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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thoughts on the NBA Draft

Even the most knowledgeable basketball observers are often wrong when they try to evaluate NBA draft prospects. Case in point: NBA TV recently aired the 1981 and 1982 NBA Drafts, which were originally shown on the USA Network. Hall of Fame Coach Lou Carnesecca provided commentary for USA; in 1981 he compared Mike McGee to Junior Bridgeman (who scored 11,517 points in a 12 season career) and in 1982 he compared Keith Edmonson to Bridgeman. What can we learn from this? One, I never knew that finding the next Junior Bridgeman was such a big concern in the early 1980s. Two--and more importantly--projecting in a public forum how NBA draft picks will pan out inevitably leads to footage/newsprint/internet posts that look quaint at best and completely ridiculous at worst. That said, as a glutton for future punishment, I will offer some thoughts about the recently concluded NBA Draft--and, in case you are wondering, this is what I wrote about last year's draft.

1) The Toronto Raptors made Andrea Bargnani the first European player to be selected number one overall. The chic comparison offered up recently has been to say that Bargnani will either be the next Nikoloz Tskitishvili (yes, I had to look up the spelling) or the next Dirk Nowitzki--as if huge bust or perennial All-Star are the only possible futures for the young seven footer. Clearly, he can shoot. How well will he rebound and defend at the NBA level? I think that he will get more playing time right off the bat than Tskitishvili or Darko Milicic did, because they both went to teams that had a lot of frontcourt depth.

2) I have addressed J.J. Redick's NBA prospects previously (here
and here). Maybe ESPN's Jay Bilas read these posts, because as soon as the Orlando Magic selected Redick 11th overall Bilas immediately challenged the idea that Redick's NBA career will be as short-lived as that of fellow Duke Blue Devil Trajan Langdon, who ironically was also the 11th overall pick (in 1999). Langdon was a great college shooter whose subpar ballhandling skills and defense prevented him from staying in the league. Redick is better in those areas than Langdon, but there is no way that he should have been the 11th pick in the NBA Draft. Redick may win the Three Point Shootout someday but he will never be an All-Star. Bilas suggested that Redick can start right now alongside Jameer Nelson. If Orlando's goal is to be a playoff team--let alone a championship contender eventually--how does a Nelson/Redick duo look compared to Wade/Williams, Billups/Hamilton, Kidd/Carter or Snow/Hughes, the starting backcourts of the Eastern Conference's top four teams this year?

3) ESPN's analysts made a big deal of Marcus Williams "slipping" to the New Jersey Nets at 22nd overall. Williams will be on probation until 2007 for his role in the theft of $11,000 worth of laptop computers and, according to these same analysts, currently has 14% body fat. Yeah, it's a real mystery why he "slipped." If it is true that Williams is out of shape, what does that say about his work ethic, particularly when he knows that some NBA general managers already have questions about him due to the stolen computers? He may indeed turn out to be the best playmaker in the draft, as Bilas suggests, but I don't blame teams for passing on him (no pun intended).

4) The New York Knicks selected South Carolina forward Renaldo Balkman with the 20th pick overall, leading to boos from the New York fans attending the draft and a (brief) moment of stunned silence from Stephen A. Smith. I'll be honest--I've never seen Balkman play. Bilas said that Balkman has been compared to Dennis Rodman and Ron Artest, but that the Knicks could have taken him in the second round because no one else would have picked him in the first round; I don't know if Balkman can play in the NBA or not, but if he can then it's strange to knock the pick just because Rodman was not a first round pick. Doesn't Rodman's success indicate that he should have been taken sooner? Since all of the ESPN guys approved of Orlando taking Redick and panned the Balkman pick, it will be interesting to see who is the more productive NBA player in five years. Later in the first round, the Knicks took Temple's Mardy Collins. ESPN's analysts liked this choice, with Greg Anthony comparing Collins to Aaron McKie. James Dolan has given President/Coach Isiah Thomas one year to make significant progress with the Knicks, so Thomas better hope that these guys will either be productive quickly or can be packaged with other players in a trade.

5) There were so many trades going on throughout the draft that I kept waiting for Monty Hall to come out of the audience and take the microphone away from Dan Patrick. Greg Anthony was so befuddled at one point that he said, "No comment," as if he were being deposed under oath. Stephen A. Smith completely ripped the Portland Trail Blazers but I don't understand why he did not ask a direct question of Blazers President Steve Patterson when Patterson appeared on the telecast via satellite. Portland has clearly made some questionable moves in the past, but they got rid of undersized point guard Sebastian Telfair and obtained LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy, either of whom conceivably could turn out to be the best player in this year's draft. Portland also acquired Raef LaFrentz and Dan Dickau while shipping away Theo Ratliff and Victor Khryapa. It seems unfair and misguided for Smith to criticize these deals three seconds after they have transpired when there is a decent chance that these moves actually helped Portland. Ratliff is a quality shotblocker but Portland hardly gave up the house to get Aldridge and Roy. Smith's verbal broadsides against Portland came across as the proverbial "shoot, ready, aim" style of analysis. Just because ESPN made a movie about Telfair does not mean that he will be a great NBA player.

6) The Lakers used the draft pick obtained in the Shaquille O'Neal trade to select UCLA's Jordan Farmar. Bilas mentioned that Farmar's vertical leap measured at 42 inches at one of the tryouts. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak indicated that he does not expect Farmar to contribute right away but that he frankly was surprised to get such a talented player late in the first round. Kupchak also said that even though O'Neal won a championship with Miami that he still believes that the Lakers made the right choice in getting rid of O'Neal and rebuilding around Kobe Bryant. Farmar is yet another guard whose career will make for interesting comparisons to Redick's in a few years.

6) The Michael Jordan Era for the Charlotte Bobcats began with Charlotte taking Adam Morrison third overall. I expect Morrison to be a very solid NBA player, averaging 17-18 ppg for his career. Some of the players taken after Morrison have more of the proverbial, cliched "upside," but I think that Morrison is a good, safe pick who fills Charlotte's need for more scoring.

posted by David Friedman @ 12:37 AM


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At Thursday, June 29, 2006 8:02:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Nice thoughts on the draft.

As a Portland fan (Yes, we do still exist) It is nice to see the Blazers getting some nice positive (for the most part) attention for a chance. Some did wonder about so many trades, but Kevin Prichard, who was mentored in San Antonio was taught, you have to have the pieces, to make the Puzzle work.

At Thursday, June 29, 2006 7:24:00 PM, Blogger NIKEY said...

i can assure u , jay bilas does not read blogs.
and if he does , it will be porn related ones.
you r right abt. toronto's choice . hopefully , andrea woulb be the 2nd coming of dirk.otherwise , colangelo needs to have a face transplant/ exchange with avery !

At Wednesday, July 05, 2006 11:06:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

where would you have drafted Rudy Gay of Connecticut on an absolute scale and where in comparison to Adam Morrison?

At Thursday, July 06, 2006 4:39:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


It is difficult for me to say where I would take Gay on an "absolute" scale because I have never seen three of the top 13 picks play in a complete game (Bargnani, Sene, Sefolosha). When Don Nelson took Nowitzki he said that he was the best player in the draft and a lot of people thought that Nelson was nuts. Dirk struggled in his rookie year but has turned out to be a perennial MVP candidate.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I like Gay's talent and I like the fact that he is coming out of a Connecticut program that has produced a lot of good NBA players. The question about him is does he always play hard. People wondered the same thing about Villanueva and he turned out to be pretty good. Gay is taller, bigger and more athletic than Morrison, so he has the bigger "upside." Morrison is the safer pick--perhaps less likely to be a superstar, but also less likely to be an underachiever. Who I would take would depend on the needs of my team, the type of coaching staff I have and the other players on the roster. I know that other talking heads/writing heads like to sound off with definitive pronouncements but, in many cases, things are not so cut and dried.

Charlotte made a solid choice in drafting Morrison and I don't think that the Bobcats will regret that move. I am not surprised that Jerry West wanted Rudy Gay for Memphis. West traded a proven NBA big man for an unproven guard straight out of high school--I think the Vlade Divac for Kobe Bryant deal worked out OK. I'm sure that West has faith that Mike Fratello and his coaching staff will get maximum effort out of Gay.

Bottom line: if my situation dictated making a solid pick, I would take Morrison; if I were willing to take more of a risk with the potential of receiving a greater reward, I would take Gay. As I said, I'm leaving the three overseas players out of this equation but, obviously, if I were running a team I would have to seriously investigate them as well.


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