Things That Make You Go Hmmm?
I was surprised by a lot of things on the NBA Draft, not the least of which were the constantly disparaging remarks by the commentators about the lack of athleticism in this player, the lack of upside in that one, or the clear bust that the other one is. Those comments are so lame. The right way to comment on each player is to point out his unique gifts, the gifts that it is up to the coach to maximize. Being a slasher is no better or worse than being a spot-up shooter. It is simply up to the coach to put the players in situations where they can maximize their talents.
On to the list of pleasant and unpleasant surprises in the draft.
Dallas: #5 Devin Harris
This was way higher than I expected Harris to go. I think Dallas will regret not taking Luol Deng or Andre Iguodala with this pick, both of whom were still available. If they wanted Harris, they could have traded the pick down to probably around the 8-12 level and maybe gotten at least another second round pick, or a future first, or a current player. Who were they worried would take Harris? Even Chicago wouldn't want three rookie or sophomore point guards. Atlanta wasn't going to take him. Maybe Toronto might have gambled on, or at least Dallas might have thought they would, but even a #5 for #8 swap, if Dallas were to get a future first, would have been a good trade.
Toronto: #8 Rafael Araujo
Same problem as Dallas. Araujo was just drafted way too high. They should have traded down, even if it was only to get something nominal. Perhaps the perfect trading partner would have been Portland but they may have had their hands tied taking Sebastian Telfair at 13. I don't think the Raptors made a mistake in drafting for need instead of the empty phrase "best player available," but they could have gotten more with their assets.
Chicago: #3 Ben Gordon and #7 Luol Deng
That's a whole lotta young point guards. I expected them to take Luol Deng up at 3, though they did pick him up after his unexpected slip. If they had taken him at #3, they would have been able to take Andre Iguodala at #7. I think that would have given Chicago a two-three combo reminiscent of Pippen-Jordan. Instead, head coach Scott Skiles has more point guards to mold in his image.
Atlanta: #6 Josh Childress and #17 Josh Smith
June first may be the new Fool's day in Atlanta. These two players worked out together that day for the Hawks and apparently impressed enough to make Atlanta forego Andre Iguodala and Jameer Nelson, respectively, at each of the picks. Can you imagine a 1-2-3 punch of Jameer Nelson, Jason Terry, and Andre Iguodala? Three players that can pass, score, and run. Add any two athletic power forwards or centers in the mold of Marcus Camby or Drew Gooden and you've got a solid team. Atlanta has to be Joshing me. Childress will be fine but they could have traded down probably as low as #10 or #12 and still gotten him.
New Orleans: #18 J.R. Smith
The Hornets made a huge blunder here, I think. They should have selected Jameer Nelson, who was still surprisingly available. Baron Davis is a superstar but he is fragile, and Nelson is ready. The two could even play together in the backcourt at points, much like Darrel Armstrong and Davis did this past season. They will rue this decision when they start shopping for another point guard in free agency, though if they pick up someone like free agent Richie Frahm they will have redeemed themselves.
Miami: #19 Dorell Wright
What a mistake. The Heat were talking about how happy they would be with Jameer Nelson just hours before the draft, if they were so lucky as to have him fall to them. This could have marked the third time in three consecutive years that a quality player slipped to Miami's draft spot. Instead, they take a high schooler who at best will be playing the same position as pretty much everybody else on the Heat roster. Nelson would have given them either a solid backup or even a starter to let Wade move into the shooting guard spot.
Portland: #13 Sebastian Telfair, #22 Viktor
Khryapa and #23 Sergei Monia
No surprise about Telfair, that seemed to be set in stone eons ago. But I like how they now have two players off the Russian team. Aren't they worried about cliques forming? If they package both of them to Utah for something, the Jazz will have three Russians on their roster. It's a surprising pair of picks but what the hey. Maybe the two will help motivate each other.
Boston: #15 Al Jefferson, #24 Delonte West
and #25 Tony Allen
I was so happy when Seattle took Robert Swift because that meant the Celtics would take Big Al. Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins (who by one statistically insignificant measure of versatility per minute was nonetheless the second-best player in the league last season behind only Kevin Garnett) will make a Boston frontcourt stronger than it's been since McHale-Parish, and because they're each still under 20 years old, they will do it for a longer time. Delonte West turned out to be a brilliant move at #24. I predicted Indiana snapping him up at #29 but the Celtics did the right thing. Why? Because if he had gone back to college this year and played point for a year, he would have been a lottery pick next year, no question. He is what Jameer Nelson was this year except without all the sliding down the draft because of worries about height. A great pick-up.