Thursday, June 29, 2006

2005 Draft Analysis

OK.... for some reason I'm not very excited about this year's draft. Consequently, I have waited two full days before sitting down to write my annual draft analysis. But today it's pretty much clean the house, or write a draft analysis, so guess which one I'm doing.

As always, you should also read the Sports Guy's NBA Draft column. Good stuff, even if he does get most of his material from me (I still haven't figured out how he does that.)

OK, first of all, you have to take Bogut number 1. He's a 7 footer who can pass, which tells you a lot. Plus, he played really well in Athens last year, as the best player on the Australia team. So he's already played against NBA level talent and more than held his own. Remember, we're talking about an Olympic tournament where the US got the bronze.... There were some good players there, and Bogut was the star of a team that did OK. He'll be a very good NBA center. Probably not great, but very good.

Here's what is the same about Marvin Williams and Carmelo Anthony. Both were big time high school recruits who played college ball for a year instead of going straight to the NBA. Both played on teams that won National Championships their freshman year. Both declared for the draft after their freshman year. Both were drafted in the top 3 (Carmelo at 3, Marvin Williams at 2). Here's what is different. Carmelo Anthony led his team in scoring AND rebounding and basically won the championship by himself. Marvin Williams DIDN'T START ALL YEAR, and didn't deserve to. He was AT BEST the fourth option for the Tar Heels. I'm sorry... if he's that great, why couldn't he start? I understand that UNC was loaded, but c'mon. Also, Atlanta's three best players (all 3 of whom were signed LAST YEAR) are Josh Childress (6-8 210), Al Harrington (6-9 250), and Josh Smith (6-9 225). Their point guard is friggin' Tyronn Lue, who spells his name with 2 N's and went to friggin' Nebraska, where they can't even play football anymore, let alone basketball. So they draft Marvin Williams (6-9 230) when 3 solid point guards are available. I mean, I know the saying... best athlete available. But for Pete's Sake - you also have to put players on the floor. You can't really play 4 small forwards at the same time - ask the Lakers. Bad pick - but what do you expect from Atlanta?

Here's the thing about the Sports Guy - no matter what happens, he can find a way to relate it back to the Celtics. And me... I can always relate it back to the Clippers. Remember last year when the Clippers traded down from 2 to 4? They wanted Livingston anyway, knew he would be available at 4, and so gave the number 2 pick to Charlotte for the number 4 pick and the 33rd pick. Does anyone remember what I said at the time? Go ahead, reference the archives.... I'll wait. I said, fine, you want Livingston, that's great. But when you trade the number 2 pick IN A TWO PLAYER DRAFT (Howard and Okafor) you need to get more in return than an extra second rounder.

So, Portland trades down, sends the 3 pick to Utah for the sixth pick and..... 2 more first rounders, one this year, and one next year. That's right folks.... the 3 pick for the 6 pick AND the 27th pick AND a first rounder next year. That's how you trade down in a draft!!!! I mean... do the other GM's also steal Elgin's lunch money in the Cafeteria in Secaucus? Elgin's had so many lottery picks over the year's, and has used them so poorly, he forgets that they have value. They're like East German Marks to him. Sure, he has a lot of them, but what can he do with them?

Anyway, with the 3 pick Utah took Deron Williams, followed immediately by Chris Paul to New Orleans and Raymond Felton to Charlotte (one of those teams is called the Hornets, but I can't remember which one anymore.) Of these three, I think Paul is probably going to be the best pro, but I have my doubts about all of them. Williams kind of strikes me as that GREAT college player who can't quite make it at the next level. Think Ed O'Bannon. I hope I'm wrong - I like Williams a lot. But is he NBA quick? Does he have NBA 3 range? I'm just not sure. Paul, on the other hand is definitely NBA quick, and he'll be a good pro for that reason. As for Felton... the ESPN talking heads were talking about how they really needed a point guard, so they took Felton. Excuse me? It's the Charlotte Bobnets (Horncats?)! They need EVERYTHING. But if were making a list of what they arguably don't need, the list would be pretty short. The don't need a starting 4 (Okafor), and they don't need a point guard (Brevin Knight was easily their 2nd best player last year, and was 2nd in the NBA in assists). Is Brevin Knight a great 1? No, but he is nonetheless the closest thing on that team after Okafor to an actual NBA player. So if you're picking Felton 'earlier' than expected, let's call it what it is - it's picking a UNC guy to sell tickets, and that's all it is.

And Portland takes a High Schooler with the 6th pick! There's a shocker! Since 1996, Portland has now taken 4 high schoolers, one guy who played one year at a JC, and two foreign players. Out of 10 picks. What do they have against college basketball players? But you know, when something's working for you, you stick with it. I mean, after all, Jermaine O'Neal became an all-star (after Portland gave up on him and traded him to Indiana), Qyntel Woods averaged almost 3 points a game before he was arrested and then waived, Travis Outlaw has LOTS of potential, as evidenced by his 5 points per game last year, and Sebastian Telfair was not ALL NYC hype (just mostly NYC hype). Now, they say this kid Webster is a solid guy, and won't get into any trouble as a Jailblazer. I just hope he doesn't fall in with the wrong crowd. I'm sure Damon (Blunty) Stoudamire and Darius (Bitchslap the coach) Miles and Zach (stopped caring when I signed my extension) Randolph and Ruben (just plain nuts) Patterson will take him under their collective wings, so everything's going to be just fine.

Plenty has been said about Toronto taking Charlie Villanueva 7th. I'm not going to pile on. Suffice it to say that when Vitale tashes a pick, and it's a guy who (a) went to college, (b) went to college in the Big East and (c) won a national championship... it's pretty unanimous. (More on Dickie V below.) Here's what is so interesting about the draft in general. Going into the draft, I think most everyone thought of Villanueva and Chris Taft about the same. Major talents - underachieved at Big East schools - not really ready for the show, but can't resist the money - someone's telling them they're going to be lottery picks. So what happens? Villanueva goes 7th, Taft goes 42nd. Go figure.

About here is where everyone starts freaking out about how Gerald Green and Danny Granger are still available. Let's be clear. Bill Simmons has seen Gerald Green play about as much as I have, which is a couple of highlight reel dunks. Don't get me wrong - they were GREAT dunks. The guy is an absolutely insane leaper - the first time I saw him dunk, I thought something was wrong... like the rim was at 8 feet or he was jumping off a trampoline. He might was well have been wearing a Gorilla suit, he was so high. But that's it. That's what I know about Gerald Green. And I have probably seen Danny Granger MORE than Simmons has - Simmons is more of an NBA guy, while I watch a fair amount of the college hoops, and watch a fair amount of Mountain West basketball specifically. I like Granger. I do. BUT I DON'T KNOW IF THESE GUYS SHOULD HAVE BEEN PICKED HIGHER, AND NEITHER DOES SIMMONS. ALL WE KNOW IS THAT A BUNCH OF GUYS SAID THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN PICKED HIGHER. Of course the GM's who were picking 6 through 16 all heard the same things, and probably more. And they decided on players other than Green and Granger. So anyone who says this guy or that guy is the steal of the draft, based simply on where they went versus where the USA Today mock draft PREDICTED they would go... well that's not analysis. That's just recapitulating group think.... And you won't get that kind of stuff from me.

Me, I talk about what I know. I was the guy who said that Tayshaun Prince (picked 22nd) was better than Jared Jeffries (picked 11th) in the 2002 draft. So I got that one right. I believe I also said that Gilbert Arenas would never be a good pro.... so I got that one wrong.

Frye and Diogu went 8 and 9. I like both of these guys. Again, I've seen quite a lot of them, since they are both Pac-10 guys. I always thought Frye was underrated, and then sure enough, his stock started to rise as he was working out for teams. He's a little skinny, but he is a terrific athlete and can score and block shots. I'm sure the New York thing will destroy him as a player and as a person, which is sad. But I think he's good.

There are three things you need to know about Ike Diogu. He scored in double figures EVERY GAME he played in college. That's 91 games. He led the Pac 10 in rebounding his senior year. And he led the nation in free throws attempts his junior AND senior years (this one was not even close.) So, he shows up and plays hard every game. He scores and rebounds. He gets to the free throw line. Sounds like a good pro to me.

The Lakers took a 17 year old with the 10th pick. Who knows? I got nuthin'.

OK, now we have a couple of foreign players picked. Vazquez at 11 to Orlando and Korolev at 12 to the Clippers. I have never seen either of these guys play. Vazquez, who is currently 22, did NOT play for Spain in the Olympics in Athens, which tells you something. So I can't say much about these picks. But Dickie V was positively xenophobic during the telecast, and on his website trashing the international picks. He got more than a little tougue tied during the telecast. He tried to make his 'Yao Ming is the only international player to have an impact drafted in the last 3 years' point, but he proceeded to discuss Welsch and Nene and then Ginobli and Parker (neither of whom were drafted in the last 3 years), so it got a little confusing.

Does he have a point? Frankly, no. It's more than a little disingenuous to say international players have not had an impact recently, when in fact 3 different players have been named 1st or 2nd team all-NBA in the last two years (Dirk, Nash and Yao), a fourth would have been this year if not for injury (Kirilenko), and Parker and Ginobli have 2 rings each in the last 3 seasons. We're getting awfully close to the point where we could have a hockey-style all-star game, US versus the world. (The starting team of Yao, Dirk, Kirilenko, Ginobli and Nash could certainly compete - the US bench would be better.)

Also, don't forget that a lot of teams draft foreign players and then leave them playing in Europe for several years. So, for instance it may be a little early to pass judgement on the Blazers drafting of Sergei Monia last year, since he has yet to play in the NBA. Don't forget that Kirilenko and Ginobli were both drafted in 1999, but Ginobli was a rookie the same year as Yao, and Kirilenko just one year earlier. So, somehow Dickie leaves Nenad Krstic off his list, even though he was drafted in 2002, and started 57 games for the Nets as a rookie last year. Meanwhile, Andres Nocioni was a rookie for Chicago last year, but doesn't fit in Dickie's 'last 3 drafts' comment since he was signed as a free agent. That's 2 rookies right there who started on playoff teams last year. And of course, if you go back 4 years, you have Gasol, Radmanovich, Tony Parker and Okur as the first 4 International players picked, and all have had great careers, pretty much from day one.

Euro-bashing is pretty much just Darko and Skita bashing, when you get right down to it. And those were.... how do you say in English? Bad picks. But no worse than Kwame Brown and Eddie Griffin.

I was especially intrigued to here Dickie V lamenting poor Gerald Green sitting undrafted while this Euro trash got picked. Seriously? You're telling me that the High School kid was unfairly judged in relation to the European players? It's one thing for Dickie to defend the honor of the college seniors. But when he starts telling me that the Spanish 22 year old shouldn't be drafted ahead of the American 18 year old, isn't that just simple prejudice?

Anyway, I got nothing to say on Vazquez.

As for Korolev, it's the Clipper pick, so I gotta say something, right? The way I hear it, the Clippers promised him that they would take him 12th if he lasted that long. Of course, as far as I know, NO TEAM AHEAD OF THE CLIPPERS HAD EXPRESSED ANY INTEREST IN HIM, so you had to feel pretty good about your chances of getting him. So, you make a promise.... what happens if, oh I don't know, Gerald Green or Danny Granger, inexplicably falls out of the top 5? You're picking 12 and a not one but TWO projected top 5 picks are sitting there. And you made a promise to some yahoo from Moscow. What's the deal? I mean, what exactly do the Clippers get in exchange for their promise? Does he in return promise to accept a multi-million dollar contract from them? How sweet of him. I don't get it. And this is another example of the Clippers leaving money on the table. Here's an idea.... draft Granger and get on the friggin' phone with the teams drafting behind you, offering Granger in exchange for Korolev and a 2nd round pick. Boutros Boutros Ghalli! Dunleavy loves Korolev - I get it. And you know what? I've come to really trust Dunleavy - he knows what he's doing, and he's probably right about Korolev. But the Clippers just NEVER seem to get the value they need to out of their picks. I'm STILL pissed off about trading the 2nd pick in the draft (Antonio McDyess) for Rodney Rodgers and Brent Barry. The 2nd overall pick for Rodgers and Barry!??!??! (The only exception is when they stole Elton Brand from Chicago for the second pick which turned into Tyson Chandler. Something was wrong with Jerry Reinsdorf's blood sugar that day. Swindled by Elgin Baylor - now there's a distinction.)

Beyond just trusting Mike Dunleavy, this is a REALLY strange pick. This guy has never even played for the 'A' team. He has played in junior national tournaments, and he plays for CSKA Moscow's junior club team. So we are talking marginally better competition than US High School. The good interanational picks (Ginobli, Parker, Jaric, Radmanovich) have played in the top pro leagues in Europe. The washouts (Darko, Skita) have played for the juniors or ridden the bench for the top teams. There is only one exception, which is Dirk, who played for a second tier team in Germany. Besides, you're coming off a season where you were 37-45, despite being ravaged by injuries and despite having a 4-13 record in games decided by 3 points of fewer. It's a close to the playoffs as you've been in a decade. And you draft a guy that you're going to leave in Europe for a few more years? I do NOT get that. I guess the 'plan' (if you can call it that) is to get some outside shooting via free agency. But isn't it a little sad to see names like Ray Allen and Michael Redd and Larry Hughes being discussed? Sure, the Clippers have cap space, but these guys are NOT going to play for you. Maybe Cuttino Mobley. Maybe, but probably not.

OK, 2 more picks in the lottery. Sean May at 13 to Charlotte, and McCants at 14 to the T-Wolves. 2 interesting UNC things here.... (1) Charlotte drafted Felton at 5 and May at 13 - think they liked their day? Of course they knew they were gonna get Felton at 5, since no one else was gonna draft him that high. So going in they know they've got Felton, but can they even hope for May at 13? Anyway.... having a UNC connection will sell some tickets for the first year. BUT, it will not put butts in seats later in the season, and it will not sell tickets the second year, if they don't make the team better. So if they're not the right picks, it is short-sighted to take them just because they went to UNC. (2) 4 UNC picks in the top 14. That's the first time 4 players from the same team have gone in the lottery. BUT this is a totally bogus stat. Charlotte joined the league last year. There have been exactly TWO drafts where there were 14 lottery teams. And, as it happens, Duke had 4 guys go in the top 14 in 1999 (Brand 1, Langdan 11, Maggette 13 and Avery 14). Interesting, huh?

I grow weary, as do you no doubt. I guess it is the 'Lottery Analysis', not the 'Draft Analysis'.

One prediction from the second round - Alex Acker of Pepperdine, last player drafted, will make the Pistons roster. He's a solid player, does lots of things well, works hard, and Larry Brown will love him. (If Larry is there, that is.) He is better than Ronald Dupree or Horace Jenkins, this much I know.