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Portland got lucky in the 2006 Draft as it emerged with LaMarcus Aldridge (left) and Brandon Roy.
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Dearth of talent in '06 Draft makes Blazers clear winners


Posted Nov 3 2009 10:50AM

It isn't true that only one team participated in the 2006 draft. It only looks that way.

The Trail Blazers loved it. They have Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge to show for it. The rest of the league hated it. Three years later, 2006 is already shaping up as an all-time stinker, one where four players chosen in the top 10 may not even be on NBA rosters next season.

Monday, NBA teams gave their verdict. It was the deadline for contract extensions for the 2006 class, and well, let's just hope a bunch of those players got their degrees. They may need them soon. With a recession and a declining salary cap causing teams to turn thrifty, a majority of third-year players will wonder where their next paychecks will come from. Among the few who were extended were Roy, Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Thabo Sefalosha and Andrea Bargnani. Most of the rest are destined to work year-to-year, especially with an upcoming labor negotiation adding even more employment uncertainty.

Welcome to the real world, in other words.

In hindsight, the Blazers, followed by the Jazz, figured a way to make the most of 2006. Kevin Pritchard used the draft to turn the franchise around and distance Portland from the Jail Blazer era. Armed with only one pick in the upper first round, Pritchard came away with a solid pair of starters, including the Rookie of the Year. Hopefully, Pritchard sends annual Christmas cards to John Paxson of the Bulls and Kevin McHale of the Wolves. Paxson gave up Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas in a lopsided swap of rookie power forwards. McHale could've kept Roy with the sixth pick. But McHale out-smarted himself by giving up Roy for Randy Foye, taken next by the Blazers, plus $1 million. McHale tried to make money and at least get equal value in player. Well, in hindsight, Foye only sounds like Roy.

Three years later, the Blazers have five years and a combined $150 million wrapped up in arguably the best two players from a draft that nobody else remembers, or cares to.

The league has known its share of bad drafts. Probably the worst was 2000. Here are five of the first seven taken: Stromile Swift, Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer, DerrMarr Johnson, Chris Mihm. Ten years earlier, Felton Spencer, Bo Kimble, Willie Burton, Rumeal Robinson and Lionel Simmons cracked the top 10. And who could forget the Pervis Ellison draft of 1989, with Danny Ferry, Stacey King, Randy White (not the NFL Hall of Famer) and Tom Hammonds?

Three years is about long enough to get a decent handle on a draft, and 2006 was not the year to invest heavily in, Blazers aside. A good number of these players will turn into filler material and career backups. If they're lucky.

Here's the actual top 10 order: 1. Bargnani, Raptors; 2. Aldridge, Blazers (via Bulls); 3. Adam Morrison, Bobcats; 4. Thomas, Bulls (via Blazers); 5. Shelden Williams, Hawks; 6. Roy, Blazers (via Timberwolves); 7. Foye, Wolves (via Blazers); 8. Rudy Gay, Grizzlies; 9. Patrick O'Bryant, Warriors; 10. Mouhamed Sene, Sonics.

And here's the do-over:

1. Brandon Roy, Portland: Head of the class, came with a NBA-ready body and game, should average 20 points a night for years to come.

2. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland: Lanky forward who's shy about contact, but made his money with a solid mid-range game, perhaps the best of any big man. He's good for a double-double most nights.

3. Andrea Bargnani, Toronto: As No. 1 picks go, he isn't exactly Olowokandi. But not a franchise player, either. He can shoot with range and he just turned 24, so the Raptors rolled the financial dice anyway.

4. Rajon Rondo, Boston (drafted by Phoenix): Lasted until 21 in a draft lean on point guards. He still has that chip on his shoulder. But it helped him develop into a solid starter and land an extension.

5. Rudy Gay, Memphis: Off the charts in ability, but he drifts in and out of games. Eventually, he'll get paid, either by the Grizz or somebody else.

6. Paul Millsap, Utah: He qualifies as the steal of the entire draft, going from No. 47 to a big contract and an increasing role with the Jazz, which will only get bigger once the team dumps Carlos Boozer.

7. Tyrus Thomas, Chicago: Every now and then, he'll do something spectacular, but that usually involves either dunking or blocking a shot. He's the typical terrific athlete who never learned how to dribble, shoot or pass very well.

8. Randy Foye, Washington: Not bad, not great. A tweener guard who'd have a much better outlook if he could run the point. Now with the Wizards, he might experience a breakout year and grab a dollar or two.

9. Ronnie Brewer, Utah: He's got the strangest looking jump shot in the league, next to Joakim Noah. But manages to score anyway, and is off to a great start this season as the starting two-guard.

10. Daniel Gibson, Cleveland: Another second-round discovery who would crack the top 10 now, which says more about this draft than Gibson. Right after his breakout playoff performance two years ago, he took the money rather than wait. Smart.

The best you can say for Adam Morrison, the leading scorer in the nation that year? He got a Lakers championship ring. And Sheldon Williams, also known as Mr. Candace Parker? He had to buy a ring.

It was that kind of draft.

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