A Look Back at the Class of 06: Part Two- The Middle Men

Dannie HaynesContributor IAugust 15, 2009

CHICAGO - FEBRUARY 24:  Tyrus Thomas #24 of the Chicago Bulls smiles on court against the Orlando Magic at the United Center on Feberuary 24, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agreees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

This is the second part of a three part series looking back on the 2006 draft, and its players. This portion of the series will focus on the players who are talented, but are not game changers.

They are all solid role players, some being starters, while others are serviceable sixth man options. This part also has some players who were drafted much lower than they should have. The five players mentioned make up the bottom portion of the top 10 players in the draft.

Check back for the series finale, A Look Back at the Class of 06: Part Three- The Stars

You can find Part One- The Busts, at http://bleacherreport.com/articles/235819-a-look-back-at-the-class-of-06-part-one-the-busts

Paul Millsap- Picked 47th Overall:

Paul Millsap finally had his breakout season in the 2008-2009 season, and because of that, the Utah Jazz feel they can use him in their bid for an NBA championship. Millsap was taking very late in the draft, even though he was the only player ever to lead the NCAA in rebounding in three straight years.

He has maintained his rebounding ways, and has increased his points per game every year he has been in the league.

In his first two seasons, he started a total of three games, but last season Forward Carlos Boozer suffered a quadriceps injury and later a severe knee injury, allowing Millsap to start in his place. His numbers soared due to an increase in playing time, and he owned the longest double-double streak in the NBA.

As a result, Millsap was a coveted restricted free agent this offseason, but the Jazz were able to retain him. With an upcoming move of Boozer to another team, it looks like Millsap should have another great year, and the Jazz should have a young group of players that could one day lead to a championship.

Tyrus Thomas- Picked Fourth Overall:

Tyrus Thomas is quite possibly the most athletic Power Forward in the NBA. While slightly undersized at 6’9, Thomas has amazing leaping abilities and long arms to be very effective on both ends of the court.

Thomas entered the league after a very impressive rookie season at LSU, and on draft night was traded for center LaMarcus Aldridge, the number two pick.

In three NBA seasons, Thomas has earned more playing time each year, and his numbers have grown as a result. He has worked on improving his shot, to the point where he can consistently hit open 18 foot jump shots.

His strengths though are getting to the rim and dunking with authority, either off an allyoop or in the fast break. He is also an intimidating shot blocker, averaging nearly two a game last year. What’s holding him back is his mental weaknesses, as he sometimes gets lost in the game. He also must improve his rebounding in order to be successful.

His growth should continue with reigning Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose leading the Bulls, and as long as he can stay focused, he has the talent to be a solid starter in this league.

Randy Foye- Picked Seventh Overall:

Randy Foye may be the most overlooked player in this draft. After a strong Senior year at Villanova, Foye was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves, and had to fight for minutes on a team full of guards.

Foye is known for being a better scorer than distributor, and is considered a “tweener” guard, in that he isn’t quite a point guard or a shooting guard.

After a promising rookie season in which he was selected to the All Rookie First Team, Foye had an unimpressive sophomore season marred by injuries. Last season, however, he started 61 of 70 games, and put up career numbers across the board, averaging 16 points per game, albeit on a weak Minnesota team.

This season he will be playing for the Washington Wizards, and should be vying for a starting spot along side Arenas, Butler, and Jamison. He should no doubt thrive in this role, and while his points per game may dip, he should become a better player and be allowed to grow.

If nothing else he will be a strong shooter for a team that is offensively gifted, and he is the most likely candidate to be left open to knock down shots.   

Ronnie Brewer- Picked Fourteenth Overall:

Brewer has turned out to be a steal for the Utah Jazz at the number 14 spot, and his future has never looked brighter. After a lackluster rookie year, in which he received little playing time, Brewer has assumed the role as the Jazz’s fulltime starter and defensive specialist.

Often given the task of guarding the opposing teams’ best player, Brewer has become the perfect fit on Utah’s starting lineup that is full of offensive firepower. His points per game have steadily increased, and he has great athleticism, allowing him to finish at the rim with authority.

Brewer is not a great shooter however, but playing for Utah allows him to score mainly inside, especially with center Mehmet Okur’s ability to hit threes as a 7-footer. He is also the player most likely to finish any fast break opportunities started by Deron Williams, who is quite possibly the best guard in the league.

Brewer has been able to make the best of his abilities, and is the best position possible with Utah. He has turned into one of the premier defenders in the NBA, and continues to increase his stats across the board.

Utah clearly drafted the second best duo of the 2006 draft.

Leon Powe- Picked 49th Overall:

Leon Powe makes this list mainly because of where he was drafted, and how big a steal he was for the Boston Celtics.

Originally taking by the Denver Nuggets, Powe was instantly traded to Boston for a future draft pick. While only starting 14 of his career 189 games, he has shown his ability to be a “spark plug” off the bench and a great contributor.

While his career stats won’t blow you away, he has shown that when the lights are the brightest and the game is on the line, he is unfazed by the pressure and always delivers.

This ability to be a solid role player is not lost on the rest of the league, as the Cleveland Cavaliers recently signed him to a free agent deal to fill the same role he had with the Celtics.

If he can return to health and be as effective as he was during the Celtics run to the championship, Powe will remain one of the best steals of the 2006 draft.