Wednesday, May 24, 2006

More Draft

With all of the shock and horror running around Blazerland this morning (I can't believe some of the crud that's being spread around...anyone who thinks we lost games intentionally this year is a fool) I thought I'd take a look at how important the draft was to the success of this year's NBA final four. I looked at the top nine players (by minutes per game) from each team, where they were drafted, and by whom. Here's the list:

Dallas
Dirk Nowitzki 9th pick (Bucks)
Jason Terry 10th pick (Hawks)
Josh Howard 29th pick (Mavs)
Marquis Daniels undrafted
Jerry Stackhouse 3rd pick (76'ers)
Adrian Griffin undrafted
Erick Dampier 10th pick (Pacers)
Devin Harris 5th pick (Wizards)
Keith Van Horn 2nd pick (76'ers)

Phoenix
Shawn Marion 9th pick (Suns)
Raja Bell undrafted
Boris Diaw 21st pick (Hawks)
Steve Nash 15th pick (Suns)
Leandro Barbosa 29th pick (Spurs)
Kurt Thomas 10th pick (Heat)
Tim Thomas 7th pick (Nets)
James Jones 49th pick (Pacers)
Amare Stoudamire 9th pick (Suns)

Miami
Dwayne Wade 5th pick (Heat)
Jason Williams 7th pick (Kings)
Udonis Haslem undrafted
Shaquille O'Neal 1st pick (Magic)
James Posey 18th pick (Nuggets)
Gary Payton 2nd pick (Sonics)
Antoine Walker 6th pick (Celtics)
Alonzo Mourning 2nd pick (Hornets)
Shandon Anderson 54th pick (Jazz)

Detroit
Chauncey Billups 3rd pick (Celtics)
Tayshaun Prince 23rd pick (Pistons)
Rip Hamilton 7th pick (Wizards)
Ben Wallace undrafted
Rasheed Wallace 4th pick (Wizards/Bullets)
Antonio McDyess 2nd pick (Clippers)
Maurice Evans undrafted
Amir Johnson 56th pick (Detroit)
Lindsey Hunter 10th pick (Detroit)

Results
--7 of these 36 players were top three picks. (Stackhouse, Van Horn, Shaq, Payton, Mourning, Billups, and McDyess) Only Shaq was #1 overall.

--Of those 7 players drafted in the top three, only Chauncey Billups could be considered the prime, "go-to" guy on his team. And even that is stretching it since Detroit plays such a balanced game. You could argue that none of them are the main men on their squads.

--How many of the 7 top three picks left in the playoffs are still playing for the teams that drafted them? Zeee...ro.

Clearly it's not only possible, but necessary, to acquire and develop talent outside of the top three draft selections when you're building a contender, at least if this year's crop is any indication. The story would change a little if you counted the top 8 (Duncan, LeBron, and Brand were all #1 picks) but that doesn't invalidate the lesson.

Three of these four teams followed a similar path to success. They drafted 1-3 core championship-level players (from various levels of the draft) and then added a key piece through trade or free agency. Detroit, the lone exception, basically traded for everybody, but they did it when the players were young so the story isn't too dissimilar.

Drafting in fourth position is not the end of the world. A bigger issue is whether we have that championship-level player on our team yet, or whether we're still looking. (I'd argue the latter.) Free agency and trades should be the last of our worries. With the puzzle not even out of the box yet, how do we know what kind of pieces we're missing? The most important thing is to use this pick wisely. Somebody past that top three is going to be a very good NBA player. The key to a better future is finding him.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

P.S. Everybody harps on Nash for passing up Chris Paul. How would you like to be former Milwaukee GM Bob Weinhauer who pulled the draft day trade that sent Dirk Nowitzki to Dallas (along with Pat Garrity) for Robert "Tractor" Traylor?

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