It didn't matter that the Hawks drafted Josh Childress and Josh Smith last year and have Al Harrington under contract: Marvin Williams' talent and potential were too much to pass up. Chris Paul might have been a better fit for a team in need of a quality point guard, but Atlanta is a few years away from winning and needs to gamble on greatness regardless of the obstacles involved. One of those might be the reaction of Harrington, who might foresee his future with Atlanta as limited with Williams on board. He'll be entering the final year of his contract, so if the Hawks find a taker, they could stockpile picks or more young talent. That's how teams rebuild.
|Give the Hornets an 'A' for taking Chris Paul fourth. (AP)|
Danny Ainge is either the NBA's greatest or luckiest executive. He hit homers with Al Jefferson, Tony Allen and Delonte West last year, and hit a tape-measure shot in 2005, selecting Gerald Green.
We don't know how much credit Ainge deserves for this, because it's kind of like sitting alone at a bar and having the most beautiful girl walk in and sit right next to you. All he had to do was say, "Hi." Green was the best athlete in the draft, a future go-to scorer who you can pair with Jefferson to form the most imposing sub-21 inside-outside combination in the world.
In Round 2, Ainge went deep again with the selection of Providence's Ryan Gomes, who somehow slipped to the 50th pick. The Celtics must be giddily laughing at other teams as studs fall into their lap. (Kudos to GM Chris Wallace as well.)
The Celtics wasted no time selecting Orien Greene, an athletic potential defensive stopper, with pick No. 53. He'll likely need a strong summer league showing to join this stacked squad. Grade: A-plus.
Unable to land Paul or Deron Williams, the Bobcats knew they couldn't pass on an opportunity for a top quality point guard and selected local product Raymond Felton. Strong move, both courageous and purposeful. He will excel at getting Emeka Okafor the ball where he needs it and runs a mean fast break.
Charlotte's second pick won't receive as glowing a review. Sean May is now a legend in that state, and I would guess that played tiebreaker against potential picks Antoine Wright, Joey Graham, Danny Granger and Gerald Green, all wings who could have provided immediate help.
May fortifies Charlotte's strongpoint with Okafor and Primoz Brezec already on board, and would have to improve his shooting range to see significant time alongside Okafor, also primarily a post player. May will help the organization sell tickets in a new arena, but so would have the few more wins the selection of Wright or Green would have delivered. Grade: B-minus.
Julius Hodge can definitely play, but didn't the Nuggets say they wanted a shooting guard who could actually shoot? The former ACC player of the year is similar to free agent DerMarr Johnson and may play immediately, but if I was George Karl, I'd have him shooting 1,000 shots a day and hope for the best.
The Nuggets went digging for gems with their other four selections. They dealt 22nd pick Jarrett Jack to Portland for Linas Kleiza and Ricky Sanchez. Kleiza was thought to be a second-rounder, but the burly Lithuanian is relentless around the basket and could one day be a steal. The team feels that way about Sanchez, too. He's rail-thin, but impressed during a recent workout and opted to stay in the draft rather than go to Memphis. The team also took a flier on Belgian Axel Hervelle. Grade: C.
Detroit selected Cincinnati's Jason Maxiell, essentially a clone of Darvin Ham. The undersized power forward is another player Larry Brown will be reluctant to turn to off his bench. Seriously, our thoughts are with the Pistons coach as he deals with health issues, but if he comes back, it's hard to imagine him utilizing Maxiell much.
In the second round, Motown looked to the West Coast, selecting California high school player of the year Amir Johnson and Pepperdine combo guard Alex Acker. Both have talent that needs to be tapped and seem to be poster children for the NBDL. Grade: C-minus.
Executive VP Chris Mullin added another strong piece to his rebuilding project in Ike Diogu, a smallish power forward with a gigantic wing span that helps him make up for the lack of size. Diogu is one of my favorite players, but a bit of a reach at No. 9 considering the Warriors indicated they would take the best available talent on the board. At that stage of the draft, that should have been Granger.
In the second round, the Warriors went for low-risk, high-reward picks in Mississippi prep guard Monta Ellis and Pittsburgh big man Chris Taft. Both were considered first-rounders by many; now that their egos were checked, we'll see whether they have the fortitude to respond. This is the franchise that once took a flier on Gilbert Arenas, and might have similar success with at least one of these guys. Grade: B.
The Rockets lead the league in undersized combo guards, and added another one in Illinois' Luther Head. With Mike James, David Wesley, Bob Sura and Jon Barry (free agent) on board, it's hard to imagine what Head will add beyond an infusion of youth. He should spend his first few years as an apprentice, but at the very least, is a winner. Jeff Van Gundy is a fan of those. Grade: C-minus.
The rich get richer. Indiana welcomes back Ron Artest and now adds another potential defensive specialist in Danny Granger to aid next year's playoff push. He's not quite the athlete Shawn Marion is, but can stuff a stat sheet similarly, especially since he's a better passer. Team president Larry Bird managed to find a top 10 pick at No. 17, enhancing his team's chances to dethrone the Pistons as kings of the Eastern Conference.
Who had the best draft?
Total Votes: 12,889
In Round 2, the Pacers grabbed Erazem Lorbek, who you might remember from his one season at Michigan State. He was marginal then, but captured the Euroleague's Rising Star Trophy this past season, the closest thing to a rookie of the year award in the world's second-best league. Has he grown or is he simply more comfortable playing the European style? Probably both. Either way, Indiana looks shrewd as usual. Grade: A.
The Clippers guaranteed 18-year old Yaroslav Korolev they would select him, and did so, making him the youngest Russian ever drafted. He has been compared as a cross between Toni Kukoc and countryman Andrei Kirilenko. Wow!
He has been compared to them based largely on dominating junior competitions. Oh.
Holding nothing against him -- he might be great one day -- but there's no doubt that Granger, Green and Antoine Wright will each have more of an immediate impact. That's why draft promises are dangerous, particularly since all three of the gentlemen mentioned above would have been better insurance in case Bobby Simmons leaves for big money in free agency.
Second-round pick Daniel Ewing is a winner who, like former teammate Chris Duhon, should have a future in the league for a long time. Grade: C-minus.
GM Mitch Kupchak isn't the most candid of individuals, but even he admits the selection of 17-year-old Andrew Bynum was a "roll of the dice". Then again, what else could it be?
Bynum is massive, a 7-foot, 280-pound man-child who wasn't even on the draft's landscape six months ago. He's promising, able to run the court and jump fluidly. He's raw, owning a limited post game. Most important, he's very young, which leads you to wonder how he's going to handle the media circus sure to circle Phil Jackson, Kobe Byrant and the bunch next season. Forget about Jackson writing books, I want to read this kid's account of what he sees next season. Hopefully it's not traumatizing.
I love what the Lakers did with their first second-round pick, stealing Gonzaga's Ronny Turiaf, a potential Brian Grant clone who plays with great fire. With Grant likely a luxury-tax casualty, Turiaf can be an inexpensive alternative. I'd be surprised if their second Round 2 pick, Von Wafer, makes the team. Grade: C-minus.
Memphis ended Hakim Warrick's nightmare of being the last guy left in the Green Room, taking him with pick No. 19. Jerry West knows a steal when he sees it, and he'll be compensated immediately considering Stromile Swift is likely gone and Lorenzen Wright wants out. It doesn't matter if the 6-9 pogo stick lacks a true position -- he'll be a difference-maker. Grade: A.
Wayne Simien was a strong pick for the Heat, particularly since they were initially thought to be looking for a big-man project to develop. Simien is more of a sure thing at power forward if he's over his health concerns, and could be viewed as insurance in case the team is unable to keep Udonis Haslem, a top priority this offseason. Grade: B.
Bucks GM Larry Harris and his brain trust had a difficult decision at the top between Andrew Bogut and Marvin Williams, but ultimately made the right one. It's tough to come by able 7-footers in this league, particularly one with Bogut's upside. He's only 20, is effective with both hands and has terrific passing skills. Utah had marginal talent last year, yet he was good enough to draw double teams and find ways to make them better. It wouldn't be surprising if he does that at this level.
In the second round, the Bucks selected Turkey's Ersan Ilyasova, a mystery man in that no one knows his age or what he can really do due to a pre-workout ankle injury. Scouts call him one of the more talented international teenagers, so he's certainly worth a gamble. Grade: A.
The Timberwolves are losing Latrell Sprewell and adding Rashad McCants. Consider the T-Wolves' first lottery pick since 1996 wasted. Overly harsh? Just wait until things go wrong and he starts pouting, or Kevin Garnett gets on him about his lack of defense. This is a combustible situation and a large error on the Timberwolves' part considering the availability of Wright, Green and Granger, players with far greater maturity who would fit in better.
Beyond McCants' attitude, which is certainly improvable, there's also the matter of him being about 6-3, making him a liability against larger guards, and the stomach problems that popped up during his junior year and in pre-draft workouts. Smallish, injury prone with a streaky jumper -- apparently these were qualities the T-Wolves looked for, because with the second-round pick, they took Bracey Wright. Well done! Grade: D.
Antoine Wright is a terrific shooter who should have been a lottery pick, so his selection should definitely be applauded. He was the focal point on a bad basketball team for the bulk of his college career, and managed to thrive.
Didn't the Nets need a big man, though? Doesn't this team have Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter on the wing? Maybe his arrival will make it easier for the organization to move one of them for frontcourt help.
Either that, or the Nets are hoping second-round pick Mile Ilic is as promising as Serbia & Montenegro national teammate Nenad Krstic. He's a 7-footer with strong upside. Grade: C.
Chris Paul was the player New Orleans coveted most, and he fell directly in its lap. Not a bad way to tip off the post-Baron Davis era. Paul is an electric floor general who won't tolerate the rebuilding process for long, a good thing for a team in need of hunger.
Brandon Bass was also a great pick, an area guy who might step right into Lee Nailon's vacated spot and produce immediately. The reigning SEC player of the year is versatile enough to succeed, and all the criticism he took for leaving early might motivate him to work hard and prove doubters wrong.
More moves might be coming if the Hornets continue to look for a taker for Jamaal Magloire, although considering how difficult centers are to come by, he might be a building block worth holding on to. Grade: A.
It was an interesting night for the Knicks, as they finalized the Kurt Thomas-for-Quentin Richardson deal and used the No. 8 pick to select Thomas' replacement, Channing Frye.
Isiah Thomas faces the following dilemma: Granger better not wind up being better than Richardson. Ditto for Green. If 'Q' doesn't blossom into the star he can be, this will end up a disappointing night, because although New York got younger inside, it also got less physical. Frye is still a little frail and more of a finesse center, so he better toughen up or be ridden mercilessly by New York's impatient fan base.
In the Richardson deal, New York acquired the rights to the exciting Nate Robinson, a 5-9 pace-changer who is certain to be a crowd favorite if he ever finds time in a crowded backcourt that features Stephon Marbury and Jamal Crawford, two other shooting guards disguised as points.
The team's second first-round pick, David Lee, was booed. He's unlikely to ever be more than a Brian Cardinal-backup type, and is now under contract for at least two seasons. Boo.
The Knicks were fortunate with Trevor Ariza last year and raided UCLA again in Round 2, selecting Dijon Thompson -- but packaging him in the Phoenix deal. Grade: C.
The Magic took Fran Vazquez, an NBA-ready Spaniard, to be Dwight Howard's tag-team partner in the post for the next five years. Will it work? It better. Orlando gave up an opportunity to pick up the next Tracy McGrady in Green, or other immediate wing help in Wright and Granger. Grant Hill insurance, anyone?
The Magic intend on making Howard the team's center next year, so they're presumably intending on sticking Vazquez next to him in a rotation with Tony Battie and Kelvin Cato. If he's a significant upgrade, it would be a surprise.
Travis Diener's selection in the second round doesn't make much sense given the presence of Steve Francis and Jameer Nelson. Orlando's saving grace was the selection of Lithuanian Martynas Andriuskevicius with pick No. 44 but then they goofed again and traded him away. Grade: D.
Philadelphia used its only pick on Georgia prep Louis Williams, an undersized shooting guard whose immediate future is in the development league. The reigning national prep player of the year cost himself considerable money not going to Georgia for at least a season, but now has to make the best of his situation. Grade: C.
The Suns essentially traded their only selection to New York to secure the services of Kurt Thomas, so they better reach their goal of the Finals in the coming seasons to validate that decision. They've just gotten a lot older and are going for broke. After all, Francisco Garcia, a perfect fit for that system, was there to be had.
The Suns held on to their second-round pick and selected Polish international Marcin Gortat, who generated some buzz with his workouts. Grade: D.
Moving out of the No. 3 slot worked out brilliantly for the Blazers, as they still ended up with top choice Martell Webster and picked up additional selections this year and next. Webster is potentially the top shooter in this draft, a Glen Rice clone with a pro-ready body who, despite being only 18, will contribute immediately, even if he doesn't start.
Portland turned its second pick into Jarrett Jack via trade with Denver, securing a quality backup to push Sebastian Telfair, particularly if Jack can develop into a standout defender and the duo can play together for stretches.
Once this team gets a coach in place, be it Terry Porter or Marc Iavaroni, it will have direction for the first time since falling from grace. It's OK to rebuild if you do it correctly. Grade: A.
The Kings selected a nice complement to Peja Stojakovic in Francisco Garcia, giving them a player to plug into their system of run and gun. Garcia is a fiery competitor who can handle the ball and is ready to contribute immediately, especially if he irons out his streakiness. Given where it was selecting (No. 23), Sacramento did a nice job obtaining a sure thing. Grade: B-plus.
France's Ian Mahinmi is a 21-year-old with terrific size and athleticism who is still learning the nuances of the game. He's at least two or three years away, but given the Spurs' recent draft history with internationals, we'll trust they know what they're doing. They'll have 2002 second-round pick Luis Scola of Argentina coming in next year, anyway. The reigning champs have plenty of room to be patient. Grade: C
Are they going to be waving French flags outside Seattle's training facility in the near future? The team went for projects Johan Petro and Mickael Gelebale with its first two selections, perhaps hoping they can make buddy-buddy with Tony Parker and throw him off his game in future playoff meetings. He sure did kill them this past spring.
Petro is a legitimate 7-footer, a natural athlete with a great wingspan. However, he's reportedly very raw offensively -- think Samuel Dalembert -- and there have been questions about his work ethic. Gelebale is also a great athlete who played at Real Madrid last season, faring nicely. Grade: C.
Toronto took Charlie Villanueva about six spots too early, which leaves you shaking your head as to what GM Rob Babcock is thinking up there. Then he gets on television and says he and his brain trust believe Villanueva might be an attractive 4 or 5? A five? Are you serious?
Villanueva wouldn't be able to play center overseas, much less in the NBA. He's very talented, but probably the worst complement to Chris Bosh possible. May would have been better. Undersized Diogu would have been better. On the heels of wasting the No. 8 pick on Rafael Araujo last season, this was an equally horrendous mistake.
With their second pick the Raptors got a mulligan with Granger and Green still available. Sources told me there were plenty of backers for both in the organization, but ultimately, the choice was Joey Graham, a solid athlete who plays the game the right way on both ends of the floor, but may have reached his ceiling. He'll defend well, but he's not going to bring people flocking to the Air Canada Centre.
Saving the Raptors from an F was the selection of Roko Ukic in Round 2, considering he may be the team's point guard of the future. A definite steal, expect the Ukranian to log significant minutes in the NBA very soon. Late pick Uros Slokar has been one of Europe's best-known prospects the past two seasons after dominating in his native Slovenia, and was also worth the late gamble. Grade: D-plus.
The Jazz couldn't let the top point-guard crop in years pass without getting in on the action, so they spent quite a bit to ensure picking the best of the lot. In their estimation, that was Deron Williams, a heady decision-maker and the toughest defender of the group.
He's not flashy, but steady and a winner, traits Utah enjoyed with John Stockton for so many years. They're gambling his presence, combined with a healthy Andrei Kirilenko, can make them a playoff team again. If Williams delivers off the bat, the move will be well worth it.
In the second round, Utah selected prep C.J. Miles, who probably will enroll at Texas unless convinced otherwise, and took a flier on Robert Whaley, one of the top high school prospects in the country years ago who was derailed by myriad off-court problems. Grade: B.
People say Andray Blatche is Dwight Howard lite, and he's destined to really thrive in the NBDL for the next few seasons. If he develops, he'll be a steal. If he doesn't, no harm done. Considering he was generally expected to be a late first-round pick, getting him with the 49th selection was a strong move. He might eventually be more of a contributor for the Wizards than former top pick Kwame Brown. Grade: B.
Note: Chicago, Cleveland and Dallas did not have any picks.