Friday , Jun , 29 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Portland, Seattle come up big on draft night

(Sports Network) – The 2007 NBA Draft is history. There were plenty of
trades and surprising picks which should keep NBA fans talking throughout the
offseason.

The top two picks went as expected, and then the fun started. An All-Star
guard was traded back to the Eastern Conference, while another team from the
East added an impact big man in what appears to be a one-sided deal.

Some franchises had big nights and will be applauded by the media and their
fan base. Other clubs seemed to be lacking direction and made decisions that
will have most scratching their heads in disbelief.

Which teams had slam dunk evenings, and what front offices were off their
game?

WINNERS:

1. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS – This franchise hopes center Greg Oden is the
savior. Portland selected the Ohio State product with the No. 1 overall pick
in the draft. The seven-foot Oden is one of those players who comes along once
in a decade. Oden, who is just 19-years-old, is very athletic, plays strong on
the defensive end around the basket and runs the floor effectively. He is
still developing his low-post game offensively, but with more experience he
will polish his moves and should become a dominant force in the paint.

The selection of Oden makes this draft a slam dunk for Portland. However, the
Trail Blazers also added Spaniard Rudy Fernandez, who was originally selected
by Phoenix with the 24th overall pick in round one, and Duke product Josh
McRoberts with the 12th pick in the second round. Fernandez has drawn
comparisons to San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili, while McRoberts was projected to
be a first-round selection and is a strong pick at No. 37 overall.

Portland did deal forward Zach Randolph and guards Fred Jones and Dan Dickau
to the New York Knicks for Steve Francis and Channing Frye. The 25-year-old
Randolph led the team in scoring (23.6 ppg) and rebounding (10.3 rpg) in the
2006-07 campaign. The Randolph trade favors New York, but nothing can take
away from the addition of Oden.

2. SEATTLE SUPERSONICS – Want to rebuild on draft night? Teams will be looking
at what Seattle did at the 2007 NBA Draft for many years to come. The
SuperSonics grabbed multi-talented forward Kevin Durant of Texas with the
second overall pick, and dealt All-Star shooting guard Ray Allen, who turns 32
on July 20th, to Boston for guard Delonte West, forwards Wally Szczerbiak and
Georgetown’s Jeff Green, who was chosen with the No. 5 overall pick. Boston
also received Seattle’s No. 35 pick in the second round, LSU forward Glen
Davis, while the SuperSonics will receive a future second-round pick.

Durant was the most talented offensive player in the draft, while Green is
also expected to make an immediate impact. In one night, Seattle, which has
missed the playoffs two straight years, changed the face of its franchise and
started the rebuilding process. Durant and Green will both play big minutes
right away and will give the SuperSonics an exciting duo at the forward spots.

A seven-time All-Star, Allen, who averaged a team-best 26.4 points in 55 games
this past season, is still one of the best outside shooters in the NBA, but
the SuperSonics were not winning with him. Forward Rashard Lewis is an
unrestricted free agent and is expected to be playing in a new uniform in
2007-08. The time for change had arrived, and Seattle’s front office did a
great job by adding two future stars.

3. ATLANTA HAWKS – Florida’s Al Horford and Acie Law of Texas A&M will step in
right away and help the Hawks get back into playoff contention. Atlanta had a
pair of first-round picks in this year’s draft, and put them to good use.
Horford was selected with the third overall pick, while Law was taken at No.
11.

Horford, who joins young forwards Josh Smith and Marvin and Shelden Williams
in the Atlanta frontcourt, is a power forward. He can score in the low post,
plays physical defense and is a monster on the boards. The Florida product can
knock down a mid-range jumper and will put up big numbers right away for the
Hawks, who have not qualified for the playoffs since 1998.

Law was the second point guard selected in the draft, as Memphis took Ohio
State’s Mike Conley Jr. with the fourth overall pick. Law fills a void for
the Hawks, and will team with All-Star Joe Johnson to give the Hawks an
athletic and talented backcourt.

4. NEW YORK KNICKS – Isiah Thomas drafted a player he had targeted, as the
Knicks added DePaul forward Wilson Chandler with the 23rd overall pick. While
Chandler is a solid pick, his selection does not make New York a winner. The
acquisition of Zach Randolph from Portland has landed the Knicks in the winner
circle.

Randolph, who turns 26 on July 16th, is a proven commodity. He can score down
low and is a strong rebounder. Thomas wanted to make a big move, and that is
just what he did. And don’t forget, New York also got rid of Steve Francis and
his big contract in the deal. Channing Frye had a disappointing 2006-07
campaign for the Knicks and may benefit from a change of scenery.

Thomas needs to win now. He survived last season, as the Knicks showed
improvement even though they finished just 33-49. With Randolph in the fold,
they actually have a legitimate shot at getting back to the postseason. A
great night for Knicks’ fans.

LOSERS:

1. BOSTON CELTICS – What else can Danny Ainge do to this franchise? The fear
of Paul Pierce, who averaged 25.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists this
past season, asking for a trade may have made Ainge trade away the fifth
overall pick for an aging star in Allen. Yes, the Celtics have a good shot
at getting back to the postseason next year, but a quick fix was not what this
team needed.

Allen and Pierce will makeup a potent one-two scoring punch. Did Ainge forget
that they are a shooting guard and small forward? Boston needed a young
frontcourt player to complement 22-year-old Al Jefferson, who averaged 16.0
points and a team-best 11.0 rebounds in just his third year in the league.

If Boston would have kept the fifth overall pick, Jeff Green, Florida’s Corey
Brewer, Yia Jianlian of China and North Carolina’s Brandan Wright would have
all been excellent choices. The Celtics want to get back to the glory days,
and the deal with Seattle was not a step in that direction.

Keeping the fifth pick and seeing if Pierce would ask for a trade would not
have been the worst thing for the Celtics.

2. CHARLOTTE BOBCATS – North Carolina’s Brandan Wright slipped to No. 8 and
the Bobcats were lucky enough to be there to take him. But, to trade him to
Golden State for Jason Richardson. What was Charlotte thinking?

The 26-year-old Richardson’s production was down big time last season for the
Warriors. He averaged 16.0 points, down from his 23.2 points per game in
2005-06. Richardson was hampered by a knee injury and missed 31 contests.

Wright was a steal at No. 8. He is athletic and would have fit well with
Emeka Okafor and Adam Morrison. Gerald Wallace, who led Charlotte in scoring
(18.1 ppg) this past season, is testing the free agent market, which probably
made the Bobcats pull the trigger on the deal with Golden State.

Bottom line, Wright is loaded with that dangerous word, potential. Another
young player from a winning program would have been perfect for the Bobcats.
Jared Dudley of Boston College was a nice pick at No. 22 for Charlotte.
Unfortunately, the trade with Golden State makes this club a loser on draft
night.

3. LOS ANGELES LAKERS – The Kobe Bryant/Lakers soap opera will definitely
continue into the summer. Draft night was the perfect time for the Lakers to
make a statement to their superstar. Kobe wants to win now. He has questioned
the team’s directions and commitment to winning.

For the second year in a row the Lakers picked a point guard in the first
round. They picked UCLA’s Jordan Farmar with the 26th overall selection in
2006, and grabbed Javaris Crittenton of Georgia Tech at No. 19 this year.
Guaranteed, Bryant isn’t jumping for joy.

The Lakers needed to make a trade. They had to do something that showed Kobe
that help was on the way. Trade talk was alive and well at the draft, but the
Lakers couldn’t turn the rumors into reality. Not a good night for Lakers’
fans.