Re-writing NBA Draft history

Taj Gibson

The NBA draft will be going on Thursday and some team will select a player, say, 14th, and the commentators and instant analysts will become hysterical in declaring the player was 26th on their list and what was that team thinking of and this was the shock of the draft. Say, like, if the Milwaukee Bucks last season at No. 10 would have selected Taj Gibson...
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Bulls Draft Central 2010

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The NBA draft will be going on Thursday and some team will select a player, say, 14th, and the commentators and instant analysts will become hysterical in declaring the player was 26th on their list and what was that team thinking of and this was the shock of the draft.

Say, like, if the Milwaukee Bucks last season at No. 10 would have selected Taj Gibson, which is about where I think he would have gone if last year's draft were held today.

We'll all have our mock drafts for Thursday about where players should go and who were the winners and losers pretty much based on those predraft speculations.

But then I asked one personnel chief last week the pick of the 2009 draft and he said it was Marcus Thornton, whom the Hornets got after Miami took him with the 43rd pick and traded the rights. Heck, we weren't even watching the draft by then.

It's why it's such a difficult process and why it's so uncertain.

Yes, we know John Wall and Evan Turner likely will be the top two picks and probably top contenders for rookie of the year. But you never know where some of the best players will come from. This past season's all-rookie team included just one player, Tyreke Evans, selected in the top five, and two of the five, Gibson and Darren Collison, not even in the top 20.

So just for the exercise I decided to take a look at last year's draft and redo it according to what I believe teams would do if they had the same pick today and knew what they knew.

Yes, I still think Blake Griffin would be No. 1 as he was injured and is supposed to be healthy again. But would Memphis have passed on Evans even though he needs to have the ball a lot?

Oklahoma City made a good pick to fit their system being built around Kevin Durant with James Harden. But wouldn't they rather have had Stephen Curry? I think Minnesota might actually have picked Rubio again given many scouts still believe he is a talent and Minnesota expects to use him as a chip in a deal. But you know the Knicks would have selected some point guard. Why they didn't last year was one of the great mysteries of the draft.

The Suns likely would have gone for someone more ready while the Jazz may actually have spent their pick on Wesley Matthews as there was no way he'd miss the draft again. How about everyone saying no way beach boy Chase Budginger would make it? He can shoot, and shooters make it.

And DeJuan Blair clearly proved despite the medical evidence he as worth a first round risk.

Sometimes it seems as if it's almost an arbitrary process the way the picks are made and how many teams seem to be in agreement. But I talked with several personnel directors and it's a long process to get ready for the draft, and then you have to hope you hit it right.

Basically it begins right after the previous draft with the summer showcases.

"First, you begin looking for athleticism and positional size and length," said one personnel director, "and you can pretty much start to eliminate guys that way. Then you dig in on basketball skills, shooting, passing, and personality. You watch how they interact with coaches, with teammates. It's an elimination process throughout the year."

Generally after the top five or six players, who are generally considered the so called sure fire talents, though many errors are made even there, teams consider the ability to develop and the ability to fit in with the players you have.

One exercise one scout said is his team examines the first and second round every year and analyzes each previous pick of each team to see if they succeeded and why and if they failed and why and if they can relate that to their own draft process.

"Going back and looking is always important," said a personnel guy. "Someone maybe failed with a team and we liked him, so we follow that guy, look at why he failed. Some of these reclamation projects provide the best value and we'll turn them over to our pro scouts and say, 'Here's a guy we liked (and didn't draft). Watch him and see what the issues are and whether he can work in our system. You always want to continue to know guys."

Scouts say the common denominators of success generally are positional size and length, versatility and motor, which is the latest scouting term for a guy who'll work hard.

"Can he play multiple positions?" one scout says he always asks. "More importantly, can he defend multiple positions, so you can switch the pick and roll, which is huge to deny an offense an advantage. Versatility is a big commodity now.

"Shooting also is huge," the scout said. "Especially floor spacers with the zone. With no more illegal defense, you need shooters at almost every position. And especially three point shooters and guys who can make that corner three, which is maybe the biggest weapon in today's game. You run that screen roll on the side and the defender can't leave his man. And you want great ball handlers who can get in the lane. Guys who can get to the free throw line, which gets you deeper into the other team's bench."

Though the needs are often different as teams also have to scout to their systems. The Suns, for example, like small fours who are speed oriented and can shoot threes to space the floor. The Thunder gets players to fit around Durant emphasizing length. The Lakers look for shooters for their triangle system.

But then as much work as you do, there's no certainty as to how they'll fit in and whether they'll even get a chance. A lot of teams still will be looking at Gerald Henderson, who rarely played in Charlotte. Was he a mistake or left in the wrong system? It's much easier to do in retrospect, which is what makes draft day so much fun for fans and so frightening for teams.

Smith's 2009 Draft if done now Actual 2009 Draft results
1. Clippers: Blake Griffin 1. Blake Griffin
2. Memphis: Tyreke Evans 2. Hasheem Thabeet
3. Oklahoma City: Stephen Curry 3. James Harden
4. Sacramento: Jonny Flynn 4. Tyreke Evans
5. Minnesota: Brandon Jennings 5. Ricky Rubio
6. Minnesota: Ricky Rubio 6. Jonny Flynn
7. Golden State: Hasheem Thabeet 7. Stepen Curry
8. New York: Darren Collison 8. Jordan Hill
9. Toronto: James Harden 9. DeMar DeRozan
10. Milwaukee: Taj Gibson 10. Brandon Jennings
11. New Jersey: DeJuan Blair 11. Terrence Williams
12. Charlotte: Jordan Hill 12. Gerald Henderson
13. Indiana: Jrue Holiday 13. Tyler Hansbrough
14. Phoenix: Omri Casspi 14. Earl Clark
15. Detroit: Tyler Hansbrough 15. Austin Daye
16. Bulls: Ty Lawson 16. James Johnson
17. Philadelphia: Jeff Teague 17. Jrue Holiday
18. Minnesota (traded to Nuggets): Jonas Jerebko 18. Ty Lawson
19. Atlanta: Marcus Thornton 19. Jeff Teague
20. Utah: Wesley Matthews 20. Eric Maynor
21. New Orleans: Chase Budinger 21. Darren Collison
22. Portland: Eric Maynor 22. Victor Claver
23. Sacramento: DeMar DeRozan 23. Omri Casspi
24. Dallas (traded to Oklahoma City): Wayne Ellington 24. Byron Mullens
25. Oklahoma City (traded to Mavs): Rodrigue Beaubois 25. Rodrigue Beaubois
26. Bulls: Gerald Henderson 26. Taj Gibson
27. Memphis: Terrence Williams 27. DeMarre Carroll
28. Minnesota: Jon Brockman 28. Wayne Ellington
29. Lakers (to Knicks): James Johnson 29. Toney Douglas
30. Cleveland: Toney Douglas 30. Christian Eyenga

Chicago Bulls to select 17th in 2010 NBA Draft


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