Winners and losers become evident
This draft was rather strange. At least five players were selected seven spots higher than most experts thought, and the Toronto, Golden State and Laker picks threw the balance of the first round into panic, delirium and eventual joy.
A look at how the teams made out with their respective grades follows in order of their draft night ranking...
Add in the acquisition of Quentin Richardson via a draft day trade with Phoenix and the much maligned Knicks Isiah Thomas has restructured his team and altered the roster significantly. Frye will solidify the center spot. Robinson, the fastest player coming into the league next season, will give Stephon Marbury a solid backup and Lee is the real deal at the four and could challenge incumbent Mike Sweetney for the starting power forward. By changing 25 percent of their team, the Knicks take a giant leap toward the playoffs. Now if that guy coaching in Detroit comes East…..
Getting younger and much more athletic, the Blazers added the best high schooler in Webster, who can flat out score, and Jack. Webster can contribute right away and play two positions, while Jack just might push Sebastian Telfair.
The Magic Kingdom franchise may have acquired three key players in their rotation if all three choose to play in the NBA. Vazquez was by all accounts a top 7 selection on talent alone and has the ability to stay in the league for a long time. Several scouts indicated he was the most ready among the Euro-ballers. Diener is capable of being a superb backup point guard and the under-valued Andriuskevicius has the potential to one day become a key starter, but may elect to stay overseas for another year. The Magic needed players and got three good ones.
It may take a few years for Golden State to realize the benefits from this draft as Eliis isn’t ready and Taft needs to learn to care enough to play hard. But Diogu is a great get who can step right in and contribute. The Warriors didn’t really need scoring, so Diogu fills a big need as he’ll do all the interior dirty work currently lacking.
Selecting teammates from the national champions is a good thing. Selecting them from a nearby school is a great thing. Fans will pack the arena, and both May and Felton will improve the Bobcats significantly. Felton is just the right point to run this offense, and May takes a lot of pressure off Emeka Okafor.
Getting Granger at 17 was more good luck than skill, but they did make the right pick as Granger is a top 7 talent. He can step right in and contribute. His presence may signal the end of Ron Artest in Indiana or incredible depth. Lorbek has solid potential and could be a steal.
Bogut is the obvious plum pick delivering just what the Bucks need in the low blocks. His selection fills out their roster nicely assuming both TJ Ford and Michael Redd play next season for the Bucks. Ilyasova could be an impact player in a couple of years.
Wright comes with the promise of providing depth and insurance for Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter. He can play the two and three and shoot it from anywhere, and is a better defender than people realize. Ilic is another Net gem who will play overseas for a season or two before coming stateside.
Green’s draft night free fall from top 6 to 18 benefited the Celts immensely. Boston lands a player they could have only dreamt of getting. Still, he’s a few years away from contributing serious points and minutes, but he’ll develop within a solid organization. Gomes is a hard-working , lunch-pail type of player who can step in and deliver right away. Green is a throwaway pick.
The Grizzlies had no reason to think Warrick would still be on the board at 19, but are thrilled to get this combo forward with tremendous skill and scoring ability. He should deliver immediately. Roberts is a workhorse who can give good minutes off the bench.
Williams should be a franchise player and much will be expected of him, but he could take a year or two to deliver as expected. With few other players on the team, he’ll certainly get chances. Stoudamire is the steal of the second round. He can flat out shoot it and his height isn’t a real obstacle – to him. Akyol is why we have a second round – to take shots on future players.
With needs everywhere, the Hornets get a point guard who will quarterback their offense for the next decade, but needs players to play with. Bass is a role player who, if he makes the team, could develop into a decent rotation man.
They got the best point guard in the draft, but at a high price – perhaps too high. Williams can lead, defend and score – all the skills a team would want in a point. But with limited scorers on the Jazz, he may be relegated to carrying too much of the scoring load himself. The second-round picks are mediocre and if either makes the team, a sure sign of more dark nights in Salt Lake City.
The Wolves got themselves an explosive player, who despite the baggage associated with him is still a solid choice. He just might provide the backcourt spark that’s been missing. Wright will move from the two to lead guard and seems to be a capable selection.
- Toronto Raptors: B- / Charlie Villanueva, Joey Graham and Roko-Leni Ukic
The Raps made waves with the daring selection of Villanueva at 7, thought by almost everyone to be about 10 picks too early. He has immense talent, but too often leaves it in the locker room. Graham was thought to be moving into the 10-13 range and should be regarded as a solid selection. Ukic could be another second-round steal. If Villanueva decides to play, this grade becomes an A+. But history suggests otherwise.
- Denver Nuggets: B- / Julius Hodge, Linas Kleiza, Ricky Sanchez and Axel Hervelle
On a team making great strides, the Nuggets add a solid player in the multi-positional Hodge, along with rugged Kleiza and a roll-of-the-dice Hervelle. Hodge offers minutes at the point, two and three and has limitless potential. Kleiza will bang some and both will make an improving Nugget team better. Sanchez was a player who had a great workout with them and will make the team. He’s got potential, but right now more project than prospect. Had they kept Jack, the grade would have been B+.
- Sacramento Kings: C+ / Francisco Garcia
Garcia will supplant Cuttino Mobley or push him every day in practice. He’s another multi-positional player and fits the Kings like a glove.
Two international players selected – both could make the team, or both could stay overseas for another year. But in either case, both represent two solid future selections.
If he’s healthy, Simien is a B+ selection and an integral addition to a team looking to get to the Finals next year. He boards, defends and can hit a pretty nifty jump shot. But it’s all about his ability to play night after night after night.
- Detroit Pistons: C- / Jason Maxiell, Amir Johnson and Alex Acker
In an already crowded frontcourt that seems to not find any minutes for Darko Milicic, the selection of two forwards appears odd at best. Maxiell is a reminder of Corliss Williamson’s absence, and Amir Johnson could actually contribute somewhat during the upcoming season. Acker has little chance of making the team.
- Philadelphia 76ers: C- / Louis Willams
Selecting the once highly regarded and overrated high school sensation this late in the draft is a fine move by Philly. Owing nothing to the kid, they can test drive him in summer league and see if he’ll be worth a real investment. If they’re right, then this is larceny.
- Washington Wizards: C- / Andray Blatche
Another pick similar to Philadelphia, only Blatche is 6-11 and 240 pounds. You can tell the Jordan era is over – a high school center and he’s not even picked in the first round!
- San Antonio Spurs: C- / Ian Mahinmi
- Houston Rockets: C- / Luther Head
Head could end up a very wise selection. The college shooting guard will become a point guard for the Rockets and may fit their team nicely as a role guy. A very safe selection with very little downside and a bunch of upside.
- Phoenix Suns: D- / Dijon Thompson and Marcin Gortat
With Nate Robinson and Quentin Richardson being the price for Kurt Thomas and Thompson, a D- is a gift. Not a good night for the league's most entertaining team.
- Los Angeles Clippers: D- / Yaroslav Korolev and Daniel Ewing
Ewing will make the team, but won’t make it better. This may have been a squandered opportunity unless the Clips know something few other do about the Yaroslav Korolev.
- Los Angeles Lakers: F / Andrew Bynum, Ronny Turiaf and Von Wafer
This is perhaps the most befuddling draft choices in Laker history. Bynum has so much game and life maturity to achieve he could be finally coming into his own – in about 3-4 years. He’s gifted but so far away right now from contributing that this pick – thought to be the beginning of the road back, but looking much more like a flat tire – is potentially tragic. Turiaf, a highly regarded West coast banger could be three years into making his presence felt before Bynum ever earns serious minutes. Wafer earned raised eyebrows after a bad workout in Chicago in which he reportedly lost his cool. For the Lakers, much will have to fall right and many will have to be wrong.
George Rodecker is in his twelfth season of providing expert analysis on the NBA Draft. He has been diligent in pursuing analysis by acquiring the consensus opinions of experts. Rodecker also writes for Basketball Times, Eastern Basketball and College Hoops Insider, as well as consulting privately with several pro teams and leagues around the globe
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