Monday, June 26, 2006

NBA Draft Look-Over, Part 2

NBA Draft comes Wednesday, followed by the kick off of free agency shortly after that.  Time for everyone to get excited about the possibility of their team finally making the moves that jump them into the elite.  Unfortunately, this almost never happens.  Kudos, however, to Pat Riley for proving everyone like myself wrong that thought his major action with the Heat last summer was a fool’s errand.

Big bummer for me this year, as I got invited to the Rockets’ draft party, but can’t attend because of my wife’s birthday.  In fact, this might be the first draft in recent memory that I won’t watch end to end.  I’m pretty sad about that.  Especially this year, which has the potential to be chuck full of dealing.  Admit it, nothing beats the commissioner coming to the podium and saying “we have a trade to announce…” – it should be a drinking game.  Take a shot for each 4-yr senior in the lottery, a shot for each foreign player that no one in the room has even heard of before, and a double for any trade.  Swapping second rounders only merits a round of waters and Doritos.    

To recap the ground rules: 1 - no mock drafts.  2 – I have my biases, and they will be in full effect.  3 – no foreign player chatter.  Bargnani has to be mentioned because he’s a possible top choice, but I’m not going beyond that.

The key players:
Andrea Bargnani:  Strongly linked to Toronto, with Bryan Colangelo’s push for foreign stars that won’t bolt for the U.S. and the team’s recent hiring of his European GM.  Is tossed around as the next Dirk (which is getting as irritating as the “next Jordan” and “next Bird.”  Just stop it.  It’s tough to see him as a star anytime soon: he may eventually become a terrorizing PF in the Dirk/Garnett mold, but right now he’s small forward that isn’t quick enough to stay on the court.  He is about 20 lbs underweight for a seven-footer.  Luckly, he might be able to hide behind Chris Bosh for a while.

JJ Redick – Took a huge dive recently; not so much over his DUI, but more because of a back problem that has stopped his workouts.  No one saw him as an athletic 40-minute guy, but he couldn’t afford a red flag like this. He should have a career in the league as a Eric Piakowski/Eddie Johnson niche player.  The best thing about him is that he’s learned to play around his weaknesses at Duke and won’t have to adjust his offensive game if the right team drafts him.  The Jazz and Sixers have shown recent interest, having him in town for interviews.

Adam Morrison – I have doubts about his transition to the next level.  He seems to throw himself into traffic and launch nothing but contested shots, and there’s no way he can get away with that against NBA defenses.  Rudy Gay reportedly tore him apart in a joint workout in Portland, but Adam impressed the staff in Charlotte (pre-Michael Jordan).  Does everything well, nothing great, and that could make him another Devean George.  His diabetes has been a key issue in his interviews, but he points to Chris Dudley as an example of a player that made it work.  His mature character has been very appealing to Portland.  

Rudy Gay – Strikes me as a Caron Butler type.  Good shot but with limited range, classic SF size, surprisingly decent in the post, not much of a handle.  Would be a fantastic fit with the Bobcats but a disaster in Portland or Atlanta.  His stock hasn’t really taken off, and his name has been lost in the shuffle to a degree.  He could go as high as #3, or he could become the big drop in the draft.

Lamarcus Aldridge – No one seems to be too high or low on Aldridge, another buzz mystery.  Some reports say that the Raptors or Bulls want him in the top two slots, others peg him as falling.  Little word as surfaced from his workouts, but it’s not as if he’s auditioning for more than four franchises.  He’s got a reputation for being soft, but can still get after boards and doesn’t simply depend on his size to get his shots.  

Tyrus Thomas – Thomas has a lot of excited suitors, including Michael Jordan with the Wizards.  His explosive potential as a 3 or 4 has many teams looking at him as the next Larry Johnson (pre-back).  It’s always a gamble with frosh, but he does have the look of a dynamic player with All-Star potential and the ability to draw paying customers.    

Brandon Roy – A guy I would feel very safe picking in the draft.  Solid all-around SG with everything you’d want at the position, aside from one or two more inches.  Makes excellent snap judgements, quick reflexes, good shooter, playmaker, everything.  He might not be an All-Star, but he could start for someone today.  The rest of the league is catching on to that, but no one in the top of the draft seems to be willing to grab a shooting guard over a potential star big man.  The Rockets are supposedly hot to trade up for him.

Patrick O’Bryant – A sophomore center that came out of nowhere to become Bradley’s big prospect in this draft.  “Raw” is to be in any and all scouting reports.  Natural on defense with good size but still trying to catch up his offense.  Chad Ford loves him, which has me all the more convinced that he could be the next Michael Olowakandi.  

Shelden Williams, Josh Boone, and Hilton Armstrong – I lumped these guys together before, saying that none of them have much of an offensive repertoire, but all have the look of the mythical rugged power forward that every team in the league seems to be desperate for.  Shelden has separated himself from the pack, with his name being linked to the Hawks (sitting at #5).  Big move up for him from a project mid-rounder.  Armstrong looks to go later in the first, and Josh Boone may not make it into the first round.  Scouts that saw his workout described it as terrible.  

Ronnie Brewer – The perfect opposite of JJ Redick.  Gifted playmaker and ballhandler at the 2, but with the ugliest shot since Anthony Mason.  Has done a good job in workouts showing teams that the shoot is more accurate than it is pretty.  Decent defense with good size.  In a league with too many one-dimensional scorers, he could really help as a distributer.  I wouldn’t recommend the inevitable attempt to convert him to  point guard, though.  

Marcus Williams – My pick for the top point guard in the draft, primarily because he can play the position, unlike his shot-oriented peers Foye and Rondo.  He’s no Jason Kidd or Steve Nash, in that he can make some horrifyingly bad judgements in high-pressure situations.  The Celtics seem to be intrigued, but where he goes greatly depends on how the top of the draft falls.

Rodney Carney – A senior swingman with serious explosiveness, but is a rather streaky shooter from the outside and could get exposed against ball-hawks when he goes into his helter-skelter offensive mindset: he doesn’t have the ballhandling or smart shot selection needed to get away with his Kobe impressions.  Some teams have him above Brewer on their boards.  

Randy Foye – Amazing offense that covers up the fact that he’s one of a million SGs masquerading as points.  At 6-4, he could get away with a Bobby Jackson/David Wesley game, but he needs a coaching staff that will use him correctly.  Numerous teams are interested, as the small shooting guard seems to be viable in the recent move toward small ball in the league.  

The talk amongst the teams:
Toronto is actively looking to maximize its use of this pick, with Colangelo at the helm.  Everything is being discussed, from trading it for a veteran, taking Bargnani at #1, swapping with Charlotte to take Bargnani lower (and for less money), or trading down for someone else.  This really has the look of a franchise that is going to pick itself up off the floor.  Villaneuva and Mike James (via S&T) are being put out there, and the acquisition of Rasho may not mean Magloire is not coming home.

Chicago is also said to be wavering between using the pick and swapping it for a veteran.  Brandon Roy might be taken here as part of a deal.  Tyson Chandler has been shopped to at least Denver and Phoenix.

Charlotte is expected to go after a 3, be it Morrison, Gay, or Thomas.  Michael Jordan’s arrival as a decision-making owner has made it much harder to decipher what they might do.  Anything that was planned might be thrown out the window by MJ in tomorrow’s meeting.  The most intriguing rumor was a Bobcat-Raptor pick swap, with Charlotte taking Thomas.

Portland has been talking to teams as well, but might wait to see who drops into their lap.  Don’t underestimate their desire to get rid of Darius Miles.  Adam Morrison makes a lot of sense for this team, and is a major favorite amongst Portland locals.

Atlanta is said to have a deal in place with Houston to select Brandon Roy at 5 and swap him for Shelden Williams at 8 (and Luther Head).  This hinges on Roy and Williams not going earlier than those two slots, obviously.  The Lakers have also been targeting a move up for Roy, and might attempt to trump the deal using Lamar Odom.

The Celtics and Rockets have been actively looking to better themselves, whether that means trading up or down in the draft.  Most of the time, teams elect to stay pat in the end.  

Other NBA chit-chat:
Gilbert Arenas is turning the screws on Wizards management, threatening to opt out in 2008 if the team doesn’t make moves for a title run.  
The Denver Nuggets are willing to talk about any and everyone on the roster other than Anthony.  Camby for Tyson Chandler and Andre Miller for Wally Szczerbiak are the latest on the vine.  How they’ll move Kenyon is anyone’s guess, but the price is quite open for negotiation.
Seattle may be breaking up its core, with Lewis (to Phoenix), Earl Watson, and Allen (to Toronto) being talked about.
Phoenix has been talking to teams about Shawn Marion, with Amare’s extension kicking next year not a coincidence.  Marion is due over $15 million next year (3 years remaining overall) and owner Robert Starver is said to be firmly against paying the luxury tax.  In my humble opinion, it would be a great mistake to move Marion as he is completely irreplaceable on offense and defense.  The Suns will obviously remain competitive as long as Nash’s hamstrings and back hold out, but Marion was crucial to their success.  
Newly circulating by the New York press is that Larry Brown talked trade behind Isiah Thomas’ back several times last season.  This and his roadside interviews that violated Knick policy that PR reps be present will be among the reasons James Dolan will give David Stern as to why Brown is not due a full $40 million payout in the wake of his firing.  I’d suspect that he’ll be lucky only to pay $38 million, even if Brown was indeed trying to unseat Isiah all along.
Sam Cassell is being his usual self, pressuring the Clippers to pay anyone and everyone, glorifying Elgin Baylor every other sentence.  His true goal, of course, is to make sure he’s given a $16-million, two-year deal in the process. The Clips would much prefer a one-year deal to allow Shaun Livingston take over sooner.