There were few surprises, but nonetheless this year’s NBA draft was entertaining and added some insight to the direction that some of the teams are going in. Here is how the first round went according to yahoo.com and myself as I watched on ESPN:
-As expected, Greg Oden went #1 and was drafted by Portland. The seven-footer will no doubt add some much-needed defense to the hapless Trailblazers who had a 32-50 win/loss record last season. Kevin Durant, the Texas standout, went #2 to the Supersonics. You’d think the Sonics would be satisfied with having just one superstar in the draft go their way, but they weren’t done yet. They traded away super-shooter Ray Allen to the Boston “we used actually be good, even without Bird” Celtics for the #5 pick, Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West. It isn’t certified yet, but most likely it’s a deal that will go down. More to come…
– The Hawks have a #3 and #11 pick. They really need a point guard since they have so many swingmen and athletes on their team. All they really need is a point guard to guide them, to make plays, to get those guys in the air and dunking while calling out defenses, so they draft…Al Horford, a 6-10 Forward. I hope he can pass.
– Oden’s college teammate, Mike Conley, Jr., ended up with Memphis, who needed more help than anyone in the league since they finished dead last this season. Conley is known as a pure point guard with great vision, great speed, and great hops. The hops no doubted came from Mike Senior; ESPN showed a clip of him dunking from the foul line 15 years ago. Some say another year in school would have given Junior some more great basketball IQ, but he followed his heart to the NBA.
– The Celts draft Jeff Green out of Georgetown, but he’s most likely to make his home in Seattle. “I like Starbucks”, Jeff told reporters.
– Another 7-foot Chinese baller is headed to the NBA. Yi Janlian was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks. That wasn’t the Chinese star’s strategy because they hoped to market him better by sending him to a west coast team. Well, it’s not like he wouldn’t stand out in Milwaukee. His handlers are touting him as a hipper Chinese player than Yao Ming. And Yi’s more like a Dirk Nowitzki than a Yao, preferring jumpers and slashing over back-to-basket posting. I’m running out of foreign syllables here.
– Another Florida champ player, Corey Brewer, was picked by Minnesooota. If Garnett stays, this is one young player with a winning mentality and could give some immediate help.
– You know, Jordan was a great player in the NBA. He’s a pretty good businessman, too, but I’m not sure what he’s doing in the basketball world. He orchestrated the Kwame Brown pick when he headed the Wizards a few years back and that was a huge bust. Now he’s managing the Charlotte Bobcats and trying to stack up a winning team. But for now I guess he’s trying to bring more money to the Charlotte Bobcats by drafting another North Carolina player in Brandon Wright. He’d make the 4th Tar Heel on the team, but also the third power forward in a row drafted in the first round by Charlotte.
– The worst suit award goes to Joakim Noah, the third Florida Gator to go early in the draft (Chicago by way of New York). He looked like he was trying to sell funky creamsicles at the street corner. Don’t let the suit fool you, because Noah is a never-say-die player that gets up and down the court for a big man.
-Spencer Hawes goes to the Kings. Ho-hum.
-Atlanta drafts… a point guard! Acie Law IV makes his way to the Hawks. Law isn’t the best shooter, but he’s a clutch player that has a lot of basketball IQ (point guard of the year for the NCAA). Kinda like a watered-down Jason Kidd, except without the stealing. He’ll definitely be a help to the Hawks. First smart draft move in a lonnnng time for the ATL.
-The 76ers have 3 picks in the first round, thanks to wheelin’ and dealin’ Chris Webber and Allen Iverson off the team this year. They selected probably the smartest guy in the draft, Thaddeus Young from Georgia Tech, at the number 12 draft pick. Young had a 4.3 GPA in high school and was a member of the National Honor Society. Hmm, stay for the grades or possibly $1million-a-year for three years guaranteed? Summer school, here I come!
-The New Orleans Hornets select someone to help them rebuild the roofs of houses still in shambles from Katrina. Julian Wright was their selection, a 7-footer from Kansas.
-The Clippers actually looked good two years ago. Then last year they looked like the Clippers. Their best young talent, Sean Livingston, tore his knee up in a bad way. His back up is the 100 year-old Sam Cassell. They need either another big guy to help out Elton Brand, or another point guard to back up the two hobblers. So they pick Al Thornton, a relentless 6-8/220 dude. Good selection and the best talent left in the pool. Not a bad basketball player for starting off as a football player.
-The Pistons pick virtually unknown Rodney Stuckey from Eastern Washington. Rumor is he’s a big point guard that batters his opponents rather than wheel around them. Perfect Piston material.
–Nick Young is drafted by the Washington Wizards, last year’s bad-luck team. They were casting crazy spells and headed straight to the playoffs but then got decimated by injuries. Young is an excellent pick, not just for his abilities but also for his heart. He’s had a tough life and the NBA will be a tremendous help. There’s a movie about his life showing in film festivals right about now.
– Holy shmokies! The Knicks and the Trail Blazers just proposed a trade that made their Knick fans happy. Steve Francis and Channing Frye will head to Portland in exchange for Zach Randolph, Dan Dickau and Fred Jones. A lot of wasted money goes to Portland, and the Knicks finally get someone who can score in the low post. Kevin Durant, you’re on your own in the Portland paint.
–Sean Williams goes to the Nets. Great player, but he’s also got character issues coming into the school. As usual, he’s “cleaned up his act”. Let’s pray he stays focused. Did we mention the Nets are moving to Brooklyn?
-The second foreign player is picked. Italian guard Marco Belinelli goes to the Golden State Warriors, last year’s playoff darlings. They knocked off the highly-touted Dallas Mavs in the first round. Belinelli is going to a spark plug team and should prove to be a worthy back up because the only fault the Warriors had was a plethora of guard injuries.
– There’s no one left in the draft that would make Kobe happy in L.A. They pick Javaris Crittenton from Georgia Tech anyway. Maybe they can use him as trade leverage.
– With the Miami Heat getting older (especially at the big man position), they hope to re-charge their youth with 7-footer Jason Smith. He’s an agile Center with shot-blocking ability. Half of the Heat is over 34 years-old, so this should be a small fountain of youth.
– Philly drafts Daquan Cook, another Ohio State freshman, and then immediately swap him for Jason Smith. Now the Heat are younger AND smaller.
– Jordan actually makes a decent pick with Jared Dudley from Boston College. He was the player I loved to hate last year b/c he always gave my Duke Blue Devils a hard time with his court smarts and intensity. The Bobcats didn’t get another Tar Heel, but they stayed within the ACC conference.
– Spike Lee predicts the Wilson Chandler pick for New York. Then again, he proudly said that Isaiah Thomas “has my phone number”. Despite Thomas’ crazy-style team building, he does make some good picks.
-Portland selects Rudy Fernandez, a guard out of Spain, then trades him to Phoenix for cash… wasn’t this outlawed after the Civil War? By picking the Spaniard, Phoenix adds another country to the Suns roster because Brazil, France, The Virgin Islands and Canada weren’t enough. There’s probably a Center in Nigeria awaiting the call for next year.
– The Jazz were great last year and should have gone all the way to the finals with their squad. They hope to add more depth to the swingman position by picking Morris Almond from Rice University. If this doesn’t work out, it should drive Jerry Sloan “nuts”.
– The Rockets pick Aaron Brooks, a fast guard from Oregon. They needed a Power Forward. Josh McRoberts is still available. Hello?
– The Pistons select Aaron Affalo from UCLA. He was a great defender and looked really nice during the Big Dance last year. Another tough guy picked by the Detroit. Are the Bad Boys making a youthful comeback?
– Brazil is probably the only country left for the Spurs to acquire a player from, and they got a guy: Tiago Splitter is their newest recruit.
– Phoenix selects Alando Tucker, the truly small forward from Wisconsin. He may be the only American player left on the Suns, but Wisconsin is pretty close to Canada.
– Philly closes out the first round by selecting-and I’m so glad I’m typing and not reading this- Petteri Koponen from Finland. He’s only 19 and should be a future star as Philly continues to rebuild in life after A.I.
And so goes the first round of the draft. Continue to watch the second round because it’s a deep talent pool this year with a few notable players still left in the pool. After all, Carlos Boozer was picked in the second round a few years ago and he turned out pretty o.k. Daniel Gibson and Monte Ellis were also second-round picks and they are budding stars in the league.
Dan Wetzel, “NBA Draft Analysis”, sports.yahoo.com