Friday, June 29, 2007

Draft Reax: Red Hot and Rollin'!; Things I Don't Understand; Winners/Losers

Ok, here are some of my immediate reactions to draft night.
Also see Jay Aych's team-by-team analysis: East | West

RED HOT AND ROLLIN'
Mother of God, what an amazing night for the Portland Trail Blazers, the runaway winners of the night, who followed up last year's bounty of rookies with a spectacular 2007 draft night.

To recap, they walked away with the following:
1. Greg Oden - The crown jewel and centerpiece of the franchise.

24. Rudy Fernandez - What a steal at 24 with one of the picks garnered with Paul Allen's pocket change. Fran Fraschilla described him as a lottery-pick talent, and Jay Aych agreed in his pre-draft prospect breakdown -- he had Rudy rated as No. 13 based strictly on basketball (he has contract issues, not the least of which is that FC Barcelona may simply outbid his NBA rookie contract significantly). A 6-6 athlete who can finish and shoot.

30. Petteri Koponen - A lot of upside, didn't cost them anything, and can let him stay in Europe and develop. Why not.

37. Josh McRoberts
- I absolutely love this pick at 37. He's 6-10 with great length, very good athleticism, and superior passing ability for a big. That's a rare combination. Remember, this kid would have been a Top 10 pick each of the last two years. He deserved to fall after this season but not this much. He still has the potential to become a lottery-pick talent, and what's great for him is that there's absolutely no pressure for him to develop, unlike if he had been a Top 10 pick. If he's spearheading POR's 2nd team with blocked shots and assists, what a bonus - that's all they need out of him.

52. Taurean Green/53. Demetris Nichols - I have no idea how these guys will see the floor in the PDX, but again, very good value for the picks.

Jay Aych ranked his 25 top prospects in his analysis, with 11 more guys given honorable mention nods. POR walked away with prospects 1, 13, 25, and three hon. mention guys without giving anything up, and I thought they got pretty good value for Zach, in terms of another promising young big (Frye) and two fewer years of a huge contract (Francis). I gotta say it was a good day.

CHEMISTRY
Part of the reason I love Portland's night is that - by a combo of luck and design - I think they've done a stellar job of drafting with team chemistry in mind. Three things, a combo of little and big things, stand out:

1. Oden/Roy. I don't have the details of this anecdote handy, so I apologize if I don't get it exactly right, but when the Pistons were about to draft Joe Dumars (or perhaps it was that they were considering trading him), owner Bill Davidson made the decisive argument in favor of Joe D by saying, "You'll won't find a better guard who's willing to sit second chair to Isiah." And thus is a big part of how a championship team is born.

Relations between star players are so important to sustaining success for a franchise. That's the beauty in what POR has in Oden and Roy - I can't imagine those two guys ever getting into turf wars, though stranger things have happened, of course.

2. Sergio/Rudy. I don't know if people realize how well Sergio Rodriguez and Rudy Fernandez played together off the bench in Spain's impressive run to the World Championship last year. Spain would start the game with its collection of veterans - Gasol, Garbajosa, Calderon, J.C. Navarro - playing its brand of steady team basketball, and then Sergio/Rudy would come off the bench to give them a massive energy burst.

They were often electrifying to watch - going up and down the court with alley-oops left and right - they must have led the tournament in terms of alley-oops as a combo.

Here are a few quick tastes:

vs. Lithuania - you need to watch this one for the Andres Cantor-quality entertainment on the broadcast call:


vs. Argentina in the semis - technically not an alley-oop, but still an impressive fast-break combo by the two, esp. given the quality of the opponent and the magnitude of the game:


vs Serbia


Again, it could be a challenge to get Rudy over here, but I'd have to think that having Sergio helps a lot, and if they do get him, let me be the first to dub the combo's alley-oops as "Spanish Fly". Thank you, I'll be here all the week.

3. Oden/McRoberts. Read all about it yourself, from Oden's blog:
    I am staying in Carmel, Indiana, which is north of Indianapolis. In this area lots of people know high school basketball. When you ask someone about it, the first name that pops in their minds is not Greg Oden, Michael Conley Jr., or Eric Gordon. It's JOSH MCROBERTS, one of my favorite people in the world. He is one of the funniest people I have met, and the one person in high school basketball that I dreaded playing, because I had to guard him and he is a monster. He uses both hands on the court. That gives him an edge on everybody else. He was here for a day so I got to hang out with him. It was one of the greatest days. Him and a couple of his friends and I laid out at his pool, played horse in the pool, stayed in too long, hands got wrinkled and when we got tired of being in the pool his mom came and grilled some hamburgers and teriyaki chicken with macaroni salad and cookies. It was the BOMB! Then we just chilled later on with some of his friends from high school and it was cool. The next day he left for Chicago to work out. He is a great player and I hope him well this year in the draft. I hope they invite him to go to the draft cause he will probaly have me laughing the whole night. I don't want to brag, but we were on one of the best AAU teams ever with 1. Michael Conley Jr, 2. Eric Gordon, 3. Deaquan Cook, 4. Josh McRoberts, and 5. little ol me.
THINGS I DON'T UNDERSTAND
1. Phoenix selling its draft picks. This just makes absolutely no sense to me. When you're trying to cut costs, what you want to do is *maximize* guys on their rookie contracts - those deals are by far and away the best bargains in the league.

I understand they got money for the pick, but they should be trying to pick up some "cash considerations" in trades where they dump veterans' salaries and pick up more rookie contracts. So instead of having a Sergio Rodriguez (pick sold to PDX last year) making about $800K/yr and a Rudy Fernandez (sold this year) making about $950K/yr, they go out and sign Marcus Banks to a $21M/5-yr deal???

And if they didn't want Rudy, or didn't think they could sign him, fine, but this was one of the deepest drafts of all-time - there were plenty of prospects still on the board who were worth ~$950K.

I can understand the desire to avoid the luxury tax, I just really don't understand why you don't want more rookie contracts if that's your goal.

2. Seattle's trade. I think that trading Ray Allen makes sense, I just thought they'd be able to get more value back. Ray is a 20.3 PER guy overall for his 11-year career - I just don't see Green providing that kind of borderline All-Star production, and they didn't get contract relief with Ratliff instead of Wally.

Then Bucher reported that Presti intends to keep Rashard - I thought the Green pick was a clear sign that Rashard was gone. I guess I don't understand how three 6-10 SFs work in the same lineup.

And I certainly didn't love the trade from Boston's perspective either.

3. What Chicago is doing
. I thought that John Paxson took too much criticism for passing up Gasol at the deadline. It seemed perfectly logical to me that Pax knew he had one shot to get a superstar, and he had evaluated that Pau was not a true franchise player who Chicago could ride to the title, and was willing to take the heat and be patient for KG.

But now, with not only KG but also Kobe on the market, and Chicago seemingly sitting out... I mean, what the hell are they doing??? A true star is the one piece they need to get to the championship level, they are short of championship-caliber with the current roster, and they have enough depth that they won't have to decimate their team to make a trade - they have *two* legit starting-quality small forwards for crying out loud.

As much as I thought I understood why they avoided Pau, I am much more befuddled at why they aren't at the heart of the KG/Kobe opportunity.

4. Amare-KG rumors
. Why isn't this just a straight-up MIN <-> PHX trade rumor (with other PHX salaries thrown in) instead of going through a third team? Am I missing something here? Has Amare said he doesn't want to go to Minny? Are there some obvious cap issues I'm missing? I just don't understand why MIN doesn't want Amare instead of some kind of package.

OTHER DRAFT WINNERS/LOSERS

Winners
- Seattle - I suppose I have to put them here even despite the trade b/c Durant is such a surpassing talent.

- San Antonio - Gotdamn these dudes are smart - what value in getting two potential lottery-quality talents at 29 and 33! Contract issues drove Splitter down, but S.A. can afford to wait - I think he'll be able to step in and replace Oberto in a couple years and fit that ballclub just as well as Fab does now (Tiago is better on D, worse on O than Fab).

And I love Marcus Williams at 33 - he has lottery-level skills. Some questions about his attitude, but he's worth a 2nd-round flyer for sure.

- Philly - A lot of upside in the T Young, J Smith and D Byars picks, though I thought they should have kept Koponen, considering they can stash him in Europe, but "cash considerations" always speak loudly....

- Memphis - Conley Jr. was their only pick, but that's good enough for me.

Losers
- Phoenix. See above.

- Chicago. See above. Noah gives them another energy guy who can't score.

- Sacramento. Who kidnapped Geoff Petrie, who was once the best GM in the game? An overrated guy who compounds the weaknesses they already have (no interior D, lack of athleticism)?

- Milwaukee. Not only do they draft a guy who could be this year's El Busto, but he really, really doesn't want to be there, either. I love that they've come full circle culturally, picking the decent Chinese guy in a city with no Asian people a decade after sending the superior German guy away from the city of brats.

Don't Know
- GS/Charlotte. I don't know what to make of this trade. From Charlotte's perspective, it's a great trade in a vacuum - B Wright has a long, long way to go to ever get to J-Rich's level. But for the BOBcats to use their cap space on J-Rich seems like a letdown - I love his game but don't think he's worth his franchise-player contract.

From GS's perspective, even though they sorted out their position logjam a little, I think it's a basketball downgrade. It's a tough situation - they probably had to trade either J-Rich or S Jackson. You'd think you'd want to sell high on Jack and keep the steadier J-Rich, but Jack and Baron are seemingly such soulmates that it'd be hard to separate the two. Still, I think it's a downgrade for GS.

PARTING SHOT




Also see Jay Aych's team-by-team analysis: East | West

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