Wednesday, July 9, 2008

NBA Draft Winners and Losers

By Rick Morris

Chicago and Miami: Procuring the two best players in the draft, particularly when the conventional wisdom holds that these were the finest by a decent margin, automatically places a team in the “W” column. To add salt in the wounds to the Clippers and Grizzlies – perennial members of “The Lottery Club” – the Bulls grabbed the top pick despite having the worst odds of doing so and the Heat suffered through a single fluky injury-plagued wastoid of a season to end up toward the top of the event (shades of the Admiral-less Spurs of 1997 when they grabbed Tim Duncan at the top of the draft). With these players on board, the lesser sisters of the league won’t be seeing these two teams at lottery drawings in the years to come.

New Jersey: Brook Lopez at 10? Chris Douglas-Roberts in the second round? As our Senior Editor Jason Jones pointed out, while the Richard Jefferson trade was a straight salary dump, this team won’t be in the dumps for too long. As one of the best centers in the East from Day One of his career, Lopez will be a dark horse for Rookie of the Year.

Portland: This is the team that is the most likely to own the next decade, assuming that Greg Oden stays healthy and no other major pieces suffer bad injuries. Brandon Rush and Nicholas Batum join Rudy Fernandez and Oden on a team that was already on the rise. It’s almost impossible to put this team over enough right about now.

Indiana: Jerryd Bayless was one of the best values in the first round at pick #11 and the Roy Hibbert/Nathan Jawai combo is capable of filling major minutes – at least eventually – in the frontcourt. For a team that has been mired in a rebuilding process for a few years, the new post-O’Neal direction looks intriguing.

Utah: Kosta Koufos was expected to be drafted somewhere in the teens, but he dropped to #23 due in part to the stupidity of other teams. He’s going to take a lot of work in developing, but players with such (realistic) high ceilings rarely last this long in the draft – testament yet again to the depth of the 2008 draft class.

Memphis: While Chris Wallace will never shake the stink of his horrible Pao Gasol giveaway to the Lakers, he gets put into the win column by the most marginal of efforts here. While Kevin Love would have been an excellent fit (if not the best value) for the Grizz, the Mike Miller loss will hurt and O.J. Mayo seems an odd match for a team with Mike Conley, the late-round super-value selection of Darrell Arthur will help fill the gaping hole in the frontcourt. For a team that has consistently ranked toward the bottom of the league in player development, the clock is now ticking furiously for this talented young core.

: Kevin McHale has floundered in his role as executive and the surrender of Mayo doesn’t make sense. Love’s presence mandates that the team keep undersized Al Jefferson at center and the team will live to regret that – along with countless other McHale decisions.

Milwaukee: Joe Alexander? A player who can only flourish at the pro level with a tremendous amount of support around him – going to a team that just picked up Richard Jefferson? The questions are troubling.

Charlotte: D.J. Augustin – to a team without a crying need at point guard and who could have filled a massive need with Brook Lopez? Michael Jordan’s Draft Day blunders endure. Should’ve stuck to pushing off of hapless two-guards for jump shots, #45.

Sacramento: Jason Thompson at #12 was one of the worst value picks in the first round of any sport in recent memory, period. Just go ahead and change the name of Arco Arena to The Lottery Barn.

Phoenix: Robin Lopez at #15 was horrible. In a much deeper-than usual draft, you have to get more value at the edge of the lottery picks than an energy player who can’t score.

Cleveland: In our on-air FDH draft coverage on, we stated that if Lebron James ultimately leaves Cleveland, the dropped opportunity here could be an overlooked reason why. The J.J. Hickson reach was that bad. While the organization has been able to placate a sheep-like fanbase with this pick, real hoops observers are chuckling.

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