The Madison Square Garden hot dog I inhaled during David Stern's welcome-to-the-draft speech has finally disappeared from my taste buds. Time to run down the winners, losers and wait-and-sees coming out of the draft and heading into the free agency.
Feel asleep during the draft? Wondering why Phil Jackson can propose working from home and you can't? Don't know how Petteri Koponen factors into all of this? Don't worry, I've got you covered.
|The Spurs land Richard Jefferson, who has a career scoring average of 17.7 ppg and has been to the Finals twice. (AP)|
Spurs: Somehow, things always work out for the Spurs. They got a Finals-tested slasher/shooter in Richard Jefferson for expiring contracts, lifting some burden off Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. Then, lottery talent DeJuan Blair dropped into their laps with the 37th pick due to scary knee problems. But there's no risk whatsoever in taking a player with that much upside in the second round.
Cavaliers: The Shaquille O'Neal trade isn't a cure-all, and GM Danny Ferry isn't finished. He still needs a bona fide shooter to keep defenses from collapsing on Shaq and LeBron James. But Ferry gave up nothing for Shaq, and given that LeBron's decision to stay or go in 2010 is based 100 percent on how the Cavs do this season, it was well worth a swing for the fences.
Wizards: Washington didn't like what it saw at No. 5, and didn't need to pay a lottery pick to be groomed on a team needing to contend now. So the addition of Mike Miller and Randy Foye makes the Wiz formidable again, pending a healthy, All-Star-caliber season from Gilbert Arenas. If No. 5 money wasn't enough for Ricky Rubio to get on the first plane to Minneapolis, who's to say he would've been gung-ho about sitting on the bench in Washington? The Wizards got better, which is all that matters.
Bucks: Laugh all you want at Brandon Jennings' fashionably late entrance to the draft stage. Ridicule the Jefferson trade as a garden-variety salary dump. The Bucks got an electrifying talent with plenty of upside in Jennings, and GM John Hammond has the flexibility to re-sign Ramon Sessions and deal with restricted free agent Charlie Villanueva. Add a healthy Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut, and the Bucks could be playoff-bound.
Nuggets: Denver made its big splash last season with the Chauncey Billups trade. Now, GM Mark Warkentien has a backup for Billups and heir apparent in Ty Lawson. That's why Warkentien was the NBA's executive of the year.
Blazers: With the 22nd pick in a weak draft, GM Kevin Pritchard didn't try to reach for something that wasn't there. He took Spanish forward Victor Claver, who likely will be stashed overseas. Pritchard also traded spare part Sergio Rodriguez for a second-round pick (non-guaranteed contract), clearing almost $2 million in cap space. Pritchard will have about $10 million to spend on free agents, and he also has overseas players Joel Freeland and Petteri Koponen, whose rights can either be traded or renounced to clear even more cap space. Nothing sexy, but solid planning.
Hawks: The scouting report for first-round pick Jeff Teague says, "Adept at creating his own shot." Great, so he'll fit right in with Josh Smith and newly acquired Jamal Crawford. Know this, though: The ever-wayward Hawks are in capable hands with GM Rick Sund. Before, there was madness with no plan. Now, Sund deserves the benefit of the doubt that he can prove me wrong. And at least he got rid of two mistakes from the previous regime, Speedy Claxton and Acie Law.
Warriors: Is it possible for two teams to be losers in the same trade? The 'Dubs and Hawks found a way. Love Stephen Curry, but Don Nelson has assembled more guards than an ancient Greek phalanx. The Warriors' loser status comes with a caveat: Can they push the Amare Stoudemire trade talks to the finish line? If so, Amare, Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson would be an enigmatic but interesting threesome.
Grizzlies: A team that lacks scoring punch and a reliable point guard blows off the one commodity this draft had -- a full menu of point guards -- and takes a player who can't score. Hasheem Thabeet might evolve into an elite shot-blocker and rebounder, but with the No. 2 pick? Gotta do better than that. Even if the Grizzlies weren't in love with the point guards, they could've traded the pick to someone who was.
Sixers: Jrue Holiday over Ty Lawson? For a team that likely will lose Andre Miller as an unrestricted free agent, it was the right position but the wrong player. Other GMs liked Lawson better. Now, what happens with Elton Brand?
Bobcats: Gerald Henderson is a ball-mover who "plays the right way." So with Larry Brown running the Bobcats, you could see this pick coming a mile away. That doesn't mean I have to like it. Austin Daye has more upside.
Suns: It's hard to be called a loser when you make a mistake go away. But that's what happens when you make a mistake as big as Shaq. It takes years to unwind, and sometimes they lead to more mistakes. Now, the Suns are in teardown mode, which entails trading Stoudemire, for whom fair value will be hard to attain due to his injury issues and need for a contract extension. With so many marquee free agents available next summer, who is going to want to commit to making Stoudemire their max player this summer? Steve Nash, I feel for ya, man.
Which team helped itself the most this week?
Total Votes: 21,891
Wait and see
Timberwolves: I know, I know. David Kahn left himself exposed to criticism if Ricky Rubio goes back to Spain. But if you have a chance to take a player that gifted, and you believe in him, you take him and you don't look back. Sure, the Wolves went a little guard-crazy in the draft, but Jonny Flynn provides insurance for the Rubio dilemma. And while Kahn is holding his ground so far against agent Dan Fegan's push for a trade sending Rubio to the Knicks, having an asset that's in demand is not a bad place to be. Plus, Kahn traded the rights to Lawson for a first-round pick in 2010, which will be a better draft.
Clippers: Blake Griffin won't be the next Michael Olowokandi, but he can't change the Clippers' fate by himself. He needs help from Mike Dunleavy, who now must focus on the business of moving Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, or both. And good luck moving Zach Randolph; Isiah Thomas no longer works in the NBA.
Knicks: Mike D'Antoni didn't get Curry, but he did get a rugged, athletic power forward in Jordan Hill, who can bring the toughness around the rim the Knicks have been lacking. D'Antoni believes his system will finally be the elixir for the enigmatic Darko Milicic, acquired for Quentin Richardson and cash. Now what? Stay after Rubio? Find some way to move Eddy Curry and/or Jared Jeffries? Sign-and-trade David Lee and/or Nate Robinson, or let them play on qualifying offers and deal with them next summer?
Lakers: The defending champs did nothing of importance in the draft, unless you consider taking $3 million of James Dolan's money important; that was the price, along with a future second-rounder, that the Knicks paid for the Lakers' 29th pick. But it isn't about the draft for the Lakers. It's about Phil Jackson -- part time, full time or no time? -- and Kobe Bryant. The Finals MVP is expected to terminate his contract June 30 and re-up with the Lakers. But with Phil's future up in the air -- and Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom becoming unrestricted free agents July 1 -- you can never say never.
Magic: Bold, pre-emptive strike by GM Otis Smith to acquire Vince Carter as a hedge against losing Hedo Turkoglu, who has opted out of his contract and looks to be gone. Problem is, the Magic's two most important offensive players -- Carter and Dwight Howard -- are among the most emotionally passive stars in the league. Who brings the nastiness?
Kings: There seemed to be some paralysis by analysis in the Kings' front office. Or maybe it was just healthy debate about Rubio, Tyreke Evans and Flynn. But don't ridicule the Evans pick yet. Kings assistant GM Jason Levien has as keen an eye for overseas talent as anyone in the league. If he didn't feel strongly enough about Rubio to take him, that says something. And assuming Levien had input on the 23rd pick, Israeli Omri Casspi, I give him the benefit of the doubt there, too.
Rockets: Houston had no picks but still wound up coming away with three players by buying second-round picks Jermaine Taylor, Sergio Llull and Chase Budinger. GM Daryl Morey specializes in finding gems with low-end picks, but it wasn't all good news for the Rockets. Word came this week that Yao Ming's foot isn't healing properly, and Tracy McGrady is still on the roster. Give it time.