The 2008 NBA Draft is finally in the books, and most of the viewing audience are regaining their hearing after listening to four-plus hours of Stephen A. Smith, Dick Vitale and Stuart Scott. Sixty picks, a handful of trades, buckets of tears from proud mothers, some odd suit choices and A LOT of camera shots of Darrell Arthur in the green room later, it's time to see who came out ahead this year, and who will be saving seats for next year's lottery.
New Jersey Nets: The Nets pulled off a big trade prior to the draft, acquiring Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons while ridding themselves of Richard Jefferson's contract, and putting themselves in position to make a run at LeBron in 2010. Then, they managed to snag two quality players in the first round, getting Brook Lopez and Ryan Anderson. Lopez may not be a star, but he's a quality big man who should be a double-double machine for many years. Anderson can stretch the floor with his shooting, and could be a great weapon off the bench. But the biggest steal of the night may have been getting Chris Douglas-Roberts in the second round. CDR is a Rip Hamilton-type player, wiry strong with long arms, a good mid-range game, and a solid defender. He should be a solid rotation guy right away. The Nets do have a glut of big men on the roster, which means they might not be done dealing. The Nets won't be contenders next year, but they appear to be on the right path.
Portland Trail Blazers: Once again, the Blazers pulled off a great draft, wheeling and dealing throughout the night. When it was all said and done, they landed a terrific guard in Jerryd Bayless, who will team with Brandon Roy to give teams fits next year. Bayless isn't a pure point, but Roy is a playmaker from the off-guard position, so Bayless could operate as more of a scoring point next year. The Blazers also ended up with Nicolas Batum, a bouncy forward from France who might not contribute right away, but could be valuable down the line. They also managed to secure four future picks, meaning we can expect to see them just as busy at future drafts. With a healthy Greg Oden joining Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Bayless next year, the Blazers will challenge for the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference.
Indiana Pacers: The Pacers took a page from last year's Blazers' handbook, essentially rebuilding their team in just 24 hours. First, they rid themselves of chronically injured and tragically overpaid Jermaine O'Neal, freeing up a ton of cap space for the future. For O'Neal, they managed to land point guard TJ Ford, which means malcontent Jamaal Tinsley is likely on his way out also. Then, in the draft, they worked the phone lines and landed swingman Brandon Rush, who should be ready to contribute right away. Next, they picked up Roy Hibbert, who won't win any sprints anytime soon, but adds some much-needed size and interior defense to the roster. They also landed Jarrett Jack in the Rush-Bayless trade, giving them another solid PG on the roster. The Pacers should challenge for the playoffs next year, especially in the East.
Miami Heat: The lesson to take from this draft? Never, ever listen to draft rumors. Despite weeks of reports about the Heat being reluctant to draft Michael Beasley, stories about how immature he might be, and word of super-secret, last-minute workouts with OJ Mayo and Jerryd Bayless, the Heat drafted....Beasley. His scoring and rebounding should be a great fit with Dwyane Wade's perimeter ability, and if he stays out of trouble, he could be a star. On top of that, they managed to address their point guard needs by acquiring Mario Chalmers, whose toughness, defense and basketball IQ will be a great fit alongside Wade. After a dismal season, things are starting to look pretty good in Miami again.
Freshmen: In all, 12 freshmen were selected in the draft, including seven in the lottery. While it was no shock to anyone who saw the success they had in college last year, it's still a noteworthy accomplishment for the class. Some, like Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley, will be asked to play right away, while others, like Anthony Randolph or Kosta Koufos, will be given time to develop. But there is plenty of star potential for the class, and no one would be surprised if it eventually produces multiple All-Stars. With this class joining a league already stocked full of young, marketable stars like LeBron, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade, the future of the NBA looks plenty bright.
Pac-10: The Pac-10 is sometimes thought of as more of a football conference, but they proved they play some hoops too, as evidenced by the draft. The conference led the way with 12 players selected, including five in the lottery and two more in the first round. The banner of the class will be carried by lottery picks OJ Mayo, Kevin Love and Jerryd Bayless, who all have star potential. Even second-rounders like Kyle Weaver and DeVon Hardin could prove to be valuable pick-ups. Following the Pac-10, the Big 12 had nine draftees, the SEC had six, the ACC and Big East each had four, and the Big 10 had three.
Check back tomorrow afternoon for the Draft's big losers.