Imagine something like a high school reunion, but for the 2006 NBA draft class. Now imagine the top five picks Andrea Bargnani, LaMarcus Aldridge, Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas and Shelden Williams talking to each other about their careers. Imagine the conversation.
Williams would say, "Well, I was a decent backup. I even got to start when Kenyon Martin was injured. But even then, I was still an inconsistent scorer and I was never able to box out. What about you, Tyrus?"
"Can't complain. I was a pretty good defender. Never really figured out that whole offense thing. Maybe I should have stayed at LSU a little longer. What about you, Adam?"
"I'm very happy. I won a championship and I didn't even have to do anything. LaMarcus?"
"I had a very solid career. I really thought we were on the verge of greatness in Portland before the Brandon Roy injury. I was never really a superstar, but at least I contributed to a possible winning effort. Andrea, why are you so happy?"
"Well I was only the best player in this draft after everyone doubted me since the day I was drafted, saying Europeans are always busts, then saying I was too soft, then saying I need Bosh."
Could happen. In fact, it's looking even more possible that Bargnani might end up being the best player in the 2006 draft. This was one of the worst drafts of all time, but at least the Raptors may have made the right decision selecting Bargnani first overall.
For the first time, Bargnani is the true cornerstone of the Raptors, and he will get a chance to prove that the Raptors made the right choice.
Out of the top five mentioned, Aldridge and Bargnani are the only two that should not be called busts. But there is really only one aspect where Bargnani is clearly better than Aldridge.
Bargnani is a very good scorer. Aldridge is more consistent by the rim. He's quick enough to make adjustments when he gets the ball inside. Bargnani's problem is that he generally uses his size to score.
But that often works, since Bargnani has superior scoring range. Last year, Aldridge had a field goal percentage of 70.7 at the rim, but only 46.9 from anything else less than 10 feet out, and he only gets worse as he gets farther away.
Other than scoring abilities, Aldridge is the superior player as of now. He's a better passer, rebounder and defender. He gets better numbers in these categories than Bargnani even while playing in Portland's incredibly slow offense.
But now Bargnani is the leader. Aldridge has to be as well with Roy out. So we'll have to see how each of them perform without either Bosh or Roy to fall back on.
Better? Not yet.
Gay is talented. He's one of the best slashers at his height, and he has a decent mid-range jumper.
The problem with a player like Gay is he's good, but not unique. There are many small forwards with his skill set. Bargnani brings skills that most centers don't bring to the table.
But that argument is still not valid enough. If it were, Dirk Nowitzki would be the greatest power forward of all time. But since Gay does not bring much else besides his common skills, he does not look like the kind of player who can carry a team.
Bargnani probably isn't either, but his uniqueness puts him just a little ahead of Gay. There are simply more teams that would take a scoring center over a scoring swingman.
Better? So far.
Roy has been the best player from the 2006 draft up to this point, but his career is in jeopardy. He currently has no knee cartilage, a problem that cannot be corrected by surgery. He will have to take slashing out of his game and become more of a Ray Allen type at best.
Whether or not Bargnani surpasses Roy depends on how much Roy regresses, but there's a good chance that Bargnani becomes the superior player from this point on.
Better? Not yet, but likely soon.
After losing to the Raptors without Rondo, it became clear that Rondo is the most important player on the Celtics. But after scoring 29, Bargnani made the point that he is the most important player on the Raptors.
It's difficult comparing a point guard and a center, especially since the two are so non-traditional. Rondo is a subpar shooter and an elite defender. Bargnani is an elite shooter and a subpar defender.
Rondo has taken his team on deep playoff runs while Bargnani has never had a team good enough to do so. Rondo can run an offense while an offense can be run through Bargnani.
Because of Rondo's effectiveness on the defensive end as well as the offensive, I'll take him over Bargnani right now.
Better? Not yet.
Wouldn't it be something if the 47th overall pick ended up better than the first overall? It's not like Millsap hasn't overcome overwhelming odds before. He's already given the Jazz confidence to let go of their All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer.
Right now, give me Millsap over Bargnani. Millsap is aided by Deron Williams passing to him, but he already scores more than Bargnani.
Millsap is also the superior rebounder. He is close to averaging a double-double. Bargnani has never averaged more than 6.1 per game over a season.
Better? Not yet.
Well...maybe not. Not yet anyway. Bargnani has only gotten better. He can be counted on the offensive end, and although he's a terrible rebounder, he's not too bad on one-on-one defense.
If the Raptors had another chance, they probably would not have selected Bargnani first overall, but he's only 25. If he can improve his rebounding, he'll be one of the most complete centers in the league. He's not too far from being the best of 2006.