The buzzword for this year’s NBA draft was ‘quality’. Because of the lack of superstar talent outside the very top and the abundance of undeveloped quantities elsewhere, teams were forced to minimize risk and avoid drafting strictly on potential. It was a welcome change from recent years. Team needs were met. Potential trade bait was acquired. The results were just short of spectacular for a few franchises, extremely satisfying for most, and only disappointing for those clubs whose negatives outweighed anything the draft could neutralize anyway.
Surprising absolutely no one, the Chicago Bulls used the first pick to select Derrick Rose, the homegrown kid whose singular talent led a Memphis Tigers team to the most wins in NCAA Basketball history. A physically powerful and awesomely athletic point guard, he’s an immediate upgrade over Kirk Heinrich and Chris Duhon and should provide the Bulls with the same explosive dynamic found in fellow PG Deron Williams of the Jazz.
While there is no doubt of Rose’s skill and potential, an equally strong case could’ve been made for the Bulls selecting Kansas State’s Michael Beasley. Beasley was a monster in college, averaging 26 ppg while leading the nation in rebounds and providing the deft inside scoring Chicago has coveted for years. Only an adequate height for an NBA power forward, Beasley makes up for his shortcomings with long arms, a quick jump and release, and offensive guile rarely found in players his age. His selection by the Heat provides another offensive option to go with All-Stars Dwayne Wade and Shawn Marion. Expect the Heat to be vastly improved and for Beasley to be a leading Rookie of the Year candidate.
Although the draft lacked many major surprises, the first moments of intrigue took place in the next few slots with the Timberwolves’ selection of USC guard OJ Mayo, the Supersonics’ selection of UCLA’s Russell Westbrook, and the Grizzlies’ selection of UCLA’s Kevin Love. Following the draft, Mayo and Love switched teams as part of a eight player megatrade, and both players should be better off because of it. Mayo is a mature, intense combo-guard who will get plenty of opportunity to showcase his skills on a depleted Grizzlies roster. Love is a player made for the NBA high post, and should be an excellent complement to teammate Al Jefferson’s rugged inside game. Westbrook was a clear reach at number five, as he is neither a true PG nor an offensive or defensive upgrade over current Sonics PGs Earl Watson and Luke Ridnour. He’ll have to make a living off of the constant attention defenses throw at Kevin Durant.
New York Knicks pick Danilo Gallinari received the requisite amount of boos from the New York crowd but seemed too culturally oblivious to care. He’s projected as effort player with decent skills and limited lateral mobility, a questionable combination of features to have under the intense New York level of scrutiny. Seemingly always in possession of high draft picks, the Clippers selected Eric Gordon of Indiana. A terrific, if undersized, offensive player, Gordon might end up being another bad pick for the Clips due to his poor PG skills and mediocre defense.
The Bucks’ selection of uber-talented West Virginia forward Joe Alexander would’ve seemed much smarter if not for their recent acquisition of Richard Jefferson. Michael Jordan continued to cement his reputation as a mediocre team manager by selecting miniature PG DJ Augustin of Texas for a Bobcats team that already has a recent lottery pick in Raymond Felton. The New Jersey Nets furthered their strong rebuilding efforts by taking the best center of the draft, Stanford’s Brook Lopez. The same can be said of Pacers’ rebuilding mission with the selection of multi-talented shooter Jerryd Bayless of Arizona. He’ll team with newly acquired TJ Ford to give the Pacers one of the most exciting backcourts in the league.
The first true shocker of the night came with the Kings’ selection of Rider big-man Jason Thompson. A spectacularly built specimen, he failed to put up big numbers on a small-school team in a mediocre conference. Thompson’s early selection speaks volumes for the Kings evaluation of last years’ pick, center Spencer Hawes.
New Trailblazer Brandon Rush should fit in perfectly with the mesh of young, athletic, high-character talent that currently resides in Portland. With the next pick, Golden State selected LSU’s Anthony Randolph, another in a long line of long, springy LSU forwards and another in a long line of Golden State forwards who’ll ride the pine until Coach Don Nelson finally deems him necessary. The Suns selected Stanford’s Robin Lopez, where his floppy mane and reckless nature is sure to inspire a huge fan following.
After the Sixers’ selection of Florida’s Mareese Speights, Toronto selected Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert and subsequently sent him to the Indiana Pacers, where he’ll replace Jermaine O’Neal in the middle. The Wizards committed a head-scratcher with the selection of Nevada’s JaVale McGee, another physically dominating center with ridiculously small numbers. The Cavs’ mission to stave off Lebron James’ exodus lead them to North Carolina State’s JJ Hickson, a tough athlete with impressive skills but a questionable work ethic that might not sit well with the King of Cleveland. Michael Jordan’s second first-round pick turns into unknown international quantity Alexis Ajinca, who won’t be able to help the Bobcats anytime soon.
Further along in the first round, the Jazz selected Kosta Koufos, an underrated Ohio State product who should fit perfectly with Jerry Sloan’s high post-low post, pick-and-roll offense. Portland bought the right to Hornets’ pick Darrell Arthur, whose stock plummeted due to a previous kidney problem. If his health problems are a thing of the past, the Blazers get a lottery talent for second-round cash. The Pistons traded the right to Indiana bruiser DJ White for super-talented but batshit-crazy Walter Sharpe. The narcoleptic Sharpe could end up being the sleeper of the draft or team with Rasheed Wallace in the craziest comedy duo since Perfect Strangers.
Notable happenings in the second round included Memphis’ Chris Douglas-Roberts slipping to New Jersey and Kansas’s Mario Chalmers and UCLA’s Luke Mbah a Moute ending up in Miami. All three are smart, mature players who should immediately find themselves on the court for teams that suddenly look a lot better than last year. Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing Jr. should find a place on the King’s roster due to his superior athleticism and admirable defensive effort. For once, luck broke the Clippers’ way as lottery-talent DeAndre Johnson of Texas fell into their lap.
All in all, this year’s version of the NBA draft proved to be an exercise in efficiency. Clear winners were the Heat, Nets, Blazers, and Bulls. Only the Kings, Wizards, and Bobcats seemed to draft haphazardly, while the Mavs, Hawks, and Lakers drafted few if any players due to trades that have impacted them more than any potential pick could. Every other team had a wealth of talent to choose from in their respective positions and most took advantage. This was the year quality took precedence over potential, and the NBA is destined to be better off because of it.
Posted originally: 2008-06-29 22:51:03