LOMBARDI'S LOCKER: Jazz, Lakers among teams who got it right on draft night

From let, the Orlando Magic's Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, and Roy Devyn Marble during a news conference at the Amway Center in Orlando on Friday, June 27, 2014, as the team introduced players acquired in the NBA Draft a day earlier. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)
From let, the Orlando Magic's Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, and Roy Devyn Marble during a news conference at the Amway Center in Orlando on Friday, June 27, 2014, as the team introduced players acquired in the NBA Draft a day earlier. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)

Anthony Lombardi is a senior journalism major and writes ‘Lombardi’s Locker’ for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper and The Daily. Write to Anthony at ajlombardi@bsu.edu.

I love the NBA draft.

For 60 young men across the world, it represents the final step in a lifelong dream of playing professional basketball. 

For the fans, it is a time of hope and optimism, as each player selected could potentially be the league’s newest superstar or that missing piece to a championship run.

 For me, the NBA draft is the fascinating process of an organization’s front office choosing a 20-year-old with the hopes that one day, he will mature into a player that can lead his team to greatness both on and off the court.

 Taking the “wrong” player can set a franchise back for years, can cause a general manager to lose his job and can even change a player’s entire career.

 As is the case every year, there are the teams who seem to “get it right” on draft night while other team’s selections leave you scratching your head.

 With that being said, let’s take a look at one team from this year’s draft that did everything right and one team that left me feeling a bit underwhelmed.


Utah Jazz 

1st round, No. 5: Dante Exum, Australia

1st round, No. 23: Rodney Hood, Duke

The Jazz began the night in what appeared to be one of the more difficult slots to select from: the No. 5 pick.

Heading into the draft, the consensus top four picks were Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Australian Dante Exum.

After those four, however, the next seven or so prospects all seemed interchangeable on a mock draft board, potentially leaving the Jazz with a very difficult decision.

Luckily for Jazz fans everywhere, the Orlando Magic passed on Exum with the fourth pick, allowing the 6-foot-6, 196-pound 18-year-old to fall into their laps.

I will just be straightforward with everyone: I have a “man crush” on Exum.

Let me clarify. If I were a GM, which I totally think I should be, there wasn’t a player in this year’s draft who intrigued me more than the Australian prodigy.

Maybe it’s the fact that Exum is from a different continent, and most people have only seen him in YouTube highlights, but boy does it look like he can play in them.

A point guard in Australia, Exum will more than likely be asked to move to the 2-guard position so that he and last year’s first-round pick, Trey Burke, can grow together in the backcourt.

At 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, the move to off guard should not be a problem for Exum, who has shown the ability to hit the outside shot.

With their second and final pick of the draft, the Jazz selected former Duke small forward Rodney Hood.

At Duke, Hood showed he could put the ball in the basket, averaging 16.1 points per game in his only season as a Blue Devil.

With the Jazz’ current small forward, Gordon Hayward, a restricted free agent, Hood will serve as insurance in case the franchise loses its leading scorer.

Orlando Magic's Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon and Roy Devyn Marble talk during a news conference June 27 as the team introduced players acquired in the NBA Draft a day earlier. MCT PHOTO

Orlando Magic 

1st round, No. 4: Aaron Gordon, Arizona

1st round, No. 10: Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette

2nd round, No. 56: Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa

There might not be a team that has a possible larger difference in boom and bust potential than the Orlando Magic.

With the fourth pick in the draft, the Magic shocked the world and decided to pass on Exum, instead, the team took former Arizona forward Aaron Gordon.

As a freshman in college, Gordon averaged 12.4 points and eight rebounds per game on a Wildcat team that went to the Elite Eight.

At times throughout the season, Gordon, who has athletically been compared to Los Angeles Clippers’ power forward Blake Griffin, seemed to be lost on the offensive side of the ball.

His jump shot leaves more than plenty to be desired and though the comparisons to Griffin may be warranted based on his athleticism, Gordon is an inch shorter and weighs 38 pounds fewer than Griffin did when he entered the league.

With their second first-round selection, the Magic drafted Dario Saric from Croatia, but quickly traded his draft rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for the draft rights to Louisiana-Lafayette point guard Elfrid Payton.

As a senior, Payton averaged 19.3 points, 5.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game, while also leading the Ragin’ Cajuns to the NCAA Tournament for the 10th time in school history.

While the Magic certainly chose talented basketball players, I was left confused as to the way the front office chose to execute on draft night.

For a team whose current point guards are a 32-year-old Jameer Nelson and a career journeyman in Ronnie Price, electing to pass on the top-rated point guard and potential best talent in the draft in Exum was a decision with which I did not agree.

I’m not trying to make it seem as if Gordon is not a good player, but I feel as if the Magic could have traded back a couple spots with a team who wanted to move up to take Exum and would have still been able to get their guy as well as picking up another asset.

And though the Magic did get a point guard in Payton, I have my concerns about a guard from the Sun Belt Conference who shot 25.9 percent from deep his final year.

But who knows, 10 years from now Gordon and Payton could transform into a Griffin and Chris Paul duo, while Exum could very well turn out to be just another product of international hype.

That, my friends, is the beauty of the NBA draft.

Good drafts:         

Team                          Top Pick       Pick No.       Pos      School      Height       Weight

1. Los Angeles Lakers        Julius Randle        7               PF       Kentucky     6’9”       250 pounds

A top five talent, if Randle commits himself, he could very well end up being the steal of the draft. And who better than Kobe Bryant to learn a work ethic from?

2. Philadelphia 76ers       Joel Embiid             3                C        Kansas        7’0”       240 pounds

With six picks in this year’s draft, the Sixers just keep adding assets. 

3. Charlotte Hornets         Noah Vonleh         9               PF        Indiana        6’9”    247 pounds

The Hornets got excellent value from all four picks. If the young roster develops the way the front office is hoping, the Hornets could contend for home court in the Eastern Conference very soon. 

Bad picks:

1. Toronto Raptors      Bruno Caboclo         20                F         Brazil            6’9”     200 pounds

The 18-year-old Caboclo could turn into a nice player in the long run, but I don’t understand why a team that had just finished the year as the third seed in its conference wouldn’t try and add a piece to its current roster.

2. Phoenix Suns            T.J. Warren            14               SG      N.C. State       6’8”     220 pounds

The Suns got the player they wanted with their first pick in Warren, but in all likelihood, the team could have moved back, picked up another piece and still grabbed him later in the round.


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