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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Thoughts on the NBA Draft

Today on Eddie King's Betusradio.com internet radio show I singled out three teams that did well in the NBA draft, three teams that did poorly and three things that surprised me during the draft (some of which came from one of the previous categories). I decided to share these observations with 20SecondTimeout readers who may have missed the broadcast (I appear on the show for about 20 minutes starting at 3:18 EST each Tuesday).

Any immediate post-draft handicapping should come with the disclaimer that we will not really know who "won" and who "lost" for about three years--but who wants to let that fact get in the way of the fun of comparing high school players that few of us have seen with European players that even fewer of us have seen? Disclaimer safely out of the way, I liked Milwaukee's draft. First off, they had luck on their side, with the draft lottery ping pong balls moving them into the number one position; second, they took an experienced college player in Andrew Bogut who perfectly fills their main need--a skilled inside player. Picking Bogut may have been a "no-brainer" but that does not mean that the Bucks are not winners, particularly if Bogut wins Rookie of the Year and leads Milwaukee to the playoffs.

Another team that did well at the top of the draft is Utah, which acquired the third pick from Portland and selected Illinois' Deron Williams, a poor man's Jason Kidd who seems to be the perfect fit for Jerry Sloan's system. He won't make anyone forget John Stockton (who could?) but Utah expects him to man the point guard spot for the next 10 years or so.

It's always risky to speculate about the performance of high schoolers, but one has to think that Boston did well by drafting Gerald Green at #18. This is a guy who was projected to go as high as #3 in the draft, but who dropped after Portland traded the #3 pick and elected to use the #6 pick on shooter Martell Webster. Unless all of the scouts were completely fooled, Green may be the most talented player in this year's draft, so grabbing him in the second half of the first round seems to be a very good "value" pick, to borrow a draft cliche from football guru Mel Kiper.

As for draft losers--how 'bout them Clippers? You would think that after years and years and years of experience with lottery picks that L.A.'s "other" team would know what to do, but they spent the #12 pick on Yaroslav Korolev, a 6'9" Russian player who looks like he weighs about 150 pounds. Supposedly he is the next Andrei Kirilenko and the Clippers better hope that is the case after passing up guys like Sean May, Hakim Warrick and the aforementioned Green. If you're going to draft based on potential, why not take an athlete like Green at this spot? I know that many scoffed at Dallas for drafting Nowitzki in a similar draft slot and that Dirk proved the doubters wrong--but I don't see Don Nelson running the Clippers' war room and I don't see Korolev morphing into anything near the player that Nowitzki is.

I already mentioned Utah as a winner for trading with Portland to get Deron Williams at #3. Not surprisingly, I have Portland as a loser at the other end of that deal. Portland could have kept the pick and taken any number of top college point guards, but instead traded down to grab a high schooler (Martell Webster) and an early entry guard (Jarret Jack, acquired in a swap with Denver for Linus Kleiza). Portland has been drafting and acquiring high schoolers for many years now and what exactly do they have to show for it? Telfair showed some promise last year, so I'll give him a pass even though I am not really sold on him becoming a top guard. As for guys like Darius Miles, Travis Outlaw and Qyntel Woods (who is no longer even on the team), don't expect to see any of them in All-Star Games. The only Trail Blazer kiddie corps member who plays in the All-Star Game is Jermaine O'Neal who, unfortunately for Blazers' fans, plays for Indiana. After such a dismal track record, why would Portland want to add yet another high schooler to the mix?

My third draft loser is Stephen A. Smith's favorite whipping boy during ESPN's draft coverage, the Toronto Raptors. Smith pretty much ripped the Raptors to pieces, pointing out that drafting Charlie Villanueva at #7 does not make a lot of sense when (1) you are loaded at power forward and (2) Villanueva was probably not even the best power forward on the board at the time. That about sums it up.

My surprises are the aforementioned Green and Villanueva selections--Green for moving down and Villanueva for moving up--and the Lakers taking high schooler Andrew Bynum at #10. I don't know if Bynum is going to be great, adequate or a bust, but I know that Phil Jackson likes having veterans who are better equipped to learn the triangle, so I am surprised that the Lakers did not draft a player with four years of college experience or package the pick to acquire a veteran big man. Bynum may be looking at some Darko Milic-like minutes for his first couple seasons.

One player whose game I really like who slipped somewhat in the draft is Hakim Warrick. He played an important role on an NCAA championship team, improved his game throughout his college career and got drafted after a lot of players who have fewer individual and team accomplishments. I think that he is going to be a better pro than a lot of the guys who went before him in the draft.

posted by David Friedman @ 3:59 AM

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