This article is the first of three attempting to break down the 2008 NBA draft into “Who’s Happy”, “Who’s Puzzled”, and “Who’s Sad” sections. First up, I’ll discuss the teams that appear to be winners in this interesting draft. The next two sections will follow in prompt fashion. Enjoy!
Everybody, clap your hands
Blazers – Jerryd Bayless, Nicolas Batum – It seems that a team that once perennially made blunders is now regarded as a shrewd veteran come draft day. Kevin Pritchard seems to have made all the right moves again as the Blazers ended up landing a potentially solid PG and acquiring a great European prospect. Jerryd Bayless was projected to be a top 5 player in this year’s draft, but surprisingly, he fell all the way to the Pacers at number 11. Wisely, the Blazers shipped their pick to Indiana in a trade that I feel helps both teams. Both Justin Phan and myself are really high on this kid as we feel he can potentially be one of the best players of this draft. It is not that surprising considering he is a superb athlete possessing a complete offensive package. I think his playmaking ability will improve, but even if it doesn’t, it shouldn’t hurt the Blazers much as they have Brandon Roy in the back court.
In addition to Bayless, the Blazers landed coveted Frenchman Nicolas Batum. Nicolas oozes upside with his outstanding athleticism, court vision, and high basketball IQ. He has most often been compared to Rudy Gay. Given the Blazers are loaded with solid wingmen, Nicolas will be able to develop at his own pace and may be an integral part of a possible dynasty one day.
Bulls – Derrick Rose, Omer Asik – Is an explanation really needed? The NBA fell in love with Deron Williams and Chris Paul last year. Consequently, the Bulls hope he’ll be the spark this team needs as a potential future franchise point guard. Derrick seems to have the court vision, ball savvy, scoring ability, and other intangibles. Just as importantly, this now gives the Bulls several pieces (Hinrich, Gordon, Hughes) to dangle as trade bait to improve their team (the front court) even further. Center Omer Asik will continue to stay overseas to work on his game and hopefully bulk up some as well (220 lbs.).
Celtics – JR Giddens, Bill Walker, Semih Erden – The Celtics are practically here by default as long as they didn’t make some poor draft choices. In my opinion, they ended up getting three guys who have plenty of upside, but for one reason or another, didn’t go as high as they might have hoped. First, J.R. Giddens is an outstanding athlete with a solid perimeter shot. Despite his tools, his character kept his value pretty low as he’s been involved in a few nasty incidents (ugly bar brawl, leaving powerhouse Kansas, and getting suspended by New Mexico’s coaching staff). If there is one team that can change the demeanor of a young man, it’s Boston. Second, Bill Walker slipped in the draft thanks to knee problems – most notably an ACL injury last season. Despite this, he still seems to have retained most, if not all, of his athleticism. He impressed a number of GM’s in workouts with his shooting (thought to be a weakness), but in the end many passed due to injury concerns. Lastly, Erden makes for solid final pick because he is considered one of the top Turkish prospects possessing good size, athletic ability, and other intangibles.
Clippers – Eric Gordon, DeAndre Jordan, Mike Taylor – The Clippers landed a few solid players in the draft that hopefully will help their team now and in the future. Even though I would have preferred Bayless, Eric Gordon should develop into a solid NBA player. He has the ability to score from all over the floor and at age 19, his body is developed to the point where he should be able to step in and produce right away. I’m a little higher on him than most mainly because I’m impressed by the season he had last year despite all the distractions (Illinois v. Indiana signing, wrist injury, and the Kelvin Sampson fiasco). The Clippers were also able to nab DeAndre Jordan in the 2nd round when most mock drafts (especially early) had projected him as a possible lottery pick. DeAndre has probably the most potential of any big man drafted; however, he is far from a sure bet. He could either become the next Andrew Bynum or never be heard from again. The reason for this is that he isn’t a very developed basketball player in most facets of the game – awareness, instincts, and shooting. If he doesn’t pan out, it’s not a disaster, as he was picked 35th. Mike Taylor has shown potential and impressed some during pre-draft camp but he has numerous issues – character, size, and poor defense.
Heat – Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers – The Heat deserve the Rolaids award for the way they handled this year’s draft. There was rampant speculation that they would either trade the rights to the second pick in the draft, or unthinkably, pass on Beasley and draft Mayo. Thankfully, they made the prudent move by drafting the most talented player available in the draft. Regardless of what one thinks about Beasley, his talent certainly outweighs his possible demeanor and defensive deficiencies. As a bonus, they pried Mario from Minnesota for two future 2nd round draft picks and cash considerations. It would have been hard for Miami not to improve after last year’s performance, but with these two picks and a healthy Wade and Marion, fans can expect this team to probably return to the playoffs.
Lakers – Joe Crawford - The Lakers have drafted the heir apparent to Kobe Bryant… Just kidding. The reason they make the happy side of the draft is simple: Pau Gasol. They gave up very little in most people’s eyes to land one of the premier PF/C in the game. I’m sure fans aren’t too upset that they traded some young talent and two 1st round draft picks to do it. Crawford was a solid player from Kentucky. He doesn’t have much upside but he did show improvement every year at a big program and could conceivably make the team next year.
Magic – Courtney Lee – Orlando managed to do pretty well with their only pick of the draft. They grabbed a solid player with some upside while filling a positional need. In addition, they just HAD to make up for the Redick pick from a couple of years ago when they could have had Rajon Rondo, Jordan Farmer, Thabo Sefolosha, or even Kyle Lowry. Lee was an excellent versatile scorer while at Western Kentucky and seems to have developed his other skills while spending four years in college. He impressed numerous scouts in camps and workouts with his basketball IQ, offensive game, and maturity. He’ll give the Magic a chance to upgrade at SG.
Nets – Brook Lopez, Ryan Anderson, Chris Douglas-Roberts – The Nets were one of the busiest teams in the draft, picking three very solid players and trading Richard Jefferson to the Bucks for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons. The trade made sense for several reasons as they were not winning with Kidd, Carter, and Jefferson, they freed up cap space for a possible Lebron James run in a couple of years, and added a potential star in Yi to an offensively-challenged front court.
As far as their draft picks, the Nets made out like bandits. First, Brook Lopez fell to them at their 10th pick. Lopez doesn’t have much upside due to some athletic shortcomings such as foot speed and explosiveness, but many figured he would have gone higher. Brook possesses a solid offensive game, good hands, and excellent size. Next, Ryan Anderson is an interesting player who appears to have a game similar to Yi. Lastly, CDR was expected to be picked late in the first round. Why he fell to 40 is a mystery to me. He is a versatile wing player who should be able to earn himself a contract despite being selected in the 2nd round.
Pacers – Brandon Rush, Roy Hibbert – The Pacers addressed most of their needs with this draft. First, they finally let Jermaine O’Neal go after discovering he isn’t essential to their new philosophy. O’Neal and the 41st pick of the draft were shipped to Toronto in exchange for TJ Ford, the 17th pick, Rasho Nesterovic, and Maceo Baston. Ford gives the Pacers immediate help at the PG position. Indiana hasn’t had much luck with Tinsley and even though TJ is an injury risk, he should improve their team as his skills mesh perfectly with Indiana’s offensive strategy. Rasho should also step in and see solid minutes alongside Jeff Foster. With the 17th pick, Indiana was able to look to the future and get Roy Hibbert. Roy possesses solid big man skills and other good intangibles. His drawback is athleticism and some think he’ll simply be too slow, but I feel he’ll be just fine thanks in part to his awareness and intelligence.
With Indiana’s 11th pick, they shockingly got Jerryd Bayless. However, as it was mentioned earlier, they traded him to Portland for Brandon Rush. Rush, like his teammate and brother, is solid at knocking down perimeter shots. However, unlike Kareem, he is a better all around player as he’s a better defender, rebounder, and athlete. Drafting Rush probably gives Indiana the opportunity to move Dunleavy if they choose to do so in the next year or two.
Raptors – Nathan Jawai – As mentioned in the previous Pacer section, Toronto was involved in a trade that brought in some much needed size and toughness to the post. Jermaine O’Neal figures to bounce back from the numerous injuries and off-court problems that plagued him in Indiana. He is still only 29 and if his knee is able to recover, Toronto will boast one of the better front courts in the league. In addition, Jose Calderon will now be given the reins to the team, a move many fans have waited for patiently. Along with receiving O’Neal, the Raptors picked up the 41st pick of the draft. Surprisingly, they were able to land a potentially solid PF/C in Nathan Jawai. Nathan was projected by quite a few to go towards the end of the 1st round but slipped all the way to the happy Raptors. Jawai has some upside coming from Australia by showing solid strength, instincts, and touch. Plus, it’s always good to have another mate in the NBA.
76ers – Marreese Speights – Philadelphia addressed their need to get a more physical power forward and seem to have grabbed one with solid upside. Marreese appears to have all the necessary tools and fundamentals – size, hands, agility, and shot. Plus he comes from Florida, a strong basketball program. According to a few scouting reports, his problem seems to be that he prefers to stay on the perimeter shooting jumpers. If this is his biggest flaw, I have faith in Maurice Cheeks that he’ll adjust this kid’s mentality quickly.
Jazz – Kosta Koufos, Ante Tomic, Tadija Dragicevic – The Jazz ended up getting three guys that most would struggle to spell or pronounce correctly. This isn’t a bad thing though as it seems the Jazz got a wealth of potentially solid big men. First, Kosta was picked to go earlier in the draft. He has been compared to Mehmet Okur as he has the ability to bang down low a bit while stepping out onto the perimeter the next minute and knocking down a shot. His biggest issues are foot speed and explosiveness, but plenty of slow 7-footers like Okur, Brad Miller, and Ilgauskas haven’t had any problems. Next, Tomic was figured to go earlier as well to a team that could afford to allow him to continue his development in Europe. Chris Ford at ESPN and Draft Express feel he is comparable to Pau Gasol. He is a long and agile player with an excellent post game and touch that doesn’t rely on strength or explosiveness. Lastly, Dragicevic appears to be a fine shooting 6′9” Serbian who just enjoyed his finest season, becoming his team’s captain, and more importantly, the league’s MVP.
Oleh Kosel is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. He is a native Australian who left the Outback long ago simply because the NBA was half way around the world. You can catch up with Oleh in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of RedHopeful.
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