Pros and cons
Give us more Slavko Vranes but less Dick Vitale
Posted: Friday June 27, 2003 2:32 AM
Updated: Friday June 27, 2003 3:07 AM
Oregon's Luke Ridnour got no love from ESPN analyst Jay Bilas. AP
By John Hollinger, SI.com
A lot of the rumored trades didn't materialize -- no surprise there -- but Thursday's draft was interesting nonetheless. A sure lottery pick fell to the second round because of a contract issue, there was a surprising run on point guards and international players continued to take more of the spotlight.
Like every draft, it came with good and bad. Here's a rundown on the extremes:
Best Trade: Leandro Barbosa to Phoenix
The Suns needed a backup point guard and got one on the cheap, sending a future pick to San Antonio for the 29th pick, Barbosa. In a draft where eight point guards went in the first round, one was bound to slip. Barbosa is 6-foot-3, plays defense and is still only 20 years old. It completes a solid evening for the Suns, who earlier tabbed Zarko Cabakarpa from Serbia.
Worst Trade: Grizzlies deal with Celtics
Jerry West still is revered for his work with the Lakers, but his moves in Memphis have raised a lot of question marks. On Thursday, he walked into the draft with the 13th and 27th picks ... and somehow walked out with two second-round quality players. They're not even ones he needs. Troy Bell fills a position he already has filled twice over with Jason Williams, Brevin Knight and Earl Watson, while Dahntay Jones doesn't do anything that Shane Battier can't do better. Just ask Mike Krzyzewski.
Worst Suit: LeBron James
Note to LeBron: You generally don't wear white-on-white suits unless you're the type of guy who slips a horse's head under your enemies' sheets while they're sleeping. Consider it your first lesson in the pros.
Best Suit: Slavko Vranes
It's rare for second-rounders to show up at the draft, but the enormous Yugoslavian popped out of the crowd when the Knicks picked him and flaunted the fact that he somehow found a tailor with enough cloth on hand to cut a long-tailed jacket for his 7-foot-5 frame.
Worst Comment: Dick Vitale
There's a backlash coming against all these international guys. Yep, any second now. I think I know where it's coming from: college basketball analysts who haven't seen any of them play. Yo, Dickie V, you want a real backlash? How about one against college seniors? Check out the five taken in the top 20 last year: Melvin Ely, Fred Jones, Juan Dixon, Curtis Borchardt and Ryan Humphrey. Did any of those guys even get 10 points in a game last year? Combined?
Best Comment: Jay Bilas
ESPN's normally vanilla analyst called out Oregon's Luke Ridnour, saying "he can't guard the chair I'm sitting in." Ridnour later protested, saying he could easily hold the chair under 20 if he had a decent big man behind him.
Worst Interview: Zarko Cabarkapa
It was bad enough listening to him mumble in Serbian, but the real highlight was that somebody forgot to give his interpreter a microphone, so we couldn't even hear what he was telling Michelle Tafoya in English. My guess is it was something along the lines of, "What is this? They told me I'd be talking to Lisa Guerrero. Somebody get my agent."
Best Non-Story: Kobe opting out
Of course he's opting out. He can get extra years for the max tacked onto his deal. He'd be an idiot not to. Thanks for the scoop, guys. I guess "My sources tell me LeBron James will be the No. 1 pick" was considered too obvious.
Worst Result: Walton's on the Lakers
Luke Walton is a good passer and as a second-round pick, the Lakers probably couldn't have done much better. But please, please, don't let him make the team. I mean, Bill Walton spent enough time rooting for the Lakers before his son got picked by them. What's he going to do now?
Best Pick: Maciej Lampe, Knicks
Other teams ran away from him like he had the plague because there might be some issues with his contract. But for goodness sakes, the guy is only 18 years old. Even if he can't come to the U.S. for three years, he'll only be 21 when he's liberated from his team in Spain and joins the NBA. And with his size and shooting ability, he's worth the wait. I can't imagine why teams passed this up for college mediocrities like Josh Howard and Jones.
Worst Pick: Chris Kaman, L.A. Clippers
Take a look at the centers that have been picked between No. 5 and No. 15 in the last 10-15 years or so. The best one is Bryant Reeves. Otherwise it's a minefield of Felton Spencers, Rich Kings, DeSagana Diops and Olden Polynices. Centers who can play go in the top three; later on they just get picked by teams that are desperate. Kaman, who doesn't leap well and has unusually short arms, should be joining the ranks of the busts.
Best Rumor Fodder: T.J. Ford, Milwaukee
Oh, like nothing's up here. The Bucks are going to play Ford, Sam Cassell and Gary Payton in the same backcourt, and then find minutes for Michael Redd, too? I don't think so. Suffice it to say that there is some sign-and-trade action afoot with Payton, although it may have to wait until Michael Jordan finishes buying the team.
Worst Way to Fill a Need: Mike Sweetney, New York
So you have four undersized power forwards on your roster already, none of whom you can trade because of their contracts ... and you draft another one? What is the thinking here? Does this guy really do anything that Clarence Weatherspoon, Kurt Thomas, Othella Harrington or Lee Nailon doesn't? And don't even get started about what happens if Antonio McDyess is healthy.
Best Way to Fill a Need: Jarvis Hayes, Washington
OK, it might have been a bit of a reach, but only by a few picks. And this team needed a small forward in a bad way, especially one who can stroke it like Hayes. Put Larry Hughes, Jerry Stackhouse, Hayes and Kwame Brown out there, and the post-Jordan Wizards might not be too awful.
Best Value: Mickael Pietrus, Golden State
Garry St. Jean wanted a point guard, but had to be licking his chops when he saw Pietrus fall this far. With the Bulls passing on him at No. 7, Golden State couldn't pass up a hugely athletic guard despite having Jason Richardson already entrenched at the position. Additionally, the Warriors defense was awful, and this was the best defensive player on the board.
Worst Value: Sweetney
Not to keep harping on the Knicks, but they easily could have had Sweetney five picks later. So they reached for a player they didn't need.
Best Obscure Player: Sani Becirovic, Denver
One of the best players in Europe before suffering a series of knee injuries, Becirovic is back, apparently healthy and still just 22 years old. If he stays in one piece, he could be a huge steal for the Nuggets
Worst Obscure Player: Nedzad Sinanovic, Portland
Last year, the Blazers took Federico Kammerichs in the second round, another "saywhu?" pick, and this time they chose a guy who has been on the junior team for an obscure Bosnian team. Home Depot doesn't offer classes for projects this big.
Best Mock Draft: Ian Thomsen
John Hollinger covers the NBA for SI.com and is the author of Pro Basketball Prospectus.
Not to toot our own here, but good God. Dude nailed it. Nice work.