NBA Draft Review: What I Learned..

    
June 29th, 2007

The 2007 NBA Draft has taught us many things…

Joakim Noah has an interesting sense of style. The Blazers would’ve made all 60 picks if David Stern allowed it. Spike Lee likes Zach Randolph a lot more than Channing Frye. And Stephen A. Smith isn’t a big fan of Jason Richardson.

But of all the things I learned during the NBA Draft, this is what I learned the most…

1. NBA teams gave up on last year’s picks awful quickly

We all knew last year’s draft class was laughable, but most of the league acted like it never even happened. Team after team scrapped the investment they made just one year ago and nabbed shiny new prospects at the exact same positions.

Last season the Grizzlies took Kyle Lowry with their first round pick, but they selected Mike Conley – another very young point guard – this year. Atlanta grabbed Shelden Williams at No. 5 in 2006 and they took another bruising power forward, Al Horford, on Thursday. The Lakers picked incredibly talented point guard prospect Javaris Crittenton, despite picking a fairly talented point guard a year ago in Jordan Farmar.

And Philadelphia, who we’ll discuss in more detail later, snatched up Rodney Carney and Bobby Jones in ‘06, yet didn’t hesitate to draft Thaddeus Young at No. 12 this year. The Sixers are already maxed out at the wing positions, but at least Carney and Jones will have someone to hang out with on the bench as the team waits for Young to develop.

2. Joakim Noah, Marcus Williams, Aaron Gray, and Josh McRoberts lost the most financially by returning to school

After last year’s stunning NCAA Tournament run, Noah had a rush of momentum on his side. He almost certainly would have been selected before Andrea Bargnani. However, the arrival of Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, plus a year of Noah-nitpicking by NBA scouts, devoured his draft stock. He went from possibly being the first overall pick to becoming the No. 9 selection.

But, in Noah’s mind, it still worked out. He’ll be playing for a promising Bulls team and he’s got two permanents: A second ring and a secure place in college basketball lore.

Others weren’t so lucky.

McRoberts could’ve been a top ten pick in ’06. Sure his game had flaws, but the consensus was that all of his issues were fixable. Apparently, that’s no longer the consensus. The former Duke disappointment slid slowly to the second round. He was even drafted after Carl Landry and Glen Davis. Some may say that McRoberts left school too early, but he actually left too late.

Gray and Williams were also assured they’d be first rounders a year ago. That would’ve meant first round money and, even more importantly, guaranteed deals. Now, after also falling to round two, they’ll be fighting simply for roster spots.

There’s no reason to believe we won’t be seeing them all in the league next season – or even getting some quality minutes – yet they each would have been much more secure financially had they left school last year.

3. The Sixers have no idea what they’re doing

Owning three first round picks and an early second rounder in one of the deepest drafts in years, Philly ended up with Colorado State enigma Jason Smith, Ukrainian big man Kyrylo Fesenko, Thaddeus Young, and Derrick Byars.

Smith is an interesting prospect because of his athletic ability, solid skills, soft touch, and 7-foot frame. In other words, he’s brilliant in workouts. But he also averaged just 16.8 points a game against weak competition and turned the ball over far too often.

Fesenko apparently has a bunch of off-court issues and might not ever end up suiting up for the Sixers.

Young and Byars are gifted, but Philly is overloaded at the wing positions. In addition to the aforementioned Carney and Jones, the Sixers also have Willie Green, Kyle Korver, and Andre Iguodala all playing significant minutes.

Keep in mind, Philadelphia earned the No. 12 pick, but acquired the two late first rounders as part of the Allen Iverson trade. Billy King should’ve made sure he got another lottery pick in that deal.

He didn’t.

This is what King did essentially get for one of the league’s most decorated and marketable stars…

Andre Miller, Joe Smith, Jason Smith, Derrick Byars, and cash.

That’s just disgusting.

4. The Spurs know exactly what they are doing

There’s one simple reason that San Antonio is one of the best organizations in all of sports: They make informed decisions.

That well thought-out decision-making is the reason they picked talented post player Tiago Splitter at No. 28. Splitter apparently has a big buyout in his contract, meaning the Spurs will probably have to wait a year to get him, but he can play.

Despite talk of the buyout as the rumored reason teams passed on him, the real reason was more likely his poor play during the Euroleague Final Four. Instead of judging his full body of work, teams overanalyzed his putrid performance (7 points and 6 boards) against Panathinaikos in the semi-final. Considering that most scouts didn’t observe him throughout the year, his poor showing against the Greek power slanted the scouts’ opinion of him.

Combine the bad game on a big stage with the buyout and the slip seemed somewhat inevitable. But should it make Splitter an even bigger risk than the troubled Sean Williams, who was drafted No. 17 by the New Jersey Nets?

Of course not.

Yet somehow Williams – who failed to score in double-figures in four of the 15 games he played prior to his dismissal from the team – still went 11 spots ahead of Splitter.

And that’s why San Antonio won’t be leaving their perch atop the NBA’s elite any time soon.

5. The Sonics could have a groundbreaking lineup

While everyone is talking about Ray Allen going from the Pacific Northwest to the Northeast, I’m more interested in what’s staying in Seattle. If the Sonics re-sign Rashard Lewis, which now looks like a possible scenario, they will have an incredibly intriguing roster.

Three of the Seattle starters would be versatile, yet stunningly similar players.

Kevin Durant is about 6-foot-10 and can play the 2,3, or 4, but is most comfortable as a small forward.

Jeff Green is about 6-foot-10 and can play the 2,3, or 4, but is most comfortable as a small forward.

Lewis is – you guessed it – about 6-foot-10 and can play the 2,3, or 4, but is most comfortable as a small forward.

Expect Seattle to play all three at the same time with each player rotating between the shooting guard, small forward, and power forward positions. The offensive possibilities are endless. The league hasn’t seen anything even remotely like what the Sonics could put on the floor.

Of course, before Seattle starts a revolution, they need to hire a head coach first.