After going through Danny Ainge and his poor decisions as general manager of the Celtics, it is time to move on to the rest of the draft. Another GM who was in a similar situation to Ainge was Isiah Thomas of the Knicks. Over the last few years, Thomas has probably been the only executive in the NBA worse than Danny Ainge. He has traded away the core of the Knicks and has acquired selfish, stubborn players with large contracts. Players such as Steve Francis, Stephan Marbury, Eddy Curry, and others have fought over playing time and created a “player first, team second” atmosphere. Add to that list Zach Randolph. Portland traded the power forward along with Dan Dickau and Fred Jones for Channing Frye and Steve Francis. On paper, this move helps the Knicks tremendously as they recieve a very good player in Randolph and unload the disgruntled Francis (Francis and Marbury are both shooting guards). Yet there are many possible pitfalls. First of all, Randolph has had many problems off the court and going to New York is not going to help him control himself. Second, Eddy Curry and Randolph play the same position and neither is going to concede the starting role. Just like Marbury and Francis could not coexist, the same may happen with Curry and Randolph. Of course, the move has the possibility to be great as Randolph is young and has the chance to dominate. A team of Marbury, Curry, and Randolph with very good role players in Fred Jones, Jamal Crawford, and David Lee make the team very dangerous. It is a risky move, but one that I think will work out well. Randolph has had many problems and this is probably his last chance to prove that he has matured. Curry and Randolph may end up helping each other as long as one decides that they will play as a small forward (Thomas can just play two power forwards if necessary). The bench is good, and the starters have great potential. As Ainge did, Isiah pushed all of his chips into the pot, and crossed his fingers.
Enough GM bashing. It is now time for me to unveil my winners and losers of the draft (I know the tension is unbearable). Let’s begin with the winners:
The Blazers clearly improved. Just getting Oden would have made them a winner, but they didn’t stop there. Trading away Randolph opened up a starting role for Oden to get experience LaMarcus Aldridge had a great rookie season last year and the combination of him and Oden could be deadly. With Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy at the starting guard, this team is going to be great for many years to come.
Seattle also had a big advantage with the number two pick, getting Kevin Durant with it, but they also went out and made big moves. Getting rid of injured star Ray Allen may not make many fans happy, but it is a very good move. One of the acquisitions in the deal, Jeff Green, is a highly touted, versatile player. With big man Rashard Lewis holding down the low post, the Sonics have given themselves a chance to be a contended for many years.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers chose Al Thornton with the number 14 pick, and this choice solidifies them as a playoff team next year. The young talent on this team is tremendous with Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, Shaun Livingston, and now Al Thornton. Brand and Thornton will be a lethal combination. Though Thornton’s age is a concern, he is NBA ready and will make a big impact on the Clippers next year. This team is a bunch of high-flying, fast-paced scorers, perfect for the Western Conference. I look forward to games between them and the Warriors where the scores will probably reach into the 130s just in regulation.
The Bulls had made great draft pick after great draft pick the last few years with Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, and Andres Nocioni, but the selection of Joakim Noah seemed to be a poor pick. The Bulls already have a lot of “energy” guys and do not need another one. They also have Ben Wallace holding down the center and after a weak NCAA Tournament, Noah does not seem like a logical pick. Maybe the Bulls have a trade in the making with either Noah or Wallace, but if not, the pick seems pointless. A selection of Acie Law or Rodney Stuckey seems more appropriate, because of their leadership skills and scoring ability.
Yes, they had Yi Jianlian rated highly, but he refuses to play in Milwaukee, making the pick a waste. Jianlian fills in the Buck’s need for a big man, but they should have made sure he would play before drafting him. A player that makes sense for them is Joakim Noah or Corey Brewer. Noah plays down low, and will provide a boost of energy to a sometimes lethargic team. Brewer has shown great scoring ability from the forward position, and would give the Bucks another threat. Michael Redd holds down the guard position very well. Jianlian is a great pick if he plays, but a costly mistake if he doesn’t.
Like the Celtics in a way, Charlotte traded away a young, talented player in Brendan Wright (#8 Overall) for a great player in Jason Richardson. Unfortunately, the Bobcats still need a few years of experience before they will become a threat in the East. By that point, Richardson will have declined dramatically. They have a good young core with Emeka Okafor and Raymond Felton. The pick of Jared Dudley was a very good pick as well. The team needs to stock up on young talent, and be ready to dominate in a few years. Just ask the Warriors.