multi-year contract which also expedited the exit of Deron Williams from Dallas. After making just over $200,000 as a rookie, Ferrell will make over 6 times that amount next season.
14 14. Magic Trading For Serge Ibaka
This is a mistake that Orlando regrets on two levels. First, Ibaka was a poor fit for their roster as they already had a logjam of frontcourt players on their roster with Aaron Gordon, Jeff Green, Bismack Biyombo, and Nikola Vucevic. That forced the Magic to play some players out of position and led to a disastrous 21-35 record with Ibaka in the starting lineup. The second mistake was then Orlando trading Ibaka to Toronto for less than they got when they acquired him from OKC. Orlando traded Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and the 11th pick in the 2016 draft (Domantas Sabonis) for Ibaka and then traded Ibaka for Terrence Ross and Toronto’s 2017 first rounder. Thus, the trade for Orlando is essentially Oladipo, Ilyasova, and the #11 pick (2016) for Ross and the #25 pick (2017). The Magic got the worse player out of Oladipo and Ross and they got the lower draft pick!
13 13. Bucks Trading Away Patrick McCaw
McCaw seems like the perfect kind of Bucks player: he’s long, athletic, and can play multiple positions. Milwaukee seemingly had its backcourt of the future after drafting McCaw and Malcolm Brogdon in the second round but they surprised many by immediately trading McCaw to the Warriors for cash considerations. They didn’t receive a player or draft picks for McCaw, they just received money. That money would be spent to re-sign the likes of Steve Novak who would be cut midseason. McCaw certainly welcomed a trade to join the 73 win Warriors and he was a key contributor for the team as they won the NBA championship. He started 20 games during the regular season and three more in the playoffs. Instead of having McCaw as the Bucks’ backup shooting guard, Jason Kidd apparently would rather trot out 40 year old Jason Terry.
12 12. Celtics Wasting A Pick On Ben Bentil
With 8 picks in the 2016 draft, 13.3% of the selections belonged to the Boston Celtics. With that many picks, it’s nearly impossible that all of the draftees will make the roster so the smart move would be to draft-and-stash an international player. Boston actually did that with 3 of their picks but for some reason they decided to draft a college player in Bentil in the second round. They knew that either Bentil or another second rounder, Demetrius Jackson, would not make the final roster so they essentially wasted a draft pick. Bentil would be cut during preseason but not before collecting $250,000 from the Celtics for 3 months of work.
Another option Boston could have employed was to trade one or some of their second round picks to a needy team for cash considerations or future draft picks. For someone who loves trading draft picks as much as GM Danny Ainge, then Celtics surprisingly missed an opportunity and it ended up costing them.
11 11. Suns Giving Tyler Ulis A First-Round Contract
Let me start off by saying I think Tyler Ulis is a good player and will be a top-end backup point guard in this league. But after the Suns drafted Ulis in the second round, they inexplicably gave him the contract that only first-rounders get and said that his size was the only reason he dropped to the second round. First off, why didn’t Phoenix draft him in the first round with one of their 3 first-round picks? Secondly, why give a rookie a bigger contract than what is allotted to him from the rookie scale? Instead of getting a normal second-round contract of one year guaranteed plus one team option year, Ulis received a contract with three guaranteed seasons plus one team option year.
That means Ulis, the 34th overall pick, has more guaranteed years on his contract than lottery picks Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss. Players have egos and I’m sure that won’t sit well in the Phoenix locker room.
10 10. Knicks Trading Away A 2016 First-Rounder For Andrea Bargnani
This trade dates back to the summer of 2013 then the Knicks, for some reason, went all in on Andrea Bargnani…and I do mean “all in”. Bargnani was coming off averages of 12.7 PPG and 3.7 RPG yet the Knicks traded Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson, a 2014 second round pick, a 2016 first round pick, and a 2017 second round pick for the former number one overall selection. That 2016 first rounder would end up as the #9 overall pick and the Raptors used it to select big man Jakob Poeltl out of Utah.
The Knicks could have had their center-of-the-future to pair with their power forward of the present and the future in Kristaps Porzingis but they decided to impulsively trade for someone who’s not that good to begin with. Bargnani would play just 71 games for the Knicks over two seasons and not re-signing Bargnani was one of the few smart moves that Phil Jackson made.
9 9. Timberwolves Not Trading Away Their #5 Pick
Even though they haven’t sniffed the postseason in over a dozen years, the Timberwolves still have perhaps the most intriguing trio of young players in the league. With Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and (formerly on the team) Zach Lavine all 21 years old; the last thing Minnesota needed was another young player. But that’s just what they got when they selected Kris Dunn fifth overall despite having a competent point guard in Ricky Rubio.
What the Timberwolves needed then, and still need now, is a veteran presence on their team and you’re not going to find that in the draft. The team should have traded its #5 pick for some veteran help so Tom Thibodeau doesn’t feel like the team’s unofficial babysitter. How about the #5 pick to Phoenix for Tyson Chandler and the #13 pick? It’s a win-win for both franchises.
Perhaps the fact that the T-Wolves parlayed Dunn and Lavine into a trade for Jimmy Butler will erase these bad feelings, but we'll have to wait and see.
8 8. Blazers Trading For Jake Layman
On the surface the Blazers trade for second round pick Jake Layman doesn’t seem out-of-the-ordinary. Portland sent a future second round pick and $1.2 million to Orlando for the former Maryland Terrapin. But when you look at Portland’s contract situation as well as their future draft picks, you notice a problem. Portland will have 3 first round picks in the 2017 draft and first rounders receive guaranteed contracts. They also already have the maximum of 15 players under contract for next season so you should see where this is going. Portland will have to open up some roster spots for their incoming rookies and Layman will likely be the first one cut. Thus, Portland got 35 games out of Layman and in return they had to lose a future second round pick as well as $1.2 million.
Let me also remind you that Portland has the highest payroll for the 2017-18 season so they could have really used that extra money. It was a short-sighted decision by the Blazers to give up a pick and cash for a player that they could only keep for one season.
7 7. Clippers Drafting Brice Johnson Over Skal Labissiere
Ever since the Clippers drafted Blake Griffin first overall in 2009, they haven’t drafted a single player who’s played more than 1 season’s worth of games with the team. Their latest first round pick, Brice Johnson, follows the hells of C.J. Wilcox and Reggie Bullock as players who can’t get off the bench. For a veteran team like the Clippers, they need either NBA-ready players that can contribute now or young prospects that can develop over time. After 4 years at UNC, Johnson was neither and a back injury then slowed his progress.
The team would have been better served to go with Skal Labissiere out of Kentucky who showed flashes with the Kings. Labissiere is a 7-footer who knocked down 38% of his three-point attempts last season while Johnson played in all of 3 games – the fewest among any active first rounder.
6 6. Bulls Drafting Denzel Valentine
A month into this upcoming NBA season, Denzel Valentine will turn 24 years old which is the same age as Anthony Davis who was drafted 5 years ago. Valentine was ancient for a rookie and while you think that would help him acclimate to the NBA quicker than younger players, that wasn’t the case with the Bulls. They spent a lottery selection on the former College Player of the Year but he made no meaningful contribution even for a team that needed help on the wing. He shot just 35% from the field was the 4th worst in the league and, despite being a point guard at MSU; Fred Hoiberg wouldn’t give him a sniff off the bench after Rajon Rondo was injured in the playoffs. If the Bulls really wanted a rookie guard with lots of college experience, then they should have gone with Malcolm Brogdon who went 22 picks later to the rival Bucks.
5 5. Suns Trading Away Bogdan Bogdanovic For Marquese Chriss
The Suns gave up quite a haul for Marquese Chriss, a Sacramento native who was drafted by the Kings. Phoenix traded away Skal Labissiere, Georgios Papagiannis, a 2020 second round pick, and Bogdan Bogdanovic for Chriss. While three of the players involved in that trade were rookies and relative unknowns, Bogdanovic is arguably the best basketball player in the world who is not in the NBA. He has won an astounding 9 championships all across Europe and is just 24 years old. He also led an overmatched Serbia team to the silver medal in the 2016 Olympics and has fully developed his game since being drafted by the Suns in 2014. He will likely join the Kings for the 2017-18 season and may end up the best player involved in that draft-day trade.
4 4. Thunder Trading For Domantas Sabonis
Perhaps Domantas should have waited nearly a decade to join the NBA after being drafted like his father, Hall of Famer Arvydas, did. Domantas might have the pedigree to be a great player but he looked completely lost out there on the court for OKC. He was part of the trade that sent Serge Ibaka to Orlando and perhaps Sabonis shriveled in the expectations of replacing the longtime Thunder power forward. He went from a day-one starter to a back-up big to not even getting off the bench come playoff time. Part of the blame should go to OKC for expecting too much out of Sabonis as they made him a stretch-4 despite him only making 5 three-pointers in his two years in college. He’ll need to make some major strides on both ends of the court in Year 2 or it’s going to look like OKC got fleeced in the trade.
3 3. Celtics Not Packaging Their Picks To Move Up In Draft
The Celtics had 8 picks in the 2016 draft but only two of them actually played a game for Boston this past year. Most of the others were draft-and-stash players and Danny Ainge owns the draft rights of so many players overseas that he can form an international starting five. However, there is a good chance that many of those players will never even step foot on American soil (remember Fran Vazquez?). Boston had 5 second-round picks and while those clearly aren’t as valuable as first-rounders, analytics-heavy teams like the Rockets and Hawks love to hoard those picks. Ainge could have easily packaged two or three or even four of those picks to move up and draft a player that the team would actually use. Even a team like the Knicks would have given up something for some draft picks as they had none last year and ended up playing 5 undrafted rookies.
2 2. Every Team Passing Over Malcolm Brogdon
By the time you’re reading this, Malcolm Brogdon may have become the first second round pick in NBA history to win Rookie of the Year. The #36 overall pick somehow slipped through the hands of every single NBA team despite being arguably the most accomplished player in the draft. He was an All-American, the Defensive Player of the Year, and the ACC Player of the Year all in his senior season. He was also a three-time All-ACC and a two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He was the only rookie to record a triple double last season and he did it in just his second start of the season. Teams only looked at the fact that he was a five-year senior and 24-year-old rookie, and somehow overlooked everything that he brings to the table. Brogdon may not have a high ceiling and may never become a star, but the Bucks may have just landed on the second coming of Shane Battier for the next decade.
1 1. Lakers Selecting Brandon Ingram Second Overall
Even the most ardent of Lakers fans would admit that Ingram’s rookie year was a disaster. The only thing that could have made his first season worst was if he ended up on D’Angelo Russell’s SnapChat. The Lakers tried Ingram at shooting guard, small forward, and power forward and the #2 overall pick struggled at all of the positions. The Lakers thought they were getting the next Kevin Durant by drafting Ingram but KD was a far, far better player in college. Durant averaged 26 and 11 at Texas while Ingram averaged 17 and 7 at Duke. Durant also had more steals and blocks and despite being rail thin; he still outweighed Ingram by 30 pounds coming out of school.
Ingram may end up being a good player but his rookie season certainly was not promising. He said he plans on working out with Kobe Bryant this offseason and Ingram better be smelling like Kobe by the time he joins the Lakers for training camp. He should even go the route of Grizzlies rookie Deyonta Davis who stayed at Vince Carter’s house as a rookie…Yea, I’m sure Kobe would love that.
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