J.R. and Henry: NBA Draft Recap
Before we get started with our extensive and thought-provoking recap and analysis of the NBA Draft, we should offer the following disclaimer. We haven't followed the NBA closely since Michael Jordan hung up his sneakers the second time -- and even then more out of habit than love.
Back in the mid-1980s, before the Detroit Pistons and their Bad Boy style turned a game of grace and skill into something that resembled the action of an overcrowded bumper car rink, we watched the NBA because it was fun. It was in the day of Larry and Magic. The Celtics and the Lakers. Take your pick, choose your side, because you couldn't like both.
In the NBA's defense, it has gotten better recently. The Suns-Clippers series and the Mavs-Spurs series produced some of the most entertaining basketball in recent memory. And the Finals picked up after the first two games. Dwyane Wade is fun to watch and easy to cheer for, even for those of us who had a slightly greater rooting interest in the Mavericks. So, while the NBA will never capture our imagination like college basketball, it appears to be back on the upswing.
One more caveat: We don't know anything about the Euros (does anybody?). For some reason, we have been unable to convince the Arkansas Times
to increase our budget to include international travel in order to scout the Italian League. Soon, though. Very soon.
Now, on with the show.
(More after the jump)
Best Pick: New Jersey Nets – Marcus Williams (22). Yes, Marcus Williams stole some laptops and had to sit out part of the 2005-2006 season for UConn, but he still may be the best pure point guard in this draft. Excusing all else, Williams can flat out play. What makes this pick even better for New Jersey is that unlike other earlier picks, Williams won’t have to be an immediate impact player. He’ll get to sit back and watch Jason Kidd, one of the best pure point guards in the history of the game, work.
Worst Pick: Atlanta Hawks – Shelden Williams (5). This is not necessarily a knock on Williams. He'll probably have a long NBA career, like Christian Laettner. But, if you're a GM, and the player you just took with the fifth pick in the draft is described as a potential Antonio Davis, that's a problem. Especially when Randy Foye is sitting there and your team needs a point guard. But this is the same team that passed on Chris Paul last year, so no real surprise.
What about the Renaldo Balkman pick (No. 20 – New York Knicks), you ask? It’s so bad that it doesn’t even qualify as a “worst pick.” We presume that a team, when making a selection, at least had some rationale basis for it. In the Knicks’ case, either Balkman showed them some secret superhero moves in workouts or Isaiah Thomas must be trying to get fired. Otherwise, picking a player like Balkman, whom every expert and scout projected worthy of a late second-round pick at best (he never averaged double-digit anything at South Carolina, although he was the MVP of the NIT) demonstrates how out to lunch Thomas really is. By drafting Balkman with the 20th pick, the Knicks left Marcus Williams, Kyle Lowry and Jordan Farmar all on the board. And, to make matters worse, the Knicks obviously wanted a guard and were stuck with Mardy Collins from Temple with the 29th pick. Williams, Lowry and Farmar, all much better point guards, were long gone by then, as were off-guards Shannon Brown and Maurice Ager. Collins may work out, but the Balkman selection is indefensible.
Best Trade: Memphis picking up Rudy Gay for Shane Battier. Battier is a role player. He's solid. But Gay was regarded as the probable No. 1 pick entering the season. He had an off season to be sure, but he was just a sophomore on a team loaded with offensive talent and too few balls to go around. He could be the best player in the draft before his career is over. The risk/reward ratio is huge. Jerry West does it again.
The Portland Trailblazers also deserve an honorable mention here. You have to credit the team’s management for making six moves on draft day. In the end, they came out with LeMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Dan Dickau, Raef LaFrentz, three future second-round picks and a guy whose nickname is “Spanish Chocolate.” Along the way, they dumped the overrated Sebastian Telfair.
Worst Trade: One has to wonder what it is with all of these former All-Stars flunking out on draft day? Danny Ainge, after striking a deal with Portland for Telfair, struck another deal with Phoenix to get Rajon Rondo. All he had to do in exchange was give up his first-round pick in 2007. Nothing tells us that Rondo, even with his exceptional ball-handling skills, is worthy of this trade. He couldn’t score at Kentucky and he won’t score in the NBA. His jump shot is worse than Shawn Bradley’s. Add to that the fact the Celtics won’t improve that much over last season, while the Suns will make another run in Western Conference. How much will the Celtics wish they had that 2007 first-round pick? Our guess is a lot.
Mouhamed Saer Sene. Huh? Apparently, the Sonics have a cash-flow problem so they decided to draft a guy who's really tall but averaged Ray Biggers type numbers playing basketball in Belgium so they can groom him overseas. Why not just pass?
Everybody's who's read this column has probably read about all there is to read about Ronnie and the Utah Jazz. But we think this is a good pick for both. The Jazz are a team on the rise. They start a nucleus of young players and finished a modest 41-41 in the Western Conference. They have four legitimate starters who can score. What they lacked was a versatile combo guard who could play the two as well as the point. Brewer is clearly that player. With solid role players and a first-rate point guard in Deron Williams, we think Brewer and the Jazz are an outstanding fit.