Draft night thoughts
Some random thoughts as I worked the NBA Draft for ESPN:
• So many players are drafted on potential, potential, potential. When teams go out and take freshmen, they only get one year to truly evaluate their play in the pressure of the college environment. That's one reason why I felt the three stars from Florida Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah were solid choices. NBA teams had three years to judge their body of work and there is nothing like the pressure of competing in the NCAA tournament. These guys showed so much character.
• To show how much depth there was in this draft, think about this. Only five rookies averaging 10 or more ppg. in the NBA last season. Remember this comment, I feel at least 10 members of this class will average double figures as rookies. The 2003 draft was very good but on selection night, how many people felt Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade would be superstars.
• I give Sam Presti an A in his first draft as Seattle GM. I really like what the Sonics did. Of course it helped to get Kevin Durant, but I felt Seattle made a great deal sending Ray Allen to the Celtics. Getting Jeff Green at No. 5, plus Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West was a solid decision. My friends, West can score and contribute while a healthy Szczerbiak can be a factor too.
Other winners in my book: I like what Billy Knight and Atlanta did at three and 11, getting Horford and Acie Law. Portland has to rank high getting Greg Oden, but also buying the Phoenix pick to get Rudy Fernandez for the future. The Blazers also picked Josh McRoberts and added guard Petteri Koponen in a deal with Philadelphia. Oden and McRoberts knew each other from high school days and AAU play in Indiana. The Clippers got an experienced player who can contribute right away in Al Thornton. Charlotte did well getting Jason Richardson and Jermareo Davidson in a deal for Brandan Wright; plus Jared Dudley a little later in round one.
• I give the Knicks a B, getting Zach Randolph from Portland, plus Wilson Chandler of DePaul. The Nets get an incomplete as Sean Williams could be an "A" or he could have more troubles and end up getting a "D." I am concerned about Randolph and Williams; can they handle the big city area of New York-New Jersey? Randolph can flat-out score, but he had trouble in Portland, so what is going to happen in the Big Apple? Can these guys handle that pressure? Some players are better off being in different cities, in smaller markets. They can't always handle life away from basketball. It is a matter of making good decisions off the court and being responsible.
• As for the youngsters who leave college for the draft early, in many situations you can't blame a kid for trying to make millions of dollars instantly. I worry about kids who are advised to leave early, then miss out on the guaranteed dollars of the first round. There are plenty of players who go in round two and make it big, guys like Gilbert Arenas, Michael Redd, Carlos Boozer and Daniel Gibson. Think about these early-entry players who may have been better off returning to college since they didn't go in round one: Josh McRoberts, Glen Davis, Marcus Williams, Ramon Sessions and Gabe Pruitt. All but Sessions went in the top 40, but the bottom line is no guaranteed contract if you don't go in round one.
• Arron Afflalo reminds me a lot of former McNeese State star Joe Dumars. That's right, the guy who helped draft him. Afflalo loved having the ball late in close games, making big plays for the UCLA Bruins.
• I was happy to see Jermareo Davidson selected by Golden State in round two. He was later shipped to Charlotte. Davidson had so many tragedies off the court with his brother and his girlfriend passing away.
• I also liked the Dallas selection of Nick Fazekas. This guy can flat-out score and his college stats are so impressive. I feel he can contribute at the next level and the Mavericks could be a good fit for him.