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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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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Alex English Article Reprinted at Nuggets.com

My article about Alex English has been reprinted at Nuggets.com:

http://www.nba.com/nuggets/news/friedman_english_061206.html

posted by David Friedman @ 4:01 AM

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Modesty is Shaq's Best Trait--Just Ask Him and He'll Tell You

Veteran NBA writer Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle observes that the Miami Heat's championship blueprint is the same one that the Houston Rockets are trying: surrounding a center who commands double teams with a dominant perimeter player and a good cast of role players; the Rockets' problem is that they have not been able to keep their two stars healthy or acquire the right mix of role players. Actually, that is more than one problem, which explains why Houston did not even qualify for the playoffs this year. Feigen also has an interesting take on Shaquille O'Neal deferring to Dwyane Wade during the Miami Heat's championship run:

"Before too much credit goes to Shaquille O'Neal for so willingly accepting his secondary role to Dwyane Wade to help the Heat become champions, he did not seem to have much a choice. He was so diminished that Wade soared above him, rather than he knew he should step back.

But it is interesting to see O'Neal portray himself as a version of former rival David Robinson — the wise veteran making way for a younger star. The difference is that Robinson did not feel the need to constantly credit himself for making Tim Duncan great."


You can find the complete article here:

Heat Master Plan has Familiar Ring

posted by David Friedman @ 5:18 PM

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