NBA Draft's Biggest Winners

NBA Draft's Biggest Winners

NBA Draft's Biggest Winners
By Teddy Covers

Everybody loves to grade the NBA Draft as soon as it’s over. It’s a natural part of the draft day process. And despite the fact that these grades are wrong as often (or more often) than they are right, I just can’t help myself.

These players have been poked and prodded, measured in every way that GM’s can conceive. They’ve been interviewed repeatedly, tested and watched again and again on video.

Still, even with all of the assessments and ratings, draft busts litter the landscape.

My initial ratings should be taken with a heavy dose of skepticism until these guys prove their worth at the NBA level. That said, I’ve got some strong opinions that I won’t hesitate to share.

Here are a couple teams that should be considered draft night winners:

Atlanta Hawks

First the Hawks stole Jamal Crawford from the Warriors for Acie Law and Speedy Claxton - neither of whom will ever start an NBA game unless there is a significant injury. Crawford can score points in bunches for a team that needs more offensive weapons. Atlanta then nabbed point guard Jeff Teague from Wake Forest with the 19th overall pick. He’s an absolute steal for a guy who could make Mike Bibby expendable.

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets entered the draft without a pick. But did not sit quietly, making a single strong move that will pay dividends both short term and down the line. The Nuggets traded away a future first rounder for Ty Lawson from North Carolina with the No. 18 pick. Lawson is a perfect fit to learn and contribute as a rookie behind Chauncey Billups and eventually replace him in the starting lineup.

Houston Rockets

The Rockets didn’t have a first round pick and they don’t have many tradable commodities. Houston has salary cap issues, is unable to deal away Tracy McGrady and his fat, long term contract. What does a team like this do on draft night?

They open up the checkbook and start buying second rounders with upside. I’m not sure that Jermaine Taylor, Sergio Llull and Chase Budinger are going to be solid NBA contributors. But the point is they might, and Houston gets all three for pennies on the dollar, without having to offer any guaranteed contracts.

If one of those three turns into a good NBA player, the Rockets have done well. If two out of three succeed, one of the few teams with a history of solid second-round draft choices will have done it again.

Memphis Grizzlies

Chris Wallace is an easy GM to hate. He almost singlehandedly ruined the Boston Celtics during his tenure in Beantown. Since arriving in Memphis, Wallace is responsible for one of the worst trades in recent memory (Pau Gasol for nothing). That was just one of many deals that have left the Grizzlies as a true bottom feeder.

But Wallace has drafted some key cogs with lottery picks in recent years and the Rudy Gay/OJ Mayo/Mike Conley trio has the makings of a nice threesome. But none of those three guys played a lick of defense last year and defense wins championships. The Grizzlies’ three-player haul Thursday Night – Hasheem Thabeet, DeMarre Carroll and Sam Young - are all tough kids and excellent defenders who should improve the Grizzlies.

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs have routinely found talent deep in the draft. Sure, Tim Duncan was the No. 1 overall selection in the 1997 draft, but San Antonio has been reloading without the benefit of lottery picks ever since Duncan came onboard. Manu Ginobili was picked at the bottom of the second round and 27 players went higher than Tony Parker back in 2001.

In an effort to get back into championship contention while Duncan still has some game, the Spurs picked up swingman Richard Jefferson from Milwaukee prior to the draft. Jefferson is a perfect fit here as a savvy veteran with the ability to get to the basket and shoot from the perimeter.

Without a first round pick, the Spurs nabbed the free-falling low-post power DeJuan Blair from Pittsburgh. Then the Spurs picked up perimeter sharpshooter Jack McClinton from Miami and Parker clone Nando De Colo from France. Put it together and we’re looking at the most talented trio of second-round potential in recent memory.

Washington Wizards

Ok, the Wizards didn’t have a draft. Given their trackrecord, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Instead of prospects, the Wizards got a pair of sure things. Washington traded the No. 5 pick to Minnesota for Randy Foye and Mike Miller.

Foye, the No. 7 selection in the 2006 draft, was really starting to come into his own last year before he got hurt. Miller is a former Rookie of the Year with an excellent perimeter shooter. The Wiz were looking for complimentary pieces for their Big Three (a healthy Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler) and they found a pair who can contribute right away.

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