The finale of the three part series looking back at the class of 2006, this article will focus on the top five players in the draft. These players all entered the league with a fair amount of hype, and have achieved success in the NBA.
While only one of the players has managed to become the face of their respective franchise, as well as an all-star, all five of these players have had great individual success in the league, and have all had a different impact for their team.
If you want to check back on the previous parts, Part One- The Busts can be found at http://bleacherreport.com/articles/235819-a-look-back-at-the-class-of-06-part-one-the-busts while Part Two- The Middle Men can be found at http://bleacherreport.com/articles/236627-a-look-back-at-the-class-of-06-part-two-the-middle-men
LaMarcus Aldridge- Drafted Second Overall
LaMarcus Aldridge has proven that he can be a starting power forward in this league, and should one day be playing alongside his teammate Brandon Roy in an all-star game.
Drafted second overall and traded by Chicago for Tyrus Thomas, Aldridge had a promising rookie year, mainly coming off the bench. He averaged a modest nine points per game, which was good enough to garner All-Rookie honours.
It was in his sophomore season that he really exploded, nearly doubling his points per game with 17.8. This was due to his promotion to the starting lineup, as he started all of the 76 games he played. His third year was much of the same, averaging 18.1 points.
Aldridge has put in the effort to improve his shooting ability, to the point where he can consistently hit open 18-footers. His rebounding and defense have also improved dramatically.
The Blazers have done an amazing job through the draft, and easily have the best duo of the 2006 draft, possibly the top two players. With their young nucleus, along with the addition of Andre Miller, the future looks bright in Portland.
Rudy Gay- Drafted Eighth Overall
While Rudy Gay my no longer be the face of the Grizzlies franchise, there is no doubt he will be a huge factor in determining how far they progress in returning to the postseason.
After a relatively quiet rookie season, Gay exploded, increasing his scoring average from 10.8 points per game to an impressive 20.1. Also in his sophomore season, he became the Grizzlies best player after the trade of franchise player Pau Gasol.
Rudy Gay is considered one of the most athletic players in the NBA, and has a highlight dunk every time he’s on the court.
Despite all the hype though, he hasn’t really improved his game over his first three seasons. That appears to have changed however, as he is hoping to make the cut for the U.S. national team.
Increasing his shooting percentage, and a commitment to defense would not only take his game to new limits, it could also assure him a roster spot on team U.S.A.
Now with the addition of O.J. Mayo to the Memphis squad, Gay can maybe take a backseat and become a great secondary option, instead of being the primary option like years before.
With the young roster the Grizzlies have developed, it is almost assured that better days are soon to follow.
Andrea Bargnani- Drafted First Overall
He is coming off a career year, and the Raptors feel that he will improve enough to keep him around for another five years. Bargnani was the first overall pick in the 2006 draft, and many feel he could still be a top player in this league.
His points per game have been steadily improving, and while his rebound totals are still low for a 7-footer, he is doing his best to improve. He has greatly improved his defense since his rookie year, but that will never be his strong suit.
His ability to hit shots anywhere on the court helps the Raptors spread the court and pull their big men out to guard, allowing Chris Bosh to battle inside. He should not be playing the center position however, so if Bosh does leave soon, Bargnani should be a solid replacement.
It took a couple years for Dirk Nowitzki to develop into an NBA MVP, and if the comparisons are true, soon Bargnani will follow. While an MVP trophy may be unlikely, he has the skills to be a very solid player in the league, and could quite possibly make an all-star game or two.
Rajon Rondo-Drafted 21st Overall
Looking at the stat line of Rajon Rondo will only tell you half the story, and it’s amazing how much this young player has progressed over his first three years.
After a rookie year that he spent shuffled in and out of the starting lineup, Rondo really proved his worth in his sophomore season, when he was the unquestioned starting point guard alongside three all-stars in Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett.
Rondo did not disappoint as he did everything the Celtics could have asked and Boston once again was crowned NBA champions.
In his third season, he continued to improve, this time working on his inconsistent shot that has plagued him his entire career. While that is still a work in progress, he is one of the best slashing point guards, and arguably the best rebounding point guard in the league.
He is also one of the fastest players, and is a crafty ball handler and distributor, as well as a leader in steals every year.
If Rondo continues to develop at this pace, an all-star game is a sure bet reward, and quite possibly another ring or two.
Brandon Roy – Drafted Sixth Overall
Brandon Roy is easily the best player in the 2006 draft. His ability to be a clutch shooter, as well as his high basketball IQ, are just a few of the reasons the Raptors would surely draft differently if they were to go back in time.
He has been a starter since opening night of his career, and averages just less than 20 points per game for his career. He’s a two time all-star, as well as being in constant MVP discussion.
Roy took over as the Blazers captain after his rookie year, after former captain Zach Randolph was traded away. Since then he has increased his production, as well as improve his overall skills. He also possesses the ability to make his team better, as the Blazers have increased their overall wins to the point of returning to the postseason last year.
While only entering his fourth NBA season, Roy is one of the older players on his young Blazer’s team. After spending four years at college, Roy has been in enough high pressure games to be one of the most dependable clutch players in the NBA.
With Roy leading the way, the future should include an NBA championship for the Blazers.