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10 Best Teams at Building Through the NBA Draft

Josh FuCorrespondent IJune 20, 2011

10 Best Teams at Building Through the NBA Draft

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    When it comes to building championship teams, the process is complex. It has to be the right mix of moves and transactions. Avoiding bad contracts, signing key free agents, making solid trades and drafting well are all part of this process.

    As far as the 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks, all of these things came to fruition and played a key part in their ultimate success.

    Starting point guard Jason Kidd was acquired via the Devin Harris trade with New Jersey. Tyson Chandler was signed in the offseason and became the defensive force at center that the Mavericks needed to make a championship run. Superstar Dirk Nowitzki was brought in through a draft day trade in the first round of the 1998 draft.

    The following slideshow will focus on teams that have had success in the most recent decade at building through the draft. Being a great drafting team isn't always a prerequisite for success, but it can often be an important component of that process of building a championship franchise.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Draft Gems Since 2000

    C Samuel Dalembert: 2001 first round pick, 26th overall.

    SF Andre Iguodala: 2004 first round pick, 9th overall.

    PG/SG Louis Williams: 2005 second round pick, 45th overall.

    PF Thaddeus Young: 2007 first round pick, 12th overall.

    PG Jrue Holiday: 2009 first round pick, 17th overall.

     

    Commentary

    The Sixers have a recent history of taking chances on very young players in the draft. Iguodala, Young and Holiday were all one-and-doners after their freshman years in college.

    Williams was drafted straight out of South Gwinnett High School before "the rule" was instituted. His stock had dropped considerably before the draft, but the Sixers had the foresight to take a chance on him. He has developed into a very competent combo guard off the bench.

    Holiday was also a great pick. His numbers weren't good in college for two reasons: He was playing out of position at shooting guard, and his true skills were masked in the UCLA system. When all is said and done, Holiday may turn out to be the best point guard of a 2009 draft crop that was loaded with point guards.

Chicago Bulls

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    Draft Gems Since 2000

    SG Jamal Crawford: Acquired in 2000 via draft-day trade with Cleveland, 8th overall.

    PG Kirk Hinrich: 2003 first round pick, 7th overall.

    SF Luol Deng: Acquired in 2004 via draft-day trade with Phoenix, 7th overall.

    C Joakim Noah: 2007 first round pick, 9th overall.

    PG Derrick Rose: 2008 first round pick, 1st overall.

    PF Taj Gibson: 2009 first round pick, 26th overall.

     

    Commentary

    Yes, I realize that taking Derrick Rose must seem like a no-brainer at this point, but I'm giving props to the Bulls for having the sense not to take Michael Beasley with the first pick.

    Neither of the first two guys mentioned are still with the team, but were solid value picks and important contributors for the Bulls early in their careers.

    Gibson was a notable find late in the first round—he fell mainly because of concerns about his age and athleticism. Nowadays, he's a big-time contributor off the bench for the Bulls and brings toughness as well as a defensive mindset.

    Noah slipped all the way to ninth, where the Bulls had the sense to grab him based on his energy and athleticism. The Bulls have a recent history of drafting proven college players from high reputable programs—thus, they get prospects that are winners and have championship-type experience.

Detroit Pistons

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    Draft Gems Since 2000

    PF Mehmet Okur: 2001 second round pick, 37th overall.

    SF Tayshaun Prince: 2002 first round pick, 23rd overall.

    PG Rodney Stuckey: 2007 first round pick, 15th overall.

    SG/SF Arron Afflalo: 2007 first round pick, 27th overall.

    PF Jonas Jerebko: 2009 second round pick, 39th overall.

    C Greg Monroe: 2010 first round pick, 7th overall.

     

    Commentary

    The Pistons tend to take more risks on European prospects and project players in the second round, and proven college players in the first round.

    Afflalo played three years at UCLA and Tayshuan Prince was a rare four-year player out of Kentucky. Both have found success at the NBA level and because of their college experience understand the team concept better than most.

    Jerebko was actually a really nice surprise out of Sweden in rookie year, starting 73 games and becoming a key player for Detroit. Unfortunately, an Achilles injury sidelined him for the entire 2010-11 season, but he will likely make big strides as an NBA player next season.

Houston Rockets

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    Draft Gems Since 2000

    C Yao Ming: 2002 first round pick, 1st overall.

    PF Luis Scola: Acquired in 2002 via draft-day trade with San Antonio, 56th overall.

    PG Aaron Brooks: 2007 first round pick, 26th overall.

    PF Carl Landry: Acquired in 2007 via draft-day trade with Seattle, 31st overall.

    SF Chase Budinger: Acquired in 2009 via draft-day trade with Detroit, 44th overall.

     

    Commentary

    Unfortunately, Yao Ming's recent career has been derailed by injury, so we may never know for sure how he ranks among No. 1 overall picks. However, his stats from previous seasons indicate that he may have had a Hall-of-Fame type career had he stayed healthy.

    Other than that, the Rockets belong on this list simply because they know how to spot pro-level talent deep in the draft. In a move that the Spurs will probably regret for years to come, the Rockets nabbed Scola for only a second-round pick. Scola is now arguably the Rockets best player, and one of the league's more unstoppable scorers in the post.

    Brooks was also a great find late in the first round. He was an explosive player at the college level but slipped in the draft because of his small stature. Before getting injured and traded to the Suns, Brooks was the starting PG for Houston and one of the NBA's premier three-point gunners.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    Draft Gems Since 2000

    PF Zach Randolph: 2001 first round pick, 19th overall.

    PF LaMarcus Aldridge: Acquired in 2006 via trade with Chicago, 2nd overall.

    SG Brandon Roy: Acquired in 2006 via trade with Minnesota, 6th overall.

    SF Nicolas Batum: Acquired in 2008 via trade with Houston, 25th overall.

     

    Commentary

    Randolph, aka Z-Bo, was a steal with the 19th pick. Although the Blazers eventually parted ways with the burly power forward, he was a solid 20 and 10 type of contributor during his time in Portland.

    The reason that the Blazers are on this list is because of their ability to make sterling draft day acquisitions.

    Aldridge nearly made the All-Star team this year and proved that he will be one of the top power forwards in the league for years to come.

    Roy was arguably the best shooting guard in the league after Dwyane Wade and Kobe, until multiple knee injuries threatened to end his career.

    Batum was a great acquisition as a raw project player out of France and will be one of the key young pieces that the Blazers hope to build their franchise around.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Draft Gems Since 2000

    SF Shane Battier: 2001 draft first round pick, 6th overall.

    SF Rudy Gay: Acquired in 2006 via draft-day trade with Houston, 8th overall.

    PG Mike Conley, Jr: 2007 first round pick, 4th overall.

    SG O.J. Mayo: Acquired in 2008 via draft-day trade with Minnesota, 3rd overall.

     

    Commentary

    The Grizzlies' recent draft history suggests that they have a tendency to take younger, athletic prospects who may be less polished but have more upside.

    Gay was a great draft day acquisition and has become one of the league's brightest young stars as well as Memphis' best player. He has translated his tremendous physical gifts into a solid skill set on both ends of the floor.

    Conley, Jr. was considered a highly athletic project when the Grizz first drafted him in 2007, but he has rewarded their patience by improving each year as a point guard.

New Orleans Hornets

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    Draft Gems Since 2000

    PF David West: 2003 first round pick, 18th overall.

    SG/SF J.R. Smith: 2004 first round pick, 18th overall.

    PG Chris Paul: 2005 first round pick, 4th overall.

    SG Marcus Thornton: Acquired in 2009 via draft-day trade with Miami, 43rd overall.

    PG Darren Collison: 2009 first round pick, 21st overall.

     

    Commentary

    The majority of these players listed are no longer with the Hornets, which may in part explain the sad state of affairs for this franchise.

    Paul and West are a great inside-outside combo for the Hornets, though. It's notable that CP3 was drafted fourth that year, yet he has developed into arguably the best point guard in the NBA.

    The 2009 draft produced two great late-draft finds for New Orleans, but both players are now on different teams. Thornton flashed his high-scoring ability as a rookie and possesses the talent to be a 20 PPG type scorer in the NBA with his new team, the Kings. Collison is technically now the starting PG on the Pacers, but has yet to realize his potential in that system.

San Antonio Spurs

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    Draft Gems Since 2000

    PG Tony Parker: 2001 first round pick, 28th overall.

    PG Beno Udrih: 2004 first round pick, 28th overall.

    SG George Hill: 2008 first round pick, 26th overall.

    PF DeJuan Blair: 2009 second round pick, 37th overall.

     

    Commentary

    The Spurs have long been masters of the draft, managing to build championship contenders with little-known players who other teams passed on in the draft. In particular, the Spurs are skilled at scouting the international talent.

    Another note to keep in mind: The Spurs found a gem in 1999 with the 57th overall pick in the draft. Just some Argentinian guy named Manu Ginobili.

    The Spurs' winning ways in the last decade have guaranteed that they only receive low draft choices. However, their ability to find hidden gems has produced talented youngsters such as George Hill and DeJuan Blair, both of whom are expected to be a big part of the inevitable youth movement in San Antonio.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Draft Gems Since 2000

    PF Nick Collison: 2003 first round pick, 12th overall.

    SF Kevin Durant: 2007 first round pick, 2nd overall.

    PF Jeff Green: Acquired in 2007 via draft-day trade with Boston, 5th overall.

    PG Russell Westbrook: 2008 first round pick, 4th overall.

    PF Serge Ibaka: 2008 first round pick, 24th overall.

    SG James Harden: 2009 first round pick, 3rd overall.

     

    Commentary

    Talk about building from the ground up. It all started with Kevin Durant in 2007, which the Thunder (formerly the SuperSonics) were fortunate enough to have fall into their laps after Greg Oden was selected first by the Blazers.

    The initial results weren't promising, as the Thunder finished with a 23-59 record in their inaugural season of 2008-09 and last place in the Northwest Division. However, converted point guard and first round draft pick Russell Westbrook showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie season.

    Flash forward just two seasons, and the Thunder nearly made it to the Finals in 2010-11 after a hard-fought semifinals series with Dallas. How did they do it? By utilizing a successful drafting strategy that involves taking risks on raw young players and having those risks pay off.

Sacramento Kings

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    Draft Gems Since 2000

    SF Hedo Turkoglu: 2000 first round pick, 16th overall.

    SF Gerald Wallace: 2001 first round pick, 25th overall.

    SG Kevin Martin: 2004 first round pick, 26th overall.

    PG Tyreke Evans: 2009 first round pick, 4th overall.

    SF Omri Casspi: 2009 first round pick, 23rd overall.

    C DeMarcus Cousins: 2010 first round pick, 5th overall.

     

    Commentary

    It might seem strange to put a team that owned a pathetic 24-58 record last year on this list, but the Kings are actually quite good at finding talent in the draft. It's finding a way to make those talented pieces fit together that makes a real playoff team.

    Gerald Wallace was a great selection by the Kings, although they didn't know how to mold his immense physical gifts for the NBA level, so he went on to star for other teams.

    Kevin Martin was also a great value pick at 26th overall out of little known Western Carolina. He went on to star for the Kings for several seasons as a 20+ PPG scorer before getting traded to the Rockets, showcasing a highly versatile offensive game.

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