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Draft always good for debates, drama ... and dressing up

By Rob Peterson,
Posted Jun 16 2009 5:46PM

It lasts for two rounds and takes approximately four hours to complete, but each NBA Draft gives fans -- and certain franchises -- enough material to last a lifetime. The debates start before, and continue well after, selections are made at The WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden.

In anticipation of the June 25 Draft this year, here are some of the more famous trades, discussions and moments in recent Draft history.

Big trades (Modern Era)

L.A. Lakers send Vlade Divac to Charlotte Hornets for Kobe Bryant on July 11, 1996

This is the greatest Draft day trade of the last 30 years.

Divac played two seasons for the Charlotte Hornets before moving on to Sacramento, where he and the Kings lost four years in a row to the Lakers in the Playoffs. All Bryant has done is win four titles, won a Finals, All-Star Game and regular-season MVP, led the league in scoring twice and made 11 All-Star teams.

Then Lakers general manager Jerry West fell in love with Bryant at a pre-Draft workout. With his sights set on signing free agent center Shaquille O'Neal, West had a center -- Divac -- to trade to move up to get Bryant. In the pre-arranged Draft night deal, Charlotte bit and, on July 11, when the trade could be consummated, the Lakers started a new era of excellence.

Seattle sends Ray Allen and Glen Davis to Boston for Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and Jeff Green on June 28, 2007

While teaming Allen with Paul Pierce was intriguing, it didn't seem as if that tandem would be enough to bring the Celtics back to glory. But it caught Kevin Garnett's eye.

The trade was completed on Draft night when Boston's pursuit of the Timberwolves' Garnett fell apart. Boston took Georgetown's Jeff Green and sent him to Seattle for Allen and the rights to Davis, a second-round pick.

The prospect of teaming with Allen and Pierce clearly intrigued Garnett. So he finally agreed not to bolt the Celtics after the 2008 season, and Boston's Big Three -- Garnett, Allen and Pierce -- led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA title.

Dallas acquires Dirk Nowitzki and Pat Garrity from Milwaukee for Robert Traylor on June 24, 1998

In a pre-arranged Draft night deal, the Mavericks selected Traylor, a beefy power forward from Michigan with the No. 6 pick, and agreed to send him to Milwaukee for a skinny, 7-foot German few in the NBA knew.

They know Nowitzki now. The Bucks had Glenn Robinson, Ray Allen and Vin Baker and needed a power forward to fill out the rotation. They thought Traylor, who pushed 300 pounds, would fit the bill if he could fit into his uniform. But they thought he'd be gone by the No. 9 pick, so they found a willing partner in the Mavs, who wanted Nowitzki. The Mavs tapped Traylor at No. 6, sent him to Milwaukee for Nowitkzi and for the Bucks' No. 17 pick, Garrity.

Nowitzki has gone on to win an NBA MVP, play in eight All-Star Games and play in the 2006 NBA Finals. Traylor played seven seasons for three teams, started 73 games and pled guilty to tax fraud in 2007.

Big trades (Classic)

Bill Russell to Boston for Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan on April 29, 1956

Before 1966, the NBA had territorial picks, which allowed teams to take players from their area if they forfeited their first-round pick. In 1956, the Boston Celtics selected Tommy Heinsohn in the territorial draft. The gave up their first-round pick in doing so, but they still wanted Bill Russell, who had won two titles at the University of San Francisco and was about to lead the U.S. to a gold medal in the 1956 Melbourne games.

The great Red Auerbach swung a trade that sent seasoned NBA vets Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan to the St. Louis Hawks for Russell. Russell would go on to lead the Celtics to 11 titles in 13 years. It may be the greatest trade of all time in any sport.

Have a fave of your own? Send us an e-mail or a tweet on Twitter.

Great debates for No. 1

Like the 2009 Draft with Blake Griffin, some Drafts have a clear cut No. 1. LeBron James, Yao Ming, Shaquille O'Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor) to name a few. But on occasion, the decision isn't so easy.

Greg Oden vs. Kevin Durant in 2007

At 7-feet and with a potential set of back-to-the-basket skills that had NBA GMs drooling, Oden looked to be a lock for No. 1. And in most Drafts, a big man like him would be. But Kevin Durant, a pencil-thin 6-foot-9 swingman had torn up the college ranks with his smooth shooting and silky moves.

It was up to the Portland Trail Blazers, who had won the Draft Lottery with a 5.3 percent chance, to make the decision. They chose Oden and Durant "fell" to the Seattle Supersonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder) at No. 2

Usually it takes a few years to see how these debates pan out, but in this case Durant has taken a large early lead by winning Rookie of the Year in 2008 and finishing second in the Most Improved Player voting in 2009. Oden missed 2007-08 with microfracture surgery and missed 20 games in 2008-09 with various maladies.

Andrew Bogut vs. Marvin Williams in 2005

The strange thing about this debate wasn't whether the Milwaukee Bucks should take Bogut, the college player of the year, or Williams, who spent most of the season on the bench for national champion North Carolina but had a warehouse full of potential.

Turns out the debate featured the wrong Williams. The argument should have been about two point guards: Chris Paul and Deron Williams.

While Bogut has been a serviceable center for the Bucks, he hasn't been the franchise-changer most people expect from a No. 1 pick. Marvin Williams, who taken No. 2 overall by Atlanta, has improved in his four seasons. But he's not a cornerstone, either.

But D-Will, whom the Jazz selected at No. 3 after trading the Nos. 6 and 27 picks to Portland for the third pick, and Paul, whom the Hornets selected at No. 4, have helped their teams go to the Western Conference finals in each of the last two seasons.

Conventional wisdom says "go big," but with rules changes favoring guards, this was the first Draft where that conventional wisdom didn't apply.

Dwight Howard vs. Emeka Okafor in 2004

Howard was a raw 18-year-old with a galaxy of potential from a school with 300-plus students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Okafor was the starting center for perennial power and defending NCAA champion Connecticut.

Easy choice, right? But the Orlando Magic, who had won the Draft Lottery for the third time in their then-15-year history, rolled the dice and chose Howard, while Okafor became the first-ever pick for the expansion Charlotte Bobcats.

Okafor has had a decent NBA career so far. But Howard has surpassed him in every way, winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and leading the Magic to the Finals.

Have a fave of your own? Send us an e-mail or a tweet on Twitter.

Out of nowhere

Renaldo Balkman, New York Knicks, 2006

Isiah Thomas had always been known to roll the dice on Draft day. When in Toronto, he engineered the trade sending Antawn Jamison to Golden State for Vince Carter, who went on to win Rookie of the Year in 1999.

In 2006, Thomas, then GM of the Knicks, tabbed Balkman with the No. 20 pick when most people had Balkman going in the second round or even undrafted. When the pick was announced at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks' faithful started booing immediately.

Frederic Weis, New York Knicks, 1999

With local high school and college star Ron Artest, who had just led St. John's to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tourney, still on the board, the New York Knicks selected ... 7-foot Frenchman Frederic Weis.

The boos still echo at Madison Square Garden from that pick. Weis never suited up for the Knicks and is perhaps best known for a being the recipient of a vicious Carter dunk in the 2000 Olympics.

Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers, 2005

A 17-year-old high school kid from New Jersey to replace Shaquille O'Neal? That's a stretch, isn't it?

It was at the time, but it has paid off for Bynum and the Lakers. Bynum, who has suffered two knee injuries, has come back from both to help L.A. to the 2009 NBA title. Still only 21, Bynum has plenty of time to develop.

Have a fave of your own? Send us an e-mail or a tweet on Twitter.

From the stands to the stage

Most sure-to-be first-round selections are often invited to the Green Room on Draft night. The "room" actually is an area in front of the stage. When their name is called, they climb the stairs to shake NBA commissioner David Stern's hand.

Every once in a while, a name is called and a player emerges from deep in the audience like a contestant on "The Price is Right."

Samuel Dalembert, Philadelphia 76ers, 2001

Dalembert wasn't in the green room with the top picks, but he was in the stands waiting for his name to be called. When it was, he bounded onto the stage to shake the surprised commissioner's hand.

2004 First-Rounders

By the time San Antonio selected Beno Udrih with the No. 27 overall pick, three first-round selections had emerged from the stands. Unofficially, that may be a record.

Corsley Edwards, Sacramento Kings, 2002

If the Kings hadn't called his name, Edwards could have left The Theater at MSG without anyone noticing. But with the last pick of the 2002 Draft, the Kings selected Edwards, who had patiently waited. It was one of the few times a pick that deep in the Draft had crossed the stage.

Draft night fashion

Jalen Rose's red suit

This may be the suit of all Draft night suits. Rose sported a Technicolor-tomato red suit with pinstripes when he was picked in 1994. It has never been equaled. Probably never will.

Samaki Walker's white suit and hat

Dallas took Walker with the ninth overall selection in 1996 and NBA fans weren't disappointed. They got to see Walker in a white suit and matching white derby. All that were missing were white gloves. Classically good -- or bad -- depending on your taste.

LeBron James' white suit

The No. 1 overall pick looked sharp in an all-white ensemble in 2003. Smartly, unlike Walker, he left the chapeau at home.

Have a fave of your own? Send us an e-mail or a tweet on Twitter.

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