NBA Draft Review
By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Staff Writer
2008 NBA Draft: First Round Selections and Fantasy Projections
1. Derrick Rose - CHI
No surprise here - the Bulls chose the hometown kid and the player that seemed to emerge as the biggest "can't miss" prospect in this draft. It will be interesting to see how Chicago makes room for Rose - whether Kirk Hinrich or Ben Gordon will be moved.
Barring injury, Rose will almost certainly join Chris Paul and Deron Williams on the short list of elite young point guards… but don't lose sight of the fact that Rose is just 19 years old. The leap from college to the NBA is a big enough adjustment - Rose also needs to adjust to a leadership role, ahead of players several years his senior.
Don't be shocked if Rose's fantasy numbers are somewhat pedestrian for the first half to two-thirds of the season… and if you do draft him, make sure you don't give up on him too soon.
2. Michael Beasley - MIA
Can't help wondering what Pat Riley was trying to accomplish with several weeks of "maybe I won't take Beasley" rumors; in the end, the number two pick was exactly the player everyone expected.
In a lot of ways, Beasley could have a much easier adjustment to the NBA than Rose. He won't be the team's savior, or even its highest-profile player - not while Dwyane Wade is still in town. He'll spend his rookie season grabbing offensive rebounds, converting on the fast break and being the low-post complement to Wade and Shawn Marion - and could very easily put up something close to 20-and-10.
Call Beasley the early favorite for Rookie of the Year - and most valuable fantasy newcomer.
3. O.J. Mayo - MIN, traded to MEM
Sounds like Memphis will get Mayo after all, traded to Minnesota for Kevin Love, Mike Miller and others. On a Grizzlies team that lost Juan Carlos Navarro to the Spanish league, Mayo will probably need to step in from day one as Memphis' starting two and primary perimeter scorer.
That said, moving Love seems to put the Grizz right back where they were at the start of this draft -- with a big, Pau Gasol-shaped hole in their frontcourt. It's possible that they'll fill that void -- at least partially -- by bringing Pau's little brother Marc over from Europe.
4. Russell Westbrook - SEA
Westbrook's trip up the draft boards has been pretty amazing - a couple of weeks ago, he was generally considered this year's fifth or sixth-best guard prospect.
As with just about every other guard in this draft (except Derrick Rose), Westbrook is really a combo guard and not a "natural" point. But he filled in admirably this season when backcourt mate Darren Collison was injured, and was actually leading the Pac-10 in assists during that span.
He seems a good bet to get playing time right away - he's expected to be a top-notch defender from day one, and that's sure to endear him to Sonics coach P.J. Carlesimo. It remains to be seen if he's deployed at the point initially or on the wing - which might slide Kevin Durant to the three full-time.
5. Kevin Love - MEM traded to MIN
Love will never be a physically-dominant power forward in the mold of Karl Malone - though he's reportedly slimmed down some. But with his skill and high basketball IQ, it's easy to see him initiating an NBA offense out of the power forward spot - in much the same way that Chris Webber's passing skill drove Sacramento's offense at its best.
I like Love to become tremendously valuable in fantasy as a big man who will rack up assist totals comparable to a lot of guards, by passing to a Mike Miller for open jumpers or to Al Jefferson under the basket. As such he might also take a lot of the heat off the T'Wolves very young and raw point guards.
6. Danilo Gallinari - NYK
As David Stern was walking to the podium to announce New York's pick, I turned to my wife and said, "Please, don't let it be the Italian guy." Not because I think Gallinari is a bad pick - the Knicks haven't had a legit small forward in forever, filling the spot with a parade of undersized fours and oversized twos - but because I didn't want to see the kid subjected to the inevitable venom from some leather-lunged Knick fans.
This may be the Knick fan in me trying to find a bright side, but I think Gallinari might surprise people. In the past, many European imports have been drafted on potential alone - guys with skill and a massive wingspan, but who hadn't even emerged as starters overseas. Gallinari - at 19 years old - was a top performer in one of Europe's top leagues.
Defense is his weakness - but that's not likely to be a problem for a Mike D'Antoni team. As for his fantasy potential - it's hard to recommend any member of the Knicks until we have a better idea of what their 2008-09 roster will look like.
7. Eric Gordon - LAC
The match between Gordon and the Clippers was predicted by lots of observers, and for good reason; the things Gordon does well are the things the Clippers need most. Gordon sports a jump shot that's simply gorgeous to watch, along with the ability to drive the lane like a human bowling ball, getting to the rack and to the foul line.
If, as expected, the Clippers lose Corey Maggette to free agency, Gordon could replace him as the team's primary outside scorer. Or, they could choose to bring him along a bit more slowly and deploy him as a sixth man - where he could become a Ben Gordon-type bench weapon.
8. Joe Alexander - MIL
Can't think of a better match between coach and player than the demanding Scott Skiles and the hyper-intense Alexander.
Alexander was more of a power forward in college, but has tremendous athleticism and a pretty fair mid-range game that should translate well to playing the three at the next level. His toughness and inside scoring ability should complement his future frontcourt-mate pretty well; Charlie Villanueva is a perimeter-oriented four that's most comfortable on the outside.
Alexander's initial fantasy value might depend on Milwaukee's next move. It's hard to see him cracking the starting lineup over new acquisition Richard Jefferson. But if the Bucks move Michael Redd, as has been rumored, Alexander could slide into a starting five with RJ in Redd's two spot.
9. D.J. Augustin - CHA
Call this a vote of no confidence in Raymond Felton's ability to run the point. New Bobcats coach Larry Brown is notorious for putting tremendous pressure on his point guards; apparently Michael Jordan and the Charlotte braintrust thinks Augustin is more of a "Larry Brown point guard" than Felton.
Augustin showed at Texas that he's an excellent floor leader, and he has the ability to create his own shot. The big knock on him has been size - but with defenders like Gerald Wallace and Emeka Okafor on the floor, Charlotte may be able to mask that
Lopez has a wide array of inside moves and a better-than-average mid-range jumper, and the size and toughness to bang on the inside - especially in an Eastern Conference that sports very few legitimate centers.
11. Jerryd Bayless - IND, traded to POR
When this pick was announced, I started making plans to draft Bayless in my most important leagues - I loved the idea of such a good shooter running the show for Jim O'Brien's high-octane offense.
Portland may ultimately be a better destination for Bayless - he's got the talent to beat out any of the Blazer incumbents for that starting spot, and with a skilled passer like Brandon Roy in the backcourt, the fact that Bayless isn't considered a "natural" point guard is much less of a concern. That said, the fact that the Blazers are so loaded makes Bayless' short-term fantasy potential a much iffier proposition.
12. Jason Thompson - SAC
Thompson was 6'1" as a senior in high school, and was recruited as a guard. Now he's 6'10", but has a lot of the skills that he gained when he was guard-sized.
Power forward was a really weak position for the Kings last season - Kenny Thomas, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Shelden Williams were all varying degrees of disappointing. With his size and ability to run the floor, Thompson might emerge as a much better fit in Reggie Theus' offense - and could make a very nice living cleaning up the offensive boards for all of Sacramento's jump shooters. Still, this seems very high for a big man out of tiny Rider College - most projections had Thompson getting selected in the last third of the first round.
13. Brandon Rush - POR, traded to IND
If there was a knock on Rush in college, it was the fact that he wasn't as assertive as his talent would allow - he was willing to defer to teammates perhaps more than was appropriate. That quality should actually serve him very well in the NBA; he'll have the patience to defer to guys like Danny Granger and the ability to take advantage when defenses look to double in the post.
Rush's fantasy potential gets a tremendous boost with the pending trade to Indiana, where Jim O'Brien places a great deal of emphasis on the three-point shot.
14. Anthony Randolph - GS
Curious selection here - only because Randolph's profile seems awfully similar to that of last year's first rounder, Brandan Wright. Randolph is tremendously athletic and - to use a favorite Bilas-ism - has great "length." But he weighs about 137 pounds soaking wet.
If there's anyone who can find a use for him, it's Don Nelson. But until that role becomes clear, it's very difficult to project what sort of fantasy player Randolph will become.
15. Robin Lopez - PHO
First off, I'd like to thank Robin Lopez for single-handedly bringing back the Oscar Gamble-circa-1979 look by precariously perching his Phoenix cap on top of a "Sideshow Bob" style 'fro.
Most projections had the Suns picking Rush in this spot… with their favored shooter off the board, the Suns doubled-down on their commitment to defense and half-court play. Lopez obviously isn't cracking the starting lineup - not with Shaq and Amare Stoudemire at the four and five in Phoenix. But given the injury histories of the guys ahead of him, it's not hard to imagine Lopez getting near-starter minutes on average.
16. Marreese Speights - PHI
An active and athletic big man should fit in well on a young and talented Philadelphia team… but he's raw. That's ok - the Sixers are a couple of years away from being major competitors, so they can afford to bring him along slowly. In an ideal scenario, he'll be ready to make a major contribution just as other youngsters like Thaddeus Young, Jason Smith and Louis Williams are reaching their primes.
17. Roy Hibbert - TOR, traded to IND
The Pacers need a big man - assuming the projected Jermaine O'Neal/T.J. Ford is finalized. And Hibbert is certainly big. He can plug up the middle of a defense and block shots, but he's not particularly quick or mobile.
The best case scenario for Hibbert - at least initially - would be to become a strong defensive presence, shot blocker and rebounder who can help Ford, Rush and Danny Granger start the break. It's hard to imagine him being terribly involved in a fast-moving and perimeter-oriented offense.
18. JaVale McGee - WAS
If McGee develops into the player many think he'll be - an athletic center who can run the floor and finish - he'll be a much better fit as Gilbert Arenas' running buddy than a plodder like Brendan Haywood. But that's probably a year or two away… McGee is considered a bit of a project, and will need time before he's ready for a major role in Washington's rotation.
19. J.J. Hickson - CLE
Hickson is a real brute on the low block who should provide the same sort of toughness, rebounding and physical play that the Cavs hoped to get in acquiring Ben Wallace at the deadline last year. Or, he could free general manager Danny Ferry to make a deal with Anderson Varejao.
20. Alexis Ajinca - CHA
The conventional wisdom had Charlotte taking a big man with their lottery pick, to allow Emeka Okafor to play the four spot full time, but that went out the window when the Bobcats opted to upgrade the point with D.J. Augustin. They went big with this pick instead; Ajinca has the wingspan of something built by Boeing.
The conventional wisdom had Ajinca playing another year or two in Europe before making his NBA debut - but in a draft night interview with ESPN, Charlotte coach Larry Brown seemed to think Ajinca might be available this season. If he does play in the US this season, he projects as a pretty decent source of blocks.
Forward minutes may be hard to come by in Jersey, with the Nets acquiring Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons, but Anderson could become a key bench scorer for Laurence Frank, a role similar to the one played by Bostjan Nachbar last season.
22. Courtney Lee - ORL
I would rather have seen the Magic improve at the point guard or power forward positions, but it's hard to argue with the selection of Lee. One of the few upperclassmen selected tonight, Lee is a polished scorer who can hit the three, pull up for a mid-range jumper or drive the lane, and he has the size (6'5") to defend big guards. He might win a starting gig or become a valuable sixth man for Stan Van Gundy.
23. Kosta Koufos - UTA
Koufos is big (7'0', 265) and has very good shooting touch for a guy his size - in other words, he's remarkably similar to a couple other guys already on the Utah roster. Initially he'll be a depth player in Jerry Sloan's rotation, backing up - and possibly eventually stepping in for - Mehmet Okur.
24. Serge Ibaka - SEA
At some point, there's a limit to the number of young players a given team can use at one time. The Sonics are well over their quota, so they used this pick on the youngest player in the draft and someone they can stash in the Euro league for a year or two.
25. Nicolas Batum - HOU
Batum projects as an athletic wing scorer - but he's a couple of years away from making his NBA debut.
26. George Hill - SAS
Hill doesn't do any one thing spectacularly… but he does just about everything well. He's quick and athletic, can shoot and defend and may even be able to run the point at times. He projects as a valuable role-player on a team that badly needed a dose of youth and energy.
27. Darrell Arthur - NO, traded to POR
The "Brady Quinn" of this year's draft reportedly slipped from the low-lottery to the end of the first round due to some vague concerns about kidney problems. He'll land in Portland, where he'll be in the mix with LaMarcus Aldridge, Channing Frye, Travis Outlaw and second-rounder Joey Dorsey for minutes at forward. That makes his short-term fantasy potential very difficult to project.
28. Donte' Greene - MEM
Greene is a potentially-electric forward from a Big East powerhouse… but a better athlete than he is a basketball player.
Well, at least the Grizzlies are consistent.
On the plus side, a team built around O.J. Mayo, Greene, Gay, Warrick, Mike Conley, Javaris Crittendon and Kyle Lowry might be the quickest in the NBA… and the smallest, It seems that they'll need to deal one of their guards for some frontcourt depth.
29. D.J. White - DET, traded to SEA
A four-year player for Indiana, White practically qualifies as a veteran, stabilizing influence for a very young Sonics team. With Jeff Green, he'll give Seattle a very promising tandem at the four spot.
30. J.R. Giddens - BOS
Giddens projects as a good perimeter scorer and rebounder from the guard position, and yet another quality bench role player on a team full of 'em.
Article first appeared on 6/26/08