Who came out of this year’s NBA Draft looking good, and who came out with lots of ‘splaining to do? Let’s break down five of the biggest winners from Thursday night and five of the biggest losers …
The League — The mainstream attention given to this year’s Draft was fantastic for the NBA. Greg Oden and Kevin Durant are already ready-made superstars that fell into the League’s lap at the right time, and not only have they caused a spike in fan interest for two previously low-profile smaller-market teams, they’ve no doubt generated greater interest for the NBA in general after a Finals series that turned a lot of people off.
Golden State Warriors — Marco Belinelli is supposed to be nice, but he’s not the main reason GS cracks this list. The Warriors unloaded Jason Richardson’s monster contract and managed to get Brandan Wright out of the deal, arguably the best player in the draft after Oden and Durant. And in the second round, the Warriors further addressed their frontcourt weaknesses by grabbing UMass eraser Stephane Lasme.
Atlanta Hawks — They’ve needed a solid point guard going on three years now, and they finally got their guy on Thursday in Acie Law. And while they were at it, the Hawks landed Al Horford, already an upgrade over Shelden Williams.
Paul Pierce — Who would have thought P-Double would get a future Hall of Famer to play alongside him and not have to watch Al Jefferson or Gerald Green walk away? With Ray Allen now in the fold, along with Jefferson, G-Money and the rest of that mostly-intact young core, Pierce has got to be smiling heading into next season.
Seattle Supersonics — Yeah, they’re rebuilding, but look at what they have to work with? Durant and Wally Szczerbiak to score, Jeff Green to do a little bit of everything, and Delonte West to play the point. You have to assume they’re trading Luke Ridnour any day now.
Michael Jordan — He should have just kept Brandan Wright and Jared Dudley and called it a night. By trading Wright to Golden State for Jason Richardson, MJ may have burned all of Charlotte’s cap room if they indeed have to eat the $12 million or so from J-Rich’s contract to make the trade work. Richardson is good, don’t get us wrong, but is he better (and more reliable) than the free agents the ‘Cats could have went after with that cap space?
Detroit Pistons — Like Charlotte, the Pistons landed some quality players in Rodney Stuckey, Arron Afflalo and second-rounder Sammy Mejia. But spending first-round picks on two guys who basically play the same position as Rip Hamilton is excessive, not to mention the versatile Mejia also plays the two. The team now has a glut of perimeter talent (don’t forget Flip Murray) but still have only free agent Chauncey Billups and might-retire Lindsey Hunter at the point.
Lakers fans — Or at least those who want Kobe to stay in Los Angeles. Javaris Crittenton is talented as hell, but he’s coming off his freshman year and still a work in progress at the point; Sun Yue is even more of a project PG than Javaris; and Marc Gasol might not have been drafted if not for his last name. Basically, the Lakers didn’t give Kobe any reason to change his mind about wanting to bounce.
Chicago Bulls — Sticking with their pattern of taking players who saw team success in college, Chicago got two bigs from winning programs (Joakim Noah and Aaron Gray), but still doesn’t have a big who can score.
Yao Ming — He just saw Juwan Howard get traded for a guard (Mike James), and then on Thursday, Yao didn’t get much frontcourt help from his team’s draft. First-rounder Aaron Brooks is a good point guard and second-rounder Brad Newley is supposed to be nice, but do the Rockets really need more backcourt players? Houston traded for second-rounder Carl Landry, but he’s basically the same player as Chuck Hayes — an undersized four who isn’t athletic enough to play the three. Unless the Rockets pick someone up in trade or free agency, Yao will have to carry a huge load up front next season.