NBA teams’ offseasons are usually judged by the big free agent or trade acquisitions they made, where we can clearly see what impact the move will have the following season. But in hindsight, it’s often additions made in the draft that have the most significant long-term impact.
In this article, I’ll look back at every team’s highest draft pick throughout the last five years and grade based on the impact they’ve had on that team. It should also be made clear that players who haven’t played in the league yet are excluded. With that being said, let’s start with grades for teams in the Atlantic Division.
Boston Celtics: D
#14. Romeo Langford
Coming into the draft, Langford was looked at as an intriguing guard with elite athleticism. He never found a consistent role with Boston though, partially due to his lack of a consistent jumper and also because of injuries. After two seasons with the Celtics, Langford was flipped to the San Antonio Spurs and has become a solid bench player for them, but he never had much of an impact in Boston.
Brooklyn Nets: B+
#27. Cam Thomas
Thomas has played two seasons with the Nets and so far has shown a lot of promise for a player taken late in the first round mid-way through the 2023 season, Thomas scored 40+ points in three consecutive games, flashing his potential as a high-volume scorer. He finished the year averaging 10 points per game on solid efficiency, while only playing 16 minutes a night. Expect him to take a jump next season in a larger role.
New York Knicks: C
#3. R.J. Barrett
Barrett has always been looked at as an extremely talented player but inconsistency has been a bigger issue than expected in the league, and it’s kept him from breaking out as an all-star. Take last year’s playoffs for example, where Barrett averaged 19 points per game on 43% shooting overall, but shot 1-10 in a must-win game against the Heat. This upcoming season, Barrett’s fifth as a pro, will likely determine whether or not he peaks as the player he is or evolves into a star.
Philadelphia 76ers: A
#21. Tyrese Maxey
Coming into the league, Maxey was seen as a potential sixth-man scorer, but in three seasons, he’s proven to be much more than that. Not only was Maxey the 76ers’ third-leading scorer in the regular season, averaging 20 points per game, but he’s backed it up in the postseason on multiple occasions with 20 point-per-game averages in the 2022 and 2023 playoffs. At 22 years old, Maxey has emerged as a young star and a potential franchise player for Philadelphia.
Toronto Raptors: A-
#4. Scottie Barnes
After winning Rookie of the Year in 2022, many expected Barnes to emerge as a star in his sophomore season. People were disappointed to see that he didn’t improve all that much, with similar averages of 15 points, six rebounds and four assists a game. Nonetheless, these are very good numbers for a 22-year-old, and expectations of him breaking out at such a young age were pretty unrealistic. This is still a great pick in hindsight, as Barnes has incredible upside.