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Assessing the draft

Yi's interesting night, Boston's savvy move and more

Posted: Friday June 29, 2007 1:18AM; Updated: Sunday July 1, 2007 10:49PM
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Like it or not, Yi Jianlian went to the Bucks with the No. 6 selection in one of the more intriguing developments on draft night.
Like it or not, Yi Jianlian went to the Bucks with the No. 6 selection in one of the more intriguing developments on draft night.

SI.com caught up with Sports Illustrated senior writer Jack McCallum, who attended the draft at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden, to discuss Thursday night's notable trades and picks.

What was the real buzz at the draft?

The initial buzz was what the Hawks were going to do with the third pick. A lot of people thought they were going to do something. But when they went with a conventional pick and took Al Horford, a lot of all the big trade scenarios fell through. After that, the buzz was about how the Celtics' trade with the Sonics [in which Boston traded the fifth pick as part of a deal for Ray Allen] caused Yi Jianlian to fall another spot to the Bucks.

It's no secret that Yi's representatives wanted him in a big market with a large Asian population -- they didn't even let Milwaukee hold a private workout with him. What was Yi's reaction to the news?

He looked shocked and saddened. He said he didn't know much about the Bucks because he hadn't seen a lot of them on television in China. He said the Bucks hadn't even worked him out. Well, this isn't college. The NBA knows about you; there aren't a lot of secrets here. Teams don't have to come to your house, talk to your mother and father and ask you what you want to major in. He was the best player available, and the Bucks looked at it like a fortuitous thing that he was still there. They want to keep him.

In my mind the Bucks were the underachieving team of the NBA last season. I think they have a lot of talent. I really like their team, especially if they can re-sign point guard Mo Williams. Whether they're going to better, I don't know. But I just think he's going to a better team than he thinks he is.

There's more to the Yi story.

Yes, I saw him later in the night at Haru restaurant [in New York City]. He looked much happier when he was digging into a plate of sushi and having people come up and congratulate him. He seemed to be enjoying himself.

There were some significant trades involving big-name NBA players, including Allen to Boston. What's your impression of that deal?

I absolutely love the deal from the Celtics' standpoint. I think this move makes them a playoff team. Anytime you can get an All-Star player like Ray Allen, he's worth what you give up. All along the Celtics were trying to change the team without giving up Al Jefferson. That was goal No. 1, and they accomplished it -- and they got a terrific player. I just think his talents were getting lost in the West. He comes to the East and becomes one of the best players in the conference. Allen had never demanded a trade from Seattle, but sometimes he looked a little disinterested. He's going to be very motivated in Boston.

And from the Sonics' standpoint?

They weren't going anywhere with Ray Allen, so why not try it without him? It just seemed like something the Sonics had to do as well. If they re-sign Rashard Lewis, you could argue -- if Kevin Durant is good enough, and I like him a lot -- that they won't miss Ray Allen. If they re-sign Lewis, and by adding Durant and Jeff Green -- I personally wouldn't have had him that high in the draft [at No. 5] -- they have this potentially interesting team with a lot of wing-type players.

What struck you about the Knicks' acquisition of Zach Randolph from Portland?

I thought it was a good trade for both teams. For Portland, this gives Greg Oden some more space to operate now that Randolph is out of the mix. It could have been awkward with Randolph and Oden there.

With the Knicks, they unloaded one of the presumed unloadables in Steve Francis [who has two years and $34 million left on his contract, though Portland could try to buy out his deal]. I think you'll see that Randolph is more versatile than you think -- he has some face-up game, he can do a lot of things offensively. My question would be how do Randolph and Eddy Curry play together? This didn't exactly shore up their defense, but I know Isiah [Thomas] wants to play offensive-oriented ball. Maybe they get it up to 105 points a game.

Most important, where would you rank Joakim Noah's seersucker suit look among all-time NBA Draft fashion statements?

The combination of the hair, extremely clashing bow tie and the peace sign he flashed got him into the top 10.