With no clear No. 1 choice and not a single "sure thing," teams were scrambling all over the place at the NBA draft Wednesday night. Some clubs moved up, some moved down and some dropped all the way out of the draft just to avoid salary cap problems.
As always, it will take at least a season to truly evaluate each team's performance – but that is particularly true this year. Who really knows how this will all play out? After all, did anyone realize how good Josh Howard was going to be as the 29th selection in the 2003 draft? And did anyone really know that Marvin Williams would be so mediocre in his first season as a Hawk?
But at first glance, it appears the two big winners in this year's draft were Chicago and Portland. Each team added a couple of potential impact players that could help change the fortunes of their respective franchises. LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy just might bring the Trail Blazers out of the doldrums, while Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefalosha could catapult the Bulls into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. But of course, only time will tell.
Here's a look at each team's draft-night performance, complete with grades:
Atlanta Hawks: C
Shelden Williams will be a nice player, but the Hawks probably could have gotten him much lower. With guys like Randy Foye, Rudy Gay and Brandon Roy still on the board at that point, the Hawks were in a very desirable spot with plenty of options available. But Williams was their guy and they went with him. Atlanta still doesn't have a point guard, though, and if Foye turns out to be special, Atlanta will have passed up on another opportunity (after not selecting Chris Paul last year).
Boston Celtics: Incomplete
Something fishy is going on here. Why trade the No. 7 pick for Sebastian Telfair and then make another move for the 21st pick (Rajon Rondo)? Adding two small point guards to a roster that already includes Delonte West? There has to be another deal in the works – perhaps involving Allen Iverson. So we'll hold off on the grade until we see what general manager Danny Ainge does from here. But if this is it for Boston, it makes no sense, particularly with so many good players available at No. 7. Leon Powe was a nice pickup in the second round. He's undersized for a four and has had a history of knee problems, but he was a terrific college player and well worth a second-round pick.
Charlotte Bobcats: A
They had plenty of options at No. 3, but they went with Adam Morrison. He may not be the greatest athlete, but he's a wonderful player, a nasty competitor and a guy who will sell some tickets in Charlotte. And he'll put up a lot of points for a team that needs scoring. Ryan Hollins from UCLA was a good second-round selection after a very good senior season. He can be a shot-blocking presence.
Chicago Bulls: A
The Bulls got the guy they wanted in Tyrus Thomas, but they duped Portland into swapping the second and fourth picks and adding a second-round pick and Victor Khryapa to the deal. Then they moved up to get the big guard they needed, Swiss star Thabo Sefalosha. John Paxson did exactly what he wanted and dramatically improved his club. Thomas could become a dominant, versatile defender, and Sefalosha gives Chicago the big defender they'll need in the East to deal with LeBron James for the next 10 years. Overall, it was a terrific draft for the up-and-coming Bulls.
Cleveland Cavaliers: A
Considering the Cavaliers didn't pick until No. 25, they did pretty well. Getting Shannon Brown has to feel good for Danny Ferry, who wanted to upgrade an aging backcourt. Brown can help Cleveland right away, and Daniel Gibson gives the Cavaliers another athletic, versatile guard.
Dallas Mavericks: C+
The Mavericks were hoping to move up in the draft and unload Marquis Daniels' contract, but they could not pull it off. Instead, they took Maurice Ager at No. 28 and hope to eventually move Daniels. Ager would be a good replacement as a strong two guard.
Denver Nuggets: C
The Nuggets had nothing to work with, possessing only a late second-rounder which they traded away, so there wasn't much they could do. But with salary cap issues and a big contract coming up for Carmelo Anthony, getting out was the right choice.
Detroit Pistons: C
Not much you can do when you have one pick, and it's the very last pick in the draft. But the Pistons may have added a guard who can make their roster in Will Blalock. I'm not sure about trading Maurice Evans for a 7-foot project who will stay in Europe (Cheick Samb), but apparently Evans didn't fit into the equation.
Golden State Warriors: D
The NBA is undergoing a transformation and is being dominated by quick, versatile swingmen. Why go with 7-footer Patrick O'Bryant when guys like Ronnie Brewer, Rodney Carney, Thabo Sefalosha and J.J. Redick are available? This was a "need" pick for the Warriors, as was second-round center Kosta Perovic, but to me, there's not that much need for 7-foot projects these days. The game is too fast.
Houston Rockets: B+
People will question trading Rudy Gay and Stromile Swift for Shane Battier, but Battier is a high-character scrapper who will knock down big shots and defend anyone. He'll complement Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady well and make the Rockets much tougher. Steve Novak is a lights-out shooter who will make opponents pay for doubling Yao and T-Mac. For a veteran team that needs toughness and defense, I'll take the proven Battier over the potential of Gay any day.
Indiana Pacers: C
Indiana has had major character issues the past few seasons, and there has been talk about changing the culture. So why take a gamble on the gifted but enigmatic Shawne Williams, particularly when the Pacers already have a guy they love – Danny Granger – at his position? Most scouts felt the draft was 16 deep, so perhaps Indiana felt like it could take a gamble at 17. But if you want to change the character of your team, why not go with a guy like Shannon Brown or Rajon Rondo?
Los Angeles Clippers: B
Two second-round picks were used on guys who could be assets. Paul Davis is a big man from Michigan State who shoots the ball well enough to be in the league for a while. He's a Michael Doleac type. Guillermo Diaz is an undersized, athletic combo guard – "the Puerto Rican Steve Francis," one team executive called him. Neither will play much for the Clips, but both have some value. The Clips did well.
Los Angeles Lakers: B
The Lakers filled some needs in the backcourt, drafting hometown kid Jordan Farmar for the point and trading for Maurice Evans, an athletic wing player who could play right away. Farmar will have a difficult time finding time next season because Phil Jackson generally doesn't play rookies, but he could eventually become a solid player for L.A.
Memphis Grizzlies: B
Rudy Gay might be the most talented player in the draft, but he might also turn out to be an unmotivated disappointment. But Jerry West needed to shake things up after another first-round playoff sweep, and Gay will stir some interest in Memphis. He has star potential. Swift was a disappointment the first time around in Memphis, so it's tough to see him suddenly turning into a star. Kyle Lowry is a tough point guard who will provide backup relief to Damon Stoudamire – and may make Bobby Jackson expendable.
Miami Heat: C
The Heat's first-round pick went to the Lakers as part of the Shaquille O'Neal trade, and they didn't have a second-rounder, either. So Pat Riley and his staff probably sat back, watched the draft and opened up another bottle of Dom Perignon.
Milwaukee Bucks: B
Another team that didn't have much to work with, but the Bucks made the most of it. David Noel is a four-year player from North Carolina, so he'll be well-schooled. He's also extremely athletic at the wing position. Damir Markota is a Croatian wing shooter who will play in Europe for a while in order to develop.
Minnesota Timberwolves: A
Randy Foye is an electrifying player. He's a bit of a 'tweener as a guard, but he's an explosive backcourt man Minnesota needs. He's a terrific ball handler with great strength and the ability to make plays in the paint. The Wolves have been vanilla the last couple of seasons, so I like this pick a lot. Foye will step in right away and provide scoring and excitement.
New Jersey Nets: B+
With two late first-round picks, the Nets were thrilled when Marcus Williams fell into their laps. He should provide the backup to Jason Kidd that New Jersey needs. Josh Boone is an enigma, but he has length and athleticism. Also, Hassan Adams was a good second-round choice – a high-flying athlete who can really get out and run.
New Orleans Hornets: A-
The Hornets addressed some needs with a couple of solid big men. Hilton Armstrong is an athletic shot blocker, and Cedric Simmons also provides major athleticism down low. Perhaps Rodney Carney would have been a better pick at 15, but you can't argue against the improvement the Hornets made to their front line.
New York Knicks: D
Isiah Thomas was not in a position of strength with two late first-round picks, and he was unable to move up. But Renaldo Balkman probably could have been had in the second round. Why not take a player with more value – Shannon Brown, Marcus Williams or Rajon Rondo, for example – and trade him? Mardy Collins from Temple is fine, but he didn't wow anyone in predraft workouts. Neither Collins or Balkman is likely to crack the rotation for New York, so what's the point of taking them? The Knicks could have done better.
Orlando Magic: A
J.J. Redick is one of the best shooters in the world, a basketball junkie and someone the Magic can sell to their fans. He'll be a good NBA player for 12 years and will complement Dwight Howard and Darko Milicic nicely. Sure, Ronnie Brewer or Thabo Sefalosha might have been better fits as big guards next to the tiny Jameer Nelson, and Redick and Nelson may struggle to guard people. But they do have two 7-footers behind them ready to block shots and erase mistakes on the perimeter. Redick was a great pick, and James Augustine will make the roster as a second-rounder. All in all, it was a very good draft for Otis Smith.
Philadelphia 76ers: B
Rodney Carney is a freak athlete and will delight the fans in Philly with his highlight-reel dunks. He and Andre Igoudala on the wings is a pretty scary thought. But Thabo Sefalosha is a better ball handler with point guard skills, and if the Sixers are really going to trade Allen Iverson, Sefalosha might have been the better fit. Still, trading for Carney was a good decision. Bobby Jones is a solid wing defender – something you can't have enough of these days.
Phoenix Suns: C
The Suns wanted to use their two late first-round selections to move up the board and grab Thabo Sefalosha, but they were unsuccessful in their attempts. With nobody left that wowed them, they traded out of the draft altogether, adding a first-rounder in a deeper draft next year and clearing salary cap room that will most likely allow them to re-sign free agent Tim Thomas. For a team interested in winning a title next season, two late first-round picks weren't going to help much, so this was about as good as the Suns were going to do barring a deal to move up.
Portland Trail Blazers: A-
The Trail Blazers want to overhaul the roster and build a new culture, and they're off to a good start. LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy are potential stars, and unloading Telfair clears up a crowded backcourt. Portland fans might be upset that their team didn't take Adam Morrison, and winning over the public would have been a pretty good idea for the Blazers, but Aldridge is 6-11, can run and block shots. And many consider Roy the best player in the draft.
Sacramento Kings: B
Critics will say that Geoff Petrie should have made a "need" pick and taken a point guard like Rajon Rondo or Marcus Williams. But Quincy Douby is one of the best shooters in the draft and is an explosive (albeit small) guard. He can score in bunches and I think he'll have a better career than any of the point guards taken behind him. Maybe the Kings didn't need him (they have Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia at his position), but Petrie has been ahead of the curve on most of his draft picks over the years. I'm guessing he was this time as well.
San Antonio Spurs: C
With just one second-rounder and a full roster, the Spurs weren't in the market for rookies who might not even make the team. So they traded out of the draft altogether. Boring, yes, but it was the right thing to do.
Seattle SuperSonics: C
Another 7-foot project? That's what they got at No. 10 in Saer Sene, who will stand next to Robert Swift and Johan Petro to form the "All-Airport Team" in Seattle. Sene could become a very good shot blocker, but at No. 10, there were plenty of guys available, including J.J. Redick, Ronnie Brewer, Rodney Carney and Thabo Sefalosha. I don't get it.
Toronto Raptors: B+
Andrea Bargnani isn't exacty a sure thing – he only averaged 11 points and four rebounds in 22 minutes a game for Benetton Treviso, after all – but he has a lot of potential. This is a draft that will take a while to evaluate, depending on his development. Bryan Colangelo had hoped to trade down and still take Bargnani, but nothing came up that he liked. P.J. Tucker is a physical, defensive-minded player and a good second-round choice, but the Raptors weren't able to find a point guard – a postion of need with Mike James most likely departing.
Utah Jazz: A
Ronnie Brewer is just what Utah needed – a big guard who can make plays and defend multiple positions. He and Deron Williams will be a fantastic combination. Dee Brown can play some backup point, and maybe even next to Williams at times in a small-ball situation. The two were terrific together at Illinois, with Williams allowing Brown to play off the ball as a shooter, a role in which he's more comfortable. Another second-rounder – Paul Millsap – is a power forward who went to Louisiana Tech, so naturally everyone compares him to Karl Malone. I don't get it. Should we automatically compare every UCLA center to Kareem?
Washington Wizards: C-
At No. 18, the Wizards were in a tough spot. No one was willing to trade out of the top 16, so they were stuck with leftovers. Oleksiy Pecherov has some potential as a perimeter-shooting big man who can put the ball on the floor a bit, but the 18th pick was high for him. Many people had him pegged as a second-rounder.