The 2006 NBA draft produced about what was expected -- it wasn't the type of impact draft that delivered a player who could come in and totally change a franchise's fortunes. That's coming in the 2007 draft.
Roy taking honors course
Still, there are some quality rookies this season who ultimately will make a long-term difference to their respective teams. Most notably, a polished guard in Portland has earned my top Rookie of the Year candidate honors so far. Here's how my top five rookies shape up now:
1. Blazers guard Brandon Roy -- Head and shoulders above everybody else this year. The sixth overall pick in the draft is very mature and polished, leading rookies in scoring at 14.7 ppg. His stats put him among top 5 in rebounding (4.3 rpg) and assists among rookies.
He was the most complete player in the draft by far, ready to step into an NBA starting lineup. Coincidentally, I don't think Portland would have won as many games (18-25 after beating the Timberwolves in OT, 101-98) thus far without him. He has played in only 23 games because of a heel injury, averaging 31 minutes per game.
2. Timberwolves guard Randy Foye -- The seventh overall pick, dealt for Roy on draft night, got off to a slow start in part because Minnesota had established guards in place with Mike James and Ricky Davis.
But once he got a feel for things, as I think he's done over the past month or so, he has elevated his game in his role off the bench, averaging 9.1 ppg. He's a lead guard in that he can play the 1 and 2 and makes decent decisions and gets to the rim when his team needs a bucket.
3. Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani -- It took a while for him to get a feel for the NBA game. Interesting fact: Bargnani has made more 3-pointers this year than the prototype European 7-footer, Dirk Nowitzki (51 to 39), whose game continues to move inside.
Bargnani, averaging 10.3 ppg and 3.8 rpg, has been more impressive defensively to me. He has good footwork for his size, which gives him the ability to guard small forwards on perimeter. I think he's set up to have one of the better second halves among the top rookies.
Bargnani and Foye are fortunate in that they weren't pressured early. In Bargnani's case, it's rare to have a No. 1 pick come in and not be expected to have an immediate impact. You've got to credit coach Sam Mitchell and the front office for that. When I spoke with Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo about it, he had said they didn't want to rush him. And now his time has come.
4. Jazz forward Paul Millsap -- A lot of people don't know much about him as a second-round pick , but The Paperboy (The Mailman nickname was taken by fellow La. Tech alum) is a heck of a defensive player. His skill set is not that of a go-to guy, but he's nonetheless an impact player. Averaging 5.7 ppg and 4.1 rpg, while playing 15 minutes a night for one of the West's top teams. He's does all the things a team needs to play winning basketball. A very pleasant surprise.
5. Bobcats forward Adam Morrison -- Even though he hasn't shot the ball the way some would like (37.7 FG percent), he's been pretty solid playing 33 minutes a night and averaging 13.5 ppg.
I think his confidence is getting better. He's playing a lot of minutes and, unlike Bargnani, was expected to contribute immediately. Overall he has good basketball instincts, so I think he will continue to grow in his game.
Some other rookies who have impressed include Lakers guard Jordan Farmar. He's fit in quite nicely in the triangle offense. He's not a pure point guard, and has shot the ball reasonably well. Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay had some good games but his shooting percentage (40 percent) is not where you'd like it to be. As the game speeds up, under Tony Barone, I think that will suit him better.
Nets guard Marcus Williams has had some solid moments, and Hawks forward Shelden Williams has rebounded pretty consistently. And no, I don't include Raptors center Jorge Garbajosa in my rookie considerations. The Spaniard is 29.
ESPN analyst Greg Anthony, drafted by the Knicks with the 12th overall pick of the 1991 NBA Draft, averaged 5.5 ppg his rookie year.
AP Photo/Nick Wass
Grizzlies guard Eddie Jones sank the Utah Jazz with the game-winning shot. The Grizzlies beat the Jazz 132-130 in overtime.
Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry talks about whether or not his team has enough to win the Eastern Conference.
Because Pau Gasol makes $12.364 million this season (plus four more years at $13.7, $15.1, $16.4 and $17.8), the Bulls (or any other team over the salary cap) would have to send Memphis a minimum of nearly $10 million in salaries to comply with the 125 percent rule.
Bulls VP John Paxson could get most of the way to the threshold by starting the trade with P.J. Brown, whose $8 million salary comes off the books after this season. After that, it's merely a matter of finding a player or combination of players making between $1.98 million and $7.55 million.
Phoenix takes New York, wins 15th straight
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Heat center Shaquille O'Neal worked up a sweat Wednesday in his first game back after missing 35 games while recovering from knee surgery. He finished with five points and five rebounds in 14 minutes in a 96-94 overtime loss at Indiana.
Quote of the Day
-- Andrew Ayres
Here's how I'd pick the teams for the All-Star Game in Las Vegas on Feb. 18:
Reserves: Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Hamilton, Joe Johnson, Chauncey Billups.
Didn't make the team: Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Jermaine O'Neal., Antawn Jamison, Michael Redd.
Reserves: Shawn Marion, Carlos Boozer, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Allen Iverson
Didn't make the team: Ray Allen, Pau Gasol, Elton Brand, Marcus Camby, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Leandro Barbosa.
-- Bill Walton
The Suns overcame a 10-point deficit to defeat New York 112-107 and extend their winning streak to 15 games. It was the fourth time during their current streak that the Suns won a game in which they trailed by double digits. Phoenix became the sixth team in NBA history to win 15 straight games twice in one season. The other teams to do it were the 1946-47 Washington Capitols, 1970-71 Bucks, 1971-72 Lakers (during a 33-game winning streak), 1996-97 Jazz and 1999-2000 Lakers.
The Suns have won each of their past 11 games by a margin of at least five points, matching the longest such streak in franchise history. In fact, the last NBA team with such a streak was Phoenix, last season.
January 25, 1960
January 25, 1988
-- ESPN Research