NBA Draft Winners and Losers

Andrew Kaufman@akaufman23Senior Analyst IJune 30, 2008

We are now a few days removed from what turned out to be a rather tumultuous NBA Draft—especially considering the trades that occurred prior to the draft.

Partially due to the relatively mundane early first round, most teams were praised for their selections. This often happens when a team picks the same player that most analysts had them picking in mock drafts—everybody likes to look smart.

But there were a few teams—and players—who stood out above the rest during the week of the draft. There were also a few teams and players who did not fare particularly well.

The following is not necessarily an evaluation of management (although often when a team fares well or poorly, it is management that should be praised or criticized), but merely a reflection on who should be the happiest—and the saddest—with the events of the past week.

Winner No. 1: Miami Heat.

I am not particularly high on Michael Beasley, and would never have advocated taking Derrick Rose over him. Simply put, I think Beasley, while immensely talented and a prolific scorer, lacks the leadership ability and killer instinct to be the best player on a contending team.

This makes Miami the perfect fit for him. It is perhaps the only lottery team for which Beasley can truly become a second banana, a low-post scorer and rebounding machine that doesn’t need to make every play come crunch time.

The Heat already have that player in Dwayne Wade. Wade is a player who can show Beasley the ropes, teach him how to be a successful superstar in the NBA, all while keeping the burden of being the future of a franchise off of his shoulders.

Miami also caught a huge break in the second round, when Kansas point guard Mario Chalmers fell to them at the No. 34 pick. Chalmers was at times projected to go as high as No. 11, and has all the tools necessary to be a starting point guard in the league.

With a starting five of Chalmers, Wade, Marion, Beasley, and either Alonzo Mourning or Udonis Haslem, the Heat suddenly look like a force to be reckoned with as early as next year.

Loser No. 1: New Jersey Nets

The Nets earn this honor not so much for their draft as for the trade that preceded it. Trading Richard Jefferson for Bobby Simmons and Chairman Yi signaled the definitive end of the exciting New Jersey teams of the early 2000s, and left the Nets without much to look forward to in the immediate future.

And their draft wasn’t stellar, either. Chris Douglas-Roberts was a nice pick-up in the second round, but Brook Lopez and Ryan Anderson leave much to be desired.

I’m not particularly high on Lopez, especially as a top ten pick—I think he needs the ball way too much to be productive, given that he doesn’t have that much excess talent for an NBA forward.

And, after trading away their shooting guard for a young forward (I am assuming the Nets believe in Yi, otherwise why make this trade?), how could the Nets pass on Jerryd Bayless? They are a team that lacks playmakers. They had the opportunity to add a playmaker. They passed.

Throw in the fact that I don’t think Yi will ever become even an average NBA player, and the Nets better start praying to the Bron-Bron gods immediately.

Winner No. 2: Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers make this list partially due to good fortune and partially due to excellent management. That gifted scorer Jerryd Bayless fell to the No. 11 pick was luck. That the Blazers had a deal in place with the Pacers to move up from No. 13 to No. 11 in the event Bayless fell that far was a shrewd move by GM Kevin Pritchard.

In the past four years, the Blazers have drafted LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, and now Bayless. Over that same span, they have rid their team of overpaid players with bad character.

The result is clear: This team is loaded for the foreseeable future, and has nowhere to go but up. Very far up. NBA championship-caliber up. Roy has already evolved into a star, Aldridge looks extremely promising as well, Oden should at the least be a defensive force.

Now, the addition of Bayless brings yet another huge talent to an already impressive collection of young players. The Blazers’ ceiling is limitless.

Loser No. 2: Sacramento Kings

Prior to the draft lottery, I identified the Kings as the NBA team most in need of adding an impact player during the draft.

They didn’t get their man.

That’s not entirely their fault—like in the case of Portland, luck played a relatively large role in determining the Kings’ fate. Had Bayless fallen only one more spot, Sacramento would have gotten the on-ball backcourt presence they desperately need.

But in drafting Jason Thompson, Sacramento did not make the best of what was available to them. I’m not saying they had a multitude of options—they didn’t—but Thompson was a reach. He will never be more than a role player in this league. A player like Brandon Rush, who went a pick later to the Pacers, would have been much better.

Plus, it’s not as if the Blazers, originally slotted No. 13 in the draft order, were in a better position to grab Bayless than the Kings. Sacramento, a team with a huge need, was simply not aggressive enough.

Winner No. 3: Robin Lopez

Getting drafted by the Phoenix Suns is a plus for any basketball player. Combine an up-tempo offense, beautiful weather, and Steve Nash, and you can’t really go wrong.

But for Robin Lopez, going to Phoenix is even better, as he has found a team that magnifies his strengths while virtually nullifying his weaknesses.

Lopez brings the Suns exactly what they have desired for years—defense, rebounding, and interior toughness.

In the meantime, his lack of low-post scoring ability is unimportant on a team that already has Shaq and Amare Stoudemire. All Lopez needs to do offensively is convert around the rim when Nash finds him wide open. He should be able to do that.

The No. 15 pick was the highest selection the Suns have had in years. They made good use of it, and both they and Robin Lopez will benefit greatly from the selection.

Loser No. 3: DeAndre Jordan

Jordan, a tremendous athlete with a mountain of unrealized potential, was originally projected to be a top-ten pick. He didn’t hear his name called until the second round.

Despite Jordan’s upside, teams shied away from him due to his poor play in college. During his only season, Jordan averaged less than eight points per game, and he was often removed from games in crunch time.

Hopefully Jordan’s Draft Day despair will serve as a lesson to similar players who are considering turning pro prematurely.

The lesson is simple: Stay in school.


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