2006 NBA Draft: Still An Inexact Science

2006 NBA Draft: Still An Inexact Science
Jun 29, 2006, 12:05 pm
It’s not when you get drafted, it is who you get drafted by.

Is there anything else to take away from the 2006 NBA Draft? After a year of meticulously analyzing every available draft-related detail I could get my hands on, the same lesson comes to the forefront. The NBA Draft is not an exact science. Different teams are in different places, with different philosophies and different needs. And just because a player dropped 10 spots from his projected ranking doesn’t make him any less of a prospect than he was before he started to slide. The examples from this year’s draft are almost endless:

Take a look at the contrasting situations of Marcus Williams and Shawne Williams. For most of the spring, Shawne was projected by this site to go significantly lower than #17. Does this make June 28th, 2006 a successful night for him? How about Marcus, who was projected by almost everybody as a lottery pick a week ago, and ended up falling to #22. Marcus ended up as this year’s green room loner, and his situation had Steven A Smith and company in a virtual lather, right up to the moment New Jersey took him off the board.

But think about the situations of these two players for a moment. Indiana drafted a player in the same mold last season in Danny Granger, who is going to emerge long before Shawne Williams ever will. It could be an uneventful three years wasting away at the end of the bench. Marcus, on the other hand, goes into a perfect situation. He doesn’t have to take on the unenviable task of running a team full-time as a rookie, will be groomed by one of the position’s all-time greats, and should get consistent backup minutes right away. While Shawne Williams gets an unexpected pay bump, how do you think this comparison looks three or four years down the road? My guess is that as long as Marcus proves all those that doubted his work ethic and treats his draft-day slide as an opportunity, he will one day view his extended stay in the green room as a stroke of good fortune.

Many will probably judge DrafExpress by the number of picks we correctly predicted in our final (last minute) mock draft. We have been savaged by agents, players, and various other interested parties over relatively minor discrepancies in our mock draft. By these standards, we did better than some. A few also managed to top us. However, the actions of several teams tonight prove this line of thinking as faulty.

Should those hyping Saer Sene as a lottery pick really get credit for seeing something in him that others didn’t? I was certainly floored by his shot altering ability in the Hoop Summit game. However, it wasn’t a secret that Seattle was looking to trade the pick. Is Sene the next big thing, or simply a far-off project and convenient solution for a team looking to avoid adding another guaranteed contract? Only time will tell.

In terms of sheer talent, nobody did a better job than Portland tonight. Getting LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, and Sergio Rodriguez in one draft without mortgaging off any significant existing assets is an incalculable success (Steven A Smith, I’m talking to you). Portland now has the pieces in place to build success down the road. But haven’t we been in this place before? It seems that the Trailblazers have been making draft day trades and ending up with multiple picks for years now, with no results in the win column. Eventually, stockpiling talent isn’t going to be enough. Tonight’s trades essentially close the door on what could have been a promising 2004 draft class (Telfair, Khryapa, Monya).

Boston is another team that has been stockpiling talent for several seasons now. The youthful core is now quite impressive, but the current Celtics aren’t much closer to contention than they were three years ago. Danny Ainge must find that right mix soon, or he is simply another man without a plan. Telfair and Rondo are nice pieces, but they aren’t carrying Boston anywhere. Teams like Dallas and Phoenix remain active nearly every offseason, but there is an end vision at play in every move that they make. Ainge appears poised to take his team to that level by offloading some of that young promise for a veteran star in Allen Iverson. Could this be Boston’s move out of the “talent amassing” stage?

If we are talking about a team with a plan, look no further than the Houston Rockets. Many will probably take issue with Houston not getting more than Shane Battier for Rudy Gay, but I think the move is a positive one. All along, the thinking has been that Houston needs a complementary piece in the backcourt that was capable of making an instant impact. Apparently the Rockets thought so as well, and once Minnesota/Boston/Portland (huh?) took Brandon Roy off the board, Houston went out and found one. Battier will make a fine role player for Jeff Van Gundy. He can play defense, hit shots when required, and doesn’t dominate the ball. JJ Redick was thought to be a good fit for Houston because of the shooting space he would get playing next to McGrady. The Rockets passed, and ended up with a 6’10 near-equivalent in the second round.

So who had the better draft, Portland or Houston?

The Rockets traded away a potential standout and get a roleplayer in return. But if the stars align (by that I mean stay healthy) next season, it could be Shane Battier knocking down key shots in June. Teams like Portland and Boston continue to build for the future, and have the luxury of being able to wait on high-upside players to develop. But in the end, draft success is found on the court, not on the podium. Everybody would do well to remember this when analyzing mock drafts and draft day results.

Other random draft thoughts:

- The best way to tank your draft stock? Tonight’s answer to that question is to appear out of shape during the pre-draft evaluation process. Questions about Marcus Williams’ work ethic and character were brought into the limelight when he showed up for workouts in less than tip-top condition, and he fell. Kevin Pittsnogle should have been drafted, but he was dogged by that lazy reputation. The moral of the story is that if you can’t show up in shape for a workout that could land you a multi-million dollar contract, teams are probably smart enough to figure what is going to happen after you sign it.

- I didn’t realize until after the fact that a point guard wasn’t chosen until pick 21. Kyle Lowry and Jordan Farmar had to be getting nervous somewhere around pick number 20. With the success point guards have had in recent years, this surprised me somewhat. I went back ten years, and could only come up with one season where no true point guard was taken in the top 20. That was in 2001, when Raul Lopez went 24 and Jamal Tinsley and Tony Parker nearly slid out of the first round altogether.

- I can sit here and watch basketball until my eyes are on the verge of liquefying, but sometimes all it takes is a mind for numbers. Ken Pomeroy, I salute you.

- One player who got drafted by the right team is Adam Morrison. I’ve been high on Morrison for a very long time, but even I will admit there are holes in his game that will require some covering up in the NBA. He couldn’t have found a better situation than in Charlotte, where Raymond Felton will push the tempo and create good looks for him, and Gerald Wallace will be able to match up against more athletic wing opponents.

- Was anybody else happy to see Dee Brown going to Utah? Deron Williams and Dee Brown is simply a combination that works. Brown will be the perfect change of pace guy for Williams, and I could see this duo lasting in Salt Lake City for a very long time.

- I don’t see a clear-cut winner tonight beyond Portland, but I will give a thumbs up to New Orleans. The Hornets were one of the few teams that was able to draft for need and get good talent value with their picks. Armstrong and Simmons are going to look very good running the floor with Chris Paul, and Vinicius is a contributor down the road. Dating back to 2003, the Hornets have done a good job of drafting.

- Once again, I have to give a big thumbs down to my hometown franchise, the Minnesota Timberwolves. Brandon Roy was the perfect fit. He would have given Dwayne Casey an immediate, all-around presence in the backcourt (desperately needed, might I add). Instead, we end up with Randy Foye, a player that has somehow been saddled with the absolutely ridiculous Dwyane Wade comparison. I’m not even close to convinced that Foye is a point guard, and Wade blows by defenders at half speed easier than Foye does with a full head of steam. I like Randy Foye as a combo guard. He has a very unique, crafty style of scoring mentality. But we aren’t talking about the Dwayne Wade here. The next Nick Van Exel? Maybe in three years. Prove me wrong, Randy. Just prove me wrong.

I won’t even get started on the drafting of yet another player with big-time college credentials but little shot of ever sticking in the NBA (Craig Smith), or the trading of big-time sleeper Bobby Jones. Maybe next year…

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