Thumbs Up And Thumbs Down, NBA Draft Style
LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge
Scout National Basketball Columnist
Posted Jun 29, 2006

Was anyone else dizzy trying to keep track of who was going where who was being traded during the Wednesday night NBA Draft? When heads stopped spinning, it wasn't too difficult to sort out the potential winners and losers via the draft process. And the winners were . . .

What is my initial reaction after watching the 4 ½-hour NBA Draft Wednesday night?


It’s ``why doesn’t the NFL allot only five minutes (instead of its tedious 15) between its first-round selections like the NBA?”


The second is ``props to Chicago, Indiana, Memphis, New Jersey, New Orleans, Portland and Utah.”


The third is ``what in the heck were Boston, New York and Seattle thinking?”


Let’s stay on the positive side of things to start:


How about those Chicago Bulls?


Courtesy the Eddy Curry trade to New York, the Bulls picked up what proved to be the second selection in the draft.


And they parlayed it into the player they’ve wanted for the better part of the evaluation process, LSU forward Tyrus Thomas, and veteran forward Viktor Khryapa of Portland.


How did they do that?


Portland, holding the No. 4 pick, had targeted 6-foot-10 LaMarcus Aldridge of Texas, until very late in consideration by Toronto for the top overall pick, which decided Tuesday that it would use it on 7-foot Italian Andrea Bargnani.


Thinking – or, at least, suspecting – Chicago would take Aldridge at No. 2, the Trail Blazers worked a deal with the Bulls to select Aldridge and exchange his rights for Thomas, who they knew would be available when it became obvious Adam Morrison was the apple of the eyes of Michael Jordan, Bernie Bickerstaff and the rest of the Charlotte organization.


The extra bait? It was the 23-year-old Russian Khryapa, who started 53 games with 5.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game averages.


That, alone, would have made it an immensely successful draft for the Bulls.


But, holding their original (No. 16) pick and fearing that the guy they coveted there, 6-6 Swiss guard Thabo Sefolosha, would be snatched up at No. 14 by Utah, their front office brain trust went to work again.


They hooked up with Philadelphia, offering to draft Rodney Carney of Memphis for the 76ers with their pick (and some cash sprinkled in to sweeten the pot) in exchange for Philly nabbing Sefolosha on the Bulls’ behalf.


Voila! The Bulls had their top two targets on the night plus a forward (Khryapa) who could be able to work into Coach Scott Skiles’ rotation next season.


Beautiful work, guys.


But this is not to suggest that Portland got snookered by Chicago.


It might have considered Khryapa was a small price to play to ensure it could land Aldridge.


But its best of six deals Wednesday night indirectly led to the Trail Blazers getting the most complete player in college land season and a guy they gave plenty of though to selecting, originally, at No. 4.


By sending second-year point guard Sebastian Telfair (and veteran post Theo Ratliff) to Boston, they got the rights to the Celtics’ No. 7 pick.


The guy Portland wanted at that spot, guard Brandon Roy of Washington, was taken by Minnesota at No. 6 before Boston tabbed the second best guard in the draft, Randy Foye of Villanova.


The Blazers and Timberwolves (which, sources said, liked Foye better than Roy, anyway) then swamped the rights to those players – with Minnesota having to play a little less money to Foye on the rookie pay scale.


Portland also landed the top point guard in Europe, Sergio Rodriguez of Spain, by buying the rights to Phoenix’s No. 21 slot in the first round, and then dipped into Europe once again by drafting 6-10, 19-year-old Joel Freeland of England with the 30th and final selection in the first round.


The Blazers’ brass might have taken a lot of hits from some of the fellows offering commentary during the draft broadcast but it was more than a little misplaced.


When you consider that the organization also picked up three future second-round picks via its selection of James White of Cincinnati (a player it didn’t need with Martell Webster and now Roy on its roster) to open the second round, things couldn’t have gone much better for Portland Wednesday night.


And Jerry West had another one of those draft nights that have built his reputation as not only one of the greatest guards of all time but also one of the sport’s best talent evaluators and wheeler-dealers.


Courtesy Houston, which picked Rudy Gay eighth, the Grizzlies were able to acquire arguably the draft’s most innately gifted prospect in exchange for forward Shane Battier.


I’ve written numerous times but it bears repeating: Gay has more all-star potential than anyone who was drafted Wednesday night.


West also had the point guard he wanted (Villanova’ Kyle Lowry) and was able to acquire Florida State forward Alexander Johnson – who he had given some thought to selecting at 24 – from Portland (which got him from Indiana after the Pacers drafted him in the second round) for  future draft pick.


Way to go, Zeke from Cabin Creek.


New Jersey (like most franchises) had Marcus Williams No. 1 on its point guard pecking order but its evaluators and decision makers never dreamed he would be sitting there for the picking when they were up at No. 22 and 23.


The Nets then got a heck a lot of more athletic up front by tapping a Williams’ teammate, Josh Boone, with their next choice.


And, lo and behold, a guy that was on their board at No. 23, Arizona’s Hassan Adams, was there for the taking at 54 in the second round.


They couldn’t have hoped for a better “3 for 3” night, unless Hilton Armstrong (another Connecticut product taken by New Orleans at 12) had managed to slip all the way to 22.


The Hornets, with their pick at No. 15, picked up another of their most coveted post prospects when North Carolina State sophomore Cedric Simmons was still on the board.


Neither will pull a Chris Paul and be Rookie of the Year next season. But there were still lots of smiles to be had by Byron Scott & Co. Wednesday night.


Another big winner was Indiana, which – much to its front office’s surprise – was able to pick up Memphis freshman Shawne Williams, who could have gone two spots before to New Orleans, at No. 17.


And the Pacers picked up 6-7 swingman James White (the first pick of the second round by Portland) with a trade in which they sent their second-round pick, Alexander Johnson, and a future second-round choice to the Pacific Northwest.


With the option of taking J.J. Redick (to Orlando at No. 11) or Sefolosha removed from the equation, Utah was still able to pick up one of the perimeter prospects the Jazz most coveted – 6-6 ½ Ronnie Brewer of Arkansas. After Roy, he was the most versatile college player in the draft.


They also drafted two other top-flight prospects with back to back (46-47) second-round choices. And guard Dee Brown (reunited with college buddy Deron Williams) and forward Paul Millsap (a three-time national rebounding leader at Louisiana Tech . . . alma mater of a former Jazz forward named Karl Malone) are strong candidates to be on the roster when the regular season begins.


Who picked up the player who could be the biggest surprise in his rookie season?


I’ll opt for Sacramento, which selected the second best scorer (after Morrison) in the draft in skinny (160 pounds splashed over a 6-2 frame) Quincy Douby of Rutgers.


Veteran NBA talent scouts compared him to Jason Terry of Dallas and, of more ancient vintage, Andrew Toney.


Before touching upon the franchises whose selections baffled many Wednesday, what are my thoughts on Toronto’s No. 1 pick?


I’ll withhold passing judgment until getting an extensive look at Bargnani in a Raptors’ uniform.


OK, now can someone please explain to me why:


*Boston gave up the No. 7 choice (which it could have used on Brandon Roy or Rudy Gay) in exchange for a 21-year-old point guard with a questionable jump shot, Sebastian Telfair and buys the 21st spot in the first round from Phoenix in order to pick up another 21-year-old point guard, Rajon Rondo, with an even more questionable jumper?


Is there a point Danny Ainge was trying to make there? Sorry . . . couldn’t resist the pun.


Or, why:


*Seattle, after drafting big “projects” (Robert Swift and Johan Petro) in the first rounds of the past two drafts takes another one in 7-footer Mouhamed Saer Sene of Senegal.


If nothing else, Jack Sikma is going to be kept very busy teaching Sonic big guys how to play.


Or, why:


*New York uses the 20th spot in the first round to draft a 6-5 ½, 207-pound forward who doesn’t shoot it much beyond the foul line in Renaldo Balkman when the Knicks would likely have been able to buy themselves a second-round selection and picked him up with that?


Although, like Balkman (who led South Carolina to consecutive NIT titles in Madison Square Garden – hey . . . maybe that’s why the Knicks wanted him!), he had a nice college career, Mardy Collins of Temple was a guy that most teams felt would be available within the first 10 picks of the second round.


Yet New York used the No. 29 selection in the round to pick him up. He’s a 6-5 guard who isn’t particularly quick and hit .307 from behind the arc and .596 from behind the free-throw line.


It wasn’t exactly the kind of Draft Night production that is going to numb the pain of long-suffering Knicks’ fans anytime soon.


Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame in April, 2005, Frank Burlison is’s national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at Read more of Burlison’s pieces at

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