For the first time in recent memory, the NBA Draft had some interest, some intrigue and people actually talking about the league even though the games were over. They had this strange triangulation of storylines that drew attention to the draft before it happened instead of afterwards. The top two players were a given as Greg Oden and Kevin Durant were locks to be taken one and two.
I spent some time around Oden at the National C/championship game in Atlanta this year and he’s solid. A very good player who has the potential to be great, it would have been tough to pass on a 7 footer who could be the lynchpin to a championship team for the next ten years. Durant might have better skills right now and might be the bigger impact player right away but he’ll need some guys around him. People have compared him to Michael Jordan and that’s not a stretch. But remember, Jordan had Pippen, Kerry, Horry and others hitting big shots as well.
There was the possibility of a couple of big trades that focused the attention on the draft but none of them actually happened. Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett stayed in the same places. Ray Allen was traded and so was Jason Richardson but they weren’t the big blockbusters that had been talked about.
Then there was the Gator factor.
The 1976 Indiana team had three players picked in the top eleven. Could the Florida Gators exceed that? There was lots of speculation about Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah, where would they end up and would they find teams where their game fit? Al Horford has the most NBA-ready game and everybody expected him to be picked in the top five.
And that’s how it happened.
Horford went to Atlanta with the third overall pick. The Hawks made the safe selection. Horford developed more of a half court game last year and showed that he can continue to get better.
Brewer went 7th to the Timberwolves. His game is all over the place but there’s just too much athletic talent to ignore. He’s long, fast and fearless. Plays great defense, developed an outside shot and will hustle. He can play three different positions for the Timberwolves, but I think it’ll be fascinating to see Brewer and Garnett in the game at the same time.
Noah was the player people had the most questions about. Without a solid half court offensive game, he’d need to go to the right team using the right system to be successful in the NBA. Phoenix seemed to be the perfect fit with their transition style of play. But Chicago snapped him up at #9, giving the Bulls another solid young player.
Noah could be an 8-point, 12-rebound, 4-blocks per game player and have a long career doing just that. But if he develops more on the offensive end, he’ll be a superstar. He runs the floor and has a passion that you don’t see from a lot of players. I don’t think he’ll be able to get his shot off against the big men in the league right now, but he’ll work at it and it’ll be fun to watch.
Chris Richard and Taurean Green both were picked in the second round giving Florida five players selected. Only Lee Humphrey among the Gators who got significant playing time in the title game didn’t get drafted. But he’ll get some serious looks from teams this summer as a free agent because of his three-point shooting ability. The Nuggets even said he’s a good fit for them based on what he can do from the outside.