Grading The 2007 NBA Draft

Brandon Roy and Blazers fans no longer smile when they think about winning the Draft Lottery in 2007.

With the 2012 NBA Draft coming up this Thursday, a new wave of talent from the college ranks will be ready to hear their names called and fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a professional basketball player in the NBA. These players will then have to quickly adjust to the full time scrutiny that comes with playing in the Association as before the night is even over, the media will be grading them on where they were picked, where they do or don’t fit in well, and have predictions thrown around as to whether they’ll either be a star or bust before they even get a chance to suit up in their new uniform.

Now, while all fans love draft day grades, it’s really unfair, and rather silly, to try and determine what kind of pros these kids will be before they even tie up a pair of kicks for practice. Heck, it’s even unfair to grade them after a year of playing in the league. After three years, you get an idea of who these players will be, but the book isn’t closed. In my opinion, after five full years, you can properly determine whether or not a selection was a bust, whether their was a better player left on the board when your team picked, or whether a sleeper fell directly into your laps*.

*You also gain the advantages of seeing what happened when a player’s rookie contract ran out, if they resigned with the squad that drafted them and gain a sense of whether a player is peaking or falling off based on a strong sample size of statistics.

Five years means we have to take it pack to 2007 and revisit one of the most recently historically important and highly second-guessed drafts ever that has significantly changed the past, the present and future of the NBA. Starting from a once obvious debate over “who should be number 1”, a questionable trade that was step one in building a championship team, and much more. So without further ado, let’s get into the picks, give out some grades, and give teams a chance to see what they would’ve done differently, based on what they know now**.

**We’re only going to look at the first round of the draft, providing analysis on at least every lottery pick and then important picks of the rest of round one, while crediting smart choices made in the second round as well.

1st Round

#1 – Portland Trailblazers: Greg Oden, C, Ohio State

Grade: D-

2012 pick: Kevin Durant (SEA #2)

Oden’s career stats: 9.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, Win Shares 6.8 (WS)*

Durant: 26.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 50.5 WS, ’07 Rookie of the Year

It’s unfair to have to flunk Portland on this selection, so I’m giving them a D- at least based solely on the fact that all 30 of 30 GMs and owners would’ve selected Oden 1st overall, even Seattle, if they had the option. The curse of Portland drafting big men carries on** in Sam Bowie’s shadow of doom, as Portland managed to luck into the worst situation in recent draft memory. Despite Durant being the National Player of the Year at Texas and being highly thought of as a future star in the league, Oden was the clear number one because you ALWAYS take the franchise changing big man when you have the chance***. Oden was a monster in high school and when he was healthy at OSU. Obviously his missed games in college were a bit of a red flag, but looking at his size, talent, and upside, it would’ve been asinine to not select the big man.

Obviously, the injuries have killed Oden’s career, as in five seasons, he’s only played 82 of a potential 394 games. It hasn’t helped that Durant has become the consensus #2 player in the NBA, behind the guy who just set the all time NBA record for most points, rebounds, and assists combined in a single playoffs in LeBron James.

Oden never got comfortable in Portland, with his full list of troubles adjusting to the league as a 19 year old basketball savior recently profiled in an article on Grantland. The injuries never stopped and rushing himself to try and get on the court before he was ready to derailed any hopes of him becoming the player we all hoped he could be.

Now, Oden’s name is mentioned with the likes of Bowie, Kwame, Darko, Morrison, Thabeet, and all the other famous NBA Draft busts. Who knows when, if ever, we will see Greg Oden on a basketball court again, but every time Durant shines in the spotlight by leading his team to the NBA Finals or being named to the cover of a video game, we think in the back of our minds about Oden. Portland fans may deny it, but they have to think about what a core of KD, Brandon Roy, and LaMarcus Aldridge could have brought to Rip City. Instead, all we can wonder is what if?

*Win Shares- estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player over a career.

**If Andre Drummond goes to the Blazers, watch out for him to fizzle out faster than you can say Hasheem Thabeet. Hey I don’ make the jinxes, that’s the basketball gods’ job.

***You want more proof of this? In the ’84 Draft, Akeem Olajuwon was selected 1st overall by Houston, followed closely by the greatest player to ever play basketball, Michael Jordan, who went 3rd to the Bulls. Despite Jordan’s dominance as the G.O.A.T., people STILL agree that Olajuwon was the right pick.

#2 – Seattle Supersonics: Kevin Durant, SF, Texas

Grade: A+

2012 Pick: Al Horford (ATL #3)

Durant: 26.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 50.5 WS, ’07 Rookie of the Year

Horford: 12.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 34.5 WS

With Durant going to Portland now, Seattle’s basketball franchise is brought back on only a temporary basis right now to repack their selection, except this time, their franchise changing superstar is taken from the team a year before their actual franchise is taken from their fan base… Let’s hope the Sonics can get back to Seattle as soon as possible, either by another team moving or a highly unlikely expansion team.

While Horford by no means in on KD’s level, the guy is a very legit second best player in this draft class. A two time all star and one of the top five centers in the league, he’s carved himself a very successful NBA career four years in. His numbers fell after only playing 11 games to injury, else wise he’s been improving every year in the league. Plus, he’s the best player on the Dominican Republic’s Olympic team, whatever that counts for to you.

In Seattle, Horford, who has the highest boards per game number of anyone in his draft class, would’ve bolstered a front court that would’ve actually seriously needed some help. Rotating at the starting spots in Seattle’s starting lineup that year was the likes of Chris Wilcox, Nick Collison*, Kurt Thomas, and the player to record the last points in New Jersey Nets history, Johan Petro**. We’ll have more on Seattle in a few selections though.

*Who’s great actually. Just a tough group that he’s with here.

**That’s the worst random sports fact I know… Petro…

#3 – Atlanta Hawks: Al Horford, C, Florida

Grade: B+

2012 Pick: Joakim Noah (CHI #9)

Horford: 12.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 34.5 WS

Noah: 8.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 32.2 WS

The Hawks, if you remember, were able to build with Horford and the established nucleolus of Joe Johnson and Josh Smith to form the trio that made a surprising 8 seed in the playoffs. Not only did the Hawks make the postseason for the first time since Steve Smith, Dikembe Mutombo, and Mookie Blaylock brought them to the Eastern Semis in 1998-99, but they took the NBA Champion favorite Boston Celtics to the brink in a thrilling seven game series. Horford was a huge reason for that push and the Hawks continued playoff apperances, even if they still can’t get past the semis.

This Hawks team, with Horford now off in Seattle, would need a center to fill in that role because that was not only a position of value at the #3 spot, but one of need for ATL*. Noah fits in well with Atlanta, providing less offense and slightly less rebounding, but staying consistent in that mental toughness that was on that ’07-’08 Atlanta team. Noah’s stock moves up higher than people imagined it could be as the heart and sole of Billy Donovan’s Florida National Champion teams makes his way to the Hawks. And while, Noah didn’t have a great last season for Chicago last year, he still is the right pick at the number three spot for Atlanta.

*Zaza Pachulia with his 5.3 PPG was the only other Center on the roster

#4 – Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley, PG, Ohio State

Grade: B-

2012 Pick: Marc Gasol (#47 LAL)

Conley: 13.3 PPG, 6.0 APG, 22.6 WS

Gasol: 13.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 30.9 WS

Weird to have to pick between the two, since they’re both actually on the Grizzlies at the present moment, but I decided to go for Gasol now because of, yes you guessed it, the importance of drafting the big man. If you think back in 2007 Draft Day mode, this is obviously no question about it a selection for Conley. Mike just finished a strong season playing point for Greg Oden’s dangerous Ohio State team; Gasol was Pau’s fat little brother (FAT GASOL PHOTO) that was only drafted late in the second round in case he ever was able to turn into a poor man’s version of his older brother.

Well, Marc exceeded expectations and this year was named to the Western Conference All Star team, as he is a huge reason as for why basketball is back in Memphis after two straight playoff appearances. Yet, so is Conley, but ask yourself this. Is Mike Conley even close to being one of the elite point guards in the NBA? No, he’s a very fine talent, but he’s not even in the top ten. He’s been average leading the Memphis offense and is great at causing turnovers, but he’s never been a real game changer. He cuts to the basket well and can hit a three, but height has more value. Gasol is one of the rare skilled centers in the league and would not last another pick in this draft if the Grizzlies passed on him at four*. Marc may have just been a throw in later in ’08 in the trade LA put together for his brother, but he’s developed into much more since then and is deserving of being the #4 pick.

*You could even argue that he could be picked ahead of Noah at #3, but I chose to give Joakim the nod for being more similar to Horford’s style of play and having a few more win shares than Gasol.

#5 – Boston Celtics: Jeff Green, SF, Georgetown

Grade: A+

2012 Pick: Jeff Green (#5 BOS)

Green: 13.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 15.8 WS

This pick get’s the A+ treatment because Boston, who had spent the entire season trying to tank for Durant or Oden, turned it into the first of many moves to build an NBA Championship team that very year. Green was the center of a package they traded to Seattle for Ray Allen. Allen and Pierce were later joined by Kevin Garnett to round out their big three as the Celtics made the biggest win jump in NBA history from the second worst team in the NBA to the very best in one year.

Green was a nice add for Seattle/OKC as well and looking at the ’07 draft class’ stats, he’s the second highest scorer behind his former teammate Durant. Not too shabby. Green made it a full circle for his career, going back to Boston in a deadline deal last year but missed this whole season due to a very serious heart condition that kept him out for all of 2011-12. The former Hoya though will make a full recovery for next season an is likely heading back to Bean Town in real life, so let’s make things easy and keep him with the C’s in our mock draft here. His play throughout his four uninterrupted seasons deserves it.

 

#6 – Milwaukee Bucks: Yi Jianlian, SF-PF, China

Grade: D

2012 Pick: Mike Conley (#4 MEM)

Yi: 7.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.1 WS

Conley: 13.3 PPG, 6.0 APG, 22.6 WS

Yi Jianlian impressed countless scouts during the lead up to the draft which led to way too high of expectations for the supposed to be next great Chinese import after Yao Ming to the NBA. Yi showed impressive athleticism in his workouts, but also famously refused to participate in drills against any other players. Instead… he worked out against the stifling defense… of folding chairs.

Yeah, you read that right… Folding chairs*. This lead to a lot of joking at Yi’s expense, with Bill Simmons naming him “The Chairman” afterwards.

Yi never worked out in Milwaukee, New Jersey, Washington, or Dallas and has the “bust” label currently put on his name. Milwaukee did flip him and Bobby Simmons for Richard Jefferson, but RJ only played one, all be it productive season with the Bucks.

The Bucks had Mo Williams running the point that last season but he was off to Cleveland soon enough to play alongside LeBron. Conley would become the poit guard of the future, making the Brandon Jennings selection a few years later unnecessary. He certainly would have been a huge boost over whatever Yi gave the Bucks in his one season in Milwaukee.

Yi most likely won’t turn out to be even half the player people hoped for him to be and he will continue to be joked about by Americans and bashed un-mercilessly by his own people in China http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2011/09/28/yi-jianlian/  . The once “next Yao” is now the next international burnout.

* I looked everywhere on YouTube and Google Images for over an hour total trying to find the video clip or even just a picture of Yi posting up and fronting these chairs… But I swear to you I can’t find anything. China must be a lot more powerful than I thought.

#7 – Minnesota Timberwolves: Corey Brewer, SF, Florida

Grade: C-

2012 Pick: Thaddeus Young (#12 PHI) 

Brewer: 8.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 4.6 WS

Young: 12.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 24.6 WS

This Minnesota team went into the draft getting ready to trade their best player in franchise history and wound up getting a whole lot of nothing essentially in return*. Few players on the board in ’07 and no one on the board now is going to help this team avoid entering it’s soon to come long lasting rebuilding stage.

Brewer struggled for two seasons in Minnesota and didn’t look good, despite being drafted after winning the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four. His third season he averaged a career high 13.0 PPG but fell back to his averages after that. He had a few nice moments with Denver this season, but his ceiling now is to be a 7th-8th man on a title contender, which isn’t what your hoping for out of the #7 pick in the draft. Young wouldn’t have made too different of an impact, but he still would’ve been an improvement over Brewer and would likely still be in Minnesota and not on his 4th team in two years**.

*Al Jefferson is a great talent, but Minnesota did a terrible job getting the max value out of him in his time with the T-Wolves, especially when Kevin Love came into the picture. The other pieces in that deal? Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, and Gerald Green. Sounds a little like Boston got the better end of that deal with Kevin Garnett.

**Although… Brewer did win a ring while on the Mavericks bench last season… So he’s got that going for him… Which is nice.

#8 – Charlotte Bobcats: Brandan Wright, PF, North Carolina

Grade: B-

2012 Pick: Wilson Chandler (#23 NYK)

Wright: 5.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 7.3 WS

Chandler: 13.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 10.2 WS

We’ve reached the point in the article where I realize I’ve written 2700 words and 6 pages in Microsoft Word and we’re not even out of the top 10 yet. Vintage Brzozowski. So, let’s hurry these reviews up a bit.

The reason this pick got a B- despite Wright’s inability to succeed after coming out as a Freshman at UNC, the Bobcats traded him that night to Golden State for Jason Richardson in a deal that still doesn’t make sense to me for the Warriors. Richardson didn’t lead Charlotte to the playoffs or anything*, but he did average nearly 22 PPG his first season there. Chandler’s one of the best scorers and impact players left on the board, which actually has some slim pickings after only eight picks from here on out.

*Because he was only there for less than a season and a half before Jordan traded him for Boris Diaw.

#9 – Chicago Bulls: Joakim Noah, C, Florida

Grade: A-

2012 Pick: Carl Landry (#31 SEA)

Noah: 8.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 32.2 WS

Landry: 12.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 24.3 WS

The Bulls got this pick as result of the Eddy Curry trade and Knickerbockers fans certainly wish they could’ve made this selection. Noah has had a strong and solid start to his NBA career as the Bulls lucked out on Noah falling to them all the way at nine and Isiah Thomas being a terrible GM.

#10 – Sacramento Kings: Spencer Hawes, C, Washington

Grade: C

2012 Pick: Rodney Stuckey (#15 DET)

We’re gonna skip the stats and move things along here and just get into the grades and 2012 picks from here on out. You can tell a lot from the draft blunders and winners just by reading along.

#11 – Atlanta Hawks: Acie Law, PG, Texas A&M

Grade: D+

2012 Pick: Arron Afflalo (#27 DET)

#12 – Philadelphia 76ers: Thaddeus Young, SF, Georgia Tech

Grade: B+

2012 Pick: Jared Dudley (#22 CHA)

 

#13 – New Orleans Hornets: Julian Wright, SF, Kansas

Grade: D-

2012 Pick: Glen Davis (#35 SEA)

 

#14 – Los Angeles Clippers: Al Thornton, SF-PF, Florida St.

Grade: C

2012 Pick: Nick “Swaggey P” Young (#16 WAS)

 

#15 – Detroit Pistons: Rodney Stuckey, PG, Western Kentucky

Grade: B

2012 Pick: Ramon Sessions (#56 MIL)

 

#16 – Washington Wizards: Nick “Swaggey P” Young, SG, USC

Grade: B-

2012 Pick: Aaron Brooks (#26 HOU)

 

#17 – New Jersey Nets: Sean Williams, PF, Boston College

Grade: F

2012 Pick: Rudy Fernandez

 

#18 – Golden State Warriors: Marco Belinelli, SG, Italy

Grade: C-

2012 Pick: Aaron Brooks (#26 HOU)

 

19 – Los Angeles Lakers: Javaris Crittenton, SG, Georgia Tech

Grade: F

2012 Pick: Spencer Hawes (#10 SAC)

 

#20 – Miami Heat (Trade to PHI): Jason Smith, PF-C, Colorado St

Grade: C (Received Daequan Cook)

2012 Pick: Josh McRoberts (#37 POR)

 

#21 – Philadelphia 76ers (Trade to MIA): Daequan Cook, SG, Ohio St

Grade: D (Received Jason Smith)

2012 Pick: Brandon Wright (#8 CHA)

 

#22 – Charlotte Bobcats: Jared Dudley, SG-SF, Boston College

Grade: C (traded Dudley too early)

2012 Pick: Tiago Splitter (#28 SA)

 

#23 – New York Knicks: Wilson Chandler, SG-SF, DePaul

Grade: B+

2012 Pick: Al Thornton (#14 LAC)

 

#24 – Phoenix Suns (Traded to POR): Rudy Fernandez, SF, Spain

Grade: C- (Traded for cash)

2012 Pick: Daequan Cook (#21 PHI)

 

#25 – Utah Jazz: Morris Almund, SG, Rice

Grade: D

2012 Pick: Corey Booker

 

Can’t give any failures left to picks this low. It’d be unfair to the teams, but man, this was a bad selecion.

#26 – Houston Rockets: Aaron Brooks, PG, Oregon

Grade: B+ (Extra half a grade for a nice pick this low)

2012 Pick: Aaron Gray (#49 CHI)

 

#27 – Detroit Pistons: Arron Afflalo, SG, UCLA

Grade: C (Afflalo was the right pick, but has played his best in Denver)

2012 Pick: Greg Oden (#1 POR)

 

Yes, the current players on the board have gotten to be so bad, so quickly, that I’m making the last pick in this draft the bust of a #1 pick from five years ago. The rest of the teams all choose to waive their picks rather than take whatever is left of the scrap heap.

#28 – San Antonio Spurs: Tiago Splitter, C, Brazil

Grade: B

 

#29 – Phoenix Suns: Alando Tucker, SG, Wisconsin

Grade: C-

 

#30 – Philadelphia 76ers (Traded to POR): Petteri Koponen G, Finland

Grade: D

 

And we end on a selection of a guy who’s yet to play a minute in the NBA. Thanks for reading and be sure to enjoy the 2012 Draft tonight. We’ll be bringing you coverage and updates throughout the day.


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