We have several months of waiting ahead of us before players take to the courts for the 2005-06 campaign, but there’s still plenty going on in the NBA. From an extremely interesting, surprise-filled draft to a host of trades and free agent signings (and even more rumors), there’s been more than enough action to hold a hoops fan’s interest this off-season. All this player movement has resulted in both winners and losers, naturally; let’s take a look at five of each.
What’s better, winning the draft lottery or resigning one of the year’s premier free agents?
The Bucks did both, picking up Andrew Bogut, the top available center, with the first pick of the draft and retaining shooting guard Michael Redd, who finished 11th in the league in scoring last season and had considered bolting for the division rival Cavaliers to play alonside LeBron James.
After a dismal season that saw the Bucks drop to the cellar of the Central division, things are looking up again in Milwaukee.
In his last three seasons with the Grizzlies, Swift showed huge flashes of potential, but never logged more than 22 minutes of playing time per game. Now, his court time is due to jump when he joins the Houston Rockets for what could be a breakout campaign for the former #2 overall pick. Playing on a talented roster that features Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming won’t hurt, either.
Another off-season winner: Swift owners in keeper leagues.
Indiana and Boston
Neither Indiana nor Boston could believe their good fortunes at this year’s draft. Holding the 17th and 18th picks, respectively, the Pacers and Celtics brass watched incredulously as several players expected to go off the board early went into Rashard lewis-esque free-fall. In the end, Indiana wound up with well-rounded Danny Granger, who some pundits expected to be chosen as early as #7, in a classic case of the rich getting richer.
Boston, meanwhile, landed high school phenom Gerald Green, considered a lock to be picked in the top eight. Unlike Granger, Green may not be ready to contribute immediately, but he represents unbelievable value at such a late point in the first round.
Think Bobcats fans will enjoy seeing North Carolina products Raymond Felton and Sean May bring their game to the New Charlotte Arena?
Yes, Felton and May both have question marks, and you could argue that the Bobcats could have made safer picks, but it’s certainly encouraging to see the team actively courting the area’s fans following the Hornets disaster.
Bobcats fans aren’t alone in having a reason to be cheerful these days – with a new collective bargaining agreement signed, sealed, and delivered, fans everywhere can look forward to six years of NBA action untroubled by labor strife.
There may have been slight delays (which pushed the free agent signing date back twice), but on the whole the process was remarkably smooth. Perhaps the loss of last year’s NHL season put a scare into negotiators on both sides…
First the team makes a questionable decision by using the #11 pick on Fran Vasquez, a player who doesn’t exactly fill the Magic’s greatest needs, then Vasquez decides to stay in Spain rather than moving to Orlando. Ouch.
The Magic still own the rights to the big man should he ever decide to take his game to the NBA, so it’s possible that this pick may still work out at some point in the future, but for now it has to be considered a huge debacle for a franchise that can hardly afford to make mistakes of this magnitude.
Los Angeles Lakers
Yes, the Lakers added Phil Jackson and high expectations for the upcoming season. But this team didn’t just need a coach, it needed to draft a player who could step in and contribute immediately. Instead, Los Angeles picked Andrew Bynum, a project with considerable potential … that won’t be realized for quite some time.
In the weeks leading up to the draft, some mock drafts had Morris sneaking into the end of the first round, but as the draft drew closer, many were overcome by a sinking suspicion that the center’s decision not to return to Kentucky could wind up being a huge mistake.
Undrafted, Morris now has a long and difficult road ahead of him if he wants to catch on with an NBA squad.
Charlie Villanueva? At #7? Seriously?
Not that Vilanueva’s a bad player. He’s as talented as they come, although he comes with a host of questions about his attitude and dedication. Likewise, #16 pick Joey Graham will be an exciting player to watch, and second-rounder Roko Ukic was a steal at #41 overall. The Raptors certainly added plenty of talent to their roster, but why they chose to use their top pick to reach for a player who plays the same position as rising star Chris Bosh remains a mystery.
It’s hard to call this a bad draft for Toronto, but it certainly leaves the lingering aftertaste of a missed opportunity.
Give points to the Cavaliers brass for landing Russian center Martynas Andriuskevicius, but the real prize they had their eyes on was Michael Redd.
The Cavs still have reason to be highly optimistic about the upcoming season, of course, but the addition of Redd to complement LeBron James would have been a big step on the path from rising power to title contender.
Arlo Vander is still surprised that no team decided to take a second-round gamble on Randolph Morris.
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