NBA Draft 2007--Winners and Losers, Ballpark Style

NBA Draft 2007--Winners and Losers, Ballpark Style
Jul 01, 2007, 03:53 am
A breakdown of the draft’s obvious winners and losers, broken into four categories.

The point here is to grade the draft based on who actually improved their franchise, as opposed to who did well given opportunities they had. A team like Seattle may not have gotten as much value as San Antonio based on opportunity, but still walk away from this draft a much bigger winner. Therefore, look for Seattle and San Antonio in separate categories. There are no incompletes here, as every team’s grade is incomplete until the players actually get on the court.

Home Runs:

1. Portland (#1 Greg Oden, #24 Rudy Fernandez, #30 Petteri Koponen, #37 Josh McRoberts, #52 Taurean Green)

It is a no-brainer to see the team with the #1 pick here (especially when that pick is Oden), but it is the truth. Beyond drafting a 10-year playoff ticket, the Trailblazers snatched up Josh McRoberts in the second round. I was never sold on McRoberts as a Top 10 pick, but 37 is borderline ridiculous. To get one of Europe’s top young prospects in Petteri Koponen and one of its top players in Rudy Fernandez? To send locker room poison out the door while shaving salary and adding another young stud in the process? On top of last year’s phenomenal draft showing? An embarrassment of riches!

Enjoy this one, Portland. You’ll never see another draft run half as good, mostly because the Trailblazers aren't won't be back in the lottery for a decade, but also because their 2006 and 2007 drafts were just that stinking good!

2. Seattle (#2 Kevin Durant, traded Ray Allen and #35 Glen Davis to Boston for #5 Jeff Green, Delonte West, and Wally Szczerbiak)

The fact that there may have been three or four players left on the board better than Green shouldn’t dampen the enthusiasm in Seattle this weekend. The team is in full rebuilding mode, so Ray Allen’s exit is probably a good thing in the long-term. The only downside to this draft was that for every inch Seattle gained, its regional rival gained two. Now, how does Sam Presti pull a rabbit out of his hat and make something of the Rashard Lewis situation?

3. Chicago (#9 Joakim Noah, #49 Aaron Gray, #51 JamesOn Curry)

Sure, Noah replicates what the rest of the frontcourt brings to the table. But at #9, he is nothing short of a steal. The team is bursting at the seams with young talent, and taking the best immediate-impact player available makes sense.

Something unmistakable about the roster Paxson has built is the winning mentality of its players. Noah adds two NCAA championships worth of experience, and Aaron Gray spent much of his college career in the Top 10 at Pittsburgh. It is also interesting to note that the Bulls drafted a player they were dying to get their hands with the #2 a season ago at #9, and a player who would have been a first rounder in the mid-2nd. Are Noah and Gray steals, or is the 2007 class just that good?

Either way, the addition of Noah probably cements Chicago as Eastern Conferences favorites headed into 07-08. Yeah, that’s a winning draft!

4. Golden State (#18 Marco Bellinelli, #46 Stephane Lasme, traded Jason Richardson and #36 Jermareo Davidson for #8 Brandan Wright)

This one’s a risk, no doubt about it. In the ultra-competitive west, it could take a team that managed to knock off the top regular season squad in the league in a 7-game series and turn it into one that can’t even make the playoffs.

But the trade exception Chris Mullin received in the deal suddenly has things making a lot more sense. Brandan Wright could be the best player on the team in three years, and could be the piece that keeps a Warriors run going long after ever-creakier Baron Davis decides to hang it up. The Warriors certainly have no lack of firepower at the wing, especially with the addition of Belinelli, who is going to look right at home jacking up 3-pointers from every angle in the “Nellieball” system. We’ll see if the Warriors can make good use of the trade exception, theoretically replacing Richardson with some sort of veteran backcourt presence. Jason Richardson for $10 million worth of financial flexibility and Brandan Wright? This is a steal, folks!

Any way you look at it, Golden State has to be happy right now – not too many teams can say they plan to put a legitimate contender on the floor this fall while at the same time having so many pieces for the future already in place.

5. New Orleans (#13 Julian Wright, #44 Adam Haluska)

If I was an NBA decision maker with the 13th pick and had just watched 12 teams pass on Julian Wright, I’d probably spend the first 4:59 seconds of my allotted time shaking my head. Then I’d draft Julian Wright. Lack of a SG be damned, Wright was a top 5 talent and his selection could give coach Bryon Scott the most athletic lineup in the league. Expect Wright to play early and often (and make that unnamed highlight show every other night finishing off ridiculous passes from Chris Paul).

This is a another playoff franchise with a future, a potential 50 win team if New Orleans gets anything out of Stojakovic. Haluska, whose pre-draft scorecard read “DNP – Not Invited” could make it the third straight year (Lionel Chalmers, Daniel Ewing/Orien Greene) a player apparently not good enough to play at the pre-draft camp ends up being drafted and sticking on an NBA roster the entire season. Hmm…


1. San Antonio (#28 Tiago Splitter, #33 Marcus Williams)

While the luxury of the NBA’s #1 sure thing certainly makes San Antonio’s strategy much more plausible, does anybody else find it amazing that this team is still winning championships despite not having a lottery pick since Tim Duncan was drafted? In fact, there wasn’t a single American-born player drafted by the Spurs in the entire regular playoff rotation. Forget about Luis Scola, who will likely never play in the NBA (due to being the best player in Europe), or the undeniably important Fabricio Oberto signing. The Spurs have maintained their excellence by stealing Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili very late in the draft, and the selection of Splitter could look just as brilliant a decade from now. Williams is good value at #33 as well.

2. Washington Wizards (#16 Nick Young, #47 Dominic McGuire)

Young might not offer the upside pop of a Jason Smith or Sean Williams, but he projects as a solid rotation player very early in his career. He will probably thrive next to Gilbert Arenas. But don’t be surprised one bit if Dominic McGuire ends up stealing a few rotation minutes himself. Another year of college, and he could have found himself in the lottery.

3. Los Angeles Lakers (#19 Javaris Crittenton, #40 Sun Yue, #48 Marc Gasol)

Headed into the draft, I never thought I’d be talking about the team that took Crittenton as a winner. But this pick just makes sense. Crittenton’s weaknesses are masked playing “Ron Harper” in the triangle – if Smush Parker could have his moments playing the position, Crittenton is going to be a smash. He can shoot, he’s got size, athleticism, defensive upside, and the ability to burn you slashing to the rim.

I will do my best to forget the Sun Yue pick ever happened, but Gasol is a solid, no-risk all-reward type of pick. For all of Kobe Bryant’s antics, I’m actually starting to like his young supporting cast. Jordan Farmar, Crittenton, Maurice Evans, Luke Walton, Rony Turiaf and Andrew Bynum is a decent little core. Throw in an always underrated Lamar Odom, perhaps the most successful coach in the history of the league and a system tailor-made to suit his strengths, and I’m struggling to understand what Kobe wants management to do. A legit superstar can win with this group…


1. Phoenix Suns (#29 Alando Tucker, #55 DJ Strawberry, traded #24 Rudy Fernandez to Portland for cash)

I guess the new owner in Phoenix had a real aversion to stashing perhaps the top young player in Europe at no cost to him, ever. But one would think he would have had a problem trading him to a franchise that is going to be beating down their door to steal their perennial top four playoff seed within the next five years. If somebody wants to explain this one to me, I’m all ears.

It is hard to think of a player that wouldn’t fit well in the Phoenix system, but Steve Kerr might have managed to do just that with the Alando Tucker pick. At least stealing D.J. Strawberry late in the second round gives the Suns one value pick.

2. Houston Rockets (#26 Aaron Brooks, #31 Carl Landry, #54 Brad Newley)

Rocket ownership once again goes out of its way to extend the “Tracy, Yao, and 11 players you’ve never heard of” vision by giving Aaron Brooks a contract. Brooks is a nice energy guy, but the Rockets haven’t exactly been about “energy” of late. And what does he bring to the table that Rafer Alston, Mike James, John Lucas and Luther Head don’t? I wouldn’t be surprised if Brooks never plays a meaningful minute in Houston uniform. There was plenty of better value out there, and the Rockets would prove that with two solid selections in Carl Landry and Brad Newley. Many teams probably would have had both players ahead of Brooks on their boards.

3. Miami Heat (#21 Daequan Cook)

I guess Miami needed somebody to keep Dorrell Wright and Wayne Simien company on the end of the bench - or maybe just verify their continued existence. On a team developing some rather scary-looking holes quite quickly, I’m not sure if Cook was the guy. Two years in the D-league could change that, but make no mistake about it – the D-League is where Cook is headed, and he might need to develop a bit before he sticks out of the crowd in the minor leagues. Something tells me there were still immediate impact players left on the board.

Double Play Balls

1. Minnesota Timberwolves (#7 Corey Brewer, #41 Chris Richard, no Garnett trade)

I’m stunned – absolutely stunned – to see Minnesota getting such glowing reviews after yet another night of draft catastrophe from Kevin McHale. Corey Brewer is a nice player – athletic, great defender, winner, etc. But don’t tell me he’s the guy you are going to rebuild your franchise around. With Joakim Noah, Brandan Wright and Spencer Hawes still on the board, this pick almost feels like the Minnesota brass preparing for another season with Kevin Garnett in the fold. If that is the case, it might be better for everybody involved to throw up their hands and walk away now.

Garnett is going to walk come 2008 for pennies on the dollar and McHale, having already passed on every chance a person could ever dream of at moving up in a draft with Greg Oden and Kevin Durant at the top (pre-trade deadline) will end up passing on the chance to draft any number of elite prospects in next year’s draft as well. All for a couple of the most unwatchable 30-win seasons the league has seen this decade. I’ll spare you my thoughts on the Chris Richard pick (made in the spirit of prior gems such as Rick Rickert and Bracey Wright), who wasn’t even the 41st best player in Orlando, let alone the 41st best player in the draft. The Wolves really should have traded for the 60th pick and drafted Lee Humphrey, just to complete the sham.

The team is now a haphazard collection of ho-hum young talent and embarrassing long-term contracts handed out in desperation to appease a player who no longer wants to be there and management can’t seemingly find a trade partner for. Want to know just how frantically the sharks are circling in Minnesota right now? First off, they owe two first round picks in upcoming drafts. Secondly, Troy Hudson recently demanded a trade. Yes, that Troy Hudson!

2. Milwaukee Bucks (#6 Yi Jianlian)

Forget about whether or not Yi’s representation wanted him to play in Milwaukee. I’d be shocked if he didn’t play in Milwaukee. But was this the right pick in terms of fit? Does a lineup of Mo Williams, Michael Redd, Yi, Charlie Villanueva and Andrew Bogut sound like one that will win games in the East (not a difficult thing to do) or lose a lot of games 130-115? Once again, the question is one of direction – not talent. If you’ve got this group of finesse scorers firing up shots and struggling to stop a parked car on the defensive end, do you want Williams running the show, or TJ Ford? I’ll take the guy known for his ability to run opposing teams into the ground and make everybody around him better.

Yi certainly has talent, and I’m not going to blast the Bucks on the basis of the pick in and of itself. It just appears that Milwaukee is a franchise very much running in place at the moment, and that there were players available in this year’s draft more naturally capable of changing that than Yi will.

3.New York Knicks (#23 Wilson Chandler, traded Steve Francis and Channing Frye for Zach Randolph, Dan Dickau, Fred Jones and #53 Demetris Nichols)

I spent a large part of my previous article explaining why I didn’t like this trade, so I’ll point you in that direction and end this article.

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