Friday, June 29, 2007

NBA draft from a Connecticut perspective

This was the first draft since 2003 with no direct University of Connecticut presence, but the connections were still there, from the Celtics acquiring Ray Allen from the Sonics to the Clippers drafting West Hartford's Jared Jordan of Marist in the second round with the 45th overall pick.

Let's take a look at other (mostly Big East) connections from the draft.

1. Jeff Green - The Sonics may not have a home soon in Seattle, but they tried infusing some staying power by obtaining Green to complement second pick Kevin Durant in a trade with the Celtics. In return, Boston receives another veteran and regional presence in Ray Allen. Allen, the six-time NBA All-Star and former UConn standout, leaves Seattle fans stunned and Celtics fans happy. The deal will benefit both teams.
As for Green, the Big East player of the year may have a better future as a pro. He's listed at 6-foot-10 (?) and started overshadowing Georgetown teammate Roy Hibbert by midseason. Hibbert made the right decision to stay in school (good for the Hoyas, bad for the rest of the Big East) . After Georgetown defeated UConn in the regular-season finale in March, Huskies coach Jim Calhoun lauded Green albeit with few words. His performance said it all.

2. From Brandan Wright to Spencer Hawes, a number of players appeared on UConn's recruiting list at one point during their high school careers. Not enough space for that analysis. Both, though, were one-and-dones.

3. Thaddeus Young - The 6-foot-8 forward from Georgia Tech was drafted by the Sixers at No. 12. When UConn traveled to Atlanta in February, Young physically handled a young Huskies frontcourt. Still, Young was only a freshman. He is athletic, defends both the perimeter and post well and much like Green, will probably be a better pro than collegian, even though he only played one season. The only question is whether Young has proven enough or will he wallow on the end of the Sixers' bench until midseason?

Which leads to ...

4. Javaris Crittenton - Young's teammate for one season at Tech. At 6-foot-5, he has good NBA point guard size. The Lakers, though, drafted Crittenton as a "potential" pick, as most NBA teams do. At No. 19, Crittenton was the third point guard taken in the draft (five in the first round) but not the best. Time will tell. Is L.A. the best environment for him? Good luck.

5. Wilson Chandler - Yes, Wilson Chandler. Yes, the same Wilson Chandler from DePaul, which by the way, had two draft picks (more on Sammy Mejia later). Seemed lethargic against UConn this season. Has potential, but how much? He seemed like just another player for the most personable coach in the Big East, Jerry Wainwright, but maybe the Knicks see something in Chandler, that's why they drafted him in the first round at No. 23. Chandler looks a lot like some of the other wing players Isiah Thomas has acquired over the years, which isn't a good thing. The Knicks also made some trades, which will be officially announced today. With the trades, though, the Knicks frontcourt will be packed.

6. Marcus Williams - No. 33 from the Spurs. Yes, another Marcus Williams in the NBA. Adding to the list of the most prevelant surname in the league.

7. Glen Davis - In the trade with Seattle, the Celtics also acquired the rights to LSU's "Big Baby" who was a non-factor against UConn in the second half and fouled out when the team's played in January. His weight has been questioned but his footwork and personality will fit well in Boston. It's been awhile since the Celtics had a few characters (public relations can always improve there) but minutes will be tough to earn. If he fits somewhere, Davis could be a decent pro.

8. Jared Jordan - The Clippers picked up a true point guard. The Connecticut native led the country in assists in each of the past two seasons for Marist, the first college player to do so since Southern's Avery Johnson 20 years ago. He can learn from Sam Cassell, a proven veteran, and maybe fill a void left by injuries last season to Shaun Livingston (145 games in three seasons). Most likely, the Clippers, who had the best record of any non-playoff team, will part ways with free agent Daniel Ewing.

9. Aaron Gray - The Bulls drafted (second round, 49th overall) arguably the best center in the Big East last season, but Gray will have a tough time making Chicago's roster. His post moves are polished and he had his way with UConn's frontcourt in January, but his speed and footwork do not cater to the NBA game. He may become Bill Wennington (without the beard) or even Will Perdue for the Bulls.

10. Demetris Nichols - The NBA needs shooters and through trades and the draft, the Blazers found Syracuse's Nichols available deep in the second round, 53rd overall. He stuck around Syracuse for his entire career and emerged as one of the top players in the conference. The good news is that anything can happen in Portland with so many new faces (nine after last night).

11. Herbert Hill - He turned into one of the top post players in the Big East after five years at Providence and the Sixers acquired Hill in a trade with Utah with the 55th pick. No other player in the conference this season quietly picked up 20 points and 10 rebounds. Becomes the third player drafted under Tim Welsh. All three, including Ryan Gomes, were second rounders. May be hard pressed to make the roster in Philly.

12. Sammy Mejia - The Pistons selected Mejia with the 57th overall pick. The 6-foot-7 wing resembles Tayshaun Prince in body but not style, and definitely not in shooting form (Prince has one of the ugliest releases in the NBA). Against UConn, Mejia only played a supporting role in the Blue Demons' win. So with two draft picks, how does DePaul only finish in the middle of the Big East pack during a down year in the conference?

Best pick: Tiago Splitter. The 7-foot power forward from Brazil fits right into the Spurs' paradigm for success. With the 28th pick, San Antonio never deviated from their plan. Even though the obvious best picks were Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, this was the smartest pick - a reliable player who will give a team years and performance. The rest of the NBA hasn't bought into the Spurs' methods. Four titles in a decade is irrelevant.

Worst pick: Wilson Chandler, Knicks. Isiah has one more year.

Questionable pick: Sean Williams, Boston College. The Nets picked up a shot blocker with serious character issues with the 17th pick. If he stays out of trouble it may work out. With New York City in the distance, the lure may be there. This also may be bad news for former UConn forward Josh Boone or it may be a plan to beef up a frontcourt for the future.

Good luck pick: Milwaukee Bucks, Yi Jianlian. The 7-footer from China and his entourage aren't sold on the NBA. With the ninth pick, it was a gamble. We'll see how it plays out.